Monday, June 20, 2011

New Water

It is understandable that on fishing trips that require 10 hours or more in the car that one wants to fish where one knows there are fish. But, one will never experience anything new if one always fishes the same water.

On nearly every trip to State College I try to fish someplace I haven't tried before. More often than not these excursions come up empty. But if one doesn't try, one never learns. So on Sunday morning -- Father's Day -- I explored a new stretch of the Little Juniata. The sun was coming up as I pulled into the fishermen's parking lot upstream of the town of Spruce Creek. The river was out of sight so I had no idea what to expect as I walked through a brackish slough that likely held water from the spring floods. The trail ended at a spit of gravel just downstream of an island to my left. To the right was a wide stretch of flat water that showed no signs of life.

I decided to start at the faster water against the far bank that squeezed past the narrow island. I could easily cover the run with roll casts as I stood with the wooded island at my back. A brown trout inhaled the nymph riding under the caddis fly and I landed it with high hopes of more to follow as I worked my way upstream. But the 20 yards of water produced no more fish.

I worked my way back downstream as the sun started to heat up the morning air. Downstream there was an occasional ring expanding across the flat water's surface. I waited and watched. Several more rings provided all of the incentive I needed to hike downstream. The bank was high and tangled with trees and brush, so I decided to slowly walk down in the river. I tried to limit my wake and quietly walked to a deadfall up against the bank to tie on a dry fly and wait for the fish to resume surfacing.

The fish in the middle and against the far bank were clearly small, but I didn't mind. They were rising and I had a chance to catch trout on a dry fly. I tied on an x-wing caddis on 6X tippet and slowly worked my way into casting distance. I paused again and waited. I could see large boulders under the water's surface that were undoubtedly providing shelter to the small trout. I cast above the boulders and let the fly drift back toward me. I was pleasantly surprised when a brown trout rose quickly, slashed at the fly and then returned to the depths. A few moments later another trout hit the fly and put up a little fight before coming to hand. That routine would repeat itself for the next hour or so. I would cast to a rising trout, the trout would rise to the caddis and more often than not the fight was on. I was alone on the water, except for the ever-present trains.

As the sun rose higher the fish became less willing to rise to the surface. I slowly worked my way upstream, noting that the river remained deeper against the far bank. I have a feeling this stretch is very popular during a sulphur hatch. I switched to a beetle as I started to fish under the trees that lined the opposite bank from the island. Near the spot where I had caught my first brown trout earlier that morning, another larger trout rose quickly and went back to the bottom. I cast the beetle under the tree where the trout had just surfaced and was rewarded with a solid strike. The chunky brown exited the water three times before coming to the rocky shore. I released him and a few minutes later reluctantly walked back to the car.

This water was no longer new. I looked forward to fishing it again.

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