Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deep River Blues

Let it rain, let it pour
Let it rain a whole lot more
Cause I got them deep river blues

After raining for the past 360 days in a row, a brief window of opportunity between persistent spring storms allowed me to slip away to central Pennsylvania for some high water nymph fishing while all the fair weather anglers were stuck at home bellyaching to anyone who would listen. The nice weather didn't last too long, about 36 hours before all hell broke loose and once again dropped another 2-3 inches of rain on top of an already saturated landscape. Toss in some thunder and lightning, a tornado or three and get the picture. The weirdest, wettest spring that I can recall in 30+ years of trout hunting.

My old gals a good old pal
But she looks like a waterfowl
When I got them deep river blues

Big Fishing Creek was actually in not too bad a shape when I got my first look at it around Belle Springs on Tuesday morn. Sure, it was running a bit high but it was nothing a few heavily weighted stonefly nymphs couldn't handle. Plus I've fished it when it was even higher as recently as last year, these levels would not intimidate me at all.

Ain't no one gonna cry for me
And the fish all go out on a spree
When I get those deep river blues

The air was already thick with blue quills and grannoms by noon time. The blue quills especially covered my fishing vest, neck, arms and hands. Fishing to them would be irrelevant at these flows so they will remain unsung. The water temperature was 54F and the air was a sultry 75F. Time for a couple of size #10 Clayton Peter's woven perla stonefly nymphs -a timeless classic Pennsylvania limestone pattern that I first learned to tie back when I was in my early twenties and still tie and fish today.

Second cast in the Hemlock Pool with the woven perla -and bang, fish on! Two more casts -another fish on. While this exact pattern didn't exactly repeat itself all day long it did set the stage for my best day on Big Fishing Creek since the hendricksons & grannoms of April, 2004. No other anglers were encountered on the stream this day which only made the whole thing a little sweeter.

Let the rain drive right on
Let the waves sweep along
Cause I got those deep river blues

The hendrickson hatch started right on schedule around 3 o'clock. These too went unnoticed by the fish due to the high water. I saw one single solitary rise in two full days of fishing and that was over on Penns Creek, which I never quite got around to fishing thanks to the conflicting plans of Mother Nature.

A sure sign of spring in my book.

Yellow Trout Lilies in the Narrows

Another sure sign of spring.

Penns Valley Storm Front

Later that evening I drove along Penns Creek Road above Coburn and noticed that the flow was greatly improved over the past couple of days. A few fisherman were even working the first (and possibly only) fishable hendrickson spinner fall of the new season. Hendrickson spinners danced over the road. My excitement at this sight would be very short lived as a new storm front was moving in just up the valley. Soon, day would turn into night, local tornado warnings would be issued and the skies would open up and drop a few more inches of rain on the watershed. Effectively putting an end to fishing on the valley limestoners for a few more days.

Despite all the warnings on NOAA weather radio of rotational clouds approaching Millheim and Loganton they never fully developed into the real thing. It sure was fun, and at the same time a little unnerving, to watch from a distance since my little rental cabin was right in it's path. Here's how it all played out in pictures.

You'll notice a couple of visual artifacts in this series of photos due to reflections from me shooting through the front windshield of the car. The farmers fields were all still pretty muddy and there was no real place to pull over and get out of the car. I was pretty transfixed by what was playing out in front of me. Ah, who am I kidding? Truth is I was scared shitless and too afraid to get out of the car.

Shortly after this shot was taken the rains came in buckets and pretty much put an end to fishing on all but Spring Creek and the brookie streams up in the mountains.

The next day I headed for the brookie streams. It turned out to be a very smart choice for a change. Conditions were perfect for dry fly fishing; the water was up and clear, the temps were good and the fish were terrific sport on light tackle. A day that initially appeared to be a washout turned into unmitigated idiot joy up in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.

Around Millheim

Timing is everything, dudes & dudette's. The big limestoners are up in the trees and will be unfishable for about 5-7 days. Unless another storm comes along......

Now I'm gonna say goodbye
And if I sink just let me die
Cause I got those deep river blues

-Deep River Blues by Doc Watson