Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fishing With Mom

My mother and I went fishing before Christmas. I have been wanting to take her to a wild trout stream for quite awhile. My hope was that she would catch a brookie.

Pretty good day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stocking Fish By Train

I was doing some research on a tip that smallmouth bass were one time stocked in a local stream. In my search I ran across this article. It goes over the history of stocking fish via train. I was surprised to find out fish were stocked coast to coast as early as the late 1800's. The technology as the trains progressed is very intriguing. 

"By the early 1920s, the fish cars had accumulated an impressive record. A 1923 report indicated that, over the previous 20 years, the output of the various hatchery activities amounted to 72,281,380,861 fish which were distributed by fish cars traveling 2,029,416 miles and detached messengers 8,104,799 miles."
~The Fish Car Era of the National Fish Hatchery System

The article is very interesting. One of my favorite parts is about hiring a crew of people to aerate the water by hand as a shipment of striped bass traveled across the country.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bad Mouthing Orvis

For a long time I have been bad mouthing Orvis. My main issue was how pricey their products are. I felt the brand name was synonymous with snob.What I started to notice was year after year I seemed to be buying more Orvis stuff. When I hit the stream now I sport a Orvis Chest Pack and Waders. It's not that I have more income or less access to other stores. I have found that Orvis has some pretty good deals now and then. Better deals than you can find at other stores and even online retailers. Even my beloved Sierra Trading Post can't compete sometimes. 

Orvis is also one of the few stores that seems to consistently provide programs to get people into fly fishing. Free fly tying and casting classes. They even offer a free trip on local waters here in the Triangle. They provide all of the equipment, waders and boots included. Of course the end goal is hoping you'll get hooked and buy gear from Orvis. Still the gesture is there and it is getting more people exposed to the sport. If you sign up for their mailing list you will get coupons fairly regularly. The best coupons are the $25 off a $50 purchase. I mainly use these when I stock up on tying supplies. I have been looking for a decent cheap midge box for quite some time. I was surprised that Orvis had one of the cheapest options. They have come out with slim pocket fly boxes. These boxes vary in several different sizes and no matter what size you choose they are all $10.
The midge boxes come with a magnet at the bottom and fit great in your pocket or fishing pack. Orvis has really converted me into liking them. I still think many of their products are over priced but I have to admit they are good quality. Their fly tying materials are priced pretty much the same as most fly shops. I'm not recommending Orvis for all of your fly-fishing needs but I do suggest giving them a look the next time you're hunting for something.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Against The Rhythm

There are times in life when things just don't seem to fit right. The signs are obvious but we either deny they exist or try so badly to will them to change. I've always felt there is a rhythm to life. You can either go with it or against it.

I just crawled back into bed with my wife. "You're not going she asked?" I was supposed to go fishing with someone for the first time but when I arrived at their house there was no sign of life. We had been communicating by email and he never gave me his number. I tried emailing him when I was there but never got a response. I waited 20min then headed home. Just as I was getting comfortable back in bed my phone rang. "You've got to be kidding me." I said. I reluctantly got up and checked the phone. An email was there stating that the person I was meeting slept through their alarm and asked if I still wanted to go. It was already an hour past when we were supposed to leave and I wasn't sure what to do. My gut was telling me the day was already done for and I should stay home. "You're already ready, you should just go." My wife said. I did want to go fishing. I grabbed my gear and headed out the door quick. Even with the feeling that I was going against the rhythm. Not just against it but at full speed. So fast in fact that on the way to meet back up with my fellow angler I was stopped by a policeman. Our greetings were short and I left with a ticket. Another sign that the rhythm of the day was just not right. I wondered if I should just head home. I told myself, even though not truly believing it, that what I needed if anything was a good fishing trip. After meeting up and hearing several apologies for the late start we headed to the coast. The forecast called for mid 60's weather and rain possibly in the evening. When we arrived it looked like the forecast was a little off.
As we walked to the surf drops of rain started to hit our face. I felt this was just par for the course on this day. My new focus was just not to drown or get a hook stuck in my head. I figured that's where this day may be headed. There was no surprise when I saw absolutely zero bait in the water. I still figured the day may be salvaged with one fish. One fish to make the whole morning go away. Then my line jerked and started to move with the current. "Got one!" I yelled. Something wasn't right. This fish wasn't fighting very hard. As I brought it closer I couldn't even tell what it was. Turns out it was a dead fish. Those usually aren't biting but when the rhythm is disturbed anything can happen. Going over the positive things in my life and trying to learn from my mistakes is all I could really do to brighten up the day. 

In the end the rain stopped and I knew there were a lot worse places I could be. I started to fish less and watch more. Several porpoise breached the water in the distance. The sun tried to show itself several times creating beautiful scenery.
Even with the events of the day I was able to fall back into rhythm.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Carping Ain't Easy

Blogs like Carp On The Fly and Fly-Carpin can give the false impression that catching carp is easy. In the Triangle that can't be farther from the truth. My buddy Shea shares his experience. I hope you enjoy it. I think it's something most of us carper wannabes can relate to.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Want A Drink?

Many of us don't give much thought to where the water comes from as we turn on the faucet. We know it has to come from somewhere, but few take the time to really understand their water's origins. I was one of those people; I never thought about it.

When I started to look into the topic, I became very concerned. The Triangle area of NC has a history of water quality issues. Even some waters located as close to a mile from the Environmental Protection Agency's state headquarters nearby, are impaired. 
Impaired waters are those that do not meet certain water quality standards set forth by the Federal Clean Water Act. The list of these water bodies is known as the 303(d) List.

So just how much of the Triangle's water is impaired? All of the areas in red are on the 303(d) list.
image take from ~ NCDENR

Impressive right? What's really alarming is those larger bodies of water North and West are drinking supplies for Raleigh and Durham. If the tributaries to our drinking supply are all impaired what does that really mean for the people drinking it? Sure water is treated before it comes out of your tap, but there is a greater issue here. 

I wonder what the states water situation will be in 10yrs especially with fracking on the table. For now I'll stick to water problems locally. 

One major problem facing our local water supplies is PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl, contamination. PCBs were primarily used in coolant fluids in electric motors, but they were also found in some household products like floor finishes. North Carolina was the site for one of the largest PCB "spills" in the country. One summer in 1978, PCB-containing oil was deliberately sprayed along some 240 miles of NC highway shoulders in 14 counties.

In fact, there is a major PCB "cleanup" area not 20 miles from my front door.

I say "cleanup" loosely. The major contamination near my house originated from a power company that dumped PCB-contaminated waste into areas around Crabtree Creek. The company is long gone, but the effect still lingers, and it has spread throughout the whole watershed. There is still a debate over who should pay to clean up the spill. The EPA has said that it will not clean up the downstream. They will monitor Brier Creek Reservior, Lake Crabtree, and Lower Crabtree creek, but it does not plan to clean those waterways. 

There is an all too familiar sign posted on many of the streams and ponds in the area. 

If the water you drink and the fish you eat could possibly give you cancer, do you feel a mere sign is good enough warning? Should there not be more education about the effects and consequences of these spills? I think this should be bigger news and clean water should be a higher priority for everyone. We all have to drink this water, and we should all be aware if its source.

Do you know where your water comes from? More importantly, do you know the quality of the source of your drinking water? Think about that the next time you turn on your faucet. Think about that the next time a stream cleanup day is advertised. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Treat Your Fly Rod Like A Gun

I love reading articles about improving my fly fishing game. The site RandRflyfishing offers several articles. Catch More Trout: Treat Your Fly Rod As If It Were A Gun is one of my favorites. The main thing I love about these articles is the tips are easy to remember and explained well.

"A hunter never shoots his rifle at random, only to be surprised that he hit something. A fly fisher should be the same way. It’s a simple concept, almost too simple, but only cast the fly when you think you’ll get a strike" -

That's such great advice and it's amazing how many of us don't follow this. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten lazy and just cast to spots because they were easy or there was water there. They probably weren't the best lies for trout and I was most likely spooking better water by casting in these areas.

"Most anglers see a pod of rising trout as a sure thing. The best way to fish over a group of fish is to pick one and fish to it." -

This seems obvious but many times when I see rising fish I get excited and cast into the mass of rises. I'm sure this spooks half the fish and I would be better off going for one of the rising fish. 

If you find these little tips helpful I recommend checking out the article on their site as well as several others they have. It really is a great resource.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Improving My Nymphing

By far this year my most productive fly has been a beadhead softhackle. I've tied the body of mine using dubbing from It gives the fly a more beefy look. I'm not sure if that's what is making the difference or if it's the extended hackle on the flies. The flies have worked each time I have gone out. The other color combo that is working is a red body. The flies work so well I haven't had a chance to experiment much with other color combinations.

Yesterday I used these flies almost exclusively. I also worked on nymphing without using an indicator. This was difficult for me to try at first. I love indicators especially the thingamabobber style ones. Without an indicator you do have more control over the depth of your flies. If you have a high visible color line the takes are somewhat obvious. The main thing is having no slack line in the water. After missing a few hook sets I started to dial in what I was doing. It didn't take long before I had a trout slam.
If you've never heard of this term it is when you catch a brown, brookie and rainbow all on the same river the same day. It doesn't happen as often as you'd think even on multiple fish days.
The brookie had striking colors compared to the other fish. I'm guessing this was a male.
When I'm fishing softhackles I usually look for the same kind of water. Ideal water is a fast run that turns into a riffle then settles down into a deep pool. I find most of my fish are where the riffle and deep pool meet. I caught the majority of my fish in a section like this and the highlight was hooking a really nice brookie.
The picture doesn't do the fish justice but if you compare it to the brookie above which was around 14"-15" you can get an idea of the size of this fish. I couldn't put my hands around it to release it. I did a really klutzy release. I'm sure the fish was fine it was just a little embarrassing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chota Abrams Boots A Yr Later

This post is not a review or an onslaught against Chota. I'd just like to show how my boots have held up in the year and half I've owned them. I bought these boots in May 2012 mainly because of the recommendations from friends. The reputation was that the boots were very durable and will hold up for several years. I fish about 60-70 days a year. 95% or more of these trips involve wading. The other 5% involve fishing from shore or a boat.
The first thing to go on the boots was the inner soles. After two trips the inner soles came unglued in both boots and started to slide around. It became such a nuisance I ripped the soles out. In about 8 months the lace on one of the boots started to come apart. Eventually it got so bad I had to replace the laces. Around the same time the leather on the front of the boots has slowly deteriorated.
You can see overall the boots just look really bad in the front. The rest of the boot has held up pretty well. I was hoping to get a few years out of these boots and I think I can get at least one more. The felt still holds up really well and the part where the leather is splitting isn't so bad that the boot is physically coming apart. Ice skating wax laces have taken the place of original ones. You can get these fairly cheap, $5 at DicksSportingGoods.
How long do your wading boots normally last? How long do you think they should last?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fishing size 19's

I hit a delayed harvest stream and the afternoon started out how it usually does. Fish were stacked in their normal places and they'd hit your fly if the drift was just right.
The fall always provides a challenge of figuring out the difference between an actual fish strike and your line hitting a drowned leaf. I caught almost as many leaves as I did fish today. The water was very cold and the fish strikes were very subtle. What made matters worse was a sizable leak in my waders. People were camping in many of the good holes. There was one that required waders to get to and fish it properly you had to stand in waste deep water. I tried to fight mild hypothermia and worked this spot for quite awhile.
Then about as the last daylight was dying small bugs started to fill the air. They were scattered at first then became a flurry of insects. I could see several heads popping up at the beginning of the pool. Fish started to stack up and there were swirls and rises all over. It's rare you hit a real hatch in NC. I saw one of the bugs on the water and it looked to be a size 19 blue winged olive. I say size 19 because whenever there is a really good hatch it always seems like I don't have anything that matches the exact size of the insect. I decided to try a size 18 dark olive caddis. The sun was starting to set and I couldn't see my fly in the water. I always wondered how people could detect strikes on flies smaller than a size18. My buddy gave me the best advice ever. If you see a fish rise where you think your fly landed set the hook. This is really the only way to fish when you can't see the fly. It ended up working and I hooked a couple nice fish. Then the rises started to become less frequent. There was one fish that lifted it's head half out of the water. You could literally hear the CLOOP as it sucked in bugs. I tried to time the fishes rise. I thought I had the fish at one time but it either missed the fly or I pulled it out of the fishes mouth.
The water went dead and I couldn't see any signs of fish rising. After a few minutes a warm breeze came across the river and the bugs started to appear in the air again. The head started to appear CLOOP! CLOOP! I cast ahead of where the fish was rising and said out loud "eat it, eat it eat it" then CLOOP! The fish ate the fly nonchalantly. I set the hook and the fish fought but stayed close to the surface. The short fight didn't match the size of the fish. Sometimes that's the case with stocked fish. The special thing for me about this fish was how it was caught. My fly selection and cast had to be just right to catch this fish and I was rewarded.
It made the day for me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Crud and Guiding

My family would always call the cold they got late in the year The Crud. I thought maybe I'd be lucky and avoid it altogether this year. Nope, it got me. It started with some post nasal drip action but now it's moving into my chest. It hasn't zapped my energy yet and I thank god for that. As I get older it seems like my ability to shrug off colds gets harder and harder. I haven't been fishing much even though the weather has been awesome. I did get out one weekend for a guided trip. It was my first time really guiding some newbies and I made several mistakes that I'll learn from for future trips. The first was that even if you go to a place where you know for 100% certainty there are fish that doesn't mean people will catch them. Just because you know how to catch fish in a certain area doesn't mean others can do so. It also doesn't mean you can teach others to do so either. What I really learned by this trip was that I fish a certain way. There are specific things I've done over a period of time that have now taught me a technique. Teaching this technique to someone else is almost impossible. They'd have to go back through the years and have the same trial and error I had. They'd also have to think the same way I do. So what do you do in situations like this? You have to get really generic and figure out what people can and can't do. Can they cast 15ft? Do they have line control and can they present a decent drift? Do they see the fish and understand what their fly is doing? Have they ever waded before? The list goes on and on. All of these are factors in success or being skunked.

We fished two pools that had tons of fish in them. Who knows how many flies these fish had seen in just a few days. They still hadn't learned to be afraid of people and many of them had been caught at least once. My clients didn't have polarized glasses which made the day very interesting. I kept pointing out things and doing play by play of what the fish was doing which was pointless. Fishing without polarized glasses is almost like fishing blindfolded. You can do it and it may work now and then but it's not very effective. The second thing I learned is even if someone wants to use their own gear inspect it. Better yet rig it up yourself. We had talked about this trip a few weeks before going. Our club was giving away spools of tippet. I was asked what would be a good option for the trip. There was no 5x so I said you might want to grab some 6x. This wasn't the smartest suggestion. 6x is great for 10inch or smaller fish but if a good sized fish hits 6x just right it will snap it like a spiderweb. I watched this happen twice before I switched the 6x with 5x. Even with all the mistakes there was some success.
This fish was caught after the first 20min on a beadhead soft hackle I tied. At the time I was proud of my fly tying skills as well as fishing tutelage. The next 3hrs however I was severely humbled.
I was second guessing a lot of what I knew was right. I figured we should move but I was afraid to leave a place I knew had fish. The better decision would have been to find other water. These fish had seen plenty of fishermen. I also didn't take into consideration the expectations of my clients. They were the type of people you want to fish with. They didn't care about the fish. They were happy enough just being outside. It was a beautiful day.
The trees helped by showing their fall colors. I decided to try fishing myself and I had several follows but couldn't entice a bite. We left the day with only one fish caught. I received several compliments about the day and requests to go again. I'll definitely handle things different the second time around.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Clouser Box

I spent the afternoon tying some clousers while daydreaming about stripers and fishing the salt. I don't know why but I love the look of clousers stacked in a fly box. I'm trying a new color this year. I usually stick with the regular tutti-fruiti chartreuse/pink but this year I'm going to try chartreuse/burgundy. Hopefully it's a winner.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Soft Hackles and Long Legs

Every year I try to host a couple trips for my local fly fishing club. Usually the trips are to delayed harvest streams. The goal is to get people more familiar with how to fish for trout. The day usually comes down to nymphing. Soft hackles have always been a personal favorite. They just seem to work. It could be confidence in fishing them or they could just be the perfect fly. I tried tying a few before the trip.
I didn't like how long the hackle was on each of the flies. No matter how hard I tried to make a sparse looking fly I felt it had too much hackle and the fibers reached too far beyond the fly.
I trimmed them a little but I really don't like doing that. I feel it can give a really artificial look to the fly. Not like the whole thing isn't artificial enough. When we got to the river. The fish were in there usual places. I looked in my fly box trying to decide what to throw first. A voice in the back of my mind kept nagging me. "You just tied those soft hackles last night use those." I figured the best time to try those would be first thing. Then if they didn't work I could move on to other patterns. On my second cast I saw the indicator twitch. I set the hook but missed the fish. I have spent the whole summer chasing small brook trout that hit your fly like starving bluegill. My nymphing techniques were really rusty. After missing a few other strikes I had a fish on.
It was your typical stocked brookie. Bland and beat up but gives a nice tug. The key to most of this water is the drift. For some reason on certain days these fish do not want a dead drift. They want the fly almost dragging behind the indicator. They'll either hit the fly on the drag or hit it on the swing at the end of the drift.
The weather was unseasonably warm. It was in the mid 80's and you could have almost left the waders at home. It's always interesting to see how the fish learn to survive. When they're first dumped in they clump together and stand out like a sore thumb. You can always tell where fish are stocked because there will be about a 100 fish stacked up in a run. It takes about a week or more for the fish to spread out and start acting like an animal that has predators. Many fish were frolicking in the sun just waiting for a heron or eagle to snatch them up. Some fish were figuring it out early. I found this fish in a plunge pool. It had more color than your average stocked brown. It was also lacking the chunkiness of a pellet fed fish. I wonder if it is wild.
There was one section where if you got your drift just right you could catch fish after fish. I tried to show others but nymphing is something that takes a lot of practice. Your setup can make a huge difference. If one person is using just a foot or two longer leader that can be the difference between catching fish or nothing. I found the easiest way to get someone to learn the drift was to just let them use my rod with my setup.
My soft hackles were the fly of the day. The fish seemed to like the long spindly legs. I tried other flies that were similar with smaller legs or none at all. The fish wanted the long legs.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Closest Trout River

The Smith River is less than a 2 and a half hour drive from Raleigh. All I really knew about this river was that it was a tailwater fishery and very technical. The Smith River TU was having a "Fish With A Friend" event and I figured this would be the best way to learn the river. I met up with the group early in the morning. I thought it was funny that even though this was a totally different fishing club they had the same characters. It was a fun group of guys and you could tell they had a deep appreciation for the river. One member gave me a brief history lesson of the Smith. In the 50's Philpott Lake Dam was completed and there was a decision to make it a coldwater fishery. Browns and rainbow trout were stocked and in the 60's biologists found the browns were naturally reproducing. A huge population of alewives and shad had spread in the upper lake and whenever the turbines kicked on these shad would be shredded into trout bait. The result was huge fish. The word was 30yrs ago if you tried to report a big fish that was taken they wouldn't even bother reporting it if the fish wasn't over 10lbs. Records were broken almost weekly. Eventually screens were put in front of the turbines to stop fish from getting sucked in. Walleye were stocked in the upper lake and they also took their toll on the shad population. Biologists realized the water pulsing out of the dam was causing issues. Scouring prevented insects from reproducing correctly. The water is also too cold for other fish species to survive. There is a limited number of prey the trout can feed on. Big trout numbers started to dwindle. The numbers of large trout today are still going down.  There are self sustaining brown trout populations with the average size of 6-8inches. Even though the sizes are small the quantity of fish is great. In a recent survey over 1000 trout were found in a short distance. This has resulted in a change with how the fish are harvested.

The river reminded me of the New River on the North Carolina side. It really did look like a perfect smallmouth stream. I was partnered with a seasoned fisherman named Neal who had excellent knowledge of the river. He started to go over the proper way to fish the river. It was almost as if he knew all my fishing weaknesses and said do that. Many parts of the river are calm and almost like glass.
Slow wading was a must as well as long leaders. I have a hard time casting a leader over 9ft. I can do it but I'm not used to it and I can never get the fly to land exactly where I want. Wading was excruciating. I'm not used to wading that slow and it was hard to be patient. A fish would rise and I'd cast to where I thought it was then it would rise again maybe 6ft further out from where my fly landed. It was like the fish were playing with me. Just rising far enough away to where I couldn't get my cast. If you got impatient and tried to move up too quickly you'd spook all of the fish in the area. The river bottom was gravel and sandy. Trying to wade without making a sound was difficult. My partner caught 5 fish in the first 5minutes. I didn't even get a hit. I figured it was just a matter of time. I also kept hoping for a quick fast stretch of water. Where maybe I could get closer to the fish and not have to be so technical.
I didn't have much luck finding such a place. Neal's action went cold and we started to talk more than fish. It was great getting a chance to know each other. We had a lot in common and he helped my learning curve a lot. Even with his help I went the day with only one hooked fish that came off after about 2 seconds. This river can humble you quickly. It's ideal for someone who wants to perfect their skills. I truly believe if you can be successful on this river you can catch fish anywhere in the US. The river will test all of your skills. Casting, wading and most importantly patience. The trout may not be big but if you catch one it is a true sign that you have progressed as a fly fisherman.

If you'd like to learn more about the Smith River please click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Get A Cool Shirt and Help Flood Vicitms

Cameron from the Fiberglass Manifesto had a post about a company called Rep Your Water. This company is donating $5 from each of the products they sell to the flood victims in Colorado. Check it out.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fly Line Lifespan

I have seen quite a few blogs lately discussing fly line. There are a lot of questions about whether or not an expensive fly line is worth it. Here is my opinion. I have several fly lines that are over 5yrs old. I NEVER clean them. These lines are all lower end in my opinion. They cost less than $30. One is a Sage that was probably $50 band new but I got it onsale. The other lines are Scientific Angler and whatever comes stock on a Cabela's reel. Probably Cortland. I never have once stripped all my line off and ran it through a rag with line cleaner or dish soap. One thing I have noticed with my oldest line is it does look faded, dirty and it's definitely not as smooth as it once was. It does change how the rod casts and I think I get more tangles because the line is just tired. It still performs and I could probably use it a few more years without any complaints. I'm wondering if I had cleaned my line and maintained it properly how much more life I'd get out of it. People seem to switch fly lines almost as often as they do rods and reels. Most of my lines are at least a few years old. How long should a decent fly line last? If I pay $70 for line to me it should last a lifetime.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's Worth It

Many fishing trips have a lot of uncertainty. There's always concern about other anglers getting to the water before you. Will the weather hold? Are the conditions going to be right? Usually there's a long drive involved and you just don't know how things are going to be until you get there.
Even after you get there and things seem right there are still doubts about the fishing.
I cast into each pool with hope that a fish will be there.
More often than not nothing happens.
Every once in awhile you get lucky.
In between fishing spots you fight moving rocks and spider webs so thick they should be called spiders ropes.
Even with all the effort and trouble. It's worth it.