Sunday, December 7, 2008

Line Control is Paramount

Here's a short clip that was put together after a recent guided trip with a regular client/customer Mac Cheek of Greensboro, NC. Though we didn't fish with the intent of getting these clips, they worked out perfectly for putting together a short piece on line control and fishing subtle currents. Great job Mac...

This is the first of many such clips that will be forthcoming over the next several months.....Good fishing!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Rewards of Sticking it Out...

15 degrees, 30mph wind......Cold. There's no other way to put it. And if you don't have some stuff to keep you warm you are quickly asking yourself what I asked myself recently...."Am I crazy?" Of course, you can still find yourself asking that if you are clothed well!

Cold was the word on Thursday Nov 26,2008 when I met Carter Davenport and his friend Patrick Williams for a fishing trip at 0'dark thirty here in Greensboro, NC. We rode up to the mtns, and we knew it would be cold. We made a quick stop at a Walmart on the way up to renew Patrick's license and to grab some gloves and hand and toe warmers. And man was that a good idea.

It was bitterly cold. The first hour or hour and a half was fishing on the ice trimmed edge of the stream, casting into 32.8F degree water that had some small chunks of ice floating in it from an obviously cold still night of low temps in the teens. But I encouraged the guys (and myself!) and assured them that better temps and weather and fishing lay ahead of us, even if not for the first hour or two.

And like clockwork it began. The second place we put in we got almost immediate results. Patrick scored a couple of fish, a couple of good ones, 15-16" fish and one that broke him off (his beast of the day, it seemed like a big fish- - -a large rainbow that departed adorned with two of my favorite winter flies). But that's okay, I'll take losing flies to a big fish over losing them to a tree anyday. Carter soon followed. Like a dozen or so fish in the next 45 minutes, one of them being this brute of a rainbow that must have weighed 6lbs or more and was one of the heaviest bodied rainbows we've seen this year. I must say, and I think the guys would agree, after some fish and that trophy all of a sudden it didn't matter much how cold it was.....Bring it on.

We fished a while longer, caught a few more fish, and had a hot lunch- -chili and trimmings, hot chocolate, and coffee streamside, warming ourselves inside before heading upriver to fish several more places.

The rest of the afternoon was phenomenal. Patrick scored a "Grand Slam), a brookie, brown, and rainbow at least 15" long, as well as between 30 and 40 trout on a day that had most anglers at home tying flies or sitting by a fire. Not us, we had business to do.

Carter also caught at least that many fish. Just proved to me once again what I have believed and practiced for years. That is sticking out some less than ideal conditions to have a chance when a big fish decides to eat. That happened today, and along with 60 or more fish that all decided eating was a good idea too.

Its just as I remarked to Patrick, ".....are we fools for being out in this?....." to which he enthusiastically exclaimed, ".....well yes, fools for trout that is." Well said.

Good things and treasures are found in and through some very unusual circumstances. .......
Whether I am crazy or not.......!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Must be Crazy.......

High Winds, mid 20's, wind chill of 0F or less, and lots of fact near whiteout conditions. I love fly fishing and will fish in nearly any weather condition except a thunderstorm (even did that in my younger days.....boy was that foolish!!!!) but when it is like it was on Friday November 21, 2008 it is just about at the edge of bearable. At least it was at the edge when the wind was blowing. Hardly bearable winter conditions is what my friend and our Men's Ministry pastor Rick Trautman and I found when we arrived at the river on this particular day. I mean it was so incredible that it snowed probably a 1/4" or more in the back of his SUV before we could get completely geared up and in the water. But I love winter fishing and even sometimes on the coldest of days I doubt my decision to step into the water....and find my mind thinking....."am I crazy?" I mean lets be honest, sometimes discomfort and being cold can become pain if you are not properly dressed or prepared. But then again I remembered a slogan that dons my son's wrestling warm up jacket........."Pain is just the feeling of weakness leaving the body...". Now wrestling and fly fishing are obviously very different but the inside "push" to trudge on when things are tough (enter "near blizzard like weather" ) is much the same......its reaching into the gut for that last little bit of whatever that pushes you to go on.

Funny how catching a fish, or maybe a large fish, can change everything. If I could recount and write down all the moments like that in my life whether it was fishing at the coast, or fishing a pond, or maybe a river....whatever it is....that something like a bluefish blitz, a mayfly hatch, a trophy fish - - - all in the "midnight" hour came at the time I least expected it then it would be one of the most interesting things I have ever written.

Like the time that my friend Dave Powers and I, back when the flyfishing community was just learning about albacore, that he and I fished the sand spit at Cape Lookout and for probably 4 solid hours hooked up on those fish and ended up landing about a half dozen of them from 8 to 14 pounds- - -a considerable thing if you have ever tried doing it from the surf. Not to mention that morning the wind was howling (20-25 knots from the East - a bad direction), the water was pretty churned up, and that we actually passed Lefty Kreh (yes, 'the' Lefty Kreh- - -he actually fishes NC/Cape Lookout regularly) on the dock there that morning at Harker's Island Fishing Center- - - and he even remarked to us " you guys are going to have you work cut out for you today....the wind is terrible and coming from the wrong direction...probably won't amount to much..." But to his surprise and ours it turned out to be bad conditions but the result was the opposite. Or the time that my fishing friend Malcolm Robertson, cousin Tim Cooke, and I were on the South Holston in November, on a quiet day, where we watched Malcolm stalk, stay low, and make literally hundreds of casts with a size 18 pheasant tail with a 9 foot 3 weight Winston Rod and a 6X tippet to finally coax a huge brown, like 28 inches long and probably at least 8-9 pounds to take his fly. The investment....? All Day. The result....? Malcolm not only managed to hook the fish but landed that fish too. And it was funny to watch the bait fishermen on the bank then start to "stay low" where they were sitting, sitting there as though they were now convinced that doing so would mean a trophy fish for them too. Or maybe the time that Malcolm and I were fishing a dusk sulphur hatch that was so incredible that we couldn't stop.....never remembering we had not planned to fish here until dark so we didn't bring a flashlight. We forgot that we had a mile walk through heavy forest back to the car.......I mean it was pitch black and there were numerous times I was down on my hands and knees "feeling" for the path. We got back to the car at almost 11pm and I pulled in my driveway at 2am....Yikes. The result....? An incredible hatch I'll always remember even if it meant getting lost in the dark and feeling the uncertainty we felt for probably 2 hours.

Where am I going with all of this.....? A simple point. If you have a good day on the water, catch lots of fish......, a huge fish.... sometimes it will cost you something. Sometimes it will cost you alot. Sometimes there might be some discomfort and pain involved. But sometimes its like life too- - - that stuff is not all bad and it has something good in the end for you. And sometimes the very thing that you find difficult and even frustrating is the very thing that is pushing you to go on and do better. "Suffering" has its benefits.

So from just coming off the heels of fishing in bitter cold, below freezing temps, blowing snow, wind chills at zero or below, ice in the guides, the rod tip frozen so much the line won't move.....that sounds like a pleasant day doesn't it? would I do it again? Absolutely. When are we going?

Ok, that confirms it. I must be crazy..........

Well Done.......!

Sometimes everything goes perfectly and the big fish that you have on ends up in the net despite giving one heck of a good account of itself......and that's exactly what happened on Friday November 14, 2008 when I met Scott and Diane Bertrand of Greensboro for the second of two days of fishing in the mtns.

Scott and Diane were up for the week taking some vacation time and we had already fished earlier in the week and done pretty well. We had fished under challenging conditions on Tuesday Nov 11, 2008 and still caught a good many fish, but today offered hope of something much better, a stream with greatly improved water levels and that still had a touch of color to it. And the hope rang true, as it was a great day. It was great being that it was on the heels of a trip the day before where we had a 50 fish day and landed 3 fish over 20 inches. Today was to be a close to near repeat of that.

Diane really worked for this fish. And I must say that as a guide that is perhaps the most satisfying part of it for me. I mean, don't get me wrong I love it when big fish lose all caution and just take the fly without hesitation. We all love times like that. But Diane worked for this one. We could see the fish. It successfully evaded our efforts for over an hour, but we kept at it. We endured some tangles and many fly changes. But Diane stayed at it. She made good casts.....concentrated on good drifts, nice mends, all of it. Then the moment happened.......just before we were ready to leave Diane made one more cast. It was the one.

The fish let the fly pass its position, and I watched as Diane carefully took in line to control the slack, made a careful mend, then for reasons that none of us know the fish turned and swam slowly downstream and inhaled the fly in which I said without hesitation "he's got it......" to which Diane responded with a perfectly timed hookset, and the battle was on. The fish made a hard run across the pool, made a wallowing splash that would make a wallowing pig in a pen proud, then made another hard dash up a few feet, then it jumped. We gawked at the size of the fish as it made an effort for freedom in the air. The fish then sped upstream and when it reached a shallow ledge it leaped again for freedom, this time at least four feet out of the water, and landed with a big splash but still hooked up. The battle then became a bulldog battle on the bottom. I watched as Diane responded to every "coaching tip" I would give....she kept the rod up, gave line when necessary, took up line too, and did a masterful job at this cat and mouse game of give and take......I mean as well as I have ever witnessed. And she did it on light tippet, another feat that isn't easy no matter how long you've been fly fishing. I told her I was amazed and wished I had video taped that fighting of a fish to use as an example to my fly fishing school students as to how you effectively fight a big fish on light leader material. Needless to say I was impressed!

We photographed the fish then released it to fight again another day. And Diane went on to catch another couple of fish like that, one of which we got to net and another in which the fly just pulled out as I was preparing to net the fish. It was a great day..........indeed....lots of fish and some big fish and an impressive display of fish fighting skills by Diane. Simply put, she did a fantastic job. And this was one of those "get the net......!" for sure.

Get the Net....................!!!!!!!

Normally "demands" aren't good- - - and if our wives, kids, or someone else demands us to do something often we don't react well to it......(sorry honey and everyone else). But let me tell you, if you are a fly fishing guide those are sweet words.......words any client is free to say firmly and loudly....because the reason they are saying it is a really big fish is about to come to hand. "Get the net..." as a phrase is real music to my ears. Of course, the other things going through my mind are how the fish is being played, line managed, the fish's next move anticipated, etc., as well as the tippet size, and absolute firm belief in the ability of the knots I just tied to hold just long enough for us to get the large fish in the net.

The day was Thursday November 13, 2008. I had met Dan Camia and Larry Tomar, both regular guide trip clients and friends for a trout trip. The forecast was for heavy rains the two days prior to the trip.....and after a fall season plagued by low and clear water conditions, I for one was excited at the outlook. Some would have seen the forecast and written the day off. But the stream we were fishing I knew well, and have fished it in the swollen waters of early spring after a snowmelt to the low water of fall when it bares its bones in October. I knew if the water was high and had a bit of color we could do well... and well we did.

Larry landed three rambuncious rainbows, 23", 22", and 21" and all on a size 20 flies.....I know big fish don't hit small flies.....or so they say. I watched in amazement as for once a group of large fish would lose all fear and throw caution to the wind.......which is often what they do when the conditions are like we had. They still eat, they go into a hunt and kill mode, and I have always felt like deep down that is when the largest fish in ANY stream will go on the prowl and decide to eat a 20 plus inch brown that eats those 8 inch fish we often catch.....and believe me that does happen......

Larry will receive three Trophy Fish Award Citation Certificates from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for his fish as part of the Angler Recognition Program. I will bask in the emotion and excitement of seeing three nice fish come to net like that. And I will wait for the next phrase of "music to my ears....." and that is "Get the net..................." . Please say that as often as you like........its always welcome

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall Fishing in the High Country

I could really say my favorite season is all of them...I mean I really love fishing no matter what time of the year it happens to be. But I must say of all the seasons Fall holds a special place with me. Maybe its the beautiful leaves and a landscape rich and ripe with color; perhaps its the refreshing "crispness" of the air; maybe its the low, clear water and small fly fishing, especially the blue winged olive hatches on the Tennessee tailwaters; I am certain of one thing, all of these reasons make the fall one of my favorite times to be outdoors.

Most of you are aware of my love for photography. It goes without saying that fall is a great time for taking pictures (photo: upper Helton Creek in Ashe County, NC). Combine some red, yellow, and orange leaves as a backdrop for a spawning brown or brookie and you have the necessary elements of a great photo coming together.

Most folks are aware of the leaf change and when it occurs. Here in North Carolina, the High Country will see this transformation begin in late September and continue through October. For the most part, from 2500' to 5000' the peak time is sometime between the first and third weeks of October. Weather can change this: a wet spring followed by a dry summer makes for the most striking display of color. Late Season rains can make for more "brown" leaves as in this year. A prolonged mild summer/early fall can push the peak later to late October and early November. So the weather plays a big part.

And the last part......ever have the joy of fishing during the peak leaf drop? I mean like when you snag a leaf on every drift. It seems like you snag the on a low backcast, during a presentation as the fly is drifting, at the end of the drift when the fly swings, while stripping line or making a pickup- - - -in each case the fly snags a wind resistant leaf and you get to witness the end of your leader/tippet become a twisted up, balled up mess that would make Don King's hairdo look tame.

But then again, just like all fishing---we take what we find and make the best of it. And the fall season is one of the best...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NC Stocked Trout in 2009 will be sterile.....

In a news statement from the folks at the North Carolina Wildlife Commission in Raleigh fisheries supervisor Mallory Martin has some interesting plans to share. Hatchery- raised trout stocked in NC streams beginning in 2009 won't experience parenthood. That's because all brook, brown, and rainbow trout will be sterile and unable to reproduce.
The NCWRC gradually has been shifting its production of trout from those that can produce fry to those that won't be able to spawn offspring.
The impetus for converting to sterile trout is to help preserve the native Southern Appalachian brook trout, said Mallory Martin, the commission's regional fisheries supervisor in Marion, NC.
Hatcheries raise northern brook trout, which have mixed with native brookies, reducing the native trout population. Genetic assessments show 39% of NC brook troutare pure natives, 9% are direct descendents of northern brookies and 52% are a mixture. Sterile trout can reduce this hybridization. "The primary reason is to preserve the genetic integrity of our Southern Appalachian brook trout," said Doug Besler, cold-water research coordinator.
When fishery technicians begin the 2009 stockings, all 800,000 fish will be sterile or, as they're known to biologists, triploids. About half the fish stocked in 2008 will be triploids. Triploids look and act like non-sterile fish but grow faster. Each year, fishery technicians release hatchery fish into 1,100 miles of hatchery supported waters and into 18 delayed harvest stream segments and lakes managed for catch and release. Martin said only a few reproduce in the wild. Another benefit to stocking sterile trout is that any less hardy hatchery fish that make their way upstream into wild trout sections can't breed with naturalized rainbows and browns and consequently weaken their gene pools. He said the agency until 1970 supplemented wild-trout streams with stocked longer.
"We don't go back to wild trout waters with hatchery fish," he said. Martin said NC might be the Southeastern state to go with sterile trout. Virginia has been experimenting with triploids. Idaho stocks triploid rainbows to protect native cutthroat trout. To create triploids, hatchery workers pressure-treat trout eggs inside a metal chamber. The pressure results in an extra set of chromosomes, three rather than two, thus making the unborn fish sterile. NC WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION @ 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Over My Waders......

......Could it be from the rains of Hurricane Fay, or maybe an unannounced change in the release schedule by the TVA on one of the TVA tailwaters, or perhaps a lapse in judgement of a rock ledge on the New River........actually its none of those.
Its that time of year again, and Fall is a big season for us here at Jeffrey Wilkins Fly Fishing. Fall is the time that many of us celebrate the change of season that brings with it some great colors and scenery, cooler temperatures, fewer of those pesky bugs and no seeums of summer, and great hatches of blue winged olives and rising fish. It ushers in perhaps the beginning of several months of my favorite time of the year....cold weather.
Why? There are fewer anglers. On the worst of days there are sometimes NO other anglers. And often the fish don't care. They still have to eat. Also, there's something in me that just likes to put on tons of fleece, gloves, you name it and go out and catch fish on a day where other folks will say "the odds are against you." Its sort of like being handed the ball at half court with one second on the clock and in position to launch a winning long range jump shot. But even in the most impossible situations those shots do sometimes go in. And so it is with the worst of days. A score is always possible.
When I think of being in "over my waders" I think of the challenges and opportunities of the new year coming. The planning and preparation for a new season begins sometimes several months to a year in advance. In this economy you simply can't wait around and let things happen. what used to take a few weeks to plan and fill like classes and trips now can take months. What used to be easy when "the movie" (a River Runs through IT) came out is now a great challenge....and that is marketing events and pretty much everything I do. Fall is the time when all of our fly fishing schools, classes, trips, pretty much everything that we do all year long has to be brought to completion as far arrangements and plans. So when a class or trip comes about it has been the result of many months of preparation, marketing, and planning. Sometimes when you are or want to be on the water everyday, or several days in a row like it can be when business is good..... it literally feels like "in over my waders."
But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Heading for Home.......

All good things come to an end........after rising early at 5:30am, we all packed into our van and headed down to turn our vehicle in and catch the airport shuttle. All of us were to fly out this morning, Aug 30, and by 6:30 we were all at the airport checking our bags, getting our boarding passes, then through the security checkpoint, and finally to the gate. We had a slight delay as all operations stopped as Vice President Cheney arrived /landed and was shuttled to his destination. Finally we were cleared for boarding. I couldn't pass up the opportunity for one last gander and video clip of the majestic Teton range as I walked from the gate across the tarmac and boarded the plane. In minutes we'd be off for home...and another great trip in the books. Soon I'll be planning and preparing for next year's return, Lord willing.

Fighting a Green River Rainbow....

On our Wyoming 2008 trip we fished the famous Green River midweek. The river is a phenomenal trout stream, and ask any guide in the Jackson Hole or Pinedale area or in this area of Wyoming and they'll likely tell you their favorite stream is the Green. It is a great river and loaded with large fish. And it has many deep GREEN serpentine bends....hence the name. In this video clip Dr. Gary Lee is playing what turned out to be a nice rainbow. Gary later hooked a really nice brown but it came unbuttoned. Out of this deep run we got 3 rainbows, that one large brown, and several whitefish.

Riding out from the Backcountry....

I had forgotten about the incline at the end of our ride out of the backcountry on our trip, but quickly remembered when we reached it and it was time to ride out. Looking down beside you and seeing a 1500 foot drop off is a little unnerving but horses seem to do okay with it. Not to mention that all of this is taking place at 9000 feet. The stream at the bottom of the drop is the Buffalo Fork of the Snake, a fine trout stream.....wild cutthroats all the way to be exact. Its also very lightly fished compared to other area waters......mainly because it takes so long to get to the accessible water.

Arriving in North Fork Meadow...

After about an hour and 15 minute horseback ride from camp, we settled into North Fork Meadow on the North Fork of the Buffalo. Our outfitter Josh Roth had talked up the stream a lot, swearing us to secrecy, and man do we see why now. By the end of the day everyone would call this the "dream stream". We broke up into groups, Pat Burney started in the middle, Munsey and his dad Munsey Sr. went downstream, and Gary Lee, Ken and Gregg Williamson and I went upstream. Everyone pretty much whacked them good, I worked with Gary most of the time and he tallied 60 fish altogether with the largest fish a 17-18" cutthroat that smashed a #10 Schroeder's Parachute Hopper. We caught a mix of cutthroats and brookies. Upstream and downstream of us the guys were getting into cutthroats of 18-20" with a couple or three or four fish caught that were 20" . The best part was the majority of the fish came on dry flies, BIG dry flies. It would be conservative to say we had a 100-150 fish day, all in all it was awesome. And it truly was the "dream stream". We won't say where Josh, .......promise!

Backcountry Breakfast.....

Sleeping under the stars is great, having breakfast by a fire in the meadow deep in the backcountry is even better. Everything tastes better here. From a breakfast casserole over the open fire with eggs, sausage, peppers, eggs, and pepperjack cheese to french toast and link all of it was absolutely delicious and expertly prepared by our outfitter and camp cook Josh Roth. Josh's dutch oven entrees drew the praises of all our guys as we feasted on the well prepared dishes. I usually lose some pounds on our trip because of all the hiking and the dry climate but not this time. I think I maybe picked up a few pounds......great food Josh and thanks again!

Mia the Dog......

Most western outfitters who do horse pack trips into the backcountry wilderness of the West have a dog that comes along. Our Wyoming Sampler is no different. The outfitter we work with on this portion of our trip is Josh Roth, a real cowboy and an outstanding outfitter who really does a great job at what he does. Josh's specialty is horse pack fishing trips in summer and big game hunting trips in fall and early spring. And he's good at it, as our customers raved about on, during, and after this particular trip. And his dog Mia (pronounced My-uh) was an extra touch of entertainment on the trip. From sitting around the fire, to during our meals, and all times in between there she was. She was a real show to be frank. Part blue healer and border collie, she had unbelievable energy and would literally play fetch with a stick or whatever else you would throw for as long as you would stand there and toss the stick for her. She came along on all our horse rides too, running behind, with, and ahead of us on the fringes of the trail, on a seemingly unending adventure jumping over bushes, logs, and chasing whatever crossed her path.....and squirrels were a favorite of hers. The trip was very enjoyable, and having Mia along was a real treat.....and all of my customers loved her.

Soda Fork of the Buffalo.....a "Dream Stream"

All trout water is good in my book, some better than others, and out West its plentiful. Occasionally, though, along comes a stream that seems to define what an ideal stream is. Such is the Soda Fork of the Buffalo. A high alpine tributary to the Snake River, it originates in the Yellowstone backcountry...that is the part of Yellowstone that is totally inaccessible except to those willing to go by foot or horse 9 miles into the backcountry. And that's the minimum. Because of that, you could almost count on two hands the number of fishermen this water sees in a year's time. And it shows. Not only is the river and riparian area clean and pristine, the water teems with big, wild, and willing cutthroats....and lots of them. In our fishing we averaged about a 15-18 inch fish out of every nice run and pool there was. Some of the better bends might cough up three or four of them. The best pools gave up fish of 18-20 inches....and the best part? The fish would eat a size 10 dry fly with reckless abandon. Does it get any better than that?

Riding In 1500 Feet above the Buffalo Fork of the Snake

One of the most thrilling aspects of doing a backcountry trip is some of the incredible scenery along the way, and our Wyoming Trip in August 2008 was no different. One of the best views of the whole trip was the trail ride alongside the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River.....for probably a quarter mile we rode a skinny trail long the edge of a high ridge at probably 9000ft, all the while looking down about 1500 feet to the river , was it ever breathtaking.

Riding into the Wilderness....Turpin Meadows

Our trip began with a ride in on Aug 24, 2008 with a seven mile horseback ride into the backcountry through the beautiful Buffalo Fork River valley and Turpin Meadows. After meeting Josh Roth our outfitter at the trailhead at 9:00am, we packed up the horses and headed in to our final destination- - -a high alpine meadow on the Soda Fork of the Buffalo- - -a stream that after our day of fishing the next day everyone would consider a "dream stream". The ride in had a few thrills, one at the very beginning that is in this video clip- - -and that is riding in over a high ridge with the Buffalo Fork about 1500feet below us. No guardrail, no obstructions.....just a drop off.....and wow what a view it was.

Green River Antelope

Part of our Wyoming trip in 2008 was to fish the Green River near Cora, WY and I drove down to the Warren Bridge area to check out that part of the river prior to our trip here later in the week. I keep a finger on the pulse of all the places we fish through the friends, outfitters, and guides that I work with and through there, but I always like to check things out first hand to confirm the current conditions. Every fall the antelope migrate from all over NW Wyoming down the Hoback Canyon and through the buttes and sagebrush flats and grasslands on their way to their wintering grounds in the Red Desert near Pinedale, WY. They are interesting animals, requiring very little water to live. Go thing too, other than the river you won't find much water in this area. It is a river through a desert.

A Real Life Bullwinkle.....Well, maybe not

As I left Jackson, WY on Friday morning Aug 22 at a little past 5:30am I stopped into Smiths for a cup of strong coffee and a donut and then headed south on 189 toward the Hoback Canyon. I was headed today to sample the upper Hoback Canyon where we would end up fishing near the end of our week in Wyoming. I anticipated red hot dry fly fishing as the hoppers were everywhere. It was 36F when I got out of the van, but surprisingly even that early in the morning red hot dry fly fishing with a hopper is exactly what I the tune of about 25 cutties on top. It was great. An extra treat was seeing this moose on the way in. Actually there were two moose (or is it meese......plural?...who knows but they were big!) and they calmly watched as I went by them. I felt a little nervous as they can be aggressive and are often known to be more dangerous than a grizzly. Fortunately these guys just gave me a look and decided that getting out of the area was a good idea.....what a thrill and what a great thing to have the camera on me.

Whoa.....there's a Buffalo...and another and another....

They are pretty common, at least in this part of the world anyway, but still an interesting animal and always neat to see anytime you encounter them. I encountered this group of bison on my way up to fish the upper Gros Ventre. I had just left Jackson, WY and the rental car place and was headed up the road to Kelly and had just passed the massive Gros Ventre Butte when this large group of bison decided they wanted to cross the highway. And of course, when they decide to go somewhere its a good idea just to get out of the way.......which I promptly did of course.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008.....Official Day Six

After a great night's sleep we had a big breakfast at the lodge, and packed our lunches, then rode to upper Hoback Canyon an hour and 15 minutes away. Munsey Wheby Jr, Gregg and Ken Williamson fished the lower section of canyon and Munsey caught 20-30 fish (several good fish including one fish that was 18-19" and several that were in the 14-15" range all cutts). Gregg caught 25-30 fish (several 10-12" and one 18" beast and a few 15" too), Ken caught 20-25 fish (several 10-12 inchers and one 15-16" cutt), Pat caught about a dozen (several 10-12 " fish and a couple 14-15" and one 17" w/great colors), Gary caught 6 fish ( one 14" and raised several large ones but missed them), Munsey Sr (caught 4 fish, all cutts). This part of the Hoback is little known- - -almost unknown for the most part, and it takes some effort getting to. The guys remarked about how they found it hard to believe such a small stream could have the large fish it has. In some places you could almost jump across it and it harbors some 20" cutties. Most of the fish were caught on PMX dries, a Jeff's Redneck Caddis (the big fish hammered this fly), and a few were caught on a Copper John Dropper size 16. We caught lots of fish, saw antelope on the way in and a large herd of buffalo on the way out. In the distance we could see the growing "New Fork Fire." We rode back as the sun set on yet another day in this angling paradise. Tomorrow is our final day, and a float on the Snake River is what we'll do.

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008....Official Day Five....The New Fork Fire

When I fished the Green River on Friday 8/22/08 one day ahead of our group I noticed a couple of small smoke plumes that appeared to be a small forest fire. In two days of high winds and dry weather the flames were fanned so much that the fire is now a widespread thing. It has been named the "New Fork Fire" by the locals, as it is right on one of the best trout streams in Wyoming, the New Fork River. The fire has burned thousands of acres and still rages on. In the photo the coverage of the fire has more than tripled in size from only a few days ago. If it continues we'll likely see this one on the national news as it is very close to threatening some homes and ranches that are nearby. We noticed the thick air, the smoky haze covering the valley. At night, you could see the "glow" of the fire from miles away on our deck. Fires are a part of the process but it sure feels scary knowing two mountain ridges less than 10 miles away separate you from a raging fire.

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008....Official Day Five

We rose early, it was below freezing! We had a big breakfast at the Village Inn, then we were off to the Green River, and more specifically the lodge we had reserved, the DC Bar Guest Ranch's Wind River Lodge. When we arrived, we quickly hopped out and unloaded, packed up our fishing gear and lunches, and headed down to Green. It was very windy, to put it mildly. It was also chilly (20-25F degree drop in temp from when I fished the Green on Thursday of last week), and near 40mph wind with gusts to 50 .....tough casting conditions to say the least. We fished at the beginning of the Bridger Teton Forest, Pat caught 7 or 8 a few rainbows, several whitefish, Gary (3 Rainbows, had a large brown on, 3 whitefish), Munsey Jr (caught a dozen to fifteen with some plump rainbows, a couple of large ones where we ended), Munsey Sr caught a couple rainbows, Gregg(caught 15-20 fish, 1 near 20" brown and several rainbows) , Ken caught 10 fish, several rainbows, and broke off a good one later in the day on a dry. Where we finished up there were fish rising, Gary nailed a rising rainbow, Pat a brown, and Gary had a large fish splash his dry. Since it started to turn even cooler and the wind never laid down we packed it in and headed home. Last week when I drove down to Cora I saw what appeared to be a forest fire, and sure enough it was. The "New Fork" fire (the New Fork is a famous trout stream also) in a couple of days would turn into a large forest fire- - - -so much so that the whole valley had tons of smoke and haze. Many thousands of acres were charred and still more are burning as I write this. The fire is uncontained at present. A tough day but everyone still caught some fish....and some did quite well considering the conditions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008.....Official Days Two, Three, and Four

After a great dinner at Merry Piglets Mexican grill on Main Street in Jackson Hole, we got some rest and then were up bright and early on Sunday. We headed to the Virginian (the best breakfast eats in town!) and had a hearty breakfast, then we headed north to Turpin Meadow in Buffalo Valley to meet up with our backcountry guide Josh Roth. Josh and his trail hand Gil would accompany us into the backcountry seven miles on horseback. We saddled up, the guys packed our gear, and soon we were off. It took us two hours by horse to reach camp, we passed several breathtaking views of the Buffalo Fork of the Snake, some of which we were riding a trail that was about 1000 - 1500 ft above the river and STRAIGHT DOWN. I have fished in mountain areas most of my life and have seen some great scenery but this ranked right at the top.
It was quite dry and dusty on the way in, Josh had packed us lunches and water and we ate when we reached camp. Then it was unpacking the gear, grabbing the fishing gear, and we all geared up and headed off for the river. We were in one of the most beautiful meadows you could imagine, ready to fish the famed Soda Fork of the Buffalo. We would soon find out why the stream received so many great accolades......because it was loaded with large cutthroats who gobble size 8 and 10 dry flies with reckless abandon. Several of the guys caught double digits, when we all met back up at camp I always like to find out how everyone did, there were sheepish grins on nearly every face. Several guys caught some really nice fish, Gregg Williamson and Munsey Wheby both caught fish of almost 20inches long. Both of them caught several large fish, all of them cutthroats. All together there were probably 50-60 fish caught all together....the majority of them 14-18 inch cutties. And the river was like a winding, serpentine like blue/green snake, winding its was through an alpine meadow lined with firs, willows, and tall grasses. Simply stated, it was a jewel of a trout stream. And devoid of any sign of other fisherman....not one single footprint anywhere.

After fishing, we returned to camp where Josh had prepared a dinner of fajitas made with Elk, peppers, and seasoning, it was so tasty we all wanted to lick our plates. We also had a salad, and finished it off with a golden cake with chocolate frosting that Josh prepared over the open was incredible. After the cake, we all sat by the fire for a while telling stories and recounting the day's incredible fishing. Then each of us one by one retreated to our tents for a good nights sleep under an incredibly clear, blue, and starry Wyoming night sky.

We started Monday with an awesome breakfast, Josh made a great casserole dish with potatoes, cheese, eggs, and bacon, and cowboy coffee (my favorite)....everyone raved over it and constantly remarked about how good it was. After breakfast, we packed our gear and Josh and Gil loaded up the gear and our lunches . Soon we were off to fish what everyone after today would call the "Dream stream".....the North Fork of the Buffalo. And a dream stream it was. Munsey, Pat Burney, Gregg Williamson, Ken Williamson, Gary Lee, and Munsey Sr.- - all of them caught tons of fish, some up to 20" - -Gregg's monster cutthroat was the largest of the day. The fish smashed a dry fly, Gregg was quite excited about it. I worked with Gary most of the day as the fishing was slow for him the first day..... not so on this day. Gary caught several nice cutthroats including one beautiful 18" fish, plus a ton of brookies, and what was a slow day the day before ended up being a 60 fish day for Gary- - and "most fish" honors for Gary on the day. I must say Josh took us to one of his "backcountry jewels", and I must say if I designed a perfect trout fishing stream for dry fly fishing it would look a whole lot like this one. Deep, blue-green bends, foam lines, undercuts, overhanging willows, you name it....the perfect dry fly fishing stream. I don't think I am exaggerating in saying the guys caught somewhere between 100 and 150 fish, a combination of cutthroats and brookies, and the most of the being on big dry flies....Schroeders parachute hopper (I keep "preaching" about the merits of that fly- -and go thing that the guys loaded up on them too ), yellow PMX's, Dave's Hoppers, Adams Parachutes, Various caddis in a light color. They simply killed dry flies today. Gary caught a double, a pair of brookies, something I have never personally had happen out west when guiding someone. I'll be posting a picture of those fish when we return home at the end of the month.

With the sun starting to fall, we packed it in, packed up the horses, and headed back for camp. Josh wanted to get us back before it started getting dark/dusk as grizzlies frequent this area and they commonly walk the horse trails and paths during low light periods. We made it back to camp, unpacked our stuff, and sat by the fire while Josh and Gil got dinner going. We had some large marinated pork chops (awesome!) , cowboy potatoes, salad, and a peach cobbler that Josh whipped up and cooked over the fire. Pretty impressive to have those types of dishes and especially desserts like that out in the wilderness. And was it tasty .....incredibly delicious would be the best way to describe it. After dinner and sitting by the fire we all turned in in hopes of getting a good night's sleep.

We got up early, had French toast and sausage by the campfire, then geared up for a few hours fishing before we had to pack up and begin the ride out of the backcountry. It was extremely windy, like a weather system was moving in, and the wind blew 40mph sustained at times and gusts even higher than that. The guys caught maybe a half dozen of cutthroats, maybe 8 or 10 whitefish, but definitely more difficult fishing with the weather. Also, it was early and cutties don't always come up during the cool morning hours. We all came back to the camp, ate our lunch, and headed out 2hrs on horseback back to the trailhead where our cars were.

We all thanked Josh and Gil, loaded our gear into the cars and back off to Jackson were were. It took us a little over an hour but we made it back and checked into our rooms. After unpacking and doing some laundry, we were off to have dinnner and then back to get some rest and get ready for our jaunt down to Cora, Wyoming on Thursday to fish the Green River and also the upper Hoback Peak canyon. It should be great fun.....the adventure continues....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008 ....Official Day One

I met Gregg Williamson on Friday night, Gregg's flight had arrived at 8:30pm and I picked him up at the airport. Gregg and I got up early and fished the famous Flat Creek on the Elk Preserve- --man was it tough. Two fish follows and that was it. Of course, we only fished for probably an hour. At least the one of the cutthroats that gave a look was a really good one. (photo above: Munsey Wheby, Jr. releases a nice dry fly caught Snake R Cutthroat, Granite Creek, Hoback Canyon, Wyoming).

After fishing, Gregg and I headed back to the airport and picked up the other guys. Dr. Pat Burney, Dr. Munsey Wheby, Munsey Wheby, Jr., Dr. Gary Lee, and Gregg's brother Ken Williamson from San Diego. We got everyone, went up to Schwabacher Landing to let them get a picture of the Grand Teton Range, then we headed to High Country Flies and then to ORVIS Jackson Hole to get everyone a fishing license. I had placed a call to our friends at Cache Creek Inn where we were staying and they worked it out so we could check in early (1:00 as opposed to 4:00pm)...which ultimately meant that we could get our stuff unloaded and off and fishing in probably an hour and a half afterward. And that's what we did. We unloaded our stuff and packed our fishing gear, and hopped in the vehicles and headed south out of Jackson. Since no one had had lunch we stopped at McDonalds on the way out of town, then we were off.

We drove south through Hoback Canyon and arrived to find no one fishing Granite Creek, a jewel of a native cutthroat stream. We got in and several guys caught a fish on their first cast. We used an assortment of Schroeder parachute hoppers (the best all purpose late summer fly in the West in my opinion), PMX's, Jeff's Rubberleg Caddis, and also a dry/dropper combo utilizing a small Prince nymph. In any case, the fish were on. Munsey Wheby caught the first nice fish I saw, a 13" cutthroat. The guys individually caught anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen fish apiece, about 40-50 fish between everyone. Gregg Williamson had the largest fish of the afternoon, a gorgeous 18" cutthroat that inhaled Gregg's parachute hopper.
With light fading fast we decided to hit the Hoback on the way home. The guys tallied another dozen fish or so, with Gregg's brother Ken- -on his first fly fishing trip- - -caught 7 cutthroats and had one very nice one on that came unhooked. All in all it was a good afternoon, although there were times the wind was howling at 30-40mph. But it didn't stop the fish from feeding. We packed it in and headed back to Jackson, and had a nice dinner at Merry Piglets- - -a fantastic Tex/Mex restaurant.
We are all quite excited as we will be getting up early tomorrow morning, having a hearty breakfast, then we'll be heading north up to Turpin Meadows just north of Moran Junction and just Southwest of Yellowstone National Park. From the Turpin Meadows trailhead we'll ride horseback 2 hours into the backcountry, and 7-8 miles from any development or roads. The only ways in are by horse or foot......and cell phones don't work here at all!
At first it was counting the its counting the hours.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Truly Native......Truly Special

Its Friday Aug 22, 2008, I left Jackson Hole at 5:30 en route to Bondurant, then to the upper Hoback Canyon Wilderness area. It was chilly, at least when you are used to 90's. It was 34F when I stepped out of the van and suited up.

I had passed a small group of antelope and two moose on the way in. And this is a bear area, and I was fishing with the feeling I was being was eerie with no other anglers one around. I finished rigging up and fished through a couple of runs until I came to a nice willow lined corner run or hole, it had some decent depth to it. The first cast with a parachute hopper and a nice cutthroat came up and munched it. Four more cast to the same run, four more cutties. And all of them decent fish. Little did I know that it was hopper time and that the next three hours would be filled with 20-25 native Snake River finespotted Cutthroats.

The Snake River fine spot is indigenous to the Snake River and its tributaries. That is, it is a true native to the area and has always been here. They are a genetically different subspecies, and the Jackson Hole area and neighboring waters hold good numbers of them. Simply put, it is native trout angling at its finest. It is known for a ravenous appetite and willingness to feed on top....and the latter is does indeed! When it comes down to it, if the conditions are stable what you have is the best dry fly opportunity you'll ever get.

Where the Buffalo Roam...

After landing yesterday in Jackson Hole I took the road away from the airport to Kelly, and along the way saw the usual scene here.....grassland or savanna with a Grand Teton backdrop, with the grassland dotted with a herd of bison. It is a wild place for sure....

One of the things I have always loved about Jackson Hole, Wyoming is its beauty, whether water, land, the creatures therein- - -there's just something that stirs my soul about this place. And its always been that way, since my first trip here in the mid 90's.

I stopped to check out these bison, and they snorted, stared, and then posed as I snapped off a few shots of them before they decided to move on. There must have been thirty of them or more. They just continued to eat while I moved along so I could try some fishing on the Gros Ventre before darkness came.

I was thinking while I was driving about how often really incredible stuff - - -like seeing these beasts- - -suddenly become part of a fishing trip. And that's another reason I love what I do

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mountains of Flies, For The Mountains of Wyoming!

One of my favorite things is getting ready for a trip, and usually the last two weeks before a departure for a Western trip I am consumed with last minute details. One of those details is filling the boxes with some great patterns. This year is no different, and no less than fifty or sixty dozen worth the last few days before this year's Wyoming trip.
One of the things I usually polish up on is tying efficiency and speed. I mean I need to be able to crank out as many flies as possible as quickly as possible - - -not only for the "guide's box" but also for several customers too. One thing is for sure, when it comes to flies I go crazy- - -that is crazy in tying lots of different patterns in hopes of having a full box of "cutthroat chocolates" for the trip.
Another thing is for sure too. That is no matter how many flies you tie or buy there'll always be one "gotta have it" fly that no one was expecting. And that's what makes fishing fishing- - - -and tying tying.
Well, enough typing for me.....back to work and see if I can crank out a few more dozen before the day is through.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Counting the Days...

Its August again, and other than summer fishing around our area it always means its time to head to Wyoming. On August 21 I'll be heading out to do a weeklong trip with six great guys. Its a dream trip in many ways- -I mean these guys are fantastic-both as clients and friends, and I can't wait to experience the wonder of this part of the West. Every time out is just as exciting as the first time almost 20 years ago.

There's something about getting ready for the trip that is just as exciting as the trip itself. Some of it is the planning- -which I enjoy. For some it is the talking up the trip, yet some its the anticipation of a week in paradise that never comes soon enough- -but one thing is for sure no matter which one you enjoy its all fun.

We'll be doing a horseback trip into the wilds of Wyoming near the headwaters of the Snake River. We'll be lake fishing at 10000ft and fishing the Soda Fork of the Buffalo--the headwaters of the Snake River that has its origins at the edge of the wilderness area of Yellowstone National Park. Add to that some wade fishing on the world renowned Green River, the Hoback, the Greys, and a float down the Snake as our finale- -it all adds up to a great time. I can't wait......10 days and counting

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life is Good....

I was sitting here this weekend reflecting on how great a summer it has been and working on building a website with my dear friend Anthony Hipps, and later tying some flies that Anthony had shared with me. I also thought of in two weeks how I'd be hopping on a plane and heading out to Wyoming for two weeks. All in all right now life is good. Not to say there aren't some challenges here and there, but all in all things are better than I deserve for sure. I praise God for that, its all his grace.

Then I thought that is really the way it is here in our country. I mean when it comes down to it we have it pretty good. Most of us live in a nice home. We have a vehicle, maybe several. We don't worry about where the next meal is coming from. We can sleep at night without fear that an intruder is going to break in and invade our home. Simply put, if we have the above things that effectively puts us in the upper 5% of the world's population. And, things aren't as bad in our country as the media would have us believe.

And then there's fishing. In North Carolina, we have access within hours of everything from brook trout to blue marlin - - -everything from the expanse of the gulfstream to wild trout streams you could straddle. All in all we have it pretty good. 4000 miles of designated trout water and probably as much more that is not designated. We have some of the best saltwater and estuary fishing anywhere, our Outer Banks are world renowned for the surf fishing you can enjoy there. In the Piedmont we are 1.5 to 2hrs from what many consider (and I agree) is the best smallmouth fishery in the county - - -the New River. The Piedmont is laced with everything from slow, meandering sand bottomed creeks and streams to ponds to large reservoirs-- - some of which have been host to some well known bass fishing tournament circuits- - even the Bassmaster Classic. And, as if that's not enough, we are bordered by Tennessee to the west, home to the South Holston and Watauga River tailwaters -- - two streams that rival any in the country on a good day - - -and the SoHo which many believe is the best trout stream in the South and maybe top 2 or 3 in the East- - to which I also agree. And then there's the Jocassee Gorges area in South Carolina (very rugged), the mountains of north Georgia, the commonwealth of Virginia - - - with its hundreds of fishing opportunities. Simply put we are in a fisherman's paradise. With all of that said I'd say life is pretty good......pretty good indeed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What goes into a new Fly.......

"Do you tie your own flies?".....a customer asked just recently. "Yes, I do" I replied. "In fact, its one of the most enjoyable aspects of fly fishing to me, and the best part of it all is when you design a fly of your own and go through the sometimes days, weeks, or even months of tweaking it to get it right", I continued as I contemplated briefly how I had just done this with a few new sulphur patterns for the demanding hatches of the Tennessee and Virginia tailwater rivers.

I was sharing a great day with client Dr. Bose Ravenel of High Point, NC. "The interesting thing too is that its tied with shipping foam, yarn, a pinch of fur and a duck feather, and is really very simple" I stated. "But best of all the fish love it" I said after that, and this day they indeed did. I watched as Dr. Ravenel hooked fish after fish with it, and on a stretch of river that is known for its great hatches and numbers of fish but also for how difficult it can be to get those fish to take a fly. But today was different, and the fish seemed to love the fly. And it had been that way all summer long with this pattern. The fly seemed to hit on something, and the continued success with it earned it a permanent spot in my guided trip fly box. I couldn't help feeling good about it and feel guilty as I watched Dr. Ravenel hook up several times on good fish with this fly when guys above us and below us weren't hooking up like he was.

I must say that one very satisfying aspect of the tying part of what I do is figuring out what makes a fly work or tick. And often the side that customers don't get a peek at is all the personal R&D (research and development is what I call it) that goes into it, plus many late nights here and there tweaking the fly to get it right. And often I have maybe a hundred hours or more in tweaking and developing a fly.

One other aspect is that when I test a fly I already know where to take it to give it a real test. I don't fish it in riffles or fast water or totally base my judgements on the merits of a fly by fishing it in that type of water, I choose places /water types where I know the fish will be selective and where I know from experience more and likely they will be very difficult to catch. That way I know for sure the fly has merit.

One last thing is that I give a few to my fly fishing guide, fishing bums, and fishing friends whom I know will give it a real test and give me an honest opinion of it with no sugar coating. That input is critical and can reveal the weaknesses of a pattern really quickly. Often they offer input into changing certain materials or aspects of it. All in all its a pretty good deal. I get good info, they get a new fly pattern.

So there it is on the design of a fly. It is late summer and I have accumulated some "experimentals" to get out on the water and try. Wonder if my wife will see through my need to do some "R&D" fishing with them.............and I might hear what I sometimes do ...."Are you sure you aren't just going fishing?" she'd which I reply....."yep, Honey, looks like you caught me again." But it was worth a try....Good fishing to you til next time

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Picture Paradise.....

Fly fishing has so many hidden treasures, I guess any outdoor activity does. I mean, its the fishing we love to do and it keeps us going back, but I must admit that while catching fish is important there are so many other pluses to this wonderful sport.

For some it is the allure of just being outdoors. For others its the scenery, or just being in a wild or wilderness place. And some it is the wildlife or trees or plants or animal life. For me one of the big pluses has always been the opportunity to photograph so many neat and interesting places, people, seasons, you name it. Simply put, you almost never run out of great photographic opportunities. And with a profession like mine, the opportunity to snap off several dozen to a hundred pictures every day means a lot of enjoyment on my part.

Photography has changed a lot too. I mean the cameras are a technological miracle. While I still enjoy shooting a 35mm SLR and film I must say that the modern digital cameras have become my camera of choice. Often customers and folks who visit our website ask "What type of camera do you use?" I usually grin as I know they must be expecting some super complicated answer, and its funny because I have never really been much of a photographer and you could put my technical knowledge of cameras and photography in general in a thimble.

For many seasons (20yrs) I used a Ricoh RDC-300. If you have seen one or are familiar with one, you know what a dinosaur it is. It was one of the first digital cameras ever made, and at the time was a fairly high end camera. It did great macro shots, which I love for shooting mayflies and other insects, and close ups of fish too. In fact, it did a superior job even to some of the digital cameras of today - -many of which carry a high price tag. I shot tens of thousands of pictures with it, and really loved that camera, that is until a warm spring day on the South Fork of the Holston in Sugar Grove, VA two years ago.

I was mid way through a trip with good friend and client Mike Workman and his son Kyle who live in Thomasville, NC. We were on a trip and Kyle, a soon to be graduating high school student, was doing his senior project on fly fishing. I had located a couple of behemoth rainbows for Kyle, and we got into position to make a cast. Kyle made a cast to the nearest fish, the fly landed, sank, and just as it began to drift the fish made a sharp head turn to the right and finned over slowly and inhaled Kyle's fly. It was as if the fish had been programmed to do it. I coached Kyle as he set the hook perfectly and the rainbow tore up the pool in front of us, the great fish realizing full well that it had made a terrible mistake. Kyle played the near 2ft long rainbow perfectly, and the fish, tiring of its valiant fight gently came to the surface as Kyle glided the fish toward my net. Just as I reached forward the left front velcro pocket on my casting shirt came open and "kerploosh"....into the drink went my trusty Ricoh. I netted the fish and grabbed the camera too, both elated and disgusted at the same time. We landed the fish, released it, and then I realized what a shame we'd get no picture of this huge fish. And also I knew this time the camera was probably going to get its watery fate, having escaped previous and numerous encounters like this over the years.

So I decided to invest in a new camera. After a lot of reading and researching I settled on a Canon Powershot. I am a Canon fanatic anyway, so that part was easy. The model is an A630, and has more features that I could possibly use. It is a 8.0 megapixel and can be used in auto mode or manual like a standard SLR. It has black and white, color, enhanced color capability, and let me tell you - - for macro shots of bugs and flies it has a minimum focus distance of 2cm. You can literally fill the frame of the picture with a size 28 Midge or the real insect and see either in perfect detail. And as an added bonus it also is able to shoot short videos. And to sum it up, the camera must be very well sealed as it has already survived a dunking on the South Holston in Tennessee and the New River in Virginia.

So there you have it. I'll say it again......I love pictures and I love taking lots of them. If the fishing is slow I can always find a good picture somewhere. I guess to me there are so many wonderful places we fish around NC, TN, and VA that I'll never run out of those opportunities. And that's fine by me.....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thanks My Dear........

Its that time of year.....our anniversary, a time to celebrate and say thank you to my beloved. Sometimes I think I must be the most blessed man on the planet. I love what I do, best of all my biggest fan is my wife and she supports me in pursuing a dream. What a blessing that is too.

We are off to celebrate our anniversary, and will spend some time hiking (Kat loves to hike, I am doing it again to get in shape- - -she walks circles around me and I do it daily with my work it seems). We'll also be fishing, which is actually how we met- - - not many of my customers know that but its true.

We used to fish together a lot, but having a house, two businesses, kids, life gets really busy sometimes and before we know it time has passed us by. A good thing though, and something important to us, is that we still "date" like we once did. And for several days now we are doing to have a "fishing date" again. What a woman who would go on a fishing date....thanks honey! We'll be doing some small stream fishing, some river fishing, hitting some great areas near Roan Mtn Tennessee, and more. We'll be fishing at 5000' or more.......too. And we'll also be getting into some smallmouth bass.
Thanks honey, and thank you Lord for blessing me with such a fantastic woman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lovin it........Summertime bass that is

One call does it all......not Domino's but a fishing call that is. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon here at home, my wife and I were taking it easy, I was tying a few flies. Our oldest son Ben was away in Ohio on a summer missions trip with our church, and our other son Josh was headed to youth group. Then the phone rang. It was our Men's ministry pastor Rick Trautman, and he had one question...."want to go fishing?"

It didn't take too much more than that to get me going, I replied..."..sure." He said, "we can take the boat over to Lake Higgins for a few hours, or maybe hit a pond or something. What about that pond at your place?" I immediately replied, "...that sounds great, lets try the pond at my place."

I then said goodbye and put the finishing touches on a bee popper I had been tying. I stopped before I was finished and started gathering stuff- - - my fanny pack and rods-- and insect repellent- - -never forget that in summer- - -and after about 15 minutes of wandering around getting those things together I sat back down at my tying table and finished off the soft bodied bee popper. Just as the last turn of the whip finisher took place, Rick walked in front of the window and I knew it was time to go.

We grabbed our stuff and headed over to the pond. It is so great to have a great spot within a couple hundred yards of our home in the woods in Summerfield, NC. Not only is it close, it has some huge fish. After about 45 minutes of fishing, we worked our way around to the east side of the pond, a great hotspot that has a knack of giving up some huge bass. My oldest son Ben had caught a 1o.5 pound largemouth last year in the very spot Rick cast. I heard him exclaim, " one" ...then I saw the deeply arched rod and heard the reel's drag start to sing a sweet tune as the giant bass struggled for its freedom. About ten seconds into the struggle there was a large surface boil, and a monstrous splash as the 10 pound plus bass leaped from the water, and then landed with a thundering splash that sounded as if someone had catapulted a watermelon from the bank into the pond. The fish buried itself in the grass, Rick must have held on for over 5 minutes as the giant bass just sat there. He kept steady pressure, then tried giving slack line in hopes of it swimming out of the grass and breaking free where the fight could be brought to a close. The fish did nothing but lie there. Then back with steady pressure and a steady but precise pull Rick started putting pressure on the fish. It began to move, then move a little more, and we both were sweating knowing that the line had to be near its breaking strength. Thank goodness for good line and great knots, they both held as victory and a landed trophy hung in the balance.

Rick gently steered the giant fish to his feet along with lots of grass, and when he lipped the fish and held it up I was literally stunned. My heart was pounding in my much so I could hear it. I think his was doing much the same. It was the largest bass of his fishing career, and Rick is an avid fisherman. That is saying a lot, and it was a true trophy moment for sure.

I ran back to the house for the camera and photo card, snapped in the card, then hurried back to the pond while Rick held the fish in the water. When I returned we snapped several photos and then Rick released the large fish gently back to its watery domain. We both sat there, still somewhat stunned at it all.

What a great afternoon.... and what a huge fish. What an incredible thing when a giant fish decides to eat.......and what an even more incredible thing to be tied to the thing it decides to eat! Congrats Rick on your trophy.....I am envious!

Monday, June 9, 2008

In Over Our Heads in New River Smallmouth.....Literally

I must admit every year we go through the same old thing, it gets hot, we get low, clear water conditions, and everyone and including sometimes me fret over how the weather is going to affect the fishing. And those are valid issues for sure, but I am all about making the best of a less than ideal situation. The nice thing is, a less than ideal situation for our small mountain trout streams makes for an ideal situation for fishing for smallmouth with a fly rod. So why fret?........Grab your rod and a few poppers and streamers and let's celebrate the arrival of some of our most enjoyable fishing....chasing smallies with a fly rod.
Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing and getting to know Dr. Mike Martin. "Mikey" as he is affectionately known by me, my wife Kathy, and maybe his wife Ariya- - -has as much passion and zeal for fly fishing and fly tying as anyone I have ever met. His spirit and love for it is contagious, and you know it when you meet him and talk with him. And he's good at it too. Mike is a Dr. in Martinsville, VA, and spends many days chasing trout and other species all over, and especially on his home water - - -the beloved Smith River below Philpott Dam. We both share a passion for that place, and the sulphur hatch and the great terrestrial fishing too.
Mike joined me for a day of smallmouth fishing on the New near Fries, VA. We met early up off 58, and headed over to the river. The fog lay over the river thickly, it was as if the river lay asleep under the moist, layered canopy that would soon enough be burned off by a hot, summer sun. We got in the river, and within a few minutes we were hooked up on a nice smallie on a popper. We fished and fished and caught smallmouth after smallmouth, and I think Mike was hooked on them just like I and so many other trout bums are. The picture above was our late afternoon stop at a large shoal in the middle of the river, and I had an idea for a funny picture. And Mike, being the fun guy that he is, went right along with me. The funny thing is that he actually had a fish on in the above photo. We laughed and joked afterward about how funny that would be to share with my customers. And my customers loved it. In fact, it stirred more interest than any photo I posted all of last year. We laughed about it, but Mike I am sure felt more refreshed than I as it had been 95-97F all day and humid on top of that and it felt good for a second or two to feel relief from the heat. Way to go Mikey!
We fished all day and even into the evening, taking advantage of the popper bite that often happens the last few hours before dark. And let me tell you, it was on. We caught several fish of 2 pounds or better, and even a 4 1/2 pounder that slammed Mike's foam popping bug and then gave an incredible ten minute battle with several jumps that I am sure Mike won't soon forget. After that fish we carefully negotiated half the width of the river in complete darkness and made our way back to the car, putting the finishing touch on one of the best days ever on New River smallmouth.
Thanks Mikey! Lets do it again soon.....that 4 1/2 pounder you caught is still there and guess what- - - - she's now 5lbs plus.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Time is Now....

One of the favorite things for me all year long is what sometimes gets most trout bums "bummed" out, that is the onset of blistering hot sunny days and scorching temps. Gone are the good flows of water of spring, hatches of big mayflies, and easier to catch its gotten low and clear and you are left wondering if our trout will make it through another drought period like last year. As disturbing as it might seem, our trout fared pretty well last year, suprisingly so, and only isolated areas had a significant problem. Our neighbors to the west in Tennessee weren't so fortunate, as some areas of the Smokies lost a great deal of their rainbow trout populations.

When its really hot, I do one of three things when it comes to guiding or fishing on my days off....I put on the hiking shoes and fish some high elevation waters where water temps are more favorable. Second, I love tailwater fishing anyway, and some of my "home water" is the Smith River tailwater, just 40 minutes from my doorstep. The first several miles of it remain "chilly" even in summer.....chilly you say? Yes, try 46-48F even in the worst of summer heat. And the terrestrial fishing is superb and perhaps my very favorite anyway, so I take the summer heat in stride. And then there's the South Holston and the Smith some great fishing is still possible even in the summer heat.....and the Holston even gets a mega Sulphur hatch in midsummer right during full generation. But lastly, a fishing very dear to me is fly fishing for smallies, aka, "black bass", or "bronzebacks", or "a leopard with fins", whatever you call them they are like hooking into a ready to explode stick of dynamite. Often clients wonder why I get so torn up over them........that is until they find themselves hooked up to one. After one, the deal is sealed.......and they are from then on a smallie convert.

We are fortunate to have some of the best smallmouth fishing in the world.....yes , I said world, and its right at our back door. The New and James Rivers are smallie heaven, and we frequently catch smallies up to 4 -5 pounds on flies, and best of all, most of the really big fish are on topwater bugs! Also, for a great summer experience where you won't usually ever see another angler you might try any one of hundreds of small NC and VA streams that have smallmouth. Our state, North Carolina, has numerous great waters such as the Mitchell (one of the top 5 outstanding resource waters in the entire state), the French Broad, the New, the Little River, the Uwharrie River, the Mayo River, the Roaring River, Yadkin River, Watauga River, the Johns River, lower Wilson Creek, and the list goes on and on. That barely scratches the surface. Basically, the Wildlife Commission will tell you that ALL of our trout waters contain smallmouth on the lower end - - - that is the marginal areas that are hatchery supported- - -well those become smallie havens in the summer.

Don't let the hot weather bum you out, a break from the hot weather will come soon enough. In the meantime grab a rod and a few streamers and poppers and find some smallmouth water. You won't be sorry you did, and you might find that they are as worth a gamefish as any trout that ever swam.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Mayfly Madness.......whew thats too many M's

It happens every year, sometimes its May, sometimes April if its early, sometimes June, on the SoHo in East Tennessee it can even be December or January. Its mayfly madness. In this case, one in particular. It causes not only a great rise of trout, but normally sane people to stay up all night long tying flies, driving six to seven hours and fishing 1o hours all in the same day, to laying out of work or calling in sick. Sulphurs........

There are three flies in particular, and they come in #14, 16, and 18. Not only do the fish love them, fishermen love them. These three flies comprise what we call the "Sulphur Hatch" and is one of our main events every angling season.

May 2008 was no different.....we have some incredible rises of trout. One trip was with Dr. Tom Wolff of Winston-Salem, a great friend and customer of 20 years, and his brother Dave who drove down from Pennsylvania to join us on the South Holston. Late in the afternoon, when the water hit that magic low to mid 50's temperature the bugs poured off.....and there were rising fish all over. And a few hours later we were witness to one of the heaviest spinner falls you'll ever see in the East. And then there was the annual TN Tailwaters school and trip, this years trip was off the chart. Peter Spirito came all the way from Port St. Lucie, FL, and Lynn Roloff from Greensboro, NC, and we were joined two days later by Joe Craig of High Point, NC, and Ron Davis from Winston-Salem, NC. The hatch was blanket and quite unlike it has been in many years, we had two 100 fish days and some fish over 20 inches on the dry fly. For the three days total it was a 300 fish trip, and the best part is 98% percent of the fish were on dry flies.............................and the bugs are still coming off. Better finish typing so I can tie up some extra emergers and get some shut eye before joining my group of three guys for another great time fishing the sulphur hatch.....I love it!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fishing with a true American hero.......

His name is Porter Halyburton. And on Monday, April 7, 2008 I had the pleasure of guiding Porter and his friend Dr. Don Lucey of Greensboro, NC. We had an incredible day, a perfect day to be honest. It was a day with many fish, over 100 in fact, and also some nice fish. That was the story for our trip.
Only for this decorated war hero, it wasn't so perfect some 43 yrs ago when he was shot down 60 miles north of Hanoi and spent the next 7 1/2 yrs as a prisoner of war. After graduating from SMA and Davidson College, Halyburton volunteered for service in Vietnam. A Naval Flight Officer, his F4B Phantom was shot down over North Vietnam on October 17, 1965. His story is one of the most incredible stories of faith, hope, forgiveness and courage you will read.
In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the lifelong achievements of Porter Halyburton were recognized by the U.S. Navy. His military decorations include the Silver Star, three Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, seven Air Medals, a Navy Commendation Medal, and the POW Medal. A recent book, Two Souls Indivisible, tells of his friendship with a fellow pilot, an Air Force Pilot, African-American Fred Cherry. The Vietnamese, knowing that racial tensions were at a high in the US hoped to create animosity and torture by making Porter take care of Perry who had been injured when he was also shot down. The plan backfired, Porter and Fred became close friends and survived the horror of being POW's.
Some great background information is available on the details of Porter's story. Porter's bio is very interesting, and incredible might be a better word for it. What a great story to give hope in the world we live in today, unfortunately our media won't tell you the other side of the story....that is what our great servicemen past and present do and have done day in and day out. All the media tell you is the negative, not the positive and how these men are the reason we can live in freedom here today. But then, of course, the media never has been a friend of the truth anyway. An agenda, sickening bias and sadly little more can we expect from them.
Hats off to all our servicemen and thank you for the price you were willing to pay for all of us, even those who would speak bad of you and would put your lives in danger by not giving you in the field what you need to get the job done. We honor you and appreciate your sacrifices for our freedom, it isn't free like some people think.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Joy of tying and fishing a huge fly.....

Just a few nights ago, I was checking out a few new foam cutters I got in a big shipment of fly tying materials and was thinking about how much fun it is to tie a large fly. Not as what we normally think of as being large, say a 10 or 12, but rather a 4 or 6. Ever tie a size 6 dry fly for trout? Better yet, ever fish a dry fly that large? If you have you are certainly in the minority. There are few people who live somewhere that trout regularly eat bugs that large. But believe it or not, there are places that fish love to eat bugs that large. Like the Snake River, one river we'll be floating on our Wyoming Sampler trip in August of this year. Not only do fish eat flies that large, they absolutely kill them- - -those fish, many of which are native fine-spotted cutthroats , are mean and crash the surface in pursuit of a big bug or fly.

One the lower Snake, I remember one summer when I was fishing with two good friends from High Point Burt Whicker and Larry Pritchett. Not only do these fish eat big stuff, but they like the flies fished with an active retrieve. I mean its the kind of fishing that makes you feel like you are at home on the New working a popping bug. And the strike, well you'd better have a good hold on the rod or it might be taken away from you. Simply put, these cutthroats think they are bass. I have fished a lot of places out west, and this is the only place I've ever seen fish feed that way most of the time. I can even remember the final day of our wilderness float where the first fish slurped down a size 4, yes a size 4 (almost 2 inches long, and a dry fly!) chernobyl dry I'd just put a whip finish on less than an hour before.

I must say, I wouldn't trade small fly fish all together for fishing big flies---fun as they are. I still love to see big fish rising to tiny bugs. There's nothing like it. But an occasion visit to the other end of the fly spectrum I'll take..........and enjoy it just the same.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Angling Legend George Harvey passes on.........

Monday March 24, 2008 marked the passing of one of the truly legendary anglers and fathers of American flyfishing, George Harvey (center in photo above, shown between Joe Humphreys, also an angling legend, and George Daniel, Winner of 2007 U.S. National Fly Fishing Championship). He passed away at age 97! Known the world over for his great impact on the sport he challenged the fly fishing world with new ideas about fly design, presentation, and his ever popular philosophy and design of what we now refer to as "slack line" leaders.

Though I never had the privilege of meeting him, I certainly feel like I did through some of his works and also by using what I feel is a must for folks looking to fish our area tailwaters and improve their presentation skills- - - the slack line leader. George's leader formula runs almost perpendicular to the assumed best Ritz formula for a leader which is a 60-20-20 formula. This leader is 60% butt, 20% taper, and 20% tippet, just the sort of thing that makes a fly line transmit tons of power into the butt which then turns over the taper and tippet and makes for a nice straight as an arrow landing........exactly what you don't want when fishing over tough fish that have little patience with drag, micro-drag, or less than perfect drifts.

George had a better idea. His slack line leader took into account that when you fish over tough fish that require long and drag free drifts, you want a leader that turns over but does not straighten. And you want to use a cast that is an open loop aimed high, just the opposite of the "high line speed, tight loop, throw it a mile philosophy" that is all too often the rave today. George's philosophy is a butt that is smaller in diameter, and overall shorter, and that transmits less power from line to leader to taper to tippet. A long mid-section and long tippet completes the formula and results in a leader that turns over but never fully straightens, and that often lands in a controlled "pile" that gives loose curves all the way to the fly and gives the long, perfect drifts that tough fish love.

George's leader philosophy really hit home to me almost 20 years ago when I was first trying to figure out the deal on Virginia and Tennessee tailwaters. Once I learned the formula, began using it, and combined it with a reach cast my catch rate went way up. And some of those impossible fish started to fall to my slack line presentations. All of a sudden those fish weren't so impossible anymore.

One of the recipes I find that works well for making a George Harvey dry fly leader, and one I have used for years is as follows: 15 inches of .017, then 15 inches of .015, then 15 inches of .013, then 12 inches of .011, then 12 inches of .009 (2X), then 14-18 inches of 3X, 14 -18 inches of 4x, 20 inches of 5X, then 18-24 inches of 6X or 7X. If you don't tie your leaders, Frog Hair fishing makes a commercial knotless George Harvey Slack Line Leader that is pretty good. But I must say that a knotted, hand-tied leader is superior to the knotless ones, in my opinion.

You can learn more about George Harvey, his life, and his many great contributions to our sport here . Thank you George for all the ways you enhanced our enjoyment in flyfishing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fishing High Water.....

HIGH water.....I'd say to some its a boon, others a bane, for us a BOUNTY! I must admit, seeing a bank full river gets me excited. I know a lot of folks don't share that sentiment, and I certainly don't mean flood stage, but I mean high, fishable water.
When you guide for a living, you often aren't at the luxury of having time off to fish when the conditions are at their best. Often, its right the opposite......even downright nasty conditions that would make even a duck or a polar bear question the decision to be out and about. But its amazing what having less than what most people consider ideal conditions will do for your ability to adapt and change your tactics and techniques and still catch fish.
Over the years I have learned to not only adapt but to really enjoy the challenge of catching fish when the cards are stacked against me. I mean, I love it when everything goes right, perfect weather, no wind, plenty of bugs, lots of feeding fish- - - don't get me wrong I'll take that any day. But then again when things are like that I think maybe we should catch fish. But what about the days when others would take one look at the river and automatically assume that they aren't going to catch fish with the river so high and off colored. I mean the kind of conditions where one might take a quick look and say, "That's it for me, I am headed home." All too often I've heard that, even had guide trips where I knew we could really do well but the folks I am taking didn't share the same positive outlook. And I'd be thinking inside my head......"....if only you knew what the conditions would do for us today, not only will we catch fish, we could have a day you'd remember the rest of your angling days.
Like Escatawba. This is one place where spate conditions mean a real bounty if you know how to rig properly, read the water, and present the fly properly. I mean you can really catch numbers of fish you'd never catch when the stream is normal or low and clear. And then there's the Smith River.....legendary brown trout that are as selective as any on planet earth, except for when Town Creek at the upper end of the special reg area gets stirred up. In that stretch of river which regularly stumps even the most skilled of anglers we fish wooly buggers and literally tear them up. I once guided a good customer Ray Matherly of Dunbar, West Virginia, where we fished during a tropical storm. Heavy rain, wind, and all. Ray still wanted to do the trip, and I was charged by his "trooper" spirit. And the whole time I was thinking this could be a day that we really work those fish over. And so it count Storm 0, Ray 30 ......30 browns and an unexpected largemouth bass of about 12" at the mouth of Town Creek. Yes, there are times that you can occasionally have your way with those fish. And lastly, there's the South Holston. Let a heavy rain come and make the river cloudy and the same fish that were darn near impossible become suckers for the right nymph (a flashback pt nymph).
So the next time you hear of some heavy rain coming, pack the rainjacket, make sure you have some streamers and flashback bead head nymphs, a box of split shot, and a "trooper " spirit. And, one last thing............Let it pour!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Roanoke River Spring Shad run.....

It happens every spring......just so happens it happened a little early this year. The annual shad run on the Roanoke River that is, and if you've not gotten in on it it is a hoot for sure. Often called a "poor man's tarpon" by some, these fish migrate from the ocean back to the freshwater rivers from which they were born. In North Carolina, we are fortunate to have several coastal rivers that get them.....the Roanoke, the Tar, the Cashie, the Neuse....just to name a few.
Five or six weight fish they are, and on anything lighter and you have a nice battle on your hands. Some of the larger fish are 2 to 3 pounds, and give an impressive fight even on a stiff rod- - - and if you are lucky some of the better ones you will get a jump or two out of them as well.
I recently went down with two friends, one Rick Trautman, Men's ministry pastor at our church, Westover Church here in Greensboro, NC, and my good friend Brad Ball, also from Greensboro, NC. All in all we guessed between 75 and 100 fish were caught during the day. Rick christened his new fly rod well, catching several nice fish and the largest fish, about a 3 pounder. Brad christened his 5wt as well, catching the first "other than trout" species on it. I, lastly, broke the only fly rod that I had. While fighting a fish, I broke the reel seat and reel completely off and heard the reel and the pieces as they hit the casting deck. I spent the rest of the time with the reel taped to the butt of the rod with first aid tape! It was ugly!!!! but I guess in a pinch you make the best of what you have. I was just happy to be casting some, as the recovery from a car accident and surgery have been on going for the past three and a half months. Catching a fish was a bonus, and well, its just a rod and it can be fixed.
At the present rate you have probably two weeks left to catch the run, after that it will be stripers. . . and tons of them. So don't miss it while its here!