June 25th, 2007

Hemlock Run
By Dave Pearson, PA

Ok, I might as well confess up front there is no Hemlock Run. Or, if there is, I am surely unaware of it and any resemblance between this Hemlock Run and a bona-fide water and rock stream which flows through the forest and corresponds to a small blue line in a map is coincidental. Hemlock Run could be any one of the smaller waters which tumble down the hills of central Pennsylvania. All of them start in amidst the hemlocks at least the ones I fish. Though all are individuals with unique personalities, they all bear a family resemblance to one another. I wish to focus on their similarities. So today, any and every Run is Hemlock Run.

Raspberry Blossoms

The wild rhododendron and the purple-flowering raspberries are in bloom and the huckleberries are just showing fruit. The water is low, but cold. Most of the hatches are over, and if the trout want any insects for a meal, they have to wait for something to plop into the water. This means ants, beetles, and crickets. The creek below is losing water and warming up. The trout from below come up Hemlock Run to avoid the heat. This puts a bit of pressure on the year-round residents the small native brook trout. The riffles and runs flow at trickles and all the trout, resident natives and recent immigrants, crowd into the pools.

When an ant, beetle, or cricket wanders too close to the stream and falls in, it's almost always the best fish in the pool which gets first crack it. The biggest fish is the greediest; that's how he got his size. If the biggest fish is too far away, a smaller fish gets the bug. Insects aren't the only items on the menu and the trout sort themselves by size. The small fish stay as far away from the bigger fish as possible.

Hemlock Run

So the situation is a little tense in Hemlock Run. The water is cold enough, but low. The population is up a bit. Food is scarce. And all the predators herons, kingfishers, snakes, and savvy anglers (to name a few) know exactly where to find a good meal. In the pools. The fish are on "high alert" and ready to bolt up through the pool sounding the alarm at the slightest provocation.

So how do you fish Hemlock Run at this time of the year? With planning, aforethought and stealth. Approach the pool cautiously. I like to think "low and slow." Do not get too close. No matter how careful you were in your approach, if you get too close, you will spook the pool. How close is too close? I agree with Joe Humphreys on this and say twenty feet. You get much closer than twenty feet and the trout of Hemlock Run flee for cover.

Get on your knees, crawl into position (at least 20 ft away), and survey the situation. There is a trout at the tail of the pool. Sometimes he's a good fish, but more often than not, he's a dink. Whichever he is, you must get that fish first. If you cast to the middle or head of the pool first, you most likely will line the fish at the tailout and he will race through the pool blowing your cover. So, get him out of there first. Then work your way up the pool. Make two or three casts in the pool. Don't cast repeatedly over the same spot. These fish are hungry. They will take a well-presented fly the first time. I find the average size pool on Hemlock Run is good for about two fish one at the tailout and another from the body of the pool. After that the pool is spooked.


Avoid drag. A fly careening across the water leaving a wake worthy of a speedboat will only scatter the trout of Hemlock Run into the next county.

Avoid false casting. The more your line is in the air, the greater the likelihood that you will hang up in the weeds or frighten the fish with the overhead movement. If there is one thing fish are on the alert for is something out of the ordinary happening above their heads. The trout are with Wagner on this. All unusual movement is the flight of the valkyries and death from above.

The trick to fishing Hemlock Run this time of year is to be able to cast distance where there is no room for a backcast. To do it without false casting. And to do it without betraying your presence to the trout. If you can fish the tight waters of Hemlock Run, you will have no problem with presentation on larger waters. ~ Dave - (black gnat)

About Dave:

Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo. His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar for a living. You may contact Dave at: pdewey2@aol.com

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