Do you remember it – your first wild trout? I grew up in Missouri fishing small streams for bass and bluegill. The only trout fishing I knew was from Missouri’s Trout Parks like Bennett Springs. These places have an ungodly amount of fish in them that tend to eat anything and everything that is thrown at them. Throwing bright glow bugs work great, and the trick is to switch over to something white at around noon. The reason is because that is when a lot of people clean their fish and throw the scraps into the creek. The rainbows in Bennett love to eat on the bodies of their fallen comrades, so a white wooly bugger slowly stripped tends to do wonders.
When I moved to Pennsylvania I fell in love with the idea of catching WILD trout. Catching a fish that was not put into the stream by man but was born there really intrigued me. I did a little research and found a stream that was kinda close to my house and headed that way. Little did I know that Valley Creek is a tough stream to fish for a seasoned angler, let alone someone who was just starting out. Well, no fish. It was a frustrating time on the water. I was accustomed to being able to look down and see dozens of trout swimming around but at Valley, the stream looked barren. Little did I know, at the time, that the stream was full of fish, they just happened to be experts at hiding in and around the rocks.
When I got home I issued a plea on PaFlyFish.com asking for help in chasing wild trout. I got an invite from Heritage_Angler to fish the trico hatch on the Little Lehigh. I had no clue what a trico was and was not expecting to find out I would be throwing a size 22 spinner. I learned that day that tricos are very small mayflies that hatch in decent numbers on the Little Lehigh during warmer months. That morning I drove up to Allentown to fish with butterflies in my stomach. I was (still am) a novice at best when it came to casting, presentation, drift, basically everything, and I did not know what to expect from having someone else watch me flail around and call it casting.
It turned out that Ed was one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of meeting AND was a casting instructor at the LL Bean store not to far away. We introduced ourselves and headed to the water. When we got there I was ready to fish, but found out that we were just going to sit on the bank and wait. We were waiting for the fish to start rising to the tricos that were falling on the water. When we saw the first rising fish Ed looked at me and said that I was up. I nervously stripped some line out and started to cast to the fish. The first cast was a little short – nothing. The second cast was too far away – nothing. The next cast had a bad drift – still nothing. He gave me some pointers on casting, mending, etc. and told me to try again. This time the fly was in the feeding lane and had a perfect drift. I saw the water bubble around my fly and the fly disappear. “SET THE HOOK!” Ed shouted, excited to see a fish take the fly. When I pulled the rod up,, hoping to feel a fish on the end of it, the fly came flying back at me. I missed it. I think I was just in awe that a wild trout wanted the fly that I had thrown to him.
Other fish started to rise and were steadily feeding. I had a few other encounters with fish, but nothing came to my net. Then, as in my dreams the night before, I threw a trico to a rising brown trout. Again, the water around my fly rippled, and the fly was gone. This time though, when I set the hook, the line came tight, and I had a fish on. The fight was short. The fish came right in and found itself in Ed’s net. It was small but beautiful. It looked so fragile swimming around in his net that I was afraid to pick it up. After gently removing the fly, I lifted the fish out of the net for a quick photo before I lowered it back into the stream for it to swim home. Ed never fished for the few hours we were there. He simply sat by my side giving me guidance and instruction. Teaching me as if it was a scene from a movie. That day I had numerous fish rise to my fly and one come to the net. From that moment on, I knew that this was going to be a life long pursuit.