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Green Drake hatch is season highlight


July 3, 2014
ZACH KNEPP - Sentinel correspondent , Lewistown Sentinel

If you are a fly fisherman, there is a good chance that the the end of May and early June were the highlight of your year in the outdoors. You would not be alone as anglers from all parts once again arrived in big numbers to fish the green drake hatch on Penns Creek.

In fact, I am finishing this column with my fly gear already packed and ready to head north.

My first green drake experience on Penns took place when I was a youngster with my father above the swinging bridge at the bottom of the catch-and-release section. I can still remember the clouds of bugs in the air and the trout gulping then down as they floated down stream.

Just as vividly as the bugs, I can remember the amount of anglers on the stream. Every place you could have parked was taken. It seemed that every hole on the Penns had a few anglers tossing flies in hopes of hooking a fish.

Regarded as one of the best hatches in the world, it is more of an experience than a simply a hatch. The river becomes a packed house with thousands of flies, hundreds of anglers and rising trout enjoying their favorite meal of the year.

Basically, if you mixed a beautiful wild river with Times Square in your mind, you may get the picture if you have never experienced a full-on green drake hatch in person.

While hard to believe, the hype around the hatch may actually exceed the craziness on the water. Bloggers, fly shop owners and guides all do their best to get anglers from near and far excited about green drakes appearing from Glen Iron to Poe Paddy.

Depending on what you read or who you speak to, you may think that the drakes guarantee a day full of giant rising trout who are striking your flies on every cast. That is rarely the case.

The drake does offer the chance to view lot of feeding fish. However, that also means plenty of real flies are floating next to your imitation. The wild brown trout in the Penns are smart and most of the times make the right decision on which object to inhale.

Like any other outing on the tough river, there is a chance it could be the day when it seems that everything is going perfectly. Those are the rare days that hope for every time you put on your waders. Those are the days that keep anglers coming back year after year once the first drakes are spotted.

I cannot say I have ever had an once-in-a-lifetime night on the Penns with drakes. I have had better evenings using caddis, BWOs and March browns. But I have returned to Middleburg after some great nights floating a drake.

My favorite part of putting on a dry fly during the hatch is simply using a large fly. They are easy to see, especially when the sun starts to disappear behind the mountain.

I may be easily amused, but there is something about fishing with big flies. It reminds me of my time in Montana casting large soft pillows which is a hopper pattern.

When darkness comes I stay on the creek and try to land a few fish as the crowds start to thin out. I cut down my leader and make short casts so I can see my fly or at least know within a few feet where it is in the water.

When I hear a fish break the surface in the general area near my fly, I set the hook. You would be surprised how effective this method can be when fishing drakes. That is a trick I learned from my father and have successfully enjoyed using on a yearly basis.

As quick as it appears, the drake hatch is over. Within two weeks it has usually run its course. That is one reason the drake hatch draws such a crowd on a nightly basis. You do not have the option to pick a weekend to head to Weikert. Instead, when the flies show up, so do the fishermen.

Fishing the green drake on Penns Creek is something every fly fisherman should do. Even if you do not land a trout, it is an adventure just seeing the perfect storm Mother Nature can create in a well-preserved ecosystem. In today's world of put-and-take trout fishing in warm water creeks in Pennsylvania, the drake hatch on the Penns is a rare and beautiful thing indeed.


Zach Knepp writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.



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