August 2008 Outing Report.
Letort/Yellow Breeches

Ken Bowyer, Steve Graves, and I met Art Friedlander in Frederick where we decided to do a short side trip to the Letort on our way to Boiling Springs. It was 11:00 am when we pulled into the meadow parking lot, 81 degrees, the sky a bright blue, with just a few white puffy clouds to break it up. This was Steve's first time to the Letort so I told him the small amount of history I know about the bug studies and early conservation efforts of Charles Fox and Vince Marinaro and other Harrisburg Flyfishers, making the Letort one of the high holy places in American fly fishing.

Ken, Dennis, & Art at the Fox & Marinaro Memorials

We ambled down through the meadow past the two stone monuments to Fox and Marinaro and onto the path leading to the spring. My first impressions of the Letort were that it looks more like a cold water swamp than trout stream although more exotic than eerie. The waters flow smooth as glass over cress beds that rise in places to form small islands along with the occasional drowned tree limbs that break the surface snagging loose strands of weeds and other debris that tails off behind them undulating in the current. Along the edges numerous clumps of weeds and grass hide wild ducks that can scare the waders off you flushing unexpectedly at close range in a flurry of flapping wings and spraying water. In many places there is no real bank, thick tangles of brush and tall weeds extend out into the water making Wading a challenge and at times forcing the decision to either cut back in and through the thick brush or venture out into the creek beyond it, a decision that can raise clouds of dark mud and risk a trip down into a soft hole of thick muck. The strong currents that flow over the thick humps of cress cut deep channels through it creating a confusion of cross currents while exposing a lighter tan to dark grey bottom where fish can sometimes be spotted holding deep along the bottom, or at other times violently bumping into the beds to dislodge the cress bugs that live in them.

Art and Steve inspect fish log

Letort just south of I-81

Ken and I headed down stream through what I think is Charlie's meadow looking for bugs on the water or fish in the channels. We spotted one good fish holding deep in a narrow slot that looked impossible to cast to so we ventured on toward the I-81 Bridge. Striking out on both bugs and fish, we headed back upstream. Some movement caught our attention and we spotted a couple of fish grubbing along the bottom close the bank in front of a stump half buried in the cress with a protruding limb out in front. Ken and I took turns showing them his beetle then my ant, then switching to deer hair cress bugs that they also totally ignored, did I mention these fish are really tough? Giving up we ran into Steve and Art coming downstream from the meadow. Heading back up we took a break long enough to explore Hagn's mailboxes and inspect the fish log therein; which is a large business card holder where visiting anglers leave little fishing notes penned on their business cards or small scraps paper.

Ambling on Ken spotted a pretty good fish and we all stopped to watch him try to drift his cress bug through the deep narrow slot. First attempts proved tough getting it deep enough in the deceptively strong current, but then he got it down in a good drift right through the lane. The trout reacted by turning and swimming downstream a few feet, turning back into the current and snatched the bug as it drifted by. I saw the whole thing and was holding my breath waiting for Ken to set the hook then realized that after the fish had moved Ken could no longer see it from that angle and was unaware of the take, I blurted "he's got it!" Ken set the hook keeping him in the slot and from plunging into the weed bed and then had him up on top. He was a beautiful rainbow his bright colors contrasted nicely against the dark green cress and while I was digging for my camera off he came. There was a collective ugh! As we all just stood there watching him sink back down into the creek.

Another half hour of slogging upstream through muck and clawing into and out of thick brush and finding no fish for the effort had us thinking maybe it was time for the Breeches. Leaving Art and Steve to explore the area around the Donnybrook Bridge Ken and I headed for the run to meet up with the rest of the group.

Our Spot on the Yellow Breeches

Getting to the run, Ken and I started unpacking our lunches when Bob and Owen Dietz and Joanne Kla arrived. Taking over the picnic table we settled in for some food and cold drinks. I spotted a fish rise to something small directly in front of the bench just as we began to eat and soon afterwards was stringing up a midge pupa rig. Art scored on a brown just above the bridge, but after an hour of me and Ken changing flies with no luck Ken suggested we head down into the main stem. We took up positions a hundred yards or so above the dam where there were some snags and over hanging branches that provided good cover. We worked ourselves into position close enough to cast under the limbs and into the shaded far bank pummeling it with our beetles, and in doing so incurred the wrath of a roosting heron who scolded us loudly before taking off in a huff, then coming back every so often to scold us some more. I had two false takes which were my best action thus far and then noticed there were several fish holding out in mid stream right in the sun. Backing up I cast directly above a fish that didn't move, but a fish further up must have heard the beetle plop, turned and chased it down and I had my first fish of the day, a thirteen inch brown. I could hear some commotion and laughter coming from Bob and Joanne who was downstream closer to the dam. Turns out there were a couple of snakes snoozing on the very log that one needed to climb over to enter the stream. Joanne said as snakes go, snoozing ones are preferable to more active types, but less preferable than the ones you don't see at all. But, snakes or no snakes the fishing must go on and the log was crossed. At one point I thought I heard Bob say he scored on a chub, and a little later I thought I heard him say sunfish. Turns out Bob caught a couple of chubs, a sunfish, and a brown, not sure on what, Owen later reporting four browns using a beetle.

Art and Steve join us

I managed to pick up another thirteen inch brown before the action just stopped and the fish seemed to disappear. For the rest of the afternoon we milled around changing flies, there was the occasional rise, and I remember Ken saying once a fish had given chase but didn't take. All activity just seemed to just stop. Around seven or so Art and Steve found us. The water is deepest near the bank where we entered the stream and just in front of the entry spot in the deepest part of the hole there is a sunken log that has to be skirted. Art navigated through ok, but listening to the narrative coming from that direction the situation seemed to be deteriorating for Steve whose progress was somehow being impeded by the log and its connecting branch. Sensing potential disaster I turned around to see Steve, his hat pulled low, unsteady with arms raised for balance, trying to shift away from the log. I told him to hold on for just a second while I dug for my camera as we still needed some good action photos for August in next year's calendar. That prospect seemed to inspire greater effort in Steve's wading and was sorry to soon be putting the camera back in its pocket less any good shots.

I asked how they had done up above and Art said he hooked two more on midges in the run but lost them. He said he really wanted to land one to see which fly they were taking because the smaller fly he had on was a pupa in size #30!

The first Brown Drake I saw only cleared the bush it had been hiding in a foot or so when it was immediately ambushed by a bird that must have been waiting in the same bush no more than a few feet away. I thought damn, whoever coined the phrase "life just isn't fair" must have been a fly fisher and witnessed just such an act. A whole year of living in the stream avoiding hungry fish and other aquatic critters, surviving the transformation from nymph to dun to sleek spinner finally ready for the long anticipated mating dance and orgy sure to follow when he was suddenly and unceremoniously eaten by a bird just as he fluttered out to the ball.

Soon the evening sky was filling up with the undulating mating dance of the males. It looked to me like they fluttered skyward then stopped their wings tails up to free fall several feet before beating their wings again catching themselves and heading skyward again repeating the process getting lower each time. Art said it looked to him like they rose up into the air and were turning over while thrusting their straight tails up before falling. Well, whatever they were doing it was captivating to see these large brown mayflies #8 or so with tails two inches long dancing in the dusk while the birds swooped in amongst them for the feast, causing all to stop fishing and just watch the show.

I saw no duns coming off and only one spinner fall to creek but there must have been many more. We changed to our drake patterns and looked for fish but the expected rise just didn't materialize. I only had one small fish hit my spinner that I failed to hook, and looking up and down the creek I saw no one else catching fish either. Standing in the darkening evening the four of us waited for any white flies that might come off, we counted three. Later at Ruby Tuesday's we saw Joann, Bob and Owen who said they only counted two. The people at the fly shop said the water was still a little cool and expected that the warm days in the immediate forecast would bring them on.

It was supposed to be the white fly outing that wasn't, and the fishing proved to be slow, but getting out and spending an August day on stream with temps that didn't get out of the mid eighties and catching a few fish was still very pleasant. The stream is low and clear but plenty of water remains, and the whiteflies and most probably another trip up are yet to come. The next outing is September 6th on one of our own home waters, the Gunpowder. So put it on your calendar and don't miss out on all the fun and fishing.

Dennis Covert