Penn’s Creek Success

Through my friend and fellow fly tier, Eric Austin, of Delaware, Ohio, I was invited to join him and a group of other anglers for a few days of fishing Penn’s Creek while staying at a private cabin near Weikert over Memorial Day weekend. We hoped to see some green drakes, and as things turned out, we did. The first evening we fished the Cherry Run Pool, and afterwards we were guests for dinner at a cabin on the pool. Dessert that night was homemade blueberry and pecan pie that I had baked that afternoon. Kept in a wooden pie-saver, they were actually still a tad warm when we served them after dinner. I did not know it beforehand but pecan pie is Eric’s favorite. Incidentally, Eric is one of the contributing tiers for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.

There were Great Red Spinners in the air, a few sulphurs about, plus some caddis and a few Blue-wing Olives. Our fishing start time was delayed by a passing thunderstorm, so we did not actually get on the water until after 7:30 PM. I took one sixteen brown on my March Brown Sexi-Floss Spinner, size #10, hooked and lost another decent fish, and rose a few more. Most of the other fellows took some trout as well.

On Friday we all traveled over to Bellefonte and fished on Spring Creek. We had sulphurs hatching there and everyone had a good day, mostly taking trout on drys. I was using my tandem Sulphur Dun and Floating Sulphur Emerger that day, which I had written about in a separate post on the success of that tandem rig during five previous trips to Spring Creek this May. Friday evening saw us back at the Cherry Run Pool on Penn’s Creek, and upon our arrival there, on the water floated the greatest number of March Brown duns I have ever seen anywhere in my life. The air temperature was quite cool, it was drizzling a little, and the duns drifted and fluttered helplessly on the surface, many of them unable to get airborne due to the cold temperatures and drizzle. Along the entire several hundred yard length of the pool, fish were up. The six of us stretched out along the pool. I was using my BXB March Brown Extended Body Dun, and caught some fish just by standing on shore and casting to rises near the bank. All six of us took some fish; at the end of the evening I had three smallmouth bass, two chubs, and two brook trout, which were actually both of decent size.

The following photos are nearly all from Saturday, when we traveled to Coburn, Pennsylvania, stopped at The Feathered Hook Fly Shop, and then drove downstream a short distance to fish. We parked along the road and basically fished an adjacent short section of the creek. A couple trout were rising already at eleven AM. Bruce got into position and hooked and lost one, then Eric Austin took Bruce’s place when he moved. Eric worked several rising trout under some overhanging tree limbs. He rose a few of them, but did not connect. Eric then moved downstream where he took a nice trout. Bruce caught one near where Eric had been fishing. Our host and camp owner, Tom Wilson, had a few things to take care of, plus he had heard that the green drakes started well downstream the day prior, and he wanted to certify that with the possibility that we might fish that hatch in the evening. Me, I took my time and decided to have lunch before I started to fish. I walked Abigail a little bit, got out a lawn chair, ate my sandwich, had a beer, relaxed and watched the water and my companions. When I did get in the water, it was upstream from the rest of the guys. I saw sporadic rises, rose a few fish, but it was tough. I failed to connect with anything. At that point, as I was sitting on a mid-stream rock, around 2:30 PM I saw a green drake dun. Then another, and another. Before I left that spot, as I was just sitting on a midstream rock, watching the water, I counted eleven green drakes duns. There were sulphurs hatching on the increase, some caddis and a few other bugs, but still nothing other than the odd single rise here and there. When I did cover a rise with a sulphur dun it was to no avail. I finally walked back to my car, pulled out the lawn chair, grabbed a beer and sat and watched the rest of the guys fish. We saw a few more green drakes taking to the air, counting a total of twenty-three in addition to those I had already seen.

By now Eric and Bruce had taken five nice trout. Bob had settled into position where Eric started, casting to three or four rising trout – the same fish that had been rising for about five hours – and for over three hours, he had a couple rises but did not connect. About 3:45 Tom returned, and came over to chat with me. He said the drakes were definitely on below Weikert. We then watched Bob casting to those rising trout. Tom said, “He’ll never catch any of those fish, he’s getting too much drag.” And then he turned and walked over to talk to Eric and the other fellows, who had all returned to the cars within a few minutes. I kept watching Bob, and no sooner had Tom walked away, when Bob set the hook and had a bend in his rod. “Fish on!” I exclaimed. I got up quick and grabbed my camera.

Here are the photos I took that day:

Eric Austin,

Eric Austin, working several rising trout in Penn’s Creek below Coburn under the trees.

Eric

Eric is still casting to those fish…note the nice upstream mend in his line.

Bruce

Bruce covers a rising Penn’s Creek trout.

Eric

Eric moved downstream, where he later connected with three nice browns.

This is the first in a series of photos with Bob playing the nice trout - after more than three hours of casting to this fish, he finally got the "right drift."

Fish on! This is the first in a series of photos with Bob playing the nice trout – after more than three hours of changing flies and casting to this fish, he finally got the “right drift.”

Bob

Bob brings the trout in closer.

Bob works the trout closer to the net.

Bob works the trout closer to the net.

The fish is not ready to give up.

The fish is not ready to give up.

Closing on on the net.

Bob eventually led the trout to the net.

Bob netted this trout, and from my location, I estimated its size at nineteen inches. This was the sixth trout taken that day, by him, Bruce, and Eric, all on various sulhur dun patterns, ranging in size between 16″ and 19″, in just a 125-yard section of Penn’s Creek. This was in the Trophy Trout Section, and these fish were all of legal harvesting size. Eric took three of the trout on the Swisher-Richards No-Hackle Dun, a favorite pattern of his. Bruce had two, and Bob, just one but it was the best fish of the day.

Penn's Creek, May 25th,near Weikert. Each light greenish-yellow spot on the water is a green drake dun.

Penn’s Creek, May 25th, near Weikert. Each light greenish-yellow spot on the water is a green drake dun. This is in an open water section with no special regulations.

A zoomed-in image iof the same section, this shot provides a better view of the green drake duns.

A zoomed-in image of the same section, this shot provides a better view of the green drake duns on the water.

A cabin neighbor of Tom’s, Ed Torchia, was fishing here. He took a nice smallmouth bass that was rising. Bruce, in our group, landed a bass about 17″. Fish were up in this entire section. I tied on one of my BXB Green Drake Thorax Duns and went below the dam to the tailout and landed the only trout I saw rising, the fattest ten-inch brown I’ve ever seen in my life. I guessed if that fish had been eighteen inches he would have weighed four pounds. Most of the fellows took some trout. The highlight of the evening for me was an 18″ brown that I saw rising, and he took the Green Drake dun on the second or third cast. That fish got off just as I was netting it, so there is no photo of my story. You’ll just have to trust me, but I have a witness, Tom saw me playing the fish and got a look at it as it flopped over the rim of my net. I later hooked and then lost another trout of about the same size.

The real delight of the evening was that of the six anglers in our group, four – Eric, Bruce, Bob, and Dean, had never seen a green drake hatch in their life. It was pretty spectacular. Ed stopped by Tom’s cabin later in the evening and said that this pool, from 2:30 to 3:30 PM that afternoon, produced the largest hatch of green drake duns he had ever witnessed, and he’s spent years on Penn’s Creek during the drake hatch. In all it was a great weekend. New friendships were made, fellowship shared, fish were caught, cigars were smoked, beverages quaffed, fish stories were told, and plans were made to do it again next year. Thank you to my friend Eric for the invitation, and thanks to Tom Wilson for hosting us at his camp.

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Big Pine Creek Stream / Fishing Report

This is from the Slate Run Tackle Shop website, Stream Conditions page:

06-05-12:  Pine is in great condition for this time of year. It has cleared over the past two days to an olive and the temperature remains in the upper 50’s. We still have Slate Drakes, BWO’s, Sulphurs, and some Brown Caddis. Trout are still active on the surface, and providing very good, but challenging fly fishing to some fine trout. The long range weather forecast calls for showers, and cool temperatures for the next week, so you should be fishing!

If you visit the Pine Creek Valley, be sure to stop in for a great deli sandwich on home-made bread at The Slate Run Tackle Shop / Wolfe’s Store.

The last time I was fishing on Big Pine Creek was Sunday May 20th. A tough day fishing-wise. A beautiful day otherwise. I had the best day of my life there on May 17th. That’s another blog post. But on this day, I was expecting to do very well. Wrong. Spent Brown Drake Spinners were on the water, more prevalent than the other 13 different bugs flying about, and I didn’t have any. I had generously given away my last few Slate Drake Spinners to my friends that I’d been fishing with on the previous Thursday trip. They were fishing Friday and Saturday while I was going to the cabin to cut firewood. So I didn’t need any Slate Drake Spinners. Or so I thought. A Slate Drake Spinner might have risen a few trout that were eating those big Brown’s, because being an extended-body size eight, they were a little smaller than the Brown Drakes, but they might have done the trick. But I just about threw my arm off, casting, changing flies, casting, changing flies, casting.

Here are some photos of the day:

My favorite section of PA Rt. 414. That’s right – this is a state highway, and even though this section was replaced in the summer of 2011, parts of it are still too narrow for two cars to pass at the same time. Nice! It’s not the interstate. And that’s another good thing. Off to the left you can see the creek, and the drop-off.

This is the drop-off. About 400 feet. You don’t want your car to go over the edge here; there isn’t much to stop it until you land on the old railroad now walking-hiking-biking trail near the bottom. Part of the trail is visible to the left of center right of the creek. That’s why the State Road Crews can’t make this a two-lane road. It’s practically built into the side of a cliff. A spectacular view of the creek, and the valley both ways, upstream and down.

Manor Hotel across Big Pine Creek from the rear of the Slate Run Tackle Shop. Note the large log pile. And the smoker behind the building. The small green structure with the black roof. Yup. That’s right. Bar-b-Que! They smoke their own. Good place to eat and drink. The original Manor Hotel burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in May of 2004. The stream Slate Run is right behind the Hotel and the log pile.

Pine Creek Valley at Slate Run, behind the Fly Shop, looking upstream. I just happened to catch the turkey vulture just above the crest of the ridge.

March Brown dun. Cool night and heavy dew. Who ever owned this truck had parked it there overnight, which was convenient for these photos. This fellow and the spinner in the next photos were my only companions as I suited up and rigged my rod.

March Brown / Gray Fox Spinner. There was also a Brown Drake Spinner there too, but I made the mistake of trying to reposition it for a better photo, and it flew off.

Nice Pine Creek rainbow, close to 17″ that fell to a 3x long #8 Ephemera nymph, swung just under the surface. This pattern could pass for either a Green or Brown Drake. This solitary fish was the result of 2-1/2 hours fruitless casting to rising trout feeding on Brown Drake Spinners. As noted above, I didn’t have any. But I gave it the old college try and threw enough different patterns to open a fly shop with. See where the fish splashed a drop of water on my lens.

On the way back to the car, I came upon this wild iris in bloom.

In the afternoon, I went to the lower end of the Delayed Harvest Section, first, to have lunch at the picnic tables. I had homemade potato salad, a turkey sandwich, and some corn ships. Oh, and an ice-cold Yuengling. Secondly, I wanted to nymph fish the riffles at the head of the long pool. I hooked a few fish there using a two-fly nymph rig, but didn’t land any. After fishing I sat at the tables having another beer and an agent from DCNR, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Forestry Department, drove in and stopped. He got out of his vehicle and came over to chat. I found it interesting that a forester was carrying a sidearm. He was actually a warden, but not for the Fish Commission, or Game Commission. In Pennsylvania, we have two separate departments for that. We are the only state in the Union to maintain two separate Fish and Game Agencies.

The annual toad mating was in full swing. Hundreds of toads, along the waters edge, in the water, and even floating downstream, some clinging together in the embrace of their instinct, bobbing along in oblivious delight. I could have gotten fifteen toads together in one shot, You had to be careful not to step on them, there were so many. Their mating calls were incessant.

The mating of the toads. I did see one female with five males, all clinging to her. While perhaps only one was actually giving her the business, I guess. I was going to take a photo of that but it was actually kind of revolting.

Late afternoon light on the Delayed Harvest Section below the bridge at Slate Run. I did very well here on the 17th, but this particular evening there was no major hatch activity.

Before I got into position to take this photograph, I spent an hour and a half parked in the shade at the Hotel Manor taking a nap. When I started fishing I was casting an extended body Slate Drake Thorax Dun Pattern. I hooked one large trout and lost him. I rose a few more and missed them. Or they missed me.

You can see the width of the stream here. I was using a 9-foot 6-weight rod with a 7-weight forward floating line. I like the heavier rod for the big water. It give extra advantages when the wind gusts up. Plus if I’m working a rising trout at 50- 60 feet away, I can cast above the rise, make a ten foot drift, pick it up, one back cast, and repeat. Very efficient to cover the trout. I sometimes fish like this with my left hand on my hip. Making the same cast over and over again, because I’m not stripping in line which then has to be reset to readjust the distance to the target. I finally wandered back to the bank and sat on a rock to rest for a while. As I did, this Slate Drake Dun fluttered by so I caught him / her. She, as I decided to call her, posed quite admirably on my knee:

Slate Drake Dun. This is a heavy hatch on Big Pine Creek. One that lasts, too. These flies will also hatch mid-stream. They do not all migrate to the shallows and edges to emerge. Note the lighter colored forelegs; this is why one Slate Drake pattern is called the White-Gloved Howdy, as if it’s extending for a handshake.

A friend who knew I was going to be fishing the area came by to join me. That wasn’t definite, especially with this particular friend, because you never know what he’ll get in to. I was kind of thinking of leaving before he arrived, but when a friend comes to fish with you, I did the right thing and stayed longer. He fished soft-hackles, I continued to cast my Slate Drake pattern, but neither of us rose a fish. I finally gave in to desperation, took off the dry tied on a  a #8 black beadhead Wooly Bugger and hooked this 18″ brown in less than five minutes.

18″ brown trout and #8 black bead-head Wooly Bugger. Sometimes desperation is a good thing.

Not too long after I released this fish, maybe twenty minutes, I called it a night. My precious, mallard wing-eating puppy dog, Abigail, had been at the cabin all day and I figured I’d better start back before darkness set in so I could let her out. I had a brisk quarter-mile walk to my car, put the rod in the car, took off my vest and waders, and hopped in the car. I had the wonderful drive through that beautiful valley ahead of me. Sunday evening. Fifteen miles to Morris. Leaving Slate Run, past Cedar Run, through Blackwell. Fifteen miles of driving without passing a solitary vehicle in either direction. That’s solitude for you. And by the way, no cell service either. I can’t wait to get back over there since the stream conditions and fishing are so — perfect.

On Monday morning, I sat at my vise and developed a perfect, two-tone, yellow on bottom, brown on top, foam extended body, three tails for a Brown Drake Spinner. So far, it’s just a body, a prototype. ready for a size #12 Tiemco 2488 hook. I need to finish a few flies. It will be suitable for duns and spinners both. But one thing is sure; with this new Brown Drake weapon, the trout will never do that to me again.