One of the things I realized after coming home from this weekends trip is that I'm really horrible at taking pictures on fishing trips. I think I had 5-6 from 3 days of fishing. So I'll add 1 or 2 as I get to them but just the write up will do now.
So, paflyfish. This is the one and only reason I'm addicted to fly fishing. I would be lost without it. It is an online forum where people from all over Pennsylvania, as well as many other states, go to chat about fly fishing. From stream reports, to talking about the latest and greatest gear, to entomology, fly tying, etc. It's all there. I hopped on there in 2007 and have never left. I've learned more from that site than I would have in a lifetime. I've also done my best to pass the knowledge down to others. The information is great, but the people that make up the board are what counts.
Every year we pretty much take over a campground and fish for 3 days. Well some of us fish, others enjoy the social scene a bit more. Campfires, good food, catching up with friends, raffle, casting in the lawn, it's all there! This was my 4th JAM and probably my best. I've come to know quite a few people from the board and it's getting tougher and tougher to get around to talking to everyone before the 3 days are over. It's nothing short of fantastic, and the most anticipated weekend of the year for me every year.
Ohh, and State College has some half decent fishing too.
I drove up with my buddy Greg. Took us around 3 hours. I realized that the 3 hours is well worth it for a day trip and I need to start doing this. We started off at a Class A brookie stream that has always treated us well the 2 years before hand. It was a rough day.... I caught 20. No REALLY, it was a rough day. That stream is so loaded with fish it's ridiculous. I landed quite a few in the 7-9" range and missed a ton of fish. But for averages on this stream it was a bit slow. Hence why we fish this stream early in the trip. Helps build out confidence.
Speaking of confidence, Greg had a rough day on that stream. Got about 25% of what he did last year. We were both hoping it was just going to make up for him getting skunked on the big streams the last 2 years. Well it did! We set up camp, shot the breeze with a few guys and headed to Spring Creek. We got there at around 6pm and I immediately saw rises to the sulphurs. Greg joined me just upstream and we both managed a few fish right before it got too dark. Greg was ecstatic with his first brown trout on a dry fly in State college. If I recall correctly, he got 2 fish that night in the 14" class. Not too shabby.
We headed back to camp to be joined by about 60 other board members. We stayed at Seven Mountains Campground and they have been more than welcoming to us the last 2 years. They put in several new cabins, and have accommodated us with great service. Everyone hung out at the pavilion till the wee hours of the night. Talking about the days fishing, preparing tomorrow, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. This is what some people come for. The fishing is just a by-product. I try to do both, but that is somewhat impossible. I headed to bed at around 1am and froze my tail off and got about 4-5 interrupted hours of sleep due to SOMEONE forgetting the cots, and many people sawing the entire forest behind us down.
The next morning was almost disastrous. No one brought coffee! There was a perk, but no coffee to put in it. I can live without coffee. I don't drink it much anymore because I like good strong coffee, and every place you go has crappy "mechanic shop" coffee (Maxwell House brewed in river water) or it's $6 a cup. So I've learned to cope. Others do not, and Greg was one of them. Luckily the campground offered up it's supply and the day was saved. We sat and chatted with many of the guys till about 1pm. It was a bluebird day. So not much was expected until night time. A few of us headed out to Spring and were joined by none of the 8 billion fish in there willing to bite. We called it not too long after arriving and headed to the Paradise section. We met up with a few board members, including the gentlemen who founded the site, and a few of the moderators. They are all very wise in fishing, and know how to spend their days. The Paradise section is full of history. There's a small section as you enter it that is still "no wading". Back in the prime of fly fishing it was customary to have people fish from the bank in their tweed jackets, trousers, creels in tow, and tossing silk lines on bamboo rods. Much has changed, but the history remains. There's some large beautiful trees with a few picnic tables scattered around. A bald eagles nest lay in one, but none of the birds were sighted. We decided to wait out the heat of the day by cooking up some hotdogs and chatting the afternoon away.
I love to fish. I hope I've made that obvious. When it's time to fish, I don't mess around. Others like to take their time. Not me. So when it was time to go I suited up quickly, as did Greg, and the only other one to be ready was Dave, the originator of the site. I fished with Dave my first ever JAM and had a great time getting to know him. He's a great man with 2 fantastic kids and has done wonders with this website in building a great community. Ohh... he's a pretty good fisherman too. So I didn't bat an eye in the 3 of us hopping on the trail and heading up to a good spot. We walked a good 20 minutes and finally found a spot that appeased us.
There were several runs and riffles and plenty of room for the 3 of us to get comfortable and wait for the action. Well the action started quickly for me and pretty much never ended. I had consistent rises to my flies, but worked hard to get them. Many of the fish I had takes on I never saw rise, but with enough work I got some great takes. There was one section of stream where the was a log jam and it created a big calm back eddy with a few big rocks. I figured there would be some fish back there. As I approached I saw 2 big fish with their noses buried in towards the wood. Then I saw more fish behind. There was a big deep riffle caused by the log jam, so I got as close as I could and cast my fly into the eddy while keeping as much line off the water as possible, so not to get drag. I caught 3 fish out of there and missed a few others. It was quite satisfying seeing a spot that most people wouldn't look for and pull fish out of. I gave that spot a rest and fished downstream over a 20-30 yard section above where Dave and Greg were fishing. I continued to get strikes, and landed a few fish. Half were small 7" fish, but I landed a few in the 12-15 range. Most strikes were coming from 2-5 feet from the bank and I did my best to get flies in there amongst the cover and still produce a good drift. I lost a good amount of flies this way, but that's par for the course.
I saw a part of the bank I hadn't thrown any flies into and had a feeling there was a fish in that area. I threw a great cast and it plopped about 3 feet from the shore. I saw a wake and some BIG jaws open and suck in my size 16 parachute sulphur almost instantly. I yelled "BIG FISH" and then began the fight. He stripped line, ran up and down the stream and fought similar to a steelhead, except I had a 4wt and 4lb tippet, compared to an 8wt and 10lb tippet. So I gently steered him through a few runs and wanted to get him upstream of me. Greg said he'd net him for me only to realize he lost is net sometime in the last 30 minutes. Dave was on the bank taking some pictures (GREAT photographer also) and I tried to make my way to the bank to get a chance at landing this fish. About 3-4 minutes went by and the big fish was just downstream of me. One small head shake and he was gone.................. utter disappointment. I've set a goal for the last 5 years to catch a 20 inch trout, and have never come close. This fish was probably at least 20" if not bigger. I sulked for a minute, enjoyed the take and the fight, and got right back in the game. I continued to catch a few more fish on sulphurs right before the spinners congregated and hit the water. We all had some short action on the spinnerfall, and it was dark:30 before we knew it. We headed up stream to cross at a small bridge, and walked back to the cars. The night was over and it was nothing short of fantastic.
The night wasn't over though. We headed back to camp and this night was the night of the raffle, chilli cook off, and the main night were most people come to the pavilion to shoot the breeze. I'd guess we had 80+ guys there that night. One gentleman, who amazes every year, showed off his guitar playing skills with 2 sidekicks at either side, while another painted a beautiful picture of a brown trout to be given away at the raffle. Everyone else enjoyed the chilli and many other dishes that some so generously provided. All of this started around 10pm, and I don't think ever ended. I missed the first drawn number by 1 and missed my opportunity at the painting. Maybe next year. I have a smallmouth replica by my tying bench that was given to me by the artist a few years ago to honor my massive smallie that I caught expectantly in a small ATW trout stream. He painted it up to look like my fish and was a very generous gift. Rod and Brush
Well this was all over and I headed to bed at around 1am even though many people were just getting started. I attempted to sleep again, and ended up waking up early and sleeping in the truck for an hour or so of rest. We chatted with the coffee crowd one last time, packed up camp, and headed out. We attempted to hit another local brookie stream, but didn't have any luck. We headed out and arrived home at a decent hour, which is always welcomed by our significant others.
The weekend is over, but the memories remain. Around 360 days till the next one. The countdown begins!