Time: 8:00AM – 10:00AM; 11:00AM – 1:00PM; 6:30PM – 10:00PM
Location: Jolly Grove, Swinging Bridge, Long Pool
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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