July 23rd, 2007

By Dave Pearson, PA

First light on Friday the 13th found me fishing White Deer Creek. This stream runs through the Bald Eagle state forest and is heavily stocked once preseason and twice in-season. It boasts a three mile fly fish only catch and release section which is quite popular with the locals and visiting anglers. Every few years a group of Penns Creek regulars will decide "enough is enough," that Penns is just too hard, and will make White Deer their new home. No one misses these guys and any angler vacuum on Penns is soon filled by more fly fishing masochists who choose to call Penns Creek their home water.

The fishing IS a bit easier on White deer. The fishing is not as technical. The fish for the most part are not wild and haven't spent years dodging feathers and steel in search of a good meal. Most fish stocked in White Deer last a season, maybe two, before they find their way into an angler's creel or the stomach of some other predator. Then the Fish Commission dumps in a fresh batch of fish and the cycle starts all over again.

So, opening day till Memorial Day the fishing is easy - at least easier than Penns. Then the water drops. White deer Creek becomes a slightly larger version of Hemlock Run. It's filled with jittery trout in search of cool, oxygenated water. The creek is low and the water, gin clear. Any movement from above a bird in flight, a swaying branch, a careless flick of a brightly colored fly line will send these fish scurrying for cover.

In the early season the water is high, the fish are freshly stocked, the fishing is easy (in both the open and special regulation water) and White deer creek is one of the hardest hit streams in the area. Our local WCO counted over nine hundred cars on a seven mile stretch of road along White deer opening day of 2004. But, after the water drops long leaders and a stealthy approach are the order of the day. And you can have the entire stream to yourself.

At least I do. I get to practice the quiet sport in solitude.

This year the water dropped and kept right on dropping! We have had no appreciable rain all season and the streams are in bad shape. But the trout find the cool spots in the stream usually just downstream of a spring (betrayed by sand on the bottom of the stream) and the faster water holds more oxygen. The fish feed quite early in the morning this time of year, so that puts me on the water at first light.

The water is so low that there are no riffles. But there are pools with a couple patches of sand and a few runs with sandy bottoms. The fish lie here. I get on my knees and crawl slowly to the base of a run. The morning is going well. Every fish is earned. I move slowly and see a lot of wildlife.

Some of that's my stealth and some is their proximity this time of year. Less water means more animals around what water there is. Including snakes. Especially snakes. Their prey mice, voles, and such come to the stream for water. They follow suit. Normally they avoid fast moving water for the noise is hard on their ears. But slower water means less noise. Putting the sneak on the fish also puts the sneak on the snake.

I creep into casting position and watch the run for a few minutes. I spot a couple of fish and cast to the best one. This morning I'm using a cricket. A CDC and elk cricket to be precise. I dress this fly with 2 black CDC feathers, one tied on top of the other to beef up the profile, and actual elk hair for the head and wing. (The original recipe calls for deer hair.) I leave the stubs of the elk at the head a bit long to flesh out the profile.

Usually I start out a day like today with a beetle, followed by an ant or small caddis later in the day, perhaps a midge in the afternoon and save the cricket for dusk. But today the fish want crickets first thing. So, I oblige.

The fly lands on the water with a satisfying splat and the fish responds with a violent take. I hook the fish and hear a noise across the stream. I Look. It's Casey! What on earth is my dog doing here? Did Gillian bring him out for a swim? That's possible but unlikely first thing in the morning this far from home.


The bear stands on its hind legs.

I scream in terror, drop my rod, and run away.

The bear, too, turns and runs.

I've replayed this scene over in my mind again and again. My dog looks nothing like a bear, really, except in the most general way. Both my dog and the bear are black. That's about it. It may have been the bear's gait. They both have a carefree, happy-go-lucky stride. That's all I came up with.

My hands shook as I retrieved my rod. What luck! The fish was still there. I landed the fish, released him, then sat on the bank and brewed a cup of coffee. ~ 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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