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!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Too Funny not to share.........

When I saw this billboard, it took a second (I know, I am slow) to hit me but then I laughed so hard I almost laid an egg. The fact that there's a moose on the billboard didn't bother me, the lonely moose hardly gets consideration anywhere......even though he is one of the most majestic creatures of the American West. Few things scare him, almost nothing could.

I was thinking if there had been a cutthroat on that sign instead......wouldn't we all have been in an uproar? Or maybe a brown, or maybe a rainbow, or shall I dare say it......a native brookie?

Isn't it interesting how putting a trout on that board, or for that matter any fish we're passionate about, would be a lot different to us because we love them?

It makes me think about a backcountry trip about 15 yrs ago I did with a customer into the Shining Rock Wilderness. It was his invite, him taking me camping and fishing. And it was a great experience. I'll name no names so as to protect everyone. But we hiked in what must have been five or six miles. He was already there, had set up camp, and was ready to feed us when we got there. His wife had met me at the trailhead, as she had also driven up after gettting off work early. When we arrived, we could smell the aroma of something great.......After enjoying about 90%of it, it was brought to my attention that this was brook trout, natives, the kind we rave about......I can't tell you the mountain of guilt and shame that came over me as I thought...."Oh, no, folks at home find out I have eaten a native brookie I am in some deep stuff."
In any case, it was a big deal at the time, but I still think about must have had some effect --I mean to still be writing about it to this day, even now. My defense was, and there was truth in it, that I had no idea that he had caught trout and that they were native brookies until I almost swallowed all of one. Isn't it funny how we readily let someone else have it and so quickly let ourselves off the hook. As I swallowed the last bite I think I must have been planning my statement of defense.

I must say though, that it was pretty tasty, I imagine a lot like what spotted owls and bald eagles taste like. And no, I haven't eaten those..................

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008......counting the days!

There's something about having a big trip in the future that you get to plan for. Sometimes it seems the planning for and getting ready for and tying flies for is as much a part of the fun as the trip itself. That's the way I have always looked at Western trips. After a summer off from it, we'll be doing it again this August.
Our trip will begin by arriving in Jackson, Wyoming, one of the great jumping off destinations for many western fly fishing trips. Even the approach when landing at the Jackson Airport is one of those oooohhhh ahhhhhh things where one minute you are looking at bright blue sky and sunshine and the next minute you see the Grand Tetons come into view in such a way that it seems you could just reach out the window and touch the top of them. And that's only the beginning.
Like previous trips, we'll be arriving in Jackson, WY around midday, with enough time to shuttle all my customers and me to put our gear away for the evening, head to town to get everyone a fishing license, grab some last minute grub, snacks, or gear items, then we'll head off to hit either world famous Flat Creek (20 inch plus cutties are the norm), the Gros Ventre River (pronounced Grow Vont--that is French for "Big Belly"), or the wonderful freestone Hoback. After some fishing, we'll head back to town for a nice dinner and turn in. We'll arise the next morning, grab a hearty breakfast, then we'll be off to meet our outfitter /trail guide at the trail head to the Teton Wilderness just north near Moran Junction, which is north of Jackson. We'll horseback into the Teton Wilderness, set up camp, put our stuff away, and suit up with waders and head off to fish the Soda Fork of the Buffalo. We'll fish til sundown, head back to camp, and enjoy a delicious cowboy dinner under the stars by a crackling campfire. Then off to catch some Z's and up early again to a great breakfast by the fire. After breakfast, we'll suit up and head off to fish Divide Lake, a backcountry high mtn lake filled with wild cutthroats and brookies. After a day of fishing, we'll head back to camp, have another nice dinner under the moon and stars, then turn in. We'll get up the next morning, pack our stuff, put on our fishing gear, and head off to fish some more, then we'll horseback back out of the backcountry. From there we'll head back to town for some supplies, then head south of town through Hoback Junction , Bondurant, and to Cora, WY, where we'll be at the Green River Guest Ranch for the night. After getting settled in, we'll enjoy a nice dinner, turn in, and off the next morning for breakfast then a day of fishing on the Green River, the gateway to the Wind River Wilderness and Range. We'll be spending a day and a half on the Green, then a half day on the Greys R - - a neat stretch of fly only water. The next day we'll fish the Hoback River and Granite Creek, and the final day we'll wrap things up with a float trip down the Snake River from Wilson Wyoming down to the 189 takeout, in pursuit of the Jackson Hole native fish- - - the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat. They are a separate and genetically distinct species from all others.
If it is anything like previous trips here, this will be the sixth for me w/a group of customers and it should be a great time for everyone. Great food, great fishing, scenery that has no equal and with folks I absolutely love spending a fly fishing trip with. I can't wait, lets see, 180 days and counting..........