New Personal Best

My New PB

Yesterday brought me my new personal best native brook trout. Water conditions were low and it was an excellent day for fishing. The weather was overcast and mild with warming temperatures. I arrived at the stream hoping to see more water and possibly some color to the water due to recent rains, but the rain must have missed this stream’s drainage.

I fished a section of PA-1A that I’ve fished many times before. With the water being low, the fish were very spooky. In the larger pools, I could only manage a handful of casts and maybe a fish or two before the pool would spook. The pool that I caught my new PB in is one that has been difficult to fish in the past due to flow. It’s deep at about 6 feet or so and has a huge oak tree right across the middle of it which makes drifting nymphs very difficult. I’ve tried driving sculpins down into the water before, but there is a lot of debris in the way of tree branches down in the pool which makes anything subsurface very difficult.

Yesterday, however, I was forced to fish a dry/dropper combo. The fly I used wasn’t really a representation of anything that’s on the water lately. If anything, it’s a smaller coffin fly imitation. Just a white fine dubbed thorax with a two tone black/tan hackle and a CDC post. Off of it I tied a #14 nymph that I’ve had a lot of success with lately. It’s basically a pheasant tail, but I wrap the thorax in fine dark orange dubbing, bring the tag of the pheasant tail up across the back and rib with gold wire. The thorax is a blend of gold rabbit mask fur and dark orange dubbing with a pheasant tail fiber wing case.

I approached this big pool cautiously as I knew by this point that I only had a few casts before the pool would spook. Before I cast, I watched for a while and saw a few good boils. One was river left by a big undercut bank and the other was river right where there’s a stump in the water with some depth beside it. My first cast to the fish on the right had him take the dropper on impact. This was a good fish in it’s own right. The fish below;

The second fish from the big pool

I was happy with this fish, but as I released it and started to apply some floatant to my dry, the fish on river left rose again. I dried the fly, measured my cast with a few false casts to let out line and landed a perfect cast as tight up under the big oak tree that spanned the water as I could make it. As with the first fish, the second fish took the dropper on impact. I knew as soon as I set the hook it was a good brook trout. The flash of red and obviously larger size got me very excited.

Colorful male brook trout in spring

While it may not look it, this fish measured 11-1/2″ and it’s girth was the second thing I noticed after it’s color. Pictures certainly don’t do it justice. It’s one of the most healthy brook trout I’ve encountered. I snapped these few pictures and released him unharmed to return to his deep hold.

Perfect Brook Trout Specimen

I caught several decent fish on this trip, and a surprising statistic developed. I caught very few brown trout. This stream is heavily stocked below where I fished, and it’s got a strong population of resident wild brown trout as well. We’ve even caught what I’m certain are wild rainbow trout. What I noticed on this trip is that the browns seemed to occur below where I caught the brookies and again above, but there is a section “in the middle” where brook trout outnumber the browns.

Another decent brook trout
Amazing color pattern on this decent brookie

With the water being low and clear, I could see into deep pools that are usually too deep and colored to see the bottom. This allowed me to do a bit of a visual survey of the inhabitants of the different pools. This was a big surprising as I’ve hooked and seen some huge brown trout in this stream, and I assumed I would see some of them. Instead, I saw a lot of decent sized brook trout. In one pool, I saw what I’m pretty certain was a brook trout of true unicorn size. I’m guessing in the 14 inch range. These fish were far too spooked to take, and I’m assuming they’re holding bottom until the water rises and gains some color before actively feeding.

From what I saw, a true unicorn is possible here. I’ve been fishing larger sculpin patterns at this stream lately. Using a technique I call “dingle dangle” where I plunge the heavily weighted streamer into log jams with deep water and quickly jerk the sculpin back to the top. I’ve hooked some huge browns, and seen even more. I’ve had a few brookies take swipes and I’ve even caught a decent 8 inch brookie with the sculpin. I think that the sculpin is going to be the best chance at hooking a big brookie here, but they’ve got to strike faster than the browns. It’s also a good way to spook a hole quickly as the fish get pretty wary of the sculpin after a few casts. Still, it’s possible that a fluke encounter may happen while doing this, and It’s a lot of fun.

I’m really not sure what the deal with the lack of browns is. Normally the water I fish holds quite a few browns, but they seemed to be missing. I don’t know if they’ve moved and congregated in another section of the stream, or if they were there but just hiding. We’re in for some rain this week, so I might venture out one evening after work to see what the higher water might bring with the sculpins.

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