12-04-05 - Pet Fly Post-Fish!
Waters Fished: 12 Mile Creek, 7 Mile Creek
Fish Caught: 2 personally
Outing Date: 12-4-05
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, less winds, in fact calm at moments.
Air Temp: 20's, rising to around 32F
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: low
Water Color: Gin Clear - 7 Mile visibility was to the bottom of
even the deepest holes.
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Micro Eggs, Waxworms
Pattern Color: Chartreuse was surprisingly good!
Randy is crashed out. It's just before 7:00 AM...the alarm is going off...Tim and Brennon should be downstairs for breakfast already. The alarm is still going off..loudly...and Randy isn't even moving. I know he's still suffering, so what the heck, it's Sunday, we'll sleep in.
Around 9:30 AM I'm up and staying up. Still time to catch the free breakfast downstairs. Randy is barely lucid...pretty much, if I can bring him up some breakfast...something like oatmeal, that would be great.
Well, the most gourmet oatmeal you could ask for was bagged up downstairs and made it's way back to the room. We pack up, check out, and made our way to the rivers well after 10:30 AM.
We pull up to 12 Mile Creek. CARS everywhere. SNOW everywhere. I'm not gonna make it all the way down the hill to park in the trees, so I turn around and park at the top of the hill.
Randy, despite being pretty sick, doesn't let that stop him from getting on the water quickly. I point him to a well camouflaged pod of fish that's on the far side in the shallows. Now that Randy has a spot to fish, time to go look for myself.
There are several guys working the usual spots, so I again turn my attention to the logs. As I'm about to get down on the water, FatMatt catches my attention. He and Mitch are packing up...they've been on the water since early this morning! It's time for them to make the trek back to Green Bay - 6 fish for Matt, 4 for Mitch, sounds like a promising day!
Well, I "fair hook" and lose the same fish not once, not twice, but NINE TIMES! Unreal! I'm back to fishing eggs, I've checked my hooks, they're fine. Totally frustrated and way too cold, I head upstream and find Randy having similar "bad luck"...just a couple hookups, but no fish. "Screw this" is the common sentiment. We pack up and start heading west, towards home.
My plan was to visit and photograph some streams I haven't yet really covered. They included Racoon, Crooked and Conneaut. Meanwhile, Randy kinda had his heart set on returning to 7 Mile Creek, where he and Bart had found some "exceptional" fishing down low by the lake last year. Me? I wasn't all that convinced/sold on 7 Mile, but considering some research and data we had on the stream, it at least warranted a look...perhaps.
Since we were driving right on by, I figured we might as well stop. Randy was all too eager to get geared up and do a quick scout - if he was back in 30 minutes..it was a no-go. IF he DIDN'T come back, I'd head down and either find him to say "we're leaving", or I'd be down there to fish!
Well, 45 minutes went by. I finished working on the 12-2 report on the laptop. What the heck, it's still kinda early (maybe 1:00 PM?). Might as well get on down and put in a little time with the Centerpin - better than leaving PA with a skunked day!
What the heck - time to get geared up and head down to the water. Wow, there's only one pair of footprints in the snow...those must be Randy's. Excellent!
Now, I know where Randy was headed...what I felt was a "LONG HIKE" downstream. However, the reality is that it only FEELS like a long walk when you start right at Route 5 and work every bend and pool downstream, taking your time in dirty water. It turns out that in fact, this couldn't have been more than a 5 minute walk IF you knew where you were going.
With that said, I headed straight to one of the "BIG" falls a bit upstream from where Randy was likely still fishing. Unlike my first visit here, this time the water was absolutely crystal clear. Everything felt "smaller" now that the trees were bare. It was blatantly obvious that most all of the water was shallow and devoid of fish.
Low, clear, shallow water isn't what you'd call "ideal" centerpinning conditions. I rigged up with 8lb fluorocarbon and hit the first deep little plunge. I figured out pretty quickly that I was in fact WASTING TIME here...I could see straight to the bottom and failed to notice any telltale signs of life.
Well, time to keep moving I guess. A bit further downstream I almost stepped on a few fish holding in a cut in the bottom, at least a couple feet deep yet only as wide as a coffee table and no longer than 15 feet. As I stopped, the nervous fish took up positions tight against the far "wall" of this cut or at the tailout. To be precise, 2 on the wall, and another 3 at the tail.
So here I am, up against a stump and log on the shore, tight against a steep bank. Nervous fish so close I could touch 'em with the rod. Trees above me, making casts beyond difficult. Well, I plunked a few times and tried to run down the far wall, but didn't get any reactions.
I had better results at the tailout. Floating a single waxworm I had back-to-back hookups, both fish quickly surfacing, head-shaking and throwing the hook. Rather than pressure these guys further, I continued downstream.
Most ALL of the river was too shallow to hold anything. I noticed an additional pair of steelhead holding in the deepest glide under a waterfall...heck the water was only a foot deep or so, but the foam line offered some cover. They spooked almost instantly. I can't blame anything other than the conditions...most of the river was probably 6" deep!
After traversing a waterfall that was at least a good 3-4 feet, I realized that any fish that were upstream have been there a while. All the water below this waterfall was inches at best, lacking the depth to allow fish to even attempt a jump! So, in essence, a barrier falls during most flow conditions.
And there, around the bend, is Randy. Water roils at the tailout of the pool he's fishing. Randy is a bit frustrated but definitely encouraged by the massive pod of fish here. Realistically, you could see just about all of 'em, even the deepest parts of this pool, which were around 5-6', you could still see the bottom if you took your time. All said, somewhere between 30-60 steelhead were in this pool, maybe only 800 square feet in surface area.
THIS is centerpinning water. Well, maybe not actually...smaller water like this would have fished better with a shorter spinning rod rigged the same way any float presentation might be made. I had a quick takedown on the waxworm, resulting in a jack leaping near Randy's feet and getting away.
I switched up to try some spawn; definitely NOT the bait of choice for these guys. The sacs were simply ignored as they drifted by fish after fish. Well, I've had several hits on waxworms, so I went back to it.
Indeed, this proved a smart choice. 2 waxworms was apparently too much; when I'd go "solo", just one waxie on a #6 Gamakatsu hook, that was the ticket. I missed a few more extremely subtle takes.
It's hard to describe the structure of this pool, but more or less, if the tailout was lower, the head of the pool would've been a small waterfall with an extreme deep plunge at the head. From where I stood, the shale bottom sloped at a 60-70 degree angle downward...not quite a vertical drop but close. I slid my offering in and watched as everything hit the bottom and was slowly pulled off the ledge to the deepest spot of the pool. A "direct hit" in terms of presenting to the deepest fish which apparently had a bit of an undercut down there to hide under. Heck, from where I stood you could see the fish moving in and out from underneath this ledge, easily 3 feet below the water's surface, but probably 4 or 5. I'd have to snorkle the pool to really figure it out!
I worked the face of the plunge starting close and progressing farther across towards Randy. About midway across, my float disappeared and I set the hook. There, in the depths, I could see a dark form writhing, obviously surprised by the sudden force pulling upwards. FISH ON!
I wish I could say there was some phenomenal acrobatics, but for the most part this fish fought like a brown, dogging, fighting deep, refusing to come up. Every time I managed to bring it up, it simply turned and pushed towards the bottom of the pool again with renewed vigor. The fight went on like this for minutes!
Randy was intent to watch. After several attempts to beach the fish by my feet I realized I simply didn't have the "safe" real estate to work with on this side of the stream. Still tethered to this beast, I walked across to a sandy spot. Several more attempts, and finally, exhausted (me!), the fish was brought to shore. After a few pics, the fish was unhooked. The moment I was complete, the fish seemed to realize and bolted for the depths. As with most every fish we released this weekend, this one didn't seem to need the slightest bit of CPR.
Randy and I continued to work the pool for a while but things remained slow. Neither of us had a watch, but you could tell that the wind was picking up and the light was fading. Finally, Randy was ready to go, having not landed a fish here. All the way back upstream I stopped to take pictures...it's just gorgeous!
It didn't take much convincing to get Randy to take a shot at the steelies I had first fished to....heck they're "on the way out". It took a minute for Randy to orient himself on the fish...4 out of the 5 were skippers. The larger fish in the run was now holding where I had been standing, mostly concealed by a small riffle behind a rock. The only thing giving it away was it's tail, periodically breaking the surface as the fish kept it's tight hold against the ledge.
It took a few minutes, but through experiments Randy figured out what drift would get down to the fish. Once he got the right drift, he quickly hooked up but lost it. A few more taps and the fish was "spooked".
Time to turn our attention to the tailout, where at least 2 skippers were well hidden against a brown shale backdrop. I had hooked at least one of these guys earlier, so I knew with the right presentation Randy would too. Sometimes the fish do their absolute best to keep you skunked...it took a few uncommitted swipes before Randy finally got a good take. The skipper instantly made a mistake, running downstream into the riffles which, for the most part, were only inches in depth! Nowhere to run - in short order Randy skated the skipper over where we landed it, shot some pictures and released it into a faster, deeper cut downstream.
Randy was definitely satisfied with this end to his day. We were again about to leave when I noticed that the larger fish was now at the tailout...an easy lie where a good presentation will often result in a take. I asked Randy if I could use his fly rod and he obliged.
My first few drifts had this fish nervous..he started to slide backwards into the shallow riffles. As he approached the shallow water, I got yet another swing in front of his face. He lunged forward and across and simply KILLED the chartreuse egg Randy had on his rig. YEE HA! Like our first steelhead from this spot, the fish made the critical error of trying to flee downstream. Running out of water makes a steelhead surprisingly easy to land!
With 2 fish on the fly and a steelie in the pin, Randy and I were finally in agreement that we could now depart from 7 Mile Creek. When we got back to the car we realized we'd outstayed our welcome - it was at least an hour later than we had originally intended to depart! Not to mention that we were also further east than we had anticipated.
The 7+ hour drive home was a tough one - Randy
was still fighting off his cold and I managed to catch it from him!
In retrospect, a few folks who've heard about this trip have called
us "a little crazy". Hardly - this late fall trip to PA
was exactly the type of outlandish, hair-raising experiences we
had been hoping for. There's nothing quite like catching more steelhead
in 3 days than you could ever hope to land during the entire fall
season here at home and doing it under the most extreme fly fishing
conditions out there. Then again, I have to say that I'll probably
drive a different vehicle the next time I come to PA during the