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Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
Posts: 1210
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I just wanted to express a few thoughts before we begin:

I just wanted to say the Letort is a teacher. You fight that stream not the fish and it has a life of its own. Stupid Trout......Impossible Stream. People are intrigued by these streams because of their extremely unique complex ecosystems and hard approach situations. I'm giving a few ways I have approached fish but not on the Letort. The Letort will always be a never land conundrums in the middle of a caring community. That stream is so special in so many ways, I admit its one that is harder to talk about. Not because of fishing pressure. No. Because it is YOUR right of passage and YOUR journey. I have learned life lessons thinking on that stream. I swear its given me a feeling saying: “Ok you caught your last fish. Might as well leave because I'm closing the gates for you. Your card has been revoked!” She always means it, I never get another fish if I stay. Its happened the last 15 or so trips and I started listening after about 10. I leave, go somewhere else and catch more fish. That stream is your journey to explore and its personal in every way. I hope it is kind to you as its been at times to me. My only advice for new Letort anglers is, don't fall in a sink hole! All that said, the one lesson Ill share with you, is in the way the Letort is the ultimate uncontrollable cess pool of problems. Its the one thing in the world that you really have no real control over. If you do gain control, its short...your lucky and move on. In this life, you just cant control everything. You can fight it and fight it and beat yourself up. Some times in life you need to throw your arms up, say “ **** it” and go with the flow. No matter what problems you have. Every time I finally just let myself go and gave into her completely, she always shows me something a little special.

She is beautiful in that way.
Thank you.

The tips I have shared in this 3 post series do work. That is to say they can work. Once you get passed and finally learn the next lesson I'm going to share, is when you really start to become confident on them. Remember though, its a journey and its personal. You can get all the advice and tips you want and it might not help. Spring Creeks are teachers. You observe, listen and feel a story. It could be the smallest thing you hardly even notice to something so blatantly obvious, these streams are trying to show you something. Cracking a code goes beyond a simple list. This is where fly-fishing has taken me into a place only describable by infinity. There are constants and there are variables. Things you can and cannot control. It is not until you go by yourself, armed with questions and wonderment, that you start to get YOUR answers. Spring Creeks are an acquired taste and not for everyone, as Dave said to me. He is right. I think that's because to break their codes they sometimes ask you to look around, or listen but they always require you to look within. Especially on the Letort. In the book Limestone Legends Alfred W. Miller was quoted as saying, “Those Pennsylvania Boys. They are breaking new ground, and if they do not raise a fine crop of new advances and increased knowledge, I shall be much mistaken.”

The shadows and visions of Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro have not past yet Sparse.
Some of us, well we are still trying.

The Dark Reality of it All

Now, we discussed picking your battles.We touched on intelligence and conditioning. I mentioned before that these trout have a biological make up that has the job of 3 things. Procreate, Eat, and Hide. That is it. While the trouts bedroom business can help us catch trout, but lets not go there, the fact it eats does. That is what we have been trying to do all this time right? Fool a spring creek trout into eating? Freestone watersheds in Pennsylvania are different in the fact that many are infertile. A meal is few and far between. In limestone springs, food source is abundant. Trout grow to enormous lengths and fatten up very nicely. They eat, do it regularly and they will do it again. As the trout in these streams grow, their caloric demand increases and they eat even more. Conditioning them even more.

Find the real big fish. Just find him. Mark him and comeback. This is the largest fish hence he eats and eats a lot, but catch him how you ask? Is that really and issue?

Trout are stupid! Dave is right! Trout are stupid people!
These fish have been written about, studied and discussed more times than they have been caught! Heck, they have me writing photo essays on them! Are you kidding me?! I have seen trout eat cigarette butts, clumps of algae and bare hooks. These streams changed the entire culture and technique of modern day fly-fishing? They are just some dang fish! They have the IQ of like 2 and we have to plan how to fool them? People ask me all the time about how to catch spring creek trout. I got news for you, you are the dang predator! You tell me! Jesus you think that herons worry about if they are going to catch a fish or not? NO! There is no fail. There is only survive and eat and your worried about catching a fish?! Your at the dang top of the food chain! Its a fishhhhhhhhhhh!

See its hard because you think your limited by regulations and tools like C&R Fly-fishing Only Regs & graphite or bamboo rods with flies and yes, you are. We cant go spearing fish or snagging. Its not sporting and its not fair. You don't have to think of it as limited, though and perception of every situation is key. Your never limited because you are human and your at the top of the food chain! Stop it already! Its a fish! Fishing is a blood sport. We are king! We could shoot the heron and trout for that matter if we really wanted too. We are king on the streams and don't forget that, even the herons know it, as they fly away.

The dark reality of it all is we are the predator, a savage, barbaric and unforgiving species and unfortunately all we do is whine. If we ever got past our humanity, the world would be a dark place.

Lord knows I'm not proud of this last code and forgive me.

Breaking a Trout

I showed you in vol 1 how to plan an attack and approach a hole. I attempted to show you in vol 2 that finesse can be applied to catch these fish.

Now I show you how to will it.

This one time while fishing a local hunting clubs freestone stream when I was 10 or so, I learned a code for these streams. I didn't even realize it at the time. This amazingly large trout was in water that didn't even cover its back. When I came walking up the path and crested the bank, I saw it and it saw me. That fish ran upstream under a deep under cut. I stood there for hours, completely enamored by the size of the trout I saw. Jiggling my worm in front of his “cave”. At the time I thought maybe I just angered the fish into biting, but that fish came charging at least 10 feet to destroy my worm. I was young and didn't fully grasp what happened, but I caught the fish. It was so large it broke my 6 pound test while on shore. I creeled the fish. It was a stocker brookie and was amazingly colored. That fish measured 24 inches long and was around 13 inches in girth. It was a beast and to this day, the largest brook trout (stocked or wild) I have ever caught. That fish left an impression in my mind that can never be erased. That fish was angry, it was my Devil Trout.

Its true. It was my Devil Trout. That trout was big and no doubt was conditioned to eat. I have seen Herons, stalk and stalk, but the heron has one advantage you do not. Time. They have no job, no lawn to mow, no bills to pay and no wife and kids at home. This predator can wait. Herons eat large amounts of fish in one day. Mostly by sneaking up on them but sometimes they return several times to one spot in one day. They are hunters in every sense. I've even seen herons move for large trout once they know the fish sees them.

I was fishing Falling Spring once when this happened. This Heron was hunting fish and saw a decent trout. When that trout saw the heron, the wake went downstream and that bird flew following it. That Heron backed that trout into a section of stream with limited vegetation and habitat. Once that fish was exposed in shallow water, it had no chance.

In angling, one short term aspect of it is called the long wait. This is when you have spooked the fish and you are letting him adjust and feel comfortable again. Maybe even letting them get used to your presence. Ya it works and that is a nice thought. It does happen.

My version of it is to mark the spot in my mind that the fish was located. Return to his feeding lie many times throughout the day and try to stealth my way into his hole and catch him while he is comfortable.

However, there is one approach that is far different. One dark, twisted and insane approach.

There has been much debate about how long a trout will stay “spooked” and not feed. I have determined through my experiments that they do not stay spooked for long and will continue feeding rather rapidly once the disturbance has past. However, the greater the disturbance, the longer trout stay spooked. What would happen if a trout, had constant disturbance? Would they never eat again and die? I highly doubted that and decided to do a test.

Again find the biggest fish and corner him. He sees you, yes, let him. In fact scare him. Harass the fish. Comeback in intervals. Change the time at which you comeback to the fish. Fish for him for hours on end for long stretches. Follow him when he moves up or down stream. Make sure he knows your casting to him sometimes. Play with its mind, its a stupid fish. Never let the fish leave your sight except to let him feel comfortable for only moment. Strike "pure fear" into the fish. Let it "know" its being hunted and let it think its going to die. I even encourage the use of yelling and calling the fish names.

You see this is how you become the heron. I not only learned that day observing the heron that I am the predator but that trout, as prey, are limited by their habitat. They can only swim so far being confined to a watery road. You have traveled to this place and you have 2 days to fish. This is one of the most legendary areas in fly-fishing history, where and what else do you have to do? In the beginning the trout will run, hide, drift down stream from you. Follow him at times and sometimes stay back just a little. Watch him do this for hours on end. Some fish this does not work on and they will not re-take their feeding lies or they even find a good place to hide. These fish will not fall for this trick. I have found this approach does not work on Letort fish because Letort habitat is too good, so to say. Letort browns will run downstream and find a deep undercut in cress in 4 foot thick silt. While I'm sure its possible in any other circumstance, you cannot break a Letort Brown. She, the Letort, will not let you.

Because these trout have been conditioned in every aspect of their daily lives, they fall into tendencies. They like particular lies and places to feed. They feel comfortable here and I'm exploiting that comfort.

Day 1 will be ugly. The fish will move around, swim fast and get lock jaw. You will throw flies and have them all rejected. You will be hungry, tired and sore. It is as unpleasant for you as it is for the fish.
Sometimes you can hook them on day one but it is less likely. Harass the fish from morning to night.

Day 2 arrive at the stream just before sun up and the very second you can see, enter the stream and continue. Eventually biological need and conditioning of the fish forces it to eat. Even though you are standing over top of him and he can see the whites of your eyes, though he knows you are there for only him, he has to eat and he will start too. It takes awhile and at first, your not sure, but then you will notice him subtly picking off small morsels because he is afraid to eat anything big, in fear it is a fly. You can even see the large white mouth open and eat. If this has not happened by end of day 2, and it should, repeat the next day.

Now this fish is yours.

Lets look at it to the far extreme also. I would be willing to bet that if you harass and wait out the fish even longer, lets say 2 weeks, the fish will eventually be conditioned to your presence. After all the yelling, jumping and harassing the fish, I bet it would be used to the constant disturbance and would no longer be spooked by you.

Don't sound so shocked or appalled by the idea. Almost every single one of us has done this too a fish. Ever go out first day and surround a hole full of trout you can see with 50 other guys? You don't think those fish know you are there? Ever take your kids to a trout rodeo?

You have spent all this money on equipment and flies. You have spent a good portion of your life drifting flies and eventually, you will get a good drift on a small fly. Its only a matter of time. This is fishing for trout past the point of spooking. We have all harassed and spooked trout and yet caught them. Spooked fish do and will eat because they have to eat. It is my belief that 80% or so of the trout you catch in spring creeks knew you were there anyways. You can be stealthy and break down holes and situations, but it really doesn't matter. Those fish not only saw you 40 yards away, its likely they saw you leaving you house before you got there. How far are you willing to go to catch a fish? Are you willing to break a trout? Make it your *itch? You can. Anything is possible on these streams.

This is why I have seen more beginner fly-fisherman land gigantic trout out of these streams that I have caught. I like to fish for sport and once I spook the fish I move on. People get strange around large fish, especially trout. A beginner will get fixed on the “biggest trout they have ever seen” and fish for it past the point of being ridiculous. This is why so many, once a year fisherman, land nice stockies on first day. They stand over top of them and wait them out. They have to eat. They need food like every other living organism.

So you ask how do I catch spring creek trout. Well I showed you in these 3 posts. I pick a battle, then try to crack the code to the hole, then I try to finesse the fish. If none of these approaches work, well then I return a few times that day to the best fish and I try to get lucky. I can tell you this much, you never catch those fish or have that spring creek experience if you continue to hold those trout to such high esteem. YOU ARE THE PREDATOR!

It was once said that there is more BS in fly-fishing than a texas feedlot and I agree with that sediment. The difference is I embrace it. Its the lore and mystery that make it fun and unusual. Fly-fishing is a thinking mans game and a game for unusual people. Here I am, a dad first and a modern day trout bum. I think about it, I read about it and when I have time, I fish. We are a strange lot, chewing tobacco, drinking beer or enjoying a good pipe, we are sportsman. Yet I shop at AC Moore and enjoy doing it. It is the parody that makes this sport wonderful. Its spirited, its funny and sarcastic.

Its a fish and your the predator.
Why do we make it so hard?
Because that BS............................well it smells much better.

Posted on: 2012/1/11 0:24

Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2012/1/11 0:40:47
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Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2012/1/11 1:04:56

Re: Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2009/8/12 11:55
From chester county
Posts: 53
Thank you. This post is like taking the bits and pieces of truth I've slowly realized as a beginning flyfisherman and putting them together in a way that could've taken me years to connect on my own. Your ideas don't fit traditional beliefs about how one should flyfish (and I fear that will upset some people) but they hold a lot of truth. It's important to keep things in perspective like this- we spend all this time and money but in the end they're just stupid fish. This is the kind of post that makes me question what our sport is really about. I may be the type of person who sets numbers of fish as goals every year, but for me it's the overall experience that justifies the cost. Ultimately, the satisfaction of fooling these stupid creatures is a small factor in enjoying the experience.

Having the mindset you described is exactly what helped me catch my first two trout of the year, although I waited 15 minutes for each fish instead of two days (they were only 8").

Posted on: 2012/1/11 9:56
PA stream miles fished: 69.0
Miles of stream in PA: Roughly 40,000
Percent Complete: 0.173%

Re: Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2008/8/24 20:26
From Mount Joy, PA
Posts: 178
Holy edits Batman! You should have prepped it in Word

Good stuff as always!

And PSU, I agree with your assessment that fooling the fish is only part of the experience. At least for me it is. Being out in nature, away from reality and thinking through a process is what it's about. Catching a fish is, has, and always will be a "bonus". Some days the fish wins, some days I win. But in the end it's cerebral exercise much in the same way I conduct physical exercise.

Posted on: 2012/1/11 9:57

Re: Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2011/3/2 13:43
From Gamehendge
Posts: 9
Awesome!! Really put things into prespective.

Posted on: 2012/1/11 15:40
_________________ American made packs and bags.
'Gear for the road less traveled'

Re: Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2009/11/16 19:34
From Nazareth PA
Posts: 50
Thank you sal.

Posted on: 2012/1/11 16:56

" It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming"...John Steinbeck

Re: Approaching a Spring Creek Vol.3 - The Dark Reality

2011/5/6 17:55
From Harrisburg
Posts: 18
Edits aside, I think that you have a natural gift for the written word. You should consider writing your ideas in a published format (this coming from an author/illustrator). A book, article series, e-book in this same folksy tone would be wonderful!

Posted on: 2012/1/11 23:10

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