One of the most enjoyable aspects of fly fishing to me is exploring and fishing new water. A number of circumstances kept my fishing confined to Maryland recently, so I was eager to explore some bucket list spots. Last Saturday, I woke up before the sun to fish a central Pennsylvania limestone stream. Normally, I prefer to explore such high-pressured spots during the offseason; however, a recent spell of cool and wet weather kept the crowds at bay.
I started at a stretch of pocket water well downstream of where I parked. To my surprise, I hooked a fish two minutes in. And another. And another. This continued for about an hour and a half. I probably landed around six or seven wild browns and missed just as many. Eight- to 14-inchers. The takes were incredibly subtle.
Around this time, I got a little arrogant. Here I was thinking that I had mastered this “technical” fishery, when suddenly it shut off. Despite my best efforts, I could not conjure any takes for the next hour or so save for a tiny fallfish.
After lunch I eventually found a few more fish in some unlikely spots, in water as shallow as six inches. I did not get any more takes out of more obvious prime lies. My theory is that fish in these more obvious spots in highly-pressured fisheries feed heavily for short periods or not at all. Either I was there at the wrong time or happened to be fishing behind another angler.
After some time, dehydration and hunger got the best of me and I decided to call it a day. I caught fish and broke double digits, but I couldn’t help but feel humbled. George Daniel, Joe Humpreys, George Harvey, and Troutbitten’s Dominic Swentosky have all wet a line in this river at one point or another. To fish in the footsteps of these incredible anglers, from whom I’ve learned a lot felt surreal.
It takes moments like this for me to reflect on why I love fly fishing so much and inspires me to continue to learn, adapt, and improve every time I step into the stream.