There is a campsite along the Appalachian Trail nestled back in the Pennsylvania woods that has become a favorite of mine over the years. Whether you are an experienced backpacker or someone going on your first trip, there is something to love at Hertlein. It had been a little bit since I tossed my gear in a pack and headed out in search of white blazes. I found myself longing for the trail a few weeks ago and had to get a trip in the books. I desperately wanted to go before the weather got too cold. I have a lot of gear, but cold weather gear is something I am lacking in.
After talking with a few friends we landed on a date to do an overnight. To say I was excited was an understatement. I was ready to get away from the suburbs of Philly and find myself somewhere in the autumn soaked woods. Besides just getting away, I had a mission. I was determined to finally take a fly rod with me and fish the pond that is created by a long and forgotten dam by the Blue Mountain Electric Company. Having taken many trips to the campsite, I know native brook trout call that water home.
Unfortunately, the week of the trip one of my friends had to back out after injuring his ankle. I felt bad for him knowing he was going to miss a great trip. I mean, the temperatures were just right, the leaves were at their best, everything was lining up to be perfect. That is, until the weather forecast updated the night before – rain, and lots of it. It was forecasted to have rain all day on Friday and Saturday morning…the time that we had planned on being there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid of rain, but I didn’t want the entire trip spent just sitting in my tent.
Luckily, for us, when we checked the weather the morning of the trip, it had shifted to rain in the evening and then a chance of rain on Saturday morning. I decided to just go for it. I met Ilya around 10:30am on Friday. We loaded up his car, and off we went. It was not a super long drive from where we live to the pull off for the AT on Route 183. When we arrived there were two other cars there; I was worried that the spot I wanted was going to be taken.
We grabbed our packs out of his trunk, locked the car and headed down the trail. The hike down from RT 183 is not a hard hike at all, but it was made a bit more challenging by all the leaves. The leaves that had fallen gave you a false sense of comfort. The illusion of the cushion that the leaves provided quickly vanished, revealing the jagged rocks that hid underneath. This made the going a bit slower since every step was a mystery to what might be underneath. On the way down we passed two ladies hiking out. This gave me some hope that we wouldn’t have to share the sites and would have our pick of the ones we wanted.
The hike down to Hertlein took us an hour to make. Once we made the final decent, we were able to see that we would have the whole place to ourselves. We made our way down towards the pond and pitched out tents as fast as we could. We knew it was going to rain, but did not know when it was going to fall. After I set up my Fly Creek UL2 I made my way down to the pond, 3wt in hand. I tied on a size 16 micro bugger in black and proceeded to fish.
The leaves on the pond created a bit of a challenge, but I was not going to let anything hold me back from catching one of those beautiful brook trout. After a few casts, I decided to let the bugger slowly sink to a deeper depth that I had been fishing. I saw a shadow emerge from the depths in the direction of my fly. All of a sudden the line went tight, and I pulled the rod up connecting with my first ever brook trout. The fight was fun on a 3wt but fast. I brought the fish to hand and admired the intricate patterns and color that broke trout are known for. After removing the hook, I placed the fish back in the water and immediately it took off. This happened about six more times before drops of rain started disrupting the mirror-like pond. The rain had come.