Ok, I might as well confess up front – there is no Hemlock Run.
Or, if there is, I am surely unaware of it and any resemblance
between this Hemlock Run and a bona-fide water and rock stream
which flows through the forest and corresponds to a small blue
line in a map is coincidental. Hemlock Run could be any one of
the smaller waters which tumble down the hills of central
Pennsylvania. All of them start in amidst the hemlocks – at least
the ones I fish. Though all are individuals with unique personalities,
they all bear a family resemblance to one another. I wish to focus
on their similarities. So today, any and every Run is Hemlock Run.
By Dave Pearson, PA
The wild rhododendron and the purple-flowering raspberries are
in bloom and the huckleberries are just showing fruit. The water
is low, but cold. Most of the hatches are over, and if the trout
want any insects for a meal, they have to wait for something to
plop into the water. This means ants, beetles, and crickets. The
creek below is losing water and warming up. The trout from below
come up Hemlock Run to avoid the heat. This puts a bit of pressure
on the year-round residents – the small native brook trout. The
riffles and runs flow at trickles and all the trout, resident
natives and recent immigrants, crowd into the pools.
When an ant, beetle, or cricket wanders too close to the stream
and falls in, it's almost always the best fish in the pool which
gets first crack it. The biggest fish is the greediest; that's
how he got his size. If the biggest fish is too far away, a smaller
fish gets the bug. Insects aren't the only items on the menu and
the trout sort themselves by size. The small fish stay as far
away from the bigger fish as possible.
So the situation is a little tense in Hemlock Run. The water is cold
enough, but low. The population is up a bit. Food is scarce. And all
the predators – herons, kingfishers, snakes, and savvy anglers (to
name a few) – know exactly where to find a good meal. In the pools.
The fish are on "high alert" and ready to bolt up through the pool
sounding the alarm at the slightest provocation.
So how do you fish Hemlock Run at this time of the year? With planning,
aforethought and stealth. Approach the pool cautiously. I like to think
"low and slow." Do not get too close. No matter how careful you were in
your approach, if you get too close, you will spook the pool. How
close is too close? I agree with Joe Humphreys on this and say
twenty feet. You get much closer than twenty feet and the trout of
Hemlock Run flee for cover.
Get on your knees, crawl into position (at least 20 ft away), and
survey the situation. There is a trout at the tail of the pool.
Sometimes he's a good fish, but more often than not, he's a dink.
Whichever he is, you must get that fish first. If you cast to the
middle or head of the pool first, you most likely will line the fish
at the tailout and he will race through the pool blowing your cover.
So, get him out of there first. Then work your way up the pool. Make two
or three casts in the pool. Don't cast repeatedly over the same spot.
These fish are hungry. They will take a well-presented fly the first
time. I find the average size pool on Hemlock Run is good for about
two fish – one at the tailout and another from the body of the pool.
After that the pool is spooked.
Avoid drag. A fly careening across the water leaving a wake worthy
of a speedboat will only scatter the trout of Hemlock Run into the
Avoid false casting. The more your line is in the air, the greater
the likelihood that you will hang up in the weeds or frighten the
fish with the overhead movement. If there is one thing fish are on
the alert for is something out of the ordinary happening above their
heads. The trout are with Wagner on this. All unusual movement is the
flight of the valkyries and death from above.
The trick to fishing Hemlock Run this time of year is to be able to
cast distance where there is no room for a backcast. To do it without
false casting. And to do it without betraying your presence to the trout.
If you can fish the tight waters of Hemlock Run, you will have no
problem with presentation on larger waters. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at:
Hemlock Headwaters Archives