Wissahickon Creek forms one of the major water sheds of Philadelphia. Rising in Montgomery County near Pottsville, it runs about 23 miles, passing through Philadelphia before emptying into the Schuylkill River at the south/east end of Manayunk. Like many other features in the area, the name of the creek comes from the Lenape language, and means “catfish creek” or “stream of yellowish color”.
Much of the creek now runs through or near parkland, with the last few miles running through a deep gorge. The area can be quite picturesque and has been a source of inspiration for artists for a dozen or more generations. Today, the gorge is part of the Fairmount Park system. The Wissahickon Valley is known as one of 600 National Natural Landmarks of the United States.
I picked up my buddy in Roxborough, drove a few blocks, parked the car, and followed a trail down to the creek at the bottom of a hill that started in a dense urban area. The first spot we got to was essetially a text-book area of “where to catch trout a few days after stocking”. It was a nice, wide, deep pool of slow moving water with a riffle on either end. We got there at just about 8am, when the season technically starts, and found the this spot already surrounded on all sides by eager anglers in waders.
I was pretty excited for my first non-ice fishing experience of the season with a new ultra-light rod I bought that was appropriate for our pursuit this day. Before I could finish getting a swivel and a lure on my line, my fishing buddy immediately landed three nice trout and dropped a 4th before being able to unhook it and release it himself. The crowd assembled, looking like serious pros in their waders and such, were probably a bit taken aback by the newcomer on the scene. I got my line in the water, but unfortunately, given the crowd, ended up in a spot I would not have chosen myself. On pretty much any other day, one has their choice of locations along this creek, but opening day draws large numbers, like anywhere else.
The bite turned off for my friend as quickly as it turned on. And, in my location, without the aid of waders, I was skunked for the first hour, but I didn’t really care. I took the opportunity to take in the quiet and the fresh, cold air that is still lingering late in the region. It is hard to get frustrated when surrounded by the natural beauty of the Wissahickon Gorge.
As the morning advanced, and the first few lucky souls started to aquire their limits, some space opened up and we found a much more clear area a few dozen yards down the creek. I did a little climbing over some rocks and through some brush and quickly homesteaded an area along the creek with a clear shot to a good 20 yards of open space on both of my sides. While I had what might have been a brief opportunity to fish in a lane wider than a two yards or so, I concentrated on a slowly moving pool of water in front of me, throwing a rooster tail about a dozen times into the water. While doing so, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a submerged tree trunk off to my right and decided to target the sides of it, in case any fish were resting who might have been avoiding the riffle flowing by the far bank.
I cast out to the end of the trunk and slowly reeled the line back in along the side of the felled tree, let the lure drop towards the bottom, then reeled again. On this, the first cast along the tree trunk, I felt a tug. And then the line went taunt and the movement of it took on a motion independent of my reeling or the movement of the water.
Last season, the action started slowly in the spring for me. It was a great feeling to reel something in a few hours into my first outing of 2011, especially since this was the first opening day I’ve been to since I was a kid. Hopefully, this first day’s luck is an indication of my luck for the rest of the year!