Last weekend I went fishing at Big Spring Creek with my good friend Mark. Big Spring Creek begins as a large spring south of the Borough of Newville in Cumberland County, PA. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Biologist Report describes Big Spring Creek as a low gradient, fertile, limestone spring stream. After increased conservation and restoration efforts, the creek is experiencing a rebound in native and naturally reproducing trout populations, and also is stocked in downstream reaches. It is a beautiful stream. In the winter there are smaller patches of aquatic vegetation. I imagine it is quite full of vegetation mid-summer. The channel ranged from 10-60 feet wide and appeared to have few areas greater than 3-4 feet in depth but averaged about 18 inches deep. The water was crystal clear and revealed a sandy bottom with sporadic larger boulders and large woody debris. Restoration structures were installed in 2010 and 2013. The restoration structures are obstructions to flow made of logs and rocks. The structures, often called vanes, redirect flow into narrower areas increasing velocity and changing the depositional patterns of sand and gravel in the stream.
I have fished Spring Creek in State College, PA and Mossy Creek in Harrisonburg, VA, but I wasn’t prepared for the patience, stealth and strategic approach that is required for clear, wide spring creeks like Big Spring Creek. I got skunked. Shut out. That didn’t feel good. I had a few moments where I definitely wasn’t taking my own advice. I had read the fishing reports on TCO and tied some cress bugs and sculpins, and read the Biologist Reports. I got hung up on feeling like I was going to catch something and take a brag photo. But what I got was reminders that I need to approach the stream with cautious steps and a strategy. I needed to slow down. I had about five instances of wind knots, which are just a polite way to say I was casting like crap. I got snagged in trees, aquatic vegetation, downed trees and in my sling pack. Looking at a birds nest of a tangled leader you just put on after one cast is very frustrating. I managed to get the leader untangled for about ten casts until I repeated my twisted mess of line. When I attempted to untangle another mess, I lost my temper and just snapped off the line (this is not a feat of strength as 6x is pretty easy to snap). I needed to slow down. So I switched to a streamer and tried to reset. The physical and mental reset helped me to temporarily focus and watch the movement of the streamer and try to recall what I had read about sculpin movements when I was reading Joe Humphreys’s Trout Tactics earlier in the week. But my sloppy casting and awkward movements along the stream just spooked fish. I quickly tried to cover more water and cast towards fishy looking water with the patience of a toddler.
I needed to slow down. I still had a great time, and it’s great just to spend time on the water and talk through the day with Mark. I just missed the benefits of taking time to observe the stream and the movement of the water, fish, insects, kingfishers, herons and other wildlife. I am a fan of TED talks and podcasts, which is probably not a surprise when you read my blog. Recently I listened to a TED Podcast on the value of slowing down. The podcast included excerpts from a talk on Slow TV by Thomas Hellum, that discussed the surprising popularity of a 7 hour television program in Norway that showed footage from a cross-country train journey. Viewers were drawn to the peacefulness of the trip and the anticipation that something might happen. There was also a talk from Adam Grant who discussed people who take slow approaches which lead to improved creativity and original thought. Those talks reminded me of a book I read titled Deep Work by Cal Newport. In his book, Cal Newport defines deep work as professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. Time management and feeling rushed is something I have struggled with, and I have sought out resources to help me improve. I understand I can get impatient. I have spent a bit of effort trying to manage my time and my temperament better, and it’s frustrating to me that I still mentally rush myself while fly fishing. The lessons I am learning are sometimes slow to sink in, especially when the lesson is to slow down. I am getting more aware of when I am getting frustrated, but I wonder what others use as reminders to slow down? Please comment below if you have similar stories. I know I should be setting my expectations from the time I step into the car to drive to fish, forcing myself to observe and take in the setting when I arrive, and to take a break when things catch my eye to explore and see the water around me. Repeatedly, Tom Rosenbauer states on his Orvis podcast and in his books that the first thing you should do when you get to a stream is observe, nothing else. I think I rig up about 99% of the time before I get to the stream, trying to get to the water as quickly as possible. Next time I’m going to take Tom’s advice and observe the stream and take my time to slow down and enjoy myself!