Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Holy Grail

Well, I did it.

I crossed it off the list. 


But lets not get ahead of ourselves....

Man, what a weekend. 

First weekend of February and it was in the mid 40s and sunny two days in a row.  This doesn't happen often, so I took full advantage of it. 

Packed the truck Friday night so I could get off to an early start Saturday morning.  Alarm went off at 7:45, I rolled out of bed around 8 and hit the road.

I decided to hit 2 streams that have been on my list for a while now. Both streams are on the PFBC "Pennsylvania Wilderness Trout Waters" list. Both are located within public land. And both are withing walking distance of each other.

I got to the stream about 9:30am and headed off into the woods. The air was chilly and there was still snow on the ground.
The water was cold and flowing clear.

I fished all morning and and caught a ton of pretty little dinks.

Came across some cool stuff.

And caught a few nice size gemmies.

All said and done, I hiked just a hair over 6 miles on Saturday and caught a few dozen fish

Sunday, February 7th, 2016. 

It was still unseasonably warm.  It was going to be sunny and mid-upper 40s during the day.  I decided to take advantage of another unseasonably warm day and fish.

I headed back out to the Laurel Highlands without much of a plan this time.  In the morning, I fished a stocked stream in the the Laurel Hill Creek drainage in hopes of finding some holdovers.  No luck, but did manage 2 nice native brookies in about a mile hike.

I fished this stream until lunch time then headed back to the truck to eat lunch and regroup.

I've been itching to find some wild browns in the Laurel Highlands, so I took the chance in the afternoon to fish a stream that feeds a stream stocked with brooks, browns, and 'bows.

The headwaters stream is located in Forbes State Forest.

After about a mile of hiking, I reached the stream
I fished it for a while and every suspecting spot held at least one little brookie.

After fishing it for a bit, I came into my first Laurel Highlands wild brown.

Success! One of my goals for 2016 reached in just 38 days. 

I fished for a while longer and actually hooked into 2 more browns, both wild and both about 12".

I typically don't carry a net when I fish, but this day, I really REALLY regret not carrying one.  If I had a net with me, I would have been able to land both of the other browns. 

Live and learn I guess. 


I reached another of my 2016 goals Sunday afternoon.  By some stroke of sheer dumb luck, I was able to hook a wild tiger trout. 

These fish are called the Holy Grail of PA wild trout and once in a lifetime trout.  I can understand why. 

Tiger trout are a sterile, intergeneric hybrid of a brown trout (Salmo trutta) and a brook trout (salvelinus fontinalis).  Hatchery raised tiger trout are common since the are artificially produced but it is very rare to find one that is stream bred in the wild because the brook trout has 84 chromosomes and the brown trout has 80.

Two goals reached in one day. I am more than thrilled.  Next up, catching a wild rainbow trout.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Back-up Plans

Cabin fever is a bitch. 

Last week, Friday was gorgeous outside. Relatively speaking at least.  The temperature peaked in the high 40*s during the day.  Like most, I'm sure, I got the itch. I sat at work and day dreamed about the woods.  About hiking. About fishing.

On Friday, I spent more time daydreaming than I did working.  I kept checking the weather forecast for the weekend. Each time I checked it, the worse and worse the forecast started to looked.  By the end of the day Friday, it was supposed to rain overnight and drop back down to the mid 30*s on Saturday and eventually snow.

I didn't care.  I needed out of the house. I needed to blow some stink off. 

It ended up raining on and off Friday night - just enough to bring the streams up a hair.  It was chilly out though - low 30*s and raining/snowing/sleeting/misting when we woke up.

Ohwell.  I wanted to fish. I NEEDED to fish. 

Fast forward a few hours.  The truck was packed. A plan was made.  We set off for the Laurel Highlands to get an afternoon of hiking and fishing in. The day was over cast and chilly.  As we climbed up to Laurel Summit, things got interesting.

By the time we reached the summit, you couldn't see more than a dozen yards or so in any direction.

Anyways, I had been eyeballing a small stream in Forbes State Forest for a while now that I wanted to fish.  We reached the stream, it was barely a trickle even with the rain the night before. 

In comes the back-up plan.  

I've learned to always have a back up plan.  No matter how much research you do or how much you stare at that topo map, you never know what you're really going to get into until you reach the stream.  There's nothing more disappointing that reaching a stream and it not being what you had hoped it was then not having any idea what to do to save the trip.

I've learned this the hard way a few times.  Spending a week planning out the perfect trip only to have it backfire.  It sucks and you feel defeated. There's no other way to describe it. 

Fortunately, I had a back up plan.  Luckily, not more than 5 miles away, there is another stream that I had fished this summer a few times with success.

I'm not one to spot burn but this stream is far from a secret.

We parked the truck, geared up, then made the mile hike to the stream.

The flow was nice and water was gin clear.  The water was ice cold though.  My stream thermometer never broke 40*s.

I hiked about a 1/4 mile with out a single sign of any life in the stream. All the spots I knew that held fish were lifeless on this cold January day. 

Eventually, I came across this little dude.

I hiked another quarter mile or so upstream with no luck. I'm not sure if it was the cold water or the fact that the air temperature had dropped 20* in less than 24 hours or a combination of both, but the fishing was slow. 

Que the back up plan. Again. 

Like most fishermen, I like to fish my way upstream. I had been doing this for the past hour or so no with no luck.  This summer, I missed a few nice size brookies down stream of where I was currently fishing.  I figured, "What the hell" and turned around to see if I could find these fish.

About this time, the snow started to fly. 

As soon as the snow started to fall, the fish seems to magically wake up.  Its like a light switch was flipped.  I managed to catch a few nice size brookies in the places I had missed them this summer.

By the time we were done fishing, it had snowed a good inch or so and it wasn't showing any signs of stopping.

4:30 rolled around and we started the hike back up to the truck.

Fly fishing is no different than life.  We all set goals. We all have expectations.  We all sweat the little details.  No matter how hard we think about it or how much time we spend trying to make it perfect, things sometimes just don't work out. Be it a job, a friendship, a fishing location, or whatever, things sometimes don't go as planned.

This is where it pays to have a back-up plan. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

“The Truth about Fly Fishermen,” by William G. Tapply

It was a pretty uneventful weekend. Saturday was nice out and I got a few things done I need to, Sunday was a wash. I haven't really had much time to whip up anything witty for here like I would have liked unfortunately.

However, Friday, I did read a nice little article posted on Orvis' website written by William G. Tapply that I felt would be great to share. 

I arrived at my local trout stream just as the sun was dropping behind the trees. A pickup truck was parked in the pulloff. I stopped behind it, got out, and went to the bridge for a look. As I’d hoped and expected, the swallows were swooping over the water and tiny trout dimples were showing the whole length of the long slow downstream pool.

The two men from the pickup were standing on the bank at the head of the run puffing cigars and flipping lures with their spinning outfits.

I watched them for a few minutes, then called, “How’re they biting?”

“They’re not,” one of them said cheerfully, “unless you mean the mosquitoes.”

“Mind if I fish below you?”

“Help yourself. Plenty of water.”

The other guy laughed. “No fish,” he said, “but lots of water.”

I went back to my car, tugged on my waders, rigged up my four-weight, slipped on my vest, and took the path down to the stream. I had to walk right behind the two spin fisherman to get to the lower end of the pool. They turned and nodded at me as I went by.

I said, “Well, good luck,” and they said, “Yeah, you, too, buddy. Go get ‘em.”

I stepped into the pool about three long double-hauls downstream from them and did what I usually do: I stood there and looked. Pretty soon I located half a dozen rising trout within casting range, and when I bent close to the water, I noticed that the surface was littered with pale rusty spinners, about size sixteens.

Voices are muffled in the evening mist that rises from a trout stream, so I couldn’t make out the actual words the two spin fishermen were muttering to each other. But I did hear them laugh, and I was pretty sure I knew what they were saying.

“One of them damn anglers.” Spoken as if the word angler were a disgusting waste product.

“Dry-fly snob. Thinks he’s better’n the rest of us.”

“Yeah, no kidding. I heard one of them poles he’s using costs over a hundred bucks.”

And so forth. I’d been hearing it all my life.

The complete litany goes something like this:

Fly fishermen in general are bad enough. Even those who fish with streamers and nymphs think they’re special, the way they throw back all their fish and sermonize about clean water. But the dry-fly snob is something else. You saw that movie. Dry-fly fishing is like a religion to him, like he’s got the inside track on God’s design. Probably has more money than God, too, with all that pricey gear he thinks he needs. He speaks Latin fluently and spends more time studying insects and worshipping the wonderments of nature than he does actually fishing for trout.

You can’t talk to a dry-fly purist. If you ask him a friendly question like, “Any luck?” he’ll bore you with stories about the hoary traditions of dry-fly fishing, its ancient and honored roots in England where it all began nearly 400 years ago, where they’re called “anglers,” not “fisherman,” and still wear tweed jackets and school ties and plus-fours and fish by the strict rules of the river: Upstream dry flies only, cast from the bank (no wading, old chap), and only to rising trout. Which is the angler’s way of saying, I’m not actually catching anything, but I’m having a wonderful time.

The dry-fly snob likes to show off his skill, the years it took him to master the delicate art of the fly rod. He loves the beauty of those graceful loops his line makes as it rolls out over the water. He’ll tell you he’d rather catch nothing than demean himself by using anything but a dry fly, and if he does manage to hook something, he’ll make that expensive rod bend as if he’s hooked a monster, and if he ends up netting it, he’ll turn around and let it go. He thinks he’s the Ultimate Sportsman, and he fancies himself a poet. It’s all about the scent of clean air, the gurgle of rushing water, the symphony of birdsong, the fine art of casting, the craft of fly tying. He loves dry-fly fishing for its ambiance, its roots its beauty, its difficulty.

For its purity.

He’s too cultured, of course, to say it, but if the dry-fly purist were to tell you what he really thinks, he’d tell you that the rest of us, those of us who just like get out of the house, catch a few fish, and have a good time, are crude slobs.

He thinks he’s special. He loves the idea of being a Fly Fisherman more than he loves actually fishing.

The fact is, he’s pretentious, effete, condescending and smug.

* * *

That’s what those people are saying about us, mostly behind our backs. Now and then towards evening on a misty trout stream, you can hear them laughing at you.

* * *

I like all kinds of fly fishing. Actually, I like all kinds of fishing. I’m not a dry-fly purist, but it is the kind of fishing I love the most.

I’ve heard the snickering and the sarcasm all my life, and I’ve stopped apologizing and trying to explain and defending myself. It doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I invite it.

The truth is, we dry-fly fishermen dress and talk and behave the way we do for the benefit of people like those two spin fishermen. We flaunt our expensive gear, our poetry, our aesthetics, our snobbery. We want to promote the image, to perpetuate the myth that we have the inside track on sportsmanship and that we choose to handicap ourselves with whippy little rods, flimsy tippets, tiny flies. We spurn mechanical aids like spinning reels and rely instead on timing and coordination and years of practice to put our flies near fish.

If the people who laugh at us buy into this image, we’re happy, because we’ve got a secret, and already there are too many people who know it. The laugh’s on them.

Here’s our secret: We dry-fly snobs like to catch fish at least as much as the next guy. Sportsmanship, tradition, artfulness, fancy equipment, and aesthetic values have nothing to do with it.

We happen to know that any time trout are feeding on the surface, dry-fly fishing is the easiest, the deadliest – really, the only way to catch them. We can pinpoint the exact locations of specific, feeding fish by their riseforms. We don’t have to guess what they’re eating, because we can see the bugs on the water, and we can tie on a fly that imitates them with confidence. We can watch the way our fly drifts over our target fish. If we see him eat it, we lift our rod and catch him. If we see that he doesn’t eat it, we know that either the fly or the drift was wrong, and we know how to make corrections.

There is no guesswork in dry-fly fishing. When trout are rising, they give us delicious, sometimes complicated, problems to solve. When we solve them, we can take full credit. Luck has nothing to do with it.

That’s why we like it.

* * *

I figured those two guys were watching me, so I did what any red-blooded dry-fly purist would do: I fumbled in my fly box and retied my tippet. I scooped up a rusty spinner, perched it on my fingertip, and whispered some Latin endearments to it. I tied on a fly, doused it with floatant, frowned at it, nipped it off, tied on another one. Made a couple of false casts. Moved upstream a few feet. Fumbled in my fly box.

I played the role.

After a few minutes, the two spin fishermen reeled in and headed back to their truck. Then I false cast once and dropped my fly over one of those dimpling trout, and as it lifted its head and sucked it in, I smiled and thought: You guys with your spinning gear who sneer at my snobbery, you’re the ones handicapping yourselves, throwing spinning lures at rising trout. You’re the true sportsmen. We dry-fly guys, we just down-and-dirty like to catch trout.

I admit it. I was feeling pretty smug.

* * *

I fished until it got too dark to see, by which time I’d caught seven or eight of those dimpling trout. Then I reeled up, waded out, and headed back for my car.
When I climbed the bank by the bridge, a voice in the darkness said, “That was awesome, man.”

Then I saw the glowing tips of their cigars. The two spinning guys were leaning their elbows on the bridge rail.

I went over. “You’ve been watching me?” I said.
“The whole time,” one of them said. “Wanted to see how it was done. I’ve always thought that fly fishing was so cool but figured it was too hard for an old dog to learn. You made it look easy.”
“It is easy,” I said.
“Looks like a lot of fun,” he said. “I gotta learn how to do that.”

“Really?” I said. “You want to be a fly fisherman?”

“Yeah. I always have.”

“We’re terrible snobs, you know.”

They both laughed as if they didn’t believe me.

Here is the link to the original article -  http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/the-truth-about-fly-fishermen-by-william-g-tapply/

Friday, January 8, 2016


Every new years, we make resolutions -

"The winter's long I know your heart's beating in fear
So turn this record on and open up your ears
Summer's coming baby, this could be our year"

Why do we do it?  Why do you do it?

We all make resolutions. Some of them relate to our health and well being. Some of them are fiscal.  Some of them are long term goals. Some are short term goals. And some of them are just plain silly.

This topic was brought up on a fly fishing forum I participate on.   This got me thinking about my resolutions for thus upcoming year.

My resolutions for 2016 include - 

  • Getting back into shape.  At my current job, I spend 40+ hours a week at a desk. I've been sitting at the same desk for 4 years now. That's over 8000 hours of sitting on my butt for those that are counting.   This has definitely taken its toll. Also, I turned 30 this past December and metabolism is no longer on my side.  
  • Purchase my/our first home.  My girlfriend and I have been house hunting since the spring without much luck.  Hopefully our luck changes soon and we find a home we both can agree upon.

Being a fly fisherman, of course I have a few resolutions that relate to fishing.... 

  • Catch a wild rainbow. Granted this blog is called "Bluelines and Brookies", but catching a wild rainbow has been high on my "to do" list for a while now.  I've caught fingerling rainbows in the middle Yough, but never a truly wild stream born and bred rainbow.  I've done my research, Ive got some locations in mind, I just need to put in the time now.

  • Catch a Tiger trout.  Just like the wild rainbow, this has also been high on the list.  I need to locate more streams that hold both reproducing population of wild browns and wild/native brookies. 

  • Venture farther east and fish some limestoners. In western PA, we dont have any limestone streams (that I'm aware of at least).  The closest ones I do know of are located near Bedford.  Maybe this year I'll have the chance to venture to the Cumberland Valley or fish Breeches or who knows.
  • Find wild trout closer to home.  Ive been pretty successful at locating  native trout in western PA.  One problem, I have to drive well over an hour to get to them.  I either have to drive north of I80 and fish in and around Allegheny National Forest or I have to travel east to the Laurel Highlands. I've fished 1 stream within an hours drive of me that contains a decent population of wild brown trout. I've yet to find native brookies close to home. My goal is to find water I can get to in a reasonable amount of time after work and fish. 
  • Lastly, I would like to spend at least one long (3 day) weekend hiking/fishing/camping with no distractions from the outside world. I planned on doing this this summer, but too many other things got in the way.  Hopefully 2016 is the year this happens.  

Ideally, if I can reach 2 of these goals, I'll be happy.

What are your resolutions? 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Years Weekend.

2015 ends, 2016 begins.

For the past few months, my girlfriend and I were planning on doing something special for New Year Eve.  We typically spend it with friends at their house ringing in the New Year with a few drinks.  This year was going to be different. 

This summer, we spent a long weekend at a cabin in Cook's Forest. We fished, hiked, and canoed.  We decided we wanted to do the same in the winter, so what better plan than to spend New Years weekend there? We booked a cabin with some friends.   We planned on going there to celebrate New Years Eve and do a little hunting and fishing weather permitting. 

I prefer to fish, while my girlfriend prefers to hunt. She was going to go out and hunt muzzleloader on Friday and Saturday, while I fished nearby streams.  Well, she ended up being sick and spending most of the weekend on the couch in front of the fireplace with her book. She still let me out to fish both days though. 

I got to check out a few tiny little streams I had been eyeballing since the summer. The extra rain we received last week brought the streams up to fish-able levels.

All of the streams are located within state gamelands in 2 separate drainages.

Friday January 1st -

I started my day later than I would have liked. Too much PBR and scotch the night before has that effect on me. I decided to fish a stream listed as a "Wilderness Trout Streams" by the PFBC. Its a small first order stream, which eventually feeds into stocked stream. I've spent a lot of time on said stocked stream but never fished the feeder stream. 

To get to the "Wilderness Trout Stream" I wanted to fish, you have to hike about a mile or so up another stream until it splits into a "Y". The stream that comes in on the left side is unfortunately AMD polluted, but the stream that comes in from the right side is a EV (Exceptional Value) stream.  On the walk up I did fish a few fishy looking spots, but only managed one tiny little brookie.

Once I got to the stream that I wanted to fish, things started to look up.

The water was very cold and the few fish I did catch were very sluggish.  I fished until about 4pm, then started my 2 mile hike back to the truck.  By the time I made it back to the truck, it was barely 25* out and almost dark. The little bit of coffee left in my thermos was ice cold, my fingers were numb, and I had a pot of deer chili waiting for me back at the cabin.

Saturday, January 2nd -

My day started out much the same way Friday did, late.  Sometimes you can't help but sleep in, sometimes the booze helps.  I left the cabin around 11:30am and got in the stream around noon.  My initial plan was to fish the main stream, but it was up too much from the rain the week before (Ive had success fishing the main stream for natives in the summer when the water was low).  So plan B took affect. 

There is a tiny little stream that tumbles off the side of the mountain that drains into the main stream. I had crossed over this stream countless times fishing the main stream.  Saturday was the perfect day to explore this little stream.  Turns out, this little stream was definitely worth the look.

I fished the first stream for about a mile or so then turned around and headed back to the truck to regroup and grab a quick bite to eat. 

The second stream I fished Saturday was not nearly as productive, but it was just as beautiful.  It was about about a mile walk from the truck to the mouth of the next stream. I didnt get there until almost 2:30pm so I didn't have as much time to focus on every little riffle, run, and plunge pool as I would have liked. 

The stream gradient wasn't as nearly as steep as the first stream I had fished.  It contained more runs and riffle and less plunge pools.

I did catch a few interesting colored brookies on this stream  though. Their coloring was much much darker than the ones I typically catch. I'm sure many factors go into this, and hopefully I can research this a bit more when I find the time/info.

All said and done, I walked about 9 miles over the 2 day.  I managed to catch a few dozen of these little gems. I'd call it a successful start to 2016.


Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year & Something New.

An introduction :

First off,  welcome.

 I've been reading blogs like this on the internet for years now and have always enjoyed them.  I feel like it is finally my time to give something back.

My name is Steve & I live in Western Pennsylvania.  Ive been fishing for 20+ years now.  Ive grown from fishing for stocked trout with spinning tackle to fly fishing small mountain streams for tiny little native brook trout. 

Salvelinus Fontinalus  

Over the past year few years I've explored many small streams, each one special in it's own way.

Clarion River Tributary

I'll be posting pictures and stories from current and past trips, gear reviews, and other random thoughts.