Time: 1:00PM – 8:30PM
Location: No kill area.
After a leisurely lunch at the rod and gun club, while we waited for the rainstorm to pass, we moved on to the No Kill parking lot. The Penns Creek No Kill area is the holy water of Pennsylvania fly fishing, and up until this time, we devoted only a few hours to it on Wednesday morning. On Thursday Jeff intended to cover a significant segment of the famous 3.9 mile special regulation water. After all, the stream conditions were near ideal, and I traveled all the way from Colorado to hook up with a fabled wild Pennsylvania brown trout from the Penns Creek no kill.
After we parked and retrieved our gear from the rear of the minivan, we carefully side-stepped our way down the hill and began fishing the lower water similar to Wednesday morning. Jeff once again ceded his favorite hot spots to me, but I was unworthy of his generosity in the first location, as I once again failed to interest any fish. Our plan was to hit three or four prime areas that Jeff knew held large healthy fish, and then we would quickly head upstream to attractive spots above the cabin and the adjacent long pool.
After I struck out at the first trout lair, I waded across the stream to a nice deep run and pool below a fallen tree. I circled around by land and positioned myself a safe distance below the target area. On Wednesday morning Jeff coached me on the best strategy for covering the riffles, run and pool; and I now applied all of his teachings. The large isonychia duns served as productive searching patterns during a previous early June trip to Penns Creek, so I pulled a comparadun from my box and knotted it to my tippet. I cautiously sprayed casts from left to right with no results, but I saved the juicy deep top half of the run for last.
My confidence received a necessary boost when a sudden slurp materialized near the downstream portion of the riffle. My comparadun was no more than eight feet above my position, when I reacted with a swift hook set, and this action initiated a panicked head shaking response from what appeared to be a decent brown trout. The finned foe made several short bursts around the pool, but fortunately it never attempted to reach the faster water below me. After several minutes of diving, sprinting and head shaking; I slid my net beneath a fifteen inch wild Penns Creek brown trout. It was a moment of gratification, as I snapped some photos and gently released my friend back into his watery lair.
Next Jeff and I hiked upstream beyond the cabin quite a ways until we approached a section that he referred to as the splits. Again Jeff graciously gifted me the large right channel that received flows from four separate braids. I was feeling quite confident, as he described several visits when he and his friend landed four to six fish from this area. My adrenaline spiked, as I observed several sporadic rises, while I methodically cast my way upstream along some log jams that paralleled the stream for ten yards or more. Unfortunately my focus and intensity were all in vain, as I failed to add to my fish count despite some fairly regular rises. I switched iso patterns several times, but the fish were having none of them.
Finally I despaired of landing a single fish from the prime run, and I waded to one of the middle braids in the splits. Another fisherman had covered the lower portion of the section I targeted, but that was fifteen or twenty minutes prior. Jeff was positioned in the next channel, so I laid claim to the middle area. Later Jeff referred to the place I fished as rose bush run, since the current rushed toward the opposite bank and then flowed at a rapid pace along some roses. The deepest and enticing portion was the slow pool on the inside of the fast run, but Jeff suggested that I should not ignore the narrow six inch strip of slow water between the rose bushes and the fast current.
I covered the entire stretch very thoroughly with an isonychia dun, but once again the fish did not cooperate. I was weary of fruitless casting of a dry fly, so I decided to make a radical change and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. I returned the pool toy to my line, and beneath it I tied a hares ear nymph and a hare nation. The hare nation is a fly I invented two winters ago that combines the best qualities of a hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I drifted the three fly offering through the main pool several times and then heeded Jeff’s advice and allowed the trio to glide along the fast current toward the tail. Wham! The pool toy dipped, and I set the hook and battled another gorgeous Penns Creek wild brown trout to my net. My catch rate was below my expectations, but when I was fortunate enough to land a fish, the quality and size of the fish was impressive.
Jeff appeared from below and congratulated me on my success, and then we advanced above the splits to Aumiller pool. Aumiller is a monster long slow moving pool, and rising fish are a constant occurrence. I made a few casts to the stagnant bottom section but quickly realized this was not my game. Jeff and I skipped the bottom two-thirds and moved immediately to the upper portion, where moderate riffles and glides predominated. I mentioned a desire to fish an isonychia nymph, so Jeff offered me one of his size twelve versions that display a light hackle stem along the top. I added this to my three fly arrangement by replacing the prince, so that I now showed the trout a pool toy, hare nation and iso nymph.
I began making casts toward two o’clock from my position along the bank, and then I mended several times to allow a dead drift. For some reason, however, on one of my three step moves toward the head of the pool, I flicked the flies directly upstream ten feet above a large exposed rock. I was astonished when I noticed a gorgeous trout that materialized from the cushion in front of the rock, but I retained the presence of mind to react with a hook set. Instantly the creek resident streaked toward the middle of the current, but I held tight and raised my rod to maintain tension. When the trout turned near the surface, I was astounded to see a vibrantly colored fish. In fact the color was so vivid that I thought I hooked a rare rainbow trout.
The trout fought valiantly below me, but eventually it tired enough so that I could leverage its head above the water, and I lifted it into my net. It was a brown trout, but the deep body color was so intense that it projected a shade of orange. I was dazzled by the beauty of this wild Penns Creek brown trout, and Jeff assisted by snapping several clear photographs with his camera. By the time I released the fish, dusk began to descend on the valley. I continued fishing for another thirty minutes, but neither Jeff nor I observed rises. In a ridiculous bonehead move, I neglected to pack my headlamp and regular glasses, so we decided to begin our long return hike by 8:30PM.
Thursday was a tough day when measured by fish count, but I was thankful to land three absolute jewels from the hallowed no kill section of Penns Creek. These fish justified my hours of casting and wading, and I felt quite satisfied and fortunate to hold the beauties in my hands. One more day remained, but I proclaimed the trip a success regardless of what Friday might deliver.