The Black Prince Rides Again

Black Prince 013-1A few posts back, I wrote about a customer who had bought four dozen Black Prince wet flies from me. Well, her success with that old classic pattern continues, and has spilled over to another angler she met on the stream. After her success on Penn’s Creek, I had asked her what size she was using. There is more success to this fish story, since he also ordered some Black Prince wet flies from me, and I wanted to share a few of their notes:

Wednesday Sept. 24:

Mr. Bastian,

“I say again: ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!

I was this evening at Fisherman’s Paradise (FP – near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania), and again was successful with the Black Prince. FP is a very difficult place to fish in that the pressure there is enormous. But I am learning; I go there in the evening and not only fish past sundown but past last light into the darkness. They are active at this time. I am there fishing with my Glenn Brackett, 7ft. 3wt. bamboo rod, Hardy “Baby” Perfect, Cortland “Sylk” line and the Orvis 4x braided Bimini leader. The last one I caught was a nice fat 10-inch that gave a really good fight. Just gorgeous. Size you ask? #16.

I AM learning how to wet fly fish!!”

Best Regards,
Jean

And she replied to my initial post about the Black Prince:

Thursday Sept. 25:

“Dear Mr. Bastian,

Very nice post. Getting the word out on actually using Bergman flies is important. And yes you were correct: I fished across-and-down. Very traditional stuff. Perhaps I should be out there with that Leonard Fairy Catskill and that little Hardy St George Jr. Now that’s tradition!”

Jean

And she wrote this note after yet another successful evening on Penn’s Creek fishing the Black Prince:

Sept. 28:

“I must say, Mr. Bastian, that the Black Prince is a really something. I do hope you are fishing with your own flies. (Of course I am, just not often enough – 😉 – Don). As a fitting closure to the evening, a juvenile bald eagle, a trout in his talons, flew over my head. Gorgeous.”

Best Regards,

Jean

On her “Black Prince” outing at Fisherman’s Paradise, she met another angler who lives in nearby State College. Since she was catching fish, he was curious what she was using. Jean met Robert, and they talked flies, they spoke of classic tackle, talked about me, since she has been a customer for a few years now, and I had also spent some time fishing with her in July 2012, and he also wondered where he could get this “killer fly.” She gave him my e-mail address, he placed an order for two dozen Black Prince wet flies, #14, and #16.

Here is a letter he sent just yesterday, Wednesday October 22:

“Your quality of work is just outstanding! I have been treating your flies like little pieces of art that get tossed through the air. Have only used them on the creek in one outing so far, on Spring Creek at ‘The Rock’. I fished them in tandem ( #14 and #16), 45 degrees upstream dead drift until 45 degrees behind me, and then swung them across and used a twitch method until it was directly downstream, followed by a hand twist retrieve. (This is) The method detailed in Ray Bergman’s, Trout (1938, 1952). In two hours I landed six nice fish. Two were on the hot spot, right when they started to drag 45 degrees behind, one really good strike during twitching, and three more on the retrieve. This is such a fun way to fish for me, and I will certainly be looking into more classic wet fly patterns in the future. I will give you a full days report soon.”

Robert
This ought to give you all a few ideas…places to fish, and trout to catch!

Spring Creek – Again

I paid a short visit to Spring Creek last evening. After all I was in the area for something else, and figured while nearby, why not? Turns out my friend Bill Shuck, a regular www.flymphforum.com tier, mentioning to me in an e-mail yesterday about the “cold front” putting the trout and bugs and fishing “off,” was right. There wasn’t much happening.

The high temperature for the day was barely sixty-five degrees, and the sun never even poked its head out, not even for a minute. I thought the sulfurs would be hatching gangbusters and trout would be up everywhere, but only in my dreams. I had driven down to State College to attend a visitation session for Gloria Humphreys, the wife of one of Pennsylvania’s celebrated fly fishing authors, Joe Humphreys. They were professional and personal friends. Gloria passed away on May 20th.

So after paying my respects I drove to Spring Creek, found a spot, geared up, and tied on my usual two-dry-fly tandem rig, a Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun and my Floating “Sulfur” Emerger – which as noted in the article and links from my previous post, started its life in 2006 as a Floating Caddis Emerger. Orvis added it to their fly catalog in 2013, and have continued it for this year as well. http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=7R6A[/

I discovered two years ago that the same pattern, augmented for size and dubbing color, also does a “spot-on” mimic for emerging mayflies. At least that is the conclusion I have drawn, after hooking well over one hundred trout on that fly last season and this season, all while fishing the “sulfur” hatch.

I walked downstream to a slower, deeper section of water and watched for rising fish. Nothing was happening, there were no rises. I gave it all of one minute, which on Spring Creek at this time if year and time of day, if they are rising, I would have seen a dozen or more trout up. So I walked upstream, knowing what my next course of action would be, but for confirmation, I said aloud to myself, “If there are no trout rising, I’m going to fish the riffs and pocket water. No sense of fishing a pool with no rises.” Yes, I do talk to myself, sometimes it is the only way I can get expert advice. 😉

I stepped into this spot:

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line iout, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, started feeding line downstream to a deeper section.

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line out, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, made a cast downstream and started feeding line to a deeper section. A trout rose to the Floating Sulfur Emerger on the first drift, but he missed the fly. I caught one trout in about eight inches of water maybe three feet from shore. When a lot of fishermen are about, they usually scatter the trout from these shallow sections…for a little while at least. Most anglers don’t bother with this water, they are “pool oriented.” Their mistake. The area between the two rocks, not twenty-five feet away, produced two hookups and three additional rises.

Next I worked my way up to the area in the above photo, standing in water about a foot deep, and by this time I had not moved more than fifteen feet from the bank. I blindly cast about to the pockets, seams, and into the riffles, relying on experience as to where might be a good spot for a trout to be. None of this water was more than a foot or so in depth. Right away I caught this fish:

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger.

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger. He hit the fly when it was about eight feet from my rod tip. You can see the front end of the fly in his mouth. I hooked two more right after this one on the same fly, but they wanted no part of having their picture taken, so they rather rudely excused themselves by making my line go limp.

I rose and missed more than a dozen trout in the course of the evening, and it is important here to note; why I chose to fish the shallower water, pockets, seams, and riffs. There were no trout rising in the pools. I did not want to waste my limited time by “looking for rising trout.” The fish in shallower water are generally always more prone to impulsive feeding when something presents itself, even on the surface. These fish are accustomed by now to looking for sulfur duns and spinners, and also Baetis, or BWO’s, so that was my logic behind the choice to fish dry flies in the shallow water. Plus, I could get close to the trout with out spooking them, able to make accurate presentations, short drifts through targeted zones, repetitive if necessary, all while making pretty short casts. Also a factor besides this, there were trees hugging both banks and extended limbs so I had to keep it short. Managing your drift is easier when casting to close range target areas; most of the time I had about six to ten feet of fly line beyond the rod tip. My leader was about eleven or twelve feet long, including the typical George Harvey front-section formula of about six feet of 3x, 4x, and 5x. In this type of water, and in most dry fly scenarios, one does not want the leader to straighten out, but rather remain somewhat coiled and snaked about on the water’s surface in S-curves. This promotes drag-free drifts. George Harvey’s leader designs are from the 1940’s, when gut leaders were still used, and his formulas predate the present “Czech”, “French,” “Euro,” whatever you choose to call it, leader designs, that are being touted these days as “new.” In fact, one of these days, I’ll write a piece on the reality of every single aspect of this “new” method of nymphing – rods, leaders, flies, technique, all being as old as the hills. It’s all hype and marketing.

I saw just a handful of trout rise, and I did not have a great evening on the water, but I had a good evening on the water. Most of the trout that rose took, or tried to take, the Floating Sulfur Emerger, but a number did come up after the dun as well. Another thing I noticed; there were more Baetis in the air than anything else. This is typical – chilly, all-cloudy day, that is what they like. I saw duns on the water and in the air, but perhaps Bill was correct; the cold front had put the trout “off.”

Here is a pic of the first trout to take the sulfur dun:

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun.

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun. This fly is a modified design of Vince Marinaro’s Thorax Dun; the poly-wing version was created by Barry Beck. I made further material composition modifications, particularly the use of the Sexi-Super-Dyna-Flexi Floss for the “quill body” abdomen, and I generally use poly yarn for the wings rather than the old “Poly-Fluff” or Hi-Vis” – now called E.P. Fibers he used to use.

Here is an upstream shot of the section I fished:

Section of riffles, pockets, seams 0- shallow, but the trout are here.

Section of Spring Creek riffles, pockets, seams – shallow, but the trout are here. Note the larger exposed and submerged boulders – structure – these create breaks in the stream flow, “seams” where currents of two different speed intersect – creating holding areas for trout, allowing them comfort while having the ease of opportunity to intercept drifting food items. Work these areas properly, either with a nymph or a dry fly, and it’s Game On!

Here is another important point I want to make: In the comment thread from the previous article, Bill Shuck mentioned about how more than once he had been on Spring Creek and spooked the largest trout in the stream just by stepping into the water, because sometimes big trout are near the bank, even in shallow water.” Most of us look for the trout where we expect them to be. Happened to me last night. We all probably spook more trout like this, because while we think we’re pretty good angler / predators, we really don’t pay attention enough of the time. If I had been looking, I would have seen a brown trout about nineteen inches long, up ahead of me, on the right, in just eight inches of water, so close to the bank that the long grass slightly overhung his position. When I was about twelve feet off, of course looking and casting out into the stream, his take-off made a resounding splash, a plume of silt, and a large wake as I watched him scoot off.

Right then, I gave myself a little more “expert” advice; by saying aloud, “Expletive. If I had been looking for that fish, I would have seen him first and been able to make a couple casts.” Here is one more pic of a trout that liked my Sulfur Dun:

Spring Creek 5-29-14 006Enjoyable evening on the water. I learned a few new things, got more affirmation of some of the things I already knew, even entertained myself by singing a little bit while fishing, and had a good time. This is about catching fish though. Don’t let anyone fool you by summing up a poor day or few hours on the water, saying, “It’s just good to get out.” That is, in fact, true. But realistically, how many of those people would continue to fish if they got skunked, again, and again, and again, and again…hardly any of us would go out if we couldn’t hook up now and then.

Hopefully you found a few informative and educational things here and among the other articles on my blog to help you get “tight lines” on future trips.

Spring Creek – First Trip 2014

Yesterday afternoon a friend, his son, and me went to Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek with hopes of catching some sulfur mayfly activity. We did. This article is a brief report on that trip.

The day was bright and sunny, and we selected a section of the stream to fish from the west bank, allowing for the sun to be at our backs. This gave us the advantage by reducing glare and minimizing eye strain, and also hid us from the fish because they have the glare in their right eye. We fished a section flowing from right to left. I always consider that whenever possible.

I started the first twenty minutes or so by giving my friend’s son, Sam, a lesson on nymph fishing. This was a refresher course on a demo that I had given him a few years earlier. As I narrated the approach, casting, targeting, drift management, striking, moving the indicator depending on the depth and current speed of the target area, and hook-setting, I had a couple strikes, and then, the one fish I did manage to hook, was lying in a most unlikely location, which added significantly to the learning impact of the lesson. The trout was holding in just a riffle, shallow, barely fifteen inches deep. Object lesson learned: “Don’t pass up any potential spot, even it you think it is too shallow, at least not on this crick.”

We hooked a few trout on nymphs, then adjourned stream-side for an early dinner of baloney and cheese sandwiches with mustard, before the hoped-for evening hatching and feeding activity. We started fishing again about five PM. Only an occasional trout rose, so I stayed with the nymphs and worked my way upstream through some riffles and pocket-water. I hooked a few trout, but nothing to write home about. For a change of pace I decided to start tossing a dry, or rather, my two-dry fly rig that I started using last year. This set-up is a sulfur dun of various styles with my Floating “Sulfur” (Caddis) Emerger trailing off this fly with about ten inches of 5x tippet. I tie it to the hook bend. After I made about three casts, I hooked a trout on the Floating Emerger. Took his photo as he reluctantly posed for me. The very next cast another trout took the emerger. I thought, whoa, this is gonna be great! Well, it was, almost, but not right away.

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014, taken on my Floating Caddis – Mayfly “Sulfur” Emerger, a #14.

I walked downstream to a pool where my companions were, checked in with them, and since they had a few risers, and caught a few trout, I decided to move below them and try some riffles and pockets. I caught this guy on a #14 Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun:

First trout that took the sulfur dun

First trout that took the sulfur dun in my two-dry fly rig.

I keep both these drys close together because they never alight with the tippet stretched out. The intent is to prevent the two flies from getting into current lanes with different speeds. If I have twelve inches of tippet between the two flies, the two patterns are often only a few inches apart. Trout can see both of them, I believe, and make their choice. The Floating Emerger was rising more trout in the afternoon, but as the hatch intensified, they seemed to prefer the dun, though all along trout continued to hit both flies.

We did not have a heavy hatch, and not a lot of trout were actively rising; it seemed sporadic at best. Still we caught trout. After hooking and raising several trout in the water below the pool where my companions fished, I started back up through the same section of riffles and pocket water I had fished previously, and decided to tie on a #12 Sulfur Parachute Dun. Why a size twelve, you ask? Well, some of Spring Creeks sulfurs are nearly that big, I’ve seen enough of ’em over the last twenty-five to make the assessment with certainty. The other reason, and there are a few are: It was about seven PM, and a larger fly would be easier to see on the rough water I was fishing, and also easier to see as daylight faded into dusk. A larger fly would float better. A larger fly would be easier for the trout to see as well.

So that’s what I did, and trout took the large sulfur dun with no hesitation. The first trout I rose was in a fast riffle, and he smashed the fly; he was about fourteen inches. Every fish that took that fly, whacked it, but then again I was fishing faster, rather turbulent riffle and pocket water and they don’t have a lot of time to think about it. I like the challenge of fishing like this because it is very difficult to get the fly to drift naturally in many of the likely-looking spots. The heavy water allows me to get close enough to almost “dap” the flies on the water, very similar to close-range high-stick nymphing, because often I had only a few feet of fly line extending past the rod tip.

This trout was the fish of the day for me:

Sixten-inch Spring Crek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing parachute Dun.

Sixteen-inch Spring Creek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

And since he, or rather, “she” was a nice trout, she warranted a few more pics:

head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I'm photographing the fish by myself. And with a net.

Head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I’m photographing the fish by myself. And with a net. You can see my fingers underneath her. To those unaware, the absence of a kype or hooked jaw, indicates this trout is a female.

And here she is posing in a lovely full-body image:

16" Spring Creek Brown, taken ion a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing  Parachute Dun.

16″ Spring Creek Brown, taken on a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

I took another smaller trout later on:

Smaller trout, about ten inches,

Smaller trout, about ten inches, you can clearly see the parachute dun. When I want to photograph trout like this, I actually bring the trout in close, then before I touch the fish, I turn on my camera and hit the macro button. Sometimes after doing this the trout gets away, but I don’t care, I’m releasing it anyway. Once the camera is readied and “on,” I grab the fish, snap a pic, unhook the fly, and they’re quickly back in the water. I wet my hands first. When doing this I have the fish out of the water for about 5 – 6 seconds.

At this point I want to say, anyone keeping fish out of the water for photographs for more than ten seconds after you have played them into submission, presents the risk of harming the fish through lack of oxygen. Speed it up, preferably, respect the fish, and keep them out of the water as little as possible. Imagine someone holding your head under a bucket of water to take photos of you immediately after you just ran the 200-yard dash. That is the position the trout are in when we bring them to hand. And don’t get them on shore where you can drop them and have them slip and flop out of your grasp and die from trauma after being released. I recently read a study on steelhead trout, tagged with radio collars in the Pacific Northwest, where a significant number were dying after being caught and released. The data discovered that most of these fish died of head trauma, caused by thrashing about or being dropped onto the rocks on shore, and not from being hooked with rod and reel.

And here is the intact rig with the actual flies that did the deeds:

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun with a #14 Floating “Sulfur” Emerger, patterned exactly after my Floating “Caddis” Emerger – the only change is the body dubbing color to ginger and I use orange thread. There was only eight inches of 5x tippet separating the two flies. Both flies are treated frequently with floatant.

This two-dry system works. I plan to try a Sulfur Dun and Sulfur Spinner together, that way the trout won’t treat me with disrespect like they did last year one evening, when the dun hatch fizzled out, and there were tons of spinners in the air, I thought I knew better and tied on a spinner. I ended up casting the spinner to about fifty rising trout, only to hook a handful of them. Turned out the dun hatch reignited and went gangbusters from about 8:15 until dusk, and the trout took the duns to my dismay, but I learned that lesson. I should have recognized that sooner. In the type of pocket and riffle water I was fishing, a Dun / Spinner two-dry fly rig will work. I’m about to test that out. 😉

Here are two links to articles on the Sulfur Emerger I wrote last May 2013, including the recipe and tying instructions:

https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/05/31/bastians-floating-caddis-sulphur-emerger/

https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/05/31/bastians-floating-sulphur-emerger-part-ii/

Close Enounters of the Trout Kind

This article developed into a bit of a larger piece, based on my personal years of experience and observations, as a result of my reply to a recent post on Gink and Gasoline. The article has a really long title so I’ll just post the link. I suggest you read this post before continuing here, it will help build my case. http://www.ginkandgasoline.com/fly-fishing/fly-fishing-is-there-a-time-when-anglers-should-admit-defeat-and-move-on/

My personal experience bears out the fact that, as long as a trout keeps feeding, he is not spooked and can be caught. That is where the challenge and appeal to keep trying comes in. Because many trout under the surface of the water cannot be seen from above, most anglers do not realize that a nymphing trout or a trout feeding off the bottom anywhere in the water column will do the exact same thing to your fly that a surface feeding trout does – which we can visually verify because we see it happen. They will look at your fly as it drifts by without taking it, or they swim over, look at it, and refuse it at the last moment. Trout will and do eat our subsurface flies, and many times, of course, we don’t “see” the take, regardless of what type of indicator system used. There is no such thing as the perfect strike indicator or indicator system. Too many variables. But, trout take our nymphs enough of the time, and give us an indication of that so that we have the instant reaction to set the hook and land the fish. This causes us to deem nymphing for trout to be a relatively successful method.  It is the best idea we angler’s have come up with so far, when presenting subsurface imitations at a natural drift.

Of course, you keep casting if you can see the trout feeding, along with his reactions to your offerings. Then maybe after five or eleven or nineteen or thirty-two drifts, the trout suddenly takes, or may never take, but again, if the fish remains in place and continues feeding, then we as angler / predator, are naturally tempted and motivated to continue fishing for that particular trout.

 When a fish takes your fly without your awareness and reaction, they merely spit the fly and continue feeding, and in 99% of the cases, they will not take the same “fake” again. They might look at it; I have in fact seen trout do that plenty of times, but as a rule, a fish will not take the same fly again, that they know from previous experience is not a food item, or if they were previously hooked on or just “stung” with a certain fly. However, there are variables to this assumption. Change the pattern size or switch to a different fly, possibly. It’s like pushing the reset button and the game starts all over again. Any fly the fish has not seen can potentially be taken, so each time we change patterns, we need to be sharpen our concentration a bit more to be prepared for the possibility that we have suddenly picked the fly that the trout will eat. However, sometimes a trout will eat the same fly after being hooked on it.

To follow up my comments above about trout never taking the same fly twice after being hooked, I have two true stories to share. These incidents both took place on Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek in Centre County.

One year in mid-June after the sulfur hatch was over I was nymph fishing one morning using a Cress Bug pattern. Things were going well; I had taken several trout in the first half-hour. Then I came across one of those trout you want to catch; he was a large brown, lying in a narrow current trough about three feet wide. I estimated his size at nineteen inches. He was actively feeding, all sub-surface. I made a couple casts, and on the second or third one, the drift and timing meshed perfectly with his feeding movements, and he took my Cress Bug. I hooked him, he flopped once in the shallow water, and the hook pulled free. To my surprise, he remained right where he was. I watched and waited for just a couple minutes, and he resumed feeding. I thought, “What the heck?” I cast the same fly over him again, and he looked at it several times, but he never took it again. So, I changed flies. During the next full hour, and I know because I kept glancing at my watch, I continued to work that trout. I tried at least a dozen different flies. He looked at almost all of them, took a couple, but ejected them before I reacted. Finally, at the one hour mark, more or less in desperation, I tied on the exact same Cress Bug fly that he had initially eaten, and I guess his memory had lapsed. He ate the fly; I set the hook, and eventually netted him – at nineteen-and-a-half inches, and released him.

A second incident took place that has a longer beginning to it, but I’ll just give the short version. I was with a couple friends one night on Spring Creek above Fisherman’s Paradise, and the Sulfurs were on, and very heavy. This particular night was one of those with tons of insects about, but few trout rising. Will we ever figure that one out? On a previous afternoon a few days earlier, I had located a freely-rising brown trout. The time was mid-afternoon, and not much was happening, but this trout was a steady riser. He was seventeen inches as a matter of fact, because one of my guide clients hooked him, and I netted and measured that fish.

I was not far from that pool as my friends and I despaired over the lack of rising trout. I announced to them, “I know where I might find a rising fish,” and off I went. When I got to the location, there he was, gulping sulfur spinners and / or duns off the surface, rising at a steady pace of sixty to seventy times per minute. Bear in mind the water was covered with bugs, few trout rising, but this guy was aggressively feeding. I had on the usual #14 Sulfur Spinner on 5x tippet. As rapidly as this trout was rising, my cast and subsequent drift over the fish had to be timed to the rhythm of his feeding. The number of necessary casts made to a fish feeding at a fast pace increases accordingly to the rapidity of the rises. I had made about fifteen casts, when I finally worked the time and place of the imitation to his liking. He took my fly, and I hooked him. I played the trout for about a minute or so, and then figured, he’s not that big, I can bring him in pretty quick. When I lowered my rod tip to increase pressure with the horizontal rod angle, the leader parted. I discovered that my leader had severed on the 4x section, above the 5x tippet. There had obviously been a bad spot in the leader. It was about 8:45 PM, and the light was fading. I had to replace both the 4x section and my 5x tippet, plus tie on a new fly. I chose the same exact pattern and size. My first attempt at tying the fly failed, the knot pulled loose when I tightened it up. So I had to tie the clinch knot twice. About five minutes had passed from when I initially hooked that trout.

By this time, among occasional glances, I noticed there was another trout feeding in the spot where the first one had been. Or so I thought. I made about eight casts, the fish took the fly, and I soon noted he wasn’t fighting very hard. I worked him in closer and netted him – along with my #14 Sulfur Spinner in his jaw still trailing the tippet and broken section of leader. I believe that was a case of the trout being stimulated by the abundance of food. Plus he had been caught before.

Fishing a single nymph rather than a tandem rig, and making accurate casts to have the fly, not the tippet, present to the front or slightly off to the near-side of the trout will help to minimize flossing, which was referred to in the Gink and Gasoline article.

Fishin’ Report

Despite the less than favorable weather patterns lately, specifically referring to a general lack of rainfall and low water conditions, I thought I would present some information that might just spark your interest enough to plan a fall fishin’ trip.

Most streams in this part of Pennsylvania are experiencing low water levels, however there are a couple exceptions. The two locations I want to point out are Big Pine Creek in Lycoming County, and Penn’s Creek. Back over Labor Day weekend, there was some heavy thunderstorm activity in the Tioga County and northwestern Lycoming County regions that sent Big Pine Creek’s flow from a little over 100 cfs to more than 1200 cfs. Since then, Pine has been running well above its median daily statistic from data of 94 years. Today, after a spike to 350cfs on October 8th, Pine is flowing (at the Cedar Run gauge) at 209 cfs.

Penn’s Creek at the Penn’s Creek USGS gauge also spiked yesterday to 150 cfs and is presently spot on for its median flow at 89 cfs, with 83 years of data. Water temperatures in both streams are in the mid-fifties.

The fishing report for Penn’s Creek has Slate Drakes hatching most days from about ten AM until 2 PM, and there is also activity of October Caddis, Blue-wing Olives, and Crane Flies. Nymphs of these species would also take fish, along with some attractor drys, terrestrials, and streamers.

Following up on my fishing trip (article posted here on October 4th) to Spring Creek on October 3rd, the lower three miles of Spring Creek also has adequate flows to permit fishing, where you’re not having to worry so much about spooking the trout. There are no Slate Drakes on Spring Creek, but there are sporadic hatches of caddis, tricos, fairly regular but spotty, around mid-day, and #18 BWO’s in late afternoon. The flow at Milesburg spiked at 260 cfs on October 7th, and has leveled off at 139 cfs, right on the median flow.

For more information contact these fly shops:

Penn’s Creek Angler – Bruce Fisher, (570) 922-1053

McConnell’s Country Store and Fly Shop – (570) 753-8241

Slate Run Tackle Shop – (570) 753-8551

There are direct website links to all three fly shops on my links listed on the right. Get out there and wet a line. I’d be going out myself this weekend, but I have plans to work at the cabin with my huntin’ buddies in preparation for deer camp. Tight lines everyone!

PS: Oh, I have to add this, the band Flipside, with whom I sat in on drums a couple weeks ago on Mustang Sally; they are playing this Sunday from 5 – 8 PM at the Trout Run Hotel. It’s an odd time, but in between “games.” I saw the keyboard player / guitarist / band leader at another bar this past Monday. We enjoyed the cheese steak special and a few beers at The Crippled Bear. We already worked it out for me to sit in again on Sunday. Ride, Sally, Ride! I’d have someone video it, but my camera is broken and I have not yet replaced it.

Tricos and Baetis on Spring Creek

Yesterday my neighbor, Jim, and I went fishing on Spring Creek, Centre County, Pennsylvania. This was a prearranged trip through a customer who lives near Altoona. His name is Bruce; he’s bought my DVD’s, commented here on the blog, and recently bought a set of seven color variations of samples of my Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger, along with the recipes and instructions. Bruce and I have been in e-mail contact for the past seven or eight years. We started planning this trip about three weeks ago.

I have not yet received my new camera, and I could just simply forget about this, but I wanted to write a review of the trip yesterday, so I’ll make an effort to paint pictures with words.

A fourth companion, Ed, who used to own a rod making company in Beech Creek, also joined us. I’ve known Ed since the 1980’s; he used to display and sell at the Susquehanna Chapter Trout Unlimited Annual Outdoor Show. We’ve seen each other on occasion in recent years at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. Unfortunately Ed has some health issues that prevent him from fishing, but he wanted to come along and offered to cook lunch for everyone. About that, “Such a deal!” my wife Lou Anne, would always say. We met at the bridge at the park in Milesburg at 9:30.

The Fishing:

There was heavy fog in the area, though I had worn my sunglasses for the drive down. The water flow was low, but the stream is larger in that section, so there was plenty of water. We rigged up and dispersed, staying relatively close together. I wanted to fish the section below the bridge that is normally rough and tumble riffs and white water, and pretty difficult to fish and wade in early season. I had tied a #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph on a twelve or so foot leader, to a 5x tippet, one #4 split shot, and to start, about two feet under an indicator. Second cast, “Fish on!” Fifth cast, after lowering the fly another foot to fish the slightly deeper water beyond where I took the first trout, “Fish on!” With nymphing, most anglers would simply keep casting. I learned and have always believed and taught my students over the years that an indicator should be one that is easily moveable, because a cast with set rigging in one place may not be correctly set up for making another cast even two feet away from the previously fished drift lane. Effective nymph fishing is all about versatility and constant observation, making necessary adjustments to your rig so that your presentation is correct for every location you fish. Rigging adjustments of the indicator placement also includes adding or removing split shot. I constantly make adjustments in my rig, changing patterns far less frequently than making other adjustments of weight and indicator placement.

Jim fished the junction pool with Bald Eagle Creek and took one fish swinging a #16 winged wet fly, not sure of the pattern; it was basically a Ginger Quill, but had a brown hackle and dark quill body. After two trout in the first three minutes, I over-confidently thought I was going to kill ’em. Wrong. I fished hard, thoroughly working the seams, riffs, and runs all the way to the mouth, for more than an hour, with nary another strike. I motioned to Jim that I was going to head back upstream. I entered and fished first pool below the bridge with the same nymph.

After a little while, Jim came up and I commented that I was starting to see a few small bugs in the air. The number of these insects steadily increased in minutes. I thought they were Tricos, but I couldn’t see the tails. Guess it was just the lighting, or perhaps my need for new glasses. Jim finally caught one and positively identified them as Trico spinners. No trout were rising, and it was about eleven-thirty. I decided since the nymphing had been fruitless, that I would prepare for the hoped-for trico spinner fall and rise of trout. So I added 6x tippet, rummaged through my fly boxes and tied on a #22 Trico Spinner in anticipation of some surface action. That paid off. The heaviest part of the rise probably occurred after we departed for lunch, but I managed to take two trout that I saw rising, stung a third, and had three more rise and miss the fly. When Jim arrived, having hooked a couple fish, we gathered Bruce, who had landed six, from upstream and headed for our lunch rendezvous with Ed at Fisherman’s Paradise.

Lunch:

When we pulled in, Ed had the grill smoking. Nice! This was indeed, such a deal! Ed had thick, juicy elk burgers sizzling away, with the addition of hickory chips to the fire. Added to this were sliced whole wheat buns, a jar of Ed’s home-canned hot peppers, sliced, garden-fresh tomatoes, big, but nice and thin, sweet onion slices, a bag of chips that Bruce brought, plus a batch of home-made potato salad from yours truly. I included the recipe at the end of this post, for anyone interested. It’s pretty good.

Our picnic table was right beside the stream. As we enjoyed our lunch, we saw a mature bald eagle soaring high overhead. We also saw a huge congregation of Trico spinners in the air, thirty to forty feet above the water. I started watching for rises as we concluded our meal. When we were done eating, we put a few things away, and then I saw it: a rise! When I saw another, I said, “I’m gonna make a few casts; heck I still have that Trico spinner on my leader.” This particular Trico Spinner pattern is simple:

Trico Spinner

Hook: Straight-eye dry, #20 – #24.

Tail: Three fibers of light dun Microfibetts, divided with thread

Abdomen: White Uni-thread 8/0, started at thorax, wound back, divide the tail, then forward so the body is two layers

Wing: Sparse white E. P. Fibers

Thorax: Black Rabbit dubbing

Retrieving my rod from the car, which by the way, was a nine-foot, five-weight with a six weight line – way too heavy for low-water fall fishing in most people’s minds – more on that later; I walked over, stood at the water’s edge, since wading is prohibited in this area, and started casting and observing. I had a small audience by now, another fellow had joined Ed, Jim, and Bruce. Working the first trout I saw rising, he came up with a nice swirl, but missed the fly. A minute or so later, I hooked the first one. I landed and released that one, and I rose and stung a second trout in short order. Even though there really was not a major rise in process, Jim commented, “These fish must be looking for those spinners.” Surely, Jim was correct; the trout have had Trico spinners on the daily menu for a few weeks already. Trico hatch number two in the fall begins fifty-nine days following the emergence and mating of the first Tricos in July.

A few minutes after my first trout, I hooked and landed another. I rose two more, then Bruce asked, “Where are we gonna fish this afternoon?”

“We can go below Bellefonte if you want to,” I replied. We made arrangements to go downstream, below town, just below the entry of a small tributary named Buffalo Run.

The Afternoon Fishing:

We parked our vehicles and got out. I spent the first half-hour sitting and talking with Ed on a convenient stream-side bench, catching up on things, watching the water for rises. Saw none. Bruce hooked a couple trout on nymphs at the head of the pool. After a while, I started fishing with that Trico spinner anyway, thinking I might interest a fish or two. I know, using a Trico as an attractor or search pattern isn’t high on most angler’s list of regular tactics, but that’s what I did. To no avail. Jim hooked a trout or two on nymphs.

After about an hour, Ed departed and the three of us walked downstream to the old bridge abutment near the sewage treatment plant. By then I figured if I was going to catch any more fish, I better rig up with nymphs again. So I did. I tried a pink San Juan Worm, but in a few minutes lost the whole rig on brush that hung out from the bridge abutment. When I re-rigged, I put the same fly on, but in wine color. Hooked a nice, acrobatic rainbow about thirteen inches in length, who stayed on long enough to give me some action, complete with a couple jumps. Then he got off, saving me the trouble of getting my hands wet. About 4:40 PM Jim and I decided to head upstream, to catch up with Bruce who had started fishing his way upstream a half-hour or so earlier. He had not done a thing. The three of us were ready to call it a day.

The Finale:

When we got below the long, flat pool above an island, we saw rises. Quite a few of them, stretched out over a couple hundred feet of the length of the pool. Bruce asked, “What do you think they’re takin’?”

“My best guess is blue-wing olives,” I replied. “The light is less intense, we’ve had a bit of cloud cover this afternoon, and they’re the bug in season,” I added. We decided we could not walk away from this potentially entertaining opportunity. We went along the railroad tracks some distance, to a spot just below the middle of the pool, and I sat down to detach my nymph rig. Removing shot, indicator, and nymph, I tied on a section of 6x tippet, and then knotted a dark-bodied BWO Thorax Dun pattern, #20 to the tippet. The wing was gray E. P Fibers with a dark dun hackle, clipped on the bottom.

Bruce entered the water below some rising fish. I chose to stay on the bank, kneeling or sitting as I targeted some rising trout close to shore. After some futile attempts at these fish, which were in very shallow water, I decided to move upstream, above Bruce, where the water was deeper, hoping for better luck. Here’s where my nine-foot, five-weight rod with six-weight line came in handy again. Some of the trout were rising against the far side. The railroad tracks were behind us, so there was unlimited back casting room. Unlike Jim and Bruce, I stayed on the bank. Working a few trout, soon I hooked and landed one in the middle of the stream. Eventually I was targeting the trout rising along the far side. The nice thing about the heavier rod and line: I could pick up the entire line, make one back cast, and one stroke forward – and be right back on target. No stripping, no unnecessary false casting, no having to reset my accuracy and distance to the target. This tactic makes for more effective and more efficient fishing, simply because your fly spends more time on the water and less time in the air. And this was possible with the heavier rod and line, despite the fact that I was making fifty-to-sixty foot casts. I learned that earlier last year one day on Spring Creek in the Paradise, when the wind was gusty and brisk. My companions (all using three and four weights) wondered how I could cast so easily in the wind, even to rising trout against the opposite bank. Remember too, that with the addition of a couple feet of 6x tippet, my leader was probably fourteen feet long. I hooked and landed two fish, lost another one, and had four more miss the fly. Bruce and Jim each took fish as well, we were all using various BWO dry patterns. What a great way to close the day of a fine fishing trip!

When we returned to our cars, as we were taking our boots and waders off, Bruce got a cellphone call from Ed. He had gone to Fly Fisher’s Paradise Fly Shop in State College. The fishing report from every angler coming into the shop was: everyone was skunked. And Bruce questioned again Ed to make sure, there were no reports of other anglers taking any trout that day. That made us all feel even better. It’s especially rewarding to be able to catch trout under adverse conditions and circumstances. The best part of the day was not the fishing, it was the camaraderie, the great lunch, and the promise among us all to do it again.

Potato Salad Recipe:

My wife, Lou Anne, made potato salad from a recipe. And it was really good, heavily spiced with crushed dill. But I seldom use a recipe for most of my cooking, unless I’m preparing a dish where exacting recipe components and quantities are necessary. When I make potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad, etc., depending on how much I make, I always estimate or “eyeball” the amount of the spices, seasonings, and dressing.

This can be made in as small or as large of a batch as you desire, from a few servings, or perhaps where some leftovers are desired, to a large casserole dish for a family or church picnic.

Use any kind of potato. It’s even OK to mix varieties, a few red skinned taters add color. Three to ten potatoes will make a small to a large batch, depending on the size of your taters. Wash them of course, but I do not peel them. Dice into bite-size pieces. Cook 10 to 11 minutes. You can taste if you like. They’ve got to be done, but not Al dente, nor do you want them mushy. Drain. Use two to four hard-boiled eggs.

1/2 to a whole white or sweet onion (more for a larger batch), diced, red onion may also be used

Two to three stalks celery (more for a larger batch), diced

I like to saute` my onions and celery in butter or light olive oil until they begin to caramelize. These are added to the cooked potatoes. If you want to skip this step, simply pour the hot potatoes on top of the diced celery and onion in a dish and leave at room temperature. The heat from the potatoes will soften the onions and celery somewhat, but I prefer the added flavor from the caramelized vegetables.

Seasonings to taste:

Primarily you’ll need mayonnaise, 1/2 to 1-1/2 cups, depending on the size of your batch. It’s best to add some gradually and mix it in, then you can usually see if more is needed. I don’t like soppy potato salad.

Additionally you’ll need: Salt, pepper, crushed dill, garlic powder (not garlic salt which is mostly salt!), or garlic and rosemary ground mix, and paprika. A little rosemary by itself is also good. I also add one to three tablespoons of vinegar, sometimes adding and mixing it to a small bit of Italian dressing, like when the bottle is about empty. Pout the whole blend over the salad, I generally do this before adding the mayo. Also, a little mustard can be added, either yellow, Djion, spicy brown, or a horseradish mustard. Another nice variation is to add some blue cheese crumbles to the potato salad. I dice my eggs and mix them throughout, but one could also slice them and arrange them on top. Paprika sprinkled on the finished salad is a nice touch. The same basic recipe can be used for macaroni salad. You can eat it fresh made, but it’s always better after it has had time to steep in the fridge. Enjoy!

Spring Creek Trout Unlimited Chapter Stream Project

This is a report on a recent stream improvement project from the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Centre County, Pennsylvania. The Chapter recently completed this project on the lower end of Spring Creek, very near its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek at Milesburg.There will also be another project to plant trees, the information is included in this post. I took the information from an e-mail sent by Chapter Vice-president, Robert Vierck. The following is from Bob’s Chapter e-mail notice:

The construction phase of the Lower McCoy Bank Stabilization and Buffer Buddies program was completed on June 25th – on time and within budget.  This is due to all the efforts that our volunteers put into this project – really well done with great cooperation from all. Some information:

1.  We had a total of 18 volunteers on June 24, and 17 volunteers on June 25.

2.  We were able to complete 95% of the construction of the mud-sill on Monday with final rock placement this morning, (on July 3rd).

3.  We installed 5 multi-log vane deflectors using 25 ‘ logs today, (July 3rd), before we broke for lunch.

4.  A total of 160 tons of #6 Limestone rock was used to stabilize the stream between the two locations.

4.  We planted grass seed and covered it with straw.

5.  The final seeding was extremely wet as the storms came – but some valiant volunteers finished the seeding.

6.  The deflectors and mud-sill stood up very well in spite of being tested extensively by a major storm on June 27th.

Here are some of the photos from the Chapter e-mail:

Spring Creek, in I believe, the project area before work was started.

Spring Creek, at Milesburg, Pennsylvania – in the project area before work was started.

The project included a hands-on youth session.

The project included a hands-on youth session. Here a chapter member looks on as some participants “catch bugs.”

Informal session on aquatic entomology.

Informal stream side session on aquatic entomology.

Checking out that fly rod!

Checking out that fly rod grip.

Work progresses for the installation of a log vein.

Work progresses for the installation of a log vein. I believe there were also personnel from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

This was a very successful project. We were able to construct the longest mud-sill to date on Spring Creek, and install five multi-log vane deflectors in two-and-a-half day’s work. On July 3rd we actually watched a fly fisherman catch a nice brown trout behind a rock next to the new mud-sill.

Included here are some of the Chapter photos of the project.

More are available on our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/springcreektu and on the home page of our website – http://springcreektu.org/

Still working on that log vein installation...

Still working on that log vein installation…the large hand-drills are used to drill through the logs for placement of steel re-bars to anchor the logs to the stream bed.

Looking

Looking downstream toward part of the project area.

Upstream view

Upstream view at a log vein site. There is a second log vein upstream, just to the left of the utility poles on the right-hand bank, and a third one, submerged between the two.

Area of limestone rock rip-rap.

Area of limestone rock rip-rap, looking upstream from the bridge at the park in Milesburg. The ground has been seeded and mulched with straw. This will help to secure the stream bank and greatly reduce erosion. The submerged rocks also provide cover for trout and habitat for aquatic insects.

Once again, thanks to all of our volunteers.  We are now planning the planting stages….keep tuned.

October 7th & 8th our chapter will need 15 volunteers to assist in the planting of trees and shrubs in Milesburg. The in-stream work is complete. Now we need to do the planting along the bank. We will be obtaining the plants and other materials from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. At present we are awaiting contract approval from the landowner – FirstEnergy.  The above dates are tentative, pending approval from FirstEnergy.

 

To volunteer contact Bob Vierck   (vpres@springcreetu.org) or call: 814-360-3702, or e-mail Jim Lanning (jlanning@ncikrg.org)

I’d like to add that this project is great news. it is sure to enhance the fishing in this section of stream. In fact the last several years have seen good developments for Spring Creek and increased and enhanced angling opportunities. In 2007 the old McCoy dam below Bellefonte was removed, and the Spring Creek Trout Unlimited Chapter and PA Fish and Boat Commission work installed log veins and stream improvement devices in that section. The dam removal opened up to fishing a new stretch of about one-quarter mile that was formerly inundated with water. The McCoy dam had been in place since the late 1700’s. The three-mile stretch of Spring Creek between Bellefonte and Milesburg is a great summer fishing location. Even in the hottest weather the water temperature seldom exceeds sixty degrees in this stretch because of the influx of cold water from the big spring in down town Bellefonte.

The PA Fish and Boat Commission also opened to wading the upper section of Fisherman’s Paradise, just two years ago. This is above the park area and upper parking lot where the grass in mowed. This section was always difficult to fish because of the trees, brush, and no wading law. Additionally the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute at Rockview opened up the formerly closed to trespassing “canyon” stretch of Spring Creek between the Paradise and Benner Springs. Finally, a formerly closed-to-fishing section in downtown Bellefonte was also opened to fishing. The new water is between the High Street and Lamb Street bridges, if you don’t mind fishing “in town.” In all, these combined changes have added almost a mile of “new” fishing water to Spring Creek. And the entire section of open, accessible water on Spring Creek is all Catch-and-Release. It is one of the best wild brown trout fisheries in the state of Pennsylvania. Give it a try!

Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger

This is a full-length article on three of my original caddis patterns that I originally intended to release to a magazine for publication. Perhaps I still will. However, with the acceptance of “Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger” pattern by Orvis, and the recent release of the online Orvis New Products Catalog, I wanted to do a write-up here to generate interest in this pattern. Reading through my Caddis Pattern Trio article that I wrote a few years ago, I decided to print it here in its entirety. I have included discussion on the Hatching Caddis Adult and Hatching Caddis Pupa, but the focus of this piece is on the Floating Caddis Emerger.

I have been unable to post much here due to my depressed health since November 1st, but I guess now that I’ve finally posted something with substance, this is a post with substance to make up for it. I hope you all find something interesting, even enlightening, in this writing.

Here is the Orvis link to “Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger:” http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=7R6A

Orvis did an excellent job of replicating my pattern. I will only say the Tan version should have a hackle that is lighter, more of a light – medium mottled brown. But I doubt the darker hackle will reduce the effectiveness of Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger.

A Spring Creek brown taken on my Floating Caddis Emerger, April 29, 2012.

A Spring Creek brown taken on my Floating Caddis Emerger, April 29, 2012.

Caddis Pattern Trio

By Don Bastian

    Caddis flies are among the most ubiquitous aquatic insects. As a genus they are widely distributed in water types from flowing to still, shallow to deep. They inhabit virtually every ecological unit within their environment. As a species they number in the thousands, and their diversity in size, color, habits, and environment is fascinating, even astounding to fly anglers. Across the country, wherever trout are found, caddis flies will be found as well. Some species of caddis flies often occur in warm water environs unsuitable for trout. Some varieties hatch once per year, while others are multi-brooded within a twelve-month period. In some areas caddis hatches occur with incredible density, the number of insects occasionally creating the illusion of a blizzard as individual flies easily number tens of thousands. An upstream caddis migration flight is a spectacle to see, yet when this occurs anglers often wonder why few trout are rising when there are thousands of insects in the air.

For fly fishers, caddis flies often present challenges during emergence. Perhaps the most confounding issue confronted by anglers during caddis hatching activity is determining exactly what stage of the caddis lifecycle the trout are feeding on, particularly when the occasional occurrence of splashy rise forms are encountered. Often our glance in the direction of the rise is met with the sight of a small caddis fly fluttering on the surface in an attempt to become airborne, and as we watch we see a second follow up rise as a trout engulfs the struggling adult. What just happened there? Obviously the trout took the adult caddis, because we saw it happen. In this case you can believe what you see. However, what we did not see may be far more significant. What happened to trigger the initial rise of the trout? What exactly transpired immediately before and during the first rise of the fish? While we might hope to one day solve this puzzling question, the resolution of this riddle would by its very solution remove much of the intriguing appeal that fishing caddis imitations for trout can provide.

Another Spring Creek brown that took the Floating Caddis Emerger.

Another Spring Creek brown that took the Floating Caddis Emerger same day as the trout above. I took one trout on a #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph that day, and after switching to the Floating Caddis Emerger, ended the day with over two-dozen trout.

The element of challenge is one of the most compelling reasons why people are drawn to fly-fishing. An opportunity to fish an emergence of caddis flies inherently contains an element of risk. The risk is that one might not be wholly successful in imitating the caddis life stage trout are feeding upon, and as a result, fewer trout will be brought to net and anglers often return home somewhat perplexed. Most fly fishers readily immerse themselves in this risk regardless of their knowledge or ability to overcome the challenge. My hope through this writing is to relate my experiences, resolve some lingering questions, and offer some caddis fly pattern solutions that have served well over the years to increase angling success for myself and many of my friends.

I recall meeting Gary LaFontaine for the first time at a fly fishing event in the early 1990’s. His book, Caddisflies, is a monumental work that illuminated a trove of information regarding caddis activity that had been previously enigmatic. Employing the use of scuba gear to study and gather data, Mr. LaFontaine actually viewed caddis emergences underwater as they progressed. What struck me most significantly during Gary’s presentation was his revelation that most of the time during a caddis hatch trout are not feeding on the caddis adults. Predominantly, LaFontaine described, trout are feeding on the emerging caddis. But what exactly does that mean? This could easily be interpreted to mean that trout are feeding on the ‘emergers’ as they rise to the surface. Which begs further questions: What is a caddis emerger? What form do they take? How can we mimic them effectively?

Splashy rise forms we often see are typically caused by trout aggressively feeding on caddis flies that are about to escape. This aggression is probably triggered by the specific behavior and habits of the emerging caddis and not as we often believe, by the adult insects. This conclusion could be plausibly rationalized and understood by most anglers. Gary went on to explain that his research indicated, as many anglers are aware, when a caddis fly is ready to hatch, a buildup of gaseous bubbles within the pupal shuck causes the pupa to rise to the surface very rapidly. Unlike mayflies, whose wings inflate with the flowing of body fluids after the sub-imago emerges from the shuck, the formation of gas bubbles inside the caddis pupal shuck is the final indication that the pupa has completed its metamorphosis. As this transpires the adult is fully formed inside the shuck, ready for flight as soon as it can release itself from the case that constrains it. The gas bubbles within the caddis pupal shuck enable a rapid rise to the surface. This rate of rise is so fast that the trout have little chance of intercepting the pupal shuck during these brief moments. The optimum opportunity for trout to feed on emerging caddis flies occurs when the pupal shuck makes contact with and breaks through the surface film.

A nice rainbow also fell victim to the Floating Caddis Emerger on that late-April day in 2012.

A nice rainbow also fell victim to the Floating Caddis Emerger on that late-April day in 2012.

Gary LaFontaine reported that adult caddis flies emerge from the pupal shuck within two to three seconds after contact with the surface film has been achieved. Furthermore, his observation that average trout stream and river current speed is four feet per second translates to this: On most rivers the caddis pupal shuck floats and drifts on the surface an average distance of eight to twelve feet before splitting open, whereupon the adult takes flight almost instantly. In most cases when trout break the surface during a caddis emergence they are not usually feeding on the adult caddis flies. In recent years it has become more evident that aggressive rises of trout taking hatching caddis flies are caused as they take the drifting pupa with the adult still inside, and not the adult,  in the surface film just prior to emergence. Trout know from experience that the fly will disappear imminently, so they act quickly, decisively, and often with reckless abandon to gain the meal before the opportunity is gone. With trout feeding so eagerly, it is thought-provoking to note that at this stage of the hatch anglers choosing to fish with standard top-water caddis dry patterns invariably meet with limited success.

What can fly anglers do to solve this puzzle? I remember meeting Eric Leiser and Larry Solomon, coauthors of The Caddis and the Angler, in the 1970’s at an event I attended. They related one technique employed during a caddis hatch was to use a dry pattern like an Elk Hair Caddis or a Henryville Special (both good caddis adult imitations), and stand in the water, waiting for a rise, false casting the fly. The idea being that when a trout rose within casting distance, the angler was ready to respond by instantly casting the fly to the rise in an attempt to trick the trout into thinking it missed its target. This method is clearly time-consuming, and if the trout are not feeding actively it comes up short. Not to mention tiring out your arm and being just plain boring. Such a technique has its merits to take a few fish but it is little more than a ruse that leaves the problem unsolved.

Through my years of fly tying and fishing research I have created some caddis emerger / transition patterns that, while not foolproof, have proven at times to work quite effectively to dupe trout into taking the fly. The significant aspect of these patterns is that they have worked successfully when other patterns have failed, and they have taken trout when there was very little caddis activity. In the mid-1990’s I was contracted to tie some custom caddis emerger patterns for a local fly shop. LaFontaine’s Sparkle Pupa had become well known by this time. In tying these custom patterns, what interested me was the addition of some sparkle material to the side of the fly, swept back along the body. There was also the inclusion of a rib of Krystalflash. Incorporating some of Gary LaFontaine’s ideas, these two ingredients sparked my mind to create my own versions through combination and modification. The first fly I developed, about 1996, was called the Pre-Emergent Sparkle Caddis Adult. A few years later I decided that the name was too cumbersome and renamed the pattern the Hatching Caddis Adult, which is what it was designed to imitate. With a trailing shuck like some other caddis patterns, I added a Krystalflash rib to the Haretron body and Hi-Vis along the sides, which I named the side-shuck. My other addition was a stub of Hi-Vis over the body to form what I refer to as a half-wing. I reasoned this wing stub would retain fly floatant and improve the buoyancy of the pattern, which proved to be correct. This fly was designed as a floating pattern to imitate the ready-to-hatch caddis adult with lots of sparkle to attract the trout. It was initially very successful on Ontario’s Grand River in the late 1990’s. It has proven successful through more than a decade of use, but at the same time has not been a complete answer to the dilemma of matching a caddis hatch.

My next development in this series was the creation of an underwater emerger pattern. Similar to LaFontaine’s Sparkle Caddis Pupa, my version has a trailing shuck, the body bubble, adds the Krystal flash rib and the Hi-Vis side-shuck, retains the little half wing of Hi-Vis, and has a soft-hackle collar. So it is very similar to my Hatching Caddis Adult, but it includes the LaFontaine style body bubble of Antron or Hi-Vis pulled over the body to make it resemble a caddis pupal shuck. I tied these on a 1x long nymph hook. This fly, called the Hatching Caddis Pupa, works very well when fished as a nymph pattern.

You have probably heard it said, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” This was true in my case, because on numerous occasions I was fishing Hatching Caddis Adult patterns during a caddis hatch with some success, but with results somewhat less than desired. While some fish took the fly, many trout rejected it. Recalling LaFontaine’s research of trout feeding on floating, drifting pupal shucks, I tried my Hatching Caddis Pupa pattern, dressed with floatant and fished it on the surface. This provided limited success, primarily because it did not float well. The pattern improved slightly when tied on a dry fly hook, but still not what I would state as an achievement of success. Again my mind wondered, “How can I make a pupa pattern to float on the surface without dressing it like a traditional dry fly?”

Here again, I thought about some elements of the caddis fly that I felt important to imitate. Form, silhouette, and floatation were key elements that needed to be designed into the fly. Caddis pupal shucks quiver and vibrate while floating on the surface as the adults struggle to emerge, so I reasoned that the addition of various fibers to blur the trout’s vision might suggest this behavior. And it needed to float as well. I also thought of a mottling effect to imitate the variegated markings of some caddis flies. This thought process caused me to develop the Floating Caddis Emerger. This pattern has become my favorite because it works far better than the others. In fact it has worked so well that I am prone to exaggerated ravings about it, however I shall endeavor to focus on the facts. The Floating Caddis Emerger differs from the other two patterns in two ways. First and most significantly, there is what I call an overback strip of closed-cell foam. This is my solution for unexcelled floatation. Even if swamped in surface turbulence, the fly remains suspended in the film. The second addition is a single wrap of mottled hen back feather at the head to achieve a variegated effect. Omitted ingredients are the body shuck and the half wing. Included are the trailing shuck, Krystalflash rib, Haretron dubbed body, and dubbed head.

May 13, 2012,Spring Creek. I had suspicion and made the delightful discovery that the Floating Caddis Emerger,when dressed with Hartron Ginger dubbing,is dead-on as a floating sulphur emerger.. On thios date I hooked fouryteen trout, feeding on sulphurs, on the "Floating Caddis Emerger, size #16. Ha! I really fooled 'em!

May 13, 2012, Spring Creek. I had a suspicion for a couple years and when I acted on it, I made the delightful discovery that the Floating Caddis Emerger, when dressed with Haretron Ginger dubbing, is dead-on as a floating sulphur emerger. On this date I hooked fourteen trout in a little over an hour that were obviously feeding on sulphurs, on the “Floating Caddis Emerger, size #16. Ha! I really fooled ’em! I was using a tiny pinch of Yellow Orvis Strike Putty on my tippet knot, no larger than the diameter of my fly line as a sight indicator.

Note in the photo above my discovery that the Floating Caddis Emerger, dressed with a ginger body, is an excellent sulphur emerger. It’s still a dry fly, low-floating but nevertheless, a dry.

I confess that the Floating Caddis Emerger has yet to be fished during a heavy caddis hatch, but therein is my strong belief in its effectiveness, because it has proven to bring trout to the surface when few other flies have brought success. It has been fished on New York’s Beaverkill and Croton Rivers, the Madison and Ruby in Montana, Big Pine Creek, Penn’s Creek, Spring Creek, all in Pennsylvania, and the Housatonic and Farmington Rivers in Connecticut. There have been several times on Spring Creek when I hooked over three-dozen trout on the Floating Caddis Emerger in a few hours. Most noteworthy was the fact that there was no significant hatch on, just the odd caddis fluttering about here and there. Spring Creek is often notorious for its no-hatch, consequently no-rising-trout scenario. Dressed with floatant and sometimes using a very small, fly line diameter-sized pinch of strike putty on the tippet knot so I can track the flush-floating fly in broken water, the Floating Caddis Emerger tempts trout to the surface and instills confident strikes.

One difficult afternoon in July 2005 on Pennsylvania’s Penn’s Creek, my friend Dave Rothrock was with me. I had given him a few of these flies to try. After a day of relatively slow fishing due to the absence of major aquatic insect activity, Dave’s evaluation was this: “Any time I could ascertain a trout was feeding on caddis they would rise with confidence and take this fly.”

Another Spring Creek brown taken during a sulphur hatch on the Floating Caddis Emerger.

A nice Spring Creek brown taken during a sulphur hatch on the Floating Caddis Emerger.

A fat yearling brown taken on the Floating Caddis "Sulphur" Emerger. Wink, wink!

A fat yearling brown taken on the Floating Caddis “Sulphur” Emerger. Wink, wink!

It also remains effective if fished in rough water where it may occasionally be swamped by surface action. Not to worry though, because with the built-in life-preserver of closed-cell foam, the fly remains in or just under the surface film. If an indicator fly or pinch of strike putty on the tippet knot is employed, the rise of a trout can still be detected. A good fishing technique would be to use a Floating Caddis Emerger with a very small pinch of strike putty on the tippet knot. Or do as I did once on the Madison River; use the Floating Caddis Emerger on 5x tippet tied from the bend of a #10 Grizzly Wulff or some other large attractor dry as an indicator fly. This combination brought a bank-hugging twenty-inch brown to net. Another version would be a two-fly rig with the Hatching Caddis Pupa on a 5x tippet with a micro-shot above the fly, and the Floating Caddis Emerger as an indicator above it, also tied on 5x.

Fishing a caddis hatch remains at times, somewhat of a challenge and I do not contend that these fly patterns will resolve all the associated difficulties. However, I have enjoyed success on many occasions with these flies, and I encourage you to try them as well. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

Furthermore, I believe this pattern design can be adopted to other mayflies, most notably the Slate Drake, which can and does emerge mid-stream. Also March Browns and Green Drakes. More tying and fishing to do…

Geez, I almost forgot!!!!!!!! Very important!

Field-worn Floating Caddis Emerger. One successful day in 2005, I hooked 34 trout on Pennsylvania's Spring Creek on this fly. Then I decided to save it before losing it, as an example of pattern durability and effectiveness. Note the teeth marks, yet the pattern is intact, ready for more trout.

Field-worn Floating Caddis Emerger. One successful day in 2005, I hooked 34 trout on Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek on this fly. Then I decided to save it before losing it, as an example of pattern durability and effectiveness. Note the teeth marks, yet the pattern is intact, ready for more trout.

Floating Caddis Emerger with fom overback strip worn ragged by trout's teeth, yet the fly did not fall apart. (wrap your thread tight, boys and girls).

Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger with foam overback strip worn ragged, nearly shredded by the teeth of thirty-four trout, yet the fly did not fall apart. (Wrap your thread tight, boys and girls).

When the Fisherman is Away

There’s an old saying that I’ve heard folks say ever since I was a kid. Here it is: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” My version of this regarding a recent experience goes like this: “When the fisherman is away, the dog will play.” At least that’s how it sometimes goes.

I have a number of fly tying and dog stories that are mine or those of friends, stashed into a project I started three years ago. This project is the writing of  short humorous stories, accounts, and tales of various fishing and hunting experiences that I’ve had over lo, these many years. When the idea started I thought I’d have about thirty topics, but the list has swelled to nearly ninety at present. Seven chapters are finished. My plan is to publish these stories in a two or three volume set. But today, I need to write something; I am so far behind in my blog posts.

Since late April I’ve fished a number of times. The seven trips I have made to Spring Creek have thus far resulted in me hooking over 160 trout, a pretty good per-trip average of twenty-some fish. Two of them were days when I hooked close to forty. May 17th, while fishing nearby Big Pine Creek with two friends, I had the best day I’ve ever had there. I netted fifteen nice rainbows, all save one from nymphing heavy water riffles with four split-shot and a two-fly rig, five to eight feet under the indicator. I haven’t done that in a number of years, and it was refreshing and exhilarating to find out how much I love fishing like that. Hey, they weren’t rising, and a “Bugger” produced only one trout, so the tactic of nymphing is generally what works best under these conditions. I capped the day off with two big browns in the evening on a dry; a Slate Drake Extended Body Dun pattern of my own design. This pattern and several other Slate Drakes will soon be available for sale directly from me. You can post a comment here, which will give me your e-mail address, and from there I can contact you about placing an order.

Over Memorial Day weekend after my May 25th class at L. L. Bean, I fished in Maine with my brother, Larry, and my niece, Emily, for stripers, successfully. I have photos of all these excursions that I’d like to post. So far it’s been a good season. I’d love to fish more, but I am still backed up with fly tying orders, and then there’s the yard work both at home and the cabin.

On the earlier mentioned May 17th trip, I departed the house around 8:30 AM to meet my New Jersey friends at McConnell’s Country Store and Fly Shop in Waterville. http://www.mcconnellscountrystore.com/

Our friend Dave Rothrock was working in the shop and we chatted with him a bit, ordered sandwiches from the deli for lunch, and headed up to the Delayed Harvest Area below Slate Run. This post is about what happened when I returned home. The Pine Creek fishing story will be posted separately. For now I am writing about Abigail, my ten-year old Cocker Spaniel. She was a surprise gift from my wife Lou Anne, on my 50th birthday in 2002. On May 17th, she was “the dog that played while the fisherman was away.”

Abigail – companion, bird dog, comic actor, well-disciplined, mild-mannered, generally well-behaved dog. I love her more than any of the four dogs I owned. She’s just as cute as she can be.

My day of fishing on May 17th started out with me intending to stop and head home mid-afternoon to take care of a few things, one of which was mowing the lawn. Another was to receive and deposit in the bank a check that I had been expecting. I decided to stay and fish. Excellent choice. The check could wait (turned out it did not arrive anyway), and the mowing was no worse the next day. Abigail had the house to herself for over twelve-plus hours that I was away. She’s normally out several times a day, but when Lou Anne was living and worked full time, and if I traveled or guided, Abigail was often in the house for up to eleven hours. She was well-housebroken and there was never an incident, but we had learned to keep the trash containers out of her reach. She loved to get after facial tissue and especially, used napkins that might have a trace of food or other “intersting” aroma embedded in them. On occasion she would pull twenty or thirty feet of toilet paper off the roll. Otherwise, she’s always been a great pet; gentle, sweet, playful, great with my grandsons, and very good afield hunting grouse and woodcock.

A handful of times over the years she got into my fly tying stuff, though never causing a major catastrophe. Once she got hold of a 1/2 ounce bundle of schlappen, and even though Lou Anne was in the room with her at the time, she was occupied on the computer. When I walked in after the bundle was “separated” I asked Lou Anne why she didn’t stop her. She of course thought that Abigail was simply playing with one of her chew toys. Another time recently I heard Abigail chewing on something as I sat tying flies. For about minute I heard but did not pay attention to what she was doing, again, thinking she had her Nylabone. When I looked down, Abigail was right beside me on the floor, calmly tearing the nails off a jungle cock cape. I was instantly horrrified. She doesn’t eat the feathers, she just wants the skin. It’s the bird dog equivalent of beef jerky. I of course intervened to save the cape, and I now regret that my immediate dismay prevented me from the presence of mind to take a macro photo of her head, because she had about a dozen jungle cock nails clinging to her lips. That would have actually been very funny – in hindsight.

Abigail sleeps in bed with me, tucked up against my torso because she’s always been a lover and craves affection. When I returned home from fishing all day about 9:30 PM, I was up for only about fifteen minutes. I was pretty exhausted after fishing most of the day, being on my feet and wading the heavy riffs for a good nine hours. At 4:00 AM I was awakened by the sounds of Abigail retching and, well, without further details, she coughed up something. I was in REM sleep, and this was not welcomed. Not at all. I got out of bed, turned on the light, squinting in a half-daze at this slimy, four-inch long slug of broken feathers and quill stems on the comforter. Curious, because normally if she was into my fly tying stuff, I would see it right away. I knew she had gotten into some feathers, but there had been no evidence that she had disturbed anything. I cleaned it up with paper towels and we both went back to sleep.

It was not until I had my coffee the next morning and had been up for a couple hours when I located the scene of the crime on my living room floor, carefully hidden from view behind the coffee table.

See, Abigail is a good dog – disciplined to come, sit, stay, and she even posed for this mug shot. Since she is the only animal residing at my house, she was guilty as charged, the result of circumstantial evidence. This is the remains of a packaged pair of mallard wing quills. Feathers scattered about. What was gone without a trace were the wing bones that held any remaining sinew of dried flesh, tendons, and of course, that disgusting flavorful goodness that dogs love. My first inclination was to gather everything up and trash it, but when I started to pick the feathers up, I noticed that she had not really chewed most of them and they were still useable.

This set of wings was bought by me at The Bear’s Den in Taunton, Massachusetts, on February 25th when I taught a class there. I demonstrated to the class how to select, cut, and remove the individual right and left primary wing feathers to pair them up for the wet flies we were tying, so all the prime quills had been removed. Probably 80% of these feathers were salvageable.

Sorted mallard wing feathers, courtesy of Abigail, my Cocker Spaniel. At upper left are the gray, white, and black-tipped coverts used to tie wings on the 19th Century Orvis Bass fly, the Cheney. There are gray coverts for spoon wings on the Henshall and Mather. On the right are the long-barbed center quills that can be married easily with goose shoulder for married wing flies, and a few pairs of slate wing quills. And of course, a nice lot of practically unscathed dark blue, white-tipped quills for the McGinty, Good Evening, or the tips for the paired, whole-feather wing on the Hummingbird.

Abigail actually did me a favor, and the only downside of her behavior was a little tummy ache.

Today is June 3rd. Friday was overcast all day. Yesterday the sun poked out for less than a couple hours all day. Today it’s foggy and cloudy, and the sun is struggling desperately to gain a foothold on this summer day. All the while as I was typing this post, my fingers got cold. There’s a chill in the house with the outdoor temperature in the upper 50’s overnight, and it’s kind of damp. I can’t believe I just built a fire in the wood stove… but it is already providing a very welcome feeling of warmth and comfort.

More good news: The cooler weather and recent rains have kept Big Pine Creek cold and very fishable. I am definitely going to get over there and fish this coming week. There are still Slate Drakes, caddis, and olives hatching.

Big Pine Creek Stream Report

Some parts of central and south-central Pennsylvania got a lot of rain from Sunday evening, May 13th through yesterday, May 15th. However the north central and western north-central part of the state did not get as much rain, since this recent rain was mostly a southwest to north east moving system. For anyone who thought of making a weekend fishing trip to the Little Juniata or Penn’s Creek, those streams are going to be running pretty high, as in get your kayak and life vests out and leave the rods at home.

In fact, as an edit to this post just a half hour after I made it; I just checked flow data on Penn’s Creek. Here are the current flow stats:

Penn’s Creek spiked yesterday at almost 3000 cfs, and is currently running at 2000 cfs. No fishin’ there boys and girls. Maybe in a week, considering the mean flow on Penn’s Creek for May 16th is 619 cfs. The Green Drakes had started last week on Penn’s Creek at Glen Iron, but now all bets are off.

Except Big Pine Creek. The Green Drakes are starting there, and there’s over 50 miles of water from Waterville to Ansonia in some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire state of Pennsylvania. That is in  comparison to the ten miles that usually hosts the hundreds of anglers for the Drake Hatch on Penn’s Creek, where it can get so crowded you need a shoe horn to squeeze yourself into a fishing spot.

Even Spring Creek is running high – up and quite off color now, but that settles down in 12-18 hours; however…

There is some good news if you still want to fish! Here is the stream report by the Slate Run Tackle Shop for May 15-2012:

05-15-2012:  Pine is in great shape at this time. We missed most of the rain that went through in this last couple of days.  They are still predicting some thunder storms tomorrow. If we survive them, we are on our way to a great weekend of flies and fish. The size #14 olive has started to hatch, along with Gray Foxes, Sulphurs, Slate Drakes and a few Green Drakes. This next week will probably provide fishing to most of the Drakes. Luckily we only received .65 of and inch of rain in the last 11/2 days. Clarity is good. Level is above average, but very fishable.

Added by me:

Kettle Creek, Sinnemahoning, Young Woman’s Creek, Slate Run, Cedar Run, Little Pine Creek – there is fishing NOW and there will be (most likely) good fishing through this weekend, since the weather will be clear for the next several days. I’m fishing tomorrow…but then I have to work the weekend cutting firewood at the cabin, but looks like Sunday may be an all-day sucker for me as far as fishing goes…I’m now planning to be on Big Pine Creek…anyone care to join me? :mrgreen:

On Big Pine Creek – #12 cornuta BWO’s in the morning, Slate Drakes, Green Drakes, sulphurs – a mixed bag – there should be good dry fly fishing. It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

Check the Slate Run Tackle Shop link for more info: http://www.slaterun.com/

Thankfully Pennsylvania has a lot of good fishing! I decided to add a couple photos to this post:

An angler plays a trout in the Delayed Harvest Section of Big Pine Creek near Slate Run, Pennsylvania. The March Brown hatch on Pine Creek this year was the best since the 1970’s. Exceptional dry fly fishing on Big Pine Creek this season. Photo taken April 26th – Don Bastian.

Big Pine Creek, below the village of Waterville.

The gloom of late afternoon on Big Pine Creek. Don Bastian photo, April 26. This is a big beautiful valley, and when conditions are right, can provide great fishing. Conditions are currently right.