Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rothrock Gorge

It's been close to two months now since my fly rods have been out of their cases to see the light of day. Drought or no drought, I just had to get out on the water for some late season slate drake action before it was too late. At this point, the only river in the state with enough water left in it to float a cork was the Little Juniata River -so that's where we headed.

Amish Shoe Shop
The drive to the river on Friday morning took me through Belleville, Pa. and the Big Valley. I almost stopped and bought a new pair of shoes at this shop on the south flank of Stone Mountain but it was a gorgeous day and I was already running late for the river. It had been 20 years since I last fished the "Little J" up at Herman Espy's old place in Spruce Creek and I did not want to miss the start of todays Isonychia emergence.

The Rothrock Gorge was formed as the Little Juniata River cut down through a rising Tussey Mountain over 300 hundred million years ago. Water gaps without roads through them are rare in Pennsylvania. Water gaps with neither roads nor railroads are rarer still. Back during WWII the active railroad bridge in the above photo was a target for destruction by German U-Boat commandos but, after they came ashore in Cape May, NJ they turned themselves in and sought asylum in Philadelphia instead of completing their mission. My good friend Matt caught a 17" brown trout right off of one of the bridge abutments on a #12 slate drake on Friday afternoon.

Little Juniata River Brown trout
A good omen. Fish were already rising to various insect orders when I pulled into the parking lot on Friday morning. A few slate drakes and some tan caddis were already hatching along with a smattering of late season baetis and sulphers -a few cahills would even join the mix later in the afternoon. Lots of splashy rises out in the middle of the runs were accompanied by a bevy of slow spinner sippers in the slower water against the far bank. The fish were definitely keyed in on the big flies though and I had a field day just working my way upstream pitching slate drake comparaduns into all the likely holding spots where, more often than not, you would at least get an inspection if not a solid take from one of the rivers wily browns. At one point I caught 6 fish on 6 casts from a deep slick run beneath one of the RR trestle bridges. It was then I knew it was going to turn out to be a special day on the river.

The Old FFP Gang
L-R: John W, Greg G, The Chief, Goose, Ted Nugent, Agrontrutta

Enjoying a brilliant late summer day in the Rothrock Gorge huddled around the Chief's well stocked grub wagon. Saturday brought with it warmer temps, increased humidity and a few more good friend to share in the fine fishing. Lamentably, for some reason, the hatches turned out to be a small fraction of what they were the day before. I think I saw 2 slate drakes, a handful of baetis and a fairly decent hatch of adult craneflies -their praises can remain unsung in my book. The fishing was still good however and once again Matt (Agrontrutta) nailed a 13", 14" & 15" brown in sequential order from one small side channel around an island up in the middle of the gorge. It takes a lot more than just low water to keep these intrepid fish hunters off the river.

The Chief
Our fearless leader spottin' 'em from the Barree Bridge. Lot's of high flutin' educated fish midging down there but none of us could touch 'em. Those browns wouldn't have had a chance if JohnW had a crack at 'em. John honed his chops on the Little Lehigh and Falling Springs and is a bona-fide RBF Pro Staffer when it comes to fishing the small stuff.

As darkness encroaches, Greg snips the blue quill spinner from his tippet and shakes his head in disgust at the bogus hatch info he 'd been given the day before then knots on the more correct sunken baetis spinner and proceeds to take a few more brown trout before the sun slips behind Tussey Mountain.

Tussey Mountain Sunset
Looking back at the sun setting on the Rothrock Gorge from the Barree Bridge
on the last day of summer 2007.

Autumnal Equinox
And the first day of fall in central Pennsylvania dawned cool & clear. Now if we could only get some rain sent our way.