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Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2006/9/9 10:36
From Philadelphia, PA
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Was up in NEPA this weekend and took Sat. afternoon to fish one of my favorite mountain freestoners. Normally, the stream is a mix of wild brookies and stocked fish from a local club that stocks it a couple times per year. Knowing it hadn't been stocked since late summer, I was eager to see how many fish wintered over.

Normally, I don't fish these types of streams until late July or August, so I'm unfamiliar with them this time of year. Anyway, I was surprised to see how much ice/snow was present still and I'm curious about the fish behavior.

I didn't see many fish, but I'm not certain if they didn't winter over, or if they're just hunkered down. The ones I did see were large for this stream. Most were very lethargic. Can I simply assume this is typical due to water temperature (I didn't have a thermometer, but I'm guessing high 30s to low 40s)?

As expected there was no surface activity/feeding. Nymphs were mostly unsuccessful, though I did coax one brookie out from beneath some deadfall with a copper john. Most of the action came on a stripped wooly bugger, though out of many tugs and nips at the WB, only one fish successfully hooked and landed - a nice 13" or so holdover brown.

Just wondering how typical this is. My only reason for asking is that this stream runs cold all year (though obviously not this cold), and I sort of expected a bit more going on. I'm definitely rusty from winter, but I expected to have a bit more success.

A few pics follow (unfortunately I forgot my camera and was left with only the iPhone).

Posted on: 2013/3/31 21:33

Edited by Fishidiot on 2013/4/1 8:38:08
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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Fwiw, the orvis/tom rosenbauer small stream book says that you don't get much of an indication on how a stream can fish until the water is 50F. I'd guess that as you suggest the water was well below that temp, so that may well explain a lower level of fish action... Great pictures, wow!

Posted on: 2013/3/31 21:49


Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
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Wow. Great pics. Who needs a camera huh ?

I read a blog called small stream reflections and he fishes all year round like myself. The blog has taught me to tread softly and look for the sunny stretches and the fish will often be in the shallows or near to them where the water is warmer.

Small streamers like the Mickey Finn or edson tiger seem to be the ticket, or buggy ptns picket pins etc.

I think that one or two fish for a day on a small creek is pretty okay imho.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 0:24
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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From Ferguson Twp.
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Really nice pics you have there. You picked a beautiful place to go for a walk with a rod, shaking fins on that guy, bonus. Congrats.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 6:15
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2008/1/21 13:28
From South Central PA
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I can't tell from the photos if the falls in picture 2 are a barrier or just a tight squeeze. If a barrier would be curious if the fishing was better above or below and if above is still stocked.

Nice little stream you have there.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 7:43


Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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Your experience was pretty typical. You can catch trout in those small freestoners when the water is very cold.

But it gets a lot better when water temps get into the 50s.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 8:12


Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2009/2/19 19:59
From Mont Co, Pa
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There's glare where the eye spot would be and the adapose fin is not visible, but that brown looks like it might be wild.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 8:22
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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From Philadelphia, PA
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Will repost photos later. Pretty sure the adipose fin wasn't colored up. Failed to check on the stream but checked photos later. Would love to learn it was wild.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 9:08
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2006/9/9 10:36
From Philadelphia, PA
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Photos reattached. Included some extras with closeups of that fish's eye and adipose fin.

Attach file:



jpg  nepa2013-1.jpg (234.40 KB)
15_5159b8626a018.jpg 480X640 px

jpg  nepa2013-2.jpg (212.66 KB)
15_5159b870c6899.jpg 480X640 px

jpg  nepa2013-3.jpg (208.69 KB)
15_5159b882a1196.jpg 480X640 px

jpg  nepa2013-4.jpg (201.69 KB)
15_5159b89f9f58d.jpg 480X640 px

jpg  nepa2013-5.jpg (118.13 KB)
15_5159b8a7ad5b6.jpg 480X640 px

jpg  nepa2013-6.jpg (141.16 KB)
15_5159b8ae31caa.jpg 480X640 px

Posted on: 2013/4/1 12:50
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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Quote:

DGC wrote:
I can't tell from the photos if the falls in picture 2 are a barrier or just a tight squeeze. If a barrier would be curious if the fishing was better above or below and if above is still stocked.


The stream actually flows off to the top left off that image, and while there's a steep grade and sort of a small canyon that leads down to the pool in picture #2, it isn't a barrier to fish passage.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 13:41
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
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i think thats a wild fish. fins are perfect imho.

great for a late winter day.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 14:31
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2008/1/31 17:19
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I'd guess it to be stocked, FWIW. Holdover and thus decent color in it. Great pics, stream, and story otherwise, though.

I've had good days in the winter. But I've had bad days on water I know to be good too. It's not a very good indicator of how good the stream will fish later in the year. Still, it's great just to be out in such surroundings.


Posted on: 2013/4/1 14:57


Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2013/3/1 8:29
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I just got back from a perplexing 3 day hiking/fishing trip in Shenandoah National Park. Between me and two friends we caught a total of 0 fish on 4 different streams. We didn't even see or spook a single fish.

There was a lot snow melt the entire time, which lead me to believe the reason for our lack of success was water temperature, but after reading this post, it sounds like you had similiar conditions and still caught fish. I did take a thermometer and one stream read 44-45 in a shallow, near shore area. 45 seems warm enough for some fish activity. I saw a handful of quill gordons hatching.

Was the water stratified, making the deeper spots too cold (i know like air, warm water rises)? Do the fish migrate to areas further downstream (we were fishing close to headwaters)?

I don't fish for native brookies often. Any explanation or any tips for fishing these streams early in the year would be appreciated. It was a humbling experience...at least the hiking was nice.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 16:00


Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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From Philadelphia, PA
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icyguides -

Contrary to what you might expect, what fish I found were holding in deep and presumably colder water. Out of 10-15 holes/runs where I had expected to find fish, I found fish in 3 or 4, and they were the deepest ones.

In shallower areas where I'd have expected to find fish in feeding lies, I spotted none. As I was working upstream, I'd intentionally toss a few stones or step into the each of these areas I decided not to explore with a fly ... in an effort to move/spook fish. Not once did I move a fish. Sure, some could have fled to a holding lie without me seeing them, but I'd have seen them flee/move in most locations.


Posted on: 2013/4/1 16:22
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Re: Mountain Freestone/Brookie Streams in Early Spring

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2006/9/13 10:18
From LV
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If it's mostly brownies they are going to be real slugish if the temperatures are below 50°, and I'm betting if there's snow on the ground the water temperature is under 40°.
Brookies are more active in cold weather, though when the temps arebelow 40° brookies are sluggish too. What you found is pretty typical for early spring. Plus there have been quite a few cold fronts coming through so that's slowing fishing down too.

Posted on: 2013/4/1 17:12
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