CCSF & LSC; A Sunday Trifecta
Floatman & Dj on the road again with a compass heading that reads East! The time is 5 AM and the pace isn’t at all hurried. Recovering from an all night “Grand Creator” conversation and cuddle session with the wife that granted me the rejuvenating properties of 15 minutes of sleep, I find myself navigating Interstate 80 with the pace and driving abilities of a guy leaving a tavern 15 minutes south of “last call”!
As we approached the pull off, the sun had graced us with its presence, but held back on the benefits of any measurable levels of warmth. Not to worry, the short hike would get the blood flowing and raise the temperatures to a comfortable level. With the last buckled clicked securely on our packs, we wandered down the winding gravel path as it narrowed into woody seclusion. The recent rains and accumulated moisture had the forest thick in green foliage. The hues were so vivid and full of life. The fallen brown leaves of the previous autumn draped across the forest floor like carpeting. The smells of timbered wood at various stages of natural decay were thick in the air we breathed. I began to feel the infusion and recharging properties of something biological greater than myself. The stark contrast as compared to inertness of concrete, brick and asphalt combined with the continuous noise of the city was a welcome relief to my warn and somewhat tattered spirit. It was then that I thanked The Grand Architect for the second time this morning. My gratitude must have provided satisfaction for Him as I found that the day would unfold with a multitude of positive events that had me full of praise and thankfulness.
The catching began slowly, but gained momentum as we ventured from the most heavily traveled entrance and path. A few small brook trout here, several missed strikes there were the fuel that we needed to keep motivated and pressing on. Upstream, as we passed the campsite that PackMule and I shared weeks ago, we would both be on “new” water. Before reaching this spot and pointing out to Floatman where we prepared food, slept, fished, etc… I needed to hit a couple holes that provided decent sized fish from the trip prior. I hoped that the kyped male I had brought to strike and which had graced me with his beauty from the trip with Packmule would be there to succumb to the same fly, delivered the same way, in the same run. To my delight, he was still willing to accept my marginally tied stimulator as a delectable indulgence worth bringing himself to the surface. In this stream, a fish this large may be at least several years old. Seeing him was like greeting an old friend, albeit a friend that you tend to spend more time wrestling and beating the snot out of than sharing a dinner or beer with! It was good to see that he had remained free in his natural element. With a huge smile, I brought him to hand. The fight was somewhat reduced this time around as a result of using a 4 weight instead of 2, but I wasn’t complaining. I quickly snapped a few photos, adequately revived him to the point that he gracefully swam on a return direction back his lair.
Just a few dozen feet upstream from the campsite, I noticed a bucket sized hole not much deeper than a foot tucked between two undercut rocks. The water was funneling down a 12” or so waterfall and plunging to the base of the rocks. The sun shown on this spot almost as a beacon exclaiming, “Fish Here!!!” The beams of light concentrated in this particular location illuminated the frothy water and subsurface bubbles removing any mystery of how great an ambush point this genuinely was. I wondered to myself, was anyone home? Quickly sizing up the ideal casting lane and determining the direction to point my fly, I repeated my false casts with meticulous care. I wanted to be sure that the cast I laid down fell gracefully to the waters surface and so it did! The stimulator, dry from repeated casting, took a high position perched on transparent surface tension and dropped just short of the aerated water falling into the head. Within microseconds, even before I could remove line slack, the area exploded. Frantically, I raise my rod high overhead. I knew that I had been caught off guard. I captured a body shot visual, but nothing more. My one attempt at hooking this fish had been blown by my ineptitude. Frustrated, I withdrew the remaining line at my feet and pondered whether the fish that just flashed its magnificence before me could be brought to strike once again? I gathered my thoughts, calmed my nerves, and repeated the necessary steps to deliver the number “2” knock-out blow, to the fish this time! Whipping the rod in a tight 10 & 2 tip position permitted me to inspect the length needed to return the fly. It needed to fall into a window of water no more than a few inches long and that stayed open no longer than a few seconds. In my mind I repeated, “Don’t forget the slack line that needs to be immediately recalled once the fly hits the surface. Don’t make the same mistake twice or this ball game (with the crowd already leaving toward their cars) is over!” The fly hit high of my target destination, was immediately draw underwater with the funneled chute of the fall, and delivered underneath the ambush rock. I had realized my mistake, but instinctively retrieve my slack line. The strip of the fly before his nose must have been all that was needed to solicit a strike again, underwater this time around. The jerk of the line, now taunt and pointed directly upstream, clearly identified that I had a fish en tow.
This fish wasn’t much bigger than the one before, but had a bit more gusto to his persona. My rod doubled over as I struggled to bring him to hand. His frantic headshakes were a feeble attempt at freedom and in a short time I had him within the confines of my camera’s lens. Again, a quick revival and graceful return was my answer. As my fly line transitioned to leader near the tip of my rod, I made a mental note. This was another great location to revisit during the next trip.
As I said, the water above the campsite was new to me. The gradient was quickly changing and banks were morphing into steep foundations supporting mountain peaks. Rocks that varied from the sizes of suitcases and big screen televisions were now becoming passenger cars and busses. In several areas, the bedrock had severed from the hillside, through choice or erosion, and found a resting place directly within the path of the stream. These house sized obstructions made for great cover and breath-taking splendor. The moss, almost luminescence in vivid green, had found this area quite habitable and consequently took over every spot it could manage to creep. It began to feel less like Pennsylvania and more like West Virginia. Neither of these states thought of without extreme adoration by me.
I had left Floatman behind, he chose to relax as the valley tightened and inclinations increased. I promised not to be long and jumped across and over two large boulders. Fly fishing at high speed was not my style and I’d suspect contrary to historical etiquette, but the need to maximize my return given the great number of plunge pools before me was on my mind. Initiating three quality casts followed by equal drifts was all that each hole received as barter from me. If one to the tail, belly, and head didn’t elicit a strike, then it was time to move up and onward.
In the short time I ventured utilizing this technique I was able to bring to hand some rather impressive sized brook trout and equally scrappy little guys. Another mental note was made. A return visit to this stream was an absolute must before steelhead season gains my undivided attention.
On our walk out, Floatman and I recounted our day’s adventures and admiring nature once more. Half the hike was spent descending down into the river valley with the second half of the exodus being a gradual uphill ascent along the gravel path to the car. During the gravel portion, during a quiet time in the walk, I held a mental conversation with TGA. I find it easier to speak with Him enveloped by the calm of nature. I am more appreciative when the realization of the gifts we so often take for granted are abounding around me at a mile a minute. It was during this time that I witnessed. I’m comforted because the conduit I have with TGA is an open channel. Sometimes the answers aren’t immediate, sometime they aren’t what I’m willing to accept, and still at times they are so blaringly apparent that it smacks me square in the face. On the far side of the river a congregation of people had assembled. Their goal this morning was submersion. They were joyous in their celebration of Spiritual infusion. Witnessing this act of faith was one of those “slap in the face” answers that I had asked for as a sign that He had heard my conversational prayer while I retreated toward the car. It was confirmation that it was, indeed, WE that walked together en route to leave for the second fishing destination.
A short drive down the road, no more than 30 minutes, was all that was needed to deliver us to stream number two. This stream, heavily stocked and laden with new and holdover browns and bows, was not new to either of us. Floatman took the high road and I took the low. The small pedestrian bridge that crossed the river was our place of division. I hiked about ½ mile downstream intent on hitting a spot that PackMule had alerted me to fishing. The story went, it is long, it is deep, and it is loaded with fish. And when PackMule says something like that, Defjam listens! My heart raced as I high tailed it downstream, partially because of the quickened pace of my trek, but more so as a result of the replaying over and over of the description. Could I pull off a Sunday trifecta? And possibly even a single stream Sunday trifecta? Only time (and this story) will tell! LOL!
PackMule’s description was spot-on. The area was chalk full of fish of all sizes and species. They frolicked at will and seemed content that the depths they cruised where sufficient to safe guard them against predators. What a false sense of safety they blindly shared! I was there, armed, and fully prepared to show them a thing or two.
Because of the depth and size of this pool, my technique was more of chuck and duck indicator fishing that true fly fishing. I know, blasphemous to the true art of fly fishing, but adaptability combined with an unbiased fishing disposition has always taken me on adventurous journeys. I adorned my leader with a small twist on indicator, several small dust shot, and tandem rig of fraternal nymphs. Flipping it out in to the current at the head and feeding line off my fly reel as if I was pinning had fly fishing masters of long ago turning over in their graves. At once, my indicator dove underwater and from my vantage point I witnessed it thrashing side to side in the depths. I quickly set the hook and held my rod high. As my 4 wt. doubled over, I reeled like a mad man. Up from the depths I saw the first of many fish that would fall for my double nymph combination that afternoon. A healthy bow was brought to hand, photographed, and quickly released. Now repeat the same scenario 6 times and you’ll understand why I was ready for new water. Above the location I had just vacated was an elongated run with a deep undercut shaded by long tree branches full of foliage draped above. The tail of the pool was very shallow along as was the head. The small pebble stream bed mixed with an unhealthy amount of silt and sediment made for a drab kaki colored canvas. To make things even more un-noteworthy, the flow seemed to clip along at a snails pace. Given any other reason, I would have considered this a “walk by” if it weren’t for the 50 or so fish darting back and forth through it! As stood and watched the run and considered my options for casting lane and offerings, I noticed that the only activity was on either something extremely small or subsurface. Tying on a size 20 gnat patter, I remarked to myself, “If it is something small they want, then something small they’ll get!” Several dozen properly executed casts were drifted through that run and the best I got was possibly a fish giving me a look at his dorsal fin with an abrasive look on his face. LOL! A change of selection was in order. A stimulator trailed by a small yellow bodied nymph would be the correct offering as several fish raced over to slam it was stripped the through the pool. Not interested in anything dead drifted, the action of a frantic strip is what excited them enough to bite.
At this point, native brook and hold-over stocked bow have been logged into the books. It is time to venture to another section thick with browns and more familiar to me. Five minutes later, I’m walking down a bank and underneath a bridge with my mind set on one particular pool just a short hike upstream. Rounding the corner, I witnessed peculiar fish behavior. Their bodies and tails exposed above the surface in shark like predation, I was amazed to watch this behavior. I scrambled to get a shot of it on my camera in movie mode. Thumbing the “on” button for the camera, several fish were now involving themselves in frenzy that resembled carp feeding on flats. Thinking that I may have stumbled on exhibits of relations that are best shared behind close doors, I didn’t know whether to shield my eyes or hit record on the camera. Well, as temptation would have it, record was the option I chose. Just as I hit the record button, all activity in the pool ceased to exist. I think I either I may have been spotted or TGA put the kibosh on my episode of voyeurism! Darn it! You’ll just have to believe me when I say there was some serious boom-chica-wa-ah-wawa happening on that stream that day.
I served up a few casts in the direction of the commotion and hoped for the best. Several minutes had passed without a strike and I was convinced that it was time to move on. As I neared the head of the pool on the walk upstream I noticed that there were indeed several rather large brown trout sitting low in the belly underneath a large boulder. I cursed my inability to hook into at least one, but remained positive that the next and last spot to fish would deliver my brown for the day.
Scanning the stream ahead of me revealed a large flat with cobblestone and gravel littered with pockets void of fish. The sun was high in the sky and the rays had certainly warmed the water to the point that I felt the trout likely retreated to deeper, cooler water. Inspecting as I walked, the water widened and the streambed dipped to several feet deep. The head had been obstructed by a large pine tree fallen perpendicular to the stream from the eroding bank. The branches had served as tentacles and trapped sticks, leaves, and other debris to the point that flow was severely impeded. My thought was to attempt a cast just shy of the pine and float back to my casting position tucked slightly diagonal of the target area. The rear casting lane was open enough to allow a long cast if I kept the rod tip high and managed the mechanics with care. Remembering Floatman’s advice to go natural for stubborn browns, the choice in fly box was either a San Juan or a size 12 brown woolly bugger. A large bushy, super hackled stimulator served as the lead fly followed by a size 12 brown San Juan worm. I noticed from the corner of my eye that this hole held a decent number of healthy sized browns and with this recognition the anticipation of hooking one of them built up inside. Stripping out the correct amount of fly line and applying a good number of false casts to achieve an accurate distance, my cast was laid exactly where I had anticipated. The large stimulator, well greased with fly floatant, rode high on the surface and my tandem rig slowly floated back to my position. It floated back to my position several times with the best that I could muster up from the inhabitants was a close inspection by a little one near the tail out. “Remain calm!” I thought to myself as I cast once more. Then suddenly I thought, if dead drift doesn’t get their attention, maybe a quick “jet ski” strip will do it!
On the next cast, I laid the fly line out and immediately took to ripping it back. As it stripped across the water, a belly formed behind the stimulator. It appeared that I had gotten someone’s attention. I paused and then took to an even faster pace of line retrieval. At once the water erupted into chaos. Exhibiting behavior more like bass attacking a popper, the brown following my fly was thrashing about and was intent on capturing this intruder dredged though his hang out. It was at this point that I witnessed something that filled me with pure amazement. The brown that tailed my flies had the San Juan in his jaw and entering from a diagonal position was another brown making an attempt to eat the stimulator! Lacking the ability to control the fly so as to help facilitate a double ringer, I prayed that the second fish would find the stimulator and hook up. He slashed once, turned and returned to strike again. All the while, the brown hooked on the san juan had the flies gyrating and oscillation back and forth as I gently applied pressure to reel him in. As the fly line exiting the water and turned into leader, I knew that the opportunity to possibly hook two browns on the same leader had passed and felt fortunate to have, at the very least, witnessed the attempt!
Bringing the brown to hand revealed a healthy specimen. His elongated body resembled a more snake like silhouette than fish. He shined with a golden glow and spotted royalty. This was a fine fish. A great fish to finish this long day!
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