Winter fishing is an ambiguous term, the last few years for this outing it meant hand stinging cold and biting winds that would make your ears burn and eyes tear. Several guys who have been going told me they were going to skip this year because they were still trying to warm up from last yearís January Outing. The truckís thermometer registered only 22 degrees on the drive up through a frozen rural landscape where huge cold-looking barns stood stark against white hillsides and in the fields we saw deer trying to grub out a mouthful. But there was no wind, in its place just a dead calm making it feel much warmer than the thermometer led one to believe. Ken Bowyer and I made a quick stop at the Yellow Breeches Outfitters on arrival where we found Lou Reichel ogling the goodies and ready to hit the water.
A short while later we pulled into the parking lot at the run. Doug Rink and Bob Meuhlenkamp were already there standing in six inches of snow rigging up. The snow crunched as we edged in beside them, dropped the tail gate and dragged out our gear. Without the furious need to shield ourselves against the weather we leisurely donned our fleece, waders and thick socks, remarking on how comfortable and beautiful it was.
If you havenít been to Boiling Springs, it is worth the drive just for the scenery; it is a quaint little village with a charm that I find reminiscent of New England. There is a small run that comes out of the lake at the outlet and runs for maybe a half a mile before connecting to the main stem of Yellow Breeches Creek. In the afternoon I walked over to the road and bridge that separates the lake from the run where the outlet is and looked up into the town. From this vantage point the buildings seem way too large for a village this size. Some are made of stone and look ancient; others of different materials. Their architecture combined with the trees, especially the towering Eastern Hemlocks, their boughs heavy with snow, give the little village an unexpected grandeur. The town and its trees ring Childrenís lake, which is fed by the Boiling Spring that bubbles up a constant flow of 55 degree water a couple of hundred yards away in the townís center, and keeps the runís winter time flow much warmer than the main stemís. A sizable raft of waterfowl was resting on the lakeís center and the raspy sound of hen mallards scolding orders rose out of it. A couple with some smallish children strolled its edge, all were bundled up against the cold; the littlest girl clutched a handful of brightly colored balloons. A Currier and Ives lithograph come to life.
The run is almost always gin clear; its bottom clearly visible and the fish fairly easy to spot. However this trip the water was a slate gray and while only about 18 inches deep, I couldnít see the bottom in most places. For the first time since Iíve been going to the Breeches a concrete outlet about fifty yards below the tube was also gushing water into the run. Ken said he heard they were lowering the lake to get rid of some of the debris building up. Long leafless stems of what I think were either denuded elodea or strands of weeping willow or a combination of both coursed and swirled through the current catching on rocks here and there. The fishing was pretty slow. Most of us started in the run and worked our way down into the main stem.
Following some advice based on the previous stocking, I hiked down below the Allenberry Resort and fished an area that has been productive for me in the past. I had no takers on a variety of offerings and while changing flies I came across a scud pattern whose body dubbing color I had been fooling around with and decided to fish my way back up to the outlet and fish the scuds in the chop coming out of the tube on the theory that cress bugs and scuds would be washing in from the lake.
On the way up to the parking lot I passed Bob who told me Ken had landed a fish so at least we werenít going to get skunked. Getting to the lot I found Ken having a sandwich. He told me got his fish working a pink San Juan worm down the base of the brick wall where some fish were holding. Not being able to resist the temptation I tied on a chartreuse crystal meth and worked the wall up near the head of the run. The first fish I saw rose to something right in the heavy chop coming out of the tube. I thought well..; at least I saw a fish, and in a couple more casts was fast to one. On his third run and not able to lift his head I was getting suspicious he was foul hooked, but the fish came off before I could tell for sure. Tying on one of those scuds I added a little more weight to get it down and drifted it right down through the chop. I tried my version of Czech nymphing, dragging the fly through the fish when it hung up on the bottom, and if the indicator wobbled or I felt some soft resistance I set the hook.
I wasnít completely sure on the first hook set if I was hooking or snagging, but after the first hook up I was able to raise the fishís head and see the fly in its mouth which was encouraging. Using that same method I fair hooked three more Rainbows in about 30 to 40 minutes, one a heavy fish of about 17 inches that thought he was a steelhead making wild leaps and dogging runs. My last fish was snagged just ahead and on the underside of the tail that Doug was quick to capture on film as I was landing it hinting the picture might be for sale for the right price. I saw Bob below me, waved him up giving him my spot and fly, then heard Bob whooping while on my way to the porta potty so knew it was working for him too.
By this time it was around 3pm, the temperature was dropping and I was thinking how good hot coffee and bowls of soup at the diner were going to be. We had lost track of Lou so left a message on his cell we here headed for the diner. Turns out Lou was preoccupied and into fish down below us. He hooked three on his San Juan worm landing a very colorful 13 incher.
It was really a lovely time to be outside. We never got cold and the sun even peeked out once illuminating an already beautiful winter scene. The next outing is going to be Feb. 26 at Big Hunting Creek. For the past two or three years this outing has also been a cold one, but four or five years ago we had temps on two outings get clear up into the high 50ís. The warmth really had the midges working and the stoneflies crawling all over us. Think warm and see ya there!