Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fall Freeze Out

Whats cooler than cool? Ice cold.

It's been a pretty cold November here in North Carolina.  This morning when I stepped in the river around 8:30, it was 22 balmy degrees of guide icing cold. It helped concoct what would be a perplexing morning for me. I hoped the chill would keep the throngs off the Dirty D, but the wader clad army was full tilt on this Thanksgiving weekend.  I bypassed the crowds of the usual honey holes upstream of the bridge and near the parking lot, and walked a bit down stream to one of my favorite, and typically less visited, runs.

The water was flowing just over 100 cfs and had been as high as 1000 cfs a few days before after the rain and snow.  The "log hole" i was headed for needs at least 100 cfs to fish well, and seems to be getting shallower over the years as more water gets diverted to the other channel of the river. Upon arrival, I was pleased to see fish actively moving about and even rising regularly to sipp midges. I fished a three fly rig with a stone fly as my lead fly, then an egg, then a midge larvae.  I cycled through the normal midges, and changed eggs once.  I managed to get only one strike from a naive dink in two hours of persistent nymphing. I could smell a skunk. I hadn't been skunked trout fishing in … I can't remember the last time I was skunked.  At least 9 years. Hashtag humble.

I decided to move back to the crowded section near the parking lot and see what was crackin.  I had about on hour left to fish before I had to lay down my trout wrangling (or lack there of) for toddler wrangling. I slipped into to a familiar run, a piece of transition water at the head of a long slick.  The fish were visible, and not as seemingly active as the fish I had left. I still had my version of a Morris Stone as my lead fly, a carolina egg, and the trusty red midge on my 6x SA flouro tippet (buy one get one free at Davidson River Outfitters right now). In less than five minutes, I was into my first fish of the day. Red midge. Soon after I had my biggest fish of the day, a football of a rainbow that ate the stone fly.

A couple near me seemed excited, disappointed, and perplexed after I landed two fish rather quickly, so I struck up a nice conversation with the lady about the finicky Davidson River and my fly choices and tactics. I walked over to her,  showed her my flies, gave her my productive pieces of water, then proceeding to quickly pull 4 fish out of the piece of water she had been previously fishing with no success. I'd been lieing if I told you I didn't enjoy hearing her shout out "He caught another one!" a few times in a fashion uncouth of proper fly fishers. My ego is grateful for her uncouthness.

The 45 minutes of fishing near the couple from Atlanta/my-biggest-fishing-fan, was fantastic. Just before leaving I had that inner dialogue and self-pact that anglers often construct in their minds; "I'll leave as soon as I catch one more."  After I caught the next fish, I deemed him to small to count, so I caught another in about four cast, and then climbed the bank of rhododendron with a goofy smirk on my face. I felt like Babe Ruth calling his shot, except my accomplishment was way lamer and not as significant, and nothing at all like Babe calling his shot. Nonetheless, I left the river feeling like the Great Bambino, having called my own shot.  Thank you Asian Atlanta lady for adding to my delusions of grandeur.  If only I could leave the river like that every time.

As the kidz say on twitter, I left the river smh (shaking my head). Though grateful for the stellar 45 minutes of fishing bliss, why couldn't I get those fish in the log hole to play ball with me? The fish who did impale themselves on my hooks took the Morris Stone and red midge at almost an equal rate.  I stuck one on the carolina egg.  The fish in the first hole snubbed the myriad of my offerings. There were hardly any risers in the section I caught fish in, and plenty of rises in the stretch that kicked my glutes.  I suppose the risers down stream that heartlessly shunned me were dialed in on some emerging midge. The stone fly I was using as a lead fly must have been getting my midge trailer lower than the film trapped midges the fish must have been keying on. STILL… you think in my buffet offering of midge larvae, a few troots would have eaten my midge even if it was lower in the water column. The water was pretty shallow, so it wasn't as if my flies were floating under the fish. A buddy suggested a greased leader, size 26 fly, and hook sets on any visible rise near the area I suspected my fly to be in could have cracked the case of selective sippers.  I'm not sure I'm compelled to fish in that technical of manner yet. I'll just move and find some more willing fishes to fall prey to my current arsenal of tactics… and an excitably city lady with more fly savvy than her hubz to cheer me on.  Until then, see y'all in the funny pages.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Into the Wild

It was one of those days when the stars aligned.  I had a Monday slated to fish, a remote section of river had rare flows that made it accessible and fishable the same Monday, and the October weather was going to be in the low 60's and overcast. I had only fished this gorge section once in my life... and I got skunked.  It had been 8 or 9 years since I made the trek into the gorge one hot mid-summer day, and the legends of big browns never came to fruition. Heck, dink rainbows never came to fruition. I felt like this October trip would at least serve as a litmus test for the fishery.

The hike in started with a waist high stream crossing to get to the trail, and subsequently, the next trek up the gorge in waders quickly became a wader-sweat-fest, despite temps in the mid 50's. 30 minutes later, we hop in the stream and I begin to work it with a Bill's Provider and CDC pheasant tail dropper. Less than 15 minutes later, I'm holding a gem of a 10 inch bow and I began to wonder if legends will prove true.  At least I can verify that there are fish in the river.

Scrambling up house sized boulders, sliding down the other side and trying not to break my stick or my neck was half the adventure. If my buddy Sam hadn't tagged along I wouldn't have fished this section of river due to the remote sketchiness of gorge.  Sam saw a big fish chase his streamer after I directed him to pull it under a overhanging rock. I then miss a few fish, and 2 hours later it seemed to slow down and disappoint.

I then walk up to a long run with a big tail out that looks promising. This run was 5 or 6 feet deep instead or 10 plus feet like a lot of the other holes.  I switched to a Kevin's Stonefly with a size 18 BWO emerger. The olives were come off pretty good by hatch standards for Western North Carolina.  Second or third cast, I hook the biggest fish of the day to that point, and when I play it in close to my feet another large trout is chasing it! I think it was a brown around 18 inches.  The fish I have on spits the hook right at my feet, so I'll guess he was 12 inches or so. Moments later I'm into a fish that has my click pawl screaming.  I had to play it for five minutes.  I was certain it would be every bit of 18 inches. Turned out it was a generous 14 inch rainbow, but it was a great wild NC trout that fought like mad.

I caught a couple more, then felt compelled to take Sam to a DH stream near buy and get him on some trout.  It was his first time fly fishing, and the wild trout were a little too quick for him.  Even thought the fishing seemed to be picking up the further we got from the trail head, and it looked like a long stretches rock pile before the next big hole and a good time to bush whack our way back to the trail. It left me wanting to go back and walk in a little further before hopping in the stream.  Don't worry, this remote stream still had some unsavory visitors out in the rugged wilderness.

old night crawler container in a artificial lure zone

Sam caught his first trout on a fly rod about an hour and a half later, rounding it out to be a great day. Can't wait to get back to this gorge, but who knows how long it will be into the stars align again. I am confident those plunge pools hold some brutes. I arrived home to find the latest Drake had arrived in the mail.  It was a solid day.