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The Small Warm Water Stream Summer Game

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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 06/25/2018 (1206 reads)
Mid summer into mid autumn is prime time for small stream, warm water fly fishing. While this summer has, so far, been unseasonably wet and cool here in southcentral Pennsylvania, mid-June has traditionally been the time I start to look to local creeks for bass and panfish. The main game are smallmouth bass, rock bass, and red-breast sunfish. Many of these creeks also have largemouth bass, carp, fallfish, green sunfish, bluegills, hatchery trout, crappies, even pickerel and walleyes. However, red-breasts, rockies, and smallies are prevalent in most of the creeks I fish, with red-breasts ruling the roost. Green sunfish are equally widespread and sometimes are present in numbers best described as swarms, but they’re generally too small to target.

Redbreast


Many fly fishers, if they’re not focused entirely on trout fishing, look forward to the summer bass fishing season. Wading or boating the Susquehanna or other bigger waters is indeed a great experience, but many of these anglers overlook the little local creeks close to home. While the rivers are a motivating place to fish in summer, if you don’t live near one, or otherwise are waiting for levels to drop and clear, something that can take several days after small streams have cleared, don’t overlook warm water creeks close to home. Most of these streams I frequent are typically twenty to fifty feet wide and comparable to what I’d consider medium sized trout creeks that one would fish with a 4WT.

Many of these streams are downstream sections of Approved Trout Waters. Agricultural valley streams can be productive too. Some are tributaries of bigger rivers and may play a role in bass spawning in springtime. One thing to note about access: land owners whose properties these creeks traverse, are often less familiar with anglers on their property as landowners who have trout waters on their property. Nevertheless, I have found that, if you ask nicely, you are likely to get permission. In my experience, streams with some gradient and traditional riffle to pool structure fish better than slow-moving waterways, which are often soft bottomed and tough to wade. These streams with current also hold more and bigger fish, especially red-breast sunfish.

This is simple fishing. For gear, I usually wet wade these creeks as they often fish well at mid-day during the summer. I recommend long wading pants rather than shorts as these streams often have dense vegetation along their banks and lack trails due to lack of fishing pressure. Spare your legs and wear pants or waders. I usually use a 7WT fly rod but trout gear is fine and sometimes I’ll use one of my tiny, five-foot brookie rods. Normally I like bigger sticks since I’m roll casting big flies and big strike indicators. Basic poppers and nymphs cover most bases. Plain old Wooly Buggers or Clouser Crayfish are deadly too. No need to go fine on the tippet. I almost never go lighter than 10lb test line and often use 12-14lb test. Stronger tippets will allow you to rip flies out of vegetation.

These streams often hold very dense fish populations, although not typically large ones. One of my favorite local creeks that I’ve fished for decades has produced countless smallies for me, but the biggest I’ve ever caught there was fifteen inches. Creeks are a numbers game with respect to bass. Sometimes a big smallie, or even a largemouth, will show up, but these are rare. While smallies are the main bassin game, there is another favorite creek of mine that, for some reason, has far more largemouths. Rock bass are often present too. Look for rockies around woody cover in the slower, deeper pools. Smallies and red-breasts are more likely to be in the main channel under current where chunk rock is present. In my experience, rock bass are less likely to rise to poppers and are much more susceptible to being caught on nymphs and streamers. Ditto with red-breast sunfish. You’ll get plenty on top, but if you’re mainly after these panfish you will probably get a lot more of them subsurface. Sometimes I’ll fish upstream with a popper and catch bass. On the way back downstream, I’ll fish subsurface with a buggy nymph or small crayfish pattern and slay the sunnies and rockies. Oftentimes, you will find a particular big rock or log that always seems to hold fish and you can pull multiple fish out from around or under it. Such hotspots usually remain productive year after year.

I’m convinced that the fish in these creeks are seasonal transients. This varies and I know some creeks where bass winter over. However, in most of the creeks I fish, the bass and sunnies usually migrate out in autumn, sometime around first frost. By this time, it’s time to go elsewhere and I switch to the big rivers or trout fishing. In the springtime, usually by late May or early June, the bass and panfish return to the creeks. Prime time is July to September. Some years with low flow conditions in springtime, such as 2016, I seem to find fewer bass and panfish in these creeks in summer. Better flows seem to pull more fish up into these creeks. I have found small bass and sunfish in the tiniest of creeks, some just a foot or two wide that dry up in warm years. These creeks aren’t worth fishing, but it is testimony to how far up into the watershed these fish can migrate.

Don’t overlook small streams in summer for easy going fly fishing. You can catch dozens of hard fighting fish in an afternoon and often some decent sized bass in the eight to twelve inch range. Many of these creeks rarely see an angler – maybe some kids with inner tubes and fishin poles. If you have a kid or a dog, bring them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a creek filled with scrappy bass and red-breast sunfish - a great way to spend a hot, lazy summer day.

You can see more of Dave Weaver's great artwork at www.rodandbrush.com

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Published by Joe Dziedzina [Dizzy] on 05/15/2018 (19197 reads)
The Sulphurs are here!
With the best hatch of the season fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful for some of the “Newbie’s” to post a few words on the Sulphur Hatch to get them off to a flying start this month… so if anyone has anything to add in the way of tips, tricks, details, etc. PLEASE feel free to chime in!

The months of May and June here in southeastern PA bring forth the greatest event of the fly-fishing season… the SULPHUR HATCH. These yellowish mayflies are actually made up of three (3) different mayfly species; Ephemerella rotunda, E. invaria, and E. dorothea. Most streams in SEPA hold all three (3) species which can be good AND bad. It’s good because it extends the sulphur hatch from 1st/2nd week of May through much of June (most seasons)… and it’s bad because there are subtleties that the fish notice and key on (sometimes) and if the angler does not adjust, he (or she) could be in for a long evening. The good news though, is that the “bad” is well within your control.

First a quick overview of the three (3) players, in order of emergence;
Ephemerella rotunda: Duns have a medium yellow body color with slight “olive cast” to them… the largest of the three by a hair, could be as large as a size 12 hook size, but a size 14 will do (a true “tweener”)… often hatch out of very swift water (just below riffles)… hatching usually begins around Mother’s Day and lasts 2-3 weeks… hatch most often in late afternoons (4-6 pm)

Ephemerella invaria: Duns have a yellowish/orange body color … best imitated with a size 14 hook… often hatch out of slightly slower flows than rotunda’s… hatching usually begins around 3rd week in May peaking around Memorial Day (slowing down in June)… hatch most often in early evenings (6-7 pm)

Ephemerella dorothea: Duns have a pale yellow body color … best imitated with a size 16 hook (sometimes 18)… often hatch out of slower pools… hatching usually begins in last week of May and lasting well into June… hatch most often in evenings (7-8:30 pm), sometimes right at dusk in a quick “blizzard” of activity.

Believe it or not, there are other “yellow” mayflies hatching during these same times as well, but those listed above make up the Sulphur Hatch as most anglers know it. As you can see there are differences between the three and it will save your sanity to have the proper sizes/colors to cover the gamut. At the very least I would carry size 14 dry fly’s in sulphur yellow to cover the rotunda/invaria and size 16 pale yellow imitations to cover the dorothea (some anglers use a Light Cahill for this). To compound the mayhem, in addition to the over-lapping hatch activity, trout will often key on a certain “stage” of emergence from drifting nymphs, to struggling emergers, to floating duns… and just when you think you have THAT all figured out, there could be spent spinners on the water as well!

If you show up to the stream in the mid afternoon and no fish are rising and no insects are on the water (or in the air)… you could be in for some fast action by tying on a Pheasant-tail nymph (size 14-16) and fishing the riffles and runs. Prior to emergence these nymphs will fill the water column as they struggle to reach the surface. Trout will be gorging on them and you will often see flashes in the stream as fish slash from side-to-side engulfing drifting nymphs by the mouthful.

Once a good supply of duns are on the surface the trout will come up for them and the real fun begins with dry flies… fish staging in faster water will be easier targets as they have precious little time to inspect your offering. Trout holding in slower pools will be a bit tougher, but may be larger and you should still dupe them easily with a stealthy “down & across” approach. If the fish refuse your floating dry, try tying an emerger pattern or weightless nymph about 6” off the back of the dry. This will take fish that are targeting these hapless naturals. Some of you may have heard people say that the trout are easier to catch at the beginning of the sulphur hatch but get smarter as the weeks wear on? These are the guys that don’t adjust to the dorothea activity and are missing out big time. The difference in a size 16 or 14 hook may not sound like much, but place the fly’s next to each other and you will see why the trout key on one or the other. Just pay attention to what is on the water and you’ll be OK.

The last piece of the puzzle is the spinnerfall. Again, this can be as frustrating or as rewarding as you want to make it. Personally I take my largest “dry fly caught” trout every season during the spinnerfall. It’s an easy meal and one that large trout rarely pass up. As you survey the stream take notice of the presence of any swarms of “dancing” mayflies over the riffles. These will be egg-laden females preparing to drop their cargo into the drink before dying and dropping in themselves. The males in all likelihood have already fallen, spent from mating activity. During sulphur season this activity most often takes place during the early evening if not right at dark (maybe early morning if air temp’s are too high for mating flights). These mating swarms start out high above the stream surface and if you happen to notice flocks of insect-eating birds (swallows, swifts, nighthawks… maybe bats) high above, you can be pretty sure that a spinnerfall is about an hour away. Sounds complicated but it is surprisingly simple… for this activity I carry just one fly—The Rusty Spinner—in sizes 14-18. Look for subtle risers, often times near the tail ends of pools, just “dimpling’ the surface and float your imitation right down into the waiting jaws of a heavy brown. If rising fish continue to ignore your floating dun, tie on a Rusty Spinner and 9 out of 10 times you will be surprised at the response.

Always keep in mind that ANY and ALL of the above described activities could be going on… sometimes simultaneously! Just be observant, let the trout tell you what they want, and you will enjoy your cigar and cold beverage a LOT more back at the parking area… this I promise.

*NOTE* The referenced taxon above is a bit outdated as the society of entomologists (or whoever they are) have decided that E. invaria and E. rotunda are now the same species (E. invaria)… also they have added a second dorothea to E. dorothea (E. dorothea dorothea). This info is strictly for the angler’s that are over-obsessed with details (like ME for example)… the trout still eat them the same as they always have.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/08/2018 (1199 reads)
Friday, May 18th is the start of our annual gathering for the Paflyfish Spring Jamboree Weekend. This is our annual meet-up for members of the site to get together to fly fish, tie flies, camp and share a few stories. We have a lot of fun fishing over some of Pennsylvania's finest streams including the Little J, Penns Creek, Spring Creek, Fishing Creek and plenty more in the region.

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The pavilion at Seven Mountains Campground is rented by Paflyfish and is used as a meeting point during the weekend. Plenty of impromptu conversations, fly tying and meet-ups take place at the pavilion. The idea of the weekend is to provide a setting for a casual weekend of fly fishing in a great region of Pennsylvania . As with every year we will be meeting up in the evenings at the pavilion to catch up on the days fishing trips. Friday and Saturday mornings we meet for coffee and plan the day. Often plenty of opportunities for some fly tying and casting lessons being shared.

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This year we are going to make the weekend at little more informal. At this time we are not going going to be planning any special speakers or activities. There is always plenty of impromptu fly tying, casting lessons and support on where to fish. So if you are unsure about the area, do not worry there are plenty of members from the site that can help get you started. Many anglers from the site come up early or stay later after the weekend. Follow the latest details in the forum .

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Friday – May 18th - Sunday, May 20, 2018
• 7:00 am Coffee at the pavilion Saturday and Sunday mornings
• 9:00 pm Gathering after the day of fishing Friday and Saturday evening (BYOB)

_DSF1079


Please contact Sevens Mountain Campground directly if you would like to stay there that weekend. They have a limited number of cabins and campsites. I encourage you to make your reservations now.

Sevens Mountain Campground
101 Seven Mountains
Campground Rd.
Spring Mills, PA 16875
(814) 364-1910
(888) 468-2556
Call between 8:30-4:30 M-F
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 04/03/2018 (136583 reads)
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Published by Maurice Chioda [Maurice] on 11/30/2017 (2172 reads)
Fly fishing during the winter can be an enjoyable endeavor if you put some effort into finding where the wily trout feed during the cold water temperatures. An important “hatch” in winter is that of the early black and brown stoneflies.

Stoneflies both little and large are the canary in the coal mine for water quality. They are one of the first species to disappear on impaired streams. They thrive as nymphs in highly oxygenated fast moving waters like rapids or heavy riffles and often where the thick moss grows on the rocks. I presume this helps them keep their footing while foraging on the bottom in the fast water. This is where I always find them and where I look for them to be effective when fishing larger freestone streams.

"Little Winter Stones" Illustration by Dave Weaver
"Little Winter Stones" Illustration by Dave Weaver


Limestone spring creeks are slow moving with low gradient and few if any riffles over their short length. This is why you don’t see them in great numbers there. Larger freestone streams are more likely to get too warm in summer and are not great fall or winter trout streams, unless they receive a fall stocking or have a limestone spring influence (i.e. Penns Creek).

So where you find little black stonefly "hatches" to be prolific you likely are not fishing because they are mainly stocked trout streams. And few are stocked in fall or winter after the summer "trout drought."

Their onstream behavior is an egg laying, more than a mating ritual or traditional hatch. That's why they are seen as solitary, usually downstream and across courses where the fly daps the water or skitters. If you observe their behavior and how the fish take them it’s pretty easy to mimmick but it is not a typical mayfly behavior to be sure. But it is similar to caddis fly egg laying.

This hatch is more like fishing a streamer or a wetfly that doesn't sink. I really enjoy this hatch and fish it with a #16 black bodied Henryville special with a Z-lon wing. Sometimes I trail a black bodied soft hackle on a dead drift while waiting for the initial reaction strike and then I slowly lift and drop the rod tip as the fly swings across the slower waters where the stoneflies lay their eggs. Most of the strikes come on the swing to be sure.

If you see half a dozen at a time in the air and hitting the water at a time during a still, sunny period of the day, you've hit it right.

There are several stonefly species that hatch in the winter/early spring. The tiny winter black / snowflies, aka needle flies that are smaller and hatch in the middle of winter are a good example. You can often see them crawling on the banks in the snow.

Usually a little later in the winter to early spring, the early brown and black stoneflies hatch. They are a little larger.

I have had little success fishing the tiny winter blacks vs the early brown and black (nymph or dry). The main reason, in my opinion, is the lower water temps in mid winter vs. late winter when the days are longer and temps warmer. But to be sure, often the best results come on sunny, snowy days with temps above 45 degrees, regardless of the water temp.

So find a big freestone stream with a fall/winter stocking of brown trout (more likely to rise) and on a warm sunny day in the winter/late winter, January through March. Swing ‘em if ya got ‘em.
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 10/31/2017 (1876 reads)
Susquehanna River, Lancaster Co., 10/21/17

WEATHER: Blue bird skies with highs in the 70s.

WATER: 3.2' at the Harrisburg gauge, gin clear, 60 degrees. A few boaters and yakkers but not a lot of activity.

HATCHES ETC: Nothing significant. A few scattered bugs, no rises; large schools of small minnows around 2" in length around shoreline areas. No crayfish seen. One bass caught in a riffle today had multiple caddis larva in his mouth and gullet. These caddis were dark colored and about #16.

Teamed up with Afishinado today to put some autumn hurtin on the Susky bass.
We arrived at mid day about 11am and fished until 5:30pm. It was a tough day. The bright sun and very clear water seemed to have the river switched off. We fished some very good sections with little success. Around 4pm, with the sun lower in the sky and softened by haze, the river seemed to wake up. We found active fish in fast water, mostly along current seams but also in shallow riffles. I had expected to find SMBs around ledge rock and and deeper tailouts today, but these spots didn't produce. The active fish were in pretty fast water. Had luck high sticking a helgy nymph and swinging a Clouser. I tried poppers briefly with no success. I managed about eight fish with three in the mid teens. Afish got fifteen bass with one at 18 inches.

A very nice day to be outside, but fishing was sub-par for what I'd expect on the big river in October. Nevertheless, with water levels still quite low, if you're a wading angler, the Susky is in great shape for FFing right now.

Members can follow along with comments in the forum here.

"Susquehanna>


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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/05/2017 (1814 reads)
By Brian McGeehan at Montana Angler Fly Fishing

September in the greater Yellowstone region is quickly becoming one of the most popular times to visit and fish. September is a great time to fish Yellowstone National Park because water temperatures are dropping into the optimal range and trout feel the urge to pack on the pounds for the upcoming winter. Weather in September is usually very pleasant with cool, crisp mornings and warm afternoons. September is the only month of the year when literally every river in the Park is fishable. The Madison drainage has cooled enough for productive fishing but the high country streams are still warm enough for fish to be active. Throw in a few bugling elk and some fall colors and you have the recipe for a great trip. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of September fishing in the park.

ynp_madison_fall_2016-35




Firehole River

As the weather cools, the Firehole once again becomes a viable option for fishing. At the beginning of the month, it may only be cool enough to fish in the mornings, but by the middle of September it should fish well all day. The main attraction during September is the White Miller Caddis, which typically emerges from mid morning until early afternoon. On cloudy days, especially towards the end of September, Blue Winged Olives emerge in the middle of the day. When no hatch is present, swing soft hackles through the riffles. I prefer drab, generic flies like a soft hackle pheasant tail or hare’s ear. In the fall, primarily due to low water, the fish in a Firehole can be a bit pickier than they were in June. Downsize your tackle a bit and take care not to spook fish with your movements.

Madison River
The main attraction on the Madison River in Yellowstone Park in the fall is the run of fish out of Hebgen Lake. While this run peaks in October and November, there will usually be some fish in the system in the latter part of September. The best way to target these fish is by nymphing or by swinging a streamer in a down and across fashion. No matter the technique, the key to catching these fish is locating where they are holding. These fish are used to a lake environment, so look for deeper, slower water. When nymphing, I prefer a stonefly nymph as my lead fly and small, nondescript mayfly pattern as my dropper. If I am swinging a streamer, I like the intruder style patterns that are popular with steelhead fishermen.

Lamar Valley- Lamar River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek
Fall fishing in the Lamar Valley can be challenging due to low water and the cumulative effect of fishing pressure throughout the summer. On sunny, warm days turn to small terrestrials like ants or micro hoppers. On cloudy days, especially towards the end of the month, look for mayfly hatches of Blue Winged Olives or Tan Drakes. Plan on fishing a 5x leader that is a few feet longer than your standard 9ft length.

Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River inside the park is a nice option in September as it falls off the radar for many once the famous stonefly hatches have ended. The river hosts an excellent Blue Winged Olive hatch, especially on cloudy days and towards the latter part of the month. Hopper patterns and attractors will still be your bread and butter for much of the month. September is a good time to start working in mayfly style attractors such as a purple haze or parachute adams as the fish may be a bit more selective than they were in July and August. A small streamer will fill the void if the dry fly bite slows.

Gardner River
The entire Gardner River should fish well in September, as the section below the Boiling River will have cooled sufficiently for all day fishing. In the early mornings, I like to nymph fish with a stonefly trailed by a attractor pattern like a prince or copper john. As the day heats up, small hoppers and various attractor patterns are your go to. Cloudy days will see hatches of Blue Winged Olives. Remember that the Boiling River essentially creates two separate rivers. Fall mayfly hatches will appear above in the cooler water first while hopper and attractor fishing will hold on longer in the warmer waters below. During the fall, keep in mind that there is always the possibility of a surprise up from the Yellowstone.

Fall fishing is truly one of our favorite windows for both Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Cool mornings and warm afternoons often produce the perfect blend of ideal water temperatures coupled with fall hatches and late season terrestrial fishing. The general family vacation season has slowed dramatically leaving the park to more serious anglers.

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 19 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/24/2017 (2408 reads)

IMG_20170519_160156_548
Inside the cabin by TigerTrout4wt (Kevin)

IMG_7589
I went out with Tom Ciannilli on Friday evening to my favorite place on the the Little J. Great night and a classic May Sulphur hatch at about 8:00 pm to close the evening.

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Saturday Dave, Maurice, Tom, Mick and I went over to Penns. A big change in the weather with a cold front dropping the temps into the 50's and some light rain in the morning.

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Dave showing off with catching a nice bow on his first cast in the Class A section of Penns.

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The long and winding trail to fly fish.

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Tom looking kinda serious about his fly.

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We move off the Class A Section and Maurice pulls together another one of his masterful fly fishing tailgating experiences.

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Yeah that is pretty damn good when you've been standing in cold water all day.

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Of course we had an IPA with a trout on it. The bonus was it was 14 proof.

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Back at the Seven Mountains Campground the crew converges after fly fishing all day. Saturday was tough for everyone. The good news is we had some spirits to loosen everyone up and get warm. Some of the attendees for the weekend: JackM and Gino, DaveW, Maurice and Mick, Afishinado (Tom), Aducker (Jeff), pcray1231 (Pat)
DanL, tomgamber - sons Joe and Adam, Swattie87, TigerTrout4wt (Kevin), Bikerfish and Chuck, lestrout (Les) Ace Sedgley (Darby) Pennypack Flyer and friend Jerry, csoult, Bruno, Alby (Greg) & Glenfidich (Don) Trapshooter , chuckyblack09 (Chuck/Charles) Tim Robinsin (Derek), ryguyfi (Ryan) zenherper (Chris)
GenCon, Don Thompson, Paparise (Phil, +2), Captain Hook Bearfish, (Rookie) (Dave), Bopper (Tom) Skybay (Jared), and Shakey!!

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Mick was the winner of Dave Weaver's wonderful painting

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My own personal team of rivals: Jack, Maurice, Dave Kile, Tom, and Dave. The best moderators on the Internet and why we have the community we do!! Thanks guys for all your help.

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Until the next Jam!

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/08/2017 (3821 reads)
Friday, May 19th is the start of our annual gathering for the Paflyfish Spring Jamboree Weekend. This is our annual meet-up for members of the site to get together to fly fish, tie flies, camp and share a few stories. We have a lot of fun fishing over some of Pennsylvania's finest streams including the Little J, Penns Creek, Spring Creek, Fishing Creek and plenty more in the region.

DSCF3951


The pavilion at Seven Mountains Campground is rented by Paflyfish and is used as a meeting point during the weekend. Plenty of impromptu conversations, fly tying and meet-ups take place at the pavilion. The idea of the weekend is to provide a setting for a casual weekend of fly fishing in a great region of Pennsylvania . As with every year we will be meeting up in the evenings at the pavilion to catch up on the days fishing trips. Friday and Saturday mornings we meet for coffee and plan the day. Often plenty of opportunities for some fly tying and casting lessons being shared.


Video provided by Skybay


This year we are going to make the weekend at little more informal. At this time we are not going going to be planning any special speakers or activities. There is always plenty of impromptu fly tying, casting lessons and support on where to fish. So if you are unsure about the area, do not worry there are plenty of members from the site that can help get you started. Many anglers from the site come up early or stay later after the weekend. Follow the latest details in the forum here.

Friday – May 19th - Sunday, May 21, 2017
• 7:00 am Coffee at the pavilion Saturday and Sunday mornings
• 9:00 pm Gathering after the day of fishing Friday and Saturday evening (BYOB)

_CDK2994


Please contact Sevens Mountain Campground directly if you would like to stay there that weekend. They have a limited number of cabins and campsites. I encourage you to make your reservations now.

Sevens Mountain Campground
101 Seven Mountains
Campground Rd.
Spring Mills, PA 16875
(814) 364-1910
(888) 468-2556
Call between 8:30-4:30 M-F
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 03/28/2017 (2164 reads)
While most Pennsylvania fly fishermen target river smallmouths during the summer, bass can be successfully targeted all year and the "pre-spawn" is among the best times, especially if you're after large fish. When water temps hit the mid 40s - this would usually coincide with mid March here in the southcentral part of the state - river smallies become noticeably more active and move up out of their winter hibernacula. These winter locations are usually the deepest part of a river, often the low, deep, slack water in front of dams. As bass become more active, they start to spread out a bit but still tend to eschew current.

By this time of year, they start to feed quite a bit more but, unlike summer when most of the bass lay up in front of boulders and mid river structure and aggressively hit poppers, my experience has been that pre-spawn bass are shoreline denizens. In part, this is simply due to the higher, cloudier, water conditions so often prevalent in March and April. However, this preference for specific shoreline locations makes locating pre-spawn river bass more predictable. When you catch a bass, there's usually more in the same spot. Often these are large females staging to move to eventual spawning sites later in May.

Finding these spots starts in summer. If you've got a bass river nearby, walk the bank during summer and familiarize yourself with the shape of the shoreline when the water is low and clear. Come high water, you'll know where to go. Perhaps the ideal pre-spawn location would be a point of land that projects out into the river, especially if there are large chunk rocks or boulders on it. Oftentimes there are river willows or vegetation that grow on the point in summer, but that often has water flowing thru it this time of year. If downstream from this point, there is an eddy (there almost always is) and the water is at least 3-4 feet deep, it's worth checking out. If the water in the eddy is very calm with little current or swirling action, and if there are boulders or woody debris along the shoreline of the eddy - it's a hotspot! Mouths of feeder creeks are usually good too.

drawing
Bass stage right on the current break along shoreline eddies this time of year. A typical hot spot would look something like this diagram. Image courtesy D. Weaver


These eddies don’t have to be large. I have taken multiple fish in the upper teens over the years from a single eddy that is only about 4 feet deep, maybe twenty feet in length, and the current break is only four or five feet from the shoreline. The key is slack or very slow water swirling back. When water temps are still cold, usually under 40 degrees, bass are likely in the slack water in the deepest part of the eddy, right on the bottom. As temps move up to and over 40 degrees, the bass move out and sit right along the edge of the current break where the faster water is moving as can be seen in the accompanying diagram.

Most of the time, I like a 7 or 8WT fly rod with floating line and a 8-9' tapered leader. Don’t go lighter than 12 lb test for your leader unless you absolutely have to. I typically use 14 or 15 lb. test. Despite smallies' reputation for being jumpers, in reality big smallies, especially in colder water, are bulldogs. They fight down and dirty close to the bottom and cover. You'll need a stout tippet to keep 'em out of the woody debris and shoreline brush.

bassDuring the months from about November until April, I prefer minnow imitating flies, the estimable Clouser Minnow is always dependable. For the (usually) cloudy water this time of year, black or chartreuse/orange is tough to beat. Many gear bass anglers like a black hair jig for early spring bass. I usually keep my flies for this time of year a bit on the smaller size, typically about 3-5 inches in length.

For rigging, place a large strike indicator at the base of the leader, or maybe a foot or so down the leader from the junction with the fly line. A "thingamabobber" would likely work well. I prefer the large, split, peg type bobbers you can get at the kids' fishing section at big box stores. Roll cast this rig out; you're aiming to get the fly to drop right at the outer edge of the eddy's slack water along the current break. This is often the money spot where bass are positioned during the pre-spawn. Roll cast your rig and do a mental five or ten-count to allow your fly to sink. In effect, you're just fishing a jig under a bobber. The key is to keep your retrieve slow. The indicator will suspend your streamer in the zone. Smallies often scrutinize baits/flies very carefully, then suck 'em in and turn away. Strikes are subtle this time of year and I find a big, floating strike indicator really helps detect these subtle strikes. When that indicator budges, do a strip strike and fight the fish hard. Despite the light takes, large bass are much more catchable on flies in the early spring than summer in my opinion. Big bass see a constant barrage of tube lures, plugs, and other stuff raining down on ‘em in summer and they can get shy or nocturnal. An eighteen-inch river bass in Pennsylvania is probably ten to twelve years old and has seen it all. In the early spring, I believe trophy sized smallmouths are just more willing to feed on flies after a long winter.

While it's easy to get distracted by the prime trout fishing this time of year, don't ignore river bass. Scout out a shoreline eddy on your favorite river, watch those water temps, and then present a fly low and slow along the current break. River smallies are definitely active now and this is a great time of year to catch big fish.
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