Monday, April 26, 2010

Fishin' for the Chad

No, I haven't been fishing with a dude named Chad (I don't even know any Chads). This, as you probably guessed, is just another dumb joke between myself and the guy that discovered the Grey Sulphur Mayfly. Who cares if we're the only ones who find it funny?

Chad is our name for the Shad, both the Hickory and American variety. Every spring the Chad run up the James River all the way to Richmond to make little Chad babies and, in the process, make themselves available to the fly rod angler. Now that the run is over, I figured I would go ahead and post up some pics that I took over several days earlier this month. I was hoping to get some cool video of these acrobatic fish in action, but that never materialized.

To fish for the Chad, you've got to get comfortable with urban angling. What this fishery lacks in natural beauty, it makes up for in convenience. This spot is roughly 5 minutes from my house:

The fishing itself isn't too difficult as long as you can manage to get a cast out 30 feet or so - something that's easier said than done with a high bank directly behind you. I got a lot of practice on my roll casting. If the fish are there, pretty much any bright colored fly will do the trick:

Some nice Hickory Chads. I didn't catch any Americans, which are bigger and apparently on the decline in the James :

This was the first year I've gone after the Chad, for what reasons I don't know. I've been in Richmond for almost 6 years now so it's basically inexplicable that I've overlooked this cool event year after year. Now that I know where to go, what equipment to use and what flies to tie, you can bet I'll be back after them next year.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mountain trout fishing at its finest

As you can probably tell by now, I love Spring in the Shenandoah National Park. Last weekend, the weather was gorgeous and I took advantage of it by getting out on 2 of my favorite mountain creeks on Saturday and Sunday. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.

The water was at a perfect level for dry fly fishing:

The wildflowers in the Spring definitely add to the experience. I'll have to ask Mom what these are.

On Saturday, the brown trout came out to play.

On Sunday, the bugs were out in full force. You guessed it, a Grey Sulphur:

And some nice sized brookies were on the feed:

A shot from way on up the hill. Till' next time:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Somtimes it's not about the fish

My apologies to Lance Armstrong for the obvious rip-off of the title to this story, but it just seems an appropriate way to describe last Sunday. Sometimes you know a particular fishing trip is going to rise to the surface among the jumble of all of your other trips and memories, even if the fishing itself is less than spectacular...sometimes it's not about the fish.

My Dad and I have been talking about going fly fishing together for a long time and for whatever reason, we've never made it happen. On Sunday, we finally put an end to the talk and just went and did it. It turned out to be a day I'll always remember, and nope, it wasn't about the fish.

I wanted to show him a particular stream that's pretty special to me, both because the fishing is usually outstanding and because, as eye candy goes, it can't be beat. On this day, the fishing turned out to be only so-so, but that hardly mattered at all. We hiked and climbed and fished our way up the creek, working the best holes with fly patterns that never disappoint and couldn't seem to buy a strike. Even so, I was having a ball...sometimes it's not about the fish.

We eventually arrived at what has to be the prettiest spot in the entire state of Virginia, and decided to take a break for lunch. As I sat on a log next to my Dad, my feet in the creek, stuffing my face with roast beef and taking in the beauty before me, I realized there was no better fishing companion with which to share a scene and a day like this. Never mind that so far we'd only managed to take a few small fish...sometimes it's not about the fish.

After lunch was done, I tied on a new fly, waded into the hole we'd been watching and began to cast. The current in the middle was too heavy for dry fly work, so I rolled a cast into the quiet back corner, hoping a fish would be there taking a break from the main flow. With tense anticipation, I watched the fly bob along in the current, and as it neared the end of its drift, a trout slowly rose and sipped it in. He battled well, employing that trademark bulldog style fight, but had nowhere to go and I quickly gained the upper hand. I lead the fish into calm water where Dad and I admired him for a few seconds before sending him home.

So, even though sometimes it's not about the fish, one good fish never hurts. And on this day, one good fish was just icing on the cake.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Never trust a fisherman...

I try to learn something on every fishing trip. Usually this involves some little casting or mending technique or how to position myself in order to make an effective presentation to the fish. Sometimes it's about where the fish are likely to be holding in the current or how to approach a certain pool without scaring the spots off of every trout in the vicinity. Sometimes it's about the bugs. What is hatching at this time of the year and how do the fish react? What fly pattern will best match the bugs the fish are currently feasting on? Sometimes I learn something, usually through trial and error, and sometimes I happen on things by blind, dumb luck.

This Saturday, I learned a very important lesson. Never trust the advice of another fisherman. If you hear that the fishing is sub-par on a certain creek that's been good to you in the past, and it's no longer worth messing with, don't believe it until you've gone to have a look for yourself! So it was that Marty and I paid a visit to an old friend that neither of us had been on for the last few years due to rumors of the generally crappy fishing. We weren't really expecting the best day of fishing we had experienced in a good while, but that's exactly what we got.

First, we got geared up with all the necessities for a day in the woods: electrolytes, peanut butter, caramel, almonds and white fudge. Oh yeah, we took fishing rods too.

We hiked in and found the stream still running pretty full but looking good.

The first pool of the day produced several fish. This seemed a little strange for a creek that's not supposed to hold very many trout, but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

At this point, I was hoping it didn't turn out to be a one of those all too frequent days where you start off well and then things kinda peter out. I needn't have worried as fish continued to attack any fly we managed to get near them, often giving us several chances. At one point, I hooked and lost a fish only to have him eat the fly again on the very next cast. You gotta love brook trout; aggressive, dumb, and real pretty. In this way, they kinda remind me of a former girlfriend...

We even managed to hook a couple brown trout, the supposed problem for this little creek. This larger, more aggressive, intrusive species tends to out-compete the native brook trout and take over. The Park Service regularly removes and relocates the browns to help alleviate the problem and the official fishing regulations say that any brown trout caught inside the Park boundary must be destroyed.

Since I also hooked 3 or 4 brook trout in the same pool this feller came from, I figured he couldn't have been doing too much harm and I decided to break the law and send him on his way unharmed. What a rebel...

We ended up fishing until early evening, getting pretty far up the hill and ended the day with 2 browns and about 97,000 brookies. I guess you could say the stream is doing pretty well after all.