Pennsylvania "Wilds" Trip

May, 2009


We'll take you to the places that occupy our thoughts for an entire year in between trips.

God's country, Potter County Pennsylvania, has it's many "wild areas" filled with rugged

terrain and streams flowing straight from bosoms of the majestic Appalachian Mountain

ranges.  Journey with us and experience a taste of the fishing/camping experience that as

a group we've called a welcomed routine for going on 5 years now.


(video size 27.1 megabytes, 7:55 long, online 06.11.09)



 Our trip this year began on Friday, early evening, with Floatman and I traveling to Youngstown to pick up Packmule as part of the group. We had arranged our time off and schedules in such a way to be able to fish Saturday, Sunday and half of Monday. We arrived at a nearby Inn very close to 10pm and, after unpacking our gear, made our way to the attached pub for food and liquid refreshments.. Last year, this little gem just 30 minutes away from the hike-in point, provided some very exceptional food and memories to reflect on for a year!. The atmosphere was just as cheery as I had remembered it and in no time we were chomping hungrily on our orders. With out bellies full and the night ticking into morning, the easy decision to get some rest before the rigors of the next day was made.

     We awoke the next morning several hours later than we had in previous trips. The urge to awake at first light with youthful urgency had been replaced with a more relaxed time line. Breakfast and the need for the morning’s coffee beckoned to us as we made our way down to the dining area and enjoyed a light meal. Well, some of us enjoyed a “light meal”. In the true spirit of a pack mule, James chose to order a very large spread of every variety. The look of surprise on his face after several plates overflowing with just about every breakfast option on the menu were placed before him was our first comic relief for the day. Using wisdom mixed with common sense, he chose not to attempt to finish it all.  The upcoming excursion, some 2.5 hours of hiking, would not agree kindly with such an endeavor!

     As this was the fourth repetition for at least Packmule and I, the drive to the gear up and hike it in point was quite familiar. The winding roads up and down several mountain sides were completed in a blink of an eye.. A quick check of the watch and some mental calculations would have us unpacked, camp prepared, and ready to fish by 1:00pm. Our campsite, chosen before the trip date had even arrived, was to be a new one this year. We would venture up the main stem and hopefully find the established camp that was dotted conveniently on a topographical map that Possum found amongst a stream survey done years ago.

     Our hike was evenly paced and methodical, paying close attention not to miss the natural treasures that could be witnessed with every step and around every bend in the trail. The air was light and pushed about by a moderate breeze which kept us cooled in spite of muscles warmed from the healthy dose of exertion. When the path deviated from the trailhead and crossed the meadow of the lower valley, we all were reminded that the terrain could be unforgiving at times. Within an hour, we had crossed some rather unyielding areas filled with large cobble, bog like muck full of suction, high banks and tall grasses. We had the opportunity to spot deer, turkey, birds of every variety, frogs, newts, trout, hawks, bear tracks, deer, the possible fleeting smell of skunk, a few non-rattle slithery snakes and a porcupine. The most prevalent animal of the trip, thankfully, was the porcupine. The area had a "robust" population of this sloth like creature. It was striking how furry they appeared in spite of their rather frazzled layer of quills. The area is extremely high on the list for both rattlesnake and bear, but we gratefully missed out on a first hand encounter with either!

     Establishing camp came and went with minimal struggles. The strong breeze didn’t agree very much with the cook area’s tarp, so after repeated attempts to rig it against 30-40 mph gusts, we scrapped the idea altogether and packed it away. While erecting the tents some 50 yards away from the cook area, we were visited by 2 hikers and their dog. Nice gentlemen that were intent on sharing with us their adventure of the past several days and learning of our plans as well. It was nice of them to stop by, however irritated I was from what seemed like a barrage of questioning. I later determined, by a bit of self analysis of the emotions I felt, that I was irritated more that I wasn’t suffering from cold feet and a fly that needed more floatant than by these cheery hikers and there very well behaved dog!

     Finally camp was arrange and properly situated for our return. It was time to fish! Venturing our separate ways, we attempted to put enough distance between us and the fishing holes to eliminate the possibility of fly familiarity. Alone on the stream, I felt my senses slowly awake. The drone of cars, traffic and city noises were blaringly absent. What stimuli remained to digest and decipher was completely natural. The trickling charge of running water crashing into rocks, bending through wood jams and folding through spaces unable to be witnessed by any but the smallest of aquatic inhabitant, had my mind racing. The scurrying sounds of chipmunks amongst the leaves, the cracking of trees high on the mountain side being pushed about by aggressive winds and the shadows cast by clouds intercepting the bright rays of a sun high in the sky had me on information overload. I oddly felt energized and at the same time a sense of uneasiness. So attuned to the concrete jungle and life-less inertness of congested living was I that when presented with the majestic beauty of The Grand Architect's masterpiece, I could hardly bring myself to relax and enjoy it! With time, this hypersensitivity became calming and soothing to my soul.

     The first day of fishing was spent on the big river, the main stem. With a large watershed, many springs and small tributaries, it had the most flow of the three streams available to us. Consequently it possessed many long, wide, deep and/or attractive “fishy” holes. Of the streams we hoped to wet a fly upon, we felt our chances of success would be the best on this body of water. Several hours later, we all assembled high on the mountain to share stories, enjoy a snack of trail mix and smokies, and formulate a plan for the afternoon. What was apparent and mutually common was our lack of fishing success. Whether the front passing through, the abundance of blown debris on the water’s surface or a subsurface hatch that we had not identified…things were not as “exciting” as we had anticipated. We all had a brought a few fish to hand, had several dozen strikes, and spotted fish…but for the most part, the big boys were not playing today. Most of the big holes were void of fish, possibly as a result of local fishing pressure. In any case, we decided to make our way up a bit further.  This decision changed little from the morning's experience.  Late afternoon arrived and we decided to retreat back to camp.  Over the past several hours, we had traveled a considerable distance up stream. The hike back, although downhill, would take some time and for me, be brutal on my knees, but that is another story involving bad genetics.

     When we returned to camp, Packmule donned his chef's hat and prepared one of the best fire pit meals I’ve had in a long, long time. The combination of delicious and thick steaks, garlic steamed asparagus and baked yams hit the spot and brought wide smiles to all of our faces.  I couldn't help but redundantly comment how great the meal was and compliment James' cooking skills repeatedly.   We finished up with a small cup of well chilled Australian lager. In a matter of what seemed like minutes, the meal settled and pulled at the underside of our eyelids. I believe we realized in unison that it was time to catch some shut eye or doze off right then and there next to the fire ring!

     By the time we had situated ourselves into our individual tents, extreme darkness had blanketed the forest. The lack of illumination and vacuum of silence made things a bit eerie. Our silence was interrupted by the occasional scurrying rustle of leaves coming from the mountain side behind our sleeping position. Whether it was the force of wind against bowing tree trunks or critters venturing out in search of food, every noise seemed amplified. From a distance I heard the wind gust, a crack of a dead tree branch and then a loud growl. My mind raced, not another bear attack! A thorough inspection by way of headlamp and pointed Glock-in-spiel revealed nothing but darkness and shifting shadows of immobile stands of trees. I hoped it would stay that way as I drifted to a restless sleep interrupted by an every hour on the hour shifting of my position within my sleeping bag. It was obvious that this night would be less than restful.

     The next morning was quick. Some toasted “everything bagels” with salmon cream cheese spread and fresh brewed vanilla flavored coffee was all that was needed to fuel us up as we headed out to fish a feeder stream to the main stem. This stream looked fairly non-descript and almost undesirable at its lower stretches. We were hoping this fact kept the fishing pressure extremely low. Reports from the previous year (by Packmule and Possum) had this stream noted as a good producer. We knew by ascending into the upper stretches, the stream grew and possessed excellent trout habitat.

     It wasn’t long before our dry flies were getting taken on a regular basis. The little holes were providing hits as much as the cuts, runs, boulders and deeper structures were. In short time, we had caught and landed a mix bag of little dinks and several large brook trout. None of us can claim that we hooked and/or landed a lunker, but there were some good sized, hook jawed, and brightly colored fish brought to hand by all of us.  We had been successful individually and as a group and it was nearing to close of another day, it was time to make the decision to take the walk back down into the crow’s foot of stream convergences and hike the short distance back up to camp for some much needed chow.

     I was to play the role of chef this evening and although I concluded that there was little point in competing with the steak dinner Packmule prepared the night before, I had plans of making sure that the group ate well. Long grain Uncle Ben’s wild rice, garlic steamed asparagus (yes, two nights in a row…we like asparagus!) and bacon fat fried, cornmeal/flour breaded, brook trout. We ate like Kings! After a few swigs of an after dinner “pick-me-up” and another round of Australian lager, it was desert time! Peanut butter and jelly toasted pita pie! YUM! Delicious, but not the greatest bear deterrent! LOL!  We hit the sack after some stargazing and empty staring at the fading fire. My joints ached and back reminded me of all the stresses it hand endured. I needed some shut eye and my body needed a few hours of stillness. The next morning would be busy and a restful night's sleep was mandatory.

     By 11am, we had returned to the car. We changed into clean clothes and tennis shoes. Ahhhh! Tennis shoes versus wet boots for two days, what a Godsend! Our plans were to venture up a bit and try a fly fishing catch and release section after a visit the small town’s general store. The FFCR area had a great population of trout that included brown, brook and bow. The accessibility was immediate with two good fishing locations within 2 minutes of the parking area. Packmule made his way to a stretch we would share and quickly hooked up on what appeared to be his first cast. I followed up with a hookup within 10 casts. The choice to nymph a fast turbulent run that flowed beside an overhanging mass of roots was a good one. The hole was loaded with cover and the fish were willing when coaxed by a size 14 / 16 caddis larva or prince nymph. We seemed to hook more bow than anything else. Several of the fish that I lost due to tippet strength were extremely big and exciting to witness for all of two seconds before breaking off.
    1:30 quickly approached and it was time to depart. A quick wave to the area was given as we would be back next year to repeat the same outing.


Bye for now and thank you Pennsylvania!





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