Adventures With Sloop John B

by | Jun 5, 2015 | 0 comments

This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.

Sometimes you just need a break from reality for a few days.  I was getting to that point when I started planning a couple day trip with our good friend Sloop John B.  John is always one for an adventure and it didn’t take much persuading to get him to join me. In case you were wondering where the name Sloop came from, Domenick aptly named John after the Beach Boys song, “Sloop John B”.

We left early Wednesday for a couple days of floating, camping, cooking out, and of course, searching out large wild brown trout.  I arrived before John and hit a smaller local stream for the morning before checking into the campground.  Despite the low flows, the fishing was exceptional.  Many good fish fell for summertime patterns fished below a small yarn indicator.  The yarn indicator is a great tool when the water gets low and you can’t get close enough to tightline a piece of water.  I like it a little better than fishing dry dropper because you can adjust depth, and the indicator can hold more weight than a dry fly.  We like to fish them on long 20 foot plus mono leaders.  The difficulties achieving the proper loading on the rod with the light rig can be eliminated by water haul casting.  It’s a great stealthy approach to presenting flies without having to drop heavy, extremely visible fly line and indicators, on top of the fish.




The action was steady most of the morning but began to slow as the day went on.  Most of the shallow riffles stopped producing once the sun got high on the water.  I then shifted my focus to fishing the deep holes. Despite the depth, the water was clear and stealth was still required.  I continued using the long leader, but switched over to a clear 3/4″ thingamabobber to give me the weight needed to cast to the top of the hole and drift the entire length.  I landed one more good fish before I packed up and made my way to the campground.


After checking in, I headed to our primary fishing location for the next few days.  We had heard reports from the last week of the river reaching uncharacteristically warm temperatures on it’s lower end.  Thankfully, as the day progressed the bright sun gave way to overcast skies and scattered thunderstorm, giving the lower river trout some refuge from the recent thermal problems.  Despite the water in the low 60s, I couldn’t interest anything more than a handful of fish.


While I was fishing, a friendly gentleman walked up and began discussing the upcoming hatches with me. He started the conversation by pointing out a few bugs, labeling them as ephemerella invaria. For the next few minutes he rattled off one latin name after another. It quickly became clear that I was out of my league.   Luckily, I had sun glasses on because my eyes undoubtedly were glazing over.  I continued to fish as he went on to tell me about his favorite cripple dry fly patterns.  I nodded occasionally to let him know I was listening. Then I hooked an average size fish that leapt out of the water numerous times before coming unbuttoned. He paused momentarily to watch the fight, then continued promptly after the fish escaped. I kept my fly hidden and quickly cast again.  I hooked another fish as he was telling me about the vicarium, something  or other hatch that was decent the other night.  I quickly released the fish as he curiously looked over my shoulder and asked what I was using.  I wasn’t trying to be secretive.  In all honesty, I was more embarrassed than anything. I held up my bright pink rubber worm and said, “No latin name, we just call it the squirmy wormy”.

Rather than hang around to fish the evening hatch, I  found myself exhausted from the long day fishing and decided to head back to meet Sloop John B and set up camp.


The next morning was much cooler so we decided to head to the lower river and do a six mile float.  The plan was to fish out of the boat, but mainly use it for transportation to get from one good riffle to the next.


We weren’t in the boat for more than a few minutes when a good fish pounced on my streamer, but managed to elude the hook.  I also seen another quality fish laying in a shallow riffle as we drifted by.  This was enough for us to decide to pull off and fish a while.


I started fishing tight to the bank using a yarn indicator trailed by tandem nymphs a couple feet below the indicator.  After working the bank thoroughly to the top of the riffle, I then went back through and tightline nymphed the same stretch.  Both techniques picked up many fish ranging in size from 4 inches up to a single decent upper teens fish.


Despite the extreme low flows, it was a fun morning with action in all of the good nymphing locations.



During the early afternoon we went through somewhat of a lull.  We hadn’t turned a fish in over an hour.  Sloop was up front in the boat when we pulled up to a nice deep pothole in the river.  First cast he hooked into a heavy fish that surged for the bottom.  Hoist up the John B’s Sail!

John hopped out of the boat to fight the fish from foot, while I  quickly pushed the boat into the shallows and grabbed the net.  After a brief battle, we got a net on the large fish.


Catching big fish is a blast when you are with someone and can share the excitement.  We took numerous pictures and shared the moment of elation.  After carrying on a bit, I grabbed the net and began making my way to the boat so we could push off.  I scanned the bank and didn’t see it.  It’s really hard to miss.  It’s basically a giant yellow banana boat.  That’s when I looked down river in horror, and realized the boat had wiggled it’s way out of the shallows and was now WAY down river.

I handed Sloop the camera and the net and made a mad dash down river, high stepping through the shallow riffles, and trying to catch up.  Look off in the distance and you will see two little specks – one is the boat, the other is me chasing.


After regaining my composure from the adrenaline rush, Sloop and I pushed off again.  A short while later we noticed a strange object on the stream bottom.


This object on the bottom turned out to be a lamprey.  John showed off his steadfast netting skills and captured it with one accurate swipe of the net.  After numerous futile attempts to hold it up for a picture, we released the strange creature to swim off.


The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily floating the river and cherry picking the best holding water along the way.  It’s a really great feeling to be navigating a river with little to be concerned about, other than getting to the next section of good water.



The next morning started exactly like the first with shuttling vehicles around and getting an early morning start.  We chose a section farther upriver to avoid some of the warm water temps.  What seemed like a logical approach, ended very badly.  The flows were just too low in this section to fish it effectively.  Besides John having a hell of a good chase on a streamer from a big brown, the fishing was poor.  Really, we ended up skipping most of the water, searching out deeper runs, similar to what we were fishing the day before.  We just never found them.  All in all, we basically just went for a boat ride down the river searching out prime water, but never finding it.  The six mile float was completed in four hours.

Considering that we had a long drive home, we fished another local river briefly, and then called it quits for the day.


It’s always a healing experience when you can drop out of the real world for a few days, forgetting about deadlines and working long hours, and focus on nothing more than trying to fool salmo trutta.


Pat Burke

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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