Chasing Brookies

In late July I found myself having something which I very rarely have in large quantities these days – free time.  In fact I had almost three full days of it.  So, like every other fishing obsessed individual, I packed up my camping and fly fishing gear and headed 4 hours northwest to the wild and rugged mountains of Potter County, PA to chase some native Pennsylvania brook trout.

While brook trout are abundant throughout most of Pennsylvania (there is a reason why the brook trout is our state fish), they are almost non-existent in the southeastern region where I reside.  I have to drive at least an hour to find water with a native brook trout population, and even then, those populations fluctuate year to year.  For me, an opportunity to fish the mountain streams of Potter County where healthy, hungry brook trout occupy just about every stream, was something I could not pass up.

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I set up my base camp at Lyman Run State Park, which is located outside of Galeton, PA.  This is a small state park, comprised of a two campground areas and a small lake.  However, it is surrounded by 265,000 acres of beautiful untouched wilderness, known as Susquehannock state forest.

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The first day I fished the lower end of Lyman Run (the stream from which the park derives its name).  The water was low and clear, which made it difficult to move into position without spooking the fish.  I only managed a few chubs that day.  That evening it rained for a solid five hours.  While the rain forced me to hunker down in the tent for the entire evening, it seemed to rejuvenate the wildlife in the surrounding forest.  That night, the coyotes were going absolutely insane.  Between the fighting and the constant howling, I did not sleep well to say the least.

The following day I decided to expand my search for mountain brookies into the state forest.  I followed Lyman Run north into the state forest and fished upstream for a few miles.  I had numerous hits, but only managed to land one 4 inch brookie.  As I ventured deeper into the forest, the environment seemed to turn wilder with every step I took.  Eventually I found a tributary that looked promising and decided to follow that upstream.  After 15 minutes of following this trib upstream, I was nearly frightened half to death when I flushed two ruffed grouse from a streamside pine.  It took quite a while for my heartrate to return to normal after that!  As I stood there recovering from the minor heart-attack I just suffered, I took a minute to look around and really take in my surroundings.  There was not another person to be found.  There were no sounds of cars moving up and down a roadway.  The only dominating sound was the sound of a babbling mountain stream.  There was no human trash on the forest floor, and the only other footprints to be seen besides mine were those left by minks, white-tails and black bears.  For someone who loves the outdoors, this was as about as close to heaven as you can get.

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After a few more minutes of exploring the trib, I came across a nice plunge pool.  I sat down on a nearby log (after meticulously searching the area underneath the log to ensure there wasn’t a timber rattler nestled underneath my seat) and watched the pool.  Sure enough, after a couple minutes, a small mouth appeared to sip something off the surface…and 30 seconds later it appeared again.  With my quarry in sight, I tied on a size 16 griffith’s gnat and slowly moved into position downstream of my target.  I made three casts into the plunge pool to no avail.  On the fourth cast, I finally convinced my quarry to strike the fly.  After a short fight consisting of two acrobatic aerial leaps, I had the brook trout in my landing net.

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It was in my opinion, the most beautiful fish I had ever caught.  After a few quick photos I released the brookie back into the plunge pool.  Mission accomplished.  I returned back to camp that evening in the best of moods.  Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.

 

Until next time,

-Rob Fravel

PA Rod and Reel

 

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @parodandreel or click here.

 

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Homemade Squirrel Chili

Over the Christmas holiday, I’ve had some time off from work and was able to spend some quality time in the outdoors.  However, instead of heading off in search of some trout waters with my trusty fly rod in hand, I grabbed my shotgun and headed into the woods in search of some small game.  Within a few hours I had returned home with two Eastern Gray Squirrels in my game pouch.

I have found that many people (including avid hunters) cringe at the thought of eating squirrel.  Maybe they find the idea of eating something that is considered a “rodent” taboo in some way, or maybe they just think squirrels are gross.  I don’t know.  Personally I think squirrels provide some of the best tasting meat in the woods.  Which is why I wanted to share one of my favorite squirrel recipes, in hopes of convincing some nay-sayers into giving squirrel a try.

 

Squirrel Chili:

Ingredients

2 whole squirrels (cleaned and skinned)

2 medium sized yellow onions

2 green peppers

4 gloves of garlic (minced)

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

1 15 oz. can of butter beans

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas

4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of chili powder

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of paprika

2 tablespoons of oregano

1 tablespoon of salt

1 tablespoon of pepper

1 tablespoon of cumin

1 beef bullion cube

 

Directions

Parboil the squirrels in the beef bullion for about 25-30 minutes, or until the meat pulls off the bone.  In meantime, chop the onions, peppers and garlic.  Once the squirrels are ready, remove them from the water, set them on a cutting board and let them cool for 2-3 minutes.  Once cooled pull all the meat from the bones and then finely chop the meat.  Place the olive oil in a large skillet.  Once the olive oil is hot, add the onions and peppers and sauté until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).  Then add the squirrel, garlic, and spices.  Stir until the vegetables are thoroughly coated with spices and keep on low heat for 2-3 minutes.  Next, place the contents of the skillet into a large crockpot.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and chickpeas.  Put crockpot on low heat and let it cook for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve with some shredded cheddar, sour cream, a biscuit and enjoy!!!

 

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @parodandreel or click here.