Whip Finish


Ralph Long - May 7, 2012

This past Spring I had the opportunity to fish a piece of water that I had not been on in 19 years. While visiting the family home in Central Pennsylvania for my nephew's graduation, as any fly fisherman would do in the month of May, I had come prepared to take advantage of expected good water. I planned to fish the Twin Bridges section of Huntington Creek near the town of Stillwater. The stream is near where I grew up, and the last time I had fished that particular stretch was with my Dad in 1989 prior to his passing. I intended to get on the water early since the day's events would consume my afternoon.

Arriving at the stream at 6:30am, I was surprised to find no other cars in the common parking area. It was a pleasant discovery to say the least. I had decided to fish a rod that I had built myself in the early 90's. It's a 7' 3wt glass rod that I find hard to leave at home on days when I know that dries will be the order of the day. It's built on a 2-piece Lamiglass Firecane blank, and an absolute joy to cast. This day however, I had two reasons to carry the glass rod. First, I had recently lined it with a new Sylk line from Cortland, which is supposed to be designed specifically for glass and bamboo rods. The line was intriguing to me and had not seen water yet. Secondly, because the slow casting action of the glass just seemed to fit what I was after that morning.

Despite recent rains, I found the water to be just a tad bit high, but nearly crystal clear. I moved upstream of the bridge initially to seek out some shallower pocket water. There were no bugs coming off the water at first, and no sign of surface activity to be found. But after searching out a few pockets I began to see a few tan midges begin to come off, along with sporadic Pale Morning Duns. I tied on a #16 pale-olive Blue-Winged-Olive LTD pattern, and in short order brought 3-4 fish to the net. The morning had begun to shape up quite well & the Sylk line proved to cast just as perfectly as advertised.

The fishing had an unrushed casual feel to it. No heavy concentration required, nor was it desired. That morning I found myself holding a conversation much of the time with my Dad as well, both in my mind and I believe out loud at points. It was similar to the mornings we had fished together in the past. Neither would say much throughout the day. The fishing would be punctuated with the occasional "THERE you go", accompanied by a glance and nod of approval from the other while acknowledging the fish. This would then be followed by a single matter-of-fact word "Brownie" or "Rainbow." Simply answering the question you knew was on the mind of the other. And fishing would go on silently. I had discussed fly selection with him to myself, points to cast to, & just how nice the creek seemed to be that morning. I was still alone on the stream at that point; though admittedly it could have been just as much the results of the crazy guy in the waders talking to himself than anything else. One quick moment of studying from the bridge could well have chased any perspective fishermen away promptly. Either way, I was thankful for the time.

I decided to move below the bridge as the day progressed in order to search out the larger pool. The sun was just about to hit the water, and I expected the tail-out to see some rises soon. I slipped into the water and set up in a position to fish most of the pool from downstream, when I noted a couple of March Browns come off the water at the bottom of the riffle. I studied my box for a moment, talking to my Dad about which pattern to choose, and we settled on a #14 March Brown Haystack. It's a pattern I like to tie using a particular patch of coastal deer hair with heavy barring, very similar to woodchuck hair. The little glass rod cast a nice lazy loop, and as the fly hit the water it was instantly slapped by a fat little stream-bred brown. I was admiring the distinct colors, and as it slipped from my hand into the clear water of Huntington Creek I glanced up. The morning was far too perfect to have been alone, and I had proven enough times that I was not that good of a fly fisherman to have pulled this off all by myself. I smiled and thanked my Dad for picking the fly. I continued to fish that fly for the next hour as a number of fish chose to bow my rod and put on a show. Releasing another fat brown trout into the water I felt the sun begin to heat up the back of my collar. It was time to go. I had enjoyed no sweat, no bugs and no people throughout a perfect morning. I had been graced with another chance to fish familiar water with my Dad from behind that little glass rod.

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