Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas (lights-out) Trout

Here is a tale of two trout trips. They take place on the same stream about a week apart, but are as dissimilar as Waffle House and a Japanese express food joint.  Ok, maybe thats a bad simile. Japanese Express and Waffle house food may be eerily alike.

It's the most wonderful time of the year… Christmas rain, Christmas lights, Christmas trout, and the reminder that Christ offered up an opportunity for all mankind to avoid eternal damnation. It's a stellar combo, the latter of which may bear slightly more importance.  This is the time of year that my schedule allows me more chances to get on the water, and it's also the time of year the Carolina skies tend to render copious doses of winter rain.  To boot, December temperatures in the Old North State can be down right bi-polar (not the North Pole-South Pole kinda of bi-polar, cause that would be just plum cold. The up-and-down-inconsistant-current-Tarheel-Basketball kind of bi-polar. Glad I could clear that up for you). Regardless of the the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde highs in the 70's and lows in the teens during the same week, I fish when my schedule allows, not when conditions are perfect. 

Matt navigating the gorge
Tuesday December 17 was partly cloudy, highs near 60, and the area streams had plenty of water after the previous week's rains. I chose to fish a new-to-me gorge section of a local stream. Best fishing decision in a while, because the fishing was lights out! I landed about 20 fish in 4 hours and I only fished hard the first 2 hours. Each good looking piece of water coughed up pre-spawn pink finned rainbows, some of which were well above average for WNC wild trout standards.  I had never fished this stretch of water before, and was stoked to find it only 45 minutes from home. I even hooked what was a 14-16 inch wild trout that spit the hook before I could get him to the net.  The black girdle bug and superman prince never needed to be changed from my line, and my thing-a-ma-bobber bounced frequently in the 47 degree water.

Pink pre-spawn fins on a wild rainbow

A week later on Christmas Day, I fished the section of gorge just below my previous trip, and it was a very different day.  The water was a bit higher and still falling after the recent rains.  The previous two nights had seen lows in the teens, and the Christmas Day high was a balmy 37.  Dreams of Tiny Tim offering "a Christmas trout... for EVERYONE" danced in my head on the way there, but I ended up with mostly coal in my creel on the crisp Christmas wade. 

I knew there were fish in the stream.  That was confirmed 8 days early. And after plying the depths of every run and pool, including the most productive hole from the previous week with nary a bite, I got the first strike of the day an hour and a half into the outing while swinging my girdle bug in to tie on a streamer.  It only reaffirmed my notion to swing a streamer in search of the fatty I had hooked and week early.  I tied on a Christmas Tree.  I really don't know what the fly is called, but it's just gold and copper flashabou with lead eyes.  It looks like tinsel, and it was Christmas day for crying out loud. It screamed out to me like Princess Leia desperately calling out to Obi Wan as "My only hope!" Three minutes later I was holding a ten inch, pale brown Christmas trout that would only have served as a snack for the optimistic tiny little Tim.

My Christmas Tree streamer
However, the fish that removeth the skunk need not be a behemoth to make the lander of said minnow an elated angler (wikipedia FACT).  It was the first brown I had ever caught from this stream, and the only fish of the day.  

The tale of two days on the stream helped remind me that you can't judge a stream by one trip.  The weather was different on the two days I was there, but it couldn't have impacted the water temps that drastically.  There are days when the bite is good, and you know why.  There are days when the bite is off for obviously reasons. But then there are all the rest of the days.  The majority of the days. Where the bite may be mediocre, stone cold, of red hot, and we may never truly know why. We can speculate and leave pleased with one Christmas trout, or leave floating on 20 pink wild rainbows.

The Christmas trout knocks the skunk off.  Merry Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Bows and Browns to you!