On Saturday I headed out to PA to fish a couple of limestone creeks in the Lehigh Valley area. It was a perfect late winter day hurrying spring along after too many gray days, for too many months. A light, intermittent breeze cooled the mid-fifties air temperature somewhat, but not enough to be chilly. Bright sunshine cast shadows of bare trees on the still hibernating ocher grasses that filled the fields along the stream.
At the first creek, I met a couple of friends in the morning, and we spent more time bullshitting than we did wetting a line. No bugs were on the water, and none of us wanted to fish nymphs, so we half-heartedly plied holding water with emergers and dries, to trout that showed zero interest in our offerings. After a fishless couple of hours, my two companions decided it would be wise to hit a local watering hole for lunch and brew. I wanted to fish instead, so I headed to another creek I was fairly certain I would see Olives hatching. By the time I got to my destination, the guys had called to tell me they were well into their first beer, and I was crazy for not joining them. I prefer to think they were crazy, and after spending a few hours on the stream, I knew they were.
When I first started fishing the very clear, even flowing creek, nothing was going on on the surface. But there were signs of activity below - trout flashed and moved in their lies; the white interior of their mouths showing in brief moments, signaling feeding behavior. I tied a size #22, dark midge pupa onto the end of my 6x tippet, and secured a small split shot about 6 inches above it. I cast the fly a few feet above a feeding fish and followed its drift with my rod tip, keeping my line and leader just short of pulling the fly while still maintaining direct contact. A few casts later, the trout moved to its left, I saw the white of its mouth, and lifted my rod just as the white disappeared. After a brief, spirited fight, I brought the 12-13 inch brown trout to hand and quickly released it.
Shortly after I landed that fish, I started to see Blue-winged Olives clumsily flying on and just above the water after hatching. And trout were taking them fairly aggressively in their attempt to grab the flies before the breeze would quickly take them across the currents. So I quickly tied on new 6x tippet, and a size #20, Improved Baetis Sparkle Dun, and cast it to rising fish. And they came to my offering, but did not take it. Refusals, the sure sign that the trout are interested in the fly but something is not quite right. DRAG!
So I removed the tippet, and then I tied on a 2 foot section of 7x tippet, and the same fly. The first fish I presented the fly to, took it. It was a nice, wild 8-inch brown with bright scarlet spots among many black ones on a background of butterscotch brown. I then walked the stream bank, and as I went, I'd stop and cast my fly whenever a trout showed their eagerness to take a natural off the surface. Most of them took my fly when I got it to drift drag-free into their feeding lane. I caught a bunch of browns over the next hour and a half this way, covering a 1/2 mile or so of creek without ever getting my feet wet.
On my way back upstream, the fish stopped taking my Sparkle Dun. The rise forms had changed to soft, leisurely sips. So I changed my fly to a CDC Baetis spinner, and that did the trick. I took a few more browns, all wild, the biggest being about 12 inches long. When I got back to where I had started, I broke down my rod and sat on a rock for a bit watching the water, and a pair of red-tail hawks gliding over the willows and hardwoods that lined the opposite bank.
It was just the kind of late winter day that gets your blood warm, and hopes high, for the upcoming spring season. Crazy? Maybe. But I think the guys missed more than I did.
So call me crazy.