It was a beautiful May morning on one of my favorite trout streams, Kettle Creek.
Everything looked terrific although there was no discernible hatch activity as yet, and the trout were still lethargic in the cool water as the sun bore down overhead. Some spin and bait fishermen were on the upper creek and reported that they “killed ’em” at the bridge where the stockers reigned, but elsewhere they weren’t having any luck at all.
I tried a dry fly and a beadhead nymph in the pools and riffles where I typically do well at this time of year, but nothing was happening. I had an issue with my back and wasn’t sure if I could make a full day of it or not, so I decided on a change of venue.
That is, I left the unproductive waters of Kettle and ascended a tributary for a short distance, where I also found no action, and then headed up a forest brook that fed the tributary, a small stream that had been kind to me in previous springs.
The brook is on state land and flows through a big forest. It took a while before I found a sizeable pool, a spot capable of holding a native trout larger than just five or six inches. That’s the thing about these remote brookie flows. You won’t find fish anywhere near the average size of the trout downstream on the big creeks, but for what they lack in length and girth, they make up for in beauty– in themselves as well as their surroundings.
And I knew from experience that every now and then a little brook like this can yield a wild fish of surprising proportion.
Sure, the trout are always hungry in a small springtime brook, but the forest and its canopy keeps out the overbearing sun which can be a problem in the open valleys where the big waters flow. Down there, at times like this, the sun can keep the fish hunkered low and hidden from predators and fellows like myself.
What you do up here is pinch off the barb on a small dry fly that floats well and has good visibility. You tie the dry fly to a short tapered leader and you work upstream, slowly and, where possible, along the bank.
You might think about the guys downstream who like to fish the bridge pools. There the stocked trout tend to be short-lived, but they’re hearty eaters for a time, even on days like today. They’d probably chase a cheeseburger if you tossed it to them.
I don’t intend to be mean about hatchery fish, in general. They have their place in the scheme of trout fishing, but in some streams and rivers they are overly relied upon and are potentially injurious to their wild or native brethren. I enjoy fishing for them at times, and some of them are capable of surviving and adapting for a season or so. In that case they become a challenge for the fly caster, as they should be, but they’re not designed for such inside the hatchery.
There’s something different about the forest solitude, as I’m sure you understand. Today the foamflower was in bloom along the stream, the dominant wildflower, and the ovenbirds and scarlet tanagers were in song.
It’s often the case that the higher you climb on these feeder streams, the better the habitat becomes for native trout. I approached a small pool formed by water tumbling over a transverse log, a spot that’s been productive in other years.
The first cast of the dry fly from below the pool produced some drag on the fly, and a sizeble trout rose and missed it. I was afraid I might have put it down for a while, but decided to switch to a beadhead nymph. The trout took the nymph immediately and came out shaking in all its heavy, blue-spotted glory.
I took a picture or two and quickly returned the animal. That one, plus some other nice specimens, made me glad to have hit the forest shade while the sun warmed up the valley down below.
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P.S. In conclusion I’ve added some May photos taken nearby while working on the island series. I hope they add some visual spice….