Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lookin' Back...

The wintry weather we've been experiencing around these parts lately hasn't allowed for much fishin' time, and since it's been difficult to get out and create new memories, I've been reflecting on some of the old ones. In particular, the Summer of 2009 was especially sweet.

There's a little spring creek out in the Shenandoah Valley that haunts my dreams. It's widely known for being...well, hateful. The place gets heavily pressured and the trout are skittish, nervous and educated. Throw in conditions such as high banks, tall grasses, extensive weed beds, ticks, cows in your back cast, muskrats that have a knack for scaring the jeebus out of you get the idea. I fished there a half dozen times before I came close to fooling a fish. Why then would anyone subject themselves to such torture? Because the fish are HUGE. Browns over 20 inches aren't uncommon and some go much bigger.

There's one lesson a fisherman learns early on, and that is persistence pays off. Last year, this little babbling limestone brook took on a whole new character...the stars aligned, the heavens opened up and the fishin' turned ON like donkey kong. The big boys were out and about all summer gorging themselves on terrestrial insects and I was out there almost every weekend chasing them around. I can't think of many things in life more fun than site fishing a 25" brown with a big foam grasshopper pattern. It's more fun than a barrel full of monkeys...seriously.

So for your viewing pleasure I present a slide show full of gratuitous fish pics from the infamous spring creek during the summer of 2009. If you're a fan of Cajun music, turn your speakers up and enjoy. A lot of the better fish were seduced by my buddy Marty, who can be a huge jerk when it comes to catching big fish. Here's hoping we're in store for more of the same in 2010:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grey Sulphur??

What's up with the name of this blog? Well, simply put, the Grey Sulphur is my favorite bug, as bugs go. It's a rare species of mayfly that is virtually unknown to even the most knowledgeable fly fishermen. This little bug was first discovered and named several years ago by one of my good friends and angling buddies. If you know your bugs, you may notice that the Grey Sulphur bears a striking resemblance to the Blue Wing Olive Mayfly (only bigger) and they are, in fact, believed to be closely related. As far as I know, the Grey Sulphur exists solely in a single run on a single river: the South Holston Tailwater in Eastern, TN. The emergence can be fleeting, but when these elusive bugs are on the water, even those wily South Holston browns throw caution to the wind and become easy pickins for the skillful fly angler. The Grey Sulphur is best imitated with a size 8, heavily hackled BWO burned wing dun. I know it sounds silly, but I swear it works. Honest...I've seen it.

Here's a quick shot of the guy that made this important discovery, a true entomologist and master angler:

Edit: I should probably add that "Grey Sulphur" is a very inside joke between myself and the goofy lookin' gentleman pictured above. Real sulphur mayflies are a yellow/orange hue and are definitely not grey, although their wings do have a greyish tint. The incident that led to the moniker of this blog involved the answer to an innocent question: "Hey what did you catch that fish on?" Answer: "Grey Sulphur". This turned out to be one more thing that goes down in the fishing lore between friends, and it gets trotted out every time we take to the stream together. It makes us laugh like idiots but probably makes absolutely no sense to anyone else.

Back in Action!

The Winter has been unusually harsh this year in the Commonwealth and as a result I haven't done as much fishing as I would have liked. So, it was with great joy that I looked at the weather forecast this past weekend and saw an opportunity to get back in action. My buddy Marty was of the same mindset and we decided on one of our favorite haunts for wild trout: Shenandoah National Park. The Park boasts roughly 90 small streams and almost all of them hold native eastern brook trout. For this trip we decided on a small stream in the eastern central district. In addition to the aforementioned brook trout, this little gem boasts a nice population of wild brown trout. The lack of natural barriers to upstream movement on this particular stream has allowed the browns to become well established and I, for one, like having them there.

We arrived stream side at about 10:00, strung up our rods and started in on a short hike. After trudging through the snow for about a half mile, we arrived at the first pool and got down to business. It didn't take long for the action to begin and on my third cast, I hooked up with a nice little wild brown.

It looked like this was going to be a banner day, but things slowed down a little bit after the initial action. With air temps still in the low 40s and water temps not yet breaking the 40 degree mark, I guess it wasn't entirely unexpected. We continued to make our way upstream, leapfrogging each other and fishing all of the likely looking holes.

It took a few hours for things to get good and warmed up, but eventually the fish started to cooperate and we each managed to hook a few. The browns made a stronger showing but a few brook trout decided to join the party as well.

One of the unexpected things about the day was the emergence of a few Quill Gordon mayflies. This bug is always the first major hatch of the year, often coming off when the streams are still pretty chilly and the water is high. Even so, we figured these guys were at least a month early. We decided to look on the bright side and not take this as some cosmic sign of global warming but rather as a signal that Spring is just around the corner. Even though the fish ignored the bugs on this day, it was still a site for sore eyes.

So we fished on until we were a couple miles up the hill and the light was starting to fade. Deciding that it was time to get outa Dodge, we hit the trail and made our way back down the mountain. A wild trout stream, good company and willing fish; I can't think of a better way to spend a February day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Introduction

I guess I'll kick off this blog by telling you a little about myself. I'm a single dude in my late 30s who is hopelessly addicted to fly fishing for trout, smallmouth bass and just about anything else that swims. I spend roughly 110% of my free time either thinking about fishing or actually doing it. And because I'm a single dude in my late 30s, with no real responsibilities (like a wife and kids) I have plenty of time to pursue my addiction. I masquerade as an accountant all week but can be found wading a trout stream or floating a smallmouth river virtually every weekend, holiday and vacation day I get. Maybe someday I'll figure out a way to fish for a living...

I'm a Northern Virginia transplant who now calls Richmond home, which provides me with ample opportunity to pursue what I love. The James River, a wonderful smallmouth bass fishery, is 5 minutes away and the trout streams are a short jaunt west in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. I share a craptacular house in the Churchill neighborhood of Richmond with a 6 year old pooch named Rocky, who doesn't seem to give a rat's butt how much time I devote to fishing. He spends most of his free time enjoying his own favorite pastime which involves stretching out on the furniture and then licking and scratching himself for hours. It's a tough life.

I hope to chronicle my adventures in fly fishing on this blog and plan to post plenty of trip reports, cool pictures and maybe even some video. I'm doing this mainly for my own amusement, but if it turns out some people like to read about what I'm up to that would be cool too.

More to come soon...