When I was a boy, I dreamed of having a trout stream close enough to walk to. It was my greatest wish. I now have Bellefonte, Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek just a short hike out the back door.
It’s a remarkably consistent river, the kind you should never be skunked on — and yet I still am. Packed with wild brown trout, there’s a Spring Creek fish watching your fly on every cast, no matter where you throw the line.
Easily wadeable, quick to clear after a storm, and holding stable temperatures year-round, Spring Creek is the best classroom a trout fisherman could ask for. The trout are eager, but not easy. And that’s a hell of a good combination.
There’s no substitute for time on the water. Getting out there is everything, and having a world-class trout stream close by for so many years has given me the opportunity to study fish and test tactics. Because if you go fishing often enough, the goals change. You find that you actually win the game of catching trout some days, and then it’s time to find out what flies they won’t take, to have a long bank sit and just watch the trout for a while, to learn what presentations attract larger fish and to attempt some really off the wall stuff. All of this happens on familiar waters.
When I explore new rivers, I fish differently. I move. I don’t even fight the urge to see what’s up ahead and what might happen next, because I want to see all I can and discover what is new.
But like most of us, I fish what’s close and familiar a lot more often. I take the fishing hours when I can. And if I have ninety minutes in the morning before work, I can’t travel enough distance to fish somewhere unknown.
I’ve learned my home stream, then, and I find great joy in it. I now have what I wished for as a boy, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.
So I’ve fished the piece of Spring Creek closest to my home hundreds of times. And I’ve realized that what I can learn from those five-hundred yards is limitless. There’s no end. There’s no boredom. Honestly — I could fish it all day and keep learning.
A couple years in, I figured I knew this piece of my home-stream inside and out, but I remember a day that surprised me …
While drifting nymphs in the usual pockets, I began to notice more nuances of the currents I was so familiar with. I realized the next step was to look closer, to see a smaller piece of the puzzle, to zoom in and make drift adjustments in inches and not feet. The challenge was renewed, and the trout responded like never before (… some days).
The point is, if the fish are there, the game is always changing. The playing field may look the same, but a river transforms from day to day — not just with displaced logs in a water event, but in the habits of trout themselves. Hatches, sunlight, water temps, fishing pressure — all of it effects where the trout lie and how they respond each day, each hour. And you only get to know this intimately on familiar waters.
It may be naive, but I tend to believe that at most times, and in almost any condition, trout can be caught by considering those factors and making adjustments. When you know the water thoroughly, you can accomplish more suitable, refined adjustments until you catch a trout.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N