Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chasing Wild Rainbows

This spring and summer so far have been different than in the past few years. We seem to have had a lot more rain, and consequently our garden is doing quite well. I've been anxious to head up into the mountains to see what kind of impact the wet weather has had on the trout streams, and yesterday I finally got the opportunity to go chase some wild trout for a few hours.

I decided to fish a stream that I have fished off and on since I began trout fishing several years ago.  The past few years I've had mixed results fishing this stream, but I'm not too surprised because it is in a fairly heavily used area of the Pisgah National Forest, and the forest service road parallels the stream making for easy access. I'm sure the  trout here are fished for fairly often, although I didn't see anyone fishing yesterday. It's interesting to see how things have changed since I started fishing here, although all my evidence is anecdotal. I used to catch more of a mix of species, with rainbows and browns being fairly equal in numbers with an occasional brook trout thrown in the mix. The last few years, I've not caught any brookies in this stream and the vast majority of trout have been rainbows with only an occasional brown.
Heading Upstream
I arrived to find the stream in better shape than I had seen it in the past few summers. There was lots of water, and the flow was up due to the recent rains. I was a little worried on the drive up because I knew that there had been some thunderstorms in the area overnight, and I woke to find a flood watch in effect for the southern part of the county where this stream is located. There isn't a USGS gauge on this stream, but I checked the ones in the surrounding area and saw that there was only a minimal increase in water flow. Based on this, I decided to go ahead and take a chance, knowing that there were other streams not too far away that should be fishable if flows were too high. When I arrived, I was pleased to find the creek running clear and low enough to make for fairly easy wading. It reminded me of the way this stream used to look back before the dry summers of a few years ago. 
Wild NC Rainbow Trout 
Some of my best wild trout have come from this stream over the years, but it seems that the overall size of the trout here has decreased in the last few years. I was curious to see if the higher flows would bring out the larger trout, or if there were even any there anymore. I have a feeling that the low water of the past few years may have hurt the trout population in this creek, but that is just speculation on my part. Yesterday's catch was all rainbow trout of about 5-6", although I did miss a nice fish due to a too anxious hook set on my part. This fish was holding in a nice pool formed by the trunk of a fallen tree lying parallel with the bank. After several aggressive strikes from the smaller trout that morning, I was caught off guard when this larger fish slowly and deliberately rose to my fly, and I feel certain I tried to set the hook and pulled the fly away before it had a chance to eat it. 
Beautiful Colors
All the trout yesterday came on dry flies, with the Thunderhead and deer hair caddis each accounting for about half of the fish. There are a few large, deep pools on this creek that just seem to scream "Big fish here!", although I've only caught a trout out of one of them once. I tried stripping a small streamer through these pools yesterday, hoping to entice a big brown, but there were no takers. The pools themselves were just slightly dingy from the rains, and I was hoping that this would have the fish feeling a little more secure. Someday maybe I will figure out the secret to these holes, but until then the mystery of them keeps things interesting. 

One thing that I absolutely love about fishing for wild trout is the amazing colors that these fish have. All the small ones yesterday still had their parr marks, and the bright red stripes and dark spots made a pretty combination. All in all, it was a great day to get out and ramble around in the mountains. Now I can't wait to do it again!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph


  1. I will go threw phases where I could care less about wild streams. Then for some reason I get this bug and I have to go fish one. It's like a nagging crave that I have to satisfy.

    1. I know what you mean. In the last couple years I've spent more and more time fly fishing a local river that has smallmouth, largemouth, and redbreast sunfish instead of making so many trips up to the mountains for trout. Even though I enjoy that a whole lot, every now and then I get that urge to go catch some wild trout and have to take a ride west.

  2. Beautiful trout and colors. It is unfortunate that those nice pools that scream "Big fish here!" are not only speaking to you, but every other fisherman. Glad to see that you were able to find some time to get out.

    1. Thanks Peter! You're right, those couple of pools are the most obvious places for good fish in that stream, and I'm sure they get a lot of pressure. I did manange a 13" brown in one of them once, but haven't ever been able to repeat that.

  3. Hey Joe, I haven't hit any wild this year, but I hit some DH waters before the season opened. Caught a few on BH prince nymphs and some on Parachute adams and Parachute BWO. Caught a few around 13-14" mark. As always, I love reading your posts, keep it up.

    1. Thanks Chris! I had a few good days fishing DH back in March and April. Sounds like you had some good trips!


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