Saturday, March 31, 2007

Great value in waders

I forgot to mention that my Rose River outing marked the first time I used these new waist-high waders from Cabelas. I've only been fly fishing a few years, so what made sense at the beginning - buying equipment that can likely be used in a broad set of circumstances and conditions - doesn't make as much sense now. Buying breathable chest waders that can be used in low water or higher water was more practical than buying waist highs AND chest waders, especially considering I was also buying every other thing I needed all at the same time.

But I really do feel stupid for not buying something like this earlier. They're currently on sale for $99, and are extremely comfortable. Almost all of my trout fishing is done in streams that, though containing deep pools, are fished from water less than knee-deep. I will get a LOT of use out of these.

Awesome Trout Fishing at Rose River Farm

I had the opportunity to spend a couple days with some great people at Rose River Farm in Madison County, Virginia. The farm maintains a stretch of the Rose River for private, fly only, catch and release trout fishing, and the fishing is amazing.

The weather was perfect. Considering the last couple times I fished at all I was in upstate New York in water that was near freezing and air that was well below, I had forgotten how nice it is to fish in a t-shirt. Not to mention thoughts on the water of did I bring sunscreen vs. do I have enough pairs of socks to get me through the day.

It wasn't long before I hooked my first trout on Thursday evening (pictured above with the odd perspective of someone else taking a picture of me using a camera I'm strapped to), and I was flat out stunned at the strength of this fish. It was a bit windy so I was using my 5 weight, and this fish simply could not be forced in, it was fun to have to play a trout to land him. As it turns out, seemingly every fish in that stretch of water is equally muscular. I found out that they have no problem breaking off 5X tippet when I wasn't patient enough and got a little heavy handed on the reel.

Here are some photos from Friday, a day that by the time the sun set had unfolded as the best day of trout fishing I've ever had. Numbers? I don't know, maybe 15 trout to hand. But every single one of them was healthy, meaty and strong, strong, strong! Man, this was fun fishing.

Fish on, Friday morning, and you can see the adverse conditions under which I am fishing. Note the long sleeves.

Clear water gave me the opportunity to finally get some decent underwater shots with my Olympus waterproof camera. Still need to get better at these, but I am encouraged by these shots and think I'll be able to get some better ones in the future.

Douglas, a most gracious host, handed me his rod after releasing this fish, already rigged up with the Rose River secret weapon fly, and before long I had a big fish on. I panicked when I realized for the first time that the reel was a right hand retrieve! I'm used to left hand so I just kind of locked up for a minute until my brain could figure out how to reverse everything. Very awkward, but I had about a half dozen fish in the next half hour to get used to it! (I never did.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Smallmouth Scouting Trip

Yesterday I went for a walk along the Potomac to scope out some smallmouth water near my house that I have not fished before. This stretch is upstream of where the Shenandoah flows into the Potomac. Nice trail follows the C&O Canal, and there are some interesting artifacts of the canal structure remaining.

The water looks really promising in this area, although the flow was really high (28,000 cfs) so it's hard to tell exactly what it's going to be like when the water goes down. Access will surely be easier, though, as at this level there would be very few places to safely enter the water. Anyway, the venture got me psyched for smallmouth fishing when the water temps creep up just a tad more. And next month I should have my new rod selected specifically for smallies. I look forward to a fun summer!

Fishing in Chile

My friend Ed and his friend Cleve just returned from a trip to Chile for some remote fly fishing adventure. "Wonderful scenery, no anglers, lots of wind, 7/8 weight rods, 2x leaders, big flies, and nice fish. Great trip." Ed said they encountered mostly browns, although Cleve caught a 20" rainbow and whoever was holding the camera caught this much larger one in the first picture below...

Great photos, Ed, thanks and welcome home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Uh, speaking of brook trout...

Holy crap.

I spent some time on Sage's web site today researching a future post about The Ultimate Smallmouth Weapon System. And this brook trout, well, it caught my attention.

I feel like a dork posting it immediately after a picture of MY brook trout, but it had to be done.

From the Sage site: Jeff Turner's otherworldly Native Brook Trout - Le Greve River in the Ungava Bay Region of Northern Quebec - landed on a #4 SLT and released after photos were taken.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Day Has Officially Been Made.

A while back I spotlighted the amazing trout artwork of Jared Miller. When I contacted him for that earlier post I sent him the above photo of a beautiful brook trout, the only one I have ever caught (so far!). Today Jared sent me a jpeg of my fish, illustrated in exquisite detail.

If you want Jared to illustrate a special fish, contact him through his web site.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Photo of the Week

This obviously has nothing to do with fly fishing, but hey, I had a few fishing related posts in a row which is pretty good for me. This photo was taken by George Steinmetz, a contributing photographer for National Geographic, and is one of my favorite images of all time. If you haven't seen it before, and you don't think it's the coolest thing you'll see all day, you're not looking closely enough.

I asked George about how the opportunity for this photograph came about and he was kind enough to share this with me:
It was a situation I've photographed before, as I've done a lot of flying over deserts in the Middle East and Africa. What made this particular location special was the multi-colored ground. I couldn't think of a better way to shoot it (trying to be original) and went back to vertical view, which is a bit tricky to do as I'm piloting a motorized paraglider while photographing, and I have to do a spiral turn with one hand while shooting with the other, so I can get my butt out off to the side and look straight down. I shot a lot of film that day, and came away with a winner.
You did indeed, George! Thanks for the use of the image.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Salmon River photos...

Our hero Jeff with the only steelhead of the weekend.

My camera was very confused by snow, and couldn't figure out what to do. This was Sunday morning. It was a lot of fun to fish in the snow.

Much of the snow up there had packed down so it appeared like there was much less snow than there actually was. But there was plenty, and getting down to the water from the banks was on a Where Someone Else Had Bravely Gone Before only basis.

There were fifty billion teeny tiny little stone flies on the snow near the water, and about a dozen of these larger ones. I of course had flies that looked exactly like these larger ones.

Four dopes staring at a blinking camera lodged in a tree limb.

That's why they call it Fishing,

and not Catching.

Four of us are back from a frustrating but fun weekend in New York. I truly enjoyed myself, got to know some new friends better, learned a lot, but have no fish to show for my extensive efforts. Jeff, the lone spincaster in the group, got one Steelhead (I'll post that picture shortly), but the fishing was slow for all of us and, as far as I can tell, most of the other guys on the river this weekend as well.

From my earlier ramblings you might recall that last month I fished in leaky waders and cold water, a combination I never want to repeat. I'm happy to report that my new neoprene waders from Cabelas performed wonderfully. Feet and legs stayed dry and, for the most part, warm while submerged in icy water for hours at a time. Saturday was not horribly cold, but rainy, which offers a different set of challenges. All four of us struggled to get organized and prepared for a full day on the water in those conditions, it seemed to take us forever to get to the river. After doing that on day one, yesterday went more smoothly, although conditions were easier to prepare for, a bit colder with snow in the morning.

It's amazing how quickly and totally float fishing has caught on up there. Almost everyone but us seemed to be using floats, and many used centrepin setups. The advantages - both in the quality of presentation for the fish and for the distance that presentation can be made on each cast - are obvious. Very, very obvious. I am intrigued about centrepin fishing and intend to research it extensively. I do have questions though. For instance, how is it possible to use this style of fishing in crowded stream conditions such as Great Lake tributary salmon seasons? And for that matter, how could you ever use it to fish for salmon? I'm sure you could hook up easily and often, but how could you hope to land a big salmon when he gets a thirty yard downstream headstart?

Regardless, I'm going to look into it more. I know some steelheaders check in from time to time, I'd love to get some comments from anyone who is centrepin fishing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Headed North!

Tomorrow we're headed back up north to Pulaski, NY in pursuit of Steelhead! I'll report back in a few days, hopefully with some fish pictures. But certainly with some fishING pictures...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I wonder what the poor people are doing today...

I can remember it like it was yesterday, my Dad and I in a canoe on a lake in Quantico, VA. Me letting the occasional bluegill steal a worm from the hook suspended beneath the red and white bobber, my Dad leaning back with a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, squinting in the sunshine and saying, "I wonder what the poor people are doing today." He always said it. Being a kid, I often repeated it (although it was decades later before I fully grasped its meaning).

Today I'm reminded of the wealth my Dad found in sitting in a quiet canoe not catching fish, as Ed Nabors of Rocky Face, Georgia stepped up to claim his half of the record $370 million Mega Millions Lottery jackpot. Ed said, as I would have, he plans to "do a lot of fishing." I had my share of Mega Millions tickets, and I have to say, if I wasn't going to win it, I'm glad it went to a truck driving fisherman whose first thoughts were to buy a new boat, a home for his daughter who now lives in a mobile home, and go fishing. He said he planned to drive a truck "for at least two more days." God bless him.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Did you know they made WATERPROOF waders?

Last month I went steelhead fishing in the 34 degree water of New York's Salmon River. My 'breathable' waders breathed cold water onto my legs all day until I could barely move. I wore those waders once more in warmer water for the trout stocking day described below, and again — after patching the only pinhole I could find — my feet got soaked and cold. Somewhere along the line they simply became not waterproof. I honestly ask only one thing of my waders: keep water out. My 2-year old Orvis Clearwaters simply don't.

Meanwhile, my new boot-foot neoprene waders arrived from Cabela's. This Friday I'm heading back to NY for steelhead. Considering the length of the drive (6.5 hours) and the shortness of actual fishing time (all day Saturday, half day Sunday), I really wanted to make sure I was prepared to comfortably fish in cold conditions for a full day. That, plus a case of post-NFL Sunday afternoon boredom, convinced me that I had to perform a wader test.

So I headed to a nearby stream and put the waders on. I was wearing jeans, which work horribly for breathable waders and twice as badly for neoprenes. The boot size on these waders is really, really big, I could wear two extra heavy pairs of socks and still have room for a nice warm kitten in each foot. So with just one pair of medium weight socks, my feet were moving around a lot. I clomped down to the water and was amazed to find that I couldn't feel the water AT ALL! I waded up to my knees and walked around and stood around for a while. Still nothing. I feel like an idiot for not buying these long ago. I mean, yeah, it's nice to have waders that are simply waterproof, but these things are toasty warm. I decided to snap the boot/wading staff photo above, and when I did I realized how cold that water was. My hand froze instantly and I was impressed even more by how well these waders were keeping the cold and wet off my legs.

This week the Korkers I ordered will arrive and I'll be ready to brave upstate New York once again. Even with the same length trip, I know I can more than double the amount of time I can stay in the water this time. And that simply has to improve my odds. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Brown Trout Stocking in the Patuxent

I took part in a trout stocking for the first time today, and it was a great experience! This was a stretch of the Patuxent I was previously unfamiliar with, so it was an added bonus to learn, in great detail, about a new piece of water. Anyway, here's how it works:

The truck arrives. This stretch, about 2,500 to 3,000 yards, received 500 brown trout plus 30 really nice sized ones, probably 15" and very meaty. They came from the Musky Trout Hatchery in New Jersey, and they all looked good and healthy.

We had five boxes, and brought them down to the river just below Brighton Dam. We floated the boxes in the river and brought the fish from the truck in buckets until each box had over 100 trout! As I was dragging my box behind me it occurred to me that I was holding more trout than I'll see all season. But it really felt cool to be responsible for so many beautiful fish.

We waded well downstream of easy access points before we released any trout. Then we just took turns dumping out 10 or 15 trout every hundred yards or so. It was very interesting to look at the river from the standpoint of an angler, but with an entirely different motivation. Instead of finding 'fishy' spots to catch fish, I found myself looking for really appealing trout habitat in which to hide them. Places I'd have trouble reaching with a fly rod became prime territory to release fish, especially the big ones!

Some of the wading was difficult, and we had to do some creative problem solving to get past some obstacles. Here, Carl our team leader has boxes floated to him across a pool too deep to wade through.

Nick approves of the placement of trout in this, his home water. I'd be grinning too if I was getting 530 brownies in my backyard!

It was a beautiful stretch of water. These heron nests will soon disappear behind spring foliage.

Nick again, entirely too happy. I think these last few trout are heading back to his bathtub.

This is where we got out of the river. Someone noticed this bull noticing us with great interest.

So that's it! 530 more trout for fly fishermen to enjoy, and one more of those fishermen having a better understanding of the hard work that goes into stocking these waters. I encourage anyone who enjoys stocked fisheries to find the clubs responsible for stocking them, and volunteer one day a year to help out. You'll learn a lot, have fun and meet cool people. Plus it might just be your best shot at a 100 trout day. I know it's mine!