Rain can be a scourge to both camper and fisherman. But despite the skies opening in frequent fits and starts, like a lawnmower yawning to life after a long winter in the shed, a quick getaway to Laurel Hill State Park last weekend was worth the inconvenience of soggy gear and the time spent having it dry out.
The park sits in Somerset County, in the heart of the Laurel Highlands, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and close to Seven Springs and Hidden Valley mountain resorts. Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater and Ohiopyle are popular nearby landmarks.
Before settling in at the campground Friday evening, I made a quick scouting trip to a pair of streams I had discovered through some advance research. Indian Creek’s DHALO section was clear and in good shape. I made about two dozen casts from the bank and had four different fish rise and nose my fly but not bite. After switching to a smaller pattern and casting a dozen more times I gave up, figuring the creek would be a great stop either Saturday or Sunday on the way home. I moved along to Camp Run, which is in the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Brook Trout Enhancement Program. The creek was skinny and a quick glance showed it to offer some prime habitat.
Considering the time and encroaching dusk, the park beckoned. Nick had arrived a few minutes prior and we struck a quick plan to check some more water for Saturday before setting up our tents. We stopped at Jones Mill Run long enough to see a trout rise consistently against a deflector on the far bank. It was a tricky cast, and though I came close to getting the drift just right on a few tries, I failed to make it work before putting the fish down. We finished our scouting trip and returned to the campsite where we set up and attempted to enjoy a fire but gave up after it started raining intermittently.
The rain cleared overnight and we rose a little after six under overcast skies. Following a quick breakfast we headed to Laurel Hill Creek to find a handful of guys had gotten a jump on us. We skipped ahead and hit a few good-looking holes that didn’t produce. The water flattened out the farther we hiked. We spent some time where a large tree covered the back end of a deep pool and created a bit of current. I made a few casts up against the tree and felt a hit. The fish took my next attempt, but the hookset wasn’t strong enough and the fish jumped free. That was our only action over a little more than four hours.
We made the long hike out and decided to leave the park in favor of the two spots I had stopped at Friday night. On the way, we reconnected with the world and with cell service came some bad news for me. I’d have to cut my trip short due to an issue at home. Though serious, there was no immediate rush and I had a few hours to squeeze in some more fishing before I needed to be on the road.
Camp Run greeted us with a heavy rain shower. After that stopped, we hit the creek and made it a few hundred yards before the sky opened up again. It was worth it though. I had a few hits and landed a nice brookie. Nick was using his tenkara rod and also had a little action.
We moved on to Indian Creek, where the rain had quickly darkened the water. Fishing was difficult and another rain shower threatened so we returned to the campsite so I could pack up. But before leaving for good, we made one more stop at Jones Mill Run.
A canopy created by treetops skirting the stream provided enough protection from the rain to make our attempt worth it. Though fast, good pockets of water held tight to boulders and other structure in frequent intervals. Fish hit intermittently, teasing us with their presence despite being unwilling to fully commit.
Before calling it a trip, I wanted one more shot at the rising trout from Friday night. I tied on a size 14 tan elk hair caddis. The first cast was like those of the previous night – OK normally but not quite good enough on the drift. My second cast was spot on and the drift true but went untouched. My third cast was perfect, the drift hit the feeding window and a 9-inch brown trout wasted no time hammering the fly. I quickly brought it to hand and then released it back into the cold water.
I left Nick to drift on his own Sunday, while I headed home to take care of things at the house and bash out some necessary work prior to POWA’s spring conference in Shippensburg this weekend. If all goes well, and the weather cooperates, there should be some quality chances to knock more streams off The Quest.
Fished: Indian Creek, Jones Mill Run, Laurel Hill Creek, Camp Run
Quest Total: 16, 17, 18, 19 of 40