Friday, June 24, 2016

Skinny Water and Wild Trout

First Trout of the Trip
This year, I was determined not to make the same mistake I did last year when school let out for summer. That mistake being doing too many other things, and not enough fishing. With that in mind, I figured what better way to kick off summer break than by taking the brother-in-law (and proud dad of my new niece) Trent along with me and do some searching for a few wild trout. We decided that since he had a new daughter at home we might not want to make an all day event out of the trip. With that in mind, it narrowed our choices down to a few streams within an hour or so of home.

Wild Rainbow
After talking it over, and going back and forth between a smallmouth trip or a trout trip, we decided with temperatures in the mid to high 90's at home, a trip to the mountains in search of cooler weather and cold water would be our best bet. Once all these important decisions had been made, we decided to go fish a stream that is about an hour from my house. I've written about this particular stream several times on here before, and it is located in a section of national forest that was one of the first in the east. This particular creek has a few advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are the ease of access and short travel time compared to some of the places I like to fish. The only real disadvantages are that the area sometimes seems to be full of campers, and the fish tend to be in the 6"-8" inch range. If you're looking for big fish and solitude, this may not be the best place to go. However, for me going fishing always beats not going, so I tend to make it up here several times during the year.

Parr Marks
With all these things in mind, we hit the road early hoping to beat the heat and other fishermen. After an uneventful drive, we made it to the creek and decided to start at the sign commemorating this as the first national forest tract purchased under the Weeks Law in 1911. This is toward the lower end of the designated Wild Trout waters, but it does include some nice sized holes and plunge pools that sometimes hold a surprise or two. This is one of my normal starting spots, and from there you can fish all the way into the uppermost headwaters without leaving public land. Lower down the creek flows through private property for a short while before returning to public water as a designated Delayed Harvest stretch that is periodically stocked. Today however, with the catch and release season over on the Delayed Harvest, we were looking for the wild cousins of the trout to be found lower down. The trout we were after had been born and raised right there, instead of a hatchery.

Trent's brown
Beautiful Colors
Once we made our way down to the creek, we both noticed that it was already looking a little low. It was not the lowest I'd ever seen, but some rain is definitely needed soon. A few weeks before, I had been fishing in Pennsylvania, and had hoped to hit a sulfur hatch. That didn't work out, so I decided to experiment a little with one of the sulfur parachutes I had tied for that trip to see if they would interest a few fish closer to home. It didn't take long, and a pretty little wild brown trout decided that it looked like breakfast. This would be the only brown trout that I would catch this trip, although my brother-in-law did catch a nice brown on further upstream later in the morning. For both of us, it was more of a rainbow trout kind of day. We each caught several pretty little wild rainbows, although the creek didn't give up any big fish this time. We had success fishing several of the usual summer dry flies, and the trout didn't seem too particular as long as the drift was good. However, the low water did make it a challenge, as we both spooked a lot of fish, no matter how carefully we were trying to wade. This was one of those days that fish could be caught, but they weren't going to put up with any missteps.

We fished through the morning, and as lunchtime approached the heat came along with it. We decided that it had been a successful morning, and headed on back toward home with a detour for a hamburger on the way. Hopefully it won't be long, and we will be back in the high country in search of some more beautiful wild trout. In the meantime, I've got plans to do a little fishing and exploring close to home.

- Joseph

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Quick Pennsylvania Ramble

Rigging Up on Oil Creek
Even though most of the things I write about on this blog take place in North Carolina, once in a while I do make it out of state. Those trips don't normally make it onto the blog simply because they often don't involve any hunting or fishing (unfortunately). However, one trip that my wife and I make fairly often that does involve fishing is up to her hometown of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Although my wife and her immediate family moved to North Carolina when she was seven, almost all of her relatives still live in and around the Titusville area so we try to go up and visit when we have a chance.

My first trip to Titusville with my wife and in-laws actually happened back in 2009, and before we went I happened to find out that there was a trout stream about five minutes from her grandmother's house. My wife hadn't ever done any fishing before she met me, but she said people liked to fish in the creek right outside of town, which was Oil Creek. I did a little research on the Internet, and found out that Oil Creek was known to have good hatches of several different insects, and that it sounded like a great place to do a little fly fishing while we were in town. The convenience factor of being a five minute ride also made it easy to mix fishing and family visits. Ever since that first trip, I always make sure to take along a fly rod anytime that we go up during the spring, summer, or fall.
Fishing Oil Creek

This past Friday was my wife's grandmother's 75th birthday, and her uncle was throwing a surprise party for her. Since we both had Monday off work for Memorial Day, we decided to make a quick trip north to go to the party and visit family. Along with seeing everybody, I also hoped that I'd be able to slip in an afternoon or two on Oil Creek. We headed north after work on Friday afternoon, and stopped for the night about halfway to Titusville.

The Ropp!
We arrived in town around 11:30 on Saturday, and since it was lunch time I knew what I wanted to do before hitting the creek. There's a sub shop in Titusville that makes a sub called "The Ropp". My father-in-law got me hooked on these, and now no trip to Titusville is complete without getting at least one. After I got my Ropp fix, and we made the rounds and said hello to everybody, it was off to Walmart for a fishing license and then on to Oil Creek. My wife came along for the trip and took pictures, but she decided not to fish this time. Most of the pictures in this post were taken by her. It's not often that I have the luxury of a photographer when I'm fishing!

First Trout of the Day
 I had been reading on the Internet that the sulphur mayflies had been hatching on Oil Creek, so I had high hopes for some dry fly action. However, it wasn't to be that day, as I saw a handful of sulphurs, but very few rises. Being an optimist, I did try fishing a parachute sulphur to the sporadic rises I did see, but I didn't seem to be getting any interest from the trout. After a while, I gave up on the dry fly and switched to a pheasant tail nymph. I fished this for a while with no luck either, and decided that it might be time to try something else.

After being skunked on the sulphur and the pheasant tail, I switched to a hare's ear nymph and in a few minutes was able to land the first trout of the day. It was a pretty rainbow that came from a deep run, and after that I had a little more confidence in my fly choice finally being right. In the mean time, more fishermen started showing up, I'm assuming anticipating a sulphur hatch like I was. I noticed that the others were having about the same luck as me, catching a fish once in a while but nobody seemed to be catching a bunch. I worked my way on downstream a little further, switching to a bead head hare's ear after losing the first fly to a bad cast and hungry bank side weeds. I picked up two more nice rainbows on this fly, and missed a couple more strikes.
Oil Creek Rainbow

It was starting to get late in the evening and the sulphurs never showed, so I decided to call it a day and headed on back to the car. Since we had to travel back home Monday and be back at work on Tuesday, Saturday wound up being my only chance to fish. It was a quick trip, but it reminded me once again how much I enjoy fishing Oil Creek. I've never seemed to catch a lot of trout there on any one trip, but the challenge of matching the hatch and fishing some different water than I'm used to always makes it a fun place to fish. With summer break coming up for teachers, the next thing on my outdoor agenda is to hit a few streams around home. Hopefully that will lead to a few more rambles to write about. Until then, thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph