'Cause I got a busted heart
I'm leaving today
If my Travel-All will start
And I reckon where I'm headed
I might need me different clothes
Way up in Centre County
Where the Laughing River flows
The river levels have been dropping over the past week or so, and while historically they're a little low for this time of year, they are now approaching perfect levels for fishing dry flies to the cornucopia of early season hatches that are just starting to get cranked up around here. Conditions seemed perfect for a productive day of nymph fishing on the big limestoner; water temp was 52F at noon, cloudy & overcast skies with light showers on their way. Air temp. was 68F.
Well I got a few hits
But I never made the show
And I could hang on for a few years
Doing what I done before
I wanna hear the Laughing River
No matter, tomorrow would be another day on another very special small limestone stream.
Despite the weatherman's ominous forecast, the next day dawned sunny and warm with not a snowflake in sight. I was filled with apprehension as I assembled my gear in the narrows of Elk Creek since the creek had been hit particularly hard by last summers drought. Would there even be enough wild fish left to provide decent sport?
The warm, soft overnight rain in the Brush Valley had given the creek a just a slight tint of color, just enough to make the pocket water easily approachable without spooking these normally shy & reclusive wild browns. Water temp was 53F at 11 am and the afternoon air temp. peaked at 65F. Blue Quills & a few caddis were hatching out of every riffle but not in enough numbers to get these normally recalcitrant browns to feed on the surface.
What did turn these fish on though was a heavily weighted green Rhyacophillia caddis larva imitation tossed into all the likely holding spots. Most of the fish were in the 10-12" range but a couple of them, including this fine specimen, were pushing 14". Fine fish for such a small unstocked stream.
Says he's got a job for me
Where the houses are cheap
And he knows a nice land lady
He says she even saw me play once
Said she smiled at my name
Well upon the Laughing River
Could be a whole new game
It soon became apparent that the wild browns of Elk Creek had weathered last season's persistent & dreadfully low water by seeking out the streams copious spring heads and, perhaps, by "digging in". The sheer tenacity of the wild brown trout on the magnificent Penns/Elk/ Pine creek system never fails to amaze me.
Good bye to payin' dues
Goodbye to the cheers
And goodbye to the booze
Well I'm trading in this old bat
For a fishin' pole
I'm gonna let the laughing river
Flow right in to my soul
Accommodation's provided by Jonas Price of the Feathered Hook Inn & Fly Shop. Waders provided by Dan Bailey.
The Smulton Sinks are a pair of sink holes located just east of the hamlet of Spring Bank and adjacent to Elk Creek. They're about 30' apart and 30' deep with an underground stream traversing both of them. The limestone valleys in this region are known for their fertility and are famous for producing solution caves. One of the largest in Centre County is the nearby Hosterman's Pit.
Lyrics to Laughing River written & provided by Greg Brown.