Blown Out In The Mid-Atlantic

Late last week the mid-Atlantic was soaked by a large weather system that extended from New York, all the way to southern Virginia. On Friday afternoon I was looking at stream gauge after stream gauge on the USGS website and it was one spiked chart after another. By Friday evening, it was official, unless I wanted to drive 10 hours west to fish in central Kentucky on the Hatchery Creek; I wasn’t going to be fishing on Saturday. Accepting these realizations drove me crazy. Heaven forbid I take a Saturday and relax, tie flies, or do some reading. But this is April and April means hatching mayflies and trout. What made it worse was the realization that streams weren’t coming down overnight and Sunday was probably out too. On Saturday afternoon I shot Steve from Yellow Creek Trout Club a text and asked him how the water levels were out in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The picture he texted back surprised me. While the water levels were higher than normal, the watercolor was an amazing shade of green. That was the only convincing I needed, I was fly fishing Yellow Creek on Sunday.

 The fog lifts off of Yellow Creek as the sun hits the water.

The fog lifts off of Yellow Creek as the sun hits the water.

Sunday morning I was on the road by 3:30am. When I arrived at the Yellow Creek Trout Club there were a handful of cars already there and I met Steve at the pavilion. He said he thought the water was running around 250CFS, but no one could be sure because the stream gauge on Yellow Creek has been out of service. He said he’d put a large number of rainbows in the creek in early March and that he’d be stocking again next weekend. After catching up we parted ways and I geared up to hit the water. I have this new tradition where I fish the 9’-5wt Orvis Recon every time I go to Yellow Creek. My acquiring that fly rod is what started Wooly Bugged, so I guess it holds some nostalgia. I decided I’d fish a tandem fly rig with a #12 Psycho Prince Nymph for my top fly and a #14 Gold Bead Pink San Juan Worm for my dropper. When I got down to the water, it was definitely higher than normal. In fact, these were the highest water conditions I’d ever fished on Yellow Creek. I figured with the water temperatures still being borderline cold, the fish were probably still holding back in the soft water and not actively in the riffles. I started fishing downstream. The high water conditions were perfect for large Airlock indicators. These heftier indicators do a much better job of staying buoyant in the heaver flows. The water was a light murky green color and while it wasn’t chocolate milk, the turbidity was still at a moderate level.

 The first rainbow I caught on a Pink Gold Beaded San Juan Worm.

The first rainbow I caught on a Pink Gold Beaded San Juan Worm.

After 30 minutes of fishing, I finally hooked up with my first fish. After so many casts with no bumps it almost caught me off guard. It was a fat rainbow trout that gave a really good fight on the Recon. The Recon is much stiffer than my Winston 9’-5wt but it has more backbone than the Winston and it was a good fit for the heavy water. A few yards upstream I hooked up with a second rainbow that had my Abel reel drag screaming. Seeing these strong rainbows flash in the green water had me feeling as if I was hooking steelhead in Erie.

 The second rainbow trout I caught on a Psycho Prince Nymph.

The second rainbow trout I caught on a Psycho Prince Nymph.

I continued working my way upstream throughout the morning hours and by lunchtime; I’d made my way to the Black Hole. This is one of my favorite spots at Yellow Creek Trout Club, but the flows were so heavy that it was virtually unfishable, at least with a fly rod. I stopped and had a sandwich and enjoyed the sunshine and warm air for a while and then went back to drifting my fly line. After no more hookups, I starting swapping out flies, and trying new patterns. I tried drifting buggers, I tried drifting natural nymphs, and I couldn’t buy a hit to save my life. I worked my way up to the upstream boundary of the club. I was drifting a Golden Stonefly Nymph through a pocket and a huge rainbow hit my fly. I fought this fish for 10-20 seconds and then it made a run downstream directly towards a waterfall and although I tried to direct him a different way, the fish got to the waterfall, went over, and my fly popped out of his lip. That was a first.

 The stoneflies were hatching consistently in the afternoon sun.

The stoneflies were hatching consistently in the afternoon sun.

I decided I’d walk back downstream and fish the lower half of the creek during the midafternoon before I’d get a headstart on the drive home. While downstream I hooked up with another nice rainbow and landed him. I also had a large brown trout go after a swung woolly bugger, only to have him jump out of the water long enough for me to see how big he was and watch my bugger drop out of his mouth.

 The last trout I landed on Sunday.

The last trout I landed on Sunday.

It was tough fishing on Sunday, even at the Yellow Creek Trout Club. I didn’t see too many people hooking up with fish, but one thing is for sure, the fish were there. Sometimes I enjoy those days where for every 100 drifted casts, you catch one fish, and that one fish is really fun to reel in and net. It’s all about quality, not quantity, and I’ll keep telling myself that. I’m looking forward to receding water levels.