2022 was my toughest year fishing of my life. I started my year off great by catching some nice wild browns, and had and epic first day of trout fishing for native brookies with a good friend of mine. I caught some huge stocked fish, and got to net my daughters biggest trout ever. That great kickoff was followed up my least amount of fishing ever. Multiple factors added up that prevented me from getting much stream time. New Years Eve is always a lucky day for me to be on the water. I always have something amazing happen if I can get out on that day. The fact that New Years Eve was on a Saturday this year allowed me to sneak out to the stream one last time to close my 2022 fishing season.
I was finally feeling better after spending the week of Christmas with the flu. I had tied up some flies the night before and was trying to decide on what stream I would hit up. We had some serious snowmelt in my area, and the rain from the previous week narrowed the streams I could fish. I decided to hit up a small stream that I haven’t fished in 2 years that had a healthy population of both native brook trout and wild brown trout. This stream seems to be feast or famine for me. It seems that if the weather or water is not perfect one must fight just to catch a trout or two. If you do hit that stream right though, you are in for an action-packed day.
As I crossed the upper reaches of the stream I could see that the streams levels and color were about perfect to fish. I knew that the only issue I may face would be water temperature. I parked and began my trek to my starting point. I decided that I would be tossing a small streamer that I call my “Go To Brookie Streamer.” My second cast was hit and I brought my first trout to hand for the day, a pretty Wild Brown. “Well, at least I won’t get skunked today.” I thought to myself. I worked up to the next pool and didn’t catch a fish.
The hole after that is what blue line anglers dream about. A nice bend with an undercut bank and a fallen tree right against the bank. Holes like these are so exciting to fish because you never know what may be lurking under that bank. I dead drifted my streamer through that hole a few times and didn’t have a hit. I thought about switching to some nymphs, but experience taught that it’s not always the fly and that I may just need to change up my presentation. My next cast I jigged the streamer through the hole. I could see an lighter colored trout chasing my streamer the whole way through the pool. I figured it was a lighter colored brown. I cast out again and had the same result. This little fish was super aggressive and was side swiping my streamer 3-4 times on each drift. I knew that I would need to jig the streamer to get the fish wound up, then let the streamer “die” to be able to hook the fish. My next drift I jigged the streamer hoping the fish would still chase. After I saw the fish flash I paused after a quick jig. BOOM! The fish inhaled my streamer and was on the end of my rod.
This little fish had a lot of fight in it. When I lifted it out of the water and into my net he spun and I could only see his stomach, “What a neat looking brookie,” I thought. When I knelt down to see this brookie, my jaw dropped as I could see that this fish was a wild tiger trout. I quickly grabbed my phone out of my waders to capture a few photos of the fish. When I picked my net up I could see that its head was hanging out of the net. “OH NO!” I shrieked as I could see the hole in the net. Luck was on my side as I was able to get the tiger back in the net. I was able to capture a few nice photos of the fish and took a quick video to remember it by. I was in complete shock at the events that had just unfolded.
The fish was stunning. The tiger was a neat green color with intricate striping and had a burnt orange colored belly. I kept the fish in the net in the water for a few more seconds to take in its beauty. I wanted to try and film a slow motion release of the fish, but watched him swim right out of the hole in the net and back into the perfect pool. I was shaking from excitement and took a few moments to collect myself.
Now I wanted to catch a nice brookie. I continued fishing that stream for two more hours and was only able to land one more wild brown trout. This was one of those famine days on this stream but I was feeling super blessed that my first wild tiger wanted to play the game. What a way to end my rough 2022 year of fishing.
On New Years day I was able to take my twins out fishing for brookies. They caught a few and enjoyed the hike. I also made the decision on New Years Day that my goal for 2023 was to catch my first wild rainbow. Wild rainbows are hard to come by in my area of the state so I knew that I would need to do a bit of research. I spent time researching a few streams that have wild rainbows and tying flies that would work for them. The stream I decided to chase them on did not have many large fish so I tied up some size twelve “Go To Brookie Streamers” and some smaller nymphs than what I normally fish. My first chance to fish would be exactly one week from when I caught my wild tiger. During my research I learned that the stream I was going to target also had a native brook trout population.
My goal was to catch one wild rainbow, but in the back of my mind I was also hoping to land some native brookies as well. I was up early and made the decent drive to my target stream. The stream was a beautiful fast-moving stream tucked up against the side of a mountain. The hemlock and rhododendron were plentiful. I had high hopes of landing my wild rainbow in the first few runs I would fish. I missed one fish, and had no luck in the first 25 yards or so of gorgeous water. I came up to a pool on the back side of a log and tossed out my little streamer. I felt a few quick taps and set the hook. I could see a little trout around three inches or so and instantly thought it was a brookie. I was wrong and had just landed my first ever wild rainbow. The fish was not extremely colorful but the par marks were beautiful. Mission accomplished, I was eager to see if I could land a few more before it was time to call it quits.
The next nice hole I came up to was perfect. A log jam with a long deeper pool waited for me. There was a hemlock branch that made it quite challenging to set the hook and cast. I watched in dismay as trout after trout would attack my streamer and I would miss. I was watching trout as small as the size 12 streamer try to eat it. I switched to smaller nymphs but just could not hook any of these trout.
I continued up stream and picked up a few more brookies and wild bows. The prettiest bow came out of a difficult pool. There was a downed tree and rhododendron surrounding the hole. I snuck in between the rhododendron and held my hand up high to plop my streamer into the pool. The fly landed and was immediately grabbed by a little wild bow. I caught this one and got a nice photo. I was taken back by the beauty of this little gem. I fished up to the stopping point of my trip and ended the trip with two nicer sized brook trout.
I walked back to the Jeep and was out of time to be able to chase a wild brown trout, but really wanted to try to get the “Single Day Wild Trout Trifecta”. This would be a native brookie, wild brown, and wild rainbow all in the same day.
As luck would have it my twins had a birthday party to go to, so I was able to hit a local stream in hopes of landing a wild brown. The first fish of this stream was a beautiful wild brown trout, thus completing my “Single Day Wild Trout Trifecta”. Only after landing that brown did I realize that I had also completed the “PA Wild Trout Grand Slam” earlier that morning.
Never in my dreams would I have thought that I would be able to accomplish the grand slam in a week. I doubt that is something I will ever do again. To many anglers, walking miles to catch fish that most would consider to be minnows sounds crazy, but to me it is the best way to fish. These days I am not an angler that needs to put up big numbers, or even catch big fish. Taking these mini adventures into the unknown, seeing the beautiful scenery, and catching beautiful wild trout is what I live for. Fly fishing for wild trout in the Pennsylvania wilds is something that is burned into my soul and is something that I just can’t live without.