I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies to fish this month although I
hope you do. January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the year and
you will have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams.
By the end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Fly Fishing Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania has trout streams spread throughout the state from one
end to the other. Most of them are limestone streams. In a nut shell, that means the
streams flow from springs. Springs provide water of a constant temperature. In the
hot summer they are colder than a freestone stream in the same locale. In the
winter they are warmer than the freestones. Pennsylvania has some freestone
stream as well as spring creeks and also a few tailwaters. However, when you think
of trout and Pennsylvania at the same time, you think of limestone spring creeks.
Many of you that have spent a lot of time fishing the small, mountain freestone
streams of Great Smoky Mountains National Park would probably become quickly
frustrated fishing the small limestone spring creeks. Catching trout from them
usually requires different methods and strategies than those used for the fast water
freestone streams. It greatly depends on the particular limestone stream. Some of
them act somewhat like a freestone stream. They have runs, riffles and pools.
Others are slow moving, winding, smooth flowing streams. You could be blindfolded
and put in parts of Penns Creek and you would think you were fishing a freestone
stream, that is, until you took a close look at the water. In those cases, many of the
same types of presentations you would be use in the Smokies would work. On the
other hand, if you took the blindfold off in Letort Spring Run, you would quickly find
that the presentations that you would normally make in the small freestone streams
would be a waste of time.
There is another big difference. Unlike the trout in freestone streams, the trout in
limestone streams have a lot of food in them. Often, the trout can eat whatever they
want. They can be very selective in what they eat. The spring creeks always have a
high PH whereas the typical freestone streams in the Smokies have a low PH.
Unlike the freestone streams, you will see various types of aquatic vegetation
growing in the limestone streams. They are home to a large variety and in many
cases, large quantities of aquatic insects and crustaceans. Yet another difference
is when the water is flowing slowly and smoothly, as it is in most spring creeks, the
trout are able to closely examine everything they eat.
When you are fishing the small freestone streams in the park, you are casting to
fish you can't see. You select every place in the water you think a trout may be
lying and cast to it. You soon learn where the trout are most likely hiding or feeding
and where they most likely are not present. You make a lot of short cast and play a
game of odds. The more often you can keep your fly in the areas where trout are
most likely positioned, the higher your chances of success.
When you are fishing a smooth flowing spring creek, you spend a lot of time
"hunting" the trout. You usually only cast to a fish that you have located. You may
not actually see the fish. Often you just see where the trout are feeding from the
rise forms they leave. If they are not feeding on the surface, you study the water
and try to find a trout hiding or feeding beneath the surface. Sometimes you may
only see a flash. Other times you may actually spot the fish. The key is to spot the
fish without it spotting you and then proceed to cast to it. By the way, I don't want to
get off the subject, but as a side note, this method will work on the large brown trout
in the smokies. If you can catch trout consistently from the South Holston Tailwater,
you could probably do well in the spring creeks of Pennsylvania.
Some of you may not like fishing the spring creeks. I know several anglers than do
well in the Smokies but just refuse to fish the spring creeks. There is nothing wrong
with that. It is what one enjoys that is most important. During the next few days, I will
be writing about some of the streams we have fished in Pennsylvania. In another
thirty days or less, I will again be writing about the streams in Great Smoky
Mountains National Park.
Angie and I have spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania. We enjoy fishing many of their
fine trout streams. They usually offer a big challenge. The trout are usually not
easy to catch and in many cases, they are very difficult to catch. We feel like
learning to fish the limestone spring creek streams has improved our trout fishing
skills more than any one thing. During the last ten years, we have made from fhree
to six trips per year to Pennsylvania, spending at least three or four days on the
short trips and as much as two weeks on the longest trip. I am including the
Delaware River on the New York - Pennsylvania state line in the coming articles.
Yes, I know, more of the Delaware River lies in New York. I think it is the finest
tailwater in the East and I just want to make certain I write about it before returning
to the Smokies.
By the way, please don't assume that because I write about other destinations, I am
trying in any way to place more importance on them that Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. I am not. I just thought many of you may be interested in some of the
other eastern trout streams. We have lived in the Smokies just short of the past
four years for one and only one reason - because it is where we want to live - not
because we have to or need to.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh