Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lake Effect

Since the very first time I met my good friend Marty, I've heard tales of monster trout in his boyhood stomping grounds. He grew up in Rochester, NY on the southern shore of Lake Ontario and started fishing those lake tributaries at an early age. I finally got tired of hearing about it and decided to experience it for myself. So, I managed to squeeze in a few days off from work and we headed North to check it out. His folks still live in the area and were nice enough to give us a warm bed and food in our stomachs for 5 days (Thanks again Mr. and Mrs. Romeo).

A recent slug of rain combined with a forecast of temps in the 20s, with snow every day, meant conditions weren't going to be optimal. We would endure high, muddy water and constant icy guides, not to mention frozen reels, feet and fingers. The blow out those streams received just a few days prior to our trip meant we would be confined to the smaller streams that would drop and clear more quickly. We drove all night on Thursday and arrived Friday morning to the only blue sky we would see for days, but it didn't last long and the snow started soon enough.

I started out fishing an old W&M Granger Favorite 6 weight bamboo rod - mostly because I really like that old rod and had the notion that it would be neat to land a nice brown or a steelhead on it. I didn't really expect to hook up on a 25" plus steelhead that might have tipped the scales at 8 or 9 pounds for my first fish, but that's exactly what happened. That 60 year old rod was up to the task (mostly) but I ended up with a pretty nasty set in the tip after that fish.

I gingerly nursed the rod through the rest of that first day, landing a decent brown, but opted for a more suitable 8 weight graphite for the rest of the trip.

I spent the 2 weeks prior to our trip tying various streamers, stonefly nymphs and sucker spawn patterns in 6 different colors, so I was well armed for battle. It turned out that I could have left everything at home except the chartreuse sucker spawn. It was too cold to swing streamers and we needed something bright for the fish to see in the muddy water. By going slow and deep, we were able to pick up at least a few fish every day.

Marty managed to spot this fish hanging out just downstream of a small King Salmon. We figured he was waiting on the Salmon to pair up and spawn so he could grab an easy meal. A well placed sucker spawn proved to be too tempting to resist.

A "little" lake-run brown.

Big fish in little bitty creeks equals lots of fun.

This brown actually looked happy to have been caught and flashed a big smile for the camera.

This guy was a little more angry about the whole situation.

Marty won the prize for big fish of the trip with this beast:

Hooked up and slamming the steel. That's some sweet stuff.

Did I mention that it was cold?

Smaller fish but shaped like a football, and check out those red gill plates.

Thanks to Marty for playing guide and showing me this awesome fishery. I already can't wait for next December.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November brookies

A good buddy of mine made an exploratory trip into the mountains yesterday to check on the brookies and see if the spawn was winding down. He made this trip while I stayed at home to watch my beloved Hokies take down the hated Miami Hurricanes and book their trip to the ACC championship game. There are priorites and then there are priorities I guess.

Anyway, he reported back that the spawn was definitely over so we headed out this morning for a blitz up a new to me crick on the Northern East slope of SNP. I had been wanting to try a new creek that I've heard good things about but we arrived at the parking lot to find a couple anglers already heading up the trail. Since you can access 2 creeks from the lot, we were forced to go up the alternate, adding some grueling distance to the hike in. I wasn't too bummed because the alternate was new to me also and I was in the mood for new water.

It turned out to be a nice little stream with some good gradient in the upper stretches, which created some nice plunge pools and deep holes. The bottom of this one is pretty flat and good water is few and far between. We didn't start getting into fish on a regular basis until we got above the first waterfall. Even so, we caught a few small ones down low. I snapped a pic of this little fella because I admired his enthusiasm. I'm not even sure he could have swallowed that nymph...

Things started to look a little better as we got higher up the mountain.

And we started to pick up some slightly better fish. This was the best of the day for me.

The fish seemed sluggish and a little worn out from the spawn and the takes were very subtle. Things should improve over the coming weeks, if the levels hold up, as the fish start packing on the calories to recover and get ready for winter.

All in all it was a great day with another new stream checked off the list. We still have to get back out there and try the stream we originally intended but we've got all winter to get that done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Waiting Game

Spawning time for the brookies can be a tough time for a mountain trout guy. We want to give our native trout the best chance we can for a successful procreation and as much as we want to get up in the hills - we don't. Stomping around in the streams and disturbing the fish could cost us countless fish in upcoming years, so we're forced to play the waiting game. Even the spring creeks down in the valleys aren't fishing very well right now, so the die hard wild trout angler is forced into action in less desirable locations. It's either that or not fish at all and that's not a very hard choice.

So Marty and I hit up the delayed harvest water in Waynesboro this morning in the hopes of at least tangling with a few stockers. Two pitiful washed out rainbows and a few fall fish later, we decided to high tail it over to one of the spring creeks thinking that at least it wouldn't be any worse. Things weren't much better and we both took a skunking on our favorite summer haunt. We had a couple flashes and follows on streamers and I briefly hooked up with a nice brown but it wasn't to be. I would call it a wasted day but for a juicy piece of intel we received from one of the owners of the local fly shop...more on that later.

I really hope the brookies are almost done gettin' busy because I'm tired of the waiting game.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good Ole Rocky Top...

I just got back from my biannual trip to Tennessee where I enjoyed 4 days of sleeping in a tent on the river and some fine tailwater trout action. What follows is basically a slide show of pics from the trip with a little video thrown in. I wish I had gotten some more video footage of the action to make this a little more interesting, but I guess I was too busy fishing. Anyway, I hope it's not too horrible for a first attempt at a video report. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bears and Brook Trout

After a Saturday filled with college football watchin' (Go Hokies!), I decided to make one last trek out to the Park for some brookie action before the spawn starts. Next weekend, I'll be in TN chasing big browns on the South Holston and after that, the spawn should be in full swing in the mountains. That means it'll be time to give the brookies a break so they can make some babies. Marty was of the same mindset and we headed to our mutual favorite crick bright and early this morning to try to go out in style.

We got a nice surprise on the hike in as we rounded a turn and came across a black bear out for a leisurely morning stroll. I fumbled around and managed to get the camera out in time to snap this crappy photo before he bounded off up the ridge on the other side of the creek. What a cool way to start the day.

We fished up through the first section picking up a few small fish and came to the first big waterfall and plunge pool on this stream. The pool is nice and deep and looks like it should hold some monster brookies but I've never even managed a fish from this spot on all of my previous trips.

Today was a different story as it yielded my best fish of the day. Check out the colors on this fish - definitely dressed up and ready for courtship.

We continued upstream enjoying the fall scenery and picking up fish on dry flies in almost every pool - nothing huge but plenty of plump little brookies were in the mood to feed.

Working our way up into the canyon.

I was tossing a yellow stimulator most of the day and when we found a fish that didn't like the looks of that, they were still willing to eat a parachute mayfly pattern. There was no need to go deep today.

Finished off the day way on up the hill and decided to make our way back down to the parking lot with plenty of light left in the sky. On the way out we talked of new streams to try out this winter - I can't wait.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Statler and Waldorf's Most Excellent Epic Adventure

On one of the fly fishing forums that we both frequent, Marty and I were recently likened to the 2 crusty old farts from the Muppet Show. Remember those guys, sitting up in the balcony, cracking wise and making fun of everyone? I think the guy who made the comparison meant it as an insult, but I definitely took it as a compliment - I mean, those guys were funny!

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be Statler or Waldorf but I guess it doesn't really matter. Anyway, we decided to visit an East slope SNP crick today that was good to us back in the Spring. It didn't disappoint today either. We arrived fairly early and since we had the whole day ahead of us, we decided to jump in at the bottom, right at the Park boundary. I took the opportunity to steal the first pool while Waldorf relieved himself on a nearby tree. It turned out to be a good decision because on the very first cast (no lie) this beast inhaled a Tellico nymph.

It was the best kind of day to be in the Park - comfortable temps for wet wading, really nice water levels and the leaves were just starting to turn.

Cooperative brookies were a bonus. We fished big bushy dry flies most of the day. The takes were kind of a slow roll on the fly and I missed several nice fish before I got the timing down.

I did have to resort to the infamous 'Pink Weenie' in one hole that was too deep for dry flies.

Waldorf got in the act with several big ole brookies too. And he even used his own flies this time.

I still didn't see any redds or fish paired up but it shouldn't be too long now. I hope they give us one more weekend of fishing like this before they start doin' their thing.

We are definitely lucky to have a place like the Shenandoah National Park so close to home. I can't think of a better way to escape the daily grind and dodge the curve balls that life occasionally throws our way - or as Marty once so eloquently described the thought - it's a solution to the daily armpit stink of life.