Friday, May 22, 2015

Southern Appalachian Adventure - Day 1

Stitchwort along the trail
I just got back from a rode trip thorough southern Appalachian.  I spent two nights camping two nights in the Shenandoah National Forest and then two nights in the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest on my way to Memphis TN for my daughter's college graduation.

We have driven this route before and I've always wanted to stop and explore but time and schedule did not allow so on this final trip I had planned to take it slow and enjoy the journey.

After arriving in Shenandoah National Forest around mid day, I set up camp and then drove to Milam Gap to hike into Rapidan Camp, a summer camp established by President Hoover 1929-1932.  I really wanted to see the historical camp that was built where the Mill Prong and Laurel Prong join to form the Rapidan River.  My plan was to hike down the Mill Prong trail and fish down to the camp and explore up the Laurel Prong and possibly some of the Rapidan.   Many wildflowers were blooming along the trail and some of the hikers were there just to see the wildflowers.  White and pink trilium, stitchwort, bluets, violets, and mountain laurel were all in bloom.  The Mill Prong was an endless series of plunges and small pools flowing over large moss covered rocks.  

At times, the banks were difficult to navigate due to the thick mountain laurel. All along all three rivers the brook trout were quite stunning with bright orange bellies.  I fished a parachute adams at first but switched to a royal wulff since it was easier to see and the fish didn't seem to care.  Most of the fish were holding in the riffles just below the plunges.  Interestingly this would be the only day the dry fly attracted considerable interest.  As the Mill Prong flowed deeper into the gap toward the Rapidan, the boulders became larger and the plunge pools deeper. 

Large boulders typical of Shenandoah rivers

Larger falls on the Mill Prong

After a brief break on the porch of the camp, which I had largely to myself, I headed over to the Laurel Prong and caught another beautiful brook trout from a productive looking plunge pool. 

A plunge pool on the Laurel Prong

I was able to work my way through the thick mountain laurel down to the Rapidan River and managed to land perhaps the best and strongest fish of the day.

A Rapidan brook trout

After catching trout from each of the three rivers, I decided to put the rod away and hike back to the car and enjoy the coming sunset over the Shenandoah Valley.

A Shenandoah sunset from Tanner's Ridge

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hendricksons 2015

I've been traveling a bit for work these past few days but I did manage to "guard" a day on my calendar for a little personal retreat. I had wanted to see if I could find some fish taking hendricksons, the first big mayfly of the season.

Dutchmen's breeches blooming along the river

Plans were made to meet Jon and Todd in the morning with the intention of moving around a bit before the expected hatch around 2pm.  We couldn't have asked for better weather with the day starting out overcast and then turning partly cloudy with not too much wind and pleasant temperatures.

At our first stop, Jon started fishing a nice riffle/run while Todd and I chatted.  I went upstream to familiar spot while they worked the water downstream.  It wasn't long before I was into a nice strong rainbow Euro nymphing with a heavy caddis larva and a bead head pheasant tail soft hackle.  After the first fish, I called Todd and Jon and told them to join me as I thought the spot was going to be very productive.  Fortunately for all of us it was.  Everyone managed a few rainbows but no browns were in the mix.   Jon even gave Euro nymphing a try with my setup after a fair bit of persuasion on my part and was able to connect as well.

the first chucky rainbow of the day

After looking at the watches, we decided we should move upriver.  I hit another little favorite spot and picked up one brown on the dropper while Todd and Jon moved up, picking up a nice fat rainbow along the way.

We settled in to nice riffle/run/pool combination a decided to hold there for a possible hatch.  Todd and I nymphed the faster water at the head and found a nice mix of browns and rainbows mostly on the pheasant tail.  It was fun to hook some nice browns in the heavier water and watch their powerful runs despite the strong current.  We lost count of how many fish we tangled with while we were waiting for the hatch.  We were joined by Peter, a friend of Jon and Todd's, and he too tangled with a few nymphing this productive section of river.  Unfortunately the hatch came off but the fish largely ignored the bugs.  I did have one look at a Hendrickson dry before being fouled hooked on the wet fly I was trailing.  I don't know if I missed the fish on the dry and then the wet fly fouled hooked him in the flank or whether I pricked him as he turned away from the wet.  No complaints but I really wanted to take a fish or two on the dry so Peter and I headed upriver again hoping to find a spinner fall.  I stopped to nymph another run off the beaten path and landed another strong brown before we settled in for a potential spinner fall.

A sunny spring afternoon along the river

A late afternoon brown

Around 7:30 the spinner fall came and lasted for about 30 minutes.  It was not a strong fall but I did manage 4 browns on a #12 egg laying parachute before things went quite just before dark.  It was a long day out on the water but a blast all the same.  Pleasant spring weather, good company, new friends, lots of action for everybody, and a few on dries...Priceless!

spinner time!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May wildflowers

A woodlawn brook in the early morning sun
I was up and out early this cool quite spring morning.  The woods were still but alive with the first blooms of wildflowers this spring. The early morning sun provided a soft light over wood anemone, dwarf ginseng, marsh marigold and fiddle head ferns were beginning to unfurl their hairy heads.  I spent most of the early morning just taking pictures and enjoying the quite of the woods.

This morning the Royal Wulff was mostly ignored probably because the brook was a bit low and very clear.  I did see a good number of dark shadows darting for cover as I walked along.

dwarf ginseng

Fiddlehead fern, wood anemone, and some ginseng
A more subtle fly was the better choice on a day like this so I switched to a #16 parachute Adams which I kept on most of the morning except for those times I just wanted to experiment.

As the morning air warmed the interest in the Adams picked up.  Near the end of the morning I hooked and lost three nice brooks all within a foot or two of each other.  Not wanting to end the day on that note I did manage to drift the Adams past a nice undercut and out charged the last brook trout of the day to intercept the Adams.

marsh marigold

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Laurel and Ledges

The Connecticut landscape full of laurel and ledges
When I think of my adopted home state, I think of woodlands covered with mountain laurel and ledges.  I have no idea how the early settlers to this area managed to farm this rocky ground.  As spring approaches about the only green you can see in the woods is the mountain laurel and skunk cabbage but if you look closely you can see signs of wildflowers being to poke through the fallen leaves of last autumn.

Signs of new life
Pete and I were out enjoying another warm spring afternoon watching the brook trout turning themselves inside out chasing down the Royal Wulff.  When I lost my smaller Wulff, I ended up fishing a size #12 and they were still smacking it.

Small streams like this one can be surprisingly deep in spots.  The undercuts like the one below were generally holding trout.

Several times during the afternoon, I switched flies just to see if I could catch something on another fly.  The Bomber or parachute Adams would entice the odd fish or two but for some reason the Royal Wulff was getting the most attention.

I don't have any idea how many fish we actually brought to hand but it didn't really matter, we both had an afternoon full of laughs watching the brooks attack the dry fly.  This afternoon the fish were mostly in the riffles and tail outs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Some classic Adirondack wets

It was my pleasure to be included in the Connecticut Fly Fisherman's Association (CFFA) Fly Tyer's round table.  A special thanks to Roger and the club for including me in this year's event!

It was a lot of fun to talk to people, some of whom read this blog.  While at the event, I decided to tie some classic Adirondack wet flies.  Here are a couple of the flies that have roots back to the late 19th century.  Both the Adirondack and the Reuben Wood (reub wood) are included in the color plates in Ray Bergman's classic "Trout".  The Reuben wood is  an imitative pattern said to resemble the white moths often seen on Adirondack waters while the "Adirondack" is more of an "attractor" type of fly.

Reuben Wood (reub wood; rube wood)
Mustad 3399 wet fly hook #10-12
red floss tip
Mallard flank fibers (tail)
white micro chenille (body)
brown hen (throat)
matched mallard flank feather (wing)
red UTC 70DN thread

Mustad 3399 wet fly hook #10-12
Yellow floss tip
Black hackle fibers (tail)
Hare's ear dubbing (body)
orange hackle fibers (throat)
matched mallard quill (dyed white)
black UTC 70DN thread

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Opening Day

Today was the opening day of trout season in CT.  For those who love the peace and solitude of small streams, fishing among the crowds on the stocked rivers across the state is not that exciting a prospect.  But it was gorgeous spring day here in CT with warm sun and when I checked the water temperature at mid day it had gotten up to 50F!  At times, I just enjoyed taking pictures of the landscape.  The wildflowers haven't started blooming yet and the only thing poking through the earth at this point is skunk cabbage!

The first brook of the season
As we did last year, a few of us made plans to fish a small wild trout stream far away from all the fuss.  Alan, Kirk and I met for a country breakfast and then one to the stream of choice.  We were later joined by Pete and his son Matt.

Matt's first brook trout 

Things started off slow but eventually everyone was able to coax a brook trout to take a weighted soft hackle.  As the sun began to warm things up, I decided to see if I could coax a brook trout to take a royal wulff dry.  After a few drifts in the likely places a pair of brook trout were brought to hand and for the rest of the afternoon most of us fished various dries with success. A beautiful, warm spring day, brooks willing to chase down a dry, the camaraderie of others who enjoy small streams and corn bread....priceless!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring's first outing

Sin and Death have been defeated!

Happy Easter everyone!

It's been a long time since I was on a small stream!  Plans were made to meet  Alan and Kirk on a small wild trout stream.  When we made our plans we hadn't counted on the strong rains last night.  When I met Alan the stream was off color and quite high.

This freestone stream had an angry chalky look to it today!

Signs of spring!

I checked the water temp it was barely 40F, not very encouraging but it did feel nice to be out especially when the sun poked through!  Walking along the forest I did see a skunk cabbage here and there breaking through the earth indicating that warmer days are ahead.  I started with small beadhead white bugger but thought it was a little too bright for the water and switched to a black one.

I had one brief hookup in some softer water and thought that might be it for the day.  We finished up at a deep plunge pool and I thought I saw a quiet seam along the opposite bank.  I had one fish follow the bugger and then turn away at the last minute but I kept at it and managed to land a pretty little wild brown.  After that I called it quits and headed home content to spend some time outdoors with good friends.