Friday, January 29, 2010

A Winning Drive........

Its that time of year again......and the Super Bowl is practically upon us. There are two teams that were #1 seeds that are going to play for professional football's most coveted prize....the Super Bowl Trophy. There are two teams that have sacrificed, worked hard, put in long hours, faithfully put in the time in the rain, snow, cold, heat, you name it. Simply put, a price was paid for admission to this game. And if its like this year's game, and like some of the the playoff games, the team that has the ball last ends up winning. And they have to figure out a way to do that. Great teams and players do just that.....figure out a way to turn something into a win.
Such was the case with a recent trip with regular customers and friends Larry Tomar and Dan Camia. We've spent many a day on the water doing trips together, and in all types of weather, and Larry and Dan are pretty good at this fly fishing game. Whether good conditions or poor, they usually do really well. Give them the right set up, direct them to the right spot, and its a done deal. They know the game, and they get the job done.
We were fishing one of my private waters in Virginia, a stream whose limestone pools are stacked with twenty inch trout. Some are true leviathans.....some are 10lbs or more. The water was up, had some color to it, and I knew we'd kill them. A rare gift....this day was going to be one to write home, "get ready guys........we are going to whack 'em good today and you guys are leaving with sore arms." Well, that was the way a typical day usually goes.
But not today. We fished rigs that work well on this river I know well, I mean, I know where the fish are under most any conditions and can pretty much guarantee that the guys are fishing where the fish are....and in this river....its not a question of whether fish are there or not....'cause they are. At lunch we'd had several fish on, two large rainbows landed, both over 20 inches and one of them a 25 inch beast that took Larry 10 minutes to land, and one large Redhorse sucker. This is the dream stream....and I am thinking....what is the deal?
We had fished hard all over fish and they just weren't eating. We took a break for lunch and I had to think of something.....and just like either the Colts or Saints may have to do in the big game......something had to give and we had to put together a winning drive. I was thinking to myself, "this ain't cutting it." But I knew the rigs and flies we were using were right, and we were fishing the right places. I do this everyday, and fish like to do what they do and not change a whole lot if they don't have to. They are simple creatures with two goals in mind: 1) live to see tomorrow, and 2) get something to eat. Everything else is gravy.
We had a hot streamside lunch and grabbed our rods and headed back to the water. Within a few minutes we had three hookups. Landed one fish, then had two come off. Not stellar, but as much action as we'd had all morning. I had a hunch. What is a hunch? Well, according to the dictionary it is something like this. hunch : (hunch) n. an impression or intuitive feeling that something might be the case. Yep, that is what I am feeling. Okay, well what's intuition? According to the dictionary its an instinctve knowing without use of rational processes......well, that sounds right on. We'd already used all "rational processes"......whatever I was feeling, I said "Guys lets hop in the vehicle and run upsteam while we still have some light left. The sun's been on that water all day. We ought to be able to stir up something there." It paid off....
So we headed upstream, and I had every intention of fishing the same way with the same rigs as we were before. Like a good football team, stick with what got you to the big game. And don't make any fundamental mistakes.......and be focused. We got in the water, Dan hooked up on three or four drifts in a row and landed a nice 20inch rainbow. Larry hooked up below us and it was a nice fish and broke off. Larry caught one rainbow, and then we moved upriver to another deep hole and he hooked a leviathan of a rainbow, what I believe might have been double digits....10 pounds or more that is. He did a great job playing the fish but it made a really powerful burst and broke off. But we were getting action...and a good bit of it. And to think we were doing what we had been doing all morning long.
We had about an hour of daylight left, we hit another spot. Larry got six strikes on ten casts and caught a couple. Again, doing exactly what we had been doing all day long. The last spot yielded several nice fish, 6 landed altogether, and several that came off. And as you might guess, we were doing the same thing we'd been doing all day. Thankfully we didn't spend the rest of the afternoon trying all sorts of crazy stuff and waste the time we had left, we stuck with what I knew normally works this time of the year and under these conditions, we made sure we got good drifts, were very intently focused on the drifts, and most importantly we didn't stop believing and give up. And we found a way to put together a winning drive.
Maybe that is what is coming for the Super Bowl. The team that sticks with what got them there, stays focused, does what they do best, and who doesn't give up.....and maybe the one who has the ball last ......we'll see.
We didn't get a Super Bowl trophy or anything but the trophies we got are still in the river....just waiting for the next time......

Monday, January 25, 2010

Talk about Determination......

Sometimes in my fly fishing I let the little things get to me- - - less than perfect weather, a little too dry, too wet, too sunny, too cloudy, you name it ...its very easy when things are slow to find lots of things to get frustrated with and about.

Being a fly fishing guide for a living has its set of challenges...always at the mercy of the weather for one. One day the river is perfect and your clients do well, then a two or three inch rain comes in the night blowing all possibility of fishing. A lot of times we call it well before the day arrives, mostly based upon my past experiences with certain areas, the way they respond to heavy precipitation and runoff, a knowledge of the watershed and how much it is developed....all these variables go into it. But then there's determination....and also a 'hunch.' Its that 'gut feeling' that, you know what, for some reason I feel like we might be able to make a go of it today . So I call my client and explain to them the conditions, explain forthrightly about my opinion about our chances of doing well or poorly, and then propose either 'go' or 'stay.'

Occasionally where determination meets a hunch you catch things just right and have a banner day. Such was the case when Mark White and I went on May 27, 2009. Mark and I had communicated by phone and email and we rescheduled a time or two- - -and before our trip we got one of those 2-3 inch rains in the mountains.....and here too, and wow , were things high and muddy almost everywhere. But I had a hunch that if we went exploring on some water I knew of , water that sometimes ran high but clear during weather like this, I thought maybe, just maybe we could catch it just right. I picked Mark up at his place in Germanton, and we headed up into VA and onto 58 West. We headed toward Mt. Rogers and everything we crossed on the way over was high and the color of Campbell's tomato soup. It was ugly. And with each mile I crossed my fingers a little harder that we wouldn't find the same thing where we were headed.

We arrived at the stream, and at first sight we came alongside it was high but it was a nice color, ...."just perfect" I thought to myself. Inside my head the thoughts were going just like so many, many times before... I kept telling myself "when its like this we can have the day of days...". I knew fish not only fed during runoff like this, but that if you know the water well, where the fish hold, and how to rig and how much weight to use and so forth, the fish were not only very willing, but also quite aggressive and forgiving....much more so than at lower flows.

The result? We whacked 'em. Mark caught a lot of fish, probably 30 or more, including a couple of large fish, one of which was a citation rainbow. And to think....everyone else stayed home today.....and we had the whole place to ourselves! We both had a great time, and Mark not only got into a lot of fish, but gained experience in less than perfect conditions......adding to his bag of tricks for the next time he encounters a river in this condition and he's fishing on his own. Will he be able to do well? I'd say yes, as he did real well on this day.

So, sometimes when you get a lemon you can successfully make some lemonade. Yes, sometimes you'll get blown out and shut out and will have to concede that its a no go. And yes, it happens all times of the year and happens to everybody eventually. But often you get an unexpected break, as we did, and when you do it can be incredible...........sometimes so much that you won't dislike big weather systems when they come through but will be looking forward to them.

When you are a fishing guide, you have to find opportunity where you can. Fortunately its not like the guys above in the photo, that's real determination!!!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How To Successfully Spook more Trout.....

You don't find articles like this much, but here goes. Here's a funny how to on a very interesting topic: spooking fish. I can think of 10 ways you can become more successful at spooking trout. They are tried and true methods and work with near 100% effectiveness when done properly. Here they are:

1) Wear blaze orange clothing, like a nice orange hunting hat or toboggan and a long orange jacket. Make your clothing as bright as possible.

2)Run into the tail of the pool in such a way that it creates a ton of noise and sends a wave or waves into the rest of the pool.
3) False cast twenty five times, and only after 25 times do you let the line touch the water.

4) If #3 fails, allow several of the forward casts to slam the water or better yet, rip through the surface making maximum commotion.

5) For maximum effect, do #'s 2, 3, and 4 simultaneously, and hope no one is watching, at least no one who might know you. If #2, 3, or 4 doesn't get their attention this one, #5, certainly will. They will leave the area, leaving the fishing all to you. Of course the fishing is over, but now you have the solitude you wanted all week long anyway.

6) Get at one end of the pool and do #5 and have your fishing buddy go to the head of the pool and do the same, with each on of you trying to out do the other.

7) Have your fishing buddy throw a few large rocks and a handful of gravel into the water. But don't do this over stocked fish, they like the sound of gravel because it sounds like trout pellets smattering the surface and you'll fail to spook them properly.

8) Start at the tail of the pool hastily and noisily wading as quickly as you can through the pool, seeing how quickly you can make it to the head of the pool. The bonus with this is you'll get some great exercise, just like Sylvester Stallone in some of the Rocky movies.

9) Wear some of those new non-felt soled boots and fall in. Don't make it a half fall, the goal is to make it - - - as they say in the hills - - -a good 'un.

10) Have your fishing buddy get at the head of the pool and have him run back and forth, taking care to stir up as much sediment as possible, turning the pool into a nice shade of brown for you. One word of caution, if he takes the word 'run' seriously and takes you up on it, he may fall . ....but that's not all bad, he's fulfilling #9.

There are very few times that I'd say anything I do I would always 100% guarantee results but this one comes close. I promise that if you faithfully do one, a few, or all of the above you will be very successful at spooking trout!...............

In all seriousness, I am kidding. But you'd be surprised how many of the above things are the very things people do....I mean some of them are the most common errors in fly fishing. The goal is not to do them, of course. And the result is you'll spook fewer trout.....til next time

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wow.....That's All I Can Say.......

Fly fishing DVD Video - 2009 Drake Flyfishing Video Awards Winning Clip

This is incredible.......too bad we don't have this around here......apparently they get mice the way we get jap beetles.....they could only be so lucky. Imagine throwing mice flies on the SoHo in TN?......How awesome would that be?

Enough Already.......Right?

I was doing some web updates to our sites and going over the coming weeks' schedule of guided trips when an email came through to me from a customer Kevin Frank. A relative of his in Galax, VA, Tracey Snow had taken some photos of the New River in the Galax area of the ice jams and it was incredible. I asked him if I could share some of the photos with customers and he said that was fine.

You don't see this much around here, and except for a brief period last winter of a week when it was really cold the last time the New was like this was five years ago. I had a guided trip scheduled, if you can believe it, and the temp when I met the guys was 9F....yes 9F. And the river looked just like this. I had been hired by a group of guys, one of whom was getting married, and for whom this was a 'bachelor party' so to speak, one last hurrah .... For that reason it was do it now or not at all. So I met them at the Riverhouse cabins and we stayed in until 11am after the temperature had risen to a balmy 22F. We rigged rods and then we went to a remote stretch of Helton Creek...surprisingly there was enough unfrozen water to fish. We ended up doing ok, catching about 25 fish in truly bitter conditions. By 4pm, the guys called it a day.....and another great day was in the book. But it doesn't always work out that way.

This last month's cold is record setting for sure....much of the NC mtns and VA were below freezing for weeks....that is below freezing......and as low as single digits at night. Hard for anything to remain liquid in that. The picture above of the New River was just before 3 inches of rain fell on top of all the snow and ice.....and what a nice messy result came from that. Just downstream of this area, where I do smallmouth fishing in the summer a lot, the flow is normally 900 peaked at just under 60000cfs, yes sixty THOUSAND. That is 25000 more than the previous

But at least now its not solid like the photo above....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 Goes out with a Bang.........

Buster Lewis and I spent a day doing a Guided Fishing trip and we had a great day, and not only caught a pile of fish but also several 20 inchers, and including one fish that was near 10lbs.....a real beast. A great day, and it snowed on us all day which was great, and also a great way to put an exclamation point on a great fishing year and also usher in what we hope is another one.

I spotted this large rainbow holding in a shallow run, and pointed out to Buster where to cast his fly. He put the perfect toss and drift on the fish, the fish lifted up slightly and took the fly in, Buster set the hook, then it was off to the races and we eventually ended up in the next pool downstream before I finally slid the net under the fish. The fish filled my two handed net up, and I estimated it at close to 10lbs. Nice work Buster!