Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts

January 16, 2022

The Lost Valley Creek Fishing Report


In reviewing my posts from 2021 I realized that I never bothered to write up two short trips I made to Valley Creek during my family's 3 week return to Philadelphia in July. While the weather was warm (we were there around the 4th), the mornings in Valley Forge were nice and cool, as was the water. At least until the sun got high in the sky.

July 3rd...

Yeah, the wooden bridge. It's not the most famous wooden bridge over Valley Creek, but for those that know where this is, they also know how convenient it is to use to access the stream. 

On this day I took my Orvis 3-weight Superfine Carbon on its maiden voyage. I picked it up on sale when Orvis discontinued the model in favor of the fiberglass version. In the time I've fished it I've really enjoyed it. A bit more light in hand and fun to cast than my old Redington Classic Trout, (although that's a nice rod too and much less expensive than this Orvis) - I kinda regret selling it.

After hitting the water at around 9AM, it didn't take long for me to find one of Valley's brown trout. A fine specimen of what the creek has to offer, and one of a few I'd bring to hand on the day.

The fishing wasn't epic by any stretch, but with air temperatures only reaching the 70s, it was an absolute joy to be outside. A lot of other people had the same idea, as there were tons of folks not only fishing, but also riding horses, walking dogs, playing in the water, and all the other things people do on and around trails within a popular park. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see some people getting their feet wet right beyond the metal bridge.  

July 10...

This day was to be a tenkara day. Not getting into semantics, I'll call it tenkara here, but I largely fished with beadhead nymphs... which is decidedly #nottenkara. I met up with a local fixed line angler named George that I had met on Facebook and we pretty much had our run of the creek that morning. 

It was a bit warmer than the prior week, so we were only going to fish in the morning. If I recall, I caught 3 or 4 browns mostly in the riffles.

I think George caught one or two as well, I don't remember exactly. It was one of those fishing trips where you meet up with somebody and chat for a bit, but give each other plenty of space on the stream. 

George was within view, but we were never fishing next to each other. That said, we'd occasionally meet up and swap stories with lines out of the water.

As planned, we called it quits around lunchtime. Mother Nature's oven was now on full blast and the fishing activity had diminished considerably. After collapsing our rods, we walked back up to the parking lot and stowed our gear while exchanging a few final stories about upcoming fishing plans. 

George is a great guy. I'm thrilled we got to meet up and I'd love to fish with him again someday.

August 21, 2021

Clearwooder Combo

Although it's on the generational wane, folks from Philly have their own funny way of talking. Youse guys (a cousin to the southern Y'all), Iggles (the NFL team), and probably the one everyone has heard and made fun of, wooder (water). 

It's that last one that's been the most difficult for me to kick over the years. I still say wooder on the regular. Not that I really want to change my dialect mind you, but some of the other "Philly" has gradually eroded from my accent after being married to a Midwesterner for almost 20 years and living in the south for the last 8.

It's pretty funny, but the baseball Phillies have spring training in Clearwater, Florida each spring, which has created a nice little merchandise play for those quick witted t-shirt purveyors.

So let me tell you a secret. Did I mention this yet here? Probably not since I don't post all that much anymore.

I picked up an Orvis 9-foot 5-weight Clearwater outfit earlier this summer. Or as I'd call it, Clearwooder combo. Wasn't looking for anything fancy, but wanted to fill that hole in my fly fishing menagerie of rods. Seemed I had every quirky fly rod except the one all-purpose length/weight that gets recommended first.

In unpacking the contents and doing a little backyard casting, I found it to be rather nice for an opening price point Orvis rod that comes in a "starter set" box. The Clearwater reel that came with it is maybe a smidge heavy, but I'll probably use it as purchased. If anything, perhaps I'll consider upgrading the line if it gets consistent enough use. 

I tend to get gift cards from family members to Orvis or Bass Pro/Cabela's during the holidays that usually go unused since most of my fishing these days tends to be tenkara. A fly line upgrade would be a nice use of those funds since in my opinion, a nice fly line can greatly improve the performance of any rod.

Unfortunately, it's been raining so damn much in Florida since I got back from Pennsylvania/Colorado I haven't had a chance to use it on any of the local water yet. 

Anyway, looking forward to using the "Clearwooder" soon. Hoping it becomes my new jawn.

August 15, 2021

Little Blue Lines

I spent the first 35 years of my life in the suburbs of Philadelphia. No matter where I lay my head at night, the Keystone State will always be home. 

Recently, I was able to spend the better part of three consecutive weeks back up in southeastern Pennsylvania. I guess when your employer still has you working remotely, you can technically do that from anywhere. Seeing that window of opportunity, and not knowing how much longer it might last, the family took advantage of this coronavirus-induced loophole in my employment and headed north for a bit of an extended stay.

The trip was a fun (but fast) one. We got to visit with family and friends we hadn't seen in almost two years. We were able to eat all of the wonderful carbohydrates for which Philly-based cuisine is known. I even got to do a little fishing on some of the waters I used write about here, (in what feels like) a very long time ago.

Lilly with Pickles the duck; me with my nephews.

I'll post about some that more familiar fishing over the course of the next few installments, however, today, I wanted to touch on a little side trip. It was actually toward the end of our stay, to water that was new to me, distinguished only by some little blue lines on a map.

The brook trout is the state fish of Pennsylvania. It actually holds that distinction in many states in the northeast. However it's a little hard to come by in its native form near Philadelphia. Stocked brook trout abound in the Spring, but the urbanization of the area makes it fairly inhospitable to brookies (and their successful reproduction) in the wild.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, the closest wild trout water to me was Valley Creek. Other than being smack dab in the middle of Valley Forge Historical Park, Valley Creek is renowned for its thriving population of wild brown trout (despite threats from pollution from busted sewer lines or industrial runoff every few years). As such, I always identified myself as a wild brown trout angler. 

Living in the south the past few years, and frequently enjoying what the nether-reaches of the Georgia & North Carolina Appalachians have to offer, I've become quite smitten with wild brookies. They live in areas where the temperatures are cooler, often times requiring a little extra effort in the form of a hike-in to find. However, once located they're quite eager to take your offerings. In short, they like to live where people don't, but are quite hospitable to visitors. Oh, and don't get me started on those colors. 

I knew there were some wild brook trout within an hour's drive of where we were staying in King of Prussia, and thanks to a little bit of map study and even more bushwhacking, they were found in a cool, mountain stream, away from people, just as I had hoped. Temperatures had been extremely hot the prior week, but having rained the night before the water levels were almost ideal. There was even a little chill in the morning air that cut the humidity, a welcomed bonus. 

It's always a bit nerve-racking when you fish new water for the first time. If you pass features you think might hold fish, but don't get any response to your fly, it can make you second guess what you're doing. Perhaps you begin to wonder if the fish are even there? Especially if your outing might be considered more "prospecting" than a sure thing. 

Fortunately, on this trip, the third plunge pool brought the first brookie to hand. It was tiny, but it was a Pennsylvania native, a background we both shared.

From there, I got to meet with several other fish, the largest and prettiest being a fairly skinny specimen found residing beside a downed tree. It took the fly with aggression, followed likely by regret, but swam off quickly once released.

This didn't prove to be a particularly long outing, as the headwater stream eventually got too small and narrow to fish, but it was certainly worth the journey. A refreshing morning in the southeastern Pennsylvania hills, paired with the frequent company of beautifully wild brook trout. 

Little blue lines, the stuff of this native Pennsylvanian's dreams.

January 13, 2021

Licensed to Fish (& Drive)

Can I Check Your License?

Fishing licenses... while necessary, unless you're set to electronically "auto-renew" or perhaps have gained lifetime status, they're not always the first thing you think about when it comes to essential fishing gear.

Pennsylvania is one of those weird states where you buy an annual fishing license that is only valid for the calendar year. 

Doesn't matter when you buy it, it turns into a pumpkin at midnight on December 31st. I'm pretty sure all of the other fishing licenses I annually renew - Florida, Georgia, North Carolina - have rolling dating. Buy an annual license in March, it expires next March, you get the idea.

Side note: Pennsylvania was also one of those states where you had to display your fishing license externally while fishing. I think they stopped that last year, but I certainly always enjoyed pinning that sucker on my hat (like this dude from Opening Day 2011), fishing vest, or pack. It was very "Pennsylvania," and I continued that practice even once I left, to many a fishing buddy's bewilderment. 

I figured I'd get my full money's worth and renewed my Pennsylvania fishing license for 2021 last weekend. Check that box before I forget. Now, will I get to fish in my favorite Commonwealth in this calendar year? Who knows, but I'm certainly hopeful, so fingers crossed. And if I don't, no big deal. I like to think that money goes to fishing programs and conservation in some form. I mean I know it's supposed to, but who really knows.

So, go ahead and check the expiration date on your fishing license. If it's expired, or expiring soon, go ahead and renew it. Don't get caught on the stream without it...

Oh, and while you're at it, it's also a good time to renew your Trout Unlimited membership or whatever other conservation-based thing you do. I also did that... although I'm sure TU's physical mailing seeking additional support will not slow one bit. The amount of money they must spend on postage... holy smokes.

Embarrassing Pennsylvania Licensing Story

When I got my Pennsylvania drivers license back in the day, I breezed through the written test, but failed the actual driving test twice... yes, twice... before I finally passed.

Looking back at it now, it was totally ridiculous, but it's the truth, and I own it. 

The first test, I failed, I think because I didn't do well on the parallel parking. I don't really recall, but I know I totally botched that part of the test. May have done something dumb like miss a turn signal as well. It was very embarrassing putting my mom's Plymouth Sundance in park and exiting as a defeated teenager.

So then for my second test, I went to a different testing station. One that was supposed to be "easier". I think I coasted through a stop sign within the first 5 minutes, so that one ended quickly, didn't even get out of the parking lot. It was traumatic, I've mostly blacked out the experience, although I still awaken at night in a cold sweat when pieces of that memory haunt my dreams.

For the third test I went back to that same second "easy" testing location and (somehow) finally passed. I knew I'd pass once I got out on the road, even though I still don't think I parallel parked all that great. Whatever... it was probably the equivalent of getting all D's on your report card, but the teacher passes you anyway because they never want to see you again.

Years later, I think I'm a pretty good driver. I know I eventually got pretty good at parallel parking from living at a house with street parking growing up, although in the suburbia in which I live today I ironically never have to test that skill.

In Florida, I don't even think there's a driver's test. Seems that way anyhow...

October 27, 2019

A Few Quick Fishy Hits

Was popping around the internet yesterday and found a few articles/nuggets that might be of interest. Sure, this isn't a post of original content, rather a compilation of fishy shares, but they were good reads, so figured you might find them as such too.

So Much Water in Pennsylvania...

I was a dummy when I lived in Pennsylvania. I fished a lot, but I fished the same 4-5 bodies of water all the time. If I could only do things over again. Trout Unlimited recently published an article about how the state has been trying to document and assess its 86,000 miles of flowing water in the interest of finding wild trout and protecting the watersheds from developmental impact. While they've made great process, you find in reading there still a long way to go.

Stickers in the Creekside Shop!

Stickers are awesome. Robb ties equally awesome flies. Put the two together and it's a no brainer. I just picked a few up (as well as some futsuu kebari), you'll probably want to snag some too.

TenkaraBum Goes Long...

Wasn't necessarily expecting this post from Chris Stewart, but it's a great read into the merits of long line, long tippet tenkara. Tenkara as many practice in Japan. He had a recent fishing session with Adam Klagsbrun that opened his eyes to this technique. A nice departure from fishing killer bugs, micro spoons, and overhand worms with tenkara rods.

Discovering Small Streams...

After a bit of a hiatus, the Discover Tenkara guys are back with a new Tenkara in Focus episode over on YouTube. It's a great little dive into approaching smaller water (which happens to be my favorite). Regular fly guys should give it a watch too, because the manipulations used in the video could certainly be applied with rod & reel. There's also an accompanying blog post that's really worth reading too.

Best of IFTD...

Sage Trout Spey HD

If you follow any fly fishing media online it was tough to escape all the IFTD references a week or so ago. The annual industry trade show moved back to Denver this year, making it far more accessible than when it was in Orlando. In any event, there were a lot of new product highlights, and I found this article over at Gear Junkie that summarizes them well. Spoiler alert: Simms sweeps the wading categories.

June 22, 2019

Birthday in the Valley

Earlier this month K.C., Lilly, & I spent a long weekend back "home" in the Philadelphia area. The timing was right, the airfare was cheap, and it just kind of came together in a spur-of-the-moment fashion.

It also happened to be my birthday over that weekend, so given the opportunity there was no way I wasn't going to pay a visit to good old Valley Creek.

But first, some history.

In all the years I lived in southeastern Pennsylvania, and with the frequency that I fished Valley Creek, I never really stopped to do the historical stuff one finds in this gem of a National Historical Park.

You know, Valley Forge, the place where Washington and the Continental army wintered over 1777 and early 1778 while the British held Philadelphia? There's a ton of cool stuff to see, so on Saturday, the day before my birthday, the family & I decided to finally take in some of the sights...

George Washington slept here. For real.
The famous Broadway rapper Alexander Hamilton did too!

All of which was incredibly fun and enriching to experience. The history in the area runs very deep, and every nook and cranny of the park oozes red, white, and blue. I'm actually ashamed that I've walked past Washington's headquarters at least a half dozen times in the past, but this is the first time I had ever ventured inside.

Now while all of that is extremely timely and relevant, let's not forget the reason why we're actually here... the next morning of fishing!

And if you've been to this blog anytime between 2009 & 2014, you've definitely seen photos of this covered bridge before...

On Sunday morning the water was a little high, the fish not totally cooperative, and even though I got a little head start, by 9:00 am, fellow anglers seemed to be dropping in every 50-100 yards. Each bend in the stream I navigated yielded another waving fly rod and waders. So not ideal conditions, but still cold water, wild trout, and the feeling of being back where I belong.

Despite my whining, the fishing was good enough that I got into a few using my tenkara rod and white hackle kebari. The ability of tenkara to provide delicate landings while keeping one's line completely off the water can be particularly effective at Valley since the resident brown trout can be spooky and will definitely notice a "line heavy" presentation.

This particular fish had been through some battles in its life, (or at least was possibly caught before), as it was missing that little flap of skin right along its upper jaw on the one side. I've always thought fish like this kind of look like an old man without his dentures...

Either way, let 'em go for another day...

I didn't take many photos, as I probably didn't spend as much time fishing as I would have preferred due to the wader traffic. So you'll just have to take my word that the weather was beautiful, the fish were pretty as ever, and it's amazing how much a stream's features can change over a few short years.

On the hike back out to the car an observant gentleman (who probably noticed the collapsed rod in my hand) did stop me and ask, "fishing tenkara?"

After I replied in the affirmative, he then went on to say he was part of the leadership team with Valley Forge Trout Unlimited (possibly an officer or member of the board, I don't exactly recall) and he wished me luck on the stream. He was not fishing, just hiking a trail with a companion I assume was his wife, seemingly reveling in being near the stream and those that enjoy it.

Before passing, I thanked him for all he and his group do to keep this public (and historically abused) resource an oasis in otherwise what is a very urban and overdeveloped area of Pennsylvania.

And that sentiment was not just polite small talk. I always loved the escape from the hustle and bustle Valley Creek provided, even if you may run into too many other anglers, or unaware dog walkers prompting Fido to take a splash in the fishy looking pool just upstream, or these days, people posing for creek-side selfies in a quest to become Insta-famous.

Despite all of those minor inconveniences, Valley Creek remains special. The riparian buffer provides refuge and the cool of shade on a warm late spring afternoon, the water remains cold and surprisingly clear, the brown trout are abundant, naturally reproducing and wild, and all the hard work Valley Forge Trout Unlimited does keeps it that way.

So on that particular day, little did that gentleman know that he and his VFTU friends were more than partly responsible for the best birthday present this trout angler could ask for. And for that, I'd again like to pass along a heartfelt "thank you."

January 31, 2019

Brushes with Brookies & Beer

If you're still reading fly fishing blogs, (and I assume you are if you're reading this), do yourself a favor and visit Nick Cobler's new site, "Brushes with Brookies & Beer."

According to the website:

"Welcome to Brushes with Brookies & Beer, my little spot on the web to post my adventures and art. My goal is to use this as a way to journal this year’s trek through watercolors and wilderness. Hopefully sharing some photos and words along the way.

Whether seeking out small stream brook trout or creating art, or shooting photos, this is where I’ll post some of the fruits of my labors of love – fly fishing and photography. And maybe a few beer things. Hope you enjoy what you see."

There's already some great content on the beautifully rendered site, and if you're familiar with Nick from Instagram, you'll know there's likely plenty more to come. Plus, he's the talented graphic designer responsible for the Tenkara Angler logo... so anything he does is good in my book.

So check it out... bookmark it, add it to your RSS reader (do people still do that?), or whatever method you use to regularly visit blogs. C'mon, you know I wouldn't steer you wrong.

January 8, 2019

Pondering Valley Creek

Has it really been since 2017?

I think so...

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I used to fish Valley Creek in Valley Forge National Historical Park virtually every weekend. Those were probably the best days of my fly fishing, living so close to that water was something special. It's where I pretty much learned to fly fish; first streamers, then nymphs and dries, figured out line management, clicker reels, roll casts, I even caught my first fish on a tenkara rod there. So many good memories.

It's not a secret stream, not in the least. It actually gets quite a bit of pressure, especially on the weekends. And not just from fishermen... hikers, joggers, dog walkers, and horse riders all come out to enjoy the trails by her banks. Rightfully so, considering it's one of the more picturesque (and few) wild trout streams in the greater Philadelphia area. And those Valley Creek browns, they might not be the biggest, but damn if they aren't pretty fish.

Reflecting on Valley Creek makes me yearn to go back. The last time I was there was two years ago, and even then it had changed so much since my heyday of the early 2010s. Would I still recognize it? Would it fish the same? I guess there's only one way to find out...

The 2019 non-resident (gasp) Pennsylvania fishing license has been purchased. The return is inevitable.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures of Valley and its residents.