Don’t Forget the Food!

“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” – Anthony Bourdain

Great memories can be both made relived around a good meal. When it comes to capping off a good day (or evening) of fishing, a cold beverage can be great. Sometimes you miss lunch or dinner if the fishing is good and you need to grab a bite when you come off the water late. Whether it’s something like a a great burger and beer at a restaurant (like the Grizzly Bar after fishing caddis on the Madison River until after dark) or simple, such as as frozen pizzas in the oven, food is an important part of any fishing trip.

It just so happens that we have some great places to eat around the State College/Bellefonte area! There are way too many good restaurants to name them all, but it’s worthwhile to highlight a few simply due to their proximity to the streams in the area.

Streamside lunch from Bonfatto’s

Lower Spring Creek runs right through downtown Bellefonte, which is convenient. Some restaurants there include: The Governor’s Pub, State Burger Company, The Wok (Chinese), Maria’s, Axemann Brewery, Big Spring Spirits, Jim’s (a local favorite), Mamma Lucretia’s.

If you’re on the upper part of Spring Creek (Rock, Benner Springs), some places close by include Happy Valley Brewing Company, Brother’s Pizza (Benner Pike location), Kamrai Thai & Sushi, The American Alehouse, Otto’s Pub and Brewery.

Just because it’s not mentioned here doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out – explore what the area has to offer in terms of restaurants, bars, and breweries!

It’s hard to beat a cold beverage at the end of a day on the water.

Up in Michigan

Back in June I had the chance to take a family vacation up in Michigan, spending a few days on Lake Macatawa (off of Lake Michigan) before heading east to spend a few days in the Ann Arbor area on the Huron River. A few weeks before we left, I contacted the guys at Schultz Outfitters to ask about some recommended patterns for fishing the lakes (we were already scheduled for a guided trip with them when we were on the Huron). They were incredibly helpful, and I ended up filling a Fishpond Sushi Roll with some baitfish, sculpin, crayfish, and leech patterns.

A full Sushi Roll with the narrowed-down selection of boxes for the trip.

The sun didn’t set until around 9:30pm, so there was time to fish every night once the kids were in bed. Luckily, fishing was a short walk away from where we were staying – it was great! After trying the fishing pier for an evening and blanking, I ended up going to another area on the second night and saw some baitfish jumping out of the water, followed by a boil (which happened throughout the evening). This time I had better luck, resulting in a breakoff without even feeling whatever heavy fish took the fly (a tan S3 Sculpin). The evening glare on the water made it hard to see any underwater structure as it was getting dark, so we took a walk the next morning to look in the water.

The next evening, I was joined by my daughter for a special daddy/daughter date before bedtime – we tried some “fishing” with both kids earlier in the day, and she wanted to take a special outing later. It was similar to the night before, seeing baitfish followed by a boil in the water. I threw on a black Red Eye Leech and was pretty quickly into a nice largemouth bass that threw the hook when it jumped. After a few more minutes with no hits, I decided to change flies and had my daughter help (she chose a purple woolly bugger that I she had helped me to tie). When I threw a cast straight out into the lake, I gave it a few seconds to sink then began to strip it in erratically. Suddenly there was a big tug and I was into… something that felt big, and then it broke off my 12-pound fluorocarbon. I picked out a size 1/0 version of my favorite black/olive/grizzly woolly bugger and cast into the same spot. Very quickly I again hooked into something that was putting up a good fight, and when it jumped I realized it wasn’t a bass, but a bowfin – my first! My daughter handed me the net, and we got a good look at the fish, which she found just as fascinating as I did. Being able to share that experience with her is something I won’t forget!

Family fishing
Evening outing
First bowfin, looking forward to tangling with these more

We walked back to the house, then I went back out after she was in bed. I tied on a chartreuse/white Feather Game Changer and caught two more largemouth bass (one was a new personal best for me at 17 inches). Great night overall.

Over the next two days most of Michigan got a few inches of rain, causing flooding in some areas and hugely helping stream flow levels on the Huron River, which had been running very low. There are a number of Metro Parks providing access along the river, and we fished from one that was right across the road from where we stayed. The fishing was tough, but both Dad and I got fish (including his first pike on the fly!).

If you’re looking for a trip for smallmouth, check out Schultz Outfitters for a great shop (both fly and conventional gear) and guides. They’ll help you get dialed in!

First pike!

Mid-April Update

Fish are looking up! Here are some updates on what’s been happening on the streams around us:

  • Grannoms are wrapping up on lower Spring Creek, but are still on Penns Creek and the Little J.
  • Also on Spring Creek: Tan caddis are coming off, along with midges and Blue Winged Olives (BWOs) if conditions are right. Craneflies are starting, too!
  • Penns Creek has had Hendricksons, some Blue Quills, BWOs, and March Browns are just starting to be seen.
  • The Little Juniata River still has Grannoms, along with BWO.
  • Big Fishing Creek has had some BWOs, caddis, and Hendricksons starting to pop.

Nymphing is going to be your most consistent bet, unless you see rising fish. Don’t neglect the small streamers, either!

Fly Fishing Clinic: Video Playlist

One of the (many) things that couldn’t happen in the late spring was a fly fishing clinic that typically happened for a local community. Turns out that one of my co-workers at school was looking for some help with a fly fishing portion of a course he teaches.

These are something I really enjoy doing! The goal is to get people interested in fly fishing who are brand-new to it, or to give people who have done it before a little more knowledge – either way, we want people to get out and try it for themselves!

One great book that is incredibly helpful as a tool is Dave Whitlock’s Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods. The charts and illustrations are top-notch, and it covers all kinds of aquatic life and includes some fly patterns to imitate those food types.

Introduction and Mayfly Life Cycle
Caddis Life Cycles and other aquatic insects
Anatomy of a stream (focusing on trout habitat on Spring Creek)
This covers fly patterns for this area and some tying materials

Chowtime Sculpin Pattern Recipe

Back in the fall of 2016, I was working on a sculpin pattern that took a few different ideas from other patterns and blended them together. As Gunnar Brammer says in one of his streamer videos: “I don’t have a lot of original ideas… almost all of my bugs in general… are original compositions… different materials, different ways to build bulk, different silhouettes. It uses unique techniques or features or materials to make it different… it’s all from the people who came before me… I just take things that I like, things that I know to be successful, and then I base a composition that hasn’t been done kind of around that.”

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