Sunday, October 04, 2009

Leaf Fall & Bloodsport

The Road - CCC Pine Plantation
It's fall here in central Pennsylvania and the stage is now set for one of the great annual energy transfers on our planet. Falling leaves, from high up in the forest canopy will soon change colors and begin to drift down to the forest floor, eventually finding their way into the interstitial spaces in stream beds, in an exchange of biomass/energy from one organism to another. It's also a delightful time of the year to be waist deep in your favorite trout stream enjoying some of the last dry fly fishing of another fruitful but rapidly waning season.

The Pennsylvania Forest Reserve
With that in mind, we wasted no time in tossing our camping & fishing gear in the car, stocking up on groceries and setting our recreational compass for Poe Valley, Pa.

What's not to like? Rain was forecast for Friday night to give the streams a much needed shot in the arm. Slate drakes were already hatching with the possibility of the first waves of fall baetis putting in an appearance and a full moon was on the bill for Saturday night for good karma and too make it easier to find my way to the bathroom in the dark.

I pulled into Poe Paddy State Park around noon on Friday and, after quickly setting up camp before the rains moved in, I made my way down to the stream post haste. I knew just what to do and where to do it. It really didn't matter whether you were pitching a Flatlander Flies© Parachute Isonychia Dun or a Parachute Adams, if you tossed into the right type of riffly pocketwater with some deep lenses present then you were generally rewarded with, at the very least, a splashy refusal or two. I didn't land anything worth bragging over but nice numbers of decent size hard fighting browns in perfect condition after a year of good water for a change. One thing surprised me though and that was the lack of any emerging insects here on my first day under cool, cloudy and overcast skies. No slate drakes, no baetis, a couple of caddis here and there. Dang barometer!

Karoondinha
The low pressure front came through as predicted on Friday night but it didn't bring nearly as much rain as I would have liked to have seen. Sort of like on and off showers all night long judging by the patter on my tent's rain fly. The sun came out around 0900 and burnt off the thick overnight fog and dried things out pretty good around camp. After a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs and lots of camp coffee I set out to raise s'more Penn's Creek wild brownies by prospecting a slate drake dry fly in fast water beneath the bright blue autumnal skies.

Prospecting would be about right too since there was nary a fly on the water for the 2nd straight day. Oh sure, there were fair numbers of central Pee-Aye's ubiquitous tan caddis in the air but that was just the problem, they were in the air and not on the water. No matter, after 3 months of watching various species of Isonychia mayflies trickle off on the overhead currents these wild browns were still looking up. They were splashy, showy type rises too like the fish knew they had to nail these last large morsels before they could get away. Exciting stuff.

Wild brown trout were not the only wildlife thriving in the Karoondinha Gorge this summer. Twice, on two separate days this weekend and at two different locations on the creek, I had a large mature bald eagle fly within approximately 50 yards of where I was standing. You could see the pure white head and tail, the talons and the thing was flippin' huge. I didn't see any nests but there were a couple of large dead snags in the area were the eagle may have been perched. He obviously saw me before I saw him. The dang thing has eyes like an eagle.

As if those two episodes were not enough I also spied two large flocks of turkeys scurrying through the underbrush while I was driving along the Siglerville-Millheim Pike (Poe Valley Road). There's a huge mast crop on the ground right now in Poe Valley. It's like a regular Jurassic Park back here.

Fish Quietly & Carry a Big Stick
I use mine mostly for whacking big aggressive bald eagles in wild country. Giant eagles literally swoop down out of nowhere back here and you won't find a better piece of mind out there today to protect your sweet pink ass than my good old Mountain Ash Eagle Beater. Think of it as a bloodsport. I'm thinking of maybe going IPO with 'em integrated together with my Flatlander Flies© line.

Slate Drake Eater
Sunday turned out to be even better. Once again we had some weather moving in but this time it brought hatching mayflies and rising trout along with it. Isonychia duns emerged sporadically and an appropriate imitation fished in the riffles would bring an exciting rise but they were far more scattered than the past few days. The reason soon became apparent as I bent over for a closer look I noticed tiny little sailboats pouring out of the riffles. The first waves of tiny fall baetis mayflies have arrived in fishable numbers.

The Channels
A quick rebuilding of my leader down to 12'/6X with a #20 CDC & biot emerger on the terminal end brought more fish to hand over the next 2-3 hours then I had all of the previous day. The slate drakes will still be around good for about another week or so but the baetis hatches will only get stronger from here on out.

Good to see Pennsylvania's budget woes are now being put behind them and state parks like Poe Paddy can now remain open. Prolly less than a dozen campers in the whole campground this weekend.

Camping and fishing under a full moon (that blurry white orb in the background behind the trees). I was pretty much half in the bag from drinking more Jack Daniels than a man can imagine when I released the shutter on this shot. It's just the way I roll.

Yep, I'm gonna spend another fall here in Central Pennsylvania.