Monday, July 30, 2012

Fishing With Dad

The other day I did something that I haven't had a chance to do in a while. I went fishing with my Dad. We have been talking about going fishing for a while, but since Dad retired at the end of June, he's had a little extra time to be able to go. I was even more excited than usual about this fishing trip, because my Dad is the reason that I love the outdoors now. He introduced me to fishing when I was young, and from an early age I was hooked.

We finally got a plan together the night before and decided to try smallmouth fishing at the Broad River. Dad had never been fishing here before, and I hadn't been down there myself for about a month. The last time I was there, the smallmouth were biting pretty good and I was hoping for a repeat performance. Dad decided he wanted to give fly fishing a try on this trip, and I figured the river would be a good place to let him learn since it is nice and wide, with plenty of casting room. Also, the bream down there usually go absolutely nuts for small poppers. I figured Dad would be into fish in no time.
Dad looking for his next spot to fish

Of course what I hadn't taken into consideration was all the heat that we have had lately. I had attempted to fish down here once between this trip and the last, but it didn't work out due to high water. This time the USGS gauge showed the river at a reasonable level and dropping, so I figured we would be ok. When we got there the water level was low enough to wade comfortably, but the river was still pretty stained, probably from all the thunderstorms that we recently had. We decided to give it a try since we were there, and I figured that the stained water might help our chances since the fish wouldn't be able to see us quite as easily. Dad jumped right in and started fishing with a popping bug, while I tied on my favorite smallmouth fly for this river, a blue, purple, and white Triple Threat.

My go-to smallmouth fly
I missed a couple of strikes early on, from either eager bream or small bass. Dad was fishing below me with the popper, but wasn't having much luck. We both fished for an hour or so with no strikes, and like fishermen do we began to speculate on why the fishing was off. My guess was the dirty water, and Dad figured that all the heat we had been having had the fish hunkered down in deeper water trying to stay cool. If I had to guess, I'd say the answer is probably a combination of those two factors, along with that mysterious way a river has of just turning off. We stuck with it though, and I could tell Dad was starting to get the hang of fly casting. I kept hoping for a fish to hit his fly, and I kept on fishing with the Triple Threat for a little while.
Dad fly fishing

 As time went by with no more strikes, I decided to change it up and throw a popper for a while to see if the bream were in a biting mood. I must have fooled the only one that felt like eating, because I did have one come up and smack a yellow popper.
Only bream of the day
These bream are usually my fall back plan on this river when the smallmouth aren't wanting to bite, but for some reason today even the bream were in a funk. I hoped that they would turn on and give Dad some action, but the one I caught turned out to be the only one for the day. I switched back to the Triple Threat thinking maybe the fish would eat something subsurface, and kept on trying to find a bass willing to bite. Eventually I did manage to find one little smallmouth that wanted to eat.
This fish turned out to be the last one of the day, but we fished a while longer hoping for another bite. As I was working a pool that is usually good for a bass, Dad headed downstream to the next deeper hole. He hadn't gone far when I heard him say "Look at that deer!".
Deer in the river
A deer had come off of one of the downstream islands and was taking a drink at the edge of the water. I moved to where I could see it and snapped a few pictures, and then we just stood there watching as it waded the river. It stopped about halfway across and looked toward us, almost as if it was saying "Don't you guys know it's too dang hot for the fish to bite?!".

Checking us out
We fished a little while longer, but with the sun getting hotter and the fishing getting slower, we decided to call it a day around 12:30pm and go get lunch. We decided to stop in at a local Chinese restaurant, and as we were eating I looked out the window and there were four more deer across the street in someone's yard! It appeared to be a doe and her three fawns that had come out to graze. 

Deer In Town

We debated for a little while on whether or not to go back and give the fishing another try, but in the end we decided with the temperature already in the mid 90's it would probably be wise to call it a day. We did make some future plans involving a trip to a new smallmouth stream I had heard about, and possibly doing some trout fishing. I'm looking forward to those trips, but most of all I'm looking forward to another day fishing with Dad.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turkey Trials

I enjoy all types of hunting but if I had to pick my absolute favorite type of animal to hunt I think turkeys would be it. I started turkey hunting seriously when I was in college, and got my first turkey during the 2005 season. This ignited a passion for turkey hunting that I still have. Since that first turkey, I have been lucky enough to take two more, but I have spent much more time getting outsmarted by these birds.

My first turkey
To me, the appeal of turkey hunting is the challenge. As a turkey hunter, I not only have to avoid being seen, but I have to make a turkey act against his normal nature. When I'm turkey hunting, I mainly use calls that imitate the sounds of a hen turkey with the hopes that a tom will come to the call. However, in nature the tom normally gobbles and the hens come to him. Add to that the fact that turkeys have excellent vision and already the deck is stacked against the turkey hunter.

This past turkey season reminded me why I enjoy this sport so much, and also just how trying turkey hunting can be. I spent the majority of the season after one particularly wary gobbler, but at the end of the season both my tags went unused. This gobbler had the frustrating habit of gobbling hard early in the morning, and even answering my calls almost every time. However, the old tom would often sit in the tree until all the hens had flown down and then wait until they came to him to leave his roost. The farm I was hunting on had an abundance of hens, and only two mature toms and a jake. The other tom and the jake must have both been subordinate birds because they rarely gobbled and never answered a call. This left the old boss tom free to woo his hens without any worry of competition. This also made my job as a hunter that much harder, because I had to compete with 13 or 14 real hens who would run to the tom whenever he gobbled. To make matters worse, I had several pictures of him strutting by himself on my trail camera before the season opened. I think this old turkey was taunting me!

Showing off

On the other farm I hunt there were several toms, but they had the habit of roosting on the farm I hunted one day, and then moving across the road to another property the next. Of course they never seemed to be roosting where I could hunt them on days that I hunted that farm. Occasionally I would be able to get a tom to answer a locator call late in the evening so that I knew he was roosted on the right property, but even then it was a challenge hunting them. This particular farm is mainly open pasture and rolling hills, with scattered blocks of woods. If I didn't get in place very early before sunrise, there was a very good chance I would be spotted walking across the fields. This happened to me one afternoon as I was walking to my hunting spot. I topped a hill and a tom was staring at me from about 80 yards away. He made tracks getting out of there, and that was the end of the action that day.
Where are the turkeys?

It was more of the same throughout the turkey season for me this year. I never seemed to be in exactly the right place at the right time, although there were a few times that I thought sure I would get a turkey. I wouldn't trade any of the time I spent in the woods even though I had to eat my turkey tags instead of turkey breast at the end of the season. The ability to be outdoors and see the woods come alive at sunrise and hear a tom turkey sound off from his roost is something that will never get old. If I hunted only to kill a turkey, I would have quit long ago.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday morning was going to be a trip to the local smallmouth bass river, one that I posted about previously here. As with all plans, I thought I had this one figured out. I knew that with all the thunderstorms we had last week, the river would be up. However, I kept an eye on the USGS Water Data and the river seemed to be coming down compared to last week. I have come to depend more and more on this data to help me avoid driving somewhere to fish, only to find the water too high/muddy/dangerous to wade. Most of the time, it works well.
Plan A

By last night, the river was running in the 700-750 cfs range, a little high but I had fished it at those flows before. I knew that I would have to be careful and avoid the deeper spots, but I felt comfortable fishing it at this level. Ideally, 500-600 cfs seems to be when I have had my best luck, much lower and the water is often too low. I checked the gauge again yesterday morning, and it was still around 700, so Trent and I headed out for the river. Evidently, there was a major increase in water flow between when I last checked and when we arrived at the river. There are two dams upstream from where we fish, so flows aren't always dependent on rain to increase. I guess they were releasing water, because the river was high and muddy when we drove over the bridge. I checked the gauge again on my phone, and it had jumped to close to 900! We knew that this was very close to the upper limit of safe wading for where we planned to fish, and with the very good possibility that the river would continue rising we decided to come up with a Plan B.

Plan B
Smallmouth were out for the day, but we figured that with the recent rains, the trout streams should be in a little better shape, and a whole lot easier to wade than a blown out river. We decided to head toward a wild trout stream near Marion that we have fished occasionally for several years now. Luckily, it wasn't far out of the way to swing by my house to switch the 6wt and 8wt bass rods for the 4wt and 5wt trout rods. I surely didn't want to attempt presenting a size 14 dry fly on an 8wt! After a quick stop and equipment switch, it was on to the mountains.
Small but feisty 

The creek looked to be in better shape than the last several times I had fished it. The rain had definitely helped the flow, and I figured that with better conditions the fishing would be good.  We were able to bring a few small rainbows to hand, and I did catch one little brown trout, but overall the fishing was tougher that I figured it would be. The last several times I have fished this stream, it seems like the size and numbers of trout are lower than in previous years. The biggest trout I caught today I would say was around 8 inches, where this used to be about the average size for this creek.
Biggest of the day

 There's always the possibility that I just fished the creek on an off day, or that I had an off day myself, but I did seem to catch better fish in past years here. However, with that being said, I did manage to miss one very nice trout that rose in a run right beside an undercut bank. I hesitate to guess the size of a fish I didn't catch, but I'm going to say at least 10 inches, but probably bigger. This was by far the biggest trout I saw all day, and it just proved the old saying about all the big ones getting away.
Future Trophy Brown
We were both fishing dry flies, and I had success on Thunderheads, Deer Hair Caddis, and  a female Adams. Trent caught his fish on a Rio Grande Trude. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining about catching small trout, because I truly had fun fishing this stream. I took the 4wt fly rod that I bought when I first starting fly fishing several years ago, and this was the perfect rod to let the small trout show off a little bit. For me, it was a reminder of just how much fun a lighter rod could make small trout. Most of my recent fishing has been smallmouth, and it was a nice change to go from an 8wt and big bass flies to the 4wt and dry flies. Big or small, a trout eating a dry fly is what got me hooked on this wonderful sport of fly fishing and it is always a thrill.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Velvet

One advantage I've recently found to having a trail camera is the chance to see bucks in velvet. This is something that I rarely got to see before, and almost never close up. I might happen to see a buck during the summer while driving down the road, or the very rare occasion when I would see one very early in bow season, but they soon lost their velvet and the majority of the deer season here in western NC the bucks are hard horned. Checking the trail camera the other day, I was excited to see a total of three velvet bucks visiting my mineral site. Two of these deer I shared pictures of in a previous post. The third buck only recently showed up, but I hope he sticks around!

He's going to be a nice 8 pt
I think that it is simply amazing the way that deer shed their antlers every winter, and then regrow them through the next spring and summer, with the velvet covering providing the antlers with a blood supply and nutrition for growth. All of this yearly growing and shedding antlers, all for the purpose of fighting during the rut for a chance to breed. The more I study nature and spend time in the woods, the more amazing it seems to me. These deer grow their antlers ultimately to have a chance to pass on their genes, but whatever the reason for growing them, whitetail deer antlers are impressive both for the way they look and grow, and the effect they have on us hunters.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, July 16, 2012


I went to check on a trail camera the other day, and was treated to this sight. It looks like the turkeys have hatched and are growing up!
Hen and four poults
I apologize for the poor pictures, they were taken with my phone out of the truck as I was driving through the field. It's been my experience that the turkeys aren't as spooked by a vehicle as they would have been by me getting out to make a picture. I really need to start carrying a better camera with me everywhere, especially since I'm writing a blog!

Hen and one poult

I was glad to see the young turkeys, both as a hunter and as someone who enjoys nature. I wonder if these poults were fathered by that wise old gobbler that I never could call in? If so, the turkey hunting might get a little more difficult down here!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Friday, July 13, 2012

Trail Cam Pictures #1

I plan to occasionally post pictures to this blog from the trail cameras that my brother-in-law and I have set up at the two farms that we hunt on. This is not going to be a regular feature, but more of an occasional posting when something interesting or exciting shows up on our cameras. Right now we have two cameras out, both on mineral sites that we have established for deer. However, as the pictures will show, sometimes surprises show up!

I have only been using trail cameras since last Christmas, when I received one as a present. I know I'm coming late to the game as several people I know have been using these for years. I do enjoy getting to see what roams around in the woods when nobody is around, and it is exciting to see pictures of deer that will hopefully still be in the area when deer season comes. If you have never used one of these cameras, I would definitely recommend trying it out. Even if you're not a hunter or don't plan to use these as a scouting tool, I believe you will enjoy getting to see the different animals that are living in your neck of the woods.

Enough talking, on with the pictures!

Velvet buck
Lots more pictures below the jump!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Yesterday's Harvest

Growing a vegetable garden is something I have always enjoyed, and I am sure that the influence of both of my grandfathers is the reason why. As a little boy, I remember "helping" in the garden during the summer, although looking back I'm not too sure how much help a 6 or 7 year old boy following along and asking all kinds of questions really was.

Both of my grandfathers had large gardens every year, and I can remember my grandmothers canning and freezing all summer long. As a child, I had no idea just how much time and effort went in to growing and preserving all those fruits and vegetables, I just knew even at that age that it was so much better tasting than the food that came from the grocery store! As time went on, I lost both of my grandfathers and their garden spots were no longer plowed and planted. I stayed interested in agriculture, going on to major in agricultural education at Clemson University, and started a career as an agriculture teacher.

Then, two years ago, after we got married my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to live in my maternal grandparents' house, which we now own. One of the first things that I did was to plow up Pop's (my grandfather) old garden spot and plant a garden of my own. The first year we had a garden didn't turn out too well, mainly because we went on our honeymoon right around harvest time and the garden was neglected due to the excitement of wedding preparations and honeymooning.

The following summer we decided to give the garden another try. This time I planned ahead and ordered a drip irrigation system to help combat one of the major problems we had with our first garden - not enough water and no way to provide water. Last year's garden turned out much better than the first attempt, and I got an entirely new education in canning and freezing produce. I had watched my grandparents do this as a young boy, but I had never experienced this myself. One advantage to being a school teacher is having the summer off, but I never imagined I would be working all summer canning beans and freezing corn!

This year we again planted a garden, and we have just finished canning green beans. Yesterday we picked and shucked the first batch of corn, and I probably should be working on freezing it right now instead of writing a blog post about it. We also got tomatoes, squash, zucchini, a few lima beans, jalapeno, banana, bell, and cayenne peppers, and cucumbers yesterday.

Yesterday's harvest

I often think about Pop and the influence he had on me as a child. Many times when I'm working in the garden and look up I expect Pop to be standing there just down the row, in his straw hat and coveralls that he always wore in the garden. I know that he's looking down on us now, working the same garden plot that he had, and smiling. I think gardening, like hunting and fishing, is something that gets into your blood. I just hope that yesterday's harvest is only the beginning of many more to come.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Rainbows and Copperheads

This should be the last of the delayed fishing trip reports. On June 26, Trent and I took a trip up to the closest trout water to home, in South Mountain State Park. We had planned to fish a small wild trout stream in the park that is a tributary of the Jacob Fork River. This stream has always been a special place to me, because it's where I feel like I truly learned how to trout fish. When I was in high school, a good friend of mine and me would head up to "the mountain" as we called it and fish this stream using single hook Roostertail spinners. It never seemed to matter what color we used as long as it was black. Trent had never fished this stream, and I was hoping he would be able to have that small stream experience that I remembered so well from several years ago.

We weren't using spinners this day, instead we were fly fishing. This little creek is a challenging place to fly fish even during the best of times because of the close canopy and all the wonderful rhododendron that grows along the stream. Our trip started off with a little excitement as I almost stepped on a copperhead snake sunning on the trail. Just a word of caution for anyone who visits the South Mountains - there are copperheads and timber rattlesnakes both in those hills. Keep your eyes open! My experience with this particular stream over the years made me figure that we would be catching only rainbow trout, and this proved to be the case. We only fished a little way up the creek because of low water conditions. The trout were there, but were extremely spooky and difficult to catch. I did manage a few rainbows like this one.

Shinny Creek Rainbow
Because of the low water conditions we decided to make our way back down the trail and fish the main branch of the Jacob's Fork. Luckily the copperhead had made his way off the trail by the time we headed back, but I was definitely more vigilant on the hike out! The Jacob Fork was low as well, but there was enough water that the fishing was easier. I caught two nice fish out of some large pools, a brown trout and a brook trout that were both around ten inches. This coincidentally completed what many people refer to as a Western North Carolina trout slam - catching all three species of trout that live in our mountains in a single day.

Jacob Fork brown
The trout above was hiding under a large rock ledge and it took several attempts to convince him to come out and eat. I was surprised to catch a trout like this in the Jacob Fork because I do know it sees a fair amount of fishing pressure during the summer months. I won't say where, but he is swimming in the same hole he came out of unless someone else has caught him.

Jacob Fork brook trout
This brook trout was the last fish of the day for me, and a very nice surprise. I have caught a few wild brook trout in these mountains over the years, but I would have to say this one is one of the nicest wild brookies that I have caught anywhere. He was in another fairly deep pool on the river, and like the brown it took several drifts before he ate the fly. I released this beauty and hope to get to see him again sometime. I decided that this was a good fish to end the day on. All of my fish were caught on a Thunderhead dry fly, one of my favorite flies to use in the summertime when I'm fishing a wild stream. Trent had success using a CDC caddis dry fly pattern and caught several wild rainbows. With the park only 20 minutes away, I will definitely be returning soon. I have always considered the South Mountains as my home waters, and it is the classroom that has taught me a lot about trout fishing.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fly Tying - Triple Threat Streamer

On my post about smallmouth fishing the other day, I mentioned that most of my bass were caught on a Triple Threat streamer. This has been one of the most consistent smallmouth flies for me, and I have had good success using these for trout as well.

I first heard of Triple Threats a little over a year ago while I was fishing around the Titusville, Pennsylvania area. My wife's family is from this area, and we try to visit a few times a year. One thing that I always look forward to is getting to fish Oil Creek and some of the surrounding streams in the area. Last year in May we went up for my wife's aunt and uncle's 25th anniversary party and stayed a few days. I took my fly rod with the hopes of catching one of the hatches that Oil Creek is famous for. However, when we arrived there had been several days of wet weather and Oil Creek was too high and muddy to fish. I went to the local fly shop, Oil Creek Outfitters, to ask if there were any other options since I wasn't familiar with many streams in the area. Mike Laskowski, the owner of Oil Creek Outfitters, gave me some advice on where to fish in some smaller streams that weren't as affected by the high water. He also was kind enough to show me how to tie the Triple Threat streamer, a fly pattern that he had originated. He explained that he named the fly the Triple Threat because it was effective on trout, bass, and steelhead. I feel like this fly will be effective on almost any fish that preys on small minnows.

PA brown trout on a Triple Threat - my introduction to this fly

What few fish I was able to catch on that trip were caught on these streamers, and I have had success with bass and trout both since then. I haven't personally caught any steelhead on these or anything else, but a trip to the Lake Erie tributaries is definitely on my list for the future!

Crappie like them too!

I wanted to give the background on this fly before I posted the recipe in order to give credit where it is due. I didn't want anyone to get the impression that this is an original design of mine, although it sure has helped me catch fish! If you're a fly tier give this one a try, I think you'll like it.

I apologize if the pictures aren't the best, this is one of my first attempts at photographing flies. Hopefully it will get better!

Triple Threat

Recipe and Instructions below the jump

Broad River Smallmouth (Finally!)

I have been smallmouth bass fishing twice this summer, and I had planned on writing about these trips first when I started this blog. However, things haven't worked out like I had planned, so here is a belated report on the smallmouth fishing that I did a few weeks ago. The first trip was on June 15, and the second was June 19. Since the two trips were only a few days apart I decided to combine them into one post.

The first day my brother-in-law Trent and I headed out to a spot on the Broad River that we have fished off an on for the past three years. The area we usually fish is downstream from the main access point and by walking down we normally are able to avoid the crowds of swimmers that enjoy the river during the summer. The area we fish most is around several small islands and there are some fairly deep holes and rock ledges that usually hold smallmouth. We were both fly fishing, and I started out using a Triple Threat streamer, while Trent was fishing a small popper. Trent had some success early on catching a few largemouth on the popper, while I hadn't had any strikes on the streamer. As we worked our way downstream, I cast to a deeper run against the first island and caught this guy:

First smallmouth of the year!
I absolutely love the way that smallmouth fight. It seems like almost every smallmouth I have caught jumped several times before being landed. Smallmouth are what got me truly interested in fly fishing for species other than trout, and they are fast becoming one of my all time favorite fish. We continued to work our way downstream along the right side of the islands, and when we came to another good hole this bass hit my streamer.

We continued fishing, and I wound up catching two more smallmouth and several bream. Trent also had success fishing poppers, but for some reason the largemouth were hitting his popper but not my streamer, while most of the smallmouth were caught on streamers. I did have one smallmouth take a chartreuse Sneaky Pete, but it seemed like the largemouth were the main ones feeding on top.

One of Trent's largemouth
 Our success the first day convinced us to give it another try a few days later. We returned to the same area with the hopes of repeating our success from a few days earlier. In my experience, you usually can't make history repeat itself, especially in fishing! However, we were lucky that day and found that the fish were biting just as well as a few days before. Once again, I decided to fish a Triple Threat streamer, and Trent decided to use the same frog colored popper that had been so successful for him on our last trip. I didn't catch as many bass as before, but I did manage one nice smallmouth on a streamer.

Broad River bronzeback
At this point the bass were coming few and far between as the day warmed up, so I switched to a small popper and fished a while longer for the feisty bream that this river seems to be full of. If I ever have anyone who wants to learn to fly fish, I can't think of a better way to introduce them to the sport than a popping bug and a river full of nice bream. Watching a fish smash a popper never gets old!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Saturday, July 7, 2012


A lot of outdoor activities require a sense of timing. For fishing, it involves timing the cast, the strike, and often the time of day. For gardening, it is knowing when to plant, when to pick, and when to plow. For hunting, it is knowing what the animals will be doing at a particular time during the year.

I found out that blogging also involves a sense of timing. I started this blog two days before my wife, my dad, my brother, and I went on vacation. I didn't stop to think at the time that all these ideas I had for blog posts would have to be put on the back burner for at least a week! I have been wanting to post to the blog all of this past week, but other than a quick post of some fish from trips made the week before I didn't take the time to write any posts. This is the reason why the next day or two will probably be trip reports from fishing that I did a few weeks ago. I have no intention of rehashing old fishing trips on a regular basis on this blog, although there are a few trips in particular that I may do posts about in the future simply because they stand out in my mind for various reasons.

The garden several weeks ago
Not only was my timing on starting a blog a little off, we also came home today to a garden that is in need of a little TLC. Luckily, the corn is just now ready to be picked, and the green beans had mostly been canned before we left but I do have a day or two of hoeing and weed pulling ahead! Freezing corn and lima beans are also on the agenda for this week. We were fortunate to have my father-in-law and brother-in-law taking care of picking and watering while we were away. Otherwise, the garden may not have survived the heat we had last week.

Some of the fruits of our labor

If all goes well I plan to sneak a fishing trip to the South Toe river in sometime as well. Before I can go fishing though I have to rescue our sweet potato vines from the weeds that sprang up while we were away. In the meantime, I do plan to finally post some information to go along with the smallmouth and trout pictures I posted the other day.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Things to Come

I wanted to do a quick post showing a few pictures of my recent fishing trips. I plan to do a more detailed write up of these trips soon.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph