I have been a very lucky angler in my life as a fisherman. I have fished in many different places that most of us here may have visited or dream of visiting one day. I have fished the Madison, Gallatin,Slough Creek, the Henry's Fork, and the three spring creeks of Paradise Valley to name the far flung streams. Closer to home I've spent a great deal of time on the Au Sable, the Manistee (both Little and Big), and the Pere Marquette.
This past week I was blessed again when I added 6 new streams to that list and I was guided by a group of angling princes second to none. Boys that are proud of their waters and the heritage that is the Keystone State's. An angling history that has attracted me for all the years I've fly fished.
This will be a basic fishing report and I won't over do it since we all fished hard for the whole week and there is just too much to tell you in one fell swoop.
It started in Feb when I received an email from Tony (Gutcutter) that basically said that I was getting it early enough so I "couldn't weasel out". He and a group of anglers, familiar to all of us here, somehow got the crazy idea that they wanted me to fish with them.
I want to say up front that the angling adventure was top notch, but nothing will ever compare to the way these gents treated me on my visit. They love to fish and they are damn good at it and pretty much spoiled me for a week. I will never forget them and their generosity and warmth. These boys are the real deal and I feel blessed to have been able to share their beats with them and the comradery they showed me on the stream and when we were just hanging out after.
I will only be able to give you a taste, and I hope that if you are ever lucky enough to receive an email like I did you will know better than to weasel out and will load up the fishing wagon as I did and point it towards PA.
The rivers visited...Spring Creek near Bellefonte and State College, The Little Juniata, and Penn's Creek...Then we headed south and I got to fish hallowed waters in my book...The Letort, Big Spring, and the Yellow Breeches. The waters of Marinaro, Charlie Fox, and Ed Shenk among others...
My guides were the newer generation following in the footsteps of the legends...Tony, Bruce, Louis, Shawn, and Eric and each one brought something different to the table. These guys are as obsessed as I am and getting this group off the river was a chore! :)
I left Detroit on Thursday the 4th of April and stayed in Pittsburgh one night with an old friend from Detroit and his family...I spent the next evening in a very nice hotel as the guest of Tony and he took me to see his Pens play the Rangers on Friday night...I think this was thought to be the kicker in terms of getting me there, but it was just the cherry on a sweet sundae!
I got to meet Tony's family...My wife sent her condolences to Tony's wife since she basically married a guy with the same maladies...Hockey & Fly Fishing as her husband. Some of the guys were joking that TroutNut had become an angling version of Match.com...:)
Our first river was Spring Creek. A lovely little stream with psycopathical current issues...I walked in and quickly caught two fish in the 12-14" range and thought, "Hell! This is going to be easy". I was told that these two "easy" fish come as part of your fishing license and after that you are on your own...and I was!
We had a nice run of Baetis early in the day, but the dreaded midge became the bug of the early evening. After the first evening, when I saw them all over Tony's truck, you would think I would have figured it out...I was in denial. They were little black dots with tiny light gray wings...As we stood near the truck Tony pulled out a fly he tied on a size 26 short-shanked hook and damn if it wasn't a perfect match...I was still having none of it.
The next evening, after I had spent an eternity trying to catch a fish that was behind two currents going in opposite directions and another that was going in circles I walked back upstream to find Tony and Bruce playing a version of our Au Sable game of "Nods"...The fish were rising like crazy to these midges and they were taking turns hassling them...If you hooked one you let the other guy go and if there was an obvious rise to your fly but you missed the fish, well you lost your turn.
Charlie Fox has a chapter in his, "This Wonderful World of Trout" called the "Art of Diminution" and he quotes his old pal from Carisle, Ed Shenk, about midge fishing as "fishing with next to nothing". Well our Gutcutter could have written this chapter since he was putting on a clinic on our second evening on Spring Creek.
He is an angler of extremes...He loves to chase massive monsters in the saltwater flats but is also at home with 10x tippet and flies that a thousand of them might not fill a thimble! He also has incorporated some tactics from his saltwater fishing like a sweet backhand cast...These particular fish would of been in a better position for a left hander, so Tony just turned his back to them and did this cast he learned when on a flats boat so you don't hook the guide...Always a good idea. :)
I will discuss it more later, something known as "the look away cast", but when you turn your back on the fish it confuses him to no end...He thinks you have given up on him and that tiny little fly floating over his head couldn't possibaly be coming from the guy that's not facing me and they're hooked...:)
It was wonderful to watch until well after dark and we realized that the only way we were going to get Tony back to the truck was to tie a rope to his waist and hook it to my tow package.
Louis was very helpful to me on one of our days there since I didn't realize just how close I could get to these fish hiding behind boulders etc. I thought of some of the posts that Paul Roberts has posted here about fishing his little mountain streams. I was trying to fight too many cross currents etc and it was insightful.
Shawn stopped by to say hello and we had a chance to chat for a bit...
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively
"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood