I've been jonesing to go to the Great Lakes tributaries to swing for some lake run fish for the past few weeks. Thankfully, I was able to resist going up for some salmon and my bank account officially thanked me for it. However, there was an empty hole inside of me that needed to be filled with something, anything to stave off the yearning for my first steelhead of the year...
Enter a weekend camping trip into Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. With the autumnal peak about two weeks away, the forests were awash in the color yellow. Leaves and ferns were just showing some signs of shifting into hues of orange and red. A hike between two mountain passes revealed a cold mountain stream with several springs coming off the mountains. I instantly knew that I'd be fishing the next morning rather than going on a hike. That night an owl prowl resulted in hearing a great horned owl, which according to the park ranger was the first owl they heard all summer. After a night of fire roasted sausages, honey dijon infused hot dogs, and a chocolate chip smore sandwich, I hit the sack and dreamed of steelhead on the swing.
Awaking in the morning, the temperature had dropped into the mid-30s. I promptly decided to sleep in. I eventually found myself walking upstream in the dead silence of the woods. A leaf choked stream stretched before me, surely home to some wild trout, but I had no idea what it might hold beneath its skinny water. I fished dry dropper to prospect some of the deeper pools and it didn't take long before I had small trout rising to the dry, unable to fit a size 14 elk hair caddis in their mouths. Eventually, a slightly larger fish took the caddis and I cradled my first small stream brookie in quite some time. Numerous fish followed, including a few colorful browns. However, I savored each and every brook trout, admiring their fall colors that contrasting perfectly with the yellows in the surrounding trees.
I dig blue halos.
In fly fishing, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers game. So many people worry about how many fish they brought to hand or the size of the trout they catch. For me, I've been catching carp all summer and am about to transition to steelhead. This short brook trout sojourn was the perfect walk in the woods that happened to be periodically interrupted by some wild trout. Despite being small in stature, they more than make up for it with their amazing colors. The brookies formed a perfect fix before heading off to tangle with some chrome.