Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Valley



Poe Paddy

It had been two years since I fly fished Happy Valley for trout and five years since I was able to fish the green drake hatch. Either way you look at it, that is way too long to avoid some of Pennsylvania's best fishing...and crowds. As I made my way northwest over mountains, ridges, and endless farmland, the smell of manure wafted into my open windows as I listened to country music. I had a shitty grin on my face the whole time. I arrived at the tunnel of Penns Creek around 7:30 and hiked downstream to find an opening. At nightfall and on cue, a smorgasboard of insect life began its nightly routine led by the fluttering of the drakes. A few fish came to hand and I stayed an hour into the night attempting to coax those gorging trout into taking an artificial when they have thousands of naturals to choose from. Satisfied, I hiked out and headed to Walmart in State College for some shuteye.

The next two days, I made the rounds fly fishing the Little J, Spring, Spruce, and Penns. The days were hot and sunny, making tough conditions but I still had some success exclusively fishing dries. On a particular slow afternoon on Penns, I ended up spending five hours stalking two small pods of carp. I finally was able to coax a 15 lber into taking a green drake nymph. With the current, a 5 wt, and 4x the fight was on. He promptly sheered my tippet in half on a rock downstream. Worth it. No matter where I ended up during the day, I returned to Penns each night for the drakes. I was hoping to catch a slab of a brown trout, but each time I came up empty handed. I caught fish though, and the experience of seeing such biomass in the air is worth it everytime.

On my final day, my buddy Eric made the drive to fish Spring Creek and to experience the drakes for his first time. We had some great success nymphing and sight fishing on Spring before we headed to Penns and experienced the peak of the hatch. The drakes were so thick, that you would hit dozens of them with your rod on each casting stroke. You could feel the vibrations in your rod hand as they hit the blank and line in the air. It was crazy.

You can probably find lesser crowds and better drake fishing elsewhere in the area, but the drake hatch on Penns is worth experiencing at least once. If you time it right, it will be something that you'll always remember.





Donny B.












Low-Holed by this crew numerous times...
Stealthily stalking some Spring Creek trout...



A visitor...
























5 comments:

Gregg said...

Good report! Back in the trout days I used to dream about all those streams plus the catskills. When I mentioned the latter to a visitor from NY on a local tailwater he promptly told me the size of fish we were catching would make the newspaper there. Doesn't matter, still pined for all that classic water and hatches.

Gregg

Drew Haerer said...

I envy you! I grew up just a few miles down the road from Penns Creek. My first ever fly fishing trip was during the drake hatch just below the tunnel. I got skunked that night, but I was hooked. As I got older, I didn't even hit the creek until an hour or so past dark and would stay until the wee hours of the morning stalking the banks and waiting for a big fish to make a mistake. There isn't much on the east coast that compares to those big browns rising to a dry drake. One of my favorite rigs was a medium sized green drake nymph with a lightly weighted giant stone fly nymph dropped it below it. I would also drop the giant stone below a drake dry fly. Either way, they were deadly.

I haven't been back to fish the drakes in 8 years or so. Thanks for the story, great pics, and re-kindling of so many fond memories!

Drew Haerer said...

I envy you! I grew up just down the road from Penns Creek. In fact, my first ever fly fishing trip was the green drake hatch at the tunnel. I got skunked that night, but was hooked on the sport. As I got older I wouldn't even head to the stream until an hour after dark - then spend the rest of the nigt/morning stalking the banks, listening for big fish slurping bugs to target in the darkness.

As well as the green drake nymph that you mention, the giant stone fly nymph is usually really productive around the same time. A drake dry with a giant stone nymph dropper is hard to beat.

I haven't fished the drakes on Penns Creek in at least 8 years. I miss it! Thanks for the story, pics, and re-kindling of fond memories.

Atlas said...

Awesome awesome pictures. Well done sir. Makes me want to come out there and fish. I really enjoy this blog.

Justin Carfagnini said...

Wow! Excellent post and pictures! Thank you, for sharing. That looks like an awesome hatch. I haven't fished for trout during an evening/night hatch, yet. This is really motivating me to change that, and to take a trip out that way!