Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mega post: Epic Fathers Day, A Surprise Bow, and Fishing My First Trico Hatch

In case you can't tell, the majority of my posts in the last month have been short one paragraph posts from the iphone. I admit, I've been busy. I got a promotion at work, I've been doing a ton of yard work, and quite honestly, I've just been enjoying a ton of quality time with my wife and son. But, I've also been doing a ton of fishing. I've had 3 seperate draft posts going for the past two weeks and I figured I'd just scrap them all and make one big mega-post.

Epic Fathers Day

My stepdad, Jack, my bro-in-law, Nick, and I planned to spend Fathers day fishing. My mom had a nice brunch for us, and then we headed on our way a little after noon to find some fish. We decided to try and hit a favorite spot of ours on the Lehigh River for smallmouth and trout. We've caught both there before, and figured we might be able to find a nice caddis hatch, or at the very least chuck big stones and buggers for some browns. We drove an hour and 10 minutes and when we were less than 5 miles away when one of us say "maybe we should check the dam release schedule". DAMNIT! For those that don't know, the Lehigh has a big dam called the Francis E. Walter dam, and since the state apparently cares more about kayakers than it does about fisherman and the quality of the fishery, they schedule monthly water releases that create white water conditions for the kayakers and rafters. Needless to say when this happens, fishing is awful. The fish shut down, you can't wade because the river is running at least double the normal CFS, and it's a waste of time trying to fish. As luck would have it, it was a dam release weekend.

The spot where we typically fish flows around 750 CFS at normal levels, and when we got there, it was running around 1600. We decided to give it a go anyway. Even at 750it's a tough river to wade. There are giant slick rocks and strong currents that can bring you under in an instant if you aren't careful. Double the water flow, and you're in for a world of trouble if you try and wade. This spot has a nice big island, and if you can get out there, you have your choice of a long deep hole, wide riffles, and even a nice plunge pool at the lower end with some nice structure.

We tried to wade at our normal crossing spot and realized it wasn't a good idea. Jack and Nick headed upstream to bank fish, but I decided to head down to the downstream section of the island. I noticed a spot that didnt appear to be too bad, I could see bottom almost all the way across and it wasn't white water, so like an idiot, I decide to wade it.

BAD IDEA. I got out about halfway across the river and realized I was in trouble. My wading stick was literally shaking in my hand because the current was ripping so hard. Every step I took, the water lifted me up off the ground for a second (I'm 6'4 and 270 lbs, to give you an idea of how strong it was). I mentioned that I could see bottom almost all the way across. The key word there was "almost". It started getting deep and I was almost up to my waist. I realized that if I turned around, I was toast. There was white water and big rocks about 30 yards below me, and I would have gotten washed in to that in a matter of seconds, so I had to keep going. My heart was racing. I almost went under about 3 times, and after a full ten minutes, I finally made it across. It wasn't really worth it, but the view from the island was incredible.

I had absolutely no hits after 20 minutes fishing around the island, so I decided to head back while I still had the energy. I decided to cross where we had initially tried to go through, and I'm not going to lie, it was still scary as hell, but much easier to get across. I met up with Jack and Nick and they weren't having any luck either. The high water was turning off the fish. We decided to hit the Pohopoco, a small tailwater stream that runs out from Beltzville dam. I've heard mixed reports about this stream, mostly that hatches were thin and extremely sporadic, and that the fish weren't too big. Well, one of the rumors was right....

We got there and I was much happier. It was a small stream, the kind I'm most comfortable fishing. Some nice calm runs, a few riffles, and some nice overhanging vegetation. Plus, it was absolutely beautiful.

We fish right at the start of the stream, just below the dam. Jack and Nick were planning on fishing big water all day, so they brought their switch rods. I had my six weight with me, so I was in better shape. With fished for an hour with limited results. I hooked into a nice fish on a san juan, which turned out to be the biggest fish any of us would encounter the whole night. He ran me into a bush and broke me off. Jack hooked up with a small wild bow, around 10 inches on a PT nymph.

As the sun started to lower around 7pm, we started seeing some rises. There were a few scattered caddis on the water, but nothing to write home about. As the sun lowerered, the rises became more common, and the fish started to turn on. Jack picked up another small bow on a BWO. I finally connect on a size 16 caddis and bring to hand a 9 inch rainbow.

Nick started working a rising fish with a CDC emerger and then it happened. This was probably the funniest thing I've seen on a trout stream. Nick roll casts over this rising fish. I watched the fish run at his emerger and take it. Nick goes to set the hook, but since he's fishing a giant switch rod, the 8 inch trout shoots out of the water, buzzes right by my head, and lands in the water behind him. I was laughing so hard I could barely stand up. He lands the fish, which would turn out to be his only one of the day. Luckily, the around the world tour the fish had just made didn't harm him, and he swam away perfectly fine.

Then, things got interesting. Rises were happening about every 30 seconds. Then about every 15 seconds, then every 10 seconds, until the water was just boiling. The sulphurs were on. I look over the water and there is just a wall of cream colored mayflies EVERYWHERE. We were just at the right place at the right time. Swarms of them surrounded us and the fish were literally rising right at my feet.

We fished until we couldn't see anymore. It turned out to be the most fun dry fishing outing I've ever had. I think the biggest fish we caught was around 10 inches, but my god, it was so damn fun! The size of the fish didn't matter. This was one of those epic hatches you read about, and we got to experience it first hand.

My sister finally called Nick asking where we were. We thought it was about 7:30. Turns out it was 9:15pm. Oops! My wife wasn't too happy about that one. Oh well, I had fun. These things happen. I didn't get home until about 11pm. It took quite some time to clean out the mess in the car.

Speaking of fathers day, I'd also like to let everyone know that we are expecting a new addition to our family on January 6th! Michael is going to be a big brother! Although my fishing time will be extremely cut down, I'm still pretty damn excited!

A Surprise Bow

So, I'm fishing a local creek last weekend that is stocked with trout by the state. I was at the confluence of a smaller feeder creek that runs in to the water I was fishing that is definitely not stocked, picking up smallies on foam hoppers and having a good time. I've never fished the feeder creek because it basically looked like muddy frog water, but I was bored so I decided to switch to a bugger and try it out. Hiking up this new creek, there's a dam about 150 yards up. The dam is about 5 feet high, there's no fish ladders, and there's basically no way in hell any normal fish could make it up over this dam short of an epic flood, which we haven't really had since the last stocking (I know because I helped stocked)

I picked up a nice 15 inch largemouth below the dam on a bugger and figured why not see what's up above, so I climb over the dam and head upstream.

I started wet wading about 10 feet out from the bank and it's like bath water, extremely warm. There's a really deep channel in front of me with some downed log so I bounce the bugger off the edge of the log and let it drop. A fish smacks it after about 2 seconds. It was fighting like hell, and I thought it was a smallie, but it turns out, it's a bow.

Less than a minute into the fight, as soon as he hit the warm shallow water, he went belly up. I tried for about 5 minutes to revive him, even going waist deep and getting him down into the cooler water, but he wasn't having it, so I unfortunately took him home for lunch (I will admit, he tasted damn good).

So anyway, the only way I think this fish could have gotten up that dam is by someone maybe releasing him up there. The nearest stocking point to where I caught him was about a quarter mile downstream in the original creek I was fishing, well below the dam. Even if someone did release him, what are the odds of him making it and me catching him?! Is there any way he could be a wild or holdover that somehow got over the dam and managed to find a spring to stay cool?

My First Trico Hatch

Jack, Nick, and I decided to head out on another trip yesterday for the 4th of July. I've heard stories of how the trico hatch on the Little Lehigh is amazing and that you can set your watch by it on July 4th every year. I sat down the night before, tied some ungodly size 22 and 24 tricos, and was on the water by 7am on the 4th. The spinner fall was supposed to happen between 8 and 9am. We were ready to go, but around 8am, there was nothing really going on. I didn't see any bugs, at least nothing that would resemble trout fodder. Jack wound up with a bad stomach ache and had to leave around 8am, so that just left Nick and I. Around 8:30, we finally found a few rising fish. I didn't see any trico spinners on the water or in the air, but I did see a few sulphurs coming off. I opted for a size 16 sulphur sparkle dun, trailed with a size 24 trico male spinner. After a while, I found a foot long rainbow consistently rising and started casting to him. It took me about 50 casts, but he finally took my spinner. The bad part was that the way he flipped, the sulphur caught him in the belly, which made for an awkward fight. I got him to my hands and he broke me off as I was about to unhook him (I was using 8x), so the pic didn't happen. Oh well, I still consider him landed :)

About an hour later in the same spot, I found another bow rising. After working on him for half an hour, I got him to take another size 24 spinner. This time I got a pic.

The hatch was definitely not as major as everyone makes it out to be, at least not yet, but I did work hard and land a few fish. Nick didn't have any luck and things were slowing down so we headed downstream. After a few shots at some risers and missed hookups, I came across a bow and a brown, about 16-17 inches, fighting for a feeding lie at the tail of a pool. They were more concerned about who would hold the position to feed, and were fighting for whatever insects drifted down the path, but they were definitely not looking at the surface or film, it was all on the bottom. After a dozen dry fly casts, I decided to go with a size 20 egg, figuring that they'd both fight for it if I got a good drift into the right spot. My hunch paid off, with the 16 inch bow taking the egg. He didnt put up much of a fight and was definitely a stocked fish, but he was still nice looking. Nick was nice enough to snap a shot, but I messed up my big hero shot with my hand covering the majority of the fish! doh!

After that we packed it up and headed back home for some beer. 3 fish on that stream is a good day in my books (although Nick got the skunk!). The trout in that water "have PHDs" according to the Orvis fishing reports for that stream, and I was happy to have fooled 3 of them. :)

Hopefully the hatch will get better in a few days. While in a meeting today at work, I got a picture text message from Nick around 10am. He avenged his Monday skunk with an 18 inch beautiful wild brown trout this morning. He said he worked that fish for 20 minutes before he took the fly. Persistence pays off big time.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! I just found this blog and it's pretty damn cool! Funny you should say the trico hatch is like clock work on the LL. I don't fish there anymore but a while back you could always count on seeing some tricos on July 4th. The hatch can get pretty crazy over there as do the crowds. Congrats on the new coming addition to the family.