Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Break Trout Fishing

The school that I teach at has been off this week for our Easter/spring break, and I decided Tuesday to take advantage of the time off and pretty weather to catch up on some trout fishing. With my time being somewhat limited, I decided that a trip to South Mountains State Park would be my best option for some trout fishing close to home. I've been hoping to make it a little further west into the mountains to fish some of my favorite wild trout streams, but with some good Delayed Harvest trout fishing only 25 minutes from home, South Mountains is often where I find myself when I have a couple hours to grab a fly rod and get away. There are wild trout here also, but unfortunately I didn't have the time to commit to hiking to the areas they live. 
Getting Close
Another reason I think that I fish here so often is that this state park was my classroom when I was first learning to trout fish. The main stream of the Jacob Fork and one of it's tributaries are where I first figured out how to read water, wade, and occasionally catch a trout. It was definitely a time of trial and error, with a lot of error, lost flies, and skinned knees and shins from taking falls. It's also where I learned to appreciate felt soles on wading boots as opposed to the old tennis shoes I started out wearing. 
Jacob Fork
The day started out cool, but by the middle of the day the sun was out and the weather was comfortable. It won't be long before I will be leaving the waders at home and enjoying the cool water as summer's heat gets closer. I was surprised at the number of people that were here on a Tuesday, but then I figured that a lot of people were out of school and possibly had time off from work for Easter. There were also a lot of fishermen, but luckily I have fished here long enough to know of a few out of the way spots where I can usually have some water to myself without crowding other fishermen. I started out the day fishing nymphs, and found the trout seemed to be stacked up in pools together, as opposed to spread out like I'm used to on this stream. Several pools that have been productive in the past seemed to be empty this time, and other pools might hold a dozen fish. I started out the day with a nice rainbow trout that wanted to put on a show, jumping two or three times and making a few good runs before I brought him to the net. 
The Jumper
I worked this pool for a while, taking several brook trout and another small rainbow before I decided to head upstream in search of new fish and new water. I'm not sure if this is the case, but it seems like the majority of the spring stockings this year have been brook trout. They made up most of the fish that I caught and saw on my last few trips. After catching several trout on nymphs, and seeing a few mayflies in the air, I decided it was time to switch up and try to catch my first trout of the year on dry flies. 
Jacob Fork Brook Trout
I fished my way upstream using a Rio Grande Trude, an attractor dry fly pattern that I've had luck with over the years. I tend to believe that for the freestone creeks here in NC that I fish, presentation trumps pattern most of the time. We have lots of different insects, but not the heavy hatches that can cause fish to be selective. I have a hand full of similar attractor dry fly patterns that I carry and fish pretty much from spring to fall, with the exception being rivers like the Davidson that do see heavy insect hatches and lots of fishing pressure. I was excited to see that the fish were willing to rise for a dry fly, and I managed several more brook trout as I worked my way upstream. I also had a nice surprise in the form of a small brown trout that had the look of a wild fish. I'm assuming it came down from further upstream where there are some wild browns, and I'm basing my guess that it was a wild fish on it's size, color, and the fact that it had intact fins as opposed to the ragged pectoral fins I was seeing on most of the hatchery fish I caught. Either way, it was nice to catch a brown trout, and as a bonus catching it allowed me the rare opportunity to catch all three species of trout that inhabit the stream. 
Brown on a Rio Grande
After fishing a while, I decided to get out of the stream and go for a short hike along the trail that paralleled the river. It was a nice change of pace to just go for a walk and look at the stream from a different perspective. I was also happy to see that there were lots of small hemlocks growing beside the trail, because I've been seeing signs of the hemlock woolly adelgid in the park for the last several years. I'm hoping the hemlocks can survive this invasive species, both to provide shade for the trout streams, and also because they are an important part of the mountain ecosystem. 
River Trail
It was a nice day to get out and enjoy nature, and the trout were an added bonus. The hike and the fishing made for a great day outdoors, and I'm looking forward to going back soon.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph


  1. Glad you enjoyed a good day on the stream and on the trail. Nice trout! Let's hope that hemlock adelgid behaves itself and stays in within bounds. The loss of another tree would be tragic.

    1. Thanks Walt! I've been seeing signs of the hemlock adelgid in the park for several years now, but so far the hemlocks seem to be hanging on. Hopefully they won't be quite as big a problem as they were predicted to be.


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