Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Best Fly Fishing Year Ever?

This has been probably my most productive fly fishing year since I started fly fishing.   I haven't fished as much as I did in other years but the times I did fish were productive.  I had a goal last year of catching at least one fish every month out of the year.  I kept that same goal this year.  I'm probably jinxing myself because I haven't caught one in December yet.  Even if I don't get a fish in Dec this has been a great year.  I've put a recap of some highlights from each month.   I had another goal of catching not only a fish a month but 12 different species that would measure at least 12 inches. 

I have never had very good luck in January or February.  This year was almost the same.  Literally the last day in January I was able to hook this bass.
The fish hit a white wooly bugger.

I had heard chain pickerel were active this time of the year but I had yet to actually fish for one.  It took two trips to the creek but I found a new species to fish for.  Pickerel are aggressive and slams flies with a vengence.

Nothing signals the start of spring as the white bass run.  I look forward to this more every year.  It is some of my favorite fishing.  It's tough to find a type of fishing where you can catch about 40 pound to two pound fish in 2hrs. 

I have been trying to catch a shad on a fly for a couple years.  These fish travel from the ocean hundreds of miles inland.  Their nickname is the southern salmon.  I was lucky enough to go with a TFF member who is a master at catching these fish.  He put me on them and I was able to catch my first shad.  I figured I had to get my fishing in since my son was going to be born any day. 

The 13yr Cicada's were coming out in full swing.  Some parts of the Triad were deafening with the sound of Cicada's singing.  The good thing was fish started to key in on these bugs.  Anything large hitting the water around this time was a meal.  I've gone after grass carp before but never had a chance to really hook one.   I was fishing a pond near my house for bass when I noticed some grass carp showing an interest in my popper.  Sure enough one inhaled it and I had my first grass carp on the fly.

Bluegill and bass fishing really heats up in late may and June.  I have been trying to catch a bluegill over a pound for awhile.  This gill looked huge and slammed a muddler minnow.  I knew it wasn't a pound but I thought it was close to 11 inches.  When I measured my reel seat later I found it was only about 9.

I have caught wild brook trout in the Sierra Nevada mountains but I have never caught them in the east.  My wife had a family reunion in the Shenandoah Valley and I jumped at the chance to catch a wild brookie.  I have to give a lot of thanks to the South East Fly Fishing Forum.  A member there gave me a tip on a good brookie spot.  It was by far the best place I fished the whole week I was in the valley.   The trout were beautiful and I got to really break in a new 3wt I purchased.

All I think of when I think of August is hot temperatures and catfish.  One week in August I caught 3 catfish in 3 different places.   All fish were caught with a dead drift presentation. When I say dead drift really I mean I cast out and did nothing.  Didn't twitch the fly or move it.  The fish slammed the fly a few seconds after it landed.   This guy was my biggest cat so far.

This fish had been avoiding me for years.  When I finally caught a roanoke bass I was in denial.  I took a few pics released it and figured I caught a really green sunfish or some crappie-warmouth hybrid.  When I finally got home and studied the pictures I realized I had in fact caught a Roanoke Bass.  It was a special day for sure.

It's great to catch different species but at least a few times a year I have to go after trout.  I love fly fishing for trout.  It's almost impossible to be in a bad mood while trout fishing. 

I feel really blessed that I have so many places to fish.  I've lived in NC for 5yrs and I've probably just scratched the surface of all the fishable trout streams.  I found a great new stream that is close to home.  The fishing has been excellent and it is a great place to take beginners.
This month hasn't been good to me.  I've fish a couple times with nothing to show for it.  This last trip I even resorted to..... gulp..... spin fishing.  I was striper fishing and the fish were down around 40-50ft.  My last chance will reallly depend on a lot of different factors.  Weather being one and my wife the second.  You can see from all these trips I have gotten time to fish and I have to thank my wife and family for tolerating my absence on weekends.    I'm hoping to get out for one day this weekend and go after wild brookies in VA.  If it snows I'm done.  If the weather stays above freezing I might get lucky.  We'll see.   The catches weren't the only thing to make this year great.  I also was blessed with a new baby boy.  My mother picked up fly fishing this year and it is fun to share our love of the sport together.   In the end  no matter what happens in December this has been with out a doubt my best year of fly fishing ever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fly Fishing Gear Made in the U.S.

I recently read a post on the blog Fishingthroughlife.  It was about supporting U.S. manufacturers when purchasing fly fishing gear.  I took this post to heart and started to really research which companies manufacture their products in the U.S.  It wasn't really that easy to find.  I finally found this site.  It goes over quite a few companies and also asks questions about why we can't get more products made in the U.S.  Definitely check out the part about hook production.   This holiday season when thinking about gear purchases I'm definitely going to look more into where things are made.  Doing small things such as buying things made locally or in the U.S. can make a big economical impact over all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

Like when you drive over 100 miles, go to gear up and see this.
The camera survived and the fishing was pretty good too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Family Time

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Today my son and daughter got to visit the zoo for the first time. I have fond memories of going to the zoo as a child. I hope my kids will develop the same fondness for wildlife that I have.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crossing the Line

While you are fishing there are always experiences that make you question whether they are crossing the line or not. The line is different for everyone but there is always an uneasy feeling. Similar to when a friend shows you the answers they somehow acquired for an upcoming test. This happened to me on my last fishing trip. I was having a good day cruising along catching fish consistently. I ran into another fisherman who was having the same success. When we compared flies I couldn’t help but almost blurt out, “you’re cheating!” My fly was a bead head pheasant tail nymph and this gentleman’s fly looked like pink chenille with a trout worm on the end. It basically looked like a jig you’d use to catch crappie. Whenever I see stuff like this I always think why bother even using a fly rod? I talked it over with a friend after wards and said that fly would be my last resort. Which when I reflect back on everything that probably is false. Later I understood that the reason I was so upset about the fly was because I didn’t fish that way. So in my head I had the judgment that if you’re not following my set of rules for fly fishing you’re doing it wrong. Then I tried to go over why I thought it was so wrong. First I went over the fact that there was a rubber worm type thing tied into the fly. But then I thought about the rubber legs I use or have used on bass flies. They resemble or try to resemble the actual anatomy of something life like but are they really better than the worm fly? In reality what the person was doing was totally legal and he followed the fishing regulations. I realized I have no control of the actual situation and that I need to really get over those types of things. In all honesty if I had been getting skunked that day and he offered me that fly to fish with I’m sure I would have used it. I guess it was pride that first turned my nose up at the use of a fly like that. I guess everyone has that line they feel you shouldn’t cross because you’re breaking the rules. Whether it’s using two flies, fish scent, egg patterns, or bait. Everyone has their thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cold Morning, Hot Fishing

This was only my mothers second time attempting to trout fish.  I mentioned it would be cold in the morning.  Even I was a little surprised when the temp read 25 as I stepped out to get my gear on.  It's a funny feeling when it is that cold.  You try to move fast to warm up but the cold hampers your movement and you have to stop every so often to blow in your hands.   We still managed to get our gear on and head down to the river.   The morning was beautiful and there's something about seeing sunlight shine through mist and your breath.  I went to my usual hole and it didn't take long to get my first trout of the day.
I rarely catch a fish with in my first few casts. I enjoyed the moment and didn't try to put a lot of emphasis on the event like it was foreshadowing the day. As the sun and temperature rose so did the fishing. Whenever I go fishing with a group there is always one lucky person who just seems to have everything going for them that day. Today that lucky person was me. Most of my hook ups the fish stayed on and I was able to land them. I had to pay close attention to my indicator and I started to recognize how these fish hit. Most of the fish were rainbows but in one section there seemed to be a cluster of drab brookies.
The water was clearer than the last time and a lot colder. One part of the day some small size 20 bugs started hatching. Fish never started hitting the surface but the fishing did seem to pick up.
The hot fly was a small size 18 bead head pheasant tail. My mother struggled at first. She had the problem normal beginners have. Wind knots and tangling the leader over the rod. She persevered and was able to get the skunk off.
It was a great day. One of those ones where you're not quite sure how many fish you caught but you know it was a lot. The day had blue bird skies and there was still some color on the trees to keep things scenic.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Olive The Wooly Bugger - Book Review

Recently the Outdoor Blogger Network had a bunch of free giveaways to celebrate their one year anniversary. I was lucky enough to win a set of Olive The Wooly Bugger books. In my travels I had heard about these books before but I had never held one in my hands. I have a daughter who is around three so I thought these books would be great to read at bed time. The books came in the mail yesterday and what first surprised me was the quality.
Not only in the artwork but of the books themselves. The books are paperback but the pages are thicker than an average paperback. This makes the book more durable after several reads. The author Kirk Werner was kind enough to autograph all of the books as well as some bookmarks and a decal that was included.
As if the books, bookmarks and sticker weren't enough the give away also included a limited designed Olive The Wooly Bugger fly box.  I'm hoping to get that soon. My daughter saw the books and was pretty ecstatic. She wanted me to read them instantly. I sat down with her to go over the first one Olive The Little Wooly Bugger.  

The reading level was a little beyond my daughter. I kind of like that I have some books she can grow into. The full page illustrations were enough to keep her entertained. It was fun going over the different flies with her. The illustrations in this book are amazing and the characters of the flies are very clever.

In this book Olive is going to Camp Tight Loops. Unfortunately even in Olive's world there is dry fly snobbery and the dry flies give Olive a hard time.
The focus of the camp is to teach each fly its talent to help them catch fish.  The best flies make it to the coveted Fly Box. Those flies get their chance at catching trout on The Big Stream. I really liked how this book tied in fly fishing knowledge with the plot. I'm actually going to recommend this book to many of my beginner fly fishing friends. The book also has a page at the end that has actual photos of fishing flies.
I thought this was a great addition so readers can reference flies they may have or want in the future.  When I first got these books I didn't know what to think. After reading the first one and checking them out more I am overly impressed. These would be great gifts for anyone at any age who has the least bit of interest in fly fishing. I have to give a special thanks to OBN for hooking me up with these.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Change in Plans

I had planned on getting some fishing in.  The weather kind of changed that.  I can fish in the snow but not when it's windy.  I did get out with the kids though. 
My mother was visiting the mountains and I really wanted her to catch a trout with a fly rod.  Yesterday we hit a local trout stream that usually gets hammered by locals and tourists.  To my surprise the park was uncrowded most likey due to the weather.  By the time we arrived it had warmed up consirably.  The wind had stopped and there was no snow on the ground.  I showed my mother the basics of nymphing and sure enough in and hour she had caught 3 fish.  Not bad for her first time.   I was almost skunked but hooked a trout on my last cast.  It was a great weekend.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Day with Friends

Tried a new river with some friends yesterday.   The morning didn't start off all that great.  I'm kind of a plan freak.  I'm decent about planning but when things change something always gets screwed up.  I had planned to drive and have some people ride with me.  As we were figuring things out a friend said we all could probably fit in his car.  I felt we were kind of running behind already so I grabbed my stuff out of my car as quickly as possible.  Sure enough about 40min into the ride we start talking and a guy pulls out his fly box.  I go to get mine out of the back and I don't see my pack.  I left it in my car!  Luckily I was with others and kept my composure because I just wanted to cuss for about 5minutes.  I think every fisherman has a certain bond with "THEIR" gear.  There is a comfort in knowing what you have and using your own tools.   I knew people would lend me flies and things but I was so mad about forgetting my stuff I just sat and steamed for a bit.  I figured this was maybe a sign that today I needed to help the beginners and fishing will be secondary.   When we arrived at the stream I geared up borrowed 4 flies and some pliers and clippers and we headed out.
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
From Fall
The day turned out great and I probably had the most fun watching others catch fish as I did catching them myself.
From Fall
This was one of the few trips I've organized. I like doing it but I always feel uneasy when the questions come up on how to do things. The people asking me are new to fly fishing and many times they think I am a far greater fly fisherman than I actually am. I want to tell them the right way but what exactly is the right way? I only know my way. On the stream a friend was missing hook ups and I gave her some advice. She said "I was told by a guide you're supposed to do this." My response was do whatever catches fish. What a guide tells you might work that day on that stretch of river for those fish but elsewhere you may have to change your tactics. That was how the day was for the rest of us. The fish were hitting very subtle and the takes were almost unnoticeable. The indicator would either stop or honestly you'd just guess or see some slight irregular bob in the current. It was a learning experience for all of us. The challenge made the experience even more fun.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dumb Fish

In Jurassic Park the main characters avoided the T-Rex by holding still. I can relate a lot to the T-Rex because when I'm fishing I look for any movement what so ever. A familiar silver flash, a irregular break in the current, the sound pattern of the water changing because of a sploop sound. All of these are ques for me to find fish. I once talked about sight fishing for trout with a guide. I went into detail about one of my favorite scenarios. It starts out with spotting the fish from a distance then working my way into position and make what I think is a perfect cast and the fish seems to follow my actions like a puppet. The guide listened intently then said "You know most intelligent fish won't hang out in the open like that. That's not a very efficient survival behavior. That fish was probably mentally ill."  At first I didn't know whether to take offense to the comment or agree with his logic. One great thing about seeing fish is you can watch their behavior when your fly comes near them. This gives you a great insight and knowledge to things that are many times hidden from view. For me these are some of the best times. It's like watching an interactive show that is only on display for you. The fish may follow your fly down stream or strike at it instantly. The best is watching a fish charge your fly or follow it with a vengeance. The fish might make several slashes maybe one out of hunger but probably more likely out of anger. The whole ordeal is fascinating and I never get tired of it.

Yesterday I fished a Designated Harvest trout stream. Hatchery trout often get the label of ignorant will hit anything, are no challenge, any one can catch them fish. The scenario I faced is why these fish get this label. Sometimes after stocking the fish will not leave the general area. In one place I check out rarely the fish literally do not leave with in 100yds of where they are stocked. Of course you get a few that are smart and decide to skedaddle to safer areas but the majority sit back and watch as many of their friends are hauled away involuntarily. Maybe they are comforted by the friend being thrown back minutes later, hopefully unharmed. I approached one section and my expectations were met with anglers standing just far enough to not be in each others cast. You could see the fish from the trail hanging out in glass pools where any osprey or eagle could pluck them for lunch. I was amazed that one usually popular spot was open for fishing. I walked in the water not worrying too much about stealthy wading. In the run I could see purple objects that stood out from the river rocked bottom. Those are the trout and they are what everyone is here for. I tried to go some what classy first. I consider myself a decent fly fisherman and even though I don't think I'm above using wooly buggers I wanted to try catching fish with a midge pattern or something insect like first.  I had no indicators so that would add to the challenge some too. I used a dropper set up and after I missed a few hits and figured out the drift I had a fish on. The trout didn't fight very hard and it gave up with in seconds.
  That is another thing about DH fish since they are released and fished so heavily it's not uncommon to catch a fish that has been caught a couple times earlier in the day. This causes the fish to become super fatigued and they don't fight well. After a few trout the fish seemed to ignore my fly. Another common thing for DH fish. Many times if you change the fly you'll catch a few more and you repeat this pattern. This day I decided to take it a whole different way. The fish are considered dumb but lets think about this. These fish have been raised to think humans are what feeds them. On top of that most of these fish probably associate people with food. Does that make them dumb or a victim of circumstance? As I pondered this I thought about the food part and pretty much how these fish think.  They will most likely hit anything they think is food or just out of curiosity. I had a fly my friend tied me for smallmouth. This thing was about 2 1/2 inches long with dumbbell eyes and rubber legs.
Not your average trout fly. I cast that out and on my second cast I had my biggest fish of the day. I could see everything, my fly hitting the water, the action of how my strips made the fly work. I saw the fish charge from the bottom and slam the fly. This fish seemed fresh like it hadn't been caught before. It was a plump 13inch brookie and it was starting to show its fall colors. I had so much fun with that experience I fished with the clouser the rest of the morning. I realized this a long time ago but it was made more evident that morning that visual fishing for me is where it's at. It is no wonder why I love sight fishing so much. Popper fishing for bass, blue gill top water fishing, carp flats fishing and sight fishing for trout. So for me bring on the dumb fish. I can have fun catching them all day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lots Going On

There is a lot going on right now. I just got back from San Diego and I'm starting a new job. It's always stressful going from something comfortable to something new and out of your comfort zone.  I am adjusting. I won't be able to fish at lunch anymore which kind of sucks but I'll live. Reflecting on this year has been very interesting. This has been by far my best fishing year ever. I have caught many new species and even my first salt water fish.  I'm excited to see what else the year has to bring. I'm hoping to get out and fish this weekend.  It all depends on the weather. Fall is definitely on it's way. The temp has dropped at least 10 degrees and is on the steady decline. I'm hoping fish will be trying to fatten up before it gets too cold.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Troubled Waters

My father has had serious health problems recently. They have gotten so bad the doctor told me if I want to visit him I need to do it now. He was showing signs of dementia and his organs were shutting down. I made the quick decision to fly out to San Diego and visit him. The day I landed I spent the afternoon and evening at the hospital. My father looked pale and seemed to be in some pain but his mind seemed ok. The nurses would often ask him if he remembered his name, where he was and the year. He could answer all of the questions fine. After the nurses left I decided to ask him a few questions. The first was what was my wifes name, then the grandkids. He couldn't name them but he behaved like they were on the tip of his tongue and he just couldn't come up with the words. Then I asked if he could tell me his dad's name. He struggled and I could see in his eyes the confusion and fear of understanding that he should know this information but can't come up with it. This really bothered me and I decided to stop asking questions because it was only going to stress us both out. While I was in San Diego I decided I'd go fishing to keep my sanity. There was a recent power outage that caused a huge sewage spill into the ocean. It covered a large area. I was able to go north of it but I probably still fished in water that was contaminated.

When I got to the parking lot it was a welcoming sight. Only a few cars were seen and the people getting out were metal detector nerds. They scour the sand looking for buried treasure or some person who was unlucky enough to drop a diamond ring. I got my gear ready and occasionally checked over my shoulder for other anglers. As I finished rigging my rod and headed towards the beach I didn't see another soul fishing.  There were people enjoying the darkness before sunrise. Joggers and tourists gawking at the waves rolling in. I had stopped by the So Cal Fly Shop the day before to get some information and flies. They had a fly box full of popular surf patterns for $20. I thought that was a pretty good deal. I felt some what prepared but I still didn't have any idea of what I was doing. I cast out parallel to the waves rolling in and realized the name of the game was line management. It was hard to keep the line straight and have a good feeling of where the fly was at. Waves would catch the sinking line and jerk it out to the ocean or make it go slack sliding the fly towards shore. It was frustrating but I kept working at it. I couldn't see any sign of life in the water. I was told to fish ankle deep water. It was hard to discipline myself to stick to that. The waist deep water looked so inviting and that had to be where the bigger fish were. Seeing a wake and two good size fish breech the surface and escape to deeper water changed my thinking. The fish I was going for was called a Corbina. 
The fish looks similar to a drum. They spook very easy and are hard to sneak up on. Honestly I'd see most of them at the same time they spotted me. They'd disappear in a cloud of mud. The fish would ride in with the surf and hang out in depressions in the sand. I tried all of the flies I had bought. I thought many times that I had a hit but I couldn't really tell. The current was playing with my line. I tried casting at all angles. Towards the ocean, away from it, parallel. I really felt lost. Then a perch decided to throw me a bone. I felt the familiar tap on the end of my line. I set the hook and the fish felt like a bluegill. I was over joyed. This was my first saltwater fish caught on a fly.
From Summer'11
The fish was more colorful than the picture shows. Even with the enjoyment of what I had accomplished my mind couldn't shake the true reason I was in San Diego. I went back to the hospital and fished again in the afternoon but it didn't feel right. My mind couldn't concentrate and the frustrations with the current and line were getting to me. I didn't fish again while I was there and spent the rest of the time with family and at the hospital. My father's memory went in and out. At times he could remember the names of the people I had asked him earlier. Then other times he could remember the month but not the year. Or he could remember the year but not the date.  The whole thing was kind of sad. The doctors couldn't find anything major wrong with him. The theory is he's had a couple strokes which are causing the memory problems. Honestly it could be a lot of things. Years of a hard life and diabetes are catching up to him. The hardest part of this trip was the true meaning for me. I looked at it as my time to say good bye. I think in a few months my father will not know who he is anymore or may not live past the year. We were never very close but it's still sad to see anyone go this way.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My First Roanoke Bass

Sometimes you're not just trying to catch a fish. You are trying to catch thee fish. I've been chasing Roanoke Bass for quite some time now. They are fairly rare but people do occasionally catch them on the Eno River. What I could never understand was how beginners seem to always have luck when it came to catching them. I hit he river yesterday with some friends. The water seemed to have even more hydrilla then the last time.  The green weeds choked the water and only provided one small lane that was free of debris. The fish were few and far in between. I did find a sunfish here and there but the fishing was really poor for the Eno. There was one section in particular that looked dead and void of life.  The bottom was covered in a thin blanket of silt. While wading I never even saw the shadow or movement of fish being spooked. I started to wonder if some sort of fish kill happened. I decided to try one more spot that was good to me about 2yrs ago. It is a large pool that has a rock you can get on top of and use as a casting platform.  It gives a great view into the water and with good casts you can almost cover the whole pool. I cast my fly near a submerged boulder and watched as it disappeared into the murky water. Then I felt a tap. I set the hook and had the familiar feeling of a sunfish.  While bringing the fish to the surface I noticed it didn't have the orange belly of a sunfish. I knew better then to get my hopes up that it might be a Roanoke. I kept bringing the fish in and finally when I had it in hand I did an inspection.
From Summer2011
I have been chasing these fish for so long that I was in denial that this fish was an actual Roanoke Bass.  I took several pictures and wondered if maybe it was just a green colored Warmouth. Then I noticed the gill plate. There were no lines on it what so ever. The coloring was also too green to be a Warmouth. This had to be a Roanoke. I was elated. As a bonus it was caught with a crayfish type pattern that I tied.  I have a theory about why so many beginners seem to have luck catching these fish. When the fish hit I provided zero action to the fly. It was just dead drifting. That makes sense because most beginners do not twitch and try to practice with different retrieves when they are learning. I will have to experiment more.  Until then I can check off another species on the list.
From Summer2011