Monday, January 21, 2013

"No Name" Stream, George Washington National Forest

David, Chris, and I decided to go fishing and stumbled upon this stream.  It's probably typical of the small streams that are not listed in the guide books but that exist throughout the Shenandoah National Park and Jefferson and George Washington National Forests.  Go explore!

David and I left Norfolk at 5 am and rendezvoused with Chris in Hampton and headed up Rt. 64 towards the mountains.  We were feeling adventurous so we veered off the grid and found our little no name stream.

This was our first trip of the year so it took a little while to shake off the rust and get our gear squared away.

We worked our way upstream hop-scothching each other and allowing each angler a string of pools before jumping in and casting.  There were midges floating around and the temperature was in the 50's so we were hoping that we might be treated to an afternoon hatch and some rising fish. 

To start though, I used a red brassie nymph that has served me well last winter.  The first couple series of pools did not produce anything for me.  This is not out of the ordinary since I would call my nymphing skills rudimentary at best.  Chris fishes with much more poise and confidence; to this I aspire! 

After maybe an hour, I saw the strike indicator twitch, I lifted the rod and brought this little guy to hand.  The Chub King strikes again! Not well versed in identifying these guys, my guess is that this is a rosyface shiner.

After many other hit-less pools, I switched to a pheasant tail nymph, but still was having trouble getting a bite and I was smart enough to know that all these pools could not be empty.

It may be not true, but it seemed to me that all the logjams, sticks in the stream, and the abundance of overhanging vegetation that the stream was getting less pressure than similar plunge-pool dominated streams like the Rapidan.  It certainly made the stream more technical to fish and all my snags in and out of the water were a testament that I had not yet brought my A game.

As I worked upstream I saw this big piece of meat!

Man!  The crawdads I tie are WAY TOO SMALL!

Since I wasn't doing so well, I decided to watch Chris and learn from the master.  Here he is on a sweet run.

This was a beautiful steam with the recent snow filling all the creeks and feeders.

Here's David wielding the bamboo with crouching tiger moves.  

Chris at the top of this picturesque run choosing a winning fly combo.

Rock art.

Chris could see I was struggling so in an act of utmost kindness, he gave me the best pool I'd seen all day.  Yes, I chose my friends wisely!  I missed the first two hits, and then landed three nice, palm-sized, wild brookies.

After catching each one, I released the brookie downstream so as not to spook the pool.  Afterwards, I wondered what effect this had on the poor fish.  I imagine they gravitate to the pools as preferred habitat for feeding and living.  Maybe they will just swim downstream until they find the next pool, but what if that pool already had it's carrying capacity of fish?  I'm wondering how tightly coupled the number or size of the pools and number of fish are.  I will have to try and find out what the responsible release action should be.  I can live with only catching one per pool if it's important to release the fish back into the same pool he came from.

Here's Chris working another beautiful run.

Here he is on another late in the afternoon.

The dry fly hatch we had hoped for never came and as the sun got hung up in the hills and the stream fell into shadow, the temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees.  We layered up and pressed on, but agreed to call it quits at 4 pm so we could bushwhack back to the car before dark.

At around 4 pm, I promised myself one more pool.  I caught a nice brookie, but then Chris hop-scotched me so I felt liberated from my resolution.  I found one more promising pool and landed this little brookie - so young, he still had his par marks.

OK, I didn't want to be greedy so I stopped.  We all rendezvoused and headed back to the car picking up beer cans, plastic pop bottles, and candy wrappers as we went.  I truly can't understand the mindset of those that desecrate these beautiful natural spaces.  Unbelievable!

Anyway, it was a great day with great friends, on beautiful water.  We're blessed to live in Virginia and with access to such great year-round trout fishing.  Looking forward to stumbling upon more jewels.  Stay tuned..... 

If you enjoyed this blog post and value VA trout streams, then let Governor McDonnell know that you do not want to allow fracking in the public parks and forests!  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Harkers Island November 2012

This year I fulfilled a desire I had.  I wanted to camp out at the Barden's Inlet spit to test the theory that the false albacore were more active in the early morning and late evening before and after the guide boats and recreational anglers were around.  I thought, in the quiet, we'd up the odds of catching alberts from the beach.

 We caught the ferry over on Saturday morning. dumped our camping gear on some high ground and got to fishing right away.  The weather was nice, and the water was clear.  We did see a false albacore cruise by in the morning.

 But after that, we did not see another albert the rest of the day - not even in the distance.  We did catch a few blues, and a flounder, but it was ultra slim pickins!

Closer to dusk, we picked up a few speckled trout near the red buoy at the inlet mouth.

 As the sun sank and it got quiet, all of a sudden... there was nothing.  We never got an evening blitz.

We set up the tents and made and ate our dinner.  After dinner we walked from the spit point over to the rock jetty - quite a distance after a full day of constant casting.  We shadowed a mullet boat and its occupants that were quite successfully gigging flounder under spotlights in the shallows.  

We brought spinning rods and alternated between grubs and swimming plugs as we maneuvered between the 4-wheel camping crowd and their bonfires.  Without waders, it was hard to get in a good position to cast into the deeper water along the jetty, but we managed to catch one fish.  It was a long walk home and sleep came easily.

The next morning we awoke early, made breakfast, and were disturbed at the early morning boat traffic.  The commercial guys and the early bird sports were on the water early so that blew my notion of a quiet calm early morning bite.

Sunday turned out to be even worse than Saturday.  The weather was nice, but the water was cold, hovering around 50 degrees and there was little sign of bait.  Day 2 brought boredom and a lot of napping among the "Sand People".

We did manage to catch a few more bluefish, some needlefish, and David managed this blowfish (northern puffer).

OK, ok, so our theory was busted.  We did not experience a quiet early morning bite or a dusk blitz.  The water was too cold for alberts and there was relatively little bait to draw them anyway.  Mother nature had the deck stacked against us.  

Still, the camping was fun and the company was great.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  Perhaps with more realistic expectations next time though.


P.S.  If you like video, check out the video by My Leaky Waders on Vimeo.