An Adams Will Do

Continuing with my “wings over water” theme of late, I’ve kept an eye out for insect hatches on our trout streams but haven’t seen much yet. Oh, the Sulphur mayflies made an afternoon appearance on Cross Fork Creek. A few March Browns came off the Genesee River (less spectacular than the decent spinner fall at dusk). A couple of Green Drakes and Coffin Flies appeared on Kettle Creek, East Fork Sinnemahoning and Birch Run, but basically the hatches have been underwhelming for me this season, perhaps due to all the high water we’ve experienced lately.

golden ragwort

While the fishing has been rather slow, there were friends and songbirds taking up the slack in interest. I had friendly conversations on Cross Fork Creek while watching the Sulphurs and Swallow-tailed Butterflies.

ragged Coffin Fly on finger

Fishing buddies Tim and Don shared good moments with me on the dusky Genesee River as the spinners sailed down to the water to be intercepted by diving cedar waxwings and song sparrows, by rising trout and other unknown predators. A veery chanted hauntingly and a hermit thrush caroled from a hemlock grove. I enjoyed meeting Eric, from Rochester, who was coming off the river with some interesting perspectives and some skillful use of tandem caddis flies.

on Genesee, with Tim

My hike into the higher realms of Birch Run was fraught with tight arboreal growth and irritating gnats, but the venture proved the old adage that “the higher you go, the better the fishing gets.” All I needed was a short fly rod and a small dry Adams on the line. The brookies were accommodating, and the raspy robin-like song of scarlet tanager lent a soothing aura to the deep greens of early June.

Birch Run

For a change of pace, I returned down valley to the East Fork Sinnemahoning. The overcast sky remained a blessing, and the valley breezes blew away the pestering gnats. The creek seemed full of hungry brook trout (hatchery fish from 10 to 12 inches in length) and rainbows up to 14 inches long that chased a drifting Adams. Most welcome, too, were several wild brook trout adding color to a somber hour on the water.

Alhough the streams were flowing high, the rising water temperatures had apparently spurred the trout to feed on or near the surface. Hatch activity was minimal, so the classic Adams, the generic caddis/mayfly pattern, is all I needed for an artificial fly. Simplicity, when you find it, is a beautiful thing.

the dead tree said, “Stop here”

Tim Didas, Rivertop Rambles friend and angling partner, ties a mean Adams variation in the parachute style that I am pleased to share: Tail– woodchuck guard hairs; Body– gray dubbing; Parachute post– orange poly yarn; Hackle– Cree and grizzly mixed, trimmed fore and aft for a sharper mayfly profile….

Adams variant, Tim D.

cane & char

old homestead, Birch Run

a new generation, Kettle Creek

Moccasin flowers

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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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15 Responses to An Adams Will Do

  1. Brent says:

    The verdant green in some of those pictures is almost overwhelming, but beautiful. Spring seems to have fully sprung for you. We have some nicer weather to look forward to this week, which I’m sure the local birds (who have taken to drying off on our balcony) will appreciate.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Yeah, the hatches continue to underwhelm. I missed the meat of the Brown Drake hatch on the Tionesta, which seems to be all but over. Usually one can milk the hatch for 10 days or so, depending on the weather. On the upside, I’ve had plenty of time to work on one of my recent goals, identifying songbirds by their calls and song. Have heard the “rain crow”, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo several times the last week but have as yet to actually see one. Have you ever used a double taper line? I just finished putting one on my reel before typing this. Gonna try it and see.

    • Bob, I’m planning to carry those Brown Drake imitations that you tied over to the Pine tomorrow (a day stolen from work) and I’m hoping that the creek is not too high or muddy. I hit the hatch there last June but I think it’s a long shot this season… We’ll see. Glad to hear you’re working on your songbird notes! I learned a lot of them back in the day when I had to know what I was listening to while recording for the breeding bird survey routes with Allegany County. Yesterday I enjoyed listening to a Yellow-throated vireo in my yard. I haven’t yet heard or seen the “rain crow” this season. They usually show up with the caterpillar explosion. As for the double taper lines, I’ve almost always used them. I’ve got a few weight-forwards for very small stream fishing and for steelhead, but I started off with double tapers when I was just a kid because I was poor and it seemed that double tapers lasted “twice as long.”

  3. JZ says:

    The hatches are there Walt, but no one has been on the creeks to witness them. Dangerous water levels and pushed-up stream debris made walking banks even more difficult. The Green Drake on Penns last night was phenomenal, although the fish catching wasn’t great. When I got back to my vehicle, around 10pm, it was 51 degrees. That cold front put down the fish. That’s what I tell myself anyway-BIG smile. Kettle on Memorial day was good. Plenty of brook trout to get a quick glimmer. The bonus, a nice yellow sally hatch, some florescent green that seem to glow in the dark. Looking forward to July, my daughters wedding and our beach vacation. I have stocked vacation days to spend on some small creeks in the mountains and plan on seeing those wild beautiful fish under the Hemlocks. I hope you’ve been doing well Walt and that life is treating you good.

    • Thanks for the good words and update, JZ. Glad to hear things are going well, and congrats on the wedding and vacation plans! As for the hatches, I’m sure they’ve been substantial on some waters, but locally I have seen better. It sounds like we almost crossed tracks on Memorial Day– I was on the Kettle near Oleona, lots of water and very little trout activity as far as I could tell. This morning I got down to Pine below the canyon, hoping to find a remnant of the big drake hatches. For about a half hour the rainbows really slammed the Green Drake spinner imitation and then the feeding stopped. I can’t complain, really. Have a great one!

  4. plaidcamper says:

    Walt, your description and photograph of Tim’s Adams variation is a delight, and this little beauty appears to have served you well on a slow day. The deep greens, high streams, and too many gnats seem to say you are having a humid early June – happily, the sights and sounds of the songbirds, along with easy conversations on the bank sides make it all just fine to be out there.
    Good stuff!

  5. Tim Didas says:

    Walt,
    I’m glad the Parachute Adams variation worked well for you! Don and I enjoyed your company on the Genny. Good times and great friends! Hope to be able to ply hooky and get on the river with you soon. Been seeing lots of March Brown spinners, after observing the birds snipe them, it’s a wonder any of them make it to the trees!
    Plaid Camper, thanks for the compliments, it’s really just a simple fishing fly, made a little more special with some Collins Cree hackle and a slow moving woodchuck that gave up his life for the sake of fly tying.
    Best,
    Tim

    • Tim,
      Thanks again for those little beauties (thanks, too, for the martyrdom of a slow moving whistle pig!). And I know the winner of the Slate Run raffle this weekend will appreciate them also. I got down to the Pine this morning hoping for some left-over Brown Drake spinners but it was Coffin Fly all the short way till the feed was done. Till later, pal, and on the water.

  6. Tim Didas says:

    Glad you were able to give them an operational test (with a passing grade!) over some appreciative trout. I haven’t seen any of the larger spring Iso’s yet…I like the longer patterns that I gave you for that hatch, but they’d probably do for the Brown Drake as well. You are very welcome, sir!

  7. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    An Adams in any variation is a winner for me anytime a dry fly is needed. I admire any old homestead image, even those without any history attached to them. Superb photography producing some outstanding colors on all images. Thanks for sharing

    • Bill,
      An Adams in season is like an old homestead picture, useful for catching a fish or for catching a wondrous image of our past. Thanks for seeing that and commenting.

  8. That Adams is very similar to the Adams I tie. I love it. Beautiful photos and I’m glad the color is back in your part of the country.

  9. You’re on to a classic, Howard. Thank you, and happy June.

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