It begins in the dark. I like to be on the stream at
first light, and there is no trout stream right in my
own backyard. If and when I ever move, I hope to
rectify that. But until that day arrives, fishing
involves a bit of travel time. Sometimes, as little
as half an hour; sometimes as much as four hours.
Today I plan to travel a little over two.
By Dave Pearson, PA
So I set the alarm to ring before dawn – well before
dawn – and I open my eyes moments before the alarm is
set to go off. I do this regularly and I really don't
But I'm not brave enough not to set the alarm. So the
alarm is always set and remains unheard as I get up.
In the dark.
At the moment of creation night was separated from day
by the command, "Let there be light!" But for me between
dark and light is coffee. Coffee for now and coffee for
later. I pack a lunch – usually sandwiches, usually tuna.
And snackables for the day – ideally beef jerky and Luna
bars. Gatorade to drink. And a French press and a small
stove to make coffee streamside mid-morning and perhaps
Rods, reels, boots, waders, flies, and other assorted
flyfishing paraphernalia find their way into the car
and I'm off for the stream. In the dark.
This morning I'm off to the Black Forest. Straight up route
15 then west on route 6 to Potter County. There's a lot of
good water in God's country, but not much is open this time
of year. There are a few special regulation waters open year
'round and my destination is a brook trout enhancement water.
In this stream, all brook trout must be returned to the water
always. All other trout may be kept or released as the
regulations specify for open water. This time of year that
means all trout are catch and release. No trout are stocked.
The brookies here are what the oldtimers call "Hemlock trout"
or less frequently "Spruce trout." I first read the term in
Charles Lose's book The Vanishing Trout which was
originally titled The Vanishing Char. Interesting,
that. He considered brown trout and rainbow trout invasive species.
Pennsylvania trout (char) were brook trout and came in a few
varieties; the darkest (and tastiest!) lived in the headwaters
– Hemlock trout. From what I can gather from the text, there
was also a variety called the "Susquehanna salmon." If this
in fact was a variety of brook trout, it must have been a
But the Hemlock trout still lives in the headwaters. And today
my good friend Pete Lawrence and I try our hand at landing a
The dark becomes light and I am surrounded by melting snow
nd slush. The water is high, though reasonably clear, and
quite fast. And this stream is small so there are no slow
pools to fish today. But Pete and I manage a trout each.
Pete's came from a rare deep pocket. He reports the fish
struck slowly and fought sluggishly. I take a trout from
a beaver dam on a dry (!) – orange stimulator size 14 thank
you very much! He took the fly in slow motion. The fish
were there. The fish were hungry. But they wanted the fly
almost motionless. And the raging current prevented that.
It would have made more sense to use a spinning rod.
Hemlock trout are found in clear cold streams lined with,
well, hemlock. And rhododendron. And mountain laurel. And
all manner of brush , thickets, and log jams which make
flycasting a nightmare. These trout are in all manner of
hard to reach places; it's their protection from snakes
birds and ...us. This calls for unorthodox casting.
We took a break and I asked Pete to take a couple of pictures
of me demonstrating the "bow and arrow cast" or "flip cast"
or "slingshot cast." All words for the same technique, I think.
I learned this from Joe Humphreys who, in turn, learned it from
First, do NOT grab the fly and bend the rod as shown here.
This only allows you to toss out line and leader less than
or equal to the length of your rod. It's also a great way
to bury a hook in your finger. Instead, grab the line about
a foot above the fly as shown here.
Then, using the hand-twist retrieve, bunch the leader and
flyline in your hand.
Or, alternately, put the flyline in loose coils in your hand.
Two techniques to get you the same result. Now, hold the
hand with the coils even with the rod hand.
Pull back on the rod.
Keep your rod hand still and let go of the coils. I can shoot
up to 35 feet of line using this technique. Joe can shoot
quite a bit more. I've been working on a modification of
this cast which doesn't involve pulling the rod in a bend
at all. Rather, I'm using a short sharp flick of the wrist.
So far, I've met with modest success.
A bit later in the afternoon, Pete hooks into something
really big. So big, he yelps as his rod throbs in a deep
bend. Then the leader snaps. Probably a Brown. Or a very
lost Susquehanna salmon.
On the way home I take a blurry picture of a salamander.
~ 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:
Hemlock Headwaters Archives