Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Still no shad

I never got a chance to get out to the river. I went to Wilmington this last weekend. Had a great time but didn't catch any fish. I'm going to try to hit the Neuse this week. I heard from a guy who knows a guy. That the fish are still coming up the Neuse and are pretty far away from Raleigh still. We'll see. I'm keeping my hopes up. I might not be able to try until I get back from San Diego. Which will be the second week of April.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Quest for Shad

Ever since I've moved to Raleigh I've heard about this fish that swims all the way from the ocean up into the nearby rivers and small creeks in the surrounding area. They call them the Southern Salmon or poor mans tarpon. More commonly known as just "shad". They can get up to 5lbs and are supposedly really fun to catch. I wouldn't know. I've been trying to catch these things for 2yrs. I've been reading about them and from what I've found your best bet is to have a boat and to fish up near Weldon on the Roanoke River. They also come to the Tar River and Neuse that flows from Raleigh's, Falls Lake.

This year I decided to really target them. The hot season for the shad run is in March, I recently finished my first fly tying class and I've found some flies that are supposedly great for shad. I tied some up and went out to a small creek near Tarboro. It had just rained a couple days before and the water was really high. I heard from a local that it was about 4ft higher then normal. Needless to say I was skunked. I really wanted to avoid driving anywhere far from Raleigh. My family has planned a small vacation and I'm leaving for the west coast in a couple weeks so time is shrinking on me. I tried again last weekend on the Neuse right down from the dam. Again I was skunked. The weather was beautiful and I read reports of people catching shad in Weldon and the lower Neuse where it hits the sound and goes into the ocean. I think maybe it is still early. I'm going to try to coerce my brother-in-law into going fishing with me probably the last time I'll have this Saturday. The last shad attempt. I've found a stretch of the Neuse that they have to go by. Unless we get a torrential down poor. It could happen, rain is in the forecast for tonight. Either way I want to try. This has been the hardest fish to catch, and what makes it worse is to hear the stories and reports of other people catching up to 30-40 fish.

We'll see what happens this weekend, my fly arsenal is listed below. I will definitely update the site with pics, whether I finally get a shad or come home empty handed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Old 26incher

I think fisherman use a different measurement system then everyone else in the world. You will see someone catch a fish, ask them how big it was only to get a answer that seems exaggerated. There’s one number in particular that reigns top of the list in North Carolina. When I first moved to Watauga County I started fishing close to town. I fished this one section pretty regularly and never caught anything over 12inches. I talked to a guy one day who said he caught a fish that was 26inches from the same area where I had fished many times before. I never doubted it and continued to fish the water vigorously for a month or so. Still, I never caught anything over 12inches. As I became more familiar with people and places, I started to ask around to find the best fishing spots. Again this 26inch figure came up. There was a creek north about 30miles where supposedly 26inch fish are caught all the time. I fished it and the water was only about 2ft deep in the deepest places. I couldn’t see how a fish over even 20inches could live there very long. I figured maybe in its hay day there were huge fish there.

I started to really fish the whole area around the county. Meeting fisherman and it seemed whenever someone wanted to tell me about a big fish they caught that day or ever, it was 26inches. I started to want to laugh whenever someone said that number it was so funny to me that these big fish were always 26inches. Not 30 not 25 but 26. It really made me question the actual size. Especially when I’ve seen many anglers catch a fish right in front of me and tell me it was at least a 15inch fish when maybe it was 10inches. The reason I bring this up is there are many thoughts about what makes a good fisherman. Some people believe it’s how many fish you catch; others believe it’s how many BIG fish you catch. Whatever you believe is your opinion. I personally believe a great fisherman is someone who can CATCH fish in any conditions. Some have told me the size exaggeration comes from the stereotype that all fishermen are storytellers and should exaggerate. I never liked that theory. I started to call out everyone who made these claims of 26inch fish asking for pictures or did you measure it with a tape? This offended too many people. No one wants to be called a liar especially not someone from the south. Regardless, most people could never give me good evidence of how they got this 26inch measurement. I figure people catch a big fish and the adrenaline is running, it’s probably the biggest fish they ever caught. They start thinking about other stories of people catching huge fish and describing it to them. Then they think this fish is probably at least that big. So it’s probably 26inches. Or others believe no one will believe 30inches and 26 sounds better then 22. My advice is marking your rod where certain measurements are. 15inches up from the butt make a mark. Then make another one 20inches and so on. Then you can just lay your rod next to the fish and know right away how big it is. Don’t be one of those guys telling the tale of the old 26incher. Nothing is worse then telling someone a story only to see the expression of disbelief come over their face.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Getting Over Myself

My brother in law Russell is the kind of fisherman, I like to call the intellectual fisherman. He reads fly fishing books and articles, studies the art. He applies what he learns step by step. I mean he’ll follow what he’s learned exactly as instructed. If it says twist 8 times then tighten the knot, you know that knot has 8 twists in it. I remember fishing with him in Watauga County. The first thing I noticed right away was he got real low almost like he was trying to hide from someone. Then moved really slow to the stream. I almost started laughing. I’ve read articles about stalking fish but I’ve never actually watched someone do it. It was pretty amusing. He stayed low and cast from a crouched position. I walked upstream maybe a 100yds from him and I stood straight up almost the opposite of what he was doing. I also immediately got in the water where he stayed on the bank and fished the water in front first. I sat there and watched him work the bank then moved slowly into the water working it just as though he were following an instruction guide for how to fly fish.

I have always thought it was funny how we were complete opposites. Russell would check his knots after catching each fish, stand to where he’d cast the least shadow. Make sure his line did not make too much of a wake when it landed on the water. I on the other hand would hardly ever check my knots, the only time I did would be after getting a really nasty snag in a tree or on some rocks underwater. I never have been a cast snob. I’ve seen to many fish caught with ugly casts. I also never cared where the sun was, I did pay attention to my shadow. What’s amazing about fly fishing and all the information on “the right way” to do it is, everyone does it differently and still catches fish. Who knows really what way catches more fish. I’m sure my way is not the best, but I know for sure it’s not the worst. To me, that is what makes it really fun, finding out what works best for YOU. You can read technique and how to books all you want. It is nothing compared to getting out in some trout water and experimenting.

Another time on the same stream Russell and another friend Jeff and I were fishing. It was Jeff’s birthday. He used to be a fly fishing guide. Needless to say I was not intimidated but I did think I was going to get out fished and it was going to make my technique look like crap. In the beginning I just watched Jeff. I always wanted to be a guide and I wanted to see how similarly we fished. After watching him for about an hour or so I realized there wasn’t much of a difference. In fact, in my opinion he didn’t fish with the attention to detail that Russell fished with. I started to re-evaluate my opinion of guides. I always held them as some super natural almost wielding fish to their line type of a person. Now I was starting to think otherwise. Maybe a guide is someone who just has a lot of experience on one stretch of water. Or possibly it’s a person who has fished a lot of different types of water and knew someone who had a fly shop. My personal favorite is thinking it was just someone who loved to fish that got lucky and was at the right place at the right time. The day went on with us fishing, spread out on the water. Russell was catching fish on wooly buggers. I was doing well with a bead headed muskrat emerger. The fish seemed to really like this fly. They must have been looking for stonefly nymphs on the bottom. Also they liked the gray color as apposed to black. I was catching fish at a steady pace of 1 every 20minutes. Jeff wasn’t catching anything. At first I was a little happy. I thought I’m better then this guy. Then I started to feel bad, because be it he was a guide in the past or not, it was his birthday and he was out here not to show us up but just to have fun and catch fish which wasn’t happening. I came over to him knowing he hadn’t caught anything but asking anyway if he did. He said “I can’t seem to find what they want to eat.” It does suck to be the only one not catching anything. My confidence can really plummet. After getting skunked on a few fly fishing trips I’ll start to go into a little trout depression. I’ll think things like, man I forgot what catching a trout feels like or maybe I’m not a very good fisherman. Then you get a tug on your line catch a fish and you forget the 3 fishless trips, your self esteem shoots threw the roof and again you think you’re ready to be the lead in a fly fishing video.

I showed Jeff what I was using, then I did something I never thought I’d be generous enough to do. I asked him if he wanted to use it. At first he gave me a look that I could read what he was thinking just from the expression of his face and eyes. Like I know how to catch fish, I don’t need someone to tell me what to use. Then I said “well it’s your birthday, you can have this fly.” I saw his expression instantly change into a expression of gratitude. He didn’t take the fly but I knew he liked that I wasn’t making it a competition. There’s always a competitive nature with men. We went on that stream all about having fun but once we stepped in the water we were watching each other out of the corners of our eyes. Russell is probably the least competitive. He always appreciates the true value of things and knows just being able to be outdoors fishing is great. After catching a couple I didn’t care what happened, I always want to just catch at least one fish. What’s funny is after I was so hyped about how Jeff was going to fish I can’t remember if he caught anything or not. I believe he did. I think that was the day I realized did it really matter? Fishing is more then who catches the most or who fish’s with the best technique. It’s also not about what you did in the past. Once you enjoy fly-fishing just for what it is, you’ll enjoy it much more. Even if you don’t catch anything.