Frosty air, frigid water can’t spoil Pennsylvania trout opener
For those trout anglers who complained the first day of the season in Pennsylvania lacked the overall high-catch rate they associate with the season’s start due to cold weather and water, they’re simply missing the real spirit and blessing this opening day provided.
My own trout season opener began with a late Friday morning trip to camp in the heart of Tioga County. There are numerous stocked streams within relatively quick reach near camp, but I was planning on only one place to start the season, and that was the Big Pine Creek.
I love this wide stream, especially when it turns from its parallel run along Route 6 and heads into the heart of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. With such an abundance of flowing water, it is never over fished. Early season may experience many anglers at a couple of easy-to-reach spots, but generally, just about any area fishermen are willing to do some walking and bike riding to reach will have trout without human company.
When insect hatches begin with warming water, fly-fishing the top flow of the big stream and witnessing a trout taking a hand-tied imitation at the end of your leader is both exciting and rewarding.
The opening Saturday morning had the temperature at 18 degrees on the outside camp thermometer. Local weather forecasters had the “real feel” at 6 degrees. No debating a chilly start awaited anglers.
I waited an hour after the opening minute before heading to a place I often fish. The stretch I walk a few hundred yards to reach was empty, but a bridge crossing the stream on the road I traveled to get there, and above my fishing spot, had a couple anglers casting into the water, assuring me that the stocking truck had at one point stopped to “dump” some trout.
The water was cold. On the opposite bank, large ice sickles held their place above the moving water, frozen in place and not yet ready to drop into the stream when warm temps eventually come.
An hour and a half of casting and dragging big, black wWooly Buggers, weighted Hare’s Ears and Pheasant Tails produced not a single strike. I returned to camp.
In the afternoon I was back, this time with a spinning rod using minnow imitations. No luck over a two-hour period. I spoke with a couple of young anglers who had one fish between them. They complained of the poor fishing, one of them blaming the Fish & Boat Commission for starting the season too soon. Always someone’s fault when things don’t work out right.
Late Sunday morning was a bit warmer, and the trout more cooperative with minnow imitations. I kept a pair of rainbows for a camp lunch, tasting this delicious fish for the first time since last spring.
I ran into more anglers when I was leaving the water. Some complained about the cold weather and poor fishing, others accepted the conditions but wished it was warmer. I left their comments slide past without commenting, but I knew in my own mind what they failed to understand.
We had just gone through a year no one could ever foresee. We had experienced hardships no one currently alive had ever experienced, and all of us are still caught in a place in time we hope will pass us by, never to return. But this opening of trout fishing, similar at least to openers in years past, offers hope and promise that the world is finally starting to move on in a normal fashion.
For me, cold weather and cold water with little fishing action cannot amend or change that sentiment.