It’s not often when you catch five trout on Opening Day with the largest measuring 16 1/4 inches and the smallest 13 1/2 inches. But that’s what happened.
The stream, near Cowans Gap State Park, was not over stocked with fishermen and seemed more like a day later in the season. Sometimes when I see so few fishermen, I wonder if I’m at the wrong place because we all know the First Day is usually populated by as many fishermen as there are stocked fish in the water. Not so on this day. There were a total of five people around a fairly wide area of the stream. In fact, I was the only one on my side of the hole.
It’s always hard to figure out what bait or lure to use for that first cast. So many options. I finally decided to try a ‘baby’ night crawler. Nothing happened for the first three casts. But on the fourth, I got a very big strike! I could feel the weight of the fish, something I usually do not experience. I knew I had to play it calmly and carefully while reeling in about 20 feet of line. It’s rare that my drag engages on a trout but this day I had to use my thumb on the Zebco Omega Pro 3 to increase the drag. The people around me were also aware that I had something very large on my line. After what appeared to be several minutes but was only about 10 seconds, the fish got off and my rod went straight. I reeled in the line and was amazed to see that my hook, leader, and split shot sinker were gone! Did the fish saw through the 8-pound test line with its sand paper rough teeth? I have no way of knowing. But I knew that was the largest trout I ever had on while fishing a PA stream.
I continued casting with a worm and over about 40 minutes caught 4 chubs. Depressing. Then I switched to meal worms then a Panther Martin. Nothing. After an hour into the season, I was getting frustrated as I continued to reflect on how that large fish escaped. Across from me two nice fish were caught around 10/12 inches and that was it.
Not sure what to do, I walked up to some of my friends to see how they were doing and they seemed to be having quite a bit of luck. They had their limit in about 35 minutes. I couldn’t believe it! They were catching fish on Panther Martins and spinners. I decided to rededicate myself. I knew that after only an hour or so all the fish could not possibly be caught.
I attached a spinner and headed back down to the place I left. I threw the spinner about 5 or 6 times and…nothing. I headed down stream where oddly enough there were no fishermen. Fighting through the overhanging briars about 50 yards from my first spot, I flipped out the spinner underhanded into a section of water that looked to be about four feet deep. The very first cast a trout slammed into the spinner and once again a fight was on! The trout actually jumped about a foot out of water 4 times! Never had that happen before. This ‘big boy’ fortunately did not get away. I placed the fish on the stringer attached to the Stick-in-the-Mud to let it swim near the shore then flipped the lure out a few more times with no results. I continued downstream and each hole I came upon I caught another big trout within three casts. It took me about 50 minutes to an hour to navigate through the woods, stream, rocks, and briars to come up with my limit. At about 10:00 or so I was finished with my largest First Day catch ever.
It’s never easy to know what exactly fish will be talking on a given day: bait, lures, or flies? But as we well know, there’s a seemingly endless array of choices. By having a good selection of live bait and lures ready to go stream-side, there’s a very good chance you’ll ‘strike it rich’ and discover, with persistence, the right formula for a particular day of trout fishing on a PA stream.