Return to Pennsylvania’s Big Pine Creek brings a trout bonanza
I snapped the accompanying photo when the sun was setting behind me as I fished the evening hatch on Big Pine Creek, about a mile upstream from where it enters Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon.
The image offers a view of the wide flowing water as it passes over gravel, stone and boulder, its banks lush with trees, grasses and brush, before a backdrop of thickly forested mountains. Best of all, for me, there was a complete absence of humans.
I had been to the Pine the first week of spring gobbler season. Rain was abundant that week, and the big creek was high, fast and muddy – almost impossible to fish. I looked forward to returning.
On Memorial Day, I departed home early enough to enable me to arrive upstate and fish the evening hatch on the creek. By 6 p.m. I had walked a 600 to 700 yards to reach a favorite spot where a steady run of deepening ripples ease into a long flat pool.
When first there I was a bit disappointed to find no rises in the faster water – nor anywhere for that matter – so I just stood and watched the water.
But about 10 minutes later there was a splash in front of me, a clear rise. Significantly also, during that short wait for fish sign I would occasionally see big sulfurs emerging, but none floating.
I tied on a sulfur and started casting, allowing my fly to bounce along on the currents. Plenty of casts but no takers. However, while removing a pair of sunglasses and placing them into a pocket of my vest with my rod tucked under my arm and my fly hovering underwater downstream, I felt the rod jerk. Awkwardly, I turned my body, with the rod still under my arm, to hook the fish.
The feel of a battling weight at the fly-rod’s end was a great and hugely missed sensation, one that stayed with me until a fat rainbow swam beside my waders, to be released.
And so the rest of the evening saw me fishing my flies on top of the water, along with the occasional act of letting the drift submerged before a recast. There were plenty of strikes, many that missed, but enough were hooked to make it an excellent evening on the water.
Over three more days of mornings and evenings casting my imitations on various places along the Big Pine, the results were the same. Fishing only fast water, there were short periods – about 20 minutes average – when fish would rise often, showing their abundance. At these times the hookups were most frequent. During the lulls, which could vary in length, strikes were occasional, but still often enough to be stimulating.
I caught only rainbows, and although they varied in length, just about all were in the 12-inch to 16 inch range and were heavy with plump bellies, nothing thin about them at all. I kept a few, too. Their insides were that pinkish-red that I love to see, not the white of just released trout that have those dull white innards resulting from eating hatchery food. And of those gutted, each and every one had their stomachs stuffed full of aquatic bugs in the stage of digestion.
The Pine was feeding them well, and powdered in flour, fried in olive oil and butter, and seasoned with a little salt and pepper, they provided some mighty fine eating, feeding me as well as the Pine fed them.
I never really discovered what the fish were actually taking on top and slightly under the surface, but I did well enough with sulfurs, March browns and yellow Adams – the pattern really didn’t matter, because I had great action just the same.
The whole time I repeatedly reflected on my good fortune to be there – for me there is a religious aspect of being alone on big and scenic trout river with rising fish.
Pennsylvania’s Big Pine Creek is my watery church.