Pine Creek, The Muncy & Talking Barred Owls

Last week two of my fly fishing buddies that live near Williamsport, Pennsylvania confirmed that Pine Creek was finally shaping up for a weekend of good fly fishing. High water from spring rains had kept large numbers of fishermen from catching the trout that were stocked in the water that runs from Slate Run to below Black Walnut Bottom.

I typically fish Pine Creek once a year during the month of May on an annual trip I take with a group of college friends. But this year, after reading about the large number of trout that Straub Brewery had pitched in to help increase fish density in the entire stretch of the Delayed Harvest Area, I’d been wanting to wet line on Pine Creek since March. When I saw that fishing conditions were shaping up to be good, I decided I’d fish Pine on Saturday.

 Standing in Pine Creek at the Black Walnut Bottom access.

Standing in Pine Creek at the Black Walnut Bottom access.

I headed north early on Saturday morning with the goal of being at the Black Walnut Bottom access by 6:30AM.  When I hit Selinsgrove on Rt. 11/15, rain started hitting my windshield. I was surprised because the forecast hadn’t been calling for rain. I stopped at a gas station and checked the radar and sure enough, there were short bands of rain coming across northcentral Pennsyvlania. I drove in a light rain all the way to my destination. When I pulled in at Black Walnut Bottom the lot was full of vehicles from the people camping in the hike in tent area. I pulled into a spot and watched the rain hit my windshield. I wasn’t really in the mood to get wet, who is, but I wanted to get a head start on some fresh water. I pulled on my rain jacket, rigged up the Scott G2 and headed down to the water. When I got to the bank I was surprised to see an older gentlemen walking back up the creek with a fly rod in hand. He mentioned that he’d caught about eight fish on his way down through and then said something about the early bird always getting the worm. I smirked and tied on a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph and dropped a Rainbow Warrior Nymph off the bottom. I started working the soft, slower water that is in front of the boat launch. After 20 minutes I finally hooked up with a trout, which I eventually lost because of a bad hook set. A few minute later, the same thing happened. I hooked up, then the trout threw the fly. The fish that I never get to net are the fish that I never forget.

About an hour into fishing I heard voices up on the hill and my buddy Mike Haines and Travis Liebig were making their way to the water. I explained my fishing misfortunes and before long, there were three of us working the water. I made my way down toward the long riffle that runs down around the bend toward the large pool across from the tent sites. I figured there was a good chance that the trout had moved into the riffle water to take advantage of oxygenated water and nymph activity. After almost an hour of no luck on the Rainbow Warrior, a Pheasant Tail, and a drifted Woolly Bugger, I went back to my secret weapon, the Squirmy Wormy. I know some people hate it, but I’m sorry, I’m not apologizing because every time I tie this fly on it catches fish. It wasn’t a minute and I was hooking up with stocked rainbows, one after the other. Working the slack water just off the heavy flow, I went from zero trout to ten trout in an hour.

 One of the many rainbow trout I caught at Black Walnut Bottom.

One of the many rainbow trout I caught at Black Walnut Bottom.

At one point as I was drifting the Squirmy Wormy, I saw a huge trout come up out of the depths of Pine Creek and follow my fly. This fish was easily over 25”. It swiped at the Squirmy once and missed, and then followed it another couple of feet and swiped again. This time my hook caught his lip and I had this giant on for a second and then as soon as I applied pressure, pop, out came my hook. That one will haunt me in my dreams. As we were fishing the riffle water, a familiar face came walking upstream and it was my other friend Mike Mamrak who had unexpectedly decided to come and fish.

 My friend Mike Mamrak fishing above me in the riffles on the Tomb Flats.

My friend Mike Mamrak fishing above me in the riffles on the Tomb Flats.

After a quick lunch at the Manor Hotel, Mike Haines and Travis had to head back to Williamsport. Mike and I decided to move down to the Tomb Flats access. This is the area of the river where Slate Run Tackle Shop always posts a video of giant brown trout being stocked into the creek. Mike Mamrak and I headed upstream to fish the riffles that tumble down to the large pool along the parking lot. I was still fishing my Hare’s Ear Nymph with a Pink Squirmy dropped off the back. I wasn’t in the water five minutes and I hooked up with a good trout in the shallow riffles. The fished jumped out of the water and I saw that it was a beautifully colored rainbow trout. As I worked it across the current and eventually into my net, I started to suspect this was a Kamloops rainbow.

 The rainbow trout I caught on the Tomb Flats that I believe was a Kamloops rainbow trout.

The rainbow trout I caught on the Tomb Flats that I believe was a Kamloops rainbow trout.

Most stocked rainbow trout don’t display this type of broad pink color. It was a beautiful fish. We spent about an hour at the Tomb Flats and the only other fish that was caught was a rainbow that Mike landed in the deep pool.

By mid-afternoon Mike and I drove back to Hughesville to grab some food and gear so that we could stay the night on top of the mountain at his cabin overlooking the Muncy Valley. On the way, we stopped to fish the Muncy Creek just outside of Picture Rocks. There’s a short Delayed Harvest stretch here that was stocked only a week prior so we figured we’d get into some fish. When we arrived, Mike was asking for a Squirmy Wormy to tie onto his line.

 Mike Mamrak fishing the long run on the Muncy Creek.

Mike Mamrak fishing the long run on the Muncy Creek.

Within a few minutes of drifting this fly for the first time, Mike was hooked up and landing a brown trout. We took turns hooking fish in the long riffle along the parking lot and eventually I headed downstream to water that looked promising at the creek bend. The entire creek came down to a beautiful long pool with a slow current. The water was almost crystal clear. On my first drift through, my indicator shot to the bottom of the Muncy. I set the hook and fought a beautiful holdover fish.

For an hour I fished as the light faded and I hooked up with several hard fighting rainbow trout. Eventually I saw Mike Haines’s Jeep coming down a gravel road on the other side of the creek. Before I knew it my name was being shouted across the creek along with horn beeps. It was time to head to the cabin.

 Mike Haines preparing some steaks to cook over the open fire.

Mike Haines preparing some steaks to cook over the open fire.

 Relaxing by the fire swapping fish stories.

Relaxing by the fire swapping fish stories.

 Watching the fire turn wood into burning embers.

Watching the fire turn wood into burning embers.

We spent the night sitting around a campfire cooking steaks, potatoes, and sharing a drink. We sat and listened to Barred Owls talk back and forth in their strange voices until the embers of the fire had gone black.