Piper at the Gates of Dusk

Wissahickon Creek 2/26/12
Air Temp – 48 deg F
Water Temp – 43 deg F
Slightly overcast skies, minimal wind
Water Clarity- Clear, Tannic
Hatch Activity – #24 midges abundant, but no noticeable rises.

I happened upon a gift certificate to Orvis that that my girlfriend had given me for Christmas and decided to make the trek out to Marlton, NJ to see what might peak my interest. Upon arriving I was hit with an epiphany: “I live on the Schuylkill River on the cusp of West Philly, there are stripers in this river and I don’t have a sinking line worthy of running streamers accross this deep river to catch them”. I resolved to buy a sinking line and possibly an extra spool for my Orvis Battenkill II reel. Much to my chagrin I learned that my reel has been discontinued–damn–and that it is almost impossible to get extra spools for it anymore–double damn. So being the poor resident that I am, I decided to look into cheap options for purchasing a whole new reel. After a lenghthy discussion with the friendly Orvis rep I decided that I would settle on buying a Clearwater Large Arbor II. It was between this reel and the Access Mid Arbor. The main design difference (other than one being a mid arbor and the other a large arbor) is that the Access sports a completely sealed drag system. This would be very helpful in situations were the reel gets wet, especially if that wetness inculdes salt water. The sealed nature of the drag system wards off corrosion and extends the life of the real. I decided to go with the Clearwater however for three reasons:

  1. Large arbor reels rock–especially for lazy people like me. And they look freakin’ cool.
  2. It was cheap (at only $79 with extra spools running $39)
  3. The Access looks, feels, and behaves suspiciously indentically to my Battenkill reel (see image below) except for having a slightly re-designed shaft that is incompatible with my reel, making me have to purchase an entirely new reel instead of just a spool–which I’m sure was their goal in the first place. Thus making the the true number 3…SPITE.


To go with my brand new reel I bought a spool of Hydros 3D Depth Charge 250 flyline . With it’s 30 foot sinking head backed by a bright orange floating line I figure this one will get my flies down deep in the river to where the fish hide. It also has the benefit that it will allow me to shoot it like a rocket accross the river that is quite wide at my appartment building, approx 200 feet. Soon my new purchases were spooled up, packed in a bag and out the door.

Needless to say, with my new toys I was anxious to get home and wet my new line…

I got home With the intention of using my new reel to fish the Schuylkill just below my building off of the Schuylkill Banks recreation area. When I walked in the door however, my roommate Steve announced that he intended to go running on Forbidden Drive in Fairmount park that runs along beside the Wissahickon Creek which is stocked multiple times throughout the year with rainbows and browns. It also sports a rather healthy population of panfish which, though not as glamorous, are often fun to catch on small tackle like a three weight. My success on this stream is less than stellar and my tally up to this point here includes a dozen or so sunnies, a smallmouth bass (small being the operative word here), and what I believe was a yellow perch. We arrived some time just before 4:30pm and I geared up as Steve ran off down Forbidden Drive. I got to talking with a nice gentleman who gave me a tip about a place further down that he had pulled a few stockies out of a few days before (catch and release). Unfortunately this location would require me to drive there which would necessitate ditching Steve which was understandably not high on my to do list that evening. I resolved therefore to fish about a hundred yards or so up forbidden drive from the parking area just off of Lincoln Drive where I had seen some nice pocket water flanked by cliffs and riffles that should provide some nice habitat for my quarry.
As I waded out into the stream to wet my line for the first time, something magical happened… Somewhere up on the ridge above, within the tree line came the first strains of what quickly became an almost constant and surprisingly skillful bagpipe music. I looked up and to the East, and lo and behold there was a lone piper on the ridge above the stream where I was fishing. The air was full of stains of Scotland the Brave, Corriechilles, and Amazing Grace which added an air of mystical joy to the embarrassing lack of fishing success that was about to ensue.
Being the general idiot that I often prove to be I decided to rig up my new toy on my sage five weight. Now, this stream is about twenty feet wide on a good bend and no more than a couple of feet deep at the place where I was fishing, so casting a heavy sinking line on a rod that was too small for it was proof that the good district psychologist from the Norristown Area School District that all those years ago said I was “gifted” may have gotten my paperwork mixed up and instead of being placed in the gifted program, maybe I should have been delegated to the short bus… Well as you can guess it was an abject disaster. My cast looked like a spastic epileptic on cocaine was attempting to fish a midge hatch in a full gale. This was compounded by the fact that the aforementioned nice gentleman had doubled back to “show is wife fly fishing” as in his estimation “no one does it anymore” (welcome to Philly, Yo). It was embarrassing to say the least and now I am glad that March has provided a respite from trout fishing in PA so that I can lick my bruised ego and wait for opening day in April, and maybe even more, the awaited Shad run on the Delaware and hope against hope that the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s attempt to reseed the Schuylkill River with shad fry results in a run past my apartment…


Gratuitous pic of the Boryan brothers: Andy, Chris, and “Maxi-pad”…


About robsju

Resident physician
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