Here is a photo to start this off – what it’s really all about:
I wanted to begin this post with this photo — more pics and text will follow throughout the day — right now I’m having coffee, breakfast, tending the wood stove fire to fend off the chill, and I gotta tie a few flies too. This was one of 27 trout I brought to hand yesterday.
It is now early afternoon on April 15th. Yesterday, breakfast was the first order of business. Almost. I arose at 5:05 AM, loaded my two small coolers with food and beverages, sat down and tied six flies that I thought I might need for the day, loaded the car with the few remaining necessities that had not been packed the night before, and drove the entire distance of 1/4 mile from my house to the bottom of St. Michaels Road. I parked my car and walked through the doors of the Quiggleville Comunity hall, one of the little villages in the Cogan Station mailing district, for the Annual Fishermen’s Breakfast. Quiggleville, a collection of about ten houses, is actually where I live, since Cogan Station is a pretty large, mostly rural mailing district. But I live outside of “town.”
For seven dollars, this breakfast is all-you-can-eat: Coffee, orange juice, home fries – hand-cut from real potatoes the day before by the friendly volunteers at “The Hall,” sausage, liverwurst, pancakes, and the lady line-cook will make your eggs – scrambled, sunny-side-up, or over easy, to order. Lots of locals come help, they donate stuff, and the sausage patties are made from bulk, hand-formed. Not pressed out in some big factory where who-knows-what can end up in the mix. Volunteers constantly mingle the tables serving refills on the coffee. This has been going at this location for 15 – 20 years.
This was my first Opening Day on Spring Creek since 2008, the result of the way my life ran the last few years…and this was my first Opening Day – period – in Pennsylvania since 2009 when TG & I met at Rose Vally Lake in Lycoming County with our ultralight spinning gear and fished for bluegills and crappies. We sometimes did that to beat the “usual” Opening Day crowds. Spring Creek, open all year under no-kill restrictions, has been fished for a few months already and by Opening Day, most people that have been fishing Spring go elsewhere on the First Day, because they can. There were seven anglers in this entire stretch all day – five of them were part of our group.
OK, here I have to announce: the six flies I tied at 5:20 AM in the morning, were San Juan Worms. Yup. Mr. Classic Wet Fly, as some may think, is also a nymph fishermen. And unlike some folks, I’m not ashamed to admit that part of my nymphing repertoire includes junk flies. I had lost my “junk fly” box last fall somewhere along a stream. It contained an assortment of flies sometimes known as “The Guides Revenge.” I’ve unashamedly shown it to folks over the years, always before opening the box, prefacing it with the statement, “No matter how bad or tough the fishing is, one of these flies will always get you a few trout.” And then I opened the lid to show a collection of flies that more closely resembled a bag of jelly beans – “Green Weenies,” (chartreuse sinking inchworm patterns), glo-bugs and egg patterns in an array of colors and sizes, and San Juan Worms of various persuasions. Trout eat worms every time they can; the red garden variety, night-crawlers, and aquatic worms, of which there are some in Spring Creek. Trout eat other fish eggs. Trout eat inchworms that fall into the streams from spring into fall. They even eat them in January and February when no terrestrial green inch worms are about.
Catching some trout off the bat is a good confidence-builder, and as I stated, four trout seasons came and went since I last fished Opening Day in Pennsylvania on Spring Creek with my friends. For sure, I needed a fix of catching some trout. I had a need to feel the sensation of success that comes after making a cast with a nymph rig. This can be described as intense concentration, nerves set on hair-trigger response, mending and tending my drift, eyes on the indicator, then a reaction almost as fast as a mousetrap-slamming-shut that is rewarded by sticking the hook into the jaw of a trout whose eating habits at the moment had a significant degree of association to the slightest alteration in the natural drift of my strike indicator. Fish on! It worked very well. Twice I hooked and brought to hand two trout on back-to-back casts. I tried hard to even out at ten trout on the wine-colored San Juan Worm, but I stalled at nine for some reason. About 10:30 AM I tied on the #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph.
When I mentioned to Mark that I had a close friend in Bel Air, he stated, “I play in a band in Bel Air a couple times a month.”
“Really?” I asked. “What instrument?”
“Dobro,” Mark replied.
“Do you do mostly bluegrass?” I queried.
“Yeah, ” Mark replied.
Mark had packed a ham and cheese sandwich for his lunch, but when we offered him something off the grill, at first he declined, but I think it was the aroma of the grilling mixed venison / beef hamburgers that got to him. You know how the aroma of grilled meat excites your taste buds. TG convinced him. “Are you sure?” he asked. “We got hot dogs, hamburgers, three kinds of cheese for cheeseburgers, steaks, pickles, macaroni salad, pretzels, chips, crackers…” Truman’s followup read like the menu from an outdoor picnic buffet.
“OK,” Mark gave in, “I’ll save my ham sandwich for dinner.” So I grilled him a burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, served on a toasted multi-grain roll that TG had made a couple days earlier. And boy are they ever good. We had a nice time – chatting, hanging out, sipping beer, relaxing, eating, listening to the birds, then all of a sudden another angler flew in.
Someone excitedly declared, “There’s an osprey! He just landed in that tree.” When I looked up, I had never seen an osprey so close. There were five of us sprawled about the parking lot, and this one apparently had little fear of humans. He was perched atop a large dead snag in a tree just fifty yards across the creek. He sat there for the best part of twenty minutes. He didn’t fly away as I expected he might as I advanced to rest my camera on the Fish Commission roofed bench / rules / regulations / stand for some pictures. I needed a rest since I did not bring my tripod. I zoomed in to 24x and shot away. Below are some of the photos I took:
Note the different head positions – the bird was surveying his surroundings, but mostly he was perched like this:
One of the guys was watching when the bird made its move. “There he goes!” someone exclaimed. We all looked over in time to see the raptor drop from his perch, his wings swept back like an F-15 in a steep dive, and SPLASH! Right into the riffle. The bird remained on the water for almost ten seconds as we all watched, spellbound, as no one said a word. We wondered. Then the bird rose from the water clutching a fish. And of course, he had to fly right back by our position to show off his catch. It was a large sucker. We later surmised that the bird was arranging his grasp on the fish, adjusting his talons to get an aerodynamic start to his jumping off flight. (They are smart enough to point the head of the fish into the wind). A couple of us applauded his skill as he flew off.
Here is a link that my Canadian friend Rick Whorwood, sent me a few months ago. It contains incredible film footage of ospreys fishing. http://www.arkive.org/osprey/pandion-haliaetus/video-00.html
After lunch we all resumed fishing. I walked up stream and took eight trout from one area, below some boulders and debris. Again, I was still fishing the #20 Flashback PT. In fact except for one five-minute period when I attempted to take a trout that had risen a few times on a #18 Baetis Dun pattern, which he ignored, I only fished two flies all day.
My friend Dave Lomasney, from Maine, asked in a comment to this post if anything was hatchin’. I was getting to that in the More to follow segment.
I gotta go mow some more grass…(What I wrote Sunday evening at 6:15 PM).
OK, hatching activity, yes there was some, and a few trout rose, but it was sporadic and so did not convince me to switch over to drys. First off mid-morning, a tan caddis was hatching, and I only saw maybe two – three splashy rises. Not enough to tie on a dry. For me anyway. I know some that would have…we have a term for them…a couple of my friends are like that.
We saw a few of the usual #18 Baetis duns hatching, not many. By early afternoon the Baetis activity had intensified, still only a few trout rising here and there. Nothing steady. The BWO’s hatched all afternoon, just not in numbers significant enough to bring the trout up. My experience in this situation is, if you see a few BWO duns and a scattering of rising trout, there’s lots more fish working the nymphs.
By about 4:30 PM I started to see a few sulphur duns. Early for them…I’ve seen them sporadically start on Spring Creek in other years by about April 22 – 24, but it might last only 15 minutes a day. I suppose I saw about three dozen sulphur duns, not a hatch for sure, but it’s an early start. At this rate, considering the unseasonal weather and low water conditions we’re having, the Green Drakes will be coming off Penn’s Creek by May 20th. Of course, we’re talking the weather and it could all change next week.
In the early afternoon, I was fishing in the riffle about where the osprey made it’s kill, and after about 15 minutes, TG, who was still relaxing in a lawn chair (he had a good excuse – surgery five weeks ago, so he still needs to pace himself). He was only 75 feet away so why he called me on the walkie-talkie is beyond me, but I guess he wanted to whisper. He cued the mike and said, “Hey D! Don’t look now but you got company.”
I’m looking up and down stream, all around, thinking another fisherman was nearby. He started laughing. “Look up in the tree, moron.”
When I looked up, I saw that the osprey had returned. Now it was even closer to me than it had been at lunch. The bird was only about 75 feet away. I thought what are the chances, but it could happen, and said to him, “Hey if you really wanted to be entertained you should not have told me he was there, and just sat back and waited to see if that osprey would make a dive like, twenty feet away from where I’m standing. For sure, that would’ve made me come unglued.”
This was a great day, spent on the stream with good weather, good fishing, great food, and enjoying the fellowship of friends. We need to do this again…soon!
Tomorrow morning I’ll try to take a macro photo of the Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph and write the recipe and include them here too.
Monday, April 16, 2012: OK, I finally got around to tying a fresh nymph, took a few pictures and posted them here:
Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph
Hook: Standard nymph hook, 1x long, size #14 to #22.
Thread: I normally use Uni-Thread 8/0 Dark Brown, but I was out of that and also out of Danville Flymaster 6/0 Dark Brown, so I used what was at hand, UTC 6/0 70 denier, brown. I really don’t care for the UTC thread. It has less twist than Danville, flattens out faster, but the individual strands are more delicate than Danville and it frays more easily. I make it work if I have to, but it’s the least favorite tying thread I use.
Tail: 5 (larger sizes) or 4 or 3 (smaller sizes) fibers of ringneck pheasant cock tail fibers.
Rib: Fine gold wire, counter wound
Abdomen: Formed from the same fibers of PT as used for the tail.
Wingcase: Pearlescent Krystalflash, this one used 10 strands. More or less depending on hook size.
Thorax: Peacock herl, usually two strands. If tied in properly the nap of the herl will face toward the tail. The herl fibers represent the legs very well; tying in legs of an additional material is unnecessary in sizes #16 and smaller.
Head: Formed from the tying thread, cemented.
This fly has been successful many places. My brother Larry, & his daughter, Emily caught trout in Maine’s Kennebec River near Bingham. I caught trout with it in Montana’s Ruby River. Spring Creek, as evidenced by my fishing last Saturday. Anytime there are BWO’s hatching, try this nymph.