Sunday, June 19, 2011

Solitude on Spring Creek

I arrived at Spring Creek before dawn on a Saturday and there wasn't another car in the lot at Benners Spring. What did all of the trout fishermen in State College, PA, know that I didn't?

Spring Creek is a beautiful, relatively small stream that is exactly what its name says it is. Decades ago pollution and mistreatment all-but killed the stream. But it has recovered well and has a significant population of brown trout and (at least based on my experience) fewer rainbows. Highway construction around State College -- primarily done to move football fans in and out on fall Saturdays -- has added some stress to the stream, but it remains a beautiful cool ribbon of water.

I started fishing the Benners Spring stretch about six years ago and it is now my first stop (and normally my only stop) while visiting Spring Creek. This was the first time I was the only car in the lot.

I crossed the new wooden bridge over the stream and began my downstream hike. Bunnies feeding on the green grass on the trail scattered in front of me as I hiked for about a mile downstream to a favorite stretch of riffles and pools. The river narrows a little in this stretch and drops over a series of limestone shelves. The fast water provides protection and some of the pools can get four feet deep.

Several brown trout, ranging from 8 to 14 inches, fell for scuds, copper johns and zebra midges. None of the flies seemed to work better than the next, but the action was relatively consistent. As is always the case, the big one got away. I cast up tight against the bank, set the hook after the line paused on its downstream drift, and tried my best to keep the brown trout from running into the bushes hanging into the river. I failed, or at least my blood knot did as the trout ran the line against a shallow rock against the bank.

A foggy haze slowly burned off as the morning sun rose over the trees and hit the water. I kept working my way upstream, picking up a few trout here and there and enjoying the sounds of mallards, cranes and rushing water. The only indication that I wasn't alone in the world was the distant sound of airplanes taking off and the hum of new highway on the other side of the ridge.

At 10:30 I called it a morning and hiked back to the car, passing a few anglers on the way. Several cars were in the parking lot. A black snake and her baby sunned themselves on rock pile next to my car. I felt like doing the same.

Solitude on Spring Creek is to be savored, as is the mid-day sun.

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