Pulling in the parking lot next to the Camp Peniel Bridge at 10:00 am, Will Amland and I were the last to arrive. Already there in various stages of gearing up were Michael Golob, Art Friedlander, Steve Graves, and Ken Bowyer.
The weather was a little cool, my truck thermometer pegging 37 degrees, but with no wind it was comfortable enough. Naked tree trunks and bushy hemlock contrasted against a backdrop of snow cover softened by the diffused light of overcast skies. The dark stream bed coming up through gin clear water ran through it all like a dark brown ribbon.
Water levels are near perfect and clear of any ice, so after a brief conference on when to meet back at the lot we spread out to ply our deceptions. Heading up stream I noticed little black stoneflies in several sizes ranging from very small #22 to a larger # 20 littering the snow close to water boosting my confidence in the little black nymph I had on. Thirty minutes and a couple of fly changes later I began to realize my mistake of not wearing thermal socks. Standing in knee deep water had turned stealthy wading into clomping around on cold blocks.
Drifting an orange egg pattern through the elbow pool, a nice brookie that had previously escaped my detection suddenly swung into view directly in front me for a better look at the fly then settled back into its run. I spent the next several minutes casting to it and changing flies, until I could no longer ignore the cold water and finally gave up, clomped out to the road, and walked downstream in hopes of invigorating some warmth through increased activity.
I soon came across Ken and Steve standing next to the road appearing to be peering down into the creek. Getting closer I could see they were talking to an angler not in our group. He was regaling them with a tale about an eighteen inch brown that lived in one of the pools just below, and seemed to be reeling them in with little resistance.
They reported trying several locations up and down but hadn’t seen a fish. Moving on, I Stopped at the truck for coffee and spied Art downstream making his way back up through the streamside tangle casting to pocket water as he came. When close enough I asked about his luck, him saying he took a very nice brookie about 14 inches on a Prince Nymph. Okay! Just then Will ambled in, reporting cold feet but also no fish. Motivated by Art’s success I was up for another go and told Will I would meet him back at the truck in another hour.
Getting into the canyon I noticed the stream has changed some since I last fished it. Some new blow downs have altered the nature of some of the pools and runs and I spent some time just looking up and down admiring the scene. This is a beautiful place. It occurred to me some years ago that I had begun to judge all similar water against this stream, more often than not, thinking; yep, this is a nice place, but it’s not as pretty at Big Hunting Creek.
Blocked by a blow down, I struggled up a steep snow covered bank to get to a pool on the other side. Three quarters of the way up I realized I wasn’t going to make it and tried to slide backwards a little in an effort to grab a medium sized tree trunk that was just out of reach below me, and would then work out the remainder of this situation from there. It proved to be a poor plan and things quickly slid out of control. I spilled ass over stocking cap backwards throwing my rod so I wouldn’t land on it, and after a complete somersault came to an abrupt stop against an arm sized dead branch that broke with a loud crunch. I seem to find a new way to take a tumble about every trip or two, but what really amazes me is thus far, knock on wood, I haven’t broken anything on me or a rod. However, deciding I might have used up most of my luck for one day I trudged downstream to a more level outlet and then back up the road heading for the truck.
Catching up with Will he reported the same catch rate as me, none, but said he talked to Michael who had one on but lost it, then minutes later he drove past us waving on his way out. Getting back to the lot it was 2 pm and the only vehicle left besides mine was Art’s, no doubt warmed by his previous success was still off and adding the count.
It was great to see that much water in the creek, and apparently, at least a few of the stocked brookies have held over. Art saved us from the skunk demons, and we all logged a great day of winter fishing that should hold us over until at least tomorrow, or maybe even a couple of days.
Join the fun and come out for the next outing on March 23, for the One Fly Contest on the Gunpowder.