Friday, June 24, 2016

Skinny Water and Wild Trout

First Trout of the Trip
This year, I was determined not to make the same mistake I did last year when school let out for summer. That mistake being doing too many other things, and not enough fishing. With that in mind, I figured what better way to kick off summer break than by taking the brother-in-law (and proud dad of my new niece) Trent along with me and do some searching for a few wild trout. We decided that since he had a new daughter at home we might not want to make an all day event out of the trip. With that in mind, it narrowed our choices down to a few streams within an hour or so of home.

Wild Rainbow
After talking it over, and going back and forth between a smallmouth trip or a trout trip, we decided with temperatures in the mid to high 90's at home, a trip to the mountains in search of cooler weather and cold water would be our best bet. Once all these important decisions had been made, we decided to go fish a stream that is about an hour from my house. I've written about this particular stream several times on here before, and it is located in a section of national forest that was one of the first in the east. This particular creek has a few advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are the ease of access and short travel time compared to some of the places I like to fish. The only real disadvantages are that the area sometimes seems to be full of campers, and the fish tend to be in the 6"-8" inch range. If you're looking for big fish and solitude, this may not be the best place to go. However, for me going fishing always beats not going, so I tend to make it up here several times during the year.

Parr Marks
With all these things in mind, we hit the road early hoping to beat the heat and other fishermen. After an uneventful drive, we made it to the creek and decided to start at the sign commemorating this as the first national forest tract purchased under the Weeks Law in 1911. This is toward the lower end of the designated Wild Trout waters, but it does include some nice sized holes and plunge pools that sometimes hold a surprise or two. This is one of my normal starting spots, and from there you can fish all the way into the uppermost headwaters without leaving public land. Lower down the creek flows through private property for a short while before returning to public water as a designated Delayed Harvest stretch that is periodically stocked. Today however, with the catch and release season over on the Delayed Harvest, we were looking for the wild cousins of the trout to be found lower down. The trout we were after had been born and raised right there, instead of a hatchery.

Trent's brown
Beautiful Colors
Once we made our way down to the creek, we both noticed that it was already looking a little low. It was not the lowest I'd ever seen, but some rain is definitely needed soon. A few weeks before, I had been fishing in Pennsylvania, and had hoped to hit a sulfur hatch. That didn't work out, so I decided to experiment a little with one of the sulfur parachutes I had tied for that trip to see if they would interest a few fish closer to home. It didn't take long, and a pretty little wild brown trout decided that it looked like breakfast. This would be the only brown trout that I would catch this trip, although my brother-in-law did catch a nice brown on further upstream later in the morning. For both of us, it was more of a rainbow trout kind of day. We each caught several pretty little wild rainbows, although the creek didn't give up any big fish this time. We had success fishing several of the usual summer dry flies, and the trout didn't seem too particular as long as the drift was good. However, the low water did make it a challenge, as we both spooked a lot of fish, no matter how carefully we were trying to wade. This was one of those days that fish could be caught, but they weren't going to put up with any missteps.

We fished through the morning, and as lunchtime approached the heat came along with it. We decided that it had been a successful morning, and headed on back toward home with a detour for a hamburger on the way. Hopefully it won't be long, and we will be back in the high country in search of some more beautiful wild trout. In the meantime, I've got plans to do a little fishing and exploring close to home.

- Joseph

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Quick Pennsylvania Ramble

Rigging Up on Oil Creek
Even though most of the things I write about on this blog take place in North Carolina, once in a while I do make it out of state. Those trips don't normally make it onto the blog simply because they often don't involve any hunting or fishing (unfortunately). However, one trip that my wife and I make fairly often that does involve fishing is up to her hometown of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Although my wife and her immediate family moved to North Carolina when she was seven, almost all of her relatives still live in and around the Titusville area so we try to go up and visit when we have a chance.

My first trip to Titusville with my wife and in-laws actually happened back in 2009, and before we went I happened to find out that there was a trout stream about five minutes from her grandmother's house. My wife hadn't ever done any fishing before she met me, but she said people liked to fish in the creek right outside of town, which was Oil Creek. I did a little research on the Internet, and found out that Oil Creek was known to have good hatches of several different insects, and that it sounded like a great place to do a little fly fishing while we were in town. The convenience factor of being a five minute ride also made it easy to mix fishing and family visits. Ever since that first trip, I always make sure to take along a fly rod anytime that we go up during the spring, summer, or fall.
Fishing Oil Creek

This past Friday was my wife's grandmother's 75th birthday, and her uncle was throwing a surprise party for her. Since we both had Monday off work for Memorial Day, we decided to make a quick trip north to go to the party and visit family. Along with seeing everybody, I also hoped that I'd be able to slip in an afternoon or two on Oil Creek. We headed north after work on Friday afternoon, and stopped for the night about halfway to Titusville.

The Ropp!
We arrived in town around 11:30 on Saturday, and since it was lunch time I knew what I wanted to do before hitting the creek. There's a sub shop in Titusville that makes a sub called "The Ropp". My father-in-law got me hooked on these, and now no trip to Titusville is complete without getting at least one. After I got my Ropp fix, and we made the rounds and said hello to everybody, it was off to Walmart for a fishing license and then on to Oil Creek. My wife came along for the trip and took pictures, but she decided not to fish this time. Most of the pictures in this post were taken by her. It's not often that I have the luxury of a photographer when I'm fishing!

First Trout of the Day
 I had been reading on the Internet that the sulphur mayflies had been hatching on Oil Creek, so I had high hopes for some dry fly action. However, it wasn't to be that day, as I saw a handful of sulphurs, but very few rises. Being an optimist, I did try fishing a parachute sulphur to the sporadic rises I did see, but I didn't seem to be getting any interest from the trout. After a while, I gave up on the dry fly and switched to a pheasant tail nymph. I fished this for a while with no luck either, and decided that it might be time to try something else.

After being skunked on the sulphur and the pheasant tail, I switched to a hare's ear nymph and in a few minutes was able to land the first trout of the day. It was a pretty rainbow that came from a deep run, and after that I had a little more confidence in my fly choice finally being right. In the mean time, more fishermen started showing up, I'm assuming anticipating a sulphur hatch like I was. I noticed that the others were having about the same luck as me, catching a fish once in a while but nobody seemed to be catching a bunch. I worked my way on downstream a little further, switching to a bead head hare's ear after losing the first fly to a bad cast and hungry bank side weeds. I picked up two more nice rainbows on this fly, and missed a couple more strikes.
Oil Creek Rainbow

It was starting to get late in the evening and the sulphurs never showed, so I decided to call it a day and headed on back to the car. Since we had to travel back home Monday and be back at work on Tuesday, Saturday wound up being my only chance to fish. It was a quick trip, but it reminded me once again how much I enjoy fishing Oil Creek. I've never seemed to catch a lot of trout there on any one trip, but the challenge of matching the hatch and fishing some different water than I'm used to always makes it a fun place to fish. With summer break coming up for teachers, the next thing on my outdoor agenda is to hit a few streams around home. Hopefully that will lead to a few more rambles to write about. Until then, thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, May 30, 2016

That's Not A Trout

First of all, since today is Memorial Day, let me begin by saying a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have served in any capacity in our nation's military, and above all to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. 

Once again, the blog has been in a state of neglect. I won't even try to make excuses this time. Instead, let me just say thank you to anybody who still drops by here to read on the rare occasion I get something posted to the blog. If you don't mind indulging me dredging up a post that got written two years ago, but somehow missed being published, I promise to work on getting some new content written and published on the blog about my quick trip up to Pennsylvania over Memorial Day Weekend. In the meantime, here's a Memorial Day trip from a couple years ago.  And as always, thanks for stopping by to read these ramblings!

- Joseph

First Trout of the Day
One thing that I love about fly fishing is that it works on all kinds of species of fish. When I first started fly fishing, trout were the only fish that I went after with the long rod. Since then I've found myself fishing more and more for other types of fish with the fly rod, and having fun figuring out new flies and techniques to fool bass and other warm water fish. However, I still love chasing trout on the fly rod, and try to go as much as possible. During the fall and spring, I'm fortunate enough to have a Delayed Harvest stream about twenty minutes away from home, and this seems to be where I do a good bit of my fishing. These Delayed Harvest streams are stocked by the state and managed under catch and release regulations from October 1 until the first Saturday in June. There are a few wild trout streams not too far from home, but on days when travel and fishing time are at a premium, (not to mention gas money), the local Delayed Harvest is normally where I wind up. This was the case two years ago during Memorial Day weekend, when I had a few hours to get away and try to fool a few trout.

Trent's Trout
My brother-in-law had Monday off for Memorial Day, and hadn't had the chance to fish with me in a while due to work, so we made plans to head to the state park and see if the trout were still willing to eat a fly. We were both a little apprehensive about going, because we figured the crowds might be more than we wanted to deal with since it was a holiday weekend. However, we figured that we might be able to find a stretch of stream that wouldn't require us to bring our own rock to stand on, and so we headed out. The first thing I noticed was the improvements to the campground along the river, with the addition of new sites and a bathroom/shower building. The other thing that caught my attention was that while there were people around, it was not as crowded as I have seen it later on in summer. This gave me hope that we had made the right decision to come up here and fish.

We rigged up and hit the water just a little ways up the trail from the parking area, and it wasn't too long until a nice brown ate my fly. I always like fishing these Delayed Harvest streams after the trout have been there a while, because it seems right after stocking they will be bunched up in the deeper pools. A few weeks of living in the stream seems to help them spread out and start acting a little bit more like wild fish, at least in the sense that they will rise to flies and tend to not be bunched up. This particular brown came out of a little pocket of deeper water up against the bank, and ate my dry fly like he'd been doing it all his life. I hoped that this was a sign of things to come, and we fished our way on upstream taking turns at fishing the pools and pockets.

Redbreast Sunfish
A little farther upstream and Trent picked up his first fish of the day, a pretty rainbow trout. We were both having pretty fair success catching fish on dry flies, although it wasn't the crazy numbers that can be caught soon after a stream is stocked. Working our way on upstream, we did encounter a few other fishermen, but after stopping to chat with them about their plans we were able to move on upstream out of their way and find some open water to keep fishing. The fishermen we talked to were catching a few, and I was glad to see one fisherman had a young kid with him and said he was introducing him to the sport of fly fishing. As we worked our way on upstream, we came to a pool below a bridge that usually holds a fair number of trout, especially early in the season. I figured it would be worth a few casts, even though I didn't see any signs of fish. A few casts later, and a fish rose to my fly. When I set the hook however, I made the comment to Trent that this trout felt different. It didn't seem to be fighting like a trout normally does, and when I got it close I realized why. I didn't have a trout at all! It was a redbreast sunfish, similar to what I normally catch when fishing for smallmouth. I had caught a few of these over the years up here, but that was fishing with spinners back in the early days of my trout fishing. I don't usually catch these sunfish in trout streams, but this particular stream warms up in the summer too much to support trout year round, and it must be comfortable enough for the sunfish to make a home.

Delayed Harvest Brookie
I was afraid that this might be a sign that the water would soon be too warm to support trout, but then I knew that the first Saturday in June would mark the beginning of the stream reverting to Hatchery Supported regulations, and that most of these trout would be caught before rising water temperatures proved to be fatal. This stream does support wild trout farther up towards the headwaters, and stays cool enough year round to warrant a Wild Trout designation and regulations. The Delayed Harvest section falls into a transition zone from the cold water trout stream to a warmer lower elevation stream, and I have caught the occasional wild fish from the Delayed Harvest sections, but there doesn't seem to be many in this area. After the sunfish surprise, we continued working our way on upstream, spooking an occasional fish or missing a strike here and there. I did manage to catch a nice brook trout from a deeper pool that had several fish stacked up in the current, but we couldn't entice the rest to eat our flies, even after switching to nymphs and fishing deeper in the water column. They would swim over to a fly and take a look, but more often than not they would refuse it. I suspect these fish had received a lot of pressure over the last month or so, because they seemed extremely reluctant to eat anything. Of course as a fisherman, my first instinct is to blame it on the fish, but they were just doing what nature had programmed them to do - surviving the best way they could.
Bluehead Chub

We finally gave up on that pool and worked our way on upstream, where I managed another brown trout on a dry fly. Then, as we fished on upstream, I had a fish eat my fly that I thought might be one of the rare wild fish in the stream, because I could tell it was a good bit smaller than the majority of the stocked fish we had seen. I have occasionally had rosyside dace or warpaint shiners eat dry flies while fishing this stream, but as I got the fish closer and finally got a look, I exclaimed "That's not a trout!". This one was a first for me on a dry fly, a fish that I'm fairly certain is a bluehead chub, locally known as a hornyhead for the tubercles on top of their heads. I had caught these before while nymph fishing, but this was the first time I could remember one rising to a dry fly. It was a neat experience to catch one of these on a dry, even though I will admit being a little disappointed at first that it wasn't a wild brown trout.

 One of the things I have always enjoyed about fishing is the sense of wonder that it gives me. Each time a fish strikes my fly, I never know what it might be. Somewhere inside me is still that five year old boy that used to turn over rocks in the creek looking for crawdads and insects and catching minnows just to see what they looked like. I might do it with much more sophisticated tackle now, but the urge to explore and discover is still the same. It was funny when I thought about my catches on the way home, because I realized that while trout were my goal, I wound up catching two true natives of the watershed, and neither one were the fish that I had come after. I don't think I'm going to take up chub fishing any time soon, but if I have an occasion to exclaim "That's not a trout!" again while I'm out fishing, I'm going to take a minute to savor the experience. The river is full of surprises, and I'm sure if I fish it for a lifetime I'll only scratch the surface.

- Joseph

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Drought Trout

A Sign of What Was to Come
Today was supposed to be my second trip for trout this summer, but a combination of the threat of thunderstorms in the mountains, and a leaking water pump in the truck have kept me at home this afternoon. The thunderstorms I could handle, a broken down truck way off in the middle of nowhere with no cell service would be a different matter. So the truck is in the shop, and I'm finally taking the time to sit down at the computer and write about the first trout trip of the summer. This trip was a couple weeks ago, when the thought of how long it had been since I've been fishing for wild trout became more than I could stand.

Skinny Summer Water

This summer I've been working at a local hardware store in the mornings, but I usually have the afternoons off. The plan at the beginning of the summer was to work in the mornings, and possibly fish once in a while in the afternoon. This sounded like a good plan until summer saw us consistently having temperatures in the mid to high 90's, and even 100 degrees on a few days. On top of that, our county is currently in a severe drought and gardens and farmer's fields are showing the signs of high heat and no water. Over the last month or so the mountains where I fish had been getting a little more rain, and not suffering quite as much from the heat, so I figured it would be a good time to escape the heat myself and head up to a stream about an hour from our house.

Caught a Few of These
This stream is fairly easily accessed via Forest Service roads, and the lower end of the designated trout water is managed as a Delayed Harvest stream by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. This section receives regular stockings from March - May, and again in October and November. I've fished the Delayed Harvest section many times, but today my destination was further upstream in the headwaters that are designated as Wild Trout waters. This stream is where I caught my first trout on a fly, and it also was one of the spots that I frequented even before I began fly fishing. I've fished this particular stream off and on for probably 15 years or so, and it seems like I make it here at least once or twice a year. This stream doesn't seem to hold quite the numbers or size of some other wild trout streams that I like to fish, but it does occasionally give up a surprise, like the fourteen inch wild brown that I caught here several years ago.

Rosyside Dace
Knowing that I would be limited to the afternoon and evening to fish, I decided that a trip here after work would be just the thing to satisfy my urge to trout fish. I was a little concerned about how the weather might have affected the fishing, but I was greeted by a brief rain shower when I arrived at the stream. The water was low, but not drought low, and looked to me to be about normal for summer time. It was as clear and cold as it always used to be, and I was glad to catch a small rainbow within the first five minutes or so. This fish was about the average for this stream for me, where it seems like six to nine inch rainbows are the most common fish I catch. There are a few brown trout here and there in the stream, and very rarely, a brook trout or two, although it's been several years since I've caught a brookie in this creek. It does have a tributary that is almost all brook trout, but the main creek seems to belong mainly to the rainbows.

Wild Rainbow
I started out fishing my favorite summer dry fly pattern, the Thunderhead, and caught several small rainbows and a number of rosyside dace. With the number of dace in the stream, I've never quite understood why I don't see more nice brown trout, because there's no shortage of food for them. I continued working my way upstream, and noticed that at the deepest pool someone had put up a rope swing since the last time I was there. This pool rarely is productive for me, probably because I like to fish dry flies here and the water is at least six or seven feet deep. I'm sure there's trout in here, but I figure they're down deep. This time however, I was surprised to catch a nice rainbow out of the head of the pool. I guess it was holding in shallow enough water to be interested in a dry fly. This turned out to be the best fish of the day, although I did manage several more rainbows and one lone brown.

Wild Brown
As I worked my way upstream, I decided to experiment a little with some different dry flies, and test some of the flies from my Favorite Dry Flies post I wrote a several weeks ago. I switched from the Thunderhead, to a Rio Grande Trude, then a Tennessee Wulff, and finished the day with a Deer Hair Caddis. My very unscientific results led me to believe that the fish liked all four patterns about the same. Now, if I had been fishing a productive river during a hatch, it might have been a very different story. The last fish of the day came on the caddis, and then it was time to make my way back to the road for the walk back down to the truck. On the way out, I stopped to look once again at the sign marking this particular tract as the first national forest tract purchased. This sign is my usual starting point, but on this particular day someone else must have had the same idea so I drove on up to a pull off farther upstream.
First National Forest Tract

I snapped a picture of the sign, then got back in the truck and headed out of the hills back toward home. As I headed down the road, I thought once again about how much I enjoy being out in the mountains, chasing pretty wild trout, and fooling them with a bit of fur and feathers wrapped around a hook. I realize how fortunate I am to have places like this so close to home, and I hope that I never take it for granted. As soon as my truck gets fixed I will be ready to go back again.

- Joseph

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Few Favorite Dry Flies

When I wrote the post Anticipation a few days ago, I didn't realize that I would be writing a second blog post along the same lines. This time however, it's not deer season that I'm anticipating, but rather cold, clear mountain streams and pretty wild trout. It's been a while, (way too long), since I've made a trip up to the mountains to fish some of my favorite wild trout streams. I've decided that there is only one remedy for this, and that's to go trout fishing.

The summer seems to be flying by, and as a school teacher that's the last thing I want to happen. I love what I do, but I also enjoy summer vacation and I'm never quite ready for it to end. In anticipation of a fishing trip, I sat down at my fly tying desk the other day and worked on tying up several summertime essentials to restock my fly box. I was running low on several dry fly patterns that I love to use, and it had been too long since I took the time to tie any flies.

The act of fly tying is similar to checking trail cameras for me. Both activities are fun in their own right, but also serve to remind me of good times to come. Here are a few of the fly patterns I tied the other day, along with the recipes for them. None of these flies are original designs of mine, but they are the dry flies that I use most frequently. These are all flies that I've had good luck with here in North Carolina, and hopefully they will work for you too.

Thunderhead - This is usually one of the first flies I try during the summer, and often the only one I use during a trip. This fly is a sentimental favorite, because it is the pattern that I caught my first trout on a dry fly on, a pretty little wild brown that hooked me as much as I hooked it.

Hook: TMC 100 or Mustad 94840; 12-16
Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail: Brown Hackle Fibers
Body: Superfine Gray Dubbing
Wing: White Calf Tail
Hackle: Brown and Grizzly Mixed

Rio Grande Trude
Rio Grande Trude - If a Thunderhead isn't working, this is usually my second choice, and sometimes my first. I've had especially good luck with this fly on brook trout.

Hook: TMC 100 or Mustad 94840; 12-16
Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet
Body: Superfine Black Dubbing
Wing: White Calf Tail
Hackle: Brown

Deer Hair Caddis

Deer Hair Caddis - I've used these a lot over the years. I like to fish this fly in rougher or faster water, since it seems to float well in these conditions. This is just a basic Elk Hair Caddis tied with deer body hair. Both elk and deer hair seem to work about equally well for me for this fly.

Hook: TMC 100 or Mustad 94840; 10-18
Thread: 6/0 Brown
Body: Superfine Tan Dubbing (Sometimes I use hare's mask, olive, or cinnamon dubbing)
Wing: Deer Body Hair
Hackle: Palmered Brown Hackle

Tennessee Wulff
Tennessee Wulff - This is another pattern that I like to use in faster water. I've always heard our wild trout in NC like flies with some yellow on them, and while I don't have any scientific evidence to back this claim up, they do seem to like this fly. Since we have sparse hatches in most of our wild freestone streams, attractor patterns like this will usually do the trick.

Hook: TMC 100 or Mustad 94840; 10-16
Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail: Brown Bucktail
Body: Peacock Herl with a Yellow Floss Band
Wing: White Calf Tail
Hackle: Brown

These are just a few of the patterns that I like to tie and carry in my fly box, but unless there's a visible hatch or I'm fishing a technical stream like the Davidson, one of these four patterns are usually tied on my tippet if I'm dry fly fishing. I can't think of many things more exciting than seeing a wild trout take a dry fly, and I'm planing on giving a few trout the opportunity to see these flies very soon. If you get a chance to give any of these a try, I hope they work as well for you as they have for me.

- Joseph 

Friday, July 17, 2015


It's still above 90 degrees outside at 7:00 pm, and I'm swinging a bush ax.  In between wiping sweat out of my eyes, I think that I must be crazy. It's the middle of July, but already I have whitetail deer on my mind. I'm at one of my hunting spots, clearing a trail across a pond dam that had become overgrown with briers and saplings. This dam doubles as a bridge over the creek leading to my deer stand. Once the trail is cleared, I still have to walk up to the top of the ridge and check on the stand, and clear away some dead trees that are blocking the shooting lanes, not to mention trimming the limbs that have began to block my view out of the stand. The old ladder on the homemade stand needs to be replaced, thanks to the work of carpenter bees, but that's a project that will have to wait for another day. I've got a memory card in my pocket, and plan on swapping it out with the one that is in my trail camera close by. I can't wait to see if anything has been visiting the minerals I put out a few weeks ago, and my thoughts turn to cooler weather, changing leaves, and rutting bucks.

That was the scenario the other day as I began preparing for the 2015 deer season. Anticipation is a big part of hunting and fishing to me. I can remember many years where I couldn't sleep the night before opening day of deer or turkey seasons, or even when I had a fishing trip planned for the next morning. That seems to have changed a little as I've gotten older, and I'd like to think that it's just experience helping me to sleep now. I don't feel any less excitement about being outdoors now than I did twenty or more years ago as a child, however I do know now that it's better to sleep in the bed the night before so I don't fall asleep in the stand in the mornings!

One thing that I enjoy now is being able to use trail cameras to see what I would've normally missed by not being in the woods. I'm not sure that these have drastically changed the way I hunt, but they do tend to add fuel to the fire of excitement when a nice deer or big tom turkey shows up on camera. Over the last few years, they've also provided their share of surprises like the time a black bear passed through, or the occasional bobcat, fox, coyote, or raccoon. As I've suffered through the 90+ degree high temperatures these last few weeks, I can't help but think that soon fall will be here, bringing with it cooler weather, football, dove hunting, better trout fishing, and the beginning of our archery deer season. In the meantime, here are a few of the visitors that have shown up on the camera in the last few days. It won't be much longer and these bucks won't be so friendly with each other. I can't wait.

- Joseph

There are a few more pictures below the jump.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Smallmouth Bass and Being Slack

I hate to admit that my blogging seems to  follow a trend of several posts, followed by long, (too long!), periods of neglect and inactivity on the blog. It seems that there's always some excuse for why I don't take the time to sit down and write about the outdoors. I'm not going to promise that this is going to change, although I'd like to become more consistent with my blogging. 

I started this blog a little over three years ago as a place to write about and share my love of hunting and fishing, and for a while I was fairly consistent about writing on here and reading other blogs that I found through comments left here and sites like the Outdoor Blogger Network. I found a lot of great blogs, and "met" some good writers through comments left on here. I was amazed then, (and still am now), that anybody would want to take the time to read my ramblings about trout and turkeys, deer and bass, or the joys of planting a garden.  Before I write about my latest trip for smallmouth bass, I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read these ramblings over the past three years or so, and also to all the online friends I've met through the outdoor blogging community who've taken the time to leave a comment on here or added me to your blog roll. I apologize for being such a slacker at times when it comes to blogging, and even if I've not left a comment on your blog lately I do still enjoy reading every one of them. Now, on with the fishing trip!

It's been a hot, dry summer so far here in western North Carolina. With highs in the 90's almost every day since the middle of June, not to mention several days that saw 100 degree temperatures, fishing trips have been few and far between. Our garden is all but done producing, and I keep thinking about fall and cooler weather. In spite of the heat, fishing has been on my mind. I keep thinking how good a trip up to the high country to chase trout would be, but so far I haven't been able to work out a good time to go. In the meantime, to at least temporarily satisfy my need to cast a fly, I decided to give the local smallmouth river a shot. I knew that water flow had been much lower than normal for several days before, but by watching the USGS gauge I happened to notice that the river had come up close to a normal summer flow when I made the decision to take a spur-of-the-moment trip.

I gave my one of my usual fishing partners, (my brother-in-law), a call to see if he was free, and within 45 minutes I was picking him up on the way to the river. When we arrived, the river looked to be in better shape than the last few times I had been by, with a normal current and decent amount of water. The few times I had seen the river previously, the current was almost nonexistent and there were rocks exposed that are normally never seen. I have tried fishing a time or two under those conditions, but the fish tend to be extremely spooky and sometimes hard to locate because the holes that can be accessed by wading tend to get too shallow to hold fish at extremely low flows.

We both started out throwing various popping bugs, with the hope of some surface action. Neither of us were able to get a strike from a bass, although we each caught some redbreast sunfish on top water. After fooling around with a popper for a little while, I decided to switch to a streamer and get serious about bass fishing. I decided to go with a purple, pink, and white Triple Threat streamer  because the water was slightly stained and the bass down here seem to prefer brighter colored flies. I've had a lot more success here with blue, purple, and pink colored flies than I have with more natural colors.

First Smallmouth of the Year
As I fished my way downstream, I made a cast toward the bank just in front of a submerged rock and felt that familiar resistance when I went to strip in my fly. I set the hook, and before I had time to even process what had happened a pretty little smallmouth bass was jumping on the end of my line. After a few good runs and several more jumps, I had the first smallmouth of the year in hand. He wasn't the biggest bass I've ever caught down here, but I was excited to see him. I was worried about what the high heat and lack of rain would do to the bass, but this bass looked healthy and well fed, and was full of energy.

I was hoping that this would be a sign of good things to come for the day, but as we continued fishing we noticed that the river was dropping once again. There is a small dam at a power plant upstream of where we fish, and evidently the gates at the dam had been closed once again. As the water dropped and continued to clear, the fishing became more and more difficult. That first bass would turn out to be the only one for the day, although each of us did manage a few more redbreast sunfish each. Once again, these came on small poppers in various colors. The sunfish tended to be holding close to the banks, in deeper pockets of fairly calm water, while the bass was holding in a similar area with a little more current.

As I write this today, we've gotten the first significant rainfall in about six weeks. Hopefully, this will help improve conditions down at the river, and it's also got me pondering a return trip to see if the bass will be a little more cooperative. Either way, it's always nice to take a hike down along the river and get away for a while. If time and weather allow, I'll be back soon to give it another try.

- Joseph