Q & A with Shawn Washinger of Susquehanna Rod Company

Many anglers (including myself) dream of one day being able to earn a living working in the outdoor industry, either as a guide, pro staffer, or making products associated with our passion.  Shawn Washinger, is following that dream through his new business – Susquehanna Rod Company.  Recently, I caught up with Shawn and spent some time chatting about his custom rod building company, fly fishing, Pennsylvania trout and beer.

What follows is my interview with Shawn.  To learn more about Shawn and his company, check out SRC’s website www.susquehannarodcompany.com.

  1.  Can you give me a brief bio of yourself?  

My name is Shawn Washinger and I am 35 years old.  I have been fishing for the last 30 years.  I have loved fishing since the first time I picked up a rod and reel.  I have been fly fishing for the last 10 years and almost only fly fish now.  Whether it is for trout, sunfish, smallmouth bass, or anything else I am able to cast to.

  1.  Tell me a little about your company, Susquehanna Rod Company.

I have always wanted to work in the outdoor industry in some facet.  Custom rod building has always been something that I enjoyed so I thought, what better way than to build great custom rods for other people.  Because I am solely a custom builder I have not come up with any product lines or models.  I am currently working on creating an inventory of rods that I will have for sale. However, each rod will still be different and unique in some way.

I not only build fly rods, I also build: spinning rods, casting rods, and I am working on some deep sea rods.  I try to use the best materials I can in rod building and can customize to a specific length, brand, or action.

Something else that I am trying to do at Susquehanna Rod Company is to give children and veterans the opportunity to get out and fish by offering casting lessons, mentoring programs, and information of upcoming events sent out through our Facebook page.  I am actually working with Valley Streams Fly Fishing and we are going to try and bring our two companies together to provide more of these opportunities.  So keep an eye out on both of our social media pages for more news, events, and give-a-ways.

  1.  How did you get into custom rod building?

When I started building rods it was because I was tired of going to stores and always seeing the same rods just by different brands.  Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of good rods available but none with the unique look that I was looking for along with being a great rod.  So I started by building my own rods and loved it. I wanted to bring the joy and uniqueness to other people so I started my business, Susquehanna Rod Company.

  1.  Pennsylvania has a lot of famous trout waters.  What is your favorite water to target trout?  

You’re right there are so many amazing trout waters in Pennsylvania it is very hard to pick just one.  But I would have to say that one of my favorite waters to fish is LeTort Spring Run.  I love the LeTort because it is a small stream that is tough to fish and has some amazing fish. I love fishing small streams for native trout.

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Be sure to follow Susquehanna Rod Company on Insta @susquehannarodcompany
  1.  If you had to choose, what would be your go-to tackle setup in terms of rod, reel, line and flies to chasing PA trout in the summer?  

 My go to rod and reel for PA trout is my 7’6” 3/4 weight fly rod which I custom built with a Taylor Enigma reel.  My 7’6” rod is the very first rod I ever built years ago.  I love it and it has never let me down.  I do still have the ability to make these rods with the same blanks.  It is by far the favorite fly rod that I own.

  1.  Besides trout, what other species do you enjoy targeting on a fly rod?

My favorite species other than trout would have to be smallmouth bass.  I love fishing for bass on the Susquehanna River.  Before I even started fly fishing I was always on the River fishing for smallies.  Although the Susquehanna isn’t the river that it once was it is still second to none when it comes to smallies.

  1.  Can you describe your most memorable fishing experience?

Can I describe just one would be the real question.  I have had so many unforgettable fishing trips it is very hard to pick just one.  But the fishing trips that are always in my heart are the ones where my best friend Justin, his dad, and I would float our canoes down the Susquehanna River for a few days.  We would camp on the islands and fish throughout the day.  We never had a bad trip even though there were rainy trips and blazing hot trips.  Talk about fun. Always trying to figure out what lures to use throughout the trip and then just hammering the fish all week long.  I still talk about these trips at length with friends and colleagues.

  1.  If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Why?

Right now a realistic trip I would love to take is to Mosquito Lagoon in Florida.  I listen to a podcast called “Fly Fishing After Dark” (It’s awesome, check it out!) and they are from the Mosquito Lagoon area in Florida.  They run charters for redfish out of the Lagoon. But just listening to them talk about the fishing down there has made me want to go down and fish with them.

But a trip to anywhere in the world is a tie between New Zealand for big browns or a trip to Mongolia for big Taimen.  My New Zealand obsession came from a YouTube video called “Once In A Blue Moon”.  It’s an amazing little video about fishing in New Zealand with mouse flies.  I think that would be absolutely amazing.  I know a few areas around here that I would like to try mouse flies also.  Mongolia has been a trip that my buddy, Dusty, from work and I have talked about for a few years now.  We always thought it would be fun to go overseas and catch the world’s largest Salmonid.

  1.  Every angler I know has a story about “the one that got away”.  Tell me about yours.  

I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was more like 28 years ago.  I used to go to summer camp but I hated it.  Lucky for me there were always plenty of grasshoppers around for me to catch for fish bait so that my dad and I could go fishing later that day.  Pinchot Lake was our “go to” back then and we always had a blast.  I had my jar full of grasshoppers after summer camp and dad had the boat ready to go when I got home.  We put in at our usual spot by the ranger station and slowly motored across the lake to our favorite spot right by a little clump of lily pads that always seemed to be there (even to this day I still go to that spot when I fish there).  I knew exactly which grasshopper I was going to use first because it was probably the biggest one that I had ever caught.  So I hooked it and cast it out as far as I could with no weight, no bobber, nothing.  So needless to say it didn’t go very far.  It couldn’t have been on the water for more than a few seconds when POW!  It got slammed by a huge bass. Now I was only seven so I think I was probably so excited I couldn’t contain myself.  I fought the fish for about a minute when it swam under a rock (I saw it do this because the water where we were in was pretty clear) and the line snapped.  I was devastated!  I tried for another hour or so just thinking that the fish still had to be hungry but to no avail.  We left after a little while because we had to get home, but I always remember that fish.

  1.  Favorite brewery in the Mechanicsburg area?  

There are a couple good breweries in the Mechanicsburg area, but we just got a new one on the Carlisle Pike called Ever Grain.  Right now that is probably one of my favorites due to the great atmosphere and eclectic beer choices.  It is a place that my wife and I go to for our date nights.

 

 

fall-bow-1Robert Fravel grew up in Pennsylvania, where he started fishing local streams and lakes at a very young age. During his college years, Robert spent the summers working as a whitewater rafting guide in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. As an avid fly fisherman and fly tier, he enjoys exploring backcountry streams in search of untouched wild trout waters. He currently works as a lawyer in Dublin, Pennsylvania.

 

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New Water: Saw Creek

Personally, my favorite type of fishing is going off the beaten path and exploring small

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Checking the map after I led us astray

brook trout streams.  This past weekend, my good friend Steve and I spent two days doing just that.  Steve and I met up in East Stroudsburg early Saturday morning, where we discussed a general game plan before heading north to the Thunder Swamp trailhead in Delaware State Forest.  Our plan was to hike the Thunder Swamp trail until it crossed Saw creek.  From that point we would blaze our own trail along the creek, find a suitable place to set up camp for the night, and explore as much water as we could.  We arrived at the trailhead around 9:15 a.m.  After loading our packs, and doing some last minute gear checks we were on the trail by 9:30 a.m.  Following some missed turns and quite a few map checks, we arrived at the creek around 12:45 p.m. and shortly thereafter we found a suitable place to set up camp.

1774Saw creek is a small, high quality-cold water stream in Pike County, Pennsylvania.   It rarely exceeds ten feet across in its upper reaches, where meanders its way through the dense forests, swamps and bogs scattered across this part of the Allegheny Plateau.  When we arrived on Saturday, the creek had flooded its banks and the water had a deep brown color due to the recent heavy rainfall in the area.

After setting up camp, we rigged our fly rods with short leaders paired with bushy dry flies and started up stream.  Most of the water was slow moving and shallow, which only resulted in some creek chubs. We spent four hours fishing a mile upstream, which may not seem like a lot, but when you’re constantly walking through chest high grass and three inches of water, you tend to walk a little slower (especially since you can’t see what you’re stepping on).  By 6:00 p.m. we still had not caught any trout.

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Steve showing off the creek chubs

At this point we were both worn out, with soaked and sore feet.  We decided to head back to camp, cook up some food, relax by the fire and put down our fly rods until the morning.  Side note, velveeta + can of chili, paired with single malt scotch = phenomenal camp dinner.

The next morning, I was up early at 5:45 a.m. as the constant yapping of the coyotes behind our camp made for a relatively restless night.  After coffee and breakfast, we were on the water by 7:00.  However, on this day, we decided to explore downstream from camp since the water upstream was not all that promising.  It was not long before we found some nice water and were finally able to see some nice brook trout.  Just after 9:00 a.m. I was finally able to land a solid small brookie on a size 14 prince nymph drifted through a slow moving pool below a long set of rapids.  The no-hitter was broken.

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As we made our steep hike out of the forest later that day, with sore legs and covered in ticks, we both gleaned with a sense of accomplishment – knowing that we achieved our weekend goals…and had a great time doing so.IMAG0167 (2)

 

 

New Water: Little Schuylkill River

Lately I’ve fallen into a predictable routine of fishing the same few limestone creeks that are the closest to me.  These streams only have a limited amount of public water, so I end up fishing the same runs and pools time and time again.  Sure my methods might change from time to time depending on hatches (or lack thereof), water clarity, water level, etc.  But overall, my fishing had become stagnant.  I wasn’t advancing as a fly fisherman.  I wasn’t reading new water, identifying unfamiliar aquatic insects, placing myself in new/uncomfortable casting positions or simply enjoying some new scenery.  Hence the birth of my “New Water” series.  The New Water series is designed to push me to explore unfamiliar streams in unfamiliar parts of the state, outside of my home stream comfort zones.

Over the holiday, I was able to get out and wet a line in some new water: the Little Schuylkill River.  schuylkill countyThe Little Schuylkill is a picturesque stream located in Schuylkill County, that averages about 30-40 feet in width (at least in the DHALO Section).  It begins in the lower Pocono mountains around the town of Tamaqua and flows for about 25 miles before joining the Schuylkill River below Port Clinton.  This region of the state was once an epicenter for coal mining.  And like many streams in the area, the Little Schuylkill suffered tremendously from the ill effects of the mining industry.  Silt, and acid runoff polluted its waters and decimated the stream.  In the 1960’s, a stream survey showed that the Little Schuylkill was completely devoid of aquatic life.  Thanks to the dedicated efforts of outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists and concerned citizens, sixty years later the Little Schuylkill is once again full of life.  The stream boast a healthy population of both wild and stocked trout, a steady supply of caddis flies, otters, minks, blue herons and supposedly harbors some bald eagles as well.

Early in the morning on July 4th, I loaded up my waders, fly rods, and chest pack, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed up to Schuylkill County.  I originally planned on fishing just above Port Clinton, as I had driven by the parking lot for this area dozens of times before.  However, when I got there, the parking lot was full.  So, I decided to continue to drive upstream until I found an access that was less crowded.  Eventually I reached the Delayed Harvest section of the water around 8:45 a.m.  To my surprise there was not another soul in the parking lot, despite it being a holiday.

Apparently, that area had gotten a fair of amount of recent rain because the ruts and holes in the gravel parking lot were full of off colored rain water.  Before putting on my waders and rigging up, I took a walk down the water’s edge just to take a look.  The water level was slightly above normal, with just a hint of murkiness.  Clear enough to see the bottom in three feet of water, but skewed enough to make the finer details invisible.  There was a small island to the right of where I was standing, blocking my view of the upstream landscape.  After putting on my waders and rigging my 9 ft. 5 wt. St. Croix Rio Santo, I made my way around the island via the near bank.  When I rounded the tip of the island, I found a long, deep, fast moving run that extended upstream for about 40 yards where it met a set of shallow rapids.  On the far side of the rapids, was another long, deep, fast moving, picture perfect run that had my mind racing about the number of trout contained therein.  IMAG0094Initially, I had a size 16 tan deer hair caddis tied on, but upon seeing the deep runs, I decided to tight line my way upstream and switched to a tandem nymph set-up with a size 14 hare’s ear on top and a size 16 caddis larva dropped off the bend.

The fast moving, broken water combined with the tinged water clarity allowed me to stand fairly close to the runs without spooking the fish.  On the second cast, I brought a 12 inch rainbow to net.  As I slowly worked my way through the first run, the fishing got better.  By the time I got to the end of the first run I had already netted 10 trout, about half of which were wild browns, and I probably lost just as many.  The second run provide to be almost as fruitful as I netted more browns, all between 10 and 15 inches.

By 11:45 a.m. I was getting ready to call it a day.  While I would have loved to stay and fish till dark, I unfortunately did not have that luxury.  As I was walking back downstream, I decided to make a few more casts into the tail end of the first run.  At that point the Little Schuylkill offered up her finest treasure of the day, a stunning wild brown with some spectacular coloration. IMAG0137

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With this royal farewell, I made my way back to the truck, whistling Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and wondering what new piece of water I’ll explore next.

Happy Birthday America.

 

DIY Portable Fly Tying Table

When it comes to fly tying, I am about as organized as a toddler.  In the (not so distant past) I had my vice set on top of a desk, surrounded by stacks of papers (which are unrelated to fly tying), and my tying materials were spread across multiple rooms usually encased in some sort of paper or plastic bags.  So as you may have guessed, when I sat down to crank out a dozen flies at night, I wasted a lot of time searching for my materials.  Simply put, it was a mess.   One night a while ago, while trying to tie some flies for an upcoming weekend trip to fish Slate Run and Little Pine Creek, I decided I was fed up with my lack of organization.  I needed change.  I was going to make fly tying great again!

In the past I have seen Instagram posts of beautifully crafted table-top fly tying tables.  Unfortunately for me, those beautiful pieces also came with a hefty price tag.  So I decided I would fashion my own, out of scrap wood laying around the garage.  My material list was such:

  • One 2×6
  • One 2×3
  • One 1×4
  • One section of a 2×4 that was previously ripped down the middle
  • One 12 inch piece of a dowel rod, that happened to be the perfect diameter for my tying spools
  • All pieces were secured using a nail gun and 1 ½ inch nails

Once I had a rough idea of the dimensions I wanted (I made it roughly 21 x 24), I constructed the outer frame using the 1×4.  I also angled off the front corners of the two sides pieces, simply for aesthetic purposes.  Once the outer frame was done, I measured, cut and secured the five storage spaces.  Next was the base.  For this I used four 2×6 pieces and one 2×3.  Once I had the boards arranged to my liking (I put the 2×3 in the middle to keep the piece symmetrical), I nailed them all in place.  Afterwards, I secured the ripped 2×4 to the front, to contain the tying area. IMG_20170623_104530_162

Lastly, I cut the dowel rod into eight even pieces and pre-drilled eight evenly spaced holes into the cross piece just below the storage areas (see feature image).  I applied some wood glue to the dowel rods and secured them in the pre-drilled holes (for added spool storage, use longer dowel pieces that can accommodate more than one spool of tying thread).

Once the build was done, I gave the whole piece a thorough sanding and vacuuming, then added two coats of oak stain.  Now I have a designated tying space with material storage incorporated into the design, and the piece is small enough to take on a weekend fly fishing trip for some stream side tying.  I don’t think this piece is going to revolutionize the fly tying furniture industry or sell for hundreds of dollars, but it certainly has helped increase my tying productivity.  So when all said and done, it has served its purpose.

The Truth Behind Catch and Release Fishing

In my eyes, I consider the majority of outdoorsmen and women as conservationists by default.  Regardless of whether you are an avid hunter, angler, hiker or camper, you have a genuine interest in making sure that the resources necessary to pursue your passion (whether that be fish, game or large tracts of forest or water) are protected and preserved so that you and others may enjoy them for years to come.  Pretty simple logic.

Accordingly, many anglers, including myself, frequently practice catch and release.  However, there is a proper way to catch and release a fish (trout in particular).  When not practiced properly, the mortality rate of caught trout increases dramatically.  A day of poorly practiced catch and release can do more harm to a stream’s fish population than a day of catch and keep fishing.  Hopefully this article will provide some useful information on C & R fishing.

Use barbless hooks.  Using barbless hooks or pinching your barb decreases the harm done to the fish and makes the hook easier to remove, thus causing less stress to the fish.

Know how to properly play a fish.  If you play a fish for too long, you will subject that fish to a dangerous level of stress.  Land the fish as quickly as possible.  If you can control the fish’s head, you are in control of the fight.

IMAG0141 (1)When landing the fish, don’t drag the fish up onto the bank.  Use a landing net.  Fish (especially trout) have very fragile skeletal structures and can severely damage themselves when flopping on rocks or a hard bank. Using a landing net prevents this.

Wet your hands before touching the fish.  Fish have a protective film (slime) that covers their body.  While it may seem strange, this slime aids their immune system.  By not wetting your hands before handling the fish, you are removing large amounts of this slime and making the fish more susceptible to harmful disease and infection.

Don’t keep the fish out of the water for very long.  We all like to take pictures of the fish we catch.  But make sure you don’t keep the fish out of the water for more than 10 to 15 seconds when taking the photos.  If you don’t get the right shot in those 10 to 15 seconds, simply place the fish back in your landing net and let the fish relax in the water for a while before the next photo shoot.  And when taking the photos, make sure you hold the fish over the water, so in the event that the fish wriggles out of your hands, it will fall into the water rather than onto the bank.

IMG_20160624_185446Revive the fish before releasing it.  Don’t just dump the fish back into the water.  Gently grab the fish by the tail and point it upstream so that water is running over and through its gills.  This may take anywhere from 20 seconds to a few minutes.  My method is to give the tail a gentle squeeze.  If the fish is sufficiently revived, it will swim off when it feels the squeeze.  If not, I know the fish needs to be further revived.

Nobody practices perfect catch and release 100% of the time.  I certainly include myself in this.  However, as anglers who enjoy the sport of catching fish, we can all benefit by making a conscious effort to implement these procedures into our release routine so that we can increase the survival rate of released fish and return to catch them time and time again.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Every fisherman has their favorite waters.  For some it’s a lake, for others it is a river and for people like me it is usually a small countryside or mountain stream.  Those waters become favorites for varying reasons, but typically there is a correlation to the amount of fish caught in those waters.  On the flip side, most anglers also have a list of places where they have had little or no success and as a result rarely fish those locations.  I am no different.  Up until recently I considered Saucon creek to be my arch nemesis.

Saucon creek is a small limestone stream with a thriving wild brown trout population that runs through Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley before dumping into the Lehigh River.  Saucon creek is also one of the few wild trout streams within a half hour drive for me.  So when I was first getting really serious about fly fishing a number of years ago, I naturally spent a lot of time trying to cut my teeth on Saucon creek.  However, Saucon creek seemed unwilling to share her trout-bounty with me.

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I cannot tell you how many days I spent on that creek without catching a single trout.  Sure, I hooked up on a few, but as soon as a trickle of hope entered my thoughts, the trout would spit the hook and leave me in a state of disbelief.  Eventually, I gave up on Saucon creek entirely and searched for trout in other area streams.  I reasoned to believe that the fish in Saucon creek were simply took picky.  But if I’m being honest, the truth was my fly fishing skillset was subpar and I was humbly outmatched.  Back then (in the “not so” good o’le days), I had no idea what a dry dropper or tandem rig was.  Didn’t know how to match the hatch.  Had no idea what the difference between a caddis and a midge was.  And I thought a terrestrial was a character from the movie Alien.  About the only thing I knew was that dry flies float on the surface and nymphs are fished under the surface (I was also convinced that streamers were party favors and every used fly was a wet fly).  Looking back, it’s really not surprising that my constant efforts of throwing a pheasant tail 16 inches underneath a pinch on indicator with no regard for the water depth didn’t produce fish.

Fast forward three years (or maybe four), my fly fishing IQ and skillset have improved.  How much they improved is up for debate, but nonetheless, there has been a least a scintilla of improvement.  As such, I recently decided to once again square off against my old rival Saucon creek on a cool, windy November afternoon.  The first 30 minutes started off the same – no fish.  But after making some on stream adjustments to get my flies down to the right depth, I finally broke the curse!

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It definitely wasn’t a wall-hanger, but to me it was a trophy.  I finally cracked the curse of Saucon creek.  All in all it turned out to be a very pleasant day of fall fishing.  I managed five small browns that day.

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What a relief.  With all that said, the moral of the story is this: If at first you don’t succeed….fish a bunch of stocked trout streams until you figure out what the hell you are doing!

Enjoy the day,

-Robert Fravel

The Tragic Tale of Pennsylvania’s Eastern Brook Trout

Few animals resonate with Pennsylvanians the way the brook trout does.  It is our state fish.  It is also an iconic image of the mountain streams of central and northern Pennsylvania that exemplifies the wild spirit of Appalachia.  However, Pennsylvania’s once vibrant population of America’s southernmost Artic Char species is rapidly declining.

Once upon a time, brook trout were abundant in streams throughout the Commonwealth.  Brook trout are only able to survive in the coldest and cleanest of streams and rivers, and as such their presence is used as an indicator of a watershed’s quality.  Nowadays their population range has largely been reduced to small pockets within the state’s most remote and rugged areas.  The reasons for this decline are plentiful.

brook-trout-map

  1. Acid Mine Drainage

Acid Mine Drainage or AMD, is defined as the overflow of acidic waters from abandoned mines (Websters Dictionary).  AMD can originate from many mining practices, but in Pennsylvania AMD primarily comes from coal mining practices.  AMD is Pennsylvania’s largest non-point water source pollutant.  AMD from abandoned mines has negatively impacted over 3,000 miles of Pennsylvania streams, and is thus taking an enormous toll on the brook trout population.[1]  The remaining side-effects of over 100 years of rampant coal mining are the leading cause of brook trout decline.

  1. Habitat loss and land development

Just like any other animal species, habitat loss due to land development significantly impacts brook trout population.  Unlike hardier warm-water species like smallmouth bass, trout need clean, cold water to survive.  When the land along a trout stream is cleared for development or turned into a grazing pasture, the riparian buffer (a vegetative area along a stream that keeps the stream shaded and protects it from adjacent uses) is destroyed.  Without the riparian buffer, the water warms much quicker in the summer months resulting in higher trout mortality rate.  Additionally, without the riparian buffer in rural areas, grazing farm animals are allowed to roam through the stream thus creating further pollution and bacteria.

  1. Stocking of hatchery in streams where a wild brook population exists.

Many Pennsylvania anglers have become accustom to fishing for stocked trout during spring (and sometimes during the fall as well).  Pennsylvania’s yearly trout opener is a time honored tradition for many keystone families, and a day that many people look forward to every year.  I, for one, have been out fishing for stocked fish on opening day on many occasions with my father.  Preserving the tradition and sport of trout fishing in Pennsylvania is very important, and I believe that the PFBC stocking program does a good job keeping those traditions alive.  However, when streams that have a population of wild brook trout are stocked with their non-native cousins, the brook trout population gets hammered.  The main reason is because more trout in the stream equals increased competition for food.  And with the stocked fish typically being larger than the native brook trout, they will win that competition majority of the time.

For me, the thrill of finding and catching a native Pennsylvania brookie on a fly is something that I greatly enjoy and something that I hope future generations will enjoy as well.  However, I fear that without significant change in the future, this iconic Pennsylvania species will be rendered to a fond memory of distant times past.

 

-Robert Fravel

[1] https://www.bucknell.edu/Documents/EnvironmentalStudies/Acid_Mine_Drainage%5B.pdf

Tips and Tactics for Fall Trout

By Robert Fravel

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Once the mild weather of September passes, many Keystone anglers will exchange their fly rod for a bow or shotgun, and stash the fly rod in the basement where it will collect dust until next year’s trout opener.  But just because the weather has cooled off, and the hatches have died down does not mean that the trout fishing has slowed.  In fact, quite the opposite is true. Fall is my favorite time of year to pursue trout.  It is the time of year where you have the opportunity to land some big fish, and most of the time you will have the stream to yourself!  However, fly fishing for trout in the fall is much different than the spring/summer and anglers must adjust accordingly if they want to have success in the cooler fall months.

  1. Use streamers – In the fall, hatches will substantially decline (with the exception of midges – they will come off all year long).  Additionally, after the first solid frost of the season, most of the terrestrial fishing will taper off.  As a result you will not see a lot of fish actively rising to take bugs off the surface.  That means if you do not spot a fish, you will have to fish blind – and the best way to effectively cover a lot of water is with a streamer.  The most popular way to fish a streamer is to cast across stream, let the line swing downstream like a wet fly and strip it back upstream, periodically jigging the tip of your fly rod to give the streamer some action.  A lesser utilized, but effective method of streamer fishing is to dead drift a streamer with a midge pattern (or other small nymph) dropped underneath.  With streamers, there is no need to repeatedly cast to one specific area.  If a trout does not take the streamer on the first or second retrieve, work a different area.  Once you’ve covered the surrounding area, take a couple steps downstream and repeat.
  2. Use big streamers – Remember, streamers are designed to imitate bait fish, other trout, crayfish, leeches, etc.  All of which are large meals for trout.  So if you tie your own flies, use big hooks.  Don’t be afraid to create an ugly monstrosity on the vice.  Big streamers = big trout.  Popular streamer patterns include the clouser minnow, muddler minnow and wooly bugger, but there are literally thousands of proven patterns to choose from.  I always carry wooly buggers in black, olive and white. I use the olive and black when the water is high and stained, and I use the white when the water is low and clear.
  3. Wear camouflage – I know this sounds a bit over the top, but it works.  Fall streams are usually low and clear, making it easier for the trout to spot an approaching angler.  Wearing camouflage or drab/natural colored clothing could mean the difference between spooking a 20 incher from 50 feet away or getting in position to make a good cast and hooking a hog. 0620160712c
  4. Wear polarized sunglasses – A good pair of polarized sunglasses are an important tool in any serious angler’s toolbox.  In fall fly fishing, being able to spot a trout that isn’t actively feeding is crucial.  Polarized sunglasses, are essential for this.
  5. Stay out of the water when possible – Just because you are wearing waders does not mean that you have to get in the water.  Trout detect movement and vibration in the water through their lateral line, and if you are stomping through the water like a drunk hippo you will spook every fish within casting range.  You want the fish to use their lateral line to detect your streamers, not your feet.
  6. Dress in layers – Fall temperatures in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the northeast for that matter, can fluctuate.  It might be 30 degrees in the morning, but 65 degrees by mid-afternoon.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than being cold on the stream.  Wear multiple layers, including a base layer that keeps the sweat off, and layers of fleece.  Wear a couple pairs of socks under the waders (I prefer wool), a hat or hood and fingerless gloves.
  7. Pick your fishing time wisely – Remember, fall is different than summer.  Trout will not be active during the same time frame as they were during the summer months.  If you arrive at the crack of dawn you might be in for a disappointing morning.  I find the best time to fish for trout in the fall is between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  If you can hit the stream between those times, you should give yourself the best opportunity to hook into some fish.  As an added safeguard, be sure to check your local stream report before heading out.
  8. Stay off the redds – If you are not sure what a redd is or what one looks like, google it.  Wild trout are a valuable resource here in Pennsylvania, and as anglers we need to make sure we protect that resource.  If you see a pair of spawning trout, leave them alone.  And if you see a redd, do not walk through it and trample the eggs.

 

Now go head out to your local trout stream and catch that 25 inch slab!

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

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A Life Lesson Learned On Penns Creek

A Life Lesson Learned on Penns Creek

By Robert Fravel

There are few streams east of the Mississippi that compare to Penns Creek in central Pennsylvania.  Penns Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River is a large limestone stream with many free stone characteristics…and an insane amount of wild trout per mile.  Recent studies have indicated that parts of Penns Creek hold upwards of 2,500 stream bred trout per mile!  In addition to the physical characteristics, “the Penns” is also a stream steeped in mystery, tradition and local lore.  Penns Creek runs through the “seven mountains” region of the keystone state, a remote and rugged mountainous area teeming with local legends of old Indian burial sites and hidden treasures stashed in secret caves by outlaws from the early 1800’s.  If that isn’t enough to draw you to the banks of Penns Creek, then rumors of monster 28 inch wild brown trout should do the trick.  It certainly did for me, however Penns Creek made sure to put me in my place during my time there.

This past weekend, a good friend and I decided to head out to the mountains of Centre County for three days of October fly fishing on Penns Creek.  We camped at Poe Paddy State Park, which is a small state park located on the banks of Penns Creek and surrounded by 193,000 acres of uninhabited wilderness known as Bald Eagle State Forest.

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We arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon and were staying until Monday afternoon.  The plan was to fish as much as we could, and every once in a while try to squeeze in some food and a little shut-eye.  After arriving, we quickly set up camp, hoped into our waders and hit the stream.  We had about 2 hours of light left.  After pulling up a few suckers from a pool near the camp, we worked our way around to a pool about a ¼ mile below our campsite where some fish were rising.  Both of us tied on a #16 green caddis pattern and that seemed to be the right choice.  We each had a number of hits and brief hook-ups and eventually we netted a couple trout – one small brown and a decent brook.

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Once the last bits of light began fading from the evening sky we made our way back to camp, reliving the exciting night of fishing we just experienced and dreaming about all the trout we will surely catch tomorrow with a full day’s worth of fishing…..we could not have been more wrong.

By 5:45 a.m. the next morning, breakfast was on and coffee was brewing over the fire.  Following a few cups of coffee, hot dogs and tippet changes, we headed upstream at first light.  There were plenty of fish rising in the first pool, but nothing taking our flies.  After each fly change, our spirits once again filled with hope – but that hope was shortly squandered by the fickle nature of Penns Creek.  We fished upstream for miles with nothing to show for it.  We switched from dry flies to nymphs to streamers and back to dry flies with no luck.

24150           Finally, around 1:00 p.m. my fishing partner Tim, landed a small brown trout on a caddis larvae nymph.  That brown would be the only trout caught that day…and the remainder of the trip.

On the final day I desperately fished terrestrials hoping that ants and beetles were still hanging on to the final shreds of warm weather.  The terrestrial patterns certainly interested the trout, as I had numerous last second refusals, but the story was still the same – no trout.

As we packed up camp Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help feeling rather disappointed.  After three days of fishing what many anglers consider to be the best trout stream in the eastern United States, we only managed 3 trout?!  How is that possible!?  But as we made the drive back home, both of us exhausted from long days on the water, I began to reflect on the past few days and realized that there was really nothing to be disappointed about.  I just spent the last three days camping and fishing with a life-long friend in one of the most scenic parts of the state.  I didn’t have to worry about work, money, deadlines or bills – the only thing that I had to worry about was choosing my next fly.  I lived the dream for those 3 days.  Did we catch as many trout as we would have liked?  Certainly not.  But that simply means we will have to come back and try to unlock the secrets of Penns Creek another time.  While the mighty Penns Creek did not provide us with large quantities of trout, she did provide us with something else – a life experience that neither one of us will soon forget.  And that is more valuable than any fish.

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 “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

 

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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!!!

 

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