Dawn Patrol
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Thread: Dawn Patrol

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    Default Dawn Patrol

    Mid-spring is my favorite time to hit the bluelines. The water levels are right, the bugs are right, and the temps are right above and below the surface. If there's a downside, it's that I can't lie slugabed until late in the morning and hit the water at lunchtime the way I do in the winter. I've never been what you'd call a morning person, so when the alarm went off at 4 in the morning yesterday, I was sorely tempted not to answer the bell. In fact, I didn't answer the bell; I snoozed the alarm. I snoozed it again at 4:05. And again at 4:10. It began to chime once more at 4:15, and I gave in and got up.

    I managed to get myself dressed and fed up, and, having had the foresight to pack the car Wednesday evening, I managed to avoid the usual panicked search for necessary odds and ends. I got on the road with plenty of time to hit my target stream at first light. This was a creek I've fished many times before, but usually in short stints on the way to and from other creeks; but it ticks off a lot of the boxes I'm looking for in a blueline, and has long been in line for more complete exploration.

    I slid into the creek downstairs, maybe a couple hundred yards from its confluence with the local "big river," just as it became light enough to see my line on the water. This lower stretch of creek is kind of slow and juicy, not at all your typical blueline water. It has the look and smell of big fish water about it, but it is tough to fish and probably not all that densely populated. In any event, I worked my way through the first three or four likely spots without even a whisper of success. It wasn't like I was seeing them flee in terror, either.

    I finally found my first good chute of whitewater, and dredged out my first rainbow—not from the soft seam alongside, but from the churning water right at the head of the hole. I lobbed my girdle bug back into the maelstrom and repeated the process. Ah ha! I might be on to something. Tightlining through the fast stuff produced several more bows from that chute and remained the effective pattern through the morning hours.

    Working up the creek, I found another chute churning into a slightly deeper hole. To one side of the shoot a large undercut boulder formed the "shoulder," and there was a narrow lane maybe 6-8" wide and a yard long where water rippled instead of ripping along. Spots like these are, in my book, classic big fish lies. They're also tough lies, and they require spot-on-the-spot accuracy or the pillowing currents pull the fly out of the lane and usually into the pile of snags that invariably build up beneath undercut rocks. I flipped a cast in, and it looked like I'd hit that spot-on-the-spot, the drift came straight down the alley and the line slackened then tightened ever so slightly, in that classic, subtle take sort of way. I set...

    ...into a snag, as it turns out. Or so I thought. I cursed under my breath when everything came to a hard stop on the set, but something felt off. It wasn't really moving, but it felt a little squishier than the usual run of snags. "This might be...," I muttered to myself. Suddenly, the line leapt off and was charging up and across the current.

    "...a fish."

    At this point, I hadn't caught sight of the fish, but the way it had locked me in irons right of the bat, and the speed with which it teleported upcurrent suggested it just might be a Big Bad in a small creek. It rolled to the surface and I got a glimpse of deep, buttery flanks and I knew I was right. It made a second, more determined run upstream. I didn't know what it was gunning for, but I knew whatever it was would be bad for sure. I palmed the reel to keep it from overrunning the clicker on my Battenkill, applied aggressive side pressure to end the charge, and was then able to back the fish down into slow open water, where I could more easily go about the tricky business of hand landing a 20"+ class brownie. He made several more lunges, but never again really threatened anything serious before I was finally able to slide him in and tail him. A true blueline beast. There aren't a ton of small stream resident trout like this, but they are out there if you put in the time to divine the secrets. For sure if you run into one, it'll work a 3 wt pretty hard.

    I knew I wasn't going to top that big brown but I signed up for a day of fishing, not 45 minutes and back to the house, so I pushed on up. I'd heard that some brookies still held out in this creek, and all the other feeders in this watershed are brookie strongholds. On the other hand, I'd never actually caught a brook trout there before. Having scratched, "Stick a pig," off the to-do list I set catching a speck as the new mission. There are no substantial barrier falls on the creek, so nothing that could point to where the "brookie water" starts. The only way to go seemed to be to work upstream until I found some, which as plans go, isn't really a plan.

    What I actually found, for the most part, were rainbow trout. Lots and lots of rainbow trout. These fish generally don't get much love from me, and more often than not, you'll just hear me call them "roaches." But they'll eat under the glare of the sun, and they fight, and they're always there in numbers. They keep the rod bent when the browns won't chew and the brookies may or may not be a myth.

    Browns did not seem to be present in anywhere near the numbers that the bows were. Many creeks in the area produce much closer to a 50-50 split between the two species, here it ran to more like 10-1 in favor rainbows, with the caveat that the browns seemed to make up in individual dimension what they lacked in numbers. I did catch a smaller, "typical" wild brown, but other than that, the fish I encountered were all substantial. I had one nearly as large as the hoss from the morning chase in a hooked rainbow, stuck a nice fish that got into heavy current found a snag and then popped a gorgeous golden specimen that would have been far and away the fish of the day on most of my blueline outings. Whatever else is the case, this creek ain't hurting for forage.

    The character of this creek changes quite drastically over its course. In its lower reaches, it is mostly a sequence of gently rippling glides, only really pushing where the stream bed necks down between a couple of large boulders. The riffles are deceptively wide, making the creek seem to be more substantial than it really is. A closer look finds that the water in these riffles rarely comes much over your shoetops.

    About a mile and a half above the confluence with the larger river in the mid-valley, the creek starts picking up bedrock and gradient. Here, the gravel and cobble rock of the lower creek begins to be replaced by boulders and bedrock masses and shelves. The riffles are still surprisingly wide, but channelized by bedrock and boulders, giving more of that classic freestone pocket water feel. The neck downs become plunges and some of the pools these form are quite impressive.

    About two and a half miles above the confluence, the creek splits off into a main stem and smaller fork to the left. I decided to follow the latter, but by this point, both forks had attained that true headwaters stream character. Boulder gardens. Concentrated essence of pocket water. It might have been that the brookies were just a rumor, but the stream sure enough looks like brookie water by the time you get up there.

    It turns out it didn't just look like brookie water. It was brookie water. Score one for the rumor mill.

    Cheers y'all!


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Emerald Isle


    Once again, a great post with outstanding "documentation".....almost makes me want to sell my place on the coast and move west......

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2017


    Beautiful stream. Excellent post. Thanks for taking us along.

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010


    That is outstanding. Really interesting how different that stream looks in different sections.

    I use the same exact 3wt..minus the battenkill.

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    Dylar, you kill me. 🙂 Nice, as always!
    Lifelong fishing nut. Wish I was fishin, instead of wishing!

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Holly Springs


    Thanks again for sharing. Glad you found the brookies you were looking for.

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