This remarkable cold snap has put the kibosh on any
actual fishing – highs barely creeping into double
digits and lows just a bit past zero. Add to the mix
some gusty winds and I find it prudent to continue my
piscatorial pursuits indoors. So, I tie some flies and
pore over my copies of Trout Streams and Hatches
of Pennsylvania by Charles Meck, Trout
Streams of Pennsylvania by Dwight Landis, and
the DeLorme Pennsylvania Atlas and Gazetteer,
the cover of which says "America's #1 line of Topographic Maps."
By Dave Pearson, PA
The roads and towns on the map are important, but of
less concern to me than the thin lines of contour and
the small blue lines of water. The print beside these
small blue lines is, well, small...really small. Even
with bifocals I still need additional magnification to
read the names of these little runs and creeks. I use
my fly tying magnifiers.
So, I hunch over a table, atlas spread out before me,
reading the names and tracing the little blue lines
across and along lines of contour. Is the stream small
and fast here? Does it slow and widen on a shelf before
it continues its plunge down the mountain? Is it in
beaver country? Is the geology beneath the stream Tuscorora
sandstone? Or, is it something more ph friendly, say,
Some days I use a computer software version of the atlas
which gives me the names of the water at a better
magnification. Those streams with no official name appear
as "stream perennial" or "stream intermittent." These
categories are not immutable. During the drought of the
summer of '05 many a "stream perennial" became "stream
intermittent." And more than a few "streams intermittent"
became "streams non-existent" – a whole new category.
Once I find a line that looks fishy, I look it up in the
Meck and Landis books. If it is listed, I get their impression
of the water then decide to give it a visit or not. If it is
not listed, I go and see the stream for myself. Sometimes the
stream is quite small (you wouldn't believe the trickles of
water that are actually named!) Sometimes it is too shallow
and warm (or polluted or acidic) for trout. And sometimes the
stream looks quite good and holds the promise of fish. So much
so, that it makes me wonder how Meck and Landis missed it or,
perhaps they didn't miss it at all – perhaps they are keeping
it for themselves.
Early Sunday found me looking at a truly promising length
of trout stream indeed. It was clear, deep (what little I
could see that was not iced over), and just screamed "Trout!"
It also runs east to west.
This took me aback at first. At some level I knew this for I
had read the topographic lines on the map. But the reality of
it struck me as odd. This stream flows from east to west.
Almost all of the fishable runs in these parts flow
more-or-less from west to east, heading down to the
Susquehanna. My fishing style may have to change a bit.
In the summer I get up quite early, head for the stream and
start fishing. The fishing gets good when the sun hits the
water. The first sun encourages bug activity. I usually get
more fish activity at first light than pre-dawn. Not always,
but mostly. Provided it's a clear day. (Cloudy days are
The stream flows from west to east. I fish upstream. I fish
with the sun at my back. The stream is lit up before me. And,
if I'm careful to keep my shadow off the water, the fish
cannot see me. They can no more look into the face of the
sun than you or I can. Trout have no polarized sunglasses,
they cannot squint, and, most importantly, they have no
eyelids. To look away from the sun they must turn away
from the sun. Since I'm in back of the fish, I'm in the
periphery and the glare makes that which is in the periphery
indistinct and any direct view would be painful for the trout.
So, with the sun at my back and slow careful steps, I remain
hidden in plain view.
Come late afternoon, this all changes.
I'm no longer in silhouette, the sun is in my eyes, and the
trout can read the logo on my rod. The fish are hidden in
shadows provided by rocks and debris in the water, streamside
flora, and quirks of geography. They are safe from predators
and the sun is out of their eyes. After sunset, but before
full darkness, direct sunlight is no longer a factor and
the fishing gets really good.
But now I have a stream which flows from east to west, so I'll
have to fish it in the afternoon to have the sun at my back.
I wonder how well the fish will bite. At least it will be
easier for me to see the afternoon hatches.
When the bugs do hatch
When the mountains green.
When the ice gets off the water.
When it gets a little warmer. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
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:
From Hemlock Headwaters Archives