This year, I'm determined to do it right.
Rather than deciding where to go as I get in the car, I want to plan a few day trips, well in advance. Whether I fish with my dad, a friend or two, or by myself, there are a few places I really want to fish this year. There's other places that I wouldn't mind hitting on a random free Sunday, as well as places that I'm going to have to plan a few days off, but the majority of my "To-Do List" are single-day, or (in an ideal world) overnight camping adventures that should cost next-to-nothing aside from fuel. I figure if I get one of these trips in per month, I'll be satisfied, with any additional trips as a bonus. This season, my list is as follows (in no particular order)...
Each year a group of friends meets up on Oil Creek for some May fly fishing. Last year I missed it due to a combination of car trouble and the girlfriend wanting me to meet some of her family that was in from out of state. This year, that girl is in DC, and the car will be ready. Should be a great time. This is one that I'd like to overnight. Heading up early Saturday, fishing, then camping and doing the meet on Sunday.
I made my first trip to this famous water in early April last year, too early for the storied grannoms by literally a matter of days. While my experience would have no doubt been different if there was a hatch on, that trip left me thoroughly unimpressed with the river. My dad caught a few fish (on bait), but myself and my friend, wielding fly rods, didn't even get an interested look from any trout at all. The river was somewhat high from normal, but the weather was great for bugs (overcast, slightly rainy, and cool), but I spent all day hiking, casting, untangling, and being generally miserable, without a single grab to show for it.
I'd like to get back to that water to have one more go at it, but I'll only go if I can hit the grannoms. If I get a free weekend just before or just after the hatch, I'll pass. For the guys that think its the creme de la creme...you can keep it. My opinion may very well change after fishing the grannoms, in fact, I hope it does, but we'll just have to see about that.
Allegheny National Forest
A large undeveloped area full of woods, tiny streams and hungry native brookies? Hell yes.
This is another place I wouldn't mind camping, and its a place I'd really like to bring my friend Josh along with me. He first picked up a fly rod 2 Octobers ago, for the Erie tribs, but has had a pretty tough time of it since. While he gives it a good honest effort when he gets on the water, sometimes its like pulling teeth to get him on a trout stream (he's a topwater bass fisherman at heart). To date, he only has one (quite small) fish on the fly, a 4-6" steelhead smolt that grabbed his glo-bug that was just hanging at the end of a tight line straight downstream of him while he was talking to me.
I think a dozen or so native brookies, while not much bigger, would do alot to convince him that this is fun...
...besides, if the ANF isn't the perfect place to use the 1wt I'm getting built, I don't know what is.
Presque Isle Bay
Over this past steelhead season, I made several friends in the Erie area, and if there's one thing they have in common, across the board, its that steelhead are far from the highlight of their year. In fact, I think each and every one of them would have absolutely no problem with the steelhead program being cancelled in favor of enhancing the area's other fishing opportunities.
Specifically, a few of the Erians I befriended and fished with last fall told me I had to get up there in late spring, to fish the bay for largemouth, smallmouth, pike, and a variety of other interesting fish...such as the Thunderpumper. While they primarily do this with casting and spinning gear, myself, and many of them want to really try fishing for these species with a fly rod this spring. To that end, I've stocked up on big bass and saltwater hooks, bunny strips, and flash.
...and who wouldn't want to catch something called a thunderpumper?
It's no secret: there's good fishing on the Yough. From the lake and the outflow to the Mon, there's guys that love that river. Trout, smallies...even walleye...in sizes and quantities to draw people to the river from the whole area. I got there once last year, to meet my friend Jerry and his son for some smallie fishing, but the sun was high and hot, skies were clear, water was low and warm, and the fish, for their part, were largely content to ignore our streamers. We each caught fish, mind you, but the effort vs fish caught favored the smallies, not us.
This year I'd like to hit a few different sections, and target trout and smallies alike. This is a place that I can make a long afternoon/evening trip on a weekday after work, but it really deserves a weekend or two of effort.
Little Mahoning Creek
This was the site of my biggest catch of 2009, and while I dont expect a repeat, that memory alone is enough to warrant several return trips. That catch, by the way, was this 18-20" tiger trout, that took an albino stone:
Streams Without Names
Well, not strictly accurate...just about any ditch with a muddy bottom has a name in Pennsylvania, but there are hundreds...thousands...of tiny streams working their way through the woods of western Pennsylvania, many of them hosting their own respectable populations of feisty little wild trout. Like ANF, this is the kind of water that makes for a great day with a 1wt.
This isn't so much of a one day streamhopping trout crawl (though that could be fun), but rather more of another to-do list in and of itself. On days I can't fish, I plan to scour maps and find access points on remote streams in the area, and have several of them pre-loaded in the GPS, ready at a moment's notice. Out of town for some sort of random task, and finding myself wishing I knew the area so that I could find a place to fish, I'd like to be able to tap the GPS and be able to find a random little stream that might well hold some nice trout. This is the nice part of being a trout bum: knowing that even in that random situation, I'll have all the gear I need to properly fish anything from a 2 foot wide brookie ditch to a small river too deep to wade across.
Kettle & Young Woman's Creeks
Last fall, I was in north central PA to fish brookie streams while my dad and a few friends went bear hunting.
We took a day to check out the larger streams, including these two, which were the most appealing. Kettle creek, especially, looked to have a lot of great water. This would almost certainly have to be an overnighter, but it would be very worth it. The whole area is beautiful, the kind of place that makes you really slow down and appreciate being outside.
Obviously, I've got plenty on the plate, and I won't be disappointed if I don't do it all, but through the year, I just hope I never miss an opportunity to fish due to not being prepared. Let's hear about some destinations on readers' to-do lists!