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)
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
for now and thank you Pennsylvania!
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