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> > Clark's Creek, Harrisburg PA - Need Help!

BillyAugust 25th, 2008, 11:30 am
Chester County, PA

Posts: 10
I spent 7+ hours on Clark’s Creek FFO section near Harrisburg, PA and watched trout sipping something just below the surface. No insects were visible on the water surface or in the air. In every stream section all I could see were dorsal and tails breaking the surface. The activity went on for hours and the size and quantity of trout was incredible. The stream was 64 degrees and “gin clear.” The weather was perfect and there was only 1 other fly fisherman on the creek. I could not detect any insect forms upon close inspection. I used a 15 foot 7x leader and went through every conceivable fly pattern in my boxes (at last count I used 25 patterns!). I stayed in the size 20 to size 26 range and covered a large section of water fishing upstream and then down. My question is what the heck were they eating? 7 hours and not a single hit. I’m hoping that someone has had this experience on Clark’s and can share a remedy. Help!
I was born with nothing and still have most of it. . .
CaseyPAugust 26th, 2008, 7:11 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
you didn't mention what style of flies you were trying, so i'll risk ridicule and suggest wet flies next time. the classic wingless style is just different enough to maybe offer a good alternative. look for postings by "softhackle" on this site--he's the expert and has a lot of good advice.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
LittleJAugust 26th, 2008, 6:54 pm
Hollidaysburg Pa

Posts: 251
I haven't spent much time on clarks but if I were in that situation this time of year, on most streams I fish, here is what I would do.
1- sink a trico, I prefer them sunk any how because I can't see the little bastards. chances are if it was morning they could be taking sunken spinners just below the surface. (or substitute trico with any bug that is on)
2- How deep is the water? They could have been nosing in the rocks for nymphs. Assuming you tried some nymphs stayed small all day and had no luck, I would guess isonychia nymphs if clarks has them.
Or Maybe wet ants.
3- if all else fails YARN FLIES!
JADAugust 27th, 2008, 6:48 pm
Alexandria Pa

Posts: 362
I don't think it has much to do with your ability. Most trout this time of year have been fished over and hooked often. With less hatches the fish become much more selective, I fished over similar trout antics the other night, I laughed out loud , I seined the water at dark and looked at the result in the light, back at camp----They were so small:)
In a couple weeks things will change with more insects and the trout will go on the feed, keep an eye open for flying ants and good luck.

JaD AkA Caddisman

They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax.
Radcliffe's Fishing from the Earliest Times,
Shawnny3August 27th, 2008, 7:57 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
That sucks, Billy. You've gotten some good advice here, and hopefully you'll find a way of keeping this from happening to you again. Obviously, with the right pattern and presentation you should have caught fish. I would definitely carry a seine and just sample whatever is drifting downstream (don't kick around, just dip the seine into the current, leaving a little of the seine out of the water so surface insects can be intercepted as well, and wait). By doing this you will not only be able to tell what is drifting downstream, but also where in the water column they're drifting (based on where on your seine the insects are concentrated) and what stage they're in. If you are counting how long you've had the seine in the water, you can also make an estimate of the frequency of the insects drifting and compare it with the frequency of the fish's rises to give yourself at least a logical starting point. Remember that it is possible that the most prevalent or largest insect is not the one they're keying on. If the water is gin clear, at the very least you should be able to pick a place at the tail of a pool where the water is smooth and moving fairly slowly, stare into the water for awhile, and see the drifting insects. Obviously this is not as good as seining, but I've done it in a pinch, even catching the occasional bug or shuck with my hand.

I hope you have better luck next time.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
WbranchAugust 27th, 2008, 10:36 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
I'll go along with JAD on this topic. I used to fish Clarks often in the summer and can vividly remember seeing little 8" - 10" trout rising all day long and hardly ever eating my fly. It used to be very frustrating when you could see them rising just a short cast away.

I would suggest trying some of those "Korkers" flies. Those little cork or balsa wood "flies" that look like ants, inch worms, lady bugs, etc. There is a guy in PA who specializes in making and selling these neat little bugs but at the moment I can't remember his name.

What I do that works quite well is to get above the rising fish and throw a very little soft hackle, about a #18 or #20 to the left or right of the fish and then let it swing in front of the rise form and retrieve it with the "hand twist" and I get many fish that way. Just a few wisps of wet fly blue dun for the tail, a PT fiber body ribbed with XF gold wire, a fur ball thorax and 1 - 2 turns light dun hackle collar.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
McjamesAugust 28th, 2008, 5:46 am
Cortland Manor, NY

Posts: 139
this reminds me of a story a friend told me. He is Georgian (as in former Soviet republic, recently at war with Russia). He had a friend whose dad was a big shot in the communist party. The dad took the kids to a resort up in the Caucuses where he was attending a communist party conference or something, and hired a guide to take the kids fishing while he was in meetings. So they drove up into the mountains and started propsecting for trout. There were fish jumping all over the place, but they couldn't catch a thing. They tried everything in the box, moved to a couple different spots, nothing. It started getting late, and this guide was probably thinking to himself, if I dont put these kids into some fish, his big shot communist party dad will probably make my pension disappear or send me to Siberia. Finally, at dusk he told the kids to reel up their lines. He put the rods in the truck and handed them the landing net, and instructed them go stand at the tail of a large pool. Then he took the battery out of the truck and headed to the head of the pool. Half a minute later about a hundred trout floated down the stream into the landing net. They all got back in thr truck and the guide said "now go tell your dad how many fish you caught today".
I am haunted by waters
RleePAugust 28th, 2008, 6:33 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
What follows will probably sound ridiculous, but bear with me..

Put a size #10 deerhair ant over top of them and see what happens. If you can get it to straighten out with 7X, use that. Otherwise, back off to 6X. Try and make it land as softly as possible. If they come up and give it a serious look, but turn away, try a #12 but don't go any smaller

Here's why: Like the fish in most stocked PA special reg areas, the trout in Clarks see a lot of the same flies over and over and over. They learn to associate them, IMO, with being stung by a hook.

But I'll bet they haven't seen many #10 deerhair ants, an offering that is not only something different, but also a nice looking piece of meat.

I'm of the opinion that jaded trout that act like PhDs can sometimes be made to return to acting like the tiny-brained creatures they really are if you do something outside their experience.

This has worked for me on a lot of these project waters. Give it a shot. If it doesn't work, the worst that happens is that you now have tried 26 flies...:)

BillyAugust 28th, 2008, 9:25 am
Chester County, PA

Posts: 10
This is a great forum and I have gathered a lot of information. The Little Lehigh offers the same challenges with veteran trout. I have been told that I need a 12x tippet and size 32 midge to have some success. At my age with eyesight on the wain, I have no intention of using any leader smaller than 7x or flies smaller than 24. I'm off to the store to gather some Zebra Midge, Al's Rat, Griffith's Gnat, Caddis Emerger Pupa and a seine net. I love a challenge. I'll also carry a spare truck battery!!!
I was born with nothing and still have most of it. . .
FalsiflyAugust 28th, 2008, 10:33 am
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
I’m with Shawn on this one. Although I haven’t fished any PA water I would like to share a similar experience on Colorado’s Roaring Fork. It was mid March on a placid bend in the river just upstream of the Crystal River confluence. I noticed a few surface disturbances but couldn’t see any insect activity. Soon the water came alive with active fish but all my efforts were met with more humiliation. And still I saw no insect activity but I knew something was going on below the surface. The next morning I stopped at the local Fly Shop and purchased a small seine, a package of small glass vials and some Bug Balmer. I was intent on hitting that same spot at the same time of day hoping for a repeat performance and was thus blessed. With seine immersed I was immediately rewarded with a plethora of midge pupa. With specimens in hand I finished out the day. I spent that night at the vice tying my rendition of an imitation. Needless to say I was at that spot the next day, and as if set by a clock the frenzy started again. Armed with a half dozen of my #20 dark olive midge pupa I was rewarded immensely. Over the years this practice has helped me through many trying (and thus tying) situations.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
ReifyAugust 30th, 2008, 11:10 am
Easton, Pennsylvania

Posts: 8
Billy - Did you try a #16 crane fly? I've had this be the answer to several "head-scratching" days on many PA creeks; cranes will hatch sparsley all day long, hanging in the surface film as they drift along, an easy target for sippers; as a clue, you'll find the adults bumbling around in little masses along the shoreline at the water-line on rocks and logs; it looks like the little creeps are rather enjoying themselves, having little cocktail parties or something - but we all know they're sorting through each other for mates.

Pattern idea: I suggest a thin, pale-gray winding silk body, with the rear tied slightly over the bend of the hook and thickened a bit there; tie in an over-sized dark blue dun feather where the hook straightens. Wind thread forward and make a humpy thorax with a wee bit of pale orange thread tie in/wound just at the front; for legs, palmer the blue dun feather - just a few turns - over the fly from back to front - and, nicely, neatness doesn't count here; the hackles can splay any which way - oh, joy!! As an option, you can trim off the top hackle fibers add a very small bunch of pale gray or white antron tied to lay back over the thorax - only about 1/8th inch, though; the pattern seems to work with or without it.

You can treat the fly with floatant and fish it on top, across and down-stream, skittering it a bit if you've seen any naturals buzzing across the surface; this works great working it along the stream's edge. But this pattern really kicks butt after the flies wets and sinks just below surface. Then you can also fish it upstream and let it dead drift just under the surface - right through active feeding lanes. I had a fantastic day on the Clarks with this pattern two seasons back when a lot of other guys were striking out. Now, that was in the spring, but the crane is a season-long entity. On my home water - the Bushkill here in Easton - they were along the stream's edge yesterday in decent numbers, but you couldn't see any out on the stream itself; I took several nice wild browns on this pattern, fished upstream as I've described...maybe cranes are working on Clarks, too. No one can make any promises, but this might be worth a try - good luck.

Incidently, your posting made me yearn a bit for that gin clear Clarks water - think I'll plan a trip out there's been awhile.

MartinlfAugust 30th, 2008, 1:54 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3229
Many of these suggestions are good. I especially like Lee's #10 deer hair ant. I've tried this on project fish that wouldn't take anything else, and had it work.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
WbranchAugust 31st, 2008, 9:05 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
"I have been told that I need a 12x tippet and size 32 midge to have some success."

That is foolish - anyone who is advocating 12x must want to kill trout because if they do get hooked one will have to play them quite a long time or they just like rising trout and leaving flies and lengths of tippet in the fish's mouth.

The LL is really an atypical trout stream in having a hatchery on it's banks with many escapees getting into the creek. Then on top of that the creek runs right through a town or county park and just thousands of guys fly fish there. Those goofy fish see every fly known to mankind and many of them know the drill, eat the fly, wiggle a little bit, then I'll get released to do it all over again.

Not really classic trout fishing.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
MartinlfSeptember 2nd, 2008, 4:07 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3229
Reify, thanks for a great simple cranefly pattern. I've tried several different kinds, but like the sound of what you propose. I'll tie it, varying the size and color to fit what's on the stream. I may rib it with fine gold wire to help secure the hackle.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell

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