Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fly Fishing the Poconos in September

My sister recently had a baby, so I've had a chance to spend some time in northeastern Pennsylvania. I was able to fly fish a few times in between visits with family. Fly fishing in the fall is always a pleasant undertaking. I love the crisp air, the smell of the decaying leaves, and the bright foliage that transforms the verdant landscape into a collage of color. The fishing is often superb: trout begin to emerge from the high heat of the summer, tiny blue-winged olive hatches can be as productive as any spring hatch, and streamer success rises considerably as the water cools down.

That being said, there are a few drawbacks to fall weather fly fishing. While ostensibly beautiful, falling leaves wreak havoc on dry fly drifts. I can't tell you how many times I've laid down a perfect cast only to have it disrupted by a red maple leaf. The cooler weather also presents its own challenges, and fly fishermen should dress appropriately for the colder temperatures. When the autumn sun sinks behind a central Pennsylvania ridge or a Pocono tree-line, the heat of the day dissipates with celerity. In addition, all anglers should note the arrival of hunting season and wear an orange hat (at least) if you venture onto state land. You certainly don't want your brown fishing vest and waders to be mistaken for deer fur.

I caught ten trout in the Poconos. Five were stocked brown trout from the Bushkill Creek. I caught all five on small light cahill dry fly patterns. I also caught five wild brook trout from Marshalls Creek. All five took a size 14 brown wooly bugger. Continue to check back for more fall updates; however, the blog won't be as frequently updated because of my teaching schedule and approaching doctoral examinations. Whenever I do get a chance to fly fish, I will make sure to post.

Image #1 - Wild brook trout from Marshalls Creek
Image #2 - Bushkill Creek at dusk
Image #3 - White snakeroot and woodland sunflower in bloom

Overall Total: 132

River Breakdown:

Teetertown Brook - 18 (18 Wild Brook)
Spring Creek - 16 (13 Wild Rainbow, 3 Wild Brown)
Marshalls Creek - 13 (13 Wild Brook)
Raritan River, South Branch - 12 (8 Stocked Rainbow, 3 Stocked Brown, 1 Wild Brown)
Bushkill Creek - 8 (6 Stocked Brown, 2 Stocked Rainbow)
Swift River - 6 (3 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Brook)
Elk Creek - 5 (5 Wild Brown)
Elk River - 5 (3 Stocked Rainbow, 1 Stocked Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Penns Creek - 5 (5 Wild Brown)
Stony Brook - 4 (4 Stocked Rainbow)
Paulinskill River - 4 (2 Stocked Brook, 2 Stocked Rainbow)
Rockaway Creek - 4 (4 Wild Brown)
Clear Fork of the Mohican River - 3 (3 Stocked Brown Trout)
Fishing Creek - 3 (3 Wild Brown)
Lost Cove Creek - 3 (2 Wild Rainbow, 1 Wild Brook)
Old Town Run - 3 (2 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Yellow Breeches Creek - 3 (1 Stocked Brook, 1 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Brodhead Creek - 2 (1 Stocked Brown, 1 Wild Brown)
Hickory Run - 2 (2 Wild Brook)
Little Brook - 2 (2 Wild Brook)
Roaring Run - 2 (2 Wild Brook)
Big Gunpowder Falls River - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Little Glade Creek - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Meadow Run - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)
Mill Creek - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Mud Run - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Poplar Run - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Schooley's Mountain Brook - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Trout Brook - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
White Deer Creek - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)

Species Breakdown:

Brook Trout - 50
Wild - 43
Stocked - 7

Brown Trout - 44
Wild - 25
Stocked - 19

Rainbow Trout - 38
Stocked - 23
Wild - 15

Wild Trout - 83
Stocked Trout - 49

Trout 15+ Inches: 11

Fly Breakdown:
Olive Wooly Bugger, size 14 - 23 (22 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 14 - 10 (8 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brown)
Green Weenie, size 14 - 8 (4 Wild Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brown, 2 Wild Brown)
Brown Wooly Bugger, size 14 - 6 (5 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Green Weenie, size 12 - 6 (3 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Brook)
Light Cahill, size 16 - 6 (5 Stocked Brown, 1 Wild Brown)
San Juan Worm, size 12 - 6 (3 Stocked Brown, 2 Stocked Rainbow, 1 Stocked Brook)
Tan Caddis, size 14 - 5 (5 Wild Brown)
Pink Shrimp, size 14 - 4 (4 Wild Rainbow)
Sulphur dun, size 16 - 4 (2 Wild Rainbow, 1 Wild Brook, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Bead-head Copper John Nymph, size 16 - 3 (3 Wild Brook)
Black Caddis, size 14 - 3 (2 Wild Brown, 1 Stocked Brown)
Gummy Stonefly, size 14 - 3 (2 Wild Brown, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Bead-head Black Stonefly Nymph, size 10 - 2 (1 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Brown Stonefly nymph, size 10 - 2 (1 Stocked Brook, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Ladybug, size 16 - 2 (2 Wild Rainbow)
Wet Ant, size 14 - 2 (1 Stocked Brown, 1 Wild Rainbow)
Bead-head Green Weenie, size 14 - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)
Bead-head Hare's Ear Nymph, size 14 - 1 (1 Stocked Rainbow)
Blue Quill, size 16 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Blue Winged Olive, size 18 - 1 (1 Wild Rainbow)
Golden Stonefly, size 8 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Scud, size 16 - 1 (1 Wild Rainbow)
Sulphur dun, size 14 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Walts Worm, size 14 - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)

Angling Breakdown:

Fly Fishing Rod - 103 (31 Wild Brook, 18 Stocked Rainbow, 17 Stocked Brown, 17 Wild Brown, 15 Wild Rainbow, 5 Stocked Brook)
Spinning Rod - 29 (12 Wild Brook, 8 Wild Brown, 5 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brook, 2 Stocked Brown)

State Breakdown:
Pennsylvania - 63
New Jersey - 48
North Carolina - 9
Massachusetts - 6
Ohio - 3
Virginia - 2
Maryland - 1

Monday, September 7, 2009

Surf Fishing the Outer Banks in mid-August

Surf fishing and fly fishing are fundamentally dissimilar. In fact, these activities are on opposite ends of the fishing spectrum. Fly fishing is (often) about precision and timing; surf fishing, on the other hand, is (often) about strength and power. While a fly fisherman uses bird feathers, deer hair, and rabbit fur to craft an imitation worthy of fooling a wary trout, a surf fisherman cuts up squid, bloodworms, or fresh fish to land his quarry. Fly rods are long and slender, a fine-tuned blend of force and yield. Surf fishing rods are long and thick, a testament to the power of the ocean and its fish. These inherent differences are unavoidable and striking. The similarity between the two forms is less apparent, but no less interesting.

To be a successful surf fisherman or fly fisherman, a person must have a deep understanding of ocean and river environments. For surf fishing, this means a knowledge of currents and sandbars; tides and temperatures; and, weather conditions and calendar quirks. For fly fishing, this means a comprehension of mayfly hatches and cubic flow; trout behavior and casting technique; and, (again) weather conditions and calendar quirks. A surf fisherman or a fly fisherman can spend a lifetime gaining environmental knowledge. For those who don't possess this type of acumen, the internet and bookshelves are loaded with important and necessary information.

There are other similarities between the two fishing forms. For example, the way that a fisherman approaches a fight remains relatively constant. If a fly angler lets a trout flee into a fast rapid section, she risks losing the fish; if a surfisher allows a large ray to bury itself in the sand, he will likely end the battle exhausted and defeated (more on this specific scenario later). Both sports enable a human to engage with the natural world and emerge better for the experience. And, finally, both produce feelings of euphoria following a successful catch. In the end, a landed fish is a landed fish, and the difference between dainty wild brook trout and powerful bluefish melds away amid celebratory shouts and photographs.

I caught over 40 fish from the surf during my week at the Outer Banks. Ostensibly on a relaxing beach vacation with my fiancee's family, I spent hours upon hours catching croaker, spot, whiting, northern kingfish, and even a skate. It wasn't the first time I've surf fished, and I believe that my previous experiences have made me into a competent practitioner of the craft. I catch a lot of smaller fish, but the novelty of landing unfamiliar species generates excitement about even the tiniest ocean fish. The highlight of the week came when I caught a small skate (a ray) in the frothy wash of the shore. With its tail, the fish was nearly two feet long. The other memorable moment happened when I hooked a bigger ray, only to have it bury itself in the sand. Some teenage boys helped me force the fish to the surface, but it snapped off as I tried to pull it out of the water. A good time was had by all, and the ray taught me that I can't always expect to take on a fish and win.

While I would rarely choose surf fishing over fly fishing, I find both to be highly entertaining enterprises. If you have never taken up a surf rod, I recommend giving it a try.