I hate to be repetitive in my writing. Usually, you make a statement and move along. But, if you’re like me, you’re a dedicated trout fishermen the heavy rains we keep receiving are becoming increasingly annoying.
Every time the creeks get down to fishable levels another storm rolls in and your favorite streams flood. Well over a week of fishing has been lost already this year; will it ever end?
I fish both New York and Pennsylvania, as many of you do, and the states’ differing philosophies in stocking are very apparent. New York dumps in tons of yearlings, which means trout 8 to 10 inches long along with a smaller number of 2-year olds. With rich, glacial run-bottom streams in this region have frequent and heavy fly hatches and other aquatic feed is plentiful. Most streams can in fact support a good number of trout and the state figures the small ones that aren’t caught can grow up.
In fact, it’s not unusual to catch native-born brown trout in these streams. These same waters harbor some very large browns as well, fish well over 24 inches long. A hold-over fish in New York is a fat, heavy trout.
The average rock-bottom streams in Pennsylvania are nowhere near as rich in insect life and a trout’s chance of survival correspondingly less. Don’t get me wrong, trout survive well in some areas, but the numbers are nowhere like New York’s. Perhaps this is the reason Pennsylvania stocks larger fish. Chunky 10-inch to 13-inch trout are average. Pennsylvania also throws in some much bigger brook and rainbow trout — and especially the prized golden trout, or “Palomino,” which New York does not. Five average trout from Pennsylvania was a bagful.
Today, I was fishing Potato Creek near Smethport. The large stream had finally dropped enough to be fishable … just. I’d spent two hours hitting a slower stretch that generally held high-water fish, but so far not a single hit.
Discouraging to say the least.
But, I knew the stream was filled with trout. No one had been able to fish it heavily since the first day and most of those fish caught had been released.
I continued moving downstream and came to a swift run with a seam of slower moving water. I flipped a salmon egg far upstream. The current bounced the egg rapidly downstream and suddenly I felt the unmistakable tug of a hit. Unprepared, I set the hook too late.
Asleep at the switch. Good grief!
Putting on a different colored egg I cast again and the instant I felt the fish take I raised the rod tip and reeled rapidly. When the line came tight I tugged firmly to help set the hook.
THE RAINBOW shot out of the water, the sparkling spray a thousand jewels in the bright sunlight. Then the strong fish gave my 7-foot ultralight a tough workout in the swift waters. Finally, I beached her and my visiting daughter’s wish for a trout lunch was a little nearer to fruition.
Several casts later I had another hit. This 13-inch fish was just as strong and when I finally worked it next to shore it gave a final thrash and threw the hook in inches of water.
I tossed the rod shoreward and leaped, pouncing on the thrashing trout like an ungainly cat, somehow managing to toss her up on the bank. I don’t know who was more shocked by my deft maneuver, me or the rainbow!
But lunch was definitely looking up.
The very next cast another fish hit and after another long battle the trout tossed the hook. The water was a little too deep for another leap and I watched dejectedly as it shot out of sight.
Moving to the head of the next pool it took several casts to get the correct drift. Finally, I did so and the current swept the egg perfectly into deeper water. Another strike. I lifted the rod tip quickly and the battle was on. Luckily, the fish was well hooked, a steep bank behind me forced me to lift it from the water, thrashing and shaking.
The next hole was big and deep, a large eddy on the far side. Since the high water prevented me from crossing the creek to the eddy side it was necessary for a long cast. The first three barely settled before the current caught the line and whisked my bait out of the eddy.
A little frustrated I made an extra-long cast, stretching upward, holding my 7 foot rod as high as possible. A voice behind me and turning my head saw another fisherman with a friendly smile on his face.
“Any luck?” He inquired.
“Yes, I have three.” I answered. “You?”
“Nothing yet,” he replied.
Then I felt a sudden weight and set the hook. The rod bent deeply and my first thought was a strong 13-inch fish was turning its side into the current and pulling with a strength greater than its length. When the trout continued to keep a deep bow in my rod my attention sharpened. How big was this fish?
The water was off color enough you could only see about 18-inches deep. The trout continued to hug the bottom and the fisherman behind asked what I had on.
“I don’t know.” I replied; “But, she feels really good!”
“Need a net?” he asked.
“Absolutely!” Mine was in the car.
The battle continued for some time, then the fish came up and rolled, a big, yellow-golden side flashing. Holy cow, a beautiful golden trout! Oh, my word.
THE GOLDEN was slow to tire, staying in the eddy on the far side of stream. I wasn’t pulling any harder than necessary, having no idea how well the trout was hooked. Patience is the key, don’t try and horse larger trout, wear them out slowly.
Once I’d worked the trout to my side of the stream I thought the battle was over, but no, the golden kept turning that big side into the current and remaining out of net range. At last I slipped the borrowed net under the beauty with a sigh of relief. When you want to land a fish very, very, badly, the tension really builds!
My new friend grinned. “That’s quite a fish.”
“Thank you for the net!” I exclaimed.
Not only did I have a great trout, I just made a new friend. You have to love trout fishing.
(Wade Robertson is an award-winning outdoor writer whose articles have been published in Pennsylvania Outdoor News, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur, Fish & Game and other publications. His email is wadewrites3006@ gmail.com.)