June 13 2009- Dunbar Creek, PA.
I found myself on the east coast for a brief time a couple of weeks ago and as I usually do, I made a visit to Dunbar Creek. I had actually contemplated fishing any one of several new streams but in the end, the closeness and familiarity of Dunbar Creek as well as my curiosity won out. Curiosity because over the years Iíve seen this fishery change, for the better, and on my last trip I was told the road in the fly fishing only section would be closed and one would have to hike in. This was not the case and the fly fishing only section of the stream was as crowded as it ever was. I did see a game warden on 3 separate occasions during my few hours on the creek. This bodes well for the fish and the folks that fish there.
Fishing Dunbar is not in anyway similar to fishing the Hilton Lakes, which was my original plan for this weekend. Dunbar is a lush, canopied eastern stream filled with Brook and Brown Trout. The Hilton Lakes that I planned to visit by contrast are a stark, granite Sierra landscape with Golden Trout. The air at Dunbar was warm and thick with moisture and the air at the Hilton Lakes would be thin and dry. Dunbar was crowded and at times I was within casting distance of my car. The Hilton Lakes would be deserted and my car over 6 miles away.
Fishing conditions at Dunbar were good, better than I had experienced in several years. The water levels where good, the water temperatures cool but the fishing wasnít as good as I would usually find. I suspect I was more the cause of that than the fish.
My mood was solemn as I approached the stream. I wore my crocs and Simms travel waders that have been so much a part of my fishing scene this year. I fished my new 3wt rod but my heart really wasnít into it. The fish were there but I simply wasnít in the mood to practice the stealth that is generally required to catch fish between the weir pools.
I eventually plopped myself down at one of the weir pools as is de rigueur among many of the locals. Itís not uncommon to find weir pools in PA formed by stone or wood. The idea I presume is to provide the fish with some holding water as well as oxygenated water during the warm months of summer. The fish can be found in these pools in ridiculous numbers and so are often a prime target for fisherman.
I usually opt to fish around or fish the weir pools very briefly but this day the idea of endless casting to 10ís of fish, any one of which might be interested enough to take my fly as it floated past, was appealing. Instead of presenting my fly to a single or hand full of fish on each cast, I could present it to 15, 20, 30 fish in a single drift. It worked for me.
I donít know how long I fished that first weir pool, probably an hour, but it wasnít long before I was joined by another angler. This is also common. At Hilton Lakes I wouldnít dare fish within casting distance of another angler but on these weir pools itís common place. We had sort of an unwritten agreement. He would fish the left side of the pool and me the right.
I caught several fish in the weir pool and with each fish a twinge of excitement would pierce my austere demeanor. I am after all a fisher at heart and even during the most lazy of efforts, a fish rising to a dry fly is still a fish rising to a dry fly.
I left that weir pool switched on. I crept along the outside of the pool to present my cripple caddis to the fish in the run above and spooked a fish sitting in the pressure cushion above the wooden boardwalk that creates the weir. ďIíve got to be more careful.Ē I took a minute to look before I made my next move. I peered into every likely holding areaÖÖthere were several fish clearly in view as Iím sure there were in the lower part of the stream if I'd simply taken the time to look.
There was a good fish sitting to the outside of a small pocket, clearly in what would be a feeding lane. A shallow channel from the side met with the water from a deep pocket just above. The fish sat in the shadow of a small rock which pushed the joining current toward me and into a larger rock. An 8 inch fish sat in the cushion of the larger rock but the other fish was larger, easily 12 inches.
The currents required a right reach and a slack leader. The fish gave me two chances before it was spooked by a fellow on shore. Folks here are friendly and the follow simply came over to strike up a conversation and didnít realize his movement would spook the fish. We talked a bit before he left and I continued upstream.
Iím always meeting nice and interesting folks when I fish this stream. The couple I spoke with next would coincidently be the same folks that AAA called to help my uncle open his locked car the next day. Such is the nature of this southwestern, PA. county.
One canít get bent out of shape about the crowds, itís part of the fishing and conflicts rarely seem to occur as they might on some crowded Ca. streams.
The next run is one Iíve written about often, although Iíve never had such luck here as I would this day. Itís characterized by a large rock on the far bank. Shallow pocket water enters a deep glide which becomes deeper the closer to the rock the fish hold. The fish were scattered deep and shallow and were actively feeding.
I donít often find myself needing to fish flies under size 18; perhaps itís because I normally fish unpressured waters where the growing season is short and the fish plenty. To say that these fish are hammered is an understatement. They were taking ďno see ĎemsĒ and it became pretty obvious to me, pretty quickly, that my stand by size 16 Cripple Caddis and size 18 Parachute Adams just werenít going to cut it. I probably own one size 24 flyÖ..and it happened to be in my box.
Tying on a size 24 fly is one thing but FISHING it is something different. I donít like to fish flies I canít see. It doesnít matter if itís a size 12 ant floating just under the surface film or the size 24 fly I just put on. I pretended to know where the fly was. Iíd cast up into the riffle, lower the rod to induce slack into the leader and pretend to watch if float downstream. Every now and again I could see it, usually once it left the choppy water. I missed many strikes but managed to land a few fish, including a beautifully colored brook trout. It would be wishful thinking to say it was a wild fish but it was perfect in every way, so who knows.
I made a few cursory casts at the next weir pool and headed out. It was a great little diversion while it lasted but could not cloak the real reason I found myself there.
Rest in peace GrandpapÖÖ