Trip Report: PA’s Spring Creek, Sept. 18-19, 2009

Spring Creek, Centre County, PA: September 18 & 19, 2009

Below Bellefonte

Got a chance to fish my “Home Water” recently. I say Home Water in quotes, because although, I live 3-hrs away I consider Spring Creek to be just that. I know it better than any other stream and I find myself testing my skills on it’s wild browns more than any where else. I guess I should consider myself lucky – I’m sure there are those whose Home Waters are across the country or across the oceans. It is a wonderful feeling to ease into my waders next to a familiar run or riffle and know that I’ll probably have some success. Hey maybe I’ll even skip the nymphing and just look for some risers. I’ve caught enough fish here over the years that I have a familiar comfort with no anxiousness about fish catching – It’s just good to be here on the banks of Spring Creek.

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Me and My Shadow
It’s like Bob Dylan says in Maggie’s Farm, “I wake up in the morning fold my hands and pray for rain…” And so I did – but alas it was no to be. The whether was beautiful – and I was cursing this. The fly fisherman can be a contrary sort. While everyone else is singing the praises of a beautiful fall day, the fly fisherman looks to the cloudless clear blue sky, squinting like Clint Eastwood and looking about as ornery. It was great for a country drive or a hike in the mountains, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Gray skies, cool temps and a little rain would have made me much happier. With those conditions – maybe our little friend the Blue Winged Olive would have come out to play. But it was bright skies and looming shadows as we fished Spring Creek below Bellefonte. Bank-feeders scattered in fear as my shadow announced my presence. The shadow of the fly-line and the glint of the sun off of the fly-rod didn’t help to make for stealthy approaches either.

All of these conditions, contributed to the surprise of what we saw – surface feeding trout. It was one of those mystery hatches. Maybe a better angler would have figure it out, but I was at a loss. There were fish rising pretty consistently and no bugs that we could see. If I were a more prepared fly fisher I would have taken my bug-seine, waded to the tail of the pool and found whatever it was that was drifting in the current – but I’m not. So it remains a mystery, which is okay by me. After all, the mystery of fish and bugs, is a big part of what makes the game interesting.

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What to Tie On?
I opened my fly boxes and looked over the selection. Sometimes I think that I read about fly fishing too much – and I tie too many flies. This can result in analysis paralysis. The question of which one of these things is the “right” one can cause me to open and close box after box, and then go through them again. I should probably tie on some sort of tiny emerger and fish it in the film – yeah that’s the smart thing to do. But which one?

But then I thought that it would be much more fun to put on a big dry fly and see if there were any takers. Make it simple. Fish are eating at the surface – give them something on the surface to eat. And preferably something that I can actually see at 30-ft.

Who Would Have Thought?
I tied on a tan and green, elk-hair caddis. And surprise, surprise – It worked! I tie this fly a little differently than the traditional style. I like to tie it with a twisted antron body (I like the segmented look that gives you). Also rather than palmering the hackle on the body, I use hackle only in front of the wing and trim the bottom, so that the fly floats a little lower.

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The fish took this fly without hesitation. They came up out of the depths and sucked it in without a second look. I was completely surprised. Usually I only fish dries on Spring Creek when there are hatching bugs to match. I have never had much luck on Spring Creek with attractor dry flies. So why did this fly work so well? Maybe there had been recent caddis activity and the fish “remembered” this. I guess I’ll never know for sure. I’m sure the next time I try it – there will be no takers.

The Next Day
There’s not too much to report. We fished the morning in an area upstream of Fisherman’s Paradise (I don’t want to be too specific). There were a lot of big fish. I didn’t catch any of the big fish. I don’t know when the browns start spawning in Spring Creek, but there were a lot of fish gathered together. I didn’t see any activity that I’d call spawning activity and I didn’t notice any redds. The fish that I watched were not feeding at all though – they were very inactive. Of course it was bright and sunny and there was no bug activity at all – at least while we were there in the morning.P9180494

2 Comments on Trip Report: PA’s Spring Creek, Sept. 18-19, 2009

  1. Hey Anthony, I’m coming back and revisiting this. I meant to leave a comment earlier, but…well, I don’t know what happened.

    Very interesting antron body–do you find it gets waterlogged? I love good floating caddis patterns (I’ve been tying mine with a foam body).

    This was a great line, “…the fly fisherman looks to the cloudless clear blue sky, squinting like Clint Eastwood and looking about as ornery.” I love those old spaghetti westerns he was in!

  2. Anthony Naples // October 9, 2009 at 10:22 PM // Reply

    Thanks. The antron body floats pretty well (I won’t say “like a cork” because that’s a little over used). It doesn’t get water-logged that I’ve ever noticed. Probably not nearly as buoyant as foam though – I don’t really use foam so I can’t say for sure.

    Antron was already such an accepted material when I started tying flies – that I almost think of it as a “traditional” man-made material like floss and tinsel. I’ve never been won over by foam though – I try it from time to time, but I just can’t love it. Making a line between foam and Antron is probably splitting it pretty fine though! Or maybe I’m just a jealous Easterner – without much need for large foam flies.

what say you?