The Art of Angling with Don Kelly: Weather, not fishing, is for the birds – The Wellsboro Gazette

Cold rain and intermittent sleet and flurries fell from the sky as I strung my fly rod on the banks of Pine Creek. Upstream, a goose stared me down, honking constantly. Soon another joined it and they continued to stare, cackling in goose speak which I can only assume translated to ‘Go home, silly human’. After all, conditions weren’t exactly ideal. Perhaps that’s why they say, “This weather is for the birds.” Not another soul waded this stretch of water all afternoon. It was just me, and the birds.

Soon, the precipitation stopped. The water was just high enough to make reading the river bottom tough and spotting fish impossible. Water temperatures held at about 50 degrees with hindered visibility. These factors made my decision to fish subsurface with wooly buggers quite simple. Blind casting, moving, and covering water was going to be key to catching fish.

Streamer fishing, like this, has intrigued me more and more over these last few years. At the shop, our resident streamer addict, Ryan, and I have spent countless hours discussing lines, leaders, and techniques. Ryan specializes in finding big wild brown trout in the small streams of Potter County. For the most part, he fishes large flies, particularly sculpin patterns. It’s a different way of fishing than I knew and from our talks, I continue to find small changes and improvements that help. Small changes can make a world of difference.

Switching to a sinking line has a few key advantages, including cutting through the water column faster and reducing drag on the line. Next, shorten the leader to just three feet of heavier fluorocarbon. The extra length is unnecessary and using a stouter 12 or 15lb fluorocarbon allows for better hook sets. Finally, tie the fly on with a loop knot, instead of a standard clinch. This allows the fly to move more freely, giving it more action than a direct tie.

Starting near the snowmobile club house, I worked downstream, making long casts across Pine and stripping the fly back as it swung downstream. The first hour or so, it was more casting than catching. I’d make a few casts, then move a few feet downstream. Soon I was rewarded as a nice fat rainbow chomped down on the wooly bugger.

The action wasn’t fast and furious, but each fish reminded me that no matter the weather, fishing is always better than sitting at home. When someone says, “This weather is for birds”, remember, its prime time for woolly buggers and streamers too.


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