Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to properly "match the hatch"

1.  Start by picking a destination. Try to pick a place that has some bugs and fish that like to eat them.

2.  Take the time to look around and enjoy the outdoor experience.

3.  Locate some emerging insects.  In this case it's some kind of stonefly and an Epeorus pleuralis mayfly (Quill Gordon to the layperson).

4.  Locate something in your fly box that's similar in size and color to one of the bugs you observed and tie it to your leader.

5.  Cast the imposter to unsuspecting fish and catch a bunch of them.  You've now successfully "matched the hatch" - even though the fish are so innocent you would have caught them on anything.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Nice Little Sunday

I stopped by to check out the house progress on my way out to the Park this Sunday.  Things are moving along pretty well.  Most of the siding is up and it won't be long until the outside of the house is done.  Things look pretty much the same on the inside, although they did install the tubs and showers.

After snapping a few pics at the new homestead, I made my way out to the Park to enjoy the blue bird day.  Water levels were pretty much perfect.

And the fish proved to be obliging.

I spent several beautiful 70 degree days trapped in the office last week and even though the air temps only made it into the low 50s on Sunday, the bugs and the fish didn't seem to mind. 

Bugs were hatching and fish were rising wherever the sun was shining.  Things were pretty dead in the shady spots and I found myself just skipping over them after a while.  No use dredging the bottom with a nymph when fish were rising right up around the corner.

I eventually made my way pretty far upstream and decided to call it a day when the sun dipped below the western ridge.

But I found one last sunlit run and a fish to end the day before the hour long walk back to the truck.  Not a bad Sunday at all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What a Difference a Couple Days Makes

On Sunday I tagged along with Marty to a steep little feeder creek that I had never fished before.  Saturday's warm weather turned into a chilly, blustery morning and a light snow fell as we made our way through the holler. Our theory, which was better than admitting the alternative, was that the sudden weather change put the fish off.  We couldn't buy a bite from our little spotted friends who had been so cooperative only one day prior.  Since we only had a half day to waste and couldn't wait around for things to heat up, we admitted defeat and retreated to Richmond with the smell of skunk strong upon us.

Feeling less than satisfied with the whole thing, I checked the forecast for the next several days and saw that Tuesday was supposed to be a Blue Sky day with temps in the high 50s.   I made a quick call to make sure Marty could take the day off and plans were set in motion to remedy our Sunday failure.

We started bright and early with the whole day ahead of us.  Sketchy bottom access at our chosen destination meant we were starting from Skyline Drive.  A quick 3 mile hike from the top of mountain to the lower Park boundary ensued.  Things were looking good when we got there.

Numerous plunge pools and deep punch bowls...

Gave up some nice fish by dredging the depths with heavy nymphs.

But there was some good looking dry fly water between the deep spots that kept us changing flies on a regular basis.

Little olive mayflies had fish looking toward the surface and a small parachute Adams enticed a few good ones to chow down.

Perfect water levels combined with the mild weather has made this the best winter fishing I can remember in quite some time.

And of course, Marty had to show off...

With another huge native brook trout.

It's shaping up to be one heck of good year.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The New House - Progress Pics

The title says it all - I'm in the process of having a house built.  I'm finally going to move out of my current craptacular abode and into a brand new house.  I'm pretty excited about the whole thing so I decided I would keep a record of the progress here on the blog.  I hope you'll indulge me as I go along even though this has nothing to do with the normal subject, other than that it will put me about a half hour closer to trout. 

View from the driveway, looking at the future site.

From the driveway, looking across the front yard.

Preparation for the foundation.

From the edge of the garage, looking back towards the road.

More to come later. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back Where It All Begins

I got my fly fishing start on this creek years ago.  It was the very first place I visited in Shenandoah National Park, and it was before I had even the slightest clue about what I was doing. One year, I asked for a fly rod for Christmas and my folks came through with a 9' 5 weight Cabelas rod and reel.  To complete the outfit, I went out and bought a box full of dry flies and the cheapest rubber waders I could find.  Then I set my sights on catching some trout in the SNP.  It was January, and the creek was mostly frozen, but that didn't stop me from waddling down from Skyline drive in my rubber waders and casting dry flies to half-frozen trout.  Needless to say, I took a skunking.

After those first few months, I learned a few things:  

1.  A 9' 5 weight rod is WAY too big for the tight quarters on these little streams.
B.  Trout aren't likely to eat dries when the stream is half iced over.
4.  Rubber waders suck.  

I went forth with my newly acquired knowledge and began to catch a few fish here and there - but  I never went back to my first creek.  So this morning I decided to pay her a visit. On the way in, I passed this barn smack in the middle of UVA country.  I imagined all of the little preppy, rich kid students having to pass it every day and had a good chuckle.  The day was off to a good start.

Part of the reason I never returned here is that this stream suffered major damage in a 1995 flood.  Large amounts of rain fell quickly and caused numerous landslides where large chunks of mountain side piled into the hollow below.  As it washed downstream, it took tree cover (and shade) with it, channelized the stream bed and decimated the fish population.  With so many other opportunities in the Park, it seemed a good one to stay away from.  However, in the 17 years since, the stream has begun to heal itself and the fish are making a comeback.  I received some intel from a trusted friend that the fishing was pretty good now, so I decided to see for myself.  He was right.

It seems as if Mother Nature has been doing a pretty good job of fixing the stream - lots of riffle, run, pool sequences and riparian vegetation.  There are still some deep, featureless areas and stretches that won't see much shade in the summer, but it seems to be coming along.

Cookie cutter 6 - 7" fish provided pretty good action as I made my way upstream.  They were hunkered down on the bottom and I had to go deep with heavy flies. 

And one nicer specimen made the day.  It's good to see some nice big, healthy brookies in here and, in time, it should only get better.

The creek flows north to south, roughly parallel with Skyline Drive, and it's not one of the higher gradient streams in the Park.  It does have several feeder streams that plunge straight off the mountain before joining the main creek, creating some pretty stunning visuals.

After seeing that from the bottom, I had to climb up there and get a closer view.  A big brookie has to live in this plunge pool but I flogged the water for 15 minutes and came up empty.  A buddy assures me that there are fish above this point so it stands to reason that they would be here too.  I'll have to try it again this spring to see.

I'm excited and encouraged that good fishing has started to return to this creek.  It seems like most places these days are getting worse, so it's refreshing to see what can happen when we just leave something alone and let nature take its course.  And it's nice to have another creek to put into the rotation.