Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In Pennsylvania : Penn's Creek

Thought I'd share a story that was penned by the legendary Sparse Grey Hackle (aka Alfred W. Miller), a one-time Wall Street reporter, and a writer for both Sports Illustrated and Outdoor Life. This article appeared in Sports Illustrated, April 7, 1958,  enjoy! - JB
IN PENNSYLVANIA: Penn's Creek   by Sparse Grey Hackle
Karoondinha, the Indians called it, but the white men named it after William Penn's grandson, and it appears on maps variously as John Penn's, Penn's or Penn Creek. Most eastern anglers would call it a river. It has brown and rainbow trout, certainly up to seven pounds' weight and possibly twice that, throughout its more than 40 miles of fishing. It is rated by the few experts who know it as the best fly-rod trout water in the East.
In a manner of speaking, no one knows this splendid stream which flows so close to the homes of a million anglers. Even its name is scarcely known outside the Keystone State, because it is fished mostly by Pennsylvanians. And only a handful of those realize its fly-fishing potential, since nearly all of them are either bait fishermen or spinners.
Penn's Creek lies in the angle between the main Susquehanna and its West Branch tributary and is 60 miles long. The first 40 miles of it are trout-fishing water; the last 20 miles are visited only by bass fishermen. It emerges as a full-fledged trout brook, too wide to jump across, from Penn Cave, near Bellefonte in Centre County. At its mid-point, around Weikert, it is as wide as the big Beaverkill, a hundred feet or more, but has more water in it. From Glen Iron down to White Springs, where the trout fishing is ordinarily said to end, it is really boat water, it being impossible to cover the big, long pools otherwise. In fact, it is possible to "float" and fish the river from Coburn down, on the spring high water, and each year a few adventurous anglers do so.

Penn's Creek flows between two great Appalachian ramparts, through a V-shaped valley which is gentle farmland at the lower, wide end but steep and rugged at the upper, where the sides crowd close to the stream. For the middle half of its fishing length it runs between steep, forested and infinitely lonely slopes, a typical mountain stream with white water, rapids and rocky bottom which requires strong legs and a staff to wade in the early season. But on both its upper and lower ends it flows quietly through open fields, over a fine gravel bottom which is weeded in some places. There are but four tiny villages on its 40 miles of trout water. There is not an inch of posted water on Penn's, for it is navigable; the early settlers ran loaded 40-foot "arks" down it on the high water.
The first 14 miles from Penn Cave to Coburn are open meadow water, dead smooth, quiet, gravel-bottomed and easy wading. They are fished hard at the beginning of the season, but this is such lovely dry-fly water that the visitor should plan to try it out after the fly season is far enough along to have discouraged the bait fishermen. Below Coburn there are four miles of water beginning to be a mountain stream, down to Poe Paddy State Park. The "village" (one resident family) of Ingleby is the fishing capital of this upper river. Into this stretch empties Elk Creek, an excellent fishing stream, which just above the junction receives Pine Creek, a small but also excellent stream. The whole area is notable for its fishing. From Poe Paddy State Park down to the junction of Cherry Run, above Weikert, are some five miles of relatively inaccessible and therefore lightly fished mountain stream which is such fine water as to be worth the trouble of walking to it—fast, broken water and deep pools. One, which has the remarkable name of Aumiller's Bottom, has produced some unbelievable fish.
Cherry Run itself, though small, is rated one of the half-dozen best brook-trout streams in the state and can be fly-fished with a short rod. From Cherry Run down to Glen Iron there are about 10 miles of cabin or camp country; the woods are dotted with them, including a number of colonies or groups. Here the valley is widening out and the slopes become gentler, but it is a rough and rugged stretch of water with deep holes, white water, flats, "spinning wheels" (big deep eddies) and every variety of water, all rough-bottomed. Here is where the fishing pressure centers so that parking is sometimes a problem, for space is limited.
Below Glen Iron the river is flat, gravelly and weedy and it is really boat water, but a man with high waders and high determination, plus a good casting arm, can do a lot in it. The trout fishing is generally held to end at White Springs, but every knowledgeable and experienced angler whom I queried said emphatically that bigger fish than the upper water holds can be found in the junction pools and cold holes clear down to and including the confluence of Penn's with the Susquehanna River.
Penn's Creek is a limestone stream. Limestone trout streams are comparatively rare in the United States, but in the central part of Pennsylvania, where the Appalachians end and the Alleghenies begin, there is a whole group of them. "Downstate," around Harrisburg, they are meek, muddy and choked with weed although unbelievably fat with fish food, as are all limestoners. But the northern streams are mountain and forest waters, among which Penn's Creek is outstanding for its size, its wooded valley and its bold and varied aspect. At first sight it appears to be a typical dashing "freestone" (non-limestone) river. But it is a limestoner, and its basic characteristics are those of an English chalk stream however little it may look like one.
It is so fantastically rich in food elements that every stone is covered with the underwater forms of stream insects, and the water is a milky gray-green with plankton and other microscopic food organisms. It is always so cool that it has fine fly-fishing all summer long. It carries through the winter as much as 75% (an incredible proportion on any other type of stream) of the stocked fish left in it at the end of the fishing season, since it never has destructive "anchor," or bottom, ice. Its flow is so stable that even after going without any rainfall worth mentioning between early April and late September last year, it was down by only about two feet and fishable right up to its source. And all because of its limestone spring origin.
As a "composite" stream, Penn's Creek has fewer of the round-bodied, free-swimming and burrowing types of May fly nymphs than are found in the "pure" limestoners. But it has incredible quantities and innumerable species of the flat-bodied clambering types characteristic of fast water. It is loaded, too, with the big black-and-yellow stone fly nymphs and with various caddis, including the grannom with the green egg sac. Fishermen coming out of the stream often find the whole front of their waders covered with crawling caddis flies and gluey egg masses.
The main hatches on Penn's Creek begin in early April with a small dark-winged Ephemerella, which is imitated by the artificial Hendrickson and the Red Quill. Then from late April into late May there comes every day, conveniently between 10 o'clock and noon, a good solid hatch of small "sulphurs" of the Ephemerella subvaria group, which look like the familiar Light Cahill (Stenonema ithaca) of the freestone streams but have bodies ranging in color from cream to butter. This hatch is always a dramatic event. One moment the stream is entirely dead and the next it is covered with rising fish as the golden-bodied little beauties begin bursting from the surface and taking wing.
Penn's Creek is famous for its hatches of the shad fly, or green drake, between May 25 and June 15, which, normally though not invariably, are tremendous in volume. As on other waters, the duns—green drakes—hatch sporadically through the day, but Penn's hatches are often so large as to bring the fish to the surface and thus provide good dry-flyfishing during the day. The fall of spinner—gray drakes—comes at dusk like a thunderclap, a tremendous thing. The air is so thick with the huge white-bodied, black-tailed, gray-winged flies that one cannot see a man a hundred yards upstream, and every backwater is covered with drifted windrows of the spent insects. That is when every fish in the river feeds, and it is nothing unusual for an angler to get into four or five huge trout, one after another—fish so big and strong that they cannot be held but run off downstream to the end of the line and break the leader unless the fisherman has a great deal of backing line, skill and luck.
It is a special glory of Penn's Creek that even after the green drake is off, there continue to be intermittent hatches of a great variety of flies, right through to Labor Day, and, hence, good fishing. In fact, the fishing is so uniformly good on Penn's that one expert prefers the first weeks of the season, to April 20; another, late April through May, for the sulphurs; a third, May 25 to June 15, the shad-fly season; and one of the best prefers July and August. Among these late-hatching flies are some, variously identified as blue dun and iron blue dun, so small that they are successfully imitated only with Nos. 20 to 24 artificials.
So little fly-fishing is done on Penn's Creek, relatively speaking, that, to my knowledge, no special fly patterns have been developed for it nor is there a single custom flytier in the area. However, the following standard patterns are popular (note that all except the drakes—which imitate the shad fly—should be No. 14 or smaller, whether wet or dry):
For dry flies, the Hendrickson, Red Quill, Light Cahill, Pale Sulphur (like the Light Cahill but with yellowish silk body in a range of shades), Red Fox, Ginger Quill, Pale Evening Dun and Spinner, Grannom, and the Green, Gray and Black Drakes.
For wet flies, the Hendrickson, Light Cahill, Light Sulphur, Leadwing Coachman and all the flat-bodied nymphs, particularly the Stone Fly.
Sparse Grey Hackle (Alfred W. Miller)  at play.
Everyone who knows Penn's Creek agrees emphatically that it is very difficult to fish because the fish are so well fed. They do not strike vigorously but sip delicately after careful inspection, and will not come at all unless the offering is perfectly made and the artificial matches the hatch. With the dry fly long floats are necessary, since the fish often follow a fly, artificial or natural, for five feet or more, inspecting it closely before either taking or rejecting it. The catch of the average fly-fisherman on Penn's is poorer than on many freestone streams but the good angler can really clean up after he learns the water.
It is impossible to bring such well-fed fish to the surface by "fishing the water" with big, fancy patterns when there is no natural hatch. Even when there is a hatch, it is usually too sparse to bring the fish up and start them feeding. So most of the good surface fishing is confined to the period after sunset—and, too often, after dark—when the more concentrated falls of spinner occur. For this reason Penn's is generally regarded as primarily a wet-fly stream. But the man who wants fun more than fish can have rare sport with the dry fly in the daytime if he will fish only to rising fish, and match the hatch.
It is difficult to fish a wet fly upstream on Penn's, since the water is colored and one cannot see the fish coming to the fly. The standard method is therefore "across and down," throwing slack behind the fly to give it a natural drift and allow it to sink as much as possible; ordinarily, it is advisable to fish deep. Many Penn's anglers fish a wet fly or a nymph during a hatch instead of a dry imitation of the emerging dun.
In the early season there is fishing all the way from Penn Cave to White Springs, but after the middle of June the fishing will be better above Weikert. In the inlet pools of Weikert Run, Cherry Run, Poe Creek, Elk Creek and—in Elk—Pine Creek, there are always fish and often big ones, for there the water is always cold. In brassy mid-August of a drought year I found the water at Weikert to be under 70° in the morning and 72° in midafternoon.
Of course there are no records, but casual inquiry elicited the following reports of good fish taken, mostly last year but a few in 1956; bear in mind that Penn's fish run very heavy for size—a 22½-inch fish will go a full five pounds. There are no big-headed lanky slinks in this fat water.
Near Coburn, one man—a great expert, to be sure—got 32 fish, 16 to 18 inches, on locust in 1957 and took five, same sizes, in an evening, on natural May fly. In the same area another great expert took four fish over 20 inches, a 16-inch and an 18-inch fish, all in one day and night. The foregoing were all brown and rainbow trout.
The following were also taken: below Coburn, a 27-inch brown and a 20-inch rainbow; in Poe Paddy Park, a 23-inch rainbow and a 14-inch speckled brook trout; in Aumiller's Bottom, below the park, a 27-inch brown; in Butter Rock Hole (pool) below Cherry Run, a big rainbow. In the same place, the previous year, Guy Gheen of Sunbury lost "a tremendous fish" on a big Irresistible when the hook straightened—probably after dark. And in the next pool below, Mr. Chapman saw a 36-inch brown run right aground while chasing a 15-inch brown last year.
Also last season a Weikert angler got a limit of brook trout up to 12 inches and turned over another of about 16 inches in Cherry Run, on grasshopper, in mid-August. And a week later a boy, Skip Vonada of Woodward, got a 21½-inch brown and a 15-inch rainbow and lost "the big one," on grasshopper, all in one day, in little Pine Creek right in the village.
Note that most of these fish were taken in the upper river, and most of them on bait. The two facts are interrelated. There are just as many big fish in the lower water; in fact, more and bigger. But fishing there requires long casts, a near impossibility with natural bait and a complete one for fishermen who don't have rods capable of it and can't cast anyway.
Although the Penn's Creek angler always has a real and substantial chance of getting into a big fish by daylight, the devoted big-fish fisherman will go after them at night. And, considering how the Pennsylvania anglers demand meat, it is curious that so little night fishing is done in this, one of the few states in which it is legal. The universal lure for big fish is grasshopper, although in a locust year the fiddle-playing cicada is as popular as the saltatorial, tobacco-chewing 'hopper, and I think the difficulty of getting either one out of a box and onto a hook in the dark is the reason why there is so little night fishing.
But just as effective and capable of being cast far and often besides are artificial imitations of these naturals, along with a hair mouse, a bass plug spanked down and wiggled like a drowning June bug or a salmon dry fly "worked" to imitate a big moth that has run out of gas and ditched.
Night fishing is the most dramatic and thrilling form of fly-fishing, and on the lower ends of these northern limestoners one has a sporting chance of getting into two or three or four big fish, three pounds or better, in a night. However, the angler is categorically warned that under no circumstances should he go at night into water which he has not explored by day. He should carry at least two flashlights, have a companion and refrain from swinging his arms in heavy brush.
The fisherman on Penn's Creek should not grasp tree branches to pull himself out of the stream, and in general should keep his hands off things. That is because there are some rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania, just as there are in every other state that has trout fishing, except possibly Maine and New Hampshire. Fishermen do not see them or even know of their existence because usually they are not found along streams. But they live mostly on mice, and mice must have water, green food and grasshoppers for subsistence. When drought drives the mice down to the swamps and streams, the rattlers follow them. The Pennsylvania angler's chances of being bitten are astronomically smaller than his chances of being killed on the highway driving to the stream.
Experienced Penn's Creek fishermen agree that the spring wading is rough, difficult and even somewhat dangerous; a wading staff is a necessity and maybe even a Mae West, they say. But two things indicate that this alarmist advice needs a grain of salt. One is that the country boys get along pretty well in plain rubber boots, which are mighty slippery footwear. The other is that the strongest warnings come from the most daring waders, those who try to cross the stream in high water or attempt to follow a big fish downstream over the boulders.
"I got into an enormous fish and tried to follow him down," said Bill Grant, a well-known Sunbury angler. "He had me all the way under water three times before he smashed me up [i.e., broke the leader]." No one but a real "algerine" would even try to follow a fish over those boulders.
And that brings us to a fascinating and curious word which is not merely local to the area but apparently dying out. Its derivation is a mystery, unless it refers to the fierce, bearded Algerine pirates whom the U.S. Navy trounced off "the shores of Tripoli" in 1804, but its present meaning is, approximately: a native; an oldtimer; a hard-case hunter or fisherman whose passion for the sport drives him to any lengths, a fisherman who will wade up to the chin and take any chance in order to reach a big fish, one who doesn't shave from the time he goes into the woods until he comes out, nor is touched by water, internally or externally, except when he falls in. It is not necessary to be an algerine to fish the limestone creeks but a touch of it helps.
Much of the stream bottom is composed of rough, closely spaced, parallel limestone ridges, the eroded tops of folded strata. This makes for difficult wading, but hobnails hold well on it. But in the mountain section from Ingleby to Glen Iron, there are a lot of water-rounded stones too big for hobnails to grip and slippery with stream growths. Here the local experts use chain sandals over felt soles, but good piano-felt soles and leather heels studded with big, widely spaced, iron hobnails will do as well.
The rest of the tackle is conventional—good high waders, an eight-or nine-foot rod, according to preference, and at least 100 yards of backing on the reel. Hard-braided, waterproofed, nylon bait-casting line, 10- or 12-pound test, is strong and compact and tends to float, making it easier to retrieve one's backing. For either wet or dry fly, 4x leader points are standard except for the tiny Nos. 20 to 24 flies, which require points finer than 5x (.005"). For these platyl must be used. Leaders should be nine feet for wet and 12 feet for dry fly. The best wading staff is the one you cut on the stream bank and tie to yourself with a yard of cord. You will need a landing net and, by all means, let it be a big one, a full arm's length deep.
On a stream with such densely overgrown banks the angler is apt to have difficulty in finding the place at which he left his car and entered the water. If he has a small roll of toilet paper in his coat, he can drape a few yards of it on the bushes for a conspicuous marker which may save him much futile tramping and worry.
Although the pampered Beaverkill angler, who will not go a hundred yards from his car to reach the farthest bends, would call Penn's Creek inaccessible, it is easier to get to than any other stream of the area. A decrepit one-track railroad (one train a day some days; no passenger service) closely parallels the river from White Springs to Penn Cave and offers a direct route although it is rough and cindery walking. It is the only means of covering the stretch between Cherry Run and Tunnel Mountain (which is a mile below Coburn) except for a gravel road which comes in to Ingleby and another which starts outside Coburn and, after going up and down some hearty grades, winds up in Poe Paddy State Park at the river. A gravel road follows the stream from Penn Cave down to Tunnel Mountain. From Cherry Run to White Springs, various gravel roads come in to the river at frequent intervals, as any road map shows. Along the more popular stretches the fishermen soon beat paths along the bank.
There are two remarkable fishing spots along this river where one can leave his car, fish around three sides of a mountain spur—a mile for Tunnel Mountain and 1½ miles for Poe Paddy Park—and end up within 25 or 50 yards of his car, to which he returns by walking through the railroad tunnels which pierce each of these spurs. Both stretches of water are fine fishing.
The people of the Penn's Creek area, you will find, are courteous, helpful but independent Pennsylvania Dutch descendants of the early settlers. Some curiosa of the area are worth noting: the area is making one of the last gallant stands for the double bed. Usually a double cabin or hotel room means one big room and one big bed. Also, meat is uniformly cooked to death. What you call a rare steak, around Penn's Creek is regarded as still bellowing and struggling.
Your first fishing trip to Penn's Creek should not be a picnic with the wife and kids but an expedition with a stouthearted companion and a thoroughly reliable car with not too little road clearance. Distances are long and lonely, and towcars and repairmen few and far between. Take a week early in the season to find accommodations, learn the river and the roads and make friends. Then go back in May fly time and convince yourself that there is no fishing in the East to compare with that on Penn's Creek.
(Stay Classic, JB)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Judge Ye Not!

It was a Black Ghost that caught my eye.

Now that is a bit unusual for me as I tend to gravitate towards a Mickey Finn. But, for some reason as I swung open my streamer box the B.G. came into view first. So I began the process of taking off the little Quill Gordon I had at the end of my tippet and replacing it with the larger streamer. And, once again the swirl across and slightly downstream from me took place. A nice swirl too. Perhaps that's the reason I found myself using one of my eyes to look down at what my fingers were doing with line and streamer, and the other eye was splitting off on a reconnaissance mission trying to keep tabs on the swirling brownie. You could tell it was a brown trout by that deep yellow almost golden colored belly that flashed.

Now with new ammo tied onto the line I hunkered down like a Marine Corps sniper to get into casting position, though why I should be concerned about stealth now after I had sloshed around trying to keep my legs steady against the flowing mass of river water is really quite silly, dont'cha think? But, focused in and counting "clicks", I picked the landing point for my black ghost streamer and made my cast.  A funny thing happened as the streamer flew through the air on its way to its' date with destiny.

I felt an alarm go off in my head, something wasn't right, there was danger ahead!

 " Haven't I done this before?" These words were quickly invading my mind as the streamer continued on its' way.  This all seems very familiar. Right down to the Black Ghost streamer, "No, wait a minute, this is something I read about ! That's it! I read about this situation somewhere, in some book, or in some magazine,  somewhere, ?" "But, Why am I getting this uneasy feeling?" "What was about to happen?"

My self-interrogation ended quickly when, I got startled by a sudden, very strong tug at the end of the line. Sudden, strong and gone, as I felt the line go slack!  I could see the remains of the swirl right where the end of my line had been, quickly fading down the river along amid the surface flotilla of leaves, puff balls and bubbles.

Reeling in the length of fly line that was flapping about the surface of the water, my thoughts returned to trying to solve the puzzle of, "I swear I read about something like this?" Was it Bergman? McClane? Lee? the latter last name, took me right to thinking of Lee Wulff, but no it wasn't Mr. Wulff or anyone else.  No, sadly I remembered what and where it was. It was a "conversation". It was a conversation, I had about a year or so ago, not too far from this very run right here, with another fly fisherman. I remember giving him "My Wisdom" about using a "fresh leader and tippet of the right size for the type of fly you use. This was after he told me he was puzzled as to why his line broke? He said he lost the fish, his streamer (a Black Ghost) and his favorite " 6x leader " the one he had been using for the last 3 years! The last 3 years!!! He was using a leader that was 3 years old, (it was more than likely older than that, but that was all he was admitting to) a 3 to one hundred year old leader, and a real thin, small diameter 6 x'er to boot, on a large streamer! A streamer that required a 3x leader if anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Man! What an idiot that guy was, a 300 year old 6x leader on a streamer!" I chuckled to myself as I thought back on that conversation with Mr. Idiot Fly Fisherman!!.
" Oh, well, time to get back to fishing, let's tie on another streamer and see if I can get another crack at that nice brownie or one like him." I said to myself.  It was then, that I looked down at my vest and I noticed the reason the alarm went off in my subconscious fly angler brain. It was the little size 16 Quill Gordon dry fly that I hooked into the " fleece drying patch " on my vest, the very fly that I took off of "My" 6x leader and tied a size 6 Black Ghost streamer on to! "Talk about being an idiot!"

Well, at least it was only last year's 6x leader.

Stay Classic,  JB

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What The Fishing Bastard Said

Fly fishermen can be a cantankerous lot.
If they have a day where they have caught a goodly amount of average size trout, they will boast of the number and complain that the fish were small. If the winds of good fortune smile upon them and they land the "big one", they will bemoan that it was the only fish they saw all day. Should all the planets line up for them and the number of trout caught is abundant and the size large and plump, they will frown that their usual fishing associate did not make this trip and will not believe their report.

Seems we are a hard lot to please.

Now, this is not new to the "Contemplative Man's Sport". The Elizabethan epigrammatis and Church of England Vicar Thomas Bastard ( yes, that's his name) penned the following lines in 1598:

 Book 6, Epigram 14: De Piscatione
by Thomas Bastard

"Fishing, if I a fisher may protest, 
Of pleasures is the sweetest, of sports the best,
Of exercises the most excellent.
Of recreations the most innocent. But now the sport is marred, and what, ye, why?
Fishes decrease, and fishers multiply."

A fly fisherman can also be pretty fond of argument and correction.

I recall a time when I had a pretty successful time at "Cemetery Pool" on N.Y.'s Beaverkill River. The angler upstream from me spent his time flogging the water, but came up empty in his quest. We happened to cross paths with each other as we came off the river and were heading to our automobiles.

 "Hey!, the angler said to me, " I couldn't help but notice that you were into a fish quite often down there. I couldn't buy a fish tonight if my life depended on it", the angler said with a defeated look on his face. "

 To which I replied, "Yeah, seems I could not miss at times. I was using a size 14 Quill Gordon Dry Fly ".

The angler, shook his head and said, "Really? You know that's the wrong fly!"

Right then the words of Fly Fisherman and Author, Corey Ford came to me,
" You can always tell a fisherman, but you can't tell him much!"

Keep it Classic, JB

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The EZ Lame Brain Doctrine

Caleb and Missy Gottrout Champion Fisher People
I remember reading something that Ed Zern wrote some years back. He talked about those anglers that could think like a fish. Now some 40 years later (for me) I am able to understand what Ed was talking about

Allow me to explain.

If you hang around your local fly shop or spend some time in places that are favorite "after-stream" watering holes, pay close attention to the inmates. These folks are without a doubt the same fishermen or at least direct descendants of those "line - chuckers" that lined the bar at Frank Keener's Antrim Lodge or the Hotels along the Brodheads. And, if you do pay close attention to them you will notice that the lamer the brain, the bigger and greater the quantity of their reported catch.

The reason is quite simple. They think just like a fish.

When one of these "fish-thinkers" gets to the stream, he looks it over carefully, and he thinks to himself (which is very fish-like), "Where would I be if I were a fish in this water?" When the spot is located, he wades in and makes his cast, attains his drift and follows the fly that took him 10 minutes to decide on, during which he had another internal conversation, asking himself, "Which fly would I want to eat, if I were a fish?" Should he catch a fish he takes extreme pride in his ability to "Think like a Fish." So it just goes to reason that a fisherman who thinks like a fish, will catch more and bigger fish, than a fisherman who thinks like an armadillo, a gecko or a golfer.

"Now", you may ask, "How are these folks able to think like a fish?"

The answer is quite simple.

We need only to consider, " how does a fish's brain work?"
Now contrary to popular thought, a fish is not very bright. His brain is very, very tiny in relation to his body size. So, the tinier the fisherman's brain is, the easier it is for him to think like a fish, and catch trout left and right! Thus the lame brainers have a distinct advantage over other angler's.

This same principle (The Ed Zern Lame Brain Doctrine, as I like to call it) also explains why the fisherman with the biggest mouths also catch the biggest and most large-mouth bass. I suppose there is also data to support the idea that if you have eyes like Marty Feldman, you should be able to knock the stuffing out of catching walleyes.

Stay Classic, JB Martin
(with apologies to Ed Zern)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

10 Things to Avoid on Opening Day

The long, long wait is over, flies have been tied, lines cleaned and a fresh start on a new trout season is at hand. For many anglers "Opening Day of Trout" is more of a time honored tradition of seeing friends and breaking down the symphony of cabin fever that has been pounding in one's head since about Thanksgiving of the previous year. Even if you are a dedicated (aka nuts) winter fly angler who takes advantage of the 24/7/365 seasons on the various "No - Kills, Trout Conservation Areas or other Special Regs. water, Opening Day still carries with it the promise of hitting some of those special runs and pools, that have been "off-limits" for about 6 months.

     In an effort to help you dear reader, to have an enjoyable and trouble free Opening Day experience, I submit a list of at least "10 Things to Avoid on Opening Day!"

1.) Any pool with the name Cairns
2.) Flies from Nigeria
3.) The Broccoli, Cabbage and Sauerkraut Omelet at the diner.
       (especially if you plan to be wearing waders later.)

4.) Fishing with anyone who says, "No, I don't know the property owner, but they can't see us down here from the house."
5.) Grasshopper flies
6.) Getting up early
7.) Non - insulated waders

8.) Expecting to actually catch a trout
9.)  Fishing as a guest on private-water with anyone who says, " No, I said, I used to belong to this club."
10.) Actually fishing.

Enjoy yourself, soak it in as best as you can.......
                 .........after-all, there are only so many Opening Days in one's life!

Stay Classic, JB Martin

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read Any Good Fish Lately?

In my estimation an angler would be greatly served, if they took some time to "learn how to read fish".
Notice I did not say, read " a " fish, but, read fish. " Fish " is a language unto itself. It is the language of the experienced fly fisherman. The only school that offers a course in it, is the "Trout Stream".

     It has often been said, "That, there ain't anything deader than a dead trout stream". This comment can certainly seem true when there are no bugs about and no sign of surface activity on the part of the fish. A dead stream can even be those moments when an angler, finds himself, on a very quiet stream and he can observe trout "lolling about" in the clear water, seemingly uninterested with anything. This article however, is about those times when a fish is not seen, but " fish " is read.
     One of the techniques that can be used, to entice a trout to come after an artificial dry fly when there is no "natural hatch" about, is known as "Forcing a Rise", the taking of an unseen fish by repeatedly casting over a chosen spot. My son Chris can attest to the fact, that this is a technique that I employ frequently, much to his dismay, as he is always on the move, looking to explore as much of the stream as possible, and does not have the patience to "beat the snot" out of a particular spot, as does dear old dad.

      Here is an account of  " reading  fish " from G. M. L. LaBranche,

" We were fishing the Brodhead, in Pennsylvania. It was in July and the day was very hot. The water was extremely low and very clear, and the upper reach of the stream just below the Canadensis bridge, which we had elected to fish, did not look big enough to hold a trout of any size. In one particular stretch there was a hundred yards of very shallow water, a small pocket on the right-hand bank being the only likely looking spot. I knew this stretch held many fine fish when the stream was in better condition, and I decided that this particular pocket might be the abiding-place of a good trout. As it was approaching the noon hour, I determined to go no farther up-stream but to spend a half hour experimenting on the little pocket.
      The surface of the miniature pool was not over eight feet wide anywhere nor more than that in length, but its depth below a jutting rock which formed one side of it convinced me that it was worth trying, although there was no actual indication that a fish occupied it. The bottom was plainly discernible, except in the swifter water near the head, and, so no fish could be seen, I selected the edge of this swift water upon which to place my fly. A dozen or more casts were made without any apparent effect, when suddenly a yellow gleam at the tail of the pocket, just after the fly had floated over the lip, disclosed a fine trout poised in the flattening water. Explaining the situation to my companion-who was now all excitement, having seen the fish, and who really did not believe it could be taken.

         On the spur of the moment I decided to try to prove my theory (forcing a rise- jb) at the risk of losing the fish.  I ceased casting to him. We watched him for probably two or three minutes, during which time he appeared to be keenly alert, when he quietly left his position and moved back up-stream into the swift water and out of sight. My opportunity had come, although my friend thought I had lost it. To make more certain that the color of the fly played no part in the affair, I substituted a Silver Sedge for the Whirling Dun I had been using. After about a dozen casts with this fly there came that same yellow gleam,and the fish was back into position again. This time I continued casting, and, although he seemed to "lean" toward the fly each time it came down, he did not take it until it had passed by ten times, finally rising deliberately and fastening on the eleventh cast. He proved to weigh one pound ten ounces.

     To what conclusion does the observation of this fish bring us?

If he had been ready to feed before the artificial appeared , is it likely that he would have permitted it to pass over or near him a score of times before taking?

And when he occupied what I call his feeding position, why did he allow the fly to pass ten times, although exhibiting a certain interest in it each time?

It was never beyond his reach and could easily have been taken.

Was the desire to feed being gradually aroused in him at each sight of the fly?

When he did take it, it was done with such certainty that he must have believed it to be a natural, although quite unlike anything he had recently seen.

One thing is certain, however.

He was "decoyed" from one position to another on two occasions within a few minutes of each other, and by a different pattern of fly each time."      - (The Dry Fly and Fast Water, Geo. M. L. LaBranche)

     This account is a fine example of using " technique " when one reads " fish  ".
The next time you find yourself on the stream and nothing seems to be happening, try " forcing a rise ".
Along with knowing " Fish " fluently, you just may find yourself, proficient in another language.

Stay Classic,  J.B. Martin

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New, But Still Classic.....

"The more things change, the more things still stay the same." Its' an old saying, but like most of the old sayings, it comes to town riding on a breath of truth.

Back in 1992 a simple, thought provoking, film hit the American movie houses and began to create a new generation of creature upon the streams of this country. The creature: "The Modern Fly Fisherman", the movie: "A River Runs Through It" and for the next 15 years, give or take a bit, the sport of Fly Fishing began "another" renaissance.

We find this about the movie from Wilkipedia:

"A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American film directed by Robert Redford and starring Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It is a period drama based on the semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It (1976) written by Norman Maclean (1902–90), adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg.
Set in and around the city of Missoula in western Montana, the story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister—one studious and the other rebellious—as they grow up and come of age in a time that roughly spans the Prohibition era (1919–33) in the United States: from World War I (1917–18) to the early days of the Great Depression (1929–41).
The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993 and was nominated for two other Oscars, for Best Music, Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film grossed $43,440,294 in US domestic returns"

Impressive indeed.

New Fly Shops started springing up, Extravagant Fly Fishing Shows, the Outdoor Channels were offering Fly Fishing Only T.V. shows, new fly patterns, new gear,  the "Fly Rod" became the "I-Phone" of it's day back just a few years ago.

I was not untouched by this "cool way to fish " either in that day, even though I had been on the stream with fly rod in hand since the 1960's (my gray hair is real, thank you). In 2004, with the help of my son Chris, we put together a "fly fishing web site" called "".  The vision for ClassicTrout was to keep alive the fly fishing heritage and tradition of fly fishing that existed "before the MOVIE".

Now don't start writing letters to the editor here.

I loved the movie.

But there was such a "rush" to "modernize" and "revolutionize" the sport, due to its' new and almost maniac popularity, that I felt a deep breath needed to be taken and to try and stop some of the "gold rush" mentality.
Not looking for martyrdom or seeking to make myself in my mind, better or mightier than others, I just felt that perhaps, there was a need for a return to some of the "old days", whether they were the good old ones or not. Afterall, fly fishing is known as, "The Contemplative Man's Sport."

Now, with that said, I honestly don't care how another angler fishes or even what his motives are, afterall angling is about the pursuit of enjoyment, so go ahead, to thine own self be true! Enough said.

Now, however, we find ourselves again at another crossroad in the sport. The Internet and Social Media.
Yes, there is an effect on this sport by the Internet, there has been one for quite sometime now. Here I lean totally in the other direction in embracing the newest in technology (obviously, or I would not be writing a blog and you would not be reading it).  The wonderful thing here is that it offers the same flexibility to all.
We can can write and share our experiences, we can educate, we can be educated, we can inform and we can socialize and enjoy. Private Forums on web sites have taken a "nose-dive" across the Internet. While they are still sought out by the "newbie" who is in search of info about his particular situation. The more established practitioner seeks a quicker more "accessible" venue to ask a question, read a post, look at or post a photo or video. This is where Social Media meets the Fly Fisherman. The research confirms it.

So it is with this in mind that I have "UPDATED" to the masses. is now for the most part entirely a Facebook based enterprise. This blog will be active with my personal thoughts, stories and tall tales, I hope you enjoy them.

Please comment as freely as you wish.

Jim JB Martin