I had planned to meet some friends for a long weekend of fly fishing on Kettle Creek in Potter County, Pennsylvania. The date we chose was the first weekend of June, and the water levels were very low. Being retired, I decided to leave early in order to fish Pine Creek on my way over to Kettle Creek. It was lunch time when I arrived at Pine Creek, stopping first at the fly shop at Wolfe’s General Store. The first thing I noticed as I walked down the steps into the fly shop was that the water temperature on Pine Creek was 68° F, so too warm to fish. I talked to a guy in the shop and asked if there were any places to fish that had reasonable temperatures. He recommended Slate Run, which was right across from the shop, a beautiful small tributary to Pine Creek.
He said to park behind Hotel Manor and there was a foot bridge across Slate Run where I could start fishing. It was well shaded and running at normal temperatures, although a little low. He also mentioned another spot further up Slate Run. To get there, take the dirt road and right past the S-turn there is a spot to park. From here, there’s a trail that goes down to the stream with a nice pool at the bottom. He then made an off-handed remark about using a stick going down the trail swinging it in the grass, to which the snakes will slither away. So I went over behind Hotel Manor and walked up the stream fishing as I went. I came up to this beautiful pool full of some of the spookiest trout I had ever seen. As soon as a fly line hit the water they scattered. It didn’t matter how far back or low I was from the stream, the pool was a no go. I finally caught a small brookie in the riffles at the outlet of the pool. By now, I was out of time and so I headed off to Kettle Creek.
Our group talked about fishing Pine Creek the next morning in hopes that the temps would drop overnight, and that it would be fishable for a couple hours in the morning, so we did that. Fishing was reasonable and we caught a few fish. But as the morning wore on, the temps were increasing and we needed to quit fishing Pine Creek, so I suggested Slate Run. My Fishing buddy that morning, let’s call him Larry, was willing to try it as he is an avid small stream brook trout fisherman. As we drove up the dirt road to find the parking spot, I told Larry about walking down the trail with a stick like a blind man walking down the trail. As I came to find out later, he thought my concern was complete nonsense. We parked the car and geared up. I took the lead on the trail and was doing the blind man routine the whole way down, which turned out to be much further than expected. Slate Run is a truly beautiful piece of water. We came to the bottom of the trail, there were some serious looking fishy sections just downstream of where we were standing. Well, Larry took off at a pretty good pace to those fishy sections. He was on a trail through some tall grass when I see him jump in the air and rapidly retreat yelling, “SNAKE!” I can distinctly hear the rattle, so no question that he found a snake. Being the first time we had ever run into a rattlesnake, we crept up to where we could see the snake but were far enough out of striking distance. We thought we would chase him away with a few rocks, but after hitting him a couple of times it became apparent that we were only making him mad and he was not moving!
We took a wide berth around the snake and continued down the stream, but somehow hearing a rattlesnake behind you does not help your concentration on fishing — but it is even worse when the rattling stops as you know he is somewhere around without knowing where! We decided this section did not look as fishy as it did without a snake, so we continued upstream. As we were going upstream, predominantly walking in the middle of the stream, there was this tree that had fallen and we needed to go around it. I went onto the bank, over the tree and back to the stream. We fished a few more minutes and decided to turn around and start working our way back. As I went up the bank and over the tree again, there was another rattlesnake apparently sleeping next to the path. I either missed it the first time through, or it just moved there in the last few minutes. Which means it was my turn to jump in the air, retreat, and yell “SNAKE!” At this point, having seen two rattlesnakes within a couple hundred yards of each other, we decided it was time to leave Slate Run.
Both of us walked in the middle of the stream until we were on the trail, but then there were two of us doing the blind man thing up the trail to the car. I do not think I will fish Slate Run again until the middle of winter!
— By Don Dunkers