Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Summertime Blues

As in the blue winged olives of summer; Drunella lata, a blue winged olive mayfly worthy of it's common name. Two weeks ago at this time Penns Creek was a muddy, chocolate, debris laden mess to the tune of 1,100 CFS. Today Glen and I found it in perfect shape for some early summer trout hunting. Your time would be better spent trying to solve the Mad Hatter's old riddle of "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" then to spend it trying to figure out the mysteries of a magnificent Penns Creek.

The water levels, about 300-280 CFS, were finally low enough for good dry fly fishing and yet still flowing at a good enough clip for some exciting nymph fishing too. The water temperature at Cherry Run was 62F at 2 pm. The ambient air temp. topped out at 75F and the skies were heavily overcast with an occasional light drizzle. Almost perfect conditions for a fishable hatch of drunella mayflies on this late June day.

We both got a late start this morning because of an all-nighter we pulled at a local, after-hours Amish strip club. Glen (aka the Mayor of Penns Valley) has VIP status and seems to know everyone there. He got me in for free. We then proceeded to put a hurting on a few nice Penns Creek fish before breaking for lunch. I fished an assortment of small nymphs and Glen pretty much stayed with dry flies like his deadly Isonychia comparaduns along with some caddis and cahills.

There were some sporadic rises in the slow water sections when we first started but I ignored those in favor of nymphing some delectable pocketwater around the different channels and small islands that are found in this section of the creek. Slate drakes, stoneflies, cahills and a dun colored caddis had been hatching sporadically all morning long and, as far as we could tell, most of the other anglers either stayed at home or had hung up their gear for the year. The nymph fishing turned out to be pretty decent under the leaden skies but the real fun was yet to come. I had waited all spring for this kind of consistent fishing on Penns Creek and now my patience was about to be rewarded.

After breaking for lunch we returned to the stream presumably for more of the same routine but while nymphing a favorite abbreviated pool in a nearby side channel I noticed a nice rise under a leaning willow tree, then another, and then a few small #16 olive colored mayflies joined the #12 Isonychias already in the air. The Penns Creek hatch matching game was now officially on. I made my way down to the Blue Rock Hole and for the next couple of hours I had the whole pool to myself as waves of Drunella lata emergers and duns poured out of the riffles. The trout were up and on them in a heartbeat and you could see their crimson flanks rising up through the water column from 60 feet away. Glen encountered the same kind of dry fly action on another large classic Penns Creek pool about 1/2 mile upstream.

As typical on these limestone streams, few fish preferred the emerging stage of this mayfly while other wanted the freshly hatched adult duns. A lot of the emerging nymphs were taken in the top 12 inches of the water column. It was my favorite kind of fishing; challenging, mentally engaging and rewarding all at the same time. The fish were unbelievably fat and healthy and beautifully colored up after chowing down virtually unmolested all spring under the protection of high water.

It doesn't get any better than a pleasant June day up in the Ralph W. Abel Memorial Glen with Glen G. The hatch went on for close to 4 hours under the cloud cover, from about 2 pm to 6 pm, after which it kind of petered out but you could still find a few persistent risers right up until we left the stream around 7 pm to head back to the strip club.

The following day found me back on Penns Creek around Coburn shortly after daybreak.The nymph fishing was still pretty decent and there were still a few opportunistic risers around but, despite similar weather conditions, I did not witness any Drunellas hatching in fishable numbers there. Water temperature was 57F below the mouth of Elk Creek at 9 am.

No bald eagles were whacked during the making of this post. Lucky for them.

I'd be hard pressed to come up with a better way to usher in high summer than a pleasant day of fly fishing to rising wild trout on a fast flowing stream with a good friend during one our premier hatches of early summer.

The blooming mountain laurel and rhododendrons were just icing on top of the cake.

I haven't the slightest idea.