A last minute trip to Elk Creek, PA proved to be a wise choice. A friend had just flown in from out of the country and was itching to get his Steelhead fix in. Thankfully he called to fill me in on the plans Saturday evening. I had only an hour to get ready and agreed to jump in with the makeshift crew. After stuffing the car with gear we headed out for the long drive to Pennsylvania. We hoped our timing would be right as the river has already blown through and cleared out according to some sources.
Reports of winter holdover fish and fresh runs were filtering in. It had rained in the area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we had some concern that the water levels may have been to high and dirty. With action in the last couple of weeks slow in these parts we figured to make a go of it to the south.
We arrived at our normal lodging at the Best Western and settled in to get some rest. On the way in we had stopped down at Folly's End Campground to take a look at the water around 11 p.m. With the flickering light from my butane lighter, we checked the water clarity. I could see bottom and the water carried a decent stain. Not muddy, which brought some excitement and anticipation.
We hit the river at about 7:30 AM and had been mentally prepared for the crowds. When we pulled into the driveway, which was only half full, we were relieved. We geared up and headed downstream. The Elk carried a nice green stain and you could still make out a mix of holdover fish and fresh Steel that was starting to position in the faster water and near the small redds. We started casting in some of the larger holes as they became available.
I was with FMO members Steve and Laurent on what looked like perfect conditions here on the Elk. Laurent was rigged up and was the first to drift the hole. He was nymphing with a egg/stone combo and was the first rewarded with a solid hookup. After landing the years first Steelhead, which was average size, both Laurent and the fish posed for the camera.
I got into action about a half hour later on a micro peach and cheese egg drifting under my indicator and landed a nice looking winter fish. Those beautiful red cheeks are mesmerizing. I checked the water temperature and it confirmed my suspicions. The water was 39 degrees and that explained the lack of acrobatics from the fish. With the water still this cold, we concentrated on nymphing and get the presentation into the best holding lanes in the holes. The fish were hanging in the faster water at the heads and tails of pools.
Many anglers were working the shallower water on some darker fish, but we stuck to our game plan. We played hopscotch down the creek hitting the holes as we went. The action was not fast and furious but was consistent. This was just fine with me as this was my first real productive day for Steelhead this year. Some days on the Elk give anglers the wrong impression that anything but a thirty fish day is a bad day. We even overheard some locals complaining as such. We were taking fish at just about every promising looking hole and were just fine with that.
Steve was intent on swinging speys and streamers and was taking aggressive fish as well. I focused on nymphing most of the day and had a great time. I think we caught and released about twenty fish between the three of us. My day was punctuated with a bright chromer that was intent on evading capture in a fast moving hole I had been working well downstream. The fish barely succumbed to my will and was quickly released to put a smile on someone else?s face.
We put in a full day on the water and Laurent remarked how fast the level was dropping later that day. Looked like the water level dropped about 6 inches and was starting to clear. New rain will bring the fish in full force as this is already late run time historically.
I would imagine that anyone fishing this water today or tomorrow would be well rewarded. We stayed on the upper Elk and never ventured to the lower sections. I am sure that there was plenty of fish moving into the system as we had caught and seen many fresh ones. Water temp when we left was 41 degrees. As it warms up the Steelhead will really get into motion. We had a blast as we always do when we fish regardless of the conditions.
It was sobering to get back into the car and here reports of U.S. dead and missing in Iraq. I felt a little guilty having had so much fun when so many of my comrades are in harms way. I am sure that if they were here with us they would jump at the chance we had.
Godspeed to them and I hope deep in my heart that they complete there mission safely and return to this beautiful country to join us again on the waters. I would be there with them if I could but my service days are over. I will express my appreciation to their sacrifice doing the things that I love and enjoying the wonderful resources that some of them have given their lives to protect and defend. Thank you my military brothers and sisters. I am deeply in your debt.
Steelhead - About the Species
Estaz Egg - A popular steelhead morsel - Good Pattern on the Elk
Joe's Canadian Stone - A Great Lakes Steelhead Fly Pattern - Another good Elk Creek Pattern
About Folly's (Recently Sold to new Owner)
Folly's End Campground
R.D. #2 8600 Avonia Road
Girard, PA 16417