Christening the Orvis Recon

In my last post I explained that on my trip to Big Pine Creek, I had the misfortune of snapping my 9’-5wt Thomas & Thomas Horizon in half. The guys at Slate Run Tackle Shop talked me into buying a new 9’-5wt Orvis Recon with a 20% discount Orvis was offering. Within the 36 hours after buying this new fly rod and using it on Big Pine Creek three times, I couldn’t land a fish on it. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement. Any fly fisherman knows that after buying a new rod, the first thing to do is christen it by catching a trout on it. The guys at fish camp found this fishless conundrum to be hilarious. I came to the Big and Little Pine Creeks, lit them on fire for two and a half days and then, bang, it all changed. It’s bad enough hooking a good trout and then losing it when fishing by yourself, but to have your fish camp buddies observing, expecting the christening to happen, only to see the line go from tight to limp, and then the jokes start. I must’ve tied on a dozen different flies. I tried dry flies, I tried nymphs, I tried streamers and I ended up having to swallow my pride and go home fishless on the new Recon. If you fly fish long enough, the creeks and the trout will at some point give you a lesson in humility.

 The Orivs Recon prior to christening.

The Orivs Recon prior to christening.

The week after coming home from my trip, all I could think about was christening the Recon. My fishing confidence was shot and I knew the best thing I could do was get back out on the water and earn it back. I came up with a plan. Some time ago, a friend of mine had told me about a client of his that had recently fished a private fishing club on Yellow Creek. I did some research online and found this place, the Yellow Creek Trout Club. This is a private catch and release fly fishing club that stocks large Rainbow, Brown, and Brooke Trout each year. They offer annual memberships that offer 12 months of exclusive access to their property. Some of you that will read this blog post are rolling your eyes right now. There are two groups of fly fisherman, those purist who abhor the idea of a pay to fish operation, and those who understand that many of the trout in Pennsylvania streams are stocked anyhow, so why not have fun for a day and have an opportunity to catch some giants. I fall into the second group. I have friends that only fish for wild trout but that’s not me. I get it; it’s just not me. I’m in this sport for the experience, whether I catch fish or not. But after the beating I took with my new fly rod, it was time to christen this rod properly.

 Sunrise near Homer City, PA - Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

Sunrise near Homer City, PA - Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

I woke up at 5:00am on Saturday morning to rain hitting my bedroom window. The forecast wasn’t great. They were calling for rain all day with the probability dropping in the afternoon. Rain or shine, I was committed and because Yellow Creek comes off of a lake, I figured it would fair ok in the rain. I headed west on the PA Turnpike with the Orvis Recon in tow. I arrived in Indiana County three hours later, got to the club property, rigged up the rod and headed down to the creek. The only knowledge I was able to gain on Yellow Creek fly hatches came from page 318 of Charlie Meck’s Trout Streams and Hatches of Pennsylvania. I started out fishing at pool known as the Black Hole because of the deep trough created by a waterfall pouring over a dam. On the drive out I had envisioned throwing a giant olive streamer into this hole and hooking up with a 30” brown trout. That didn’t happen. After stripping streamers for 15 minutes with no success, I was on the dropper nymph rig. On my third drift with a caddis nymph, something crushed my line. After a lengthy fight I landed a hefty hook jawed brook trout that was in the 20” range. Several minutes later I hooked into a huge rainbow that fought as hard as any wild rainbow or steelhead I’d ever had on my line. For the next couple of hours I worked my way downstream in the rain and Yellow Creek Trout Club lived up to everything I’d expected. I caught large rainbows and brown trout in succession. Check out Part 1 of a two part YouTube post here.

My arms were getting tired watching these fish go on long run after long run. But watching giant trout get acrobatic is always entertaining. As with any trout stream, when the bite shut off, it completely shut off and there wasn’t a fish to be had. One of my highlights of the morning was hooking into a huge brown trout that was in the 25” range. This fish made some incredible runs and I had a hard time controlling him on a 5wt with 5X tippet. A few minutes into our fight he decided to run under a tree branch that was in the water (funny how trout have this ability to pick out the only obstacle in a giant creek and wrap your line around it). I saw this disaster coming before it happened but I couldn’t make it across the creek fast enough to move the branch. The fish swam under and before I could pick up the branch, snap! That would’ve been a great fish to hold for a picture.

 One of several rainbows I caught in the 20" size range.

One of several rainbows I caught in the 20" size range.

I took a break during the mid afternoon for lunch and chatted with a few other fishermen who weren’t having much success. After lunch I headed back up stream to a section on the upper mile I hadn’t explored. As I was descending the steep bank I could see that there was a large pod of trout feeding on the surface in a flat section up ahead. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the opportunity to dry fly fish because of the limited mayfly activity on the creek, but here it was. I crept down to the water and looked at what was in the drift. Midges! Very small midges! Perfect because I’d left my midge box in the truck and wasn’t about to craw back up the bank I just descended to get it. I dug around in my box and found a small Griffith’s Gnat that was reminiscent in color to the midges that were on the water. I casted out with the reach cast (the one I honed on the Delaware) and got a fly in front of the fish and pow! I was able to hook-up with five fish that were feeding and it was a lot of fun watching them take it on top. I captured three of these top water fights on the GoPro, however I found that after the first catch my camera lense had water droplets on it so I only captured one clear video.

 Fishing in the rain at Yellow Creek Trout Club was rewarding.

Fishing in the rain at Yellow Creek Trout Club was rewarding.

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the club property. I saw a lot of great fish in my walk. It’s interesting because the lower half of the property actually has a population of Walleye. One of the fellas that helps out at the club also said he has personally seen pike cruising the creek looking for food. I also saw some large carp in the creek and unintentionally hooked up with a three footer that took a swung stonefly. I think he had me down to my backing in less than 5 seconds. I almost landed this fish on 5X tippet but lost again to a submerged tree in the water. I had several more 30 minutes sessions of unbelievable nymph fishing. As the sun went down and it got dark under the canopy of pine trees, I was the last one on the stream. I drifted a fly downstream and in the dark heard a large splash as a heavy rainbow took my fly. It was at that point that I realized the Orvis Recon was officially christened and I wondered how many more fish it would catch in its career. I knew the guys at Pine Creek fish camp that gave me grief would sleep easier that night knowing all was right in the trout universe. I called it a night and walked out of the woods with my headlamp. I can’t say enough about Yellow Creek Trout Club. They offer a nice, down to earth operation and provide the opportunity for anglers to consistently catch trophy trout. I’d like to get back there some day soon.