The bright, cool weather felt good when I arrived at Kettle Creek for my tradition of fishing this quality trout stream on the long holiday weekend. The upper Kettle in northern Pennsylvania seemed in fine shape following a bit of mid-week rain.
It was only 12 o’clock but already the mayflies were fluttering off the water. At first I saw the greys– the Grey Fox, a light-colored version of the big March Brown. Then came the greens, the famous Green Drake, followed by the smaller mayfly commonly known as a Sulphur. This trifecta of the order Ephemeroptera brings out the hunger in wild trout and in anglers who pursue them.
These hatches brought the songbirds out of the willow trees, as well. Catbirds and yellow warblers swooped down over the tumbling stream to scarf their lunches, an evanescent flutter on the breeze.
Experimentation told me that trout were feeding on the surface and preferring the dry fly over wets and nymphs, at least for now, and that was fine with me. For eastern waters, this was dry fly fishing at its annual peak, and I was knee-deep in one of my favorite streams, a creek once famous for its brook trout fishing and still one of the best freestone waters in the state.
Before the hatch shut down in late afternoon, I caught and released nearly three dozen trout, mostly brooks, both stocked and wild. Among the natives, there were hefty browns and a couple of 15-inch rainbows. The bigger specimens were fun to catch, but of special interest to me were the healthy brook trout, wild fish larger than average size for Pennsylvania.
Along one of the braided (or separated) sections of the creek where several feeder streams were entering close by, I watched a bald eagle perching in a sycamore tree. I was hoping to approach close enough for a photo, but I was catching fish while trying to keep my arm and leg movements at a minimum. I didn’t want to frighten the eagle, but the fun of it all was like burning a candle at both ends.
The largest of the brook trout came to hand but escaped before I could get a picture of its striking colors. This wild fish, close to a foot in length, was rich with orange, green, and red hues like a spawning male in autumn. Fussing with him in the net alerted the mature bald eagle which then took wing. I swung the camera over my head as the eagle passed by. I almost got an image of it at the bottom of the picture. “Almost” means I caught its regal white tail, a wing, and that was it.
I wanted to fish a small wild run that empties into Kettle Creek in this area. I entered what I thought was the run that flowed in from the west. It had more water than I remembered it having one year ago, and fish were rising to the Green Drakes fluttering off the surface. Something didn’t seem right; the stream wasn’t as wild, but the catching of larger fish kept me wading on.
I had entered the lower end of a well-known tributary often visited by guys with bait and spinning outfits. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just that I had wanted the wild stream experience, and now the sun was going down.
I returned to Kettle and wondered if I’d be ready for a spinner fall of mayflies in the dusk. The air was turning cold; a frost warning had been issued. The hatch was over and the trout activity had died. I don’t know if the spinners came down to the stream to lay their eggs en mass, or not.
It didn’t matter. I’d had enough. I thanked the grey and green and sulphur flies. It had been a great day on an fine stream. And the fishing had been good.
As always, your description makes me feel like I was there, which in turn makes me wish I was there. Although, I’d be the philistine on the bank with a frying pan.
Always good to have you along, Jim, and if you carried a Philistine’s frying pan I might decide I was really hungry and throw you a couple of stocked fish to clean (no wild ones!).
What a wonderful way to spend the first weekend of summer!
Last year, Keith, in that time of season and place, it was definitely summer. This time, thankfully enough, it still felt like spring (with 3 ft. of new snow in northern NY!). Hope you’re enjoying the shift in season in your own time and beautiful locale!
Three feet? Great post, but did you say three feet?
Thanks Steve. Three feet refers to the amount of snow received over the weekend in northern NY near Whiteface Mtn. Am planning a week-long camp-out on the Ausable River near there in late June. Hope the funny stuff is done by then.
I found that online just after I commented. Unbelievable huh?
Steve, I just told our neighbors who’ll be camping there at Whiteface with us at the end of June. They’ve been down in N. Carolina. “Unbelievable,” they said.