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Western fishing trip to kill some time

Joined:
2013/7/30 17:16
From Fairborn, OH
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My trip to PA to fish for browns and brookies is a little over a month away and I have a lot of learning to do in that short amount of time. Admittedly, I’ve done very little brown trout fishing out here in the west, targeting mostly native cutthroats and stocked rainbows. Until yesterday, I had also never fish a spring creek, spending all of my time on freestones, rivers and stillwater. So, it was time to both practice working the browns and exploring a new water that I had never previously fished.

The creek I hit up is Panguitch Creek. It is the feeder run for Panguitch Lake, a large and very popular stillwater and seasonal ice fishing spot stocked with a variety of trout: brookies, rainbows, tigers, and cutthroats. The creek is also minimally stocked with rainbows, but looking at the stocking report, it appears that the browns are wild and never stocked. It runs for miles, with sections that meander along tree-dotted white cliffs that look right out of a storybook.

A view of the creek along the cliffs just before I hiked in:

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One of the many beautiful bends along Panguitch Creek:

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I found the fishing for browns on this slow spring creek to be MUCH tougher than fishing for cutthroats on faster-moving freestones further southwest. On the freestones, the fish have but a split second to decide to strike or not strike. They don't get a second chance and usually seem less picky as a result. The slow water of this spring creek gives the fish all day to look at your presentation and fly selection. The long, bottom growth plants that water break the surface were problematic when it came to creating a drag-free drift. They like to grab line at various points and distort the drift. As a relative newbie, that would probably explain why I only landed a couple of decent-sized fish and a few fingerlings. Regardless, it was a great time in some incredible country. Here are a couple of the larger fish I caught, the larger of the two measuring 11.25”:

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Fish on! (thanks to my ReplayXD for the perfectly snapped time lapse photo mode shots):

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While I didn’t land any giants, I did see what was hands-down the largest trout, of any kind, I have ever laid eyes on. I came around a bend a little too quickly and spooked what was conservatively a 24” fish. It took off like a torpedo and left a pretty amazing wake behind it as it fled downstream. I never saw it again the rest of the day. Looks like I have some unfinished business to take care of next time I’m at that spot in addition to trying to land some Clinton County browns.

Posted on: 2013/9/8 19:29


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Ferguson Twp.
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Nice looking creek ya got there. Remember, you must be velly velly quiet next time you go looking for your shy trout. seeing how you know about where he's hangin. Should make for an interesting fall.

Posted on: 2013/9/8 21:24
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Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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Thanks! Yeah, I don't know if these browns are pressured hard or browns are just like this, but they gotta be the spookiest fish I've ever pursued. That big one ran WAY before I ever got within 30 yards of him.

Posted on: 2013/9/8 22:20


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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The really good news here is that you were fishing a very low gradient spring creek. Note that not all spring creeks are low gradient and some will have plenty of riffles and faster moving water. The fact that you caught fish in this stream speaks highly of your future potential for success.


Cutthroats are to the west what brook trout are to the east. Easy.
Browns are certainly more discerning, however what you encountered on Panguitch is more reflective of the water than the fish. As you note, slow non-gradient water is generally tougher, however another major component of how discerning fish will be is the fertility of the stream. Most spring creeks are very fertile thus the fish are much less likely make an effort to consider your offering.

Frankly I would take this stream over anything in Potter County. The scenery is 100 times better and that stream looks amazing. I would be disappointed fishing Potter County after Panguitch. I will tell you that the browns in the east are much prettier than in the west.

Posted on: 2013/9/8 23:26


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Fairborn, OH
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jdaddy -

(Please bear with my lack of vocabulary on this stuff - I'm still pretty green in the fly fishing world)

When you say "very low gradient," I presume you're referring to the physical gradient of the land that results in this very slow current. If so, you are definitely spot on with that assessment. While the banks are surrounded by extremely steep and mountainous terrain, the water base at the bank itself is remarkably level. It makes for an easy hike if you discount the short, but tough climb down the steep rocks in and significantly more brutal ascent back out.

Also, you are also dead on when it comes to describing cutthroat fishing out here. The moving water in the mountains they inhabit is cold, fast, and provides much less feed to those fish. They are drastically less selective on what they will hit, and in areas that are more remote and infertile, you can put damned near any fly you choose on and reliably expect a hit, often in a second or less...literally. This is a video of a friend of mine spot casting to a mountain Boneville cutthroat. Note the time from fly hitting the water to the strike:

http://s1139.photobucket.com/user/lpl ... 2013_zpsa670eae2.mp4.html

As you described, Panguitch is a much more fertile creek: lots of plants and invertebrates, boatloads of muddlers and other small fish, much more plentiful insect hatches and water that is about 11 degrees warmer (63 vs. 52 degrees F) than the mountain creek in the video above. I spotted one brown and must have cast 5 or 6 different flies right by him before he finally took a size 20 trico that I failed to set the hook on. Talk about frustrating. That's way more selectivity than I'm used to with those cutts.

As for the water, don't discount what you have before you in Potter County. It's been a long time since I've seen Pennsylvania in the fall and I cannot wait to see it again. I miss it dearly. Also, for every one creek I get to fish out this way, you guys have 10. It's a 3.5 hour drive from my house to get to the fishable parts of this creek without traffic!

Lastly, the color of the browns out this way is drastically different than in other parts of the West (and pics of the ones I've seen from out east, for that matter). While the ones I caught on this trip were more pale and steely colored, the small ones I caught in Colorado had deep, chocolate colored backs and bright red spots on them and generally much prettier.

Posted on: 2013/9/9 1:23

Edited by Six-Gun on 2013/9/9 1:39:33


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
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Six-Gun,

We have high gradient and low gradient streams here too, and everything in between.

The differences in how they fish is far more important to the species. We say that brookies are easy, and browns are more persnickety, and it generally holds true. But really, that's because it's the brookies that TYPICALLY dominate in the smaller, higher gradient freestoners, and the browns that typically dominate in the larger, lower gradient, limestoners. The truth is that you do sometimes get browns in the small high gradient streams, and well, they act much more like brookies! We also have some slower limestoners with brookies, and they act, well, a little more like browns! There are still some differences, but the stream type seems more important than the species.

In addition to high gradient vs. low gradient, we have limestone vs. freestone. Water chemistry. And yes, though they are exceptions, we do have some higher gradient limestoners and lower gradient freestoners.

The reason I mention that is that the most famous limestoner in Clinton County is reasonably fast, not super slow like some of our other famous limestoners, and what may be sticking in your mind regarding PA. It's got good riffles and pools. The fish won't be super spooky like what you experienced here. They also won't have forever to inspect your fly. But they do have lots of food available, and that means they won't move real far for it. It also means that they have the luxury of feeding on "schedules". There are times when they just shut down, and others where things are going nuts.

The freestoners in Clinton County are generally pretty high gradient, some have brookies and some have browns. But they act like brookies, i.e. your cutthroats.

Posted on: 2013/9/9 11:59


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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2009/4/11 18:51
From State College
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pcray wrote
Quote:
The differences in how they fish is far more important to the species. We say that brookies are easy, and browns are more persnickety, and it generally holds true. But really, that's because it's the brookies that TYPICALLY dominate in the smaller, higher gradient freestoners, and the browns that typically dominate in the larger, lower gradient, limestoners. The truth is that you do sometimes get browns in the small high gradient streams, and well, they act much more like brookies! We also have some slower limestoners with brookies, and they act, well, a little more like browns! There are still some differences, but the stream type seems more important than the species.



Couldn't agree more the environment is more important than species type IMO

Posted on: 2013/9/9 12:20
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Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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2013/7/30 17:16
From Fairborn, OH
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Reading the replies here and around the net, it sure appears that the food availability is really a driving force in fish behavior.

As an aside, I need to ask: how do you outwardly identify a limestoner vs. the other types of creeks? Can you visually identify them or do you need to know the relative pH?

Posted on: 2013/9/9 21:27


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Lancaster County
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Limestoners will often have a chalky look to them, from the finely suspended fine clay minerals that weather out of bedrock. They'll often have different types of vegetation in them, compared to freestoners, which generally just have vegetation around them. pH is probably not what you meant but rather alkalinity. Temps - if they stay near the average annual temperature, you have a good indication it might be a limestoner.

Posted on: 2013/9/9 21:33


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Fairborn, OH
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Thanks, salmonoid. That's exactly what I was after. I was actually referring to alkalinity as it pertains to pH of the water versus, say a regular freestone, but what you wrote here spells it out nicely. It sounds like I'm looking for plants in the bottom of the water and some mild discoloration/cloudiness in what would otherwise look line a freestone creek. Sound about right? Better yet, do you know of a good example of a limestone creek I can google for pics?

Posted on: 2013/9/9 21:47

Edited by Six-Gun on 2013/9/9 22:13:09
Edited by Six-Gun on 2013/9/9 22:13:28


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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It's hard to point you to one picture and say that's an example of a limestone creek. There are pure limestone creeks, flowing from limestone itself and I would say they would be the most inclined to be somewhat chalky and fully of vegetation, like water cress. Then, there are limestone influenced creeks, which may flow through areas that have thin beds of limestone in the bedrock. And there may be streams that have isolated pockets of calcareous shale or sandstone, where the calcareous cement dissolves over time and adds a bit of dissolved lime to the water.

Letort is entirely different in view than say Big Fishing Creek; both I would consider limestoners, although BFC has a freestone look to it.

Other clues - lots of bug life and especially in PA, look for limestone quarries nearby

Here is a thread from a few years ago that discusses free vs. lime:


Posted on: 2013/9/9 22:40


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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Ah, excellent. Thanks for the link!

Posted on: 2013/9/9 22:51


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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That link is a blast from the past!

In my mind, limestone spring creeks are defined as those spring creeks that burst from the earth and have heavy concentrations of limestone (ie calcium) and high alkalinity. PA (particularly S Central PA) is full of it. Limestone is soft and easily influenced by underground erosion of springs to bring it to the surface. In the UK the most similar to the S Central PA streams are referred to as "chalk streams".

The interesting thing that arises is when you talk about limestone spring creeks of S Central PA versus say the Lehigh Valley. There are streams in the LV that are certainly spring creeks, certainly have the alkalinity of lets say Letort Run however they look nothing like those S Central PA streams.

Why?

The water characteristics (chemistry) are identical.

I have asked a lot of very knowledgeable folks about this and the only answer that I can derive is the gradience of the streams. Letort is slow and meandering with very, very little gradience which creates huge amounts of vegetation versus say a Spring Creek in Centere County or say a Little Lehigh in whatever county it is located in.

Salmonoid compares Letort and BFC as both limestoners. Letort is not a limestoner. Penns Creek is a limestoner. Limestoners are limestone influenced streams versus limestone spring creeks which are pure (not influenced).

Regardless, the vegetation and classic "limestone spring creek" is a function of gradience imo. This is why tailwaters, both in the east and specifically in the west (you have mentioned the Mo before) are very similar to the limestone spring creeks of PA.

Posted on: 2013/9/10 1:48


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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From Eastern PA
Posts: 10301
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Quote:

As for the water, don't discount what you have before you in Potter County. It's been a long time since I've seen Pennsylvania in the fall and I cannot wait to see it again. I miss it dearly. Also, for every one creek I get to fish out this way, you guys have 10. It's a 3.5 hour drive from my house to get to the fishable parts of this creek without traffic!

Lastly, the color of the browns out this way is drastically different than in other parts of the West (and pics of the ones I've seen from out east, for that matter). While the ones I caught on this trip were more pale and steely colored, the small ones I caught in Colorado had deep, chocolate colored backs and bright red spots on them and generally much prettier.


Hey Potter County is 3.5 hour drive from any reasonably populated section of the state, plus you have to drive past so many much better streams. It's the fly fishing arm pit of PA, unless you are damned to live there or happen to be visiting. In which case make the best of it (and drive up to the finger lakes, lol).

My observation of the browns is what I have ran across in 3 western states, excluding CO (which I have not fished). Browns in MT, WY, ID are not as pretty as PA fish but then again there are a lot more and a lot bigger (on average) out there.

Last, I refuse to hear you complain any more until you head down to Laughlin and get into some of those 20" bows that are running around scared of those HUGE stripers! (Seriously, my wife and I are currently fighting over where we are going to make offers on a secondary which will become our primary in the future. She is voting Laughlin area while I am leaning toward GVR). Then again properties right in town have become so cheap and are starting to rebound. Oh hell, send me a PM so people don't have to entertain my vacation prospects.

Posted on: 2013/9/10 2:21


Re: Western fishing trip to kill some time

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Keep in mind alkalinity and pH are not the same thing. Alkalinity can be looked at as the resistance to change of the pH. For instance, 2 streams can have the exact same pH. But if you add the same amount of acid to each, the one with lower alkalinity drops it's pH quite considerably, while in a high alkalinity stream, the pH isn't affected much. "Buffering".

It only works for streams designated as class A. But when you look at the class A list (in list form, rather than map form), it lists alkalinity.

http://fishandboat.com/classa.pdf

Last column = T_alk.

Freestoners range from the single digits (most infertile streams) to up to about 50ish for your larger, more fertile freestoners. An absolutely "pure" limestoner is pretty much > about 170 up to 210 or so. And there are a lot in the 70-170 range that would be described as "limestone influenced", meaning a mix of both. We generally call these limestoners as well.

Of course, if it's not class A, it can still fish very well, and you have to go by other clues. None of which are foolproof, but rather generalities. Both come from springs, but limestoners generally have much larger springs. Limestoners generally have more weeds, and if you can identify weeds, different types of them. Freestoners can get crystal clear, but limestoners generally always retain a bit of a "milky" look. Limestoners generally start in low points in very wide valleys, while freestoners generally start as rivlets on mountainsides, flow into narrow (V shaped) valleys, and eventually to the larger, wider valleys. I don't recommend it, but if you taste the water, limestoners have a bitter taste, like mineral water.

Small freestoners are generally cold, but there's a pretty good correlation between temperature and size, as the size increases, so do temps. Limestoners buck that trend and are all over the map, you can have large rivers that stay cold and medium sized ones that get warm. The reason is that all springs come out at the same temp. But freestoners gradually grow at a rather consistent and predictable rate. Limestoners can emerge as full blown rivers, cold from the spring. But like any other, the longer they are on the surface the more they warm. Of course, they sometimes throw you a curve ball by sinking and re-emerging, once again cooled!

Posted on: 2013/9/10 8:22



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