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Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
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There are a few things in this world more beautiful that watching the sunrise over a spring creek IMO. Just a few, but not many. My pursuit of these streams, my success and my failures have led me to a passion in fly fishing that is only describable with infinity. What in this sport of ours fuels your drive? Its a personal question and my answer is limestone springs, if that is your fuel also.....then you should enjoy these series of posts.

These streams are unique in so many ways. We have all heard about them, some are famous and some are not. We have all heard how difficult they are, but why? Why is it time and time again, the subject of a difficult fishing, coupled with impossible to catch fish comes up? People will give you advice, what flies to use, stay low, don't wade, move slow, pay attention to your surroundings etc, etc, etc. The truth is that every fish, hole or weed bed and each run is unique. Every single situation is different. Every single last situation. There are no absolutes. Sometimes you need to wade. Sometimes choice of flies does not matter. Sometimes you don't need to stay low. Then why do some people have success and others do not?

I could answer these questions with experience, stealth, superior observational skills, excellent casting or what ever answer. IMO the real answer is knowing what fights you can win and analyzing the situation before trying to win the battle.

Picking your battles is one of the hardest things for the experienced and skilled angler to learn and accept. Lets face it, on a limestone spring there are plenty of wild fish in gin clear water. Almost all the time there are fish you didn't see because they are holding where you didn't even expect them. They can be in slow moving ankle deep water with no cover. You wont even see all the fish. Accept it. You are going to spook fish and you are not going to catch them all. It sounds ridiculous that I even have to say this but there is a point.

Then why on these streams do anglers constantly pick losing battles? Each and everything you do has a strength and a weakness. Play to your strength. How? Well I will start showing you with pictures, discussion and diagrams through out these series of posts. I hope you enjoy. Remember........pick your battles.


Situation 1: Controlling your wake

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Here is the place we will be dealing with. It looks harmless enough, but let me tell you it is riddled with problems. I approached this hole about a month or so ago to see what I could scare up. The back of the pool is filthy with small wild trout, the head of the pool has 4 big fish. It looks something like this:

Dia1
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Red are the big fish, yellow are the small ones. I'm picking the battle of the big fish over the little fish. This changes the tactics of fishing this area tremendously.

Originally a month or so ago I approached this hole going downstream just to see what I could scare up. (Scouting a spring creek for future trips might be another post at a later date) The little fish flew downstream, spooking the big fish down to the bottom of the pool.

The next trip I tried what every single other angler would try. Come going upstream behind the fish. No wrong idea. All the little fish I didn't notice last time flew upstream spooking the big fish. Besides, you have to move so slow not to wake the water, a snail would cause waves.

Well don't get in the water duh! Well that sounds easy and would be sound advice. Lord knows I hate wading spring creeks and it can be dangerous. The fish are too far away from this side of the stream not to wade however. I would hate to cross the creek just to fish one hole because I personally like fishing most this stretch from this side......I thought all of these thoughts for about 1 week before I returned.

When I returned to this place just last Monday. Sitting on the edge of the stream I could see the big fish moving around at the head of the pool. What am I going to do? Then it hit me.

Dia2
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The pink line represents an old restoration that was done to this creek. This is a series of rocks that extend out about 3/4 the width of the creek and they sit just below the water. Cress, sticks and other debris is what you can really see. This creates a few things good for me in this situation.

The rocks will give me a place to not sink in the silt. The rocks cress, debris and grass will also control my wake from not disturbing the big fish. Basically all I have to do is stay low, move slow and I am going to get really close to them. If I do spook fish, it will be all the little yellow dots at the head of the pool (they will go upstream) and the little yellow dots at the end of the pool (only this time they will be running away from my target area.)

Dia3
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Notice how as I approach I am keeping the rocks, cress and debris to my left between me and my target fish. The little fish represented by the little yellow dots will move downstream as I approach. I want to stand right about where the 4th dot from left to right is sitting. This will put me slightly to the side and behind the bigger trout (red dots).

Now at first I threw a heavy sculpin at these fish and they would chase and dart at it but that is all. After another cast with the same result, I did the crazy thing. I walked back to the stream bank very slow. See these fish will quickly notice something is wrong if I keep throwing that fly at them. The more a trout sees a fly in this stream and the more times you don't present it properly will surely lead to failure. I tied on a cress bug and red midge larva. I smoked a cigarette, took a shot of whiskey and waited. About 15 minutes later I returned.

In doing this, I was able to land one of the largest wild rainbow trouts of my life two drifts later. I would have taken a pic but the fish just would not allow it. Far to big and powerful and just wouldn't co-operate.

After releasing the fish. I got a little closer and took a pic.

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Do you see what I see? I was able to instantly lead the fish downstream upon hook set and left the two fish at the head of the pool unspooked. Which I promptly spooked the fish with my very first cast. Win some lose some. That's fishing a spring creek.

I'm sure there are other ways to approach this area of stream. This is just what I came up with. Discuss. I'm returning to this area Saturday morning this week. Hope I can get one of the other fish

I plan on doing these in a series and hope you enjoyed the first installment.

Good Luck!

Edit: I know I didnt have the red dots on the fish exactly. Its just a situational diagram

Posted on: 2012/1/5 1:07

Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2012/1/5 1:22:50
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Nice walk through Sal. Thanks for the info. I have begun to fall in love with those streams. Wish they were not so far away.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 1:20
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2010/6/23 12:43
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That was a really neat explanation of the situation. I enjoyed thinking my way through it with you.
I think you should feel good about having fooled them and you'll be a better fisherman, and approach new areas with a better "look". Wish I had that kind of water available at a reasonable distance.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 6:41


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2011/5/3 12:22
From South Lebanon Township, PA
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Cool post Sal. You can tell you were really on your game by that third trip and your brain was putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together that you learned from the first two. Great read. I don't fish spring creeks too often, but the same general ideas here can be applied to freestoners too...sometimes it's not necessarily the cast, drift, or fly that catches the fish, but the thought that went into it all. As you become familiar with a stream your brain starts to see all kinds of new angles and ideas on how to approach a situation...one of my favorite parts of fly fishing. Very much looking forward to the next installment.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 8:36


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2007/5/29 14:32
From SE PA - Montgomery County
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Nice strategic approach. That is the key to success for sure. Having patience and planning every move like an Army General is how you win battles. Most people will just plop themselves in the water and blind cast and wonder why they have little or no success. This is what makes it challenging and fun even when it takes several trips to the same spot to land one fish.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 8:42


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2009/11/16 19:34
From Nazareth PA
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Nice lesson Sal. I can't wait for your next class.
This is why I really like to fly fish, it is a thinking mans game. You have explained it well.
Thanks,
Bill

Posted on: 2012/1/5 9:44
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2011/7/6 12:30
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Thanks Sal. I've given up on trying to ask advice on these streams. I find that I'd rather just fish with you on these streams and learn by observing haha!


Posted on: 2012/1/5 10:55


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2009/6/10 22:20
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Sal, Excellent post , I know that spot I think and have had a big rainbow or two myself, 1 was on a Sculpin the other on a scud :)

Posted on: 2012/1/5 11:08


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Another excellent photo essay/classroom, Sal. Congrats on solving that puzzle. Therein lies the reason I have chosen fishing with a fly. While it's still just fishing, there is an entire esoteric underlining theme that really makes it special. Catching the intended target pins the info to your brain for your future use (and ours). Thanks.

peace-tony c.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 11:26
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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2006/10/18 15:46
From Patterson twp, Pa (Beaver Falls)
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You are quite lucky to have the time to scout a stream twice before fishing it. I can barely get out fishing 3 times lol.

Nice write up btw. It's neat how our fly fishing goes well beyond casting a fly selection the longer we're in the sport. Most people probably go through the progression you wrote about but don't think to write it out or really converse about it. Thanks for a second into the mind of Sal. Though it's scary in there, there is some good stuff to be shared.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 13:43
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Very cool, a lot of good information there that I'm gunna try to put to use in the near future.

Posted on: 2012/1/5 16:38
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Great post Sal. Love your photo essays and it was very informative and fun to think about.

The following is TIC, because I just can't resist. How I would have approached the situation:

1. From the left side. Hope to catch all the little guys and put em behind me so as not to spook the big fish. After all, there's only 5 of them behind the big fish, how hard can this be?
2. Catch 2 of the little guys, then screw up and spook the rest, which in turn spooks the big fish.
3. Claim I don't care about size, I'm a numbers guy, and I caught 2 to your 1 in the pool. Claim superiority in fishing prowess.
4. Go fish somewhere else. After all, the only catchable fish in this stream are little. If I'm gonna catch little fish, I can catch a lot more somewhere else a lot easier.
5. Some future date, after a big rain and when conditions are high and muddy, return to this stream armed with big streamers. Catch big fish more easily. Claim I care about size rather than numbers. Again, claim superiority in fishing prowess, and spout something or other about knowing when to fish where is 99% of being a good fisherman.

:)

Posted on: 2012/1/5 16:54

Edited by pcray1231 on 2012/1/5 17:21:11


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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I'm glad you guys enjoyed the post. More to come!

pcray,

That was awesome. I really enjoyed that

Posted on: 2012/1/5 22:53
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Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Seriously, its reading stuff like this that makes me think I'll NEVER be a great fly fisherman. I don't think I would ever get to the poing where I'm reading water like this.

Posted on: 2012/1/6 8:51


Re: Approaching A Spring Creek Volume 1: Picking your battles and controlling your wake

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Sas, the great thing about fishing is you don't HAVE to be able to read the water like Sal did. However, as more years pass and new info is collected (as in Sal's essays), you will begin to apply that knowledge without even thinking. It happens slowly at first, but soon you will be able to read the water as well, if not better, than Sal
Though it must be said that while I've been at this sport for 20+ years, I am still not even close to Sal's (or many others here) level. Many times I will study the water to find the best approach, then throw it all to the wind and try to catch the nearest fish Other times I'll contemplate the possible lies where fish may be hiding, walk around to the other bank, contemplate some more, retie my leader, select the perfect (assumed, of course) fly, and on the first cast spook the whole pool

peace-tony c.

Posted on: 2012/1/6 10:05
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