Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the River: Spring Creek, Bellefonte, Central PA

June 28, 2010

Spring Creek in central PA - twice in less than one year, I feel fortunate. This really is one of my favorite places to fish in the world. There's just something about the early mornings, getting up before dawn to fish in the grey fog at the start of a new day. The air is dewy and cool and the midday heats up enough that it actually becomes a good excuse to come off the river for a decent lunch (as opposed to my normal "must not leave the river until dark" attitude). Compared to the West, there is no such thing as wind. Even a menacing wind in the East just has so much less force to it. Also, I find the more gentle river flows, due to less streambed gradient, is a welcome change from fishing the constant pocket-water of the West.

All-in-all, this Midwest-kid that moved to the Colorado Rockies swearing he'd never return, finds himself dreaming of fishing Central PA, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee more often than is healthy.

This also happened to be the first time Michelle had every truly fished the Midwest or a TRUE spring creek. As you'll notice by the first fish she picked up, within 30 minutes of the first day, she was pretty happy about the whole ordeal. Also, might I mention, that if you've never fished a true spring creek - 7x is a must. You may pick up a few fish on that "cable" they call 6x, but what you need is flawless drifts in slow moving water that the fish has some time to drift downstream with your fly as it examines its prey. All that to say - my wife is pretty awesome hooking, fighting and landing that fish on 7x!

Our days were pretty typical of fishing Spring Creek, by the time things were heating up, the fishing was slowing down. We picked up our best fish before 9 AM, and then had to work pretty hard throught the lunch hours, looking for areas that were deeper, or had a cool spring. Most of the fare was #24 midges (cream, grey) and we did some scud and sow bug fishing as well, but for the most part, fish would shy away from the large size of the scuds and sows.

Most mornings were spent in a stretch that has a large spring on it. There are a few gravel riffles that would hold 20+ fish, all sitting in 8" to 14" of water. They spent their mornings idly snacking on selective morsels that would pass by. If you placed a cast just perfect, mended precisely and changed out your fly every now and then you would certainly get a few takes, just the slightest of flash from the mouth or a feint left or right. Hooking, fighting and landing were the next three obstacles to overcome.

Most fish were in the solid 14" range with a few pushing the 20" size mark, and I briefly spotted a 24" monster, but it wasn't long before he bugged out and headed for a more protected spot. It is truly an amazing river! Every time you add an inch to a fish, you find him sitting in a tougher drift. The ones in the 18" range were generally found sitting in impossible locations with about a 6" drift window, making a realistic drift very tough. But that's the beauty of it, though we weren't there for a hatch, Spring Creek has some epic hatches, and those are the times when the "big boys" become much more available.

Without making this post a small novel, what can I say? We spent 3 days enjoying the weather and the water, with plenty of fish to throw in. That's not bad considering I would have enjoyed myself with no fish.

Tight Lines,

(Side note: we did spend one morning at Big Fishing Creek. Which was a boyhood favorite. However, I'm not sure if we just timed something wrong, but we hardly spotted a fish all morning. Maybe we picked the wrong stretch to be on, maybe the river has fallen on some tough times. Sadly, it was a disappointing morning, mostly from not living up to memories.)

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