Tailwater Road Trip

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Gettin’ lost in the fog on the West Branch.

A little over a week ago, Austen and I jumped in the car for 4 hours to check out the West Branch of the Delaware. As with most of our adventures, it was a last minute throw some plans together type of thing. It was supposed to rain like hell in our area that weekend, so we decided to dodge it by checking out what’s probably one of the largest fishing destinations in the east. For good reason too.

I’m always up for a couple days on the run searching for fish in different water. It seems the crew I run around with is the type where we just get in the car and go. We figure out where we are gonna spend the night when it gets dark, and worry about more important things first, like getting on the water.

I haven’t spent near as much time as I should on the Delaware river system. And that will be sure to change, I fell in love with the area last weekend.

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It’s easy to love a hard fighting rainbow from the West Branch of the Delaware.

Are there a lot of other anglers? Yes. Are the fish really technical and tough to catch? Yes. And, that’s sort of the point. Everyone seems quick to point out that the fish are really tough to catch, and there are a lot of anglers around.

But, there are some other questions that I think are more important. Is the water cold even in the middle of a dog day of summer? Yes, thanks to the tailwater bottom release. Are there large wild trout? Yes, tough to catch, but the opportunity is there for both browns and rainbows. How about hatches? Yes, like most tailwater fisheries, the bugs are awesome. To be able to fish summer Sulphurs in July is like a Pennsylvania fly fisher’s dream.

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Some fish don’t need a caption.

Stream etiquette should be a priority all the time, but on a technical, slower moving river with a lot of anglers around it is absolutely a must. Here is a link to an article posted on Hatch Magazine about drift boat etiquette that was actually written by a guide from the Delaware. There a a bunch of other articles out there on stream etiquette, just use your best judgement.

If your looking for a campground, hotel, or a cold beer check out The Beaver-Del. It’s all of those things that fly fisherman need, and it’s located right along the East Branch. It’s a really nice atmosphere, and the owners were great. Make sure to try the Catskill Brewery Devil’s Path IPA. It’s phenomenal, but one too many might jeopardize those early morning plans to get on the river at first light. Spoken with a bit of experience, possibly…

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A very solid brown Austen caught sippin’ a Sulphur.

Austen and I had an absolute blast on our “tailwater road trip”. I’m already looking forward to getting back up there again. The Delaware River system is definitely worth the hype. It’s also a great option for anglers in Pennsylvania if the water temperatures get borderline in the summer. Go fish.

 

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Summer Bassin’ & Relentless Fly Fishing

Roasted the Boogle Bug, and bent the 8wt in half.

When you and your fishing buddies are all fly fishing guides, it can be challenging to pin a day down on the water together. Yesterday Jake, Andy, and I were able to take a ride down the river for a summer smallmouth session. It was a blast. If you feel like you might be missing out on something, it’s because you probably are. I’m not sure what a summer would be like without river smallmouth floats.

I grew up fishing the river for smallmouth bass with my family and friends. Yeah I know, a lot of people are claiming home water these days. But, I lost my first Mickey Mouse Shakespeare Spincast in the river when I was 3 years old. So there’s that, insert laughter.

Puttin’ in. My idea of a good morning.

Anyways, where I was going with that is I’ve spent a lot of time on the river fishing for smallmouth, but every time I step in the boat with Jake and Andy I learn a thing or two. Whether it’s something about fly design, fish behavior, or a technique, I think it speaks volumes about how dialed in their smallmouth program is on the water they fish.

As I always say, you are only as good as the company you keep. When anglers fish together, they have the opportunity to learn together. But only if they are willing. I love that the anglers I surround myself with are able to question each other, and bounce things off each other in a constructive way. Anglers learning together is one of the things I’ve always loved about fly fishing. Well that, and having one heck of a lot of fun while fishing.

Don’t know the answer, Boogle It.

Yesterday we caught bass a variety of ways, but I pretty much got glued on fishing poppers. It’s sort of like dry fly fishing for trout, except smallmouth don’t necessarily sip, they gulp. And then they bend an 8 weight in half like it’s their day job, because they are river smallmouth and that’s what they do.

From rain, the river has been pretty high so far this summer. Yesterday was the first I’d been out after smallmouth since early spring, and I was glad to spend the day with good buddies. As always, I’m looking forward to many more river days this summer.

If fly fishing for smallmouth is your thing, check out Jake’s website: Relentless Fly Fishing and blog: All Things Fly Fishing. There are years worth of great fly patterns, stories, and photos.

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Fly Fishing Cumberland Valley: Yellow Breeches Creek

A brown trout caught in the catch and release section of the Yellow Breeches.

I was recently invited to fly fish Yellow Breeches Creek located in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania. Even being a Pennsylvania angler that fishes hundreds of days each year, I had never casted a line on any of the historic trout streams of Cumber Valley.

Yellow Breeches Creek, or Yellow Breeches, is a well-known limestone spring creek that offers a variety of recreational activities to those in the Cumberland Valley area. To fisherman, it’s a well-known stocked trout stream that also has a population of wild brown trout. This weekend, April 1, will be the opening day of trout season which will draw in many anglers to the area.

Similar to Letort Spring Run, it would be impossible to talk about the Yellow Breeches without mentioning the names of anglers that fished in the area such as Ed Shenk, Charlie Fox, or Vincent Marinaro.

Looking upstream on the catch and release section at the confluence of “The Run” and the Yellow Breeches.

The mile long regulated catch and release section that runs through Allenberry in Boiling Springs is very popular among fly fisherman. There is talk of the possibility of a stream improvement project, and many other big things going on at the Allenberry Resort. More information on the Allenberry Resort can be found on their recently designed website. In all honesty, the Allenberry Sticky Bun’s are alone worth a trip to the Yellow Breeches.

A sign displayed at the parking lot near “The Run” where anglers can also access the Yellow Breeches.

There are many different sections of the Yellow Breeches to fish, but Boiling Springs is a very neat little town to get started in if you are new to the area. The outflow from Children’s Lake, or “The Run”, is another popular fishing area regulated as a catch and release section adjacent to the Allenberry catch and release section.

A couple of the many ducks that can be found on Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs.

Located along Children’s Lake, and very close to the catch and release sections is TCO Fly Shop of Boiling Springs. TCO Fly Shop has more than everything you would need for a day of fly fishing, and consists of a staff that is very passionate and knowledgable about fly fishing the local area.

The Yellow Breeches is a beautiful, medium-sized trout stream that offers anglers a number of different hatches. Hendricksons should be a significant hatch this week as the weather warms up. I saw a couple of Hendrickons while I was fishing the other day. There are many hatches on the Yellow Breeches throughout the year to keep your eye on such as Blue Winged Olives, Grannoms, Sulphurs, White Flies, Tricos, Terrestrials, etc.

There are plenty of places to access the Yellow Breeches, but there are also some sections of private landowner properties. It will be important to be conscious of these private properties and respect the rights of private landowners. Treating private landowners with respect and not leaving behind trash is the best way to ensure that properties remain open for public fishing.

Since the opening day of trout season is not until April 1, this week I fished the catch and release sections that are open to fishing year round. It was a very nice day on the water, and I look forward to revisiting it and other sections of the Yellow Breeches in the future. Pennsylvania has many miles of trout water to offer, but I think the Yellow Breeches is a special place that all fly fisherman should experience.

For more information about fly fishing in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania visit the Cumberland Valley Visitor Bureau.

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Fly Fishing Cumberland Valley: Letort Spring Run

I was recently invited to fly fish Letort Spring Run located in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania. Even being a Pennsylvania angler that fishes hundreds of days each year, I never casted a line in any of the historic trout streams of Cumber Valley before.

Letort Spring Run, or “The Letort”, is a famous 9.4 mile long limestone spring creek that flows throw Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Placed on Trout Unlimited’s list of 100 Best Trout Streams, The Letort is known for being a challenging fishery full of technical wild brown trout. It would be impossible to mention Letort Spring Run without noting anglers that fished there such as Ed Shenk, Charlie Fox, and Vincent Marinaro.

Because of anglers such as Shenk, Fox, and Marinaro, Letort Spring Run is a historic chalk stream here in the East. I could feel the presence of that history as I was stringing up my rod, walking down the nature trail to water, and preparing to make my first cast. Since Letort Spring Run is so well-known as a tough place to fish for wild brown trout, it can sort of serve as a proving ground for fly fisherman. Being able to catch a wild brown trout is one thing, but being able to fool a wild brown on The Letort proves skill as a fly fisherman. At the same time, there is no shame in being humbled on the banks of Letort Spring Run.

Looking upstream toward a nice “Glide” that produced several fish on a BWO dry fly pattern.

I was pleasantly surpised at how rural, or wild, it felt while fishing along the banks of The Letort, especially considering it flows through the town of Carlisle. A 2 mile Letort Spring Run Nature Trails runs along the stream from Bonny Brook down to Letort Park. This trail travels through marshes and woods serving as a great little escape from the “town” feel of Carlise. Not only is the trail great for hiking, it provides an excellent way for fly fisherman to access Letort Spring Run.

There are a number of signs, such as the one above, placed along the Letort Spring Run Nature Trail that provide information about the area.

Near the nature trail, The Letort is regulated as Heritage Trophy Angling by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. This section is a catch and release, fly fishing only section that is approximately a mile and a half in length upstream from Letort Park. If you are new to the area this is a great place to start due to ease of access, although there are many other sections of water to fish within the 9.4 miles of Letort Spring Run.

If you are looking for a place to grab some food and a beer after a day of fishing, I would recommend the Market Cross Pub in Carlisle. The food was excellent and the selection of beer was almost overwhelming.

Even a wild trout the size of this must be earned on Letort Spring Run.

The day that I fly fished the Letort the dreary, overcast weather was perfect for fishing. Thanks to cloud cover and relatively mild march air temperatures, Blue Winged Olives hatched through the afternoon. I fished at a very slow pace, and was able to catch fish on dries, nymphs, and even a streamer. I won’t bore you with all the sappy details of the beautiful wild brown trout I caught, or the nesting goose that tried to viciously to flog me…

Below are a couple more pictures from the day, and 6 tips that I think will help fly fisherman visiting Letort Spring Run.

6 Tips for Fly Fishing Letort Spring Run:

  1. Patience & A Slow Approach- The Letort is a stream where you first have to hunt fish before you can catch them. Approaching the water slowly, and having the patience to wait until the right opportunity to cast toward a rising fish can make all the difference.
  2. Wear Dull Colors- Colors such as dark brown, olive, or even camouflage will help you get closer to fish without spooking them. A bright color on a stream such as The Letort is like waving a warning flag for the fish.
  3. Focus on Casting- The first cast towards a fish is the best chance to fool him into eating your fly. Focus on making the best cast you can on the first cast, otherwise a smart, large wild brown on the Letort may not give you another chance.
  4. Fish Light Tippet- Smaller tippet sizes like 5x or 6x are suited to fishing small flies, and get cleaner drifts overall. While landing fish on light tippet can be a challenge itself, I believe it will help improve the number opportunities for hook ups.
  5. Fish Structure- Cunning wild brown trout love structure as it gives them a place to hide from anglers and other forms of prey. Structure such as weed edges, logs, or rocks are sure to hold fish. Don’t let the small size of the stream fool you, there could be a very large brown hidden by structure.
  6. Look for “Glides”- I refer to a glide as a section of water that slightly speeds up compared to an overall low gradient stream such as The Letort. In spring creeks such as The Letort, Glides often hold fish and are much more common than riffles.

Letort Spring Run is a limestone stream that I will certainly revisit in the future. I would never tell anyone that fly fishing The Letort will be easy, but I definitely think it will be worth it.

For more information about fly fishing in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania visit the Cumberland Valley Visitor Bureau.

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A Last Minute Trip

It was a last minute trip. You know, the go to the grocery store to buy a tooth brush, sleep on your buddy’s couch, and borrow a pair of waders kind of trip. Austen, and I weren’t really planning on fishing this day, but we weren’t planning on not fishing either.

We were eating a burger and drinking a beer at a local watering hole. It was around 9:30 at night, and I found out I didn’t have to work the next day. So, we decided to go fish. We both made “the call” to our girlfriends. You know, the “Hey Babe, as it turns out I won’t be coming over tonight. Yeah, I’m going to go fish tomorrow”. Fortunately, they were both really okay with us randomly deciding to go fishing. I think that’s by design.

I knew this day on the water was going to be interesting. Any day on the water that starts the way this trip did is sure to be an adventure. We floated for a few hours, but the early morning was fairly cold so the fishing was pretty slow off the start. We were sitting in the boat talking, eating a sandwich, and drinking a beer when the day to decided to take a turn towards more interesting. Something fell out of the boat. At first we weren’t sure what. All of a sudden Austen jumped up to realize, it was his phone. Ouch.

We pulled over to anchor up. Trying to find a black iPhone in the middle of a river is probably worse odds than finding a needle in a haystack. Nonetheless we decided to take a look. After a half an hour of searching relentlessly we were about to give up, but then Austen spotted it tucked beside a rock on the bottom. Wow. He stayed there marking the spot, I walked over to grab the net and a long stick. He held the net below the phone, and I popped it up in the net with the stick. We walked back to the boat with his phone that still worked thanks to a waterproof case. Crazy. I mean you can’t even make this stuff up.

To cap things off, about an hour later Austen stuck a real good looking, healthy female brown trout. Fortunately she was quick to the net, we snapped a couple pictures, and off the fish went to hide away and sulk in the depths. A few more fish for each of us and the sun set ending another day well spent on the water.

For me, days like these are what it’s all about. Fish and stories like this are not easily forgotten. The very reasons why I could fish 8 days a week, and fly fishing will never get old. Do you have any good stories from last minutes trips?

 

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