I recently had my first spring opportunity of the year to visit Slate Run in north-central Pennsylvania where I picked up the thread of the fishing/hiking trek that I began last October and then recorded through four early posts on Rivertop Rambles.
Following the spring meeting of the Slate Run Sportsmen group in the Hotel Manor on the banks of Pine Creek (during which a bald eagle flew above the creek through our window view), I had lunch with friends and then drove up the Slate Run Road to continue my quest to fish the run and feeder streams as far as possible. The afternoon was cool and misting; the few camps along the road were closed and no one seemed to be fishing for trout. I strolled down the driveway to the Manor Fork Lodge (no one home), took the switchback down the cliff side to the confluence of Manor Fork and Slate Run and proceeded to fly fish toward the Manor Pool about a third of a mile upstream.
The stream temperature on the last of March was 48 degrees, about the same as the air. From the first cast on, I saw a hatch of Quill Gordons coming off sporadically, one of my favorite mayfly hatches of the spring, still common in northern PA but increasingly rare in southern New York. Epeorus pleuralis, along with some smaller Blue Quills, were appearing earlier than usual due to warm weather for weeks on end. I was casting tandem nymphs through the pools and cliffside undercuts and deep riffles–wonderful trout structure– without success. The “Quills” kept fluttering from the waters so I decided to try a dry fly for the hell of it. I figured a #14 Gordon might be the ticket if anything would do. Casting a dry fly with the little 7-foot 4-weight rod felt poetic for a while, but again, no luck. My consolation prize was getting back on the run after a four month absence.
I was roughly at the mid-point of my journey up the run from its mouth at Pine Creek to its top above Apple Tree Hollow. I figured I had five more miles to wade before the end of spring. The stream here was lovely and remote, without a real beginning or end, a place beloved by Pennsylvania freestone anglers, a preserved wildness with an endless tumbling beauty. But the big question facing many Slate Run anglers was this… What happened to the trout? I was determined to find out myself, to get a feeling for the health of the wild brooks and browns before the PA Fish & Boat Commission officially surveyed the stream again this coming summer. So far I wasn’t seeing many trout, but that didn’t mean the fish weren’t there. I had hope for the weeks to come when the stream would be 10 degrees warmer, when the hatches would be stronger and the trout even hungrier.
The Manor Falls Pool is probably the most popular and most heavily fished location on the run. It’s a big pool with an unknown depth; I’ve heard estimations of up to 20 feet deep. Large trout have come from the pool; timber rattlesnakes have slithered down from the mountain to drink from its sides; young campers have enjoyed leaping into it from the rocks above. Today I didn’t fish it hard, just a few casts with a pair of weighted nymphs, with a vision of a warmer day, the upstream walk continuing.