Friday, July 28, 2017

Beating the Heat

Cold Water
It's been hot here for the last week or two. Not just hot, but 90+ degrees, high humidity, and sweating by the time you walk from the house to the mailbox hot.  When my Uncle Greg, whom I had fished with the previous week, called last Thursday night and asked if I had anything going on the next day, it was all the encouragement I needed. With the forecast for last Friday being for temperatures above 95, it seemed like an ideal day to head for the high country. We both figured that regardless of how the fishing was, wading in a trout stream in the mountains would beat almost anything else we might do that day.

Wild Rainbow
We decided to head up toward the same general area that we fished the previous week, although this time we would be fishing a stream that was fairly familiar to both of us. We had fished this stream several times together, as well as separately. This particular stream is one of my favorites, and it contains all three species of trout that can be found in North Carolina. The majority of the trout I've caught here over the years have been wild rainbows and browns, but the occasional brook trout does make an appearance, especially as you get farther up into the headwaters. I have heard that some of the tributaries to this stream contain healthy populations of native brook trout, but I haven't personally fished the tributaries.

When we arrived at the stream Friday morning the temperature, at least according to my truck, was a cool 68 degrees. This was a welcome relief from the sweltering heat at home, and the first few steps into the water were just a little bit of a shock to the system. We split up and began fishing, working our way upstream and planning to check in with each other after an hour or two to see how things were going.

It wasn't long until I got a strike from a pretty little wild rainbow trout, and as I fished my way upstream I missed a several more strikes. It was a little bit of a puzzle, as the trout seemed interested in my fly, but they would almost seem to come up and bump it instead of eating it. Most of the time our wild trout in NC don't seem to be very particular about flies as long as the presentation is good, but these fish were acting like there was something they didn't like. I don't know if this was due to fishing pressure, or some other factor. I do know that this stream is fairly popular, and we did see a few other fishermen during our time there.

Beefsteak Fungus? (Best guess from Google)
Eventually, I fished up to where Greg was and we fished together for a little while as we made our way through a small gorge section. This area was full of deep pools, and the water was flowing swiftly. I was having a hard time in places trying to get a drag free drift, but we both managed a few fish out of the plunge pools. Once we climbed our way out of the gorge the stream leveled back out considerably and we decided to split up again, with it being my turn to walk upstream before I started fishing. Along the way I saw another fisherman's truck parked along the side of the road, so I made my way further upstream along the road to give him plenty of room to fish.

Caught Several of These
Once I got back down into the stream, it looked a lot different from the lower gorge section, with it becoming fairly shallow, although still  moving swiftly. I did hook a nice trout that managed to hang my tippet on a rock and break off. After this trout, I fished quite a way upstream without another strike. After losing my fly to a rhododendron that was out of reach, I decided to downsize and go with something a little less flashy than the Rio Grande Trude dry fly that I had been fishing. I switched to a smaller female Adams dry in the hopes that the fish wanted something a little smaller and more natural looking. This seemed to be the answer, as I began getting strikes on the Adams almost immediately. I managed two more rainbows, although one was so small I'm not real sure how it managed to get the fly into its mouth.

Its Eyes Were Bigger Than Its Stomach
Shortly after the second fish, I lost the Adams to another rhododendron. Since it was the only one I happened to have in my fly box, and it was also time to head back toward the truck to meet Greg and head home, I called it a day. I was surprised that rainbow trout were the only species I managed to catch on this trip, because in the past I would usually catch at least a few browns mixed in with the rainbows. I don't know where they happened to be hiding that day, although Greg did catch a brook trout along with the rainbows.

Overall, even though the fishing wasn't exactly fast and furious, it was another great day spent in the mountains. The relief from the heat, even though it was only temporary, was worth the entire trip. I didn't manage to catch any big trout this time, but I did catch a nice handful of pretty wild rainbows. This, along with wading a cold stream and seeing the blooming rhododendron made for time well spent. When we got in the truck to leave around 2:00 pm, the temperature was 81 degrees. By the time we made our way down out of the mountains, the truck thermometer was up to 95 degrees. It was a tough adjustment, but it just proved that the mountains are the place to be in the summer. Hopefully it won't be long and I'll be back, chasing wild trout and trying to run from the heat. Until then, I'm thankful that at least somebody had the brains to invent air conditioning!

- Joseph

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