Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fly Fishing Penns Creek in April

Almost two weeks ago (I'm so behind on the blog-writing), I drove to Penns Creek for some mid-April fly fishing. It took almost 3 hours and 15 minutes to get to my favorite river from south Jersey. It was a nice ride, though, once the interstate gave way to winding central Pennsylvania roads. I had all day to fish, so I decided to walk two miles upstream and then fish back down to the car. It had been years since I went up that far (May of 2007, actually), so I was excited to see that part of the creek again. On the hike, I stopped and photographed a showy purple flower called fringed polygana, or gaywings. It was a remarkable looking plant, and signaled an auspicious start to the day.

My chosen starting spot was a braided section of the stream. Divided into three main threads, this part of Penns Creek is easier to fish. I missed a few trout on streamers and nymphs, including one 15+ inch wild brown. I quickly grew frustrated with my non-success, and had been at the river for over three hours before I caught my first trout. And the first fish didn't even take a fly; instead, it hit a barbless spinner on my spin-casting rod.

Despite my lack of fly fishing success, a robust grannom caddis hatch was ongoing. I figured that the fish would start rising to the grannoms after the sun went down over the ridges, and I was proven correct. I landed a 17.5 inch wild brown on a size 16 dry black caddis. It was probably the biggest Penns Creek fish I've caught on the fly rod. And although it came almost 6 hours after I arrived, it was worth every minute of it.

Other trout were rising so I thought I'd be able to catch a few more. Strangely, though, the fish stopped coming to the surface. The caddis were still coming off the water in droves, so I was a bit confused. A few minutes later, however, a fast moving thunderstorm rolled into the gorge. Facing a 1.5 mile hike back to the car, I decided to take shelter in a rhododendron grove. The evergreen shrub provided significant cover as the rain came pounding down. While I was cowering in the grove, I heard a building roar approaching. I kept telling myself, you're in Pennsylvania, there's no tornado coming, but the deafening roar seemed to suggest otherwise. The high ridges had formed a wind tunnel, and the rushing air blasted through the gorge, taking down tree limbs and dead plants. A huge limb fell about twenty feet away from me, and I decided I'd take my chances in the river, even with the lightening. Luckily, the storm died down, but not before I was soaked and somewhat rattled by the fallen tree branch.

Always remember that remote, beautiful places like Penns Creek can present danger at any time. Rely on your instincts and knowledge, and you'll more than likely end up fine.

Image #1 - Fringed polygana
Image #2 - Wild brown trout
Image #3 - Grannom Caddis
Youtube Caddis Link:

Overall Total: 19

River Breakdown:
Paulinskill River
- 7 (7 Stocked Brook)
Penns Creek
- 4 (4 Wild Brown)
Sevemile Creek - 4 (3 Wild Rainbow, 1 Steelhead)
Raritan River, South Branch
- 2 (2 Stocked Browns)
Marshalls Creek - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Twentymile Creek - 1 (1 Steelhead)

Species Breakdown:
Brook Trout - 8
Stocked - 7
Wild - 1

Brown Trout - 6
Wild - 4
Stocked - 2

Rainbow Trout - 5
Wild - 3
Steelhead - 2
Stocked - 0

Stocked Trout - 9
Wild Trout - 8
Lake Erie Trout - 2

Trout 15+ Inches: 3

Fly Breakdown:
Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 14 - 5 (3 Wild Rainbow, 1 Steelhead, 1 Stocked Brown)
Bead-head Golden Stonefly Nymph, size 10 - 1 (1 Steelhead)
Bead-head Olive Wooly Bugger Streamer, size 14 - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Black Caddis, size 16 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Tan Caddis, size 16 - 1 (1 Stocked Brown)

Angling Breakdown:
Spinning Rod - 10 (7 Stocked Brook, 3 Wild Brown)
Fly Fishing Rod - 9 (3 Wild Rainbow, 2 Steelhead, 2 Stocked Brown, 1 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Brown)

State Breakdown:
Pennsylvania - 10
New Jersey - 9

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