Not a trout season approaches that I do not hark back in memory to my first trout fishing adventure.
For years I lived in Farrandsville, near Lock Haven in Clinton County. It's a mountain village you would be hard pressed to find on a state map and fishing Lick Run - which ran right through town and is now designated a Wilderness stream - was a big event. In fact, I caught my first trout on that stream and my largest.
If you find Route 664 from Lock Haven and follow it, it takes you into Farrandsville. Go as far as the one and only road (a dirt road) will take you through the village and you will cross a creek on a wooden bridge. The road starts up the mountain there but it is gated off by the Game Commission.
That's Lick Run under the bridge and the road becomes the Hazard Road, which winds through State Game Lands 89, where I bagged my first buck in 1953. The Hazard Road comes out on the other end of Route 664 near Caldwell. You can gain access to Lick Run anywhere along the Hazard Road but you have to know that access is by dropping down over the very steep mountainside and unless you are going to fish up or downstream to the end, getting back to your vehicle will be by climbing back up the mountainside, dodging one or more rattlesnakes along the way. I'm too old to do this trip anymore but I will never forget all the times when I did do it.
The Carrier Road is on the opposite side of the hollow and cuts through State Forest. Access is by the bridge at Cramer Dam or by again dropping down the mountainside to the creek and fishing down to Farrandsville. An old trail, called the Fravel, runs along the creek although sometimes it snakes up the mountainside to skirt the huge rhododendron tangles that border this creek.
It's a challenge to fish Lick Run because it is so brush-choked. Logs and branches clog the creek itself but offer great habitat. Pines and Laurel branches dip down to the water itself and the shady pools harbor some beauties if you can get your line into it.
You'd have to be a pretty good fly fisherman to do any good on this water because one's back cast is constantly caught on tree limbs. Light line with natural bait dropped on a tiny bobber or small split-shot will serve you well on this water.
The old term "dappling" is one of the most efficient ways to fish this stream. This means you have to force your line through the brushy tangles, then release your bail and let the line drop into the current. It's frustrating but after while you get the hang of it.
It was 40 or more years ago that I was fishing this water on a Memorial Day. I cast a garden worm into the head of the pool and reeled the line in as it swept toward me. A large trout streaked from under a rock and grabbed the worm. I missed it. Determined I would not leave that pool until I caught that trout, I cast over and over again, trying to get another worm into just the right spot.
About a hundred casts later, as I remember it, the trout finally shot out again and this time I didn't miss. He was a 20 inch brown trout and I've never caught a larger native trout than that one. Was I proud? You bet and impossible to live with for months.
But my very first trip up that stream is my absolutely most unforgettable fishing moment. It was probably about 1954 and I decided, but not until the day before opening day, to accompany my husband fishing.
So the race was on to find a pair of hip boots. We went from store to store and finally I had to settle, not on hip boots, but on a pair of waders that were, of course, much too big for me.
In those days, a woman on a trout stream was a rare sight indeed so imagine the surprise of the couple anglers I happened to meet the afternoon of the first day. I was walking down the dirt road, near Cramer Dam in those waders.
Not only were the feet too big but the waders were much too long. The only way I could keep them on at all was to cinch them around my waist with a borrowed belt. This created the most horrendous rubber ruffle above the belt you can imagine. It reached almost to my chin. It was so high, I had tucked my bait box into it. I have no idea how I ever made a cast while clad in that getup.
What I remember vividly is walking to the car on the dirt road and seeing a couple other anglers coming toward me. They stopped and gawked openly and finally one said to the other, "My [expletive], look at them boots!" That was when I realized how truly ridiculous I looked.
Fishing Lick Run is a challenge but tiny dry flies and small baits such as worms and crickets that simulate the real stuff that falls constantly from overhanging brush and trees will result in a lot of beautiful brook trout. The solitude and scenery are great experiences in themselves.