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.
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,
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.