It’s been dry for a long time around SEPA and central Pa. In fact conditions have been low and clear all over the state. and that can make things tough. However, when the rain finally does come through you can bet it is good time to get out.
This will be of no surprise to many anglers as it is well known that in most streams conditions generally improve as the water rises. Much of this has to do with the changing dynamics of a stream when it is on the rise. Safe havens for bait fish and other sources of food in the stream now become raging torrents as the water rises and stream-flows increase. This leads to a lot of food being dislodged from low water sanctuaries and causes it to be swept into the main flow where it will drift ,disoriented and helpless, for quite a distance until it can seek refuge in new holding water.
Learning to time and adjust your presentation to these high water events can be critical to the afflicted angler questing after that one that always seems to get away, the proverbial “unicron”. Yesterday was that day for me. I left the campus with a lot on my mind but as I drove home to a long list of chores I could not silence the little voice in my head that said “go do it!” So with a little time to spare I headed to the stream. The creek was on the rise and conditions were near-perfect. I resisted the notion to string up my 5wt and pulled out my steelhead rig , a 9’9″ 7wt, which was still laying in my rod rack from the last two weeks. I didn’t bother packing the nymph boxes or anything small, I threw the cliff bugger box in my pack and was off. This was going to be a meat slinging event and I was okay with that.
Now the story behind this fish is a long one but the gist of it is that over a month ago I hooked this fish. After months and months of watching this fish feed I knew his lies and and his habits but never had the right conditions to get a good shot at him. A month ago I took my kids on a “nature walk” to go after him. After surveying the hole I knew where he was and made my cast. BOOM! I had him, on my 5wt and my boys went ballistic. It was the best because they were so into it. As I played the fish I slipped on a rock and lower the rod tip, the fish rolled and it was over. As I laughed and started retrieving my fly from the tree it shot into after being ejected from the beast’s mouth my son asked, what happened?
I explained to him that you don’t always land everything you hook and that this is part of the fun fishing. Very excitedly he told me that we have to come back to catch him again. I have never been prouder of my boys. He got it. In that moment of apparent failure he understood what many anglers never internalize their entire time fishing. Its not about the fish.
I wanted to bring them back but it doesn’t always work out that way. I thought about that on the way to the stream. There were many things going through my head on the way to the stream: my kids, my job,my house, my wife, my best friend, etc. The last one was most heavy on my mind because my best friend passed away in April. They just placed the stone at his grave this past week and I felt that I needed to visit. I thought long and hard as I got off the highway about going the other way but I went to the stream. The same stream he taught me to fly fish on.
You see, it is not that I didn’t want to pay my respects. It is that I know that he would have been right there with me, he was right there with me when I headed to the creek. We were that way, life never afforded us the perfect opportunities to fish but when we had time we fished. So, I fished.
Getting back to the nitty gritty. It comes down to making the best out of the time we have. The conditions were perfect and I made it count. So that’s the point of this story. When the iron is hot, stike! Low water can only last so long, eventually the rains will come and the creek will rise. The fish will put the feed bag on and it will be lights out.
I almost left the stream early after the first fish but I knew it was on. I proceeded down stream and rolled big fish in every prime hole I knew and even some new ones I had not known about. Get out when you can, even if it is only for an hour. You may just have your best day of the year or you might even catch the one that got away!