Of Itchy Fingers, High Water ... And Trout!

 The weather has been so crazy the last few weeks and it really threw the proverbial monkey wrench into my fishing plans.  With low stream levels and hot days I cancelled plans numerous times to fish with friends and my son because of concern over water temperatures.  And then the rains came.  While providing a welcome relief for the trout it resulted in my shelving more fishing plans.  Oh well, so goes life.

After cancelling fishing plans yet again Saturday morning I trekked up to a fly shop to pick up some not-so-significant items.  Yes, it's true that my wading shoe laces might have held together for another few outings but it was enough of an excuse to get out and do something fly-fishing related.  Too, I'd hoped that the guys I know would be working the shop and we'd engage in some good conversation.  I wasn't disappointed.  I got my shoe laces and talked for longer than we should have about a myriad of fly-fishing related topics.  A great time was had by me, at least.

When I left the shop I just wasn't ready to head home.  Since there's a marginal trout stream right near the shop I decided to check a spot nearby where a quality wild trout tributary joins the main stream.  The big stream was flowing high and dirty;  however, the trib was running high but clear.  And yes, it was fishable.  This was not what I'd expected to see.  And, yes, I wasn't happy with myself.  I chalked it up to having made a choice and now I had to live with it.

As I opened the car door in preparation to leave I knew I would be back Monday to fish.  Of course, that would all depend on the weather.  More heavy rain Saturday evening and rising stream levels.  Would the tributary be fishable Monday?  While the main stream rose a couple more feet from Saturday night's rain I would only know the condition of the tributary by observing it in person.

As I drove north I had a bad case of itchy fingers.  I'd had it for several days.  I desperately needed to wrap my fingers around the grip of a fly rod and actually fish.  The entire trip I was thinking of something I was told when I was in the fly shop.  When I asked about how was the fishing on the trib I was told it was good.  Then the response became more detailed. There were good numbers of larger (for this stream) trout;  however, there didn't seem to be many smaller fish in the 4"+ to 7"+ range.  We discussed some of the possible reasons for this and, in part, blamed it on last summer's drought.  There was some reason to be concerned since I also believe we may have lost a year class from the spawning that would have occurred last fall.  Floods will do that.  It had me wondering what I might experienced if conditions were conducive to fishing.  After all, if the stream had up to three year classes of trout affected by adverse conditions that would mean a reduced trout population overall and that wouldn't be good.

As soon as my vehicle came to a halt in the parking area I quickly covered the several yards to the stream to check things out.  The flow was at least as strong as it was Saturday but it was clear and fishable.  No wading out far from the bank but that wasn't a problem since this stream isn't that wide to begin with.  

It took me a while to suit up and get everything in order.  I had to do a fair amount of repair work on my sighter leader since I'd broken off my tippet at the end of my previous outing.  Even though I left the house over an hour later than I had originally planned I wasn't in a hurry.  I wanted to make sure that my knots were secure and my dropper tags were the length I like them.  After everything checked out to my satisfaction I tied on the nymphs I selected to fish and I made my way down to the water only several yards up from the mouth.


The first few casts weren't as accurate as I would have liked but it wasn't long until the rhythm of pick a target, present the flies and manage the drift felt almost medicinal.  The itch I felt in my fingers was finally fading and with the first hesitation in drift and the subsequent throb of a hooked trout it was gone.  Another example of relief not being spelled ROLAIDS.

Fishing high water requires a bit of an adjustment in thinking.  Trout tend to seek out less heavy areas of flow and that means they may move closer toward or even tight to the banks - especially where there are deeper pockets and drop-offs - as well as hold in the softer flows behind large rocks and boulders.  These areas were my focal points as I worked my way up the stream. 

This tributary is a special regulations class A stream with the majority of wild fish being browns and some brook trout.  That first trout wasn't a surprise even though it was a hatchery reared rainbow.  It is common knowledge that a significant number of stocked trout move into this trib to seek refuge from the warm water of the large marginal stream.  Every year some of these hatchery fish, especially the browns, are found to have moved significant distances upstream from where the two streams meet. 

I knew the large pocket from which I had taken the rainbow should hold more fish.  After a weight adjustment and a few more casts I was in to a decent wild brown which displayed acrobatic tendencies.  Always an added bonus when they decide to go airborne and more than once!  Not bad for only about 15 minutes of actual fishing time.  And yes, by now I had completely forgotten about itchy fingers.

 My next target was a large pocket against the bank directly up from where I was standing.  The streamflow was deflected by a large bankside boulder.  The pocket was fairly deep and the current was much slower than the one from which I'd taken the fish only minutes before.  I divided this pocket into two sections.  I presented my nymphs in the lower half of the pocket about mid-way between the bank and the fast water and focused on my sighter.  Hesitation in drift had me react and another wild brown was brought to hand.  This one was only about 7" and my thoughts went immediately to the concern about the lack of smaller wild fish.  Could this be a sign?  Now my focus was the upper half of the pocket.  I tucked my flies right into the very tip of the pocket and within two seconds there it was again:  hesitation in drift.  My strike reaction was immediately met with a heavy throbbing and this good sized brown fought stubbornly against the pull of the rod and leader.  

There was enough of a leaf canopy above me that the thin rays of sunlight were at times blocked as the slight breeze moved the leaves up and down and from side to side.  As I positioned the brown for a photograph the sun's rays really intensified the transition from yellowish-olive-brown to blue tint behind the eye of this brown.  Many anglers would say this is an indication of a wild brown trout.  I'm not one of them.  The brown I was about to photograph originated in a hatchery and I suspect it was a private hatchery.  There are so many exceptions to the rules some anglers apply to determine if a brown trout is stream-bred or hatchery originated.  It was still a good looking fish even though I had to photograph the side without the deformed pectoral fin.


As I worked up the stream being careful to choose what I felt was the most likely water to hold trout I was rewarded several more times.  All of these trout were stream-bred browns and only one was over 9 inches.  That meant the majority of my fish this day were from 4"+ to about 7".  I had to report to the guys from the shop that the stream seems to be doing well when it comes to numbers of trout from multiple year classes.  This is a good thing!

My experience this particular morning presented a dilemma.  We have a stocked stream into which flows a quality class A wild trout stream.  There's a reason class A streams aren't stocked;  yet, a number - and it may be a significant number - of stocked trout make their way into the unstocked water.  This particular large marginal stream is stocked with trout from both the PA Fish and Boat Commission and a private entity.  While neither entity engaged in this practice with the intent to see these stocked trout invade the wild trout water some could view this as an indirect stocking of said wild trout water.  Personally, I am of the opinion that I do not want to see any stocking of class A wild trout water and I believe there are a good number of my fellow anglers who feel the same.  

I believe there is a place for stocked trout in the larger, more general, scheme of trout fishing.  In fact, the large marginal stream in question would be a prime example of such a waterway IF I ignore the fact that there are numerous class A wild trout streams which add their flows to it.  Stocked trout can, and do, move just like wild trout.  And that means they move into quality unstocked waters.  And that's the dilemma.  Of course, the real question is whether these stocked fish have any impact on the wild trout population.  And that's the food for thought      



1 Comentarios

  1. This has me itching to go fishing ASAP. water levels are great and I enjoy fishing them as they are receding from a high water event. I suspect good fishing is in order for the next couple of days!