The Cedar Run Experience, Part 19

1. It felt like the week’s visit to several brook trout streams was just practice for my reentry to Cedar Run. My last installment to The Cedar Run Experience (#18) was in December 2014, so it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to fly-fish/hike on one of Pennsylvania’s finest.


I warmed up for Cedar Run by fishing several headwater streams closer to home. Near Splash Dam Hollow I stopped my vehicle to allow a hen woodcock and her short parade of chicks to safely cross. When they all reached the grasses of the roadside, the first chick hopped onto its mother’s back, as if to say, “I’ve had it mom; it’s too darned hot for this!”

It had been a hot day, for sure, but discomfort had been tempered by the sight and sound of birds, and the catch of trout. From the heat of a marshy area where the relatively rare (in the Northeast) orchard oriole came into view, along with its more common relative the Baltimore oriole, I entered the shade and coolness of the forest.

All week the brookies had been hungry and generally eager to take on the surface. The best action came along with lots of sweat and frustration, not in the open sections of the forest, but along the tight avenues of willow tree and alder growth, those fly-snatchers that forced a careful roll cast or a bow shot to the lairs of fish. That’s where the groceries were, and where the trout seemed heavier and more contented.

2. I was ready for Cedar Mountain. Heavy rains had brought the streams up a little and deposited pools of water on the long mountain road, but I was eager to restart my exploration, fishing from mouth to source. I had started on Memorial Day two years ago and now had covered nearly all of the eleven-mile distance.

My strategy had been to fish the run in sequence, one stretch at a time, taking up where I had stopped on a previous visit. Figuratively speaking, I could smell the source and it was sweet, although I probably wouldn’t get there today.

The air was thick with water. The humidity felt heavy enough to slice with a knife. Dark clouds promised rain and maybe even a thunderstorm, but I was there, and I had a purpose.

Wasn’t it the philosopher, Rene Descartes, who said, I fish therefore I am? The stretch between the two small bridges over the stream would prove to me that I was still alive, a bit mad perhaps, but willing to look at the real.

The stream’s not for the faint of heart. It’s narrow and uneven, cradled by a fairly deep ravine, and so rugged with vegetation that I couldn’t imagine fishing it at any other time than in middle spring or in an autumn with plenty of rain.

Parts of the jaunt felt like the mixture of a suicide mission and a holiday in heaven. There were sections that I walked by because they looked like gateways to the underworld, but then there were sweet little pools and cascades that gave proof of their wild brook and brown trout populations.

Near the upper end of this section I found Cedar Run’s highest major tributary, a stream that lent me a brook trout, small and pretty, hued with the darkness of hemlock trees.

There were bugs in the air– yellow stoneflies, grannoms, and graceful March Browns,

Bob's stick caddis

Bob’s stick caddis

and the trout were eager to rise. I lost several imitations to unyielding branches, and the storm-threat put an early end to the adventure, but overall it was good.

Later, on studying the maps, I realized that I could probably fish another half mile of stream above the highest bridge, so it wasn’t quite time to light up the celebratory Curivari or to bust open a Southern Tier IPA, but one final visit would do it.

3. I made a short celebration of my nearly completed walk by driving down to big Pine Creek and joining in on the catch of German brown trout stocked by Slate Run’s Orvis shop and its “Brown Trout Club.”

These fish, nicely colored (for hatchery trout), were rather large and rising everywhere, feeding just below the surface. They were challenging, and selective in their take.

I was lucky to catch a few by casting a dry fly as an indicator for a couple of trailing emerger patterns. The trout wanted the emergent March Brown, and that was it. One fish that broke off my entire rig looked to be a 20-incher, easily.

My best trout was a brown of maybe 17 inches, followed by a leaping rainbow a couple inches shorter.

Pine Creek is the biggest “creek” in the USA, a sizeable river here at Slate Run, and it offered me a large, expansive way to kick back and resettle in the norm.

almost time

almost time

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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10 Responses to The Cedar Run Experience, Part 19

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    Hey, nice fly! How did it hold up? I too have been enjoying the selectivity of the stocked trout, and while I’ve caught no monsters, they’re spirited and can pull a fair bit. The grannoms have not disappointed this year, with an extended hatch period, now I’m waiting for the mayflies to get going in earnest. Hit the Allegheny this morning, but it’s running a little high and cold – spent most of my time digging a bunch of leeks and poking around for wildflowers. What a life, eh?

    • The poking around makes it awesome, Bob, even when the fishing is slow. Yup, your caddis fly is doing well. I worked it on the lower Cedar yesterday in a couple of deep runs and holes where nothing else was working. Oddly enough, I saw no trout action on the lower water, it was all way up there in the headwaters– maybe cause the trout are hungrier there, I don’t know.
      Overall, the flies you tied are working well for me. In fact, while I was down on Pine with the big fellas, it was your March Brown emerger, a fairly large specimen, that got all the hook-ups for me! Lost one in the break-off, but the back up did the trick.

  2. Brent says:

    Those leaves are really coming in. Looks like a beautiful time to finish up the Cedar Run voyage, and a great time to drink a nice IPA. We’ll have some in the rec room next weekend!

  3. Ross says:

    Sounds and looks like a wonderful time spent in a beautiful area. Very nice !

  4. howardlevett says:

    Nicely expressed Walt. Obviously a favorite destination. It looks very much like water I to would enjoy. Thanks!

  5. loydtruss says:

    Absolute perfect trip; I felt I was there with you. I was surprised to find out that these trout are hatchery raised. Do trout spawn in any of the streams you fished? Splash Dam Hollow is worth framing!!! Thanks for sharing a great post.

    • Thanks much, Bill. At Slate Run, PA we’re looking at the Pine Creek watershed, which includes the main stem, Pine Creek, and then all of the trout-filled runs that enter Pine. The hatchery trout are planted in big Pine Creek, and some of those fish are from private hatcheries. On the runs, such as Slate and Cedar that flow into Pine near that location, most of the fish are stream-bred browns and brooks, and those have most of my interest here, although the big hatchery fish of Pine draw many more anglers overall. Most of the runs have spawning fish in the fall.
      Your questions and remarks are always welcome here, and I hope I’ll have an answer that makes sense.

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