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


  1. I think I know that section. Fished it a few times. I've never fished way up on the trail. I'm glad to see there's some decent fish in there. I know when a survey was done a few years back they didn't find much.

    1. It's pretty hit or miss up there most of the time. It seems like small rainbows account for the majority of what I catch, but it's a nice place to get away when I only have a few hours to fish. The tributary that has brook trout can be good at times too, but there have been times I thought it didn't have a fish in it.

  2. Nice. The water here in northwest PA is getting pretty skinny. What little rain is forecast probably won't bring much relief.

    1. We're in the same boat down here. There's been a shower or two here and there, but they only last a few minutes at a time. Hopefully we'll all get some relief soon. The streams around here are getting pretty skinny too, more so than usual in summer.

  3. nice trip, long time to see your new stories Joseph Hord


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