Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Spring Creek

A sun-dappled run at Fisherman's Paradise

University Park airport is typical of many smaller airports from the past, offering quick ingress and egress to the traveler, while conveniently located to its primary constituency - in this case, Penn State University.  Prior to making my annual trek to lecture at a banking school, I investigated local fly fishing options, and via the wonders of the Internet - namely, Reddit, I was pointed to Spring Creek, by all counts the best wild Brown trout stream in Pennsylvania, certainly in the area.  

Not more than 15 minutes after my plane landed, I was carefully following Siri's directions to a place called "Fisherman's Paradise"  After a couple of false starts, I stopped at what appeared to be a public access area, and quickly assembled my gear. I brought along my 6wt St Croix Imperial, a Ross C-4, and a small box of flies.  In the interest of space, I left my waders at home, having been told that bank fishing was actually required at Fisherman's Paradise.  I found sturdy footing at the stream's edge and began casting across the stream with a bead-head Sow Bug, allowing it to drift.  I did see a fish or two, but for the most part the speed of the flow made a realistic drift very difficult, as structure to my left, upstream, created a converging tongue of current moving much faster than the surrounding water.  That belly was too big and persistent to mend.  Allowing the line to unfold further downstream, I was successful in getting a couple of strikes, and briefly hooking a fish.  Not much to write home about, however.

After 15 minutes or so, I heard a car pull up and someone get out.   A voice called "what's going on down there" to which I turned and answered "not much."  A friendly, bearded fellow made his way down the bank and I told him of my search for Fisherman's Paradise.  "Oh, this is not it - but you can follow me there, its just down the road.  You didn't go far enough."  We made introductions and he told me of his evening the day before at this little spot, where some blues were hatching.  He also told me of the locals' tolerance of fly fisherman, in spite of much of the creek's banks being private land.  I had noticed a number of homes along the creek as I drove in.

Breaking down my rod, I loaded it in my rental car and prepared to follow my new friend to Fisherman's Paradise.  As on the drive in, the route along Spring Creek rivaled text messages for driving distractions.  This is a beautiful, free flowing stream with lots of structure and varied water, shining in the afternoon sun.  Only a mile down the road, we reached Fisherman's Paradise, which appeared exactly as described by fellow Reddit fly fishers.  An ample parking area, and roughly 200 yards of stream easily accessible from the bank.  My “guide" had come prepared to fish deeper up the canyon, and I left him to gear up while I sought a suitable spot to cast from.  Having been waist deep in the middle of Arkansas' North Fork River only a week earlier, casting into a tree and weed lined stream only 10 yards across was quite the change of pace.  The afternoon sun was high in the sky, and doubly bright due to the reflection from the water.  Nothing in the way of a hatch was visible, so I continued to ply the water with my Sow Bug, before switching to an olive Woolly Bugger.

Challenging casting conditions!

I encountered a novice fly fisher from Texas, who, like me had found Spring Creek and Fisherman’s Paradise via the Internet prior to his business travel.  We discussed the stream conditions, and watched a small water snake make his way around a brush pile extending from the far bank, before parting ways to continue our efforts to fool a fish.

The weather this week in Pennsylvania was unusually warm, even for late July, and this was clearly impacting the fish. None of the half dozen anglers visible up and down the bank were landing any fish.  I moved further upstream, and found a small clear pool where a number of fish could be seen holding in the depths.  In spite of my best efforts,  including skimming a mouse pattern across the surface, I was not able to get a rise out of any of them.  As darkness fell, footsteps across the stream carried a whitetail to the stream to drink, and I paused casting to simply enjoy the proximity to the magnificent creature.   I resigned myself to having fished in a new state,  and having identified a great location.  I’m already looking forward to a return visit this summer, and will hopefully be better prepared.

Tight Lines!


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