Founding Fathers & Benner Spring Browns

Somehow winter has crept back into the picture and it is cold again. On Saturday I drove north to spend the morning pheasant hunting at Martz Game Farm with three close friends of mine. The four of us call ourselves the “Founding Fathers.” This phrase refers to four friends who started a fly fishing trip to Big Pine Creek each spring as a way to stay in touch after college and share our love of the outdoors. It’s hard to believe but this June will be the fourteenth year we’ve gone. It started with the four of us and has grown into a trip that at times has included as many as thirteen people. I credit two of the founding fathers; Mike Haines and Mike Mamrak as being two people who helped me grow as a fly fisherman when I was first learning the sport. The pheasant hunt in March gives the four of us an opportunity to plan for the spring fishing trip. This year after the pheasant hunt we drove to the Muncy Valley to stay the night in a new property and cabin that Mike Mamrak recently acquired.

 On top of the mountain that overlooks the Muncy Valley.

On top of the mountain that overlooks the Muncy Valley.

Three miles up on the mountain top, the ground was covered with several inches of snow and the temperature was in the teens. The cold temperatures didn’t stop us from building a fire, cooking ribeye steaks, and staying up chatting under the glow of propane gas lit lamps. This group helped grow my passion for fly fishing and I’ll always be grateful to them for that.

The Founding Fathers trip didn’t leave much time for fly fishing over the weekend but I wouldn’t head north without packing my gear. After a quick sit down breakfast in Hughesville on Sunday morning, I decided to head towards State College to fish one of the big three. I was originally set on going back to Penns Creek but the cold temps had me thinking the fish would be lethargic. The Little Juniata was tempting but added too much travel time to the trip. I decided on Spring Creek, which made sense, considering the spring water held steady in the low 40s regardless of the plunging air temperatures. I headed to the Shiloh Road access on Spring Creek below the Benner Spring Fish Hatchery.

When I arrived at the bridge, no one was parked so I pulled off and started getting geared up. It was freezing out and I had a hard time motivating myself to get out of the truck and put on my waders. I finally got out and got to work rigging my Winston. As I was getting set-up, a truck drove by, stopped at the bridge and parked in the trail lot. To my disappointment, three spin fishermen walked upstream, waded right into the water I had hoped to fish and proceeded to wade right into prime water where I knew the fish held. To make matters worse, after several casts they kept coming upstream, casting and wading through trout lies and disturbing everything in their path. I just shook my head, finished rigging my rod and decided I’d drive upstream above the hatchery at the Rock Road access lot.

 Looking downstream on Spring Creek below Benner Spring.

Looking downstream on Spring Creek below Benner Spring.

When I arrived at the lot there was only one other vehicle there and two guys fishing to the left and right of the metal bridge. I decided I’d head downstream and find some fresh water. I decided to fish with my Y2K attractor as a top pattern and drop a new scud pattern that I developed. This scud pattern uses olive hen saddle, sparkle antron dubbing, and green wire for ribbing. I think the olive color makes for a scud that looks more natural to the creek where green vegetation on the stream bottom has a tendency to result in scuds that have a green tint to them. I stepped in the creek about 50 yards below Benner Springs and started working my way downstream. It was 11:00AM when I hit the water and it was very cold. I’d say it was barely 20 degrees. During my first two hours of fishing, I didn’t move many fish. In two pool tailouts, I missed a couple of brown trout that nipped at my nymph on the bottom and I was unable to secure a hook-up. By 1:00pm it was snowing and I was considering calling it an early day. However, the thought of landing a fish kept me going.

 The first Spring Creek wild brown trout I landed on Sunday.

The first Spring Creek wild brown trout I landed on Sunday.

By late afternoon the sun actually peaked through the clouds. When the sunlight hit the water, I noticed an immediate change in fish activity. I watched several brown trout feeding on top in a pool and for 10 minutes they consistently rose to small Blue Winged Olives (BWOs). By this time I started heading back upstream to fish some water I’d walked past. In my first cast I was hooked up with a wild brown. After releasing him, my next cast netted me a fish. It was as if someone flipped a switch. Over the next hour I caught 15 wild brown trout on scuds and a Gold Beadhead Hare’s Ear Nymph. When Spring Creek brown trout get hungry, they do not discriminate. I had a lot of fish brought to hand as the early evening came on and the full moon rose over Benner Spring. I watched a half dozen trout feeding on the top as darkness fell and it was hard to believe what I was watching with the cold temperatures. Eventually I lost feeling in my fingers and could no longer tie 6X tippet to a fly. I decided to call it a night. I hope warmer spring temperatures come soon.