All fish pictured were caught by clients.
Lots of big, wild, selective, spooky trout.
Each statement describes one aspect of spring creeks. But even all of them together fail to adequately communicate how special these unique waterways are.
I’ve been privileged enough to fish spring creeks in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Each is different, but each has so many similarities. Powerful aquifers continually push unfathomable quantities of clean, cool water. These underground sources create the gentle, meandering flows that fly anglers seek out from coast to coast.
If you haven’t sought out a spring creek, you’re missing out.
You’re not going to catch it.
Wait. Let me make it even more plain and simple: you’re not even going to be able to get your fly in front of it.
I know you can see the fish. I know that you haven’t spooked it, that you’ve been catching trout all day, and that all you have to do is get it to see your fly.
The only problem is that it isn’t going to happen.
The particular fish in question is right behind a log jam or a culvert or a root ball. It is decently sized. It is quite visible. But it has the one thing going for it that gives it the upper fin: it is the uncatchable fish.
There are lots of uncatchable fish out there. Everyone comes across them while fly fishing. Moving upstream you’ll notice a spot that likely holds a fish. It has structure, it has depth, and it has that fishy look about it. But then, as you try to ascertain how and where you’re going to cast, you hit a snag. Branches, rocks, or some manmade features are between you and the fish.
The fish is in the perfect spot. Its probably getting a steady stream of insects and disoriented baitfish. And it certainly has ample shelter. This presents you with the predicament at hand.
Most Fridays on Casting Across are devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.
Today, I’m sharing items from Hatch Magazine, Onesimus Fly Rods, & Outside.
If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.
Check out the links, along with my thoughts, below:
If you think about it, simply carrying a net while fly fishing is like a personal vote of confidence. By bringing it with you, you’re essentially saying, “today I am going to need this, because I am going to catch a fish.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that the net is the motivational speaker of fly fishing gear, but I’ll admit that I think optimistic thoughts whenever I clip mine on my back as I head to the water.
You don’t need a net to go fishing. Growing up walking around ponds, I was used to lipping bass and grabbing catfish around their fins. It wasn’t until my teenage years, when I became enamored with fly fishing and its traditional trappings, that I purchased a net.
And fly fishing for trout is the perfect application for carrying and employing a net. Trout aren’t the easiest fish to lay hold to. Even if you did, their anatomy isn’t conducive to tolerating a big squeeze. Practically, the tippet being used is light enough that hand-lining isn’t an option. Plus, with a lot of fly fishing being done in knee- to waist-deep water, even the smallest trout have the high ground when it comes to maneuvering. Using a net just makes sense.
However, nets aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. The angler who chases trout in moderately sized freestone rivers won’t need a huge-hooped net with a long handle. More importantly, anyone chasing steelhead or salmon can’t settle for a small and unobtrusive net with a fifteen-inch opening. Size, shape, and even aesthetics all need to be considered.
I obviously don’t know how to take a fly fishing photograph.
As you can see in the example above, it is clear that I haven’t put in the time, energy, or effort required to do things the right way. The right way, of course, being what is prominently displayed on social media. Thousands of Insta-lebrities can’t be wrong.
I truly desire to get better. I fact, I think we should all be in a constant state of improvement. We should focus on making strides in the little things, like character development or altruism. So we certainly ought to give our utmost attention to what really matters in life: fishing selfies, for example.
I wanted to set out three areas of improvement for my fly fishing photography. I know that I can’t be perfect. But resolutions are the first step to a healthier existence. More likes and follows, at least.
Although you might be able to identify more, here are the three major mistakes I’ve made:
The fish from limestone spring creeks are pretty. But where they live gives them a run for their money.
I’ve been tying a lot more flies as of late. I’ve also been trying to be more consistent in the quality of my tying. To best achieve this, I’ve turned off the television. But I can’t have silence. That just won’t do.
The solution is easy: podcasts.
I already listen to them while I am doing yard work or driving. It is simple to have something on in the background while I tie. And it just makes sense for fly fishing podcasts to be in the rotation. Sure, I listen to history, current event, and theology podcasts. But that isn’t what Casting Across is about.
As I’ve done numerous times before, I’ve listed a handful of good podcasts and podcast episodes that I think are worth your time. The men and women who are doing this and doing it well put in a lot of time to provide this free education/entertainment. If you get a chance, leave them a review on iTunes!
They don’t necessarily have anything to do with fly tying. But they’ll definitely work while you tie. Find out why these 5 podcast are ones which I think you should listen to:
Excellence by accident. Whether the fly fisher knows or acknowledges it or not, this little quip may very well characterize some of the best experiences we have in angling.
A perfect example is one of the very first memorable trout I caught on a fly rod. Learning to fly fish, it was drilled into me that the fly shouldn’t drag. The dead drift was the goal, and anything else would lead to fishlessness. However, I can still see the wake of that beetle against the current as the white mouth of a big brown trout inhaled it.
Absolutely not dead, certainly not drifting, positively an accident.
I didn’t stumble across some new fly fishing paradigm. Inadvertently, I made a dry fly “move” on the water’s surface. There are a few different ways to give a dry fly a little action, but skating might be the most productive for trout fishing.
Skating dry flies for salmon, steelhead, and trout has been around for ages. Yet for whatever reason (I assume it is the clout of the dead-drift lobbyists) this once-popular technique has fallen out of common use. Even for trout, our fly fishing forefathers would skate mayflies and caddis regularly.
Next week I’ll be spending a few days in Pennsylvania in pursuit of trout. Although the bulk of my time will be spent on some of the larger rivers in the central part of the state, my schedule allows for a detour to the Cumberland Valley.
Basically, this part of South Central Pennsylvania includes all the land on either side of I-81, between the Maryland state line and the Susquehanna River, that extends to North and South Mountains. The limestone bedrock makes this part of the state flush with cold, clean water. Perhaps due to the diminutive size of the creeks, it is one of the unsung landmark regions in American fly fishing. The heritage, figures, and sometimes trout that have come from the Cumberland Valley loom larger than it’s little spring creeks.
Below are three articles about this part of the keystone state. It is worth noting that each of them concern a place at a time. Spring creek fishing is very resilient to weather and season. Ironically, there have been significant developments in regards to each of the following stories in the short time since their original release. Even as I type, I feel compelled to follow up on all three! But that is for another day…
Today, enjoy the richness of the Cumberland Valley: