Every year I come up with a few special projects to spice up my fishing. This year my favorite project is fly fishing for wild trout.
This project began several weeks before trout season opened when I decided to build a fly rod expressly for this project. I decided on a 3-weight rod for a very simple reason I already had two spools of 3-weight line and a very nice 3-weight fly reel, all that I had bought for ridiculously cheap prices in clearance sales. That is my favorite brand name clearance sale.
Of course a 3-weight rod is perfect for the small streams where wild trout are usually found in Pennsylvania.
After consulting with friends who know more than I do about such things, I loaded my Okuma Vashon V 3/4 reel with Scientific Anglers Ultra 4 WF-3-F line. For those of you who do not understand fly line lingo, that means weight-forward, 3-weight, floating.
Choosing the rod blank took a lot more thought. A rod blank is the most important part of your fishing gear. You may argue that, but presenting the fly certainly must rank a high priority.
The first thing I had to decide was the length of the blank. Since the streams where the rod will be used are very small, casting distance is not an issue, which made a shorter blank tempting.
A good share of casts will be roll casts, or no cast at all. That, no cast at all, is dabbling, or whatever you want to call it. It is simply reaching the rod directly over the spot where you want to place the fly, then lowering the fly.
A lot of fly fishing does not involve the classic casts because there is not enough space to do it.
So long or short was the decision at hand. A couple of serious fly fishing friends pointed out that casting can be difficult with a short rod. A shorter rod may be easier to carry through brush. A longer rod has longer reach for dabbling.
My friend Jim Lynch has a 6-foot 6-inch, 3-weight fly rod. I tried it at the special regulations stretch of East Hickory Creek. It is a beautiful L.L. Beane rod. It casts very well, dispelling any notion that a short rod makes casting difficult. But the arguments in favor of a longer blank still won out. I chose a 7-foot 9-inch, two-piece Rainforest blank, which is made with IM7 graphite.
Some important decisions come down to factors which may seen trivial. The blank is green, the only green blank I could find. Green is my favorite color. And I wanted anything other than black, just to be different from almost all of the graphite rods I have built.
I bought a ready-shaped cork handle. The reel seat is just one of a few I had on hand, a lightweight job, black graphite with a rosewood insert. Keeping with the lightweight theme, I used single-foot guides. I like single foot guides for most rods because of the weight factor, and because standard guides make a flat spot in the rod.
After fishing a few streams I feel it was a very good choice.
One of the most firm guidelines I accepted for this wild trout project was that I would not mention any specific streams. Small trout streams tend to be fragile. Too much fishing pressure, even if it is done by ethical catch and release anglers, might spoil a stream.
But one stream I have decided to mention because the reason for giving its name will not attract anglers.
Jones Run was the favorite stream of my youth. I began fishing it with Ray Bimber, who got me started at fishing and hunting, when I was just 4 years-old. In the 1950s it was loaded with brook trout. I remember peering over boulders into deep pools and seeing many trout in every pool.
Today it is all but dead. After fishing it with two friends, both very good fly fishers, not a single trout was seen. We turned over several stream bottom rocks and saw very little insect life.
My inquiries into the reason for the demise of this stream turned up just one thing, prolonged acidic precipitation. Brook trout may be more tolerant of acidity than either rainbow trout or brown trout, but this stream became too acidic. I doubt if it will ever recover.
So my first lesson in my wild trout project was sad, proof that all I have read and heard about acid precipitation is true.