February 26th, 2007

New Water
By Dave Pearson, PA

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."

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.

Daves workspace

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, limestone?

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!"

Promising water

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 another story.)

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)

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

From Hemlock Headwaters Archives

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