Penns Creek – 05/31/2018

Time: 8:00AM – 11:00AM; 12:00PM – 1:00PM; 5:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Swinging bridge, Bingaman Lane, Glen Iron

Penns Creek 05/31/2018 Photo Album

Thursday began as an overcast day and remained that way throughout, as temperatures reached the upper sixties and low seventies. These conditions seemed ideal to two eager fishermen such as Jeff and me. Flows were another key variable, and the creek was now down to 500 CFS with reasonable clarity. Everything seemed to point to ideal conditions for a solid day on Penns Creek.

We departed from the Schafer cabins and ate a quick breakfast while in transit, before we arrived at the swinging bridge area along Penns Creek. Jeff introduced me to this stretch on Wednesday morning, after we departed from Jolly Grove. In a bit of a surprise we never witnessed any significant green drake dun emergence or surface feeding to the large mayflies despite our early arrival and overcast skies. I began fishing above the swinging bridge with a grey fox and focused my efforts on a small side channel, but the fish ignored my drifts. I began to experiment with different flies and cycled through a female green drake dun and a green drake spinner. I hypothesized that the trout were aware of the large mayflies recently present in strong numbers, but the fish harbored different thoughts, and no significant green drake hatching activity materialized.

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Merging Currents

When I reached a beautiful arced pool, I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and a prince leadwing coachman. Early on during this phase of my Thursday fishing I lost the prince leadwing coachman and replaced it with another version that Jeff tied and provided during my last visit to Penns Creek. The replacement coachman immediately attracted attention, as I landed two suckers and a tiny trout. I persisted and tossed the trio of flies to the top of a run and allowed the fat Albert to drift along a seam. The unimpeded float did not last long, before the fat Albert dipped, and I raised my arm to set the hook in a sixteen inch brown trout. What a surprise and thrill!

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Under Control

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Several Fish Rose Along the Debris

My confidence in the coachman soared, and I approached a very alluring run along the left bank. A pair of fish revealed their presence, so I tossed the three fly combination to a small eddy. The Albert immediately paused, and I set the hook and felt temporary contact with a moving object. Unfortunately the fish escaped, and I paused to assess my next move. As I scanned the run and eddy, I was amazed to notice that the rising fish resumed their steady feeding activity. I rested the area some more, while I switched to a single dry fly approach, and then I cast the usual array of Penns Creek imitations, but none pleased the occupants of the run and eddy. Jeff joined me, and he tossed another assortment their way, but we eventually walked away after an hour of futile casting. We were chastened by the wily Penns Creek trout in this location.

While we dwelled on our recent rebuke from Pennsylvania trout, we retreated to the minivan and once again drove to the Sportsman’s Club, where we ate our lunches. After lunch we traveled downstream to Bingaman Lane, where we fished from 12:00PM until 1:00PM, but the long pool and water upstream were unproductive. Another move was in order, and this time we journeyed to Glen Iron. We spotted some isonychia duns during the morning above the swinging bridge, and Jeff theorized that they would be more prolific farther downstream.

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Sweet Spot

We spent the remainder of our day in the Glen Iron area, after we ate our dinners. Just before returning to the van for dinner and in a location above the bridge, I landed a thirteen inch brown trout that smacked the parachute isonychia. This bit of success transpired while Jeff chatted with a passing motorist named Bill Webber.

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Isonychia Fan

After dinner I returned to the dry/dropper method and worked some nice runs above the bridge, but my determined efforts were thwarted. Next we hiked up the road a bit to a point where the creek forked, and I spent most of the evening above the split. I threw mostly a parachute isonychia and iso comparadun, and I experienced two brief hook ups along with one fish that leaped and shed the hook. Quite a few fish rose regularly in the wide riffle section above the split in the creek, and I was frustrated by my inability to bring one to my net.

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Wild Iris

We chose to remain in Glen Iron to avoid the hordes that undoubtedly chased the green drake spinner fall in the No Kill area, and we encountered some moderate isonychia activity. We had the place to ourselves and cast to rising fish on a pleasant evening in central Pennsylvania. No complaints from this Colorado based fly fisherman.

Fish Landed: 2

 

Penns Creek – 05/30/2018

Time: 8:00AM – 10:00AM; 11:00AM – 1:00PM; 6:30PM – 10:00PM

Location: Jolly Grove, Swinging Bridge, Long Pool

Penns Creek 05/30/2018 Photo Album

Chasing green drakes as the hatch migrates up Pennsylvania waterways is a time-honored tradition, and Jeff and I joined the search with renewed intensity. We stopped to view the creek at Glen Iron on Tuesday, and several fishermen were casting to rising fish at 9AM. In a casual conversation with one of the anglers, we learned that the green drake hatch ended at 9:00, when the sun burned off the fog and haze. On Tuesday evening we visited the popular No Kill section, and little evidence of the presence of green drakes was present. From our initial exploration we concluded that the epicenter of the hatch and spinner fall was somewhere in between these to points.

We woke up at 6AM on Wednesday morning and after a quick breakfast of tea and a muffin, we departed Millheim and drove to Penns Creek. We approached from the east and made our initial stop at Jolly Grove. A small parking lot was located near the intersection of the paved road and dirt lane, and a sign announced that public fishing was available by walk in only. I climbed into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, and Jeff and I hiked a decent ways to place some distance beyond the fishermen that occupied the first two attractive pools. Lodging in Aaronsburg enabled an early start, and we capitalized with our rods prepared to cast by 8AM. We hoped to catch the morning green drake dun emergence before the sun once again burned off the cloud cover.

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Green Drake Dun Eater

I observed for a few minutes, and my optimism soared, as I spotted several rises along some seams between large submerged boulders. I began with a male green drake dun with an extended foam body, and I was fortunate to land two brown trout in the twelve inch range. The early success, however, was followed by a period of adversity as several fish turned away at the last instant and refused my offering. Many of the duns floating on the surface were quite large, and the females outsize males, so I converted to a larger extended body foam imitation. This exchange paid dividends, when I landed a slightly larger thirteen inch brown, but then several refusals dampened my optimism once again.

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Random Spots

As was the case on Tuesday the sun broke through at 9AM, and suddenly the surface of the stream was devoid of mayfly filet mignon, consequently the trout ceased their surface feeding. Jeff and I decided to halt our efforts at Jolly Grove and moved on to another location farther upstream.

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So Prehistoric

Our second fishing location on Wednesday was near a swinging bridge. We descended a steep bank to the creek and began fishing upstream. By now the sun was blazing, and the air temperature escalated into the eighties, and the humidity seemed fairly heavy to this Colorado fisherman. Before I began my quest for Penns Creek trout, I inspected some tree branches that dangled over the water, and my gaze stalled on a strand of spider webbing. At least twenty-five green drake spinners were trapped in the dense web, and Jeff and I concluded that we were in close proximity to the sought after epicenter of the spinner fall.

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Perfect

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Lots of Spider Food

I prospected some very attractive pools and runs in a small side channel along the left side with a green drake dun, but the trout were not fooled. I decided to convert to my trusted dry/dropper technique, and I featured a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and a prince nymph. These flies were also ignored by the local residents, and I decided to experiment with a yellow Pat’s rubber legs.

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Decent Size. Very Wide.

Imagine my surprise, when I began to lift the flies at the tail of a short pool, and the Pat’s rubber legs was attacked by a hungry fish. As I began to fight the nymph eater, I caught a brief glimpse of my foe, and it displayed a very wide body. I was beginning to think I hooked a rare bluegill in Penns Creek, but then I applied  pressure and brought the hooked fish to the surface and realized I was tangling with another bass. Unlike the small battler on Tuesday, this smallmouth was around twelve inches long, but it carried quite a bit of weight on its short frame.

The fishing in this area of Penns Creek was quite slow despite some very nice structure, and I attributed the lack of action to the heat and time of day. We once again retreated to the minivan, and Jeff decided to drive to the Union County Sportsman’s Club to take advantage of the WiFi to check the weather. We also utilized the break to  down our lunches.

In the late afternoon we returned to the segment of the stream that occupied us on Tuesday morning. It was between Jolly Grove and the swinging bridge, and we surmised that we were near the center of the green drake emergence. I hiked down the gravel lane, until I was below the cluster of cabins in the area. My line contained the yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and a large stonefly with a peacock dubbed body. I found myself behind a cabin, where two beach chairs were mounted on a stump next to a sign that read “BYOB Beach”. I fished the edge of the fast water in this area thoroughly with no sign of fish, and then I swapped the stonefly for a slender prince nymph.

I moved upstream to a spot where a tree extended horizontally over the stream for fifteen feet, and in this area I landed a thirteen inch brown trout followed by a seventeen inch version of the same trout species. Both fish attacked the slender prince wet fly, and needless to say, I was thrilled with this dose of nymphing success on the ever challenging Penns Creek.

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Pleased With This Specimen

Jeff and I designated our rendezvous time to be 6:30, and we met at the bottom end of Long Pool at the appointed moment. We carefully staked out our claim to the prototypical long relatively slow moving pool, and I found a log and consumed my dinner which looked amazingly similar to lunch. By 7:30 fish began to rise sporadically, and this activity continued until 8:30. I began casting to fish that were within my range with a grey fox parachute and comparadun, but the fish were having none of them.

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Nice Pool Ahead

I pondered the situation and gathered the facts. A fair number of fish were rising, but I saw no evidence of sailboat-like wings on the surface. Perhaps some form of sparse spinner fall was responsible for the occasional sip? A March brown spinner duped an eighteen inch brown trout on Tuesday evening. Could the same fly work its magic on Wednesday evening? I tied one to my line and after ten casts, a thirteen inch brown elevated and chomped the spinner. Once in awhile my logic leads to success.

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Display

By 9PM darkness descended on the creek, and the green drake spinners swarmed up and down the waterway. They performed their mating dance and began to fall on to the surface. The sound of slurps became louder and more frequent, and my heart rate accelerated, as I anticipated a fat Penns Creek brown trout on the end of my line. Alas I was only able to manage two temporary connections and a splashy refusal, before my casts became futile attempts to blind fish to the sound of rising fish. I attempted to estimate where my fly was, and if I heard a slurp near the assumed position, I executed a steady set. During the one hour after darkness I hooked an enviable quantity of water.

Although I failed to land a trout during the intense spinner fall, it was an amazing scene etched in my memory banks. Huge spinners buzzed up and down the creek and bounced off my rod and banged into my face. Rarely does one experience a dense hatch or spinner fall of an insect with a body that extends for one inch. Nature creates some incredible moments.

Fish Landed: 6

Penns Creek – 05/29/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 9:30PM

Location: Penns Creek and Elk Creek

Penns Creek 05/29/2018 Photo Album

I flew from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, Pa on Monday, May 28, Memorial Day. Jane returned to Denver, while I continued on the second leg of the eastern swing with three days of fly fishing in central Pennsylvania and a weekend attending my 45th reunion at Bucknell University. I anxiously followed the weather in Pennsylvania, and I was encouraged to see that the flows on Penns Creek diminished to the 600 CFS range. This level of water remained high, but my fishing companion, Jeff, assured me it was manageable. The weather projections forecast the potential for heavy rain on Thursday, but I remained fairly certain that at least two days of decent fishing were in my future.

I rented a car and drove from the Philadelphia airport to Whitehall, Pa., where I met my friend Jeff. We loaded the minivan on Monday night and scheduled an early departure for Tuesday. Jeff wanted to be on the water early before the sun burned off the clouds to produce challenging fishing conditions. I set my alarm for 4:30AM Eastern time, and I actually woke up a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I pulled on my clothes and grabbed my bag, and we were on our way before 5AM. As dawn emerged, heavy clouds filled the sky, and dense patches of fog shrouded the hills and valleys along our route. We were pleased to see this level of cloud cover, and optimism crept into our thoughts.

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Chasing Green Drakes

We stopped for a quick breakfast in Mifflinburg at the Old Turnpike, and we arrived at a parking space at the end of a gravel road near Penns Creek by 9AM. We were anxious to inspect the water, so we quickly climbed into our waders, and I assembled my Sage four weight. We hiked down a gravel road at a quick pace, and I finally stepped into the water at 9:30. By now the clouds burned off, and the sun began to elevate the temperature. The flows were in the 600 CFS range, and the olive tinged water provided decent clarity. Steady food on the surface would certainly catch the attention of the local stream residents.

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Light Coloration

Jeff directed me to the right braid around a small island at the end of the lane, and as we observed, two fish made their presence known. I tied on a male green drake dun, that Jeff graciously loaned to me, and flicked a short cast to the spot where the lower fish rose minutes earlier. On the fourth cast a mouth appeared, and I set the hook and temporarily connected with my first fish of the day. I moved on to the location of the second rise observed, and a ten inch brown accosted the green drake and enabled me to guide my first Penns Creek trout of the day into my net. It was only a feisty ten inch fish, but I was nonetheless pleased to enjoy green drake success.

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Placid Penns Creek

Just above the point of the island a stone wall bordered the creek, and I tossed some casts to within a foot of the solid structure. The ploy paid dividends, when a smallmouth bass blasted the green drake. The warmwater species was no longer than eight inches, but it resisted admirably against the inevitable destination of my net. A bit farther upstream an eleven inch brown trout crushed the green drake dun imitation, and I was thrilled to experience early success, as the sun blazed and the temperature soared.

At 11:30 I exited the stream and circled to the lower end of the entry road below a long narrow island. I patiently surveyed the area, but rising fish were absent in the riffles of moderate depth. The structure of the stream in the area suggested that a dry/dropper approach might yield positive results, so I converted to a fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. This trio of flies were mainstays in Colorado. Would they produce similar success in Pennsylvania?

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Best Fish of the Day So Far

Initially the answer was no, and I cycled through a march brown nymph and green drake nymph before settling on a 20 incher. I covered half of the attractive water in the right braid, before I approached some nice deep runs below a tree that projected ten feet out and parallel to the surface of the creek. Finally the 20 incher earned its keep, as it enticed a pair of nice twelve inch and thirteen inch chunky browns to my net. Another decent fish bumped the fat Albert and then drifted back for 1.5 feet and aggressively slurped the large yellow foam creation. I played the hungry feeder for a bit, before it escaped and somehow broke off the two bottom flies.

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Dry/Dropper Catch

At 1:30 Jeff and I returned to the car, and we decided to explore some new water. By now the sun was high in the sky, and the air temperature and humidity were soaring, so my expectations for fishing success were minimal. We traveled west and north and checked in to our lodging at the Schafer cabins in Aaronsburg. Since we were in the neighborhood, we drove a bit farther west on route 45 to Millheim, and we stopped to sample Elk Creek. Elk Creek is a small spring creek tributary to Penns Creek, and it flows through the center of the small town of Millheim.

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Exploring Elk Creek

We limited our stay to an hour, and I covered .3 mile during this time. The stream displayed the characteristic milky olive spring creek color, but it was flowing high from the heavy rain a week prior. The high volume of water made it more difficult to identify the prime spots, and as expected fish were not rising during the middle of a hot afternoon. I persisted with a dry/dropper arrangement, and my only action was a foul hooked wild brown that resided in a small bank side eddy.

Jeff and I agreed that Elk was an interesting piece of water, but we departed and returned to the No Kill section of Penns Creek, in case activity heated up during the cooler evening hours. We consumed some sandwiches and snacks for dinner and then proceeded to the creek, where we fished until 9:30. We were disappointed to learn that no significant hatch or spinner fall developed, and therefore dry flies were mostly ineffective. We experimented with green drake duns and spinners as well as an assortment of grey foxes and sulfurs, and despite the presence of these aquatic insects, the fish did not respond.

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March Brown Spinner Attracted This Brown Trout

During a one hour period I knotted a March brown spinner on my line and prospected some juicy sections in a side channel. This tactic rewarded me with the fish of the day, when an eighteen inch brown trout confidently sipped the spinner. I cast across the main current to a four foot wide band of slower moving water next to the bank, and a downstream drift worked its magic.

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Penns Creek Beauty

A five fish day on Penns Creek is quite good based on my experience, and a hefty wild eighteen inch bruiser was icing on the cake. My central Pennsylvania fishing adventure was only beginning, and we were zeroing in on the highly sought after green drake emergence and spinner fall.

Fish Landed: 5

Eastern Road Trip Day 4 – 05/24/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 4 05/24/2018 Photo Album

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Surrounded by Beauty

Greg, Jane, Marcia and I drove to the large parking lot next to Tom’s Cove and lingered on the beach for an hour or two on Thursday morning. May 24 was our last day in Chincoteague, and we soaked up as much beach time as possible. When we returned to the bay house, we relished some cream of asparagus soup made by Marcia from fresh spears harvested from her garden. A fresh salad rounded out a healthy and delicious lunch.

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Another Nice View of the Wild Ponies

After lunch we teamed up to clean the house thoroughly, and then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Marcia and Greg returned to Landis Store, Pa., while Jane and I reversed our direction and departed for Durham, NC. Jane and I cherished the three days spent with my sister and brother-in-law, and we were sad to part ways.

On our drive to Durham we texted Dan to get the name of a restaurant that he introduced us to, when we attended his graduation, and he promptly replied with Geer Street Garden. We made this our impromptu dinner spot, and I savored a pale ale along with a pair of tasty chicken tamales.The meal was superb. After dinner we navigated to Loco Pops, another Dan and Ariel favorite, where we cooled off with exotic flavored popsicles. We fulfilled our final goal for Thursday, as we found a deal at a Holiday Inn Express in Research Triangle and made that our place of rest for the night.

Eastern Road Trip Day 3 – 05/23/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 3 05/23/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday featured warmer and more humid weather with highs approaching 85 degrees in Chincoteague, VA. We took advantage of our twenty-four hour bike rental and completed another ride to Assateague Island National Seashore Park, where we again explored the OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) beach.

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Birds Loving the Beach

I grew up near Philadelphia, so most of my previous beach experience revolved around the New Jersey shoreline. Jane and I loved the natural beauty and remote feel of the Assateague beaches and particularly the OSV area. The white sand oceanfront was bordered by woodlands; and the absence of commercial establishments, boardwalks and hordes of sun worshippers was refreshing.

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Pretty Dune Photo

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Funny Creature

We returned the bikes by noon, and then Jane and I stopped at Pica Tacqueria for tacos. Greg and Marcia returned to the bay house, while Jane and I drove to Snug Harbor to rent two single sea kayaks. Snug Harbor was located on the east side of Chincoteague across from Assateague Island. We paid for a one hour rental and crossed the bay to the Assateague Lighthouse, where we spotted one lone wild pony. On the return crossing we detoured to a narrow channel and paddled for five minutes to a point, where I snapped a pair of distant photos of a herd of wild horses.

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Looking More to the Left

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Jane in a Developing Love Affair with Kayaks

After kayaking we returned to the bay house. For dinner on Wednesday we visited AJ’s next to Eel Creek for a delicious meal. Conveniently a putt putt was located on the other side of Eel Creek a short distance from the restaurant, so our foursome engaged in a spirited round of miniature golf.

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Marcia Shows Off Her Putting Skills

 

Eastern Roadtrip Day 2 – 05/22/2018

Eastern Roadtrip Day 2 05/22/2018 Photo Album

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Ready to Cruise

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Wild Ponies!

Our first order of business on Tuesday morning in Chincoteague, VA was to rent cruiser bikes from Jus’ Bikes on Maddox Road. The four of us then departed on a 2.5 hour bike ride to Assateague Island National Seashore. We crossed the bridge on Maddox and then curved along the paved road, until we stopped at the Tom’s Cove Visitor Center to obtain information.

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Fun Pair

We continued a short distance and climbed a sand dune to obtain a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean. With this landmark checked off we turned around and retraced our path to the Wildlife Trail, and we skirted Snow Goose Pool and connected to a service road that delivered us to the OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) area. The beautiful remote beach in this area became our favorite spot, and we participated in some serious beachcombing.

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Beachcombing

After our Assateague Island introductory adventure we returned to Chincoteague and stopped at Jolie’s along Maddox for fried clam strips. We knew they were not a healthy choice, but the salty air created a strong craving. Greg and Marcia returned to the vacation house after lunch, while Jane and I stopped at Jus’ Brakes for a seat adjustment. Afterward we cycled to Main Street in Chincoteague to explore the downtown area.

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Relaxing Form of Fishing

Upon our return to the bay house Jane and I jumped in the rental car and returned to the downtown area for fuel and groceries. Tuesday evening featured a tasty dinner prepared by Marcia and Greg, and this was followed by a game of Ticket to Ride and a card game called Golf. Tuesday’s weather was quite nice with high temperatures around 75 degrees. Day one included much exploration and discovery, and we were delighted with the results.

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Marcia Walking the Plank

Eastern Roadtrip Day 1 – 05/21/2018

Eastern Roadtrip Day 1 05/21/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I flew from Denver, CO to Charlotte, NC on Monday, May 21, 2018. This was the beginning of a two week trip to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. In order to catch our 7:05 flight we drove to the Central Park light rail station and boarded the A-Line at five o’clock.

We arrived in Charlotte by 12:30PM, rented a Hyandai Sonata and completed an eight hour drive to Chincoteague, VA. Needless to say it was a long day. Along the way we ate lunch at Wendy’s and dinner at a Subway, and we stopped at a scenic overlook on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to snap some photos.

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Jane at the Scenic Overlook

My sister, Marcia, and brother-in-law, Greg, greeted us at our lovely beach house accommodations, when we arrived at 6399 Pine Drive at 9:30 PM. Our road trip was in progress.

 

South Platte River – 05/17/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/17/2018 Photo Album

When I reviewed the flows on several rivers and streams on Monday prior to my visit to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, I noted that all the tailwater sections of the South Platte River remained at excellent flow rates. One of the advantages of this blog is the ability to check back on fishing trips and conditions in previous years. I did just that on Wednesday, when I read my post of 05/12/2016. I recalled a spectacular day, and I was curious to remember the date, weather and flows. The weather was cool with air temperatures peaking in the sixties and the flows were 64 CFS. May 17 was five days later, and the high temperature was forecast to reach the low seventies, while the flows registered in the 85 CFS range. I concluded that these factors were close enough to 5/12/2016 to justify another trip to the South Platte River in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the success bestowed upon me during that day.

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83 CFS

I assembled my Sage four weight rod and waded into the South Platte River by 10AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was in the mid-sixties and the flows were as displayed on the DWR graph. The sky was deep blue and totally devoid of any clouds, and this held true for 90% of my time on the river. I could not have asked for a more ideal scenario; as I knotted a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began tossing the three fly searching combination to the likely deep pockets and runs, as I methodically moved upstream. Very little time elapsed, before I landed a few small brown trout, and after fifteen minutes I built the fish count to five.

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Chunk of Butter

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Such a Pretty Sight

My expectations soared, but my confidence was tested in the next fifteen minutes, as trout began to elevate and refuse the fat Albert. I endured this frustration for a bit, and then I pulled in my flies and replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant. The Chernobyl proved to be less of a distraction, and I began to hook and land trout at a regular pace. By eleven o’clock the tally of fish that rested in my net mounted to ten, and the salvation nymph generated two fish for every one produced by the hares ear.

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Another hour elapsed, and I chose to eat my lunch on the east side of the river just below an island, where some large flat rocks served as reasonable replacements for tables and chairs. By this time the number of fish that slid into my net ballooned to twenty-one. In the process of landing two fish that favored the topmost fly, the salvation nymph broke off as a result of being dragged over an adjacent rock or stick. I was reluctant to deplete the supply of salvations in my fleece wallet, so after lunch I experimented with several alternatives.

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Long and Lean

I prospected the smaller left side channel next to the island first, and I began with an amber March brown nymph below the hares ear nymph. Periodically I enjoy trying some of my legacy flies from my early days of fly tying and fishing in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately on May 17, the South Platte River trout ignored the classic, and I once again paused to exchange it for a nymph; that contained a glass bead, pheasant tail body and marabou tail. This fly performed slightly better, as it accounted for one fish, but during its stint on the line I also experienced two long distance releases. I sensed that my catch rate was slowing, so I once again stripped in my line and made another change. I swapped the glass bead nymph for an ultra zug bug; and the Chernboyl ant, hares ear, and ultra zug bug became my stalwarts for the remainder of the day.

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One of the Better Fish on the Day

Seven additional trout materialized from the east channel next to the island. The flows in the left braid were only one fourth of the volume that churned down the right channel, so this condition necessitated stealth and long casts. When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I climbed the bank and circled back to the bottom point, and then I migrated up the larger and faster right branch. At the tip of the island I progressed through additional attractive pocket water that carried the full combined flows of the river, and I finally quit at 3:30. The two hours between 1:30 and 3:30 evolved into a fish catching spree, as I pushed the fish count from twenty-eight to forty-seven.

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Oh Those Deep Pockets

The most productive water types were slow moving shelf pools next to faster currents. A cast to the seam was a solid bet. Across and downstream drifts along the bank also provoked aggressive grabs, if the water depth was sufficient. During the two hour period of fast action, I surprisingly extracted some decent brown trout from fairly shallow riffles. Two thirteen inch rainbow trout joined the mix in the afternoon, and they crushed the ultra zug bug from positions in faster currents. Three decent brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant in another surprise afternoon development.

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Fine Spots. Might Be Cutbow.

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Thursday evolved into another outstanding adventure on the South Platte River. It did not quite measure up to 05/12/2016, but that may have been a lifetime best event. While freestone rivers swelled and dams opened their valves, I fished in nearly ideal flows and thoroughly enjoyed my day in May.

Fish Landed: 47

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Button Rock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/15/2018 Photo Album

The euphoria from three fun days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River abated, and I felt the itch to wet a line on a Colorado stream on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. When I researched stream flows and fly shop fishing reports, I quickly discovered that my options dwindled, while I cast my flies in the relatively low clear waters of the Frying Pan tailwater. The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and Cache la Poudre graphs reflected varying degrees of early stage run off, and I did not wish to undertake a one hour plus drive only to encounter difficult stream conditions.

Bear Creek displayed 42 CFS, and although high, this reading represented a manageable level. All sections of the South Platte River were in play, but I decided to reserve the longer drive for later in the week, when the weather stabilized. Tuesday’s forecast predicted a fairly high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek as my low risk alternative. The flow data displayed 111 CFS, and the drive was one hour and fifteen minutes. In addition I had first hand knowledge as a result of the Mothers’ Day hike that Jane, Dan, Ariel, Zuni and I completed on Sunday.

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Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be

I launched my adventure at 9:40, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the road in the Button Rock Preserve for a considerable distance. I started my effort to fool St. Vrain trout with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The temperature when I began my hike was 61 degrees, and it climbed gradually to a high of 69 in the canyon. I estimated that clouds blocked the sun’s rays forty to fifty percent of the time during a pleasant day. The flows were in the 113 CFS range, and my casting was relegated to all the areas that presented slower velocity and protective depth for the resident trout.

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Nice Slick Below the Rocks

I covered a fair distance in the first fifteen minutes with no success, as I gained familiarity with the stream at higher flows and developed knowledge of the most productive locations. Finally a small brown trout snatched the salvation, and shortly thereafter another somewhat larger brown followed suit. By the time I perched on a large midstream rock to consume my lunch, the fish count registered five, and all the landed trout grabbed the salvation except for one maverick that snatched the hares ear.

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Same Fish, Better Lighting

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My Lunch Spot

After lunch I continued my upstream quest for St. Vrain trout, and I boosted the tally to nine, before I reeled up my line at 3PM. The only variation in my approach was my fly offerings. I somehow snapped off the two nymphs while executing across stream casts and downstream drifts. Normally I feel the snag or grab that causes such an outcome, but in this case I stripped in my line and discovered that I was fishing with only a Chernobyl ant and dangling empty tippet. I used this interruption to modify my lineup, and I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the salvation for a small size 16 prince nymph. The prince delivered a small trout to my net, and then I thoroughly covered some outstanding water with no response. I sensed that the fish were less attracted to the prince than the salvation, so I returned to the source of my early success with a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

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Those Orange Spots

The Chernboyl, caddis pupa, and salvation remained on my line for most of the afternoon and accounted for the last five fish that rested in my net. The emerald caddis fly fooled one trout, and the salvation generated the other four takes. During Tuesday all the landed fish were brown trout except for one outlier rainbow.

On Tuesday it was a matter of moving quickly to cover a significant amount of water. The high flows concentrated fish in places, where the current slowed, and water depth provided cover from overhead predators. Once I determined the prime trout lies, I skipped marginal spots and focused my casting on the high probability pockets and pools.

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I Liked This Scene

Ten fish in three plus hours is a reasonable catch rate, although the largest fish may have extended to eleven inches. The quality of the fish and pleasant weather more than offset the lack of size, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I was thankful for the opportunity to fish clear water within 1.5 hours of home, while other rivers raged with snow melt. Hopefully my good fortune will extend a bit longer.

Fish Landed: 10

Frying Pan River – 05/10/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Between the dam and Baetis Bridge; .5 mile below Baetis Bridge and back to Bend Pool below the bridge; Taylor Creek Cabins private water

Frying Pan River 05/10/2018 Photo Album

After a tough but rewarding day on Wednesday, my feelings toward Thursday were divided, as we prepared to once again attack the Frying Pan River. Steve’s weather forecast projected highs in the eighties with minimal cloud cover, and this augured challenging conditions. I also dwelled on my lack of minuscule gray midge imitations, and nothing changed overnight to alter that situation. On the positive side I managed to land sixteen excellent trout including several above average in size on dry flies during a hatch. The latter accomplishment added a layer of positive anticipation for Thursday.

Were my reservations and optimism misplaced? Thursday proved to be a very challenging day on the Frying Pan River. In my opinion the tough conditions were attributable to pure blue skies and warm temperatures. Ed, Steve, and I parked near the Wednesday pullout, and I was prepared to fish by 9:30AM. I deployed my Sage four weight once again, and since I observed no evidence of surface feeding, I rigged a dry/dropper configuration and skirted the pool that occupied me for most of Wednesday.

I began prospecting with a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and a sparkle wing RS2; and I covered the faster water between Wednesday’s pool and an upstream weir that spanned the river. The dry/dropper did not produce in the early going, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a bright green caddis pupa. My efforts continued in a futile trend, until I neared the end of the fast water section, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the RS2.

At this point I circled back to a point just below the car, and as I observed from the high bank next to the road, several trout began to pluck invisible morsels from the surface. I scrambled down the rocky bank and spent the remainder of the morning in a state of frustration, as I churned through all manner of tiny gray flies contained in my twenty-five year old midge box. After a lengthy trial run in the first section I surrendered and moved to a gorgeous area between several large exposed boulders. Large fish were rising everywhere in the deeper channels between shallow flats.

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Much of the Day Spent Here

I finally brought some stream analysis to the endeavor, and I seined the water, and within seconds the white mesh was clogged with a massive quantity of midge larva, emerging midges, and a few adults. The adults were size 24 or possibly smaller, and the larva were very slender and also a size 24. Fifty percent of the residue in the net was larva casings. I was astonished by the amount of protein collected in a brief dip of my net. The midges more than made up for their tiny size with an astounding quantity of insects in various stages of the life cycle.

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70% Empty Larva Cases

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Dense Midge Hatch Lingered for Four Hours

After I finished my stream life analysis, Steve joined me, and he assumed the downstream position, while I targeted the top of the runs. An abundant quantity of visible fish elevated my heart rate, as they finned just below the surface and slowly sipped tiny midges in a steady rhythmic cadence. Surely one would mistake my small gray offering for the real thing! Finally just before lunch I tied a size 24 black midge adult to my line, and the minuscule fly duped a twelve inch rainbow trout. Ed donated this fly to my cause on Wednesday during lunch.

Thursday morning featured 2.5 hours of frustration. Flies that worked albeit temporarily on Wednesday were totally ignored on Thursday. I was in a state of bewilderment and clueless regarding my afternoon approach to the dense hatch of diminutive midges.

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Surprise Caddis Chomper

After lunch Steve and I once again manned our positions of the morning, and after additional futile casting I began to experiment with large visible lead flies trailing small midge larva imitations, that were impossible to track. Much to my surprise I hooked and landed a feisty thirteen inch brown trout that attacked the size sixteen olive brown deer caddis that served as my lead fly. In addition I experienced a temporary hook up with the caddis.

Another period with no action and decreased surface feeding provoked me to experiment with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The wind was gusting intermittently, and I postulated that terrestrials were in the mix. Once again I was pleasantly surprised, when the beetle produced a temporary connection, and then it fooled a much appreciated rainbow. The pink striped missile streaked up and down the pool, until I finally coaxed it into my net. I photographed and admired my best fish of the day.

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Beetle Visible in the Mouth

After the rainbow landing the midge food source dwindled, and the trout scaled back their feeding activity. Steve decided to investigate the bridge pool, and I accompanied him. When I stood on Baetis Bridge, I observed only placid water with no evidence of rising fish, and the high sun caused the air temperature to soar, so I decided to hike downstream via the road for .5 mile, until I found some faster water. I theorized that a dry/dropper approach in the faster currents improved my chances of success given the higher air temperatures and lack of cloud cover.

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The Pool Above Baetis Bridge

My theory was in fact upheld, as I deployed a yellow fat Albert, emerald caddis pupa, and salvation nymph and guided six additional trout into my net. Two were rainbows in the thirteen inch range, and the others were smaller brown trout. One of the rainbows snatched the caddis pupa, and the salvation yielded the other landed fish.

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Channel Between the Rocks Delivered

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Healthy Wild Brown Trout from Thursday

When I reached the slow bend pool below Baetis Bridge, I climbed to the road and circled back to the bridge and then continued toward the car, where I found Ed and Steve next to the same spot that frustrated us earlier in the day. I once again waded in above Steve and converted to a black parachute ant, but it was soundly ignored by the occasional risers in front of me. I was about to switch back to Jake’s gulp beetle, but Ed and Steve were ready for happy hour, so we stowed our gear and returned to the cabin.

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The Log Jam on Taylor Creek Cabins Private Water

Before removing my waders and breaking down my rod, I decided to sample the private water across from the cabin, and I moved upstream from the “log jam” to the bench at the end of the path across from the driveway to the cabin. During this brief foray in the middle section of the Frying Pan River I prospected with a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph, and I landed two additional brown trout that attacked the salvation.

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End of Day Brown Trout

Thursday was a tough day, but I managed to land twelve trout including a few in the 13 – 14 inch range. I also invested some time to research the prevalent food source, and I discovered that size 24 midge larva, emergers and adults were on the menu. Although it is unlikely that I will return to the Frying Pan River near term to leverage this knowledge, I plan to add some tiny imitations to my fly boxes in case I visit again in the spring of future seasons. A new design is already dominating my thought patterns.

Fish Landed: 12