It amazes me how quickly the time seems to evaporate. The older I get the faster it seems to go. It has been four years since I last fished with my friend Larry. There was a time when we fished together weekly. However, when I moved to Ohio, work and family responsibilities took precedence over fishing far from home. With two weeks off before I start my stint with summer school, I decided there was time to spend with my long time fly fishing friend.
Before I go on, let me give you some background on Larry: Larry has been a friend and mentor for many years. When I became serious about fly fishing, he was the only guy I knew that fly fished. He taught me more about dry fly fishing than I could have ever learned on my own. I must also say that when you fish with Larry, you spend more time laughing than you do fishing. His stories, his comments, and his athleticism are often so humorous that my eyes water. He told me a story one time that had me laughing so hard that I had to pull off the road. That’s Larry!
I left the FLATLAND Tuesday afternoon. I was excited and anticipated some great fishing. The trip was quiet and lonely, but the thought of many rising fish made for a pleasant journey. I stopped at Cabela’s for a few necessities and to refill the gas tank. It amazes me how big that place is. I can spend an entire day there, but the river beckoned. It was a nice break to an otherwise monotonous drive.
After another couple hours of driving, I found my way to the mountains of Pennsylvania. They were a welcomed site and the reality of finding fish was beginning to sink in. The skies were gray and the air was cool. It was setting up to be a fantastic evening. The drive through the mountains was pleasant and it brought back many fond memories of earlier trips.
I arrived at the river to find a steady rain and the lowest water conditions that I have ever seen. I quickly checked in at the campground and set up camp for the night. With camp situated and ready for my night’s slumber, I geared up and headed for the river. Thankfully, I had a rain jacket, but the cool air, cold flowing water and steady rain made for a chilly fishing experience. It was tough fishing, but around seven o’clock, a small hatch of crane flies brought a few fish to the surface. I was able to entice a few of those fish to sip my dry fly and it felt good to be back.
I had hoped to fish until dark, but my numb fingers and growling stomach soon had me headed for a warm fire and a hot sandwich. Both were welcomed. As my fire dwindled, I settled into my sleeping bag for what I had hoped would be a restful night’s sleep. I love this campground, but I was soon reminded why I never really sleep well there. The train runs almost every half hour and the whistle screams as it rolls by. It sort of adds to the ambience of the river the first time or two, but after the twentieth time it quickly grows old.
I woke up at 5:30 to find the sun rising. A lonely gobbler on the ridge across the river let me know he was awake as well. A small mayfly spent the night above me in the tent, and I knew this was going to be a good day. With a few hours to kill before Larry arrived, I took a shower and had some breakfast. It was a peaceful morning. After packing up most of my camp, I walked down to the river to find fish rising everywhere. I geared up and headed back to the water to see if I could convince a few that my offerings were real.
A small blue winged olive and a midge pupa for a dropper convinced more than a few. It was fun to watch the fish slowly and confidently sip those flies. All of these fish were small browns and fought well, but they were far from the size and power of the rainbows that we would soon encounter.
Eight o’clock had come quickly, and I was soon on my way to meet my friends. Larry and Zac, a friend that I had not seen since he was a boy, were soon parked in front of me sharing stories and listening to mine. It was good to see the old Sasquatch, and it would be even better to spend some time fishing. We were soon headed down river to one of our favorite spots for rising fish.
This stretch of river reminds me of a giant spring creek. The water is slow and gin clear, the fish are spooky and well educated, and you are punished for doing even the smallest thing wrong. Add to that the fact that there are ten different kind s of bugs hatching, so you are never really certain what the fish are taking. You can watch several size fourteen mayflies float untouched over a rising fish. You tie on an emerger, thinking that is the answer, and once again- you are wrong. It may be one of the most wonderfully frustrating sections of water I have ever fished.
Larry headed for the water, but Zac and I decided to hit a small feeder creek in hopes of a few wild natives. Zac had never caught a wild fish; I had hopes of changing that. We were soon flinging a fly into all the small pockets and spots that looked as if they should hold fish. Finally, Zac hit pay dirt with a beautiful wild rainbow, an awesome fish for such a little stream. I followed that up with a small brookie of my own, and soon the satisfaction and an angry landowner let us know that it was time to get back to the big water.
We made it back to find the caddis hatch just starting and a few fish making their way to the surface. It would be a slow, frustrating morning. The fish quickly reminded me that they would not tolerate stupidity and I had to slow down and be very patient. These fish were not holding in one spot. They were cruising these flats, sipping voraciously as they meandered up river for fifty of sixty yards. They reminded me of carp that cloop all over a pond. I quickly realized that I needed to let the fish come to me rather than chase them all over the river. Finally, I watched a large mouth sip my offering only to be broken off before I could enjoy the company of his scarlet sides. This would happen two more times before I would finally find a tippet size that the fish would tolerate, and I could hold.
It was time for a breather. Fortunately, Zach brought along some great sandwiches and I had time to slow down and relax. We sat on the tailgate and watched the fish rise everywhere. It was amazing how many fish there were rising. With our stomachs full, it was time to get back on the water. I spotted a fish that beckoned me to dance. On the third or fourth cast, I convinced him that I was worthy partner and he was soon jumping and dancing with my fly hooked deeply in his lip. It was a great fight and a beautiful fish.
These are some of the hardest fighting fish I have ever fought. They scream line off of the reel and jump and run more than a smallmouth. It was a joy to fight each fish, and I was extremely grateful each time it happened. Before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to the FLATLAND. Time really does fly when you are having fun. It was an amazing day of fish, friendships, and laughter, one that I hope to repeat in the very near future.