Long bank sections of the mountain stream where heavily lined with piles of ice, the frozen reminders of a severe winter. Driven there by high water during the flush of a recent thaw and high water event, it posed a significant obstacle for any angler willing to try to navigate the creek in hopes of catching an early season wild trout or two.
My partner Dave and I bypassed several hundred yards of ice-lined banks to find comparatively open areas. He was armed with a 6-foot ultralight spinning outfit rigged with a bead-headed wooly bugger. An extra split shot provided all the casting weight needed. I had a 7-foot, 3-weight fly rod set up with a gold-ribbed hare's ear nymph.
The stream we were fishing has the reputation of holding three species of wild trout: native brookies, as well as wild browns and rainbows, being particularly heavy on the latter. Wild rainbows are quite rare in this part of the country in Pennsylvania. The state fisheries agency claims only about a dozen streams have them.
In the first pool we fished, we rolled a nice rainbow. In the second, Dave hooked and landed a chunky 10-incher. A nearby cabin owner had been watching and came down to chat. It turns out he's a hunter but not a serious angler, i.e. he was a little more free with his information than he might otherwise be. He told us of seeing an 18-inch rainbow landed from the same pool a week ago. And of hearing of a 20-inch brown from an upstream pool caught and released a while back.
This helped verify the rumors I'd heard of the creek holding some large trout. While the vast majority of its fish population is likely residents of the normal 6- to 12-inch variety, occasionally some monsters from the river below make their way up this tributary.
During the balance of the day we fished our way a mile or so upstream, well into a wooded valley far removed from any camps. We only hooked a couple more fish, but we located some outstanding looking pools, ones likely to produce when the water warms up a bit.
I go into every outdoor outing with the attitude that I should learn something, regardless of the number of fish caught or game taken. In this case I discovered a lot about the layout of the stream, the best way of hiking out of it, as well as the strong possibility the place could produce the odd lunker fish from below; definitely information that I'll put to use later this spring.