So we had ourselves a little deep freeze to start the year in 2018, and many lakes and even rivers were frozen over for a few days. That cold snap seems to have had a lingering affect on the fish for a few weeks because they have been very lethargic and bite has been slow for most of 2018. That may be changing now with some warmer air and rain finally coming back to us. I did manage to catch fish on all of my outings this year, but they seem to be few and far between. And the fish that I have caught, especially in the lakes, have been low on energy and not putting up much of a fight. I did start off the new year with my first catch being a decent largemouth bass.
First fish of 2018
Trout certainly don’t mind the cold, but they have been hanging deep, and the rains and higher water levels have made them tough to get to at times. Plenty of split shot and multiple drifts can be the key. Looking forward to some good Springtime fishing in the near future.
It’s no secret the days have been rather hot lately. Summer has had it’s full grip on the temperatures, both air and water. We have also seen our share of afternoon storms, some of which have dropped lots of rain in short periods of time. This has kept most of our rivers at normal or higher than normal levels for this time of year. That is certainly a good thing for the trout fishing, but not so much for warm water fish in local rivers like smallmouth and largemouth bass. The local warm water river fishing has been very hit or miss, mostly because rivers like the Broad have been high and muddy from rains. I did get over to the Broad a few weeks ago on the kayak, and the water was the muddiest I have personally attempted to fish it. I managed mostly small fish in the 8 inch to 10 inch range before finally connecting with a decent 2 pound largemouth and nearly as big smallmouth before calling it a day.
Best smallie of recent trip
The lake fishing has been pretty steady as of late, with the rains keeping the water temps a little cooler on some days than what we would normally see. This has helped out the shallow water bite, especially on topwater presentations. Early morning and late evening is still the best for topwater bass action, but the panfish have been hitting popping bug/dropper combinations all day long. I did manage to pick up a big largemouth this week, but I was dragging the bottom of a point in deeper water at around 3pm in the afternoon of a hot day when I lucked into it. Trout fishing has been good with the river levels having plenty of water in them. Dry fly/dropper rigs are best for smaller wild trout water, stocked trout will take a wide variety of flies so just keep an eye on the weekly stocking reports to know where the fish have been put.
March, April, and May are quite possibly the best three months of the year to find yourself out on the water doing some form of fishing. Sure, there are other times during the year that can be magical, but these months offer such a variety of possibility that is tough to discredit them as the best time of year to fish. Lakes and ponds are warming up, which brings waves of bass, crappie and panfish into the shallows. Trout streams also get a big boost from the amount of insect life that starts to pick up this time of year. Typically caddis and a variety of mayflies start making a daily appearance that puts the trout in a good mood. So, generally the toughest thing to figure out is just what fish to chase on any given day. I usually try to fit it all in if I can, making the most of the fabulous conditions. Some trips on the lakes, and some trips on the rivers, and do it as many times as you can before the hot summer sets in. Some really nice bass can be caught this time of year as they start their shallow migration looking for spawning areas.
Always a great time to be on the lake, and by the month of May, the top water bite will kick in which makes it even more fun. The first heavy waves of bedding bluegill typically happens here in the month of May as well, so there is no better time to probe the shallows with a fly rod on the local lakes and ponds. The trout streams start to warm up in March, and the added insect activity usually means more aggressively feeding trout. I usually see caddis hatching before the majority of the mayflies start to take over. Plenty of caddis out this past week as I was on the river, and an elk hair caddis trailed by a soft hackle did the trick more than once.
Caddis do not float along the surface of the river and dry their wings before flying away like mayflies do. Instead, caddis will bust through the surface film already flying, and have a very erratic flying motion as they dry their wings in mid flight. Because of this, trout are usually taking the emergers just under the surface during a caddis hatch, and that makes the soft hackle a good option to trail behind a dry fly during these hatches. Spring is for sure an awesome time to be on the water, so I encourage to get out there and give it a go if at all possible.
Such a great time of year, at least I think so. Fall colors with the leaves changing, cooler air, trout fishing, deer hunting, and football! Great times to be had for sure. Fishing on the lakes can be good as well, so let me not forget to mention that the bass action can be great this time of year too. But for me, trout fishing tends to be my choice of outings in the Fall.
Oh sure, it might be a stocked fish, but the colors on this brook trout are still awesome, and there are plenty of these guys in the rivers this time of year. Delayed Harvest rivers in NC have gone back to catch and release only and have been stocked with fish. The SC Delayed Harvest rivers will follow the same in November. Keep it simple with fly selection, a few wooly buggers, some worm and egg patters, a few stonefly nymphs, and some size 16 and 18 natural colored nymphs for the picky eaters and you are good to go. Wild trout waters will fish great now as well, although lack of rain has really lowered the flows in most places down to a trickle right now. Water temps are good, but flows, not so much. Hopefully we will get some much needed rain to help the stream flows out. In the mean time, the fish may be a little spookier than normal so you may need to go with longer leaders and drop the pound test size to get bites. Check the short video of one of my latest outings on the Facebook page.
Deer hunting also is in full swing, and I got on the board already this year with some meat for the freezer. And football is well into the season and there have been more than a fair share of entertaining games. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all just add to the magic of this time of year. Enjoy.
It’s no secret that we are dealing with the dog days of summer. Most days seem to creep up the mid to upper 90’s in temps and many days have a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. For most any fishing you want to do this time of year, going early in morning or late in the evening usually gives you a good chance to catch just about any fish you are after. Fishing in hottest part of the middle of the day can be a bit more of a challenge. I tend to do less trout fishing this time of year, but if I do trout fish it is usually in some higher elevation trout water that holds smaller wild fish. These areas tend to be cooler than anything else around here temperature wise, and the little wild fish will take dry flies pretty eagerly all summer. My daughter Sage and I did take a hike into such water a few weeks ago and had a fun time chasing the little wild trout around. Yellow bodied dry flies were the ticket.
Most of my fishing lately has been out on the lakes, chasing bass around when they are active, fishing for the panfish when all else seems quiet, and scouting out the carp. Bass fishing can still be good on most days during the hot summer, although you will certainly encounter periods where it can be slow going. Early morning and late evening tend to be best for top-water action, but keying around shady cover can produce fish most anytime with sinking presentations. River fishing for bass can be good all summer, and certainly smallmouth bass get put in the mix as well. I have caught some smallmouth this summer, although they were more of an opportunistic catch since I was not specifically targeting them.
Carp fishing on the fly is one of my newest endeavors, so much of it has been scouting out water that the carp are found in and then some trial and error on fly patterns and techniques. I hope to start offering guided trip services for fly fishing for carp, but I have more work to be done before I officially start doing that. I have found some locations that the carp tend to hang out in, now it is a matter of figuring out how to catch them somewhat consistently. For sure they are very smart, spooky, and finicky fish. They require pretty accurate presentations that land softly and longer casts might be necessary to not spook them. I have had most of my success early on with a black rubber legged girdle bug pattern, although I have plenty of more fly experimenting to do.
Lastly, the panfish can still be caught just about anytime are wanting to getting a fish on the end of your fly line. We caught numerous this week, and even found some fish back on beds as the full moon hit. Shady banks tend to produce better for the popping bug dropper combination, but throwing a sinking beadhead wooly bugger has produced fish just about anywhere.
I thought I would post a quick update on what has been going on recently. The past month has been filled mostly with introductory fly fishing trips on the local lakes. Lake Bowen and Lake Blaylock have been the two main locations for putting folks on some panfish action with the fly rod. Most of these people had never fly fished before in any capacity, so these trips were designed to teach basic casting, accuracy, hooking and landing fish and just overall getting comfortable using fly fishing gear. I had several trips in which all the photos were taken with the clients phones, so I don’t have pics for everybody. The standard popping bug/dropper combo was used for most of the fishing, but we also used a size 8 olive wooly bugger for sinking into the deeper areas that were holding fish that were not willing to come to the surface. My buddies Preston and Will helped me do some early scouting to find some of the areas that had active fish, both were able to hook up and land doubles:
Several cold snaps, especially night temperatures had put the fish in the shallows into a bit of a confused state on several occasions. As soon as the fish moved into to spawn, the water temps would drop 15 to 20 degrees in a two day span. This sent the fish into a shell shock of sorts, but as afternoon temps warmed things back up, they seemed to settle back in. Because the fish were not as aggressive as usual with the cold snaps, we used the sinking wooly bugger to get a little deeper into the areas that the fish just did not seem to want to move from the bottom. It all worked out in the end, and everyone had a good time getting into fish and learning how fun the fly rod can be.
The month of May is always a fabulous time to be on the water. Warming water temps brings plenty of fish up into the shallows, which makes them more accessible for a fly rod. Bass and panfish of all sorts move up onto the banks and can be caught using a variety of flies. Typically I will attack the shallows with a combination of a top-water popping bug with a sinking wetfly dropped off the back. This two-fly combination can be very effective at catching the fish roaming the banks this time of year. One of my first good bass taken on the fly this year actually came on a wooly bugger, I spotted this fish cruising the bank and dropped the fly out in front of it and it was game on:
I have been breaking in a new boat this spring, thanks to guys at East Cape Skiffs in Orlando FL. The Lostmen they built me has been seeing plenty of action so far. I researched these boats for about two years before finally pulling the trigger on one. This boat only needs about 5 inches of water to float in, and is very stable with a large casting deck. It also has a raised, removable casting platform and poling platform over the motor that will aid in sight fishing in the shallows.
I have been spending time mostly out on Lake Bowen and Lake Blaylock getting the new motor through its break-in period. We have been doing some bass fishing and going after the bluegill in shallows. The family got the the first test of the new boat out on the lake, just a quick trip to get the permits purchased and get the boat on the water.
My buddy Fred and I both got into some decent bass on our day out on the lake.
I also got to try out a new fly rod recently. I picked up a 0wt fly rod, very light weight and a whole mess of fun. Got a crappie on it, as well as a bass the first time out. Plenty of bluegill on it as well. All of these fish were taken with the popping bug/dropper combination. Get out and do some fishing now if you have the chance, as it is prime time for action!
This past weekend I had the privilege to guide and fish with the guys at New 4rMations (<<link) in their Spring Adventure 2016. They had a good group of guys staying the weekend in 2 rented cabins, and some of these guys had never done any fly fishing before. Check into their website at the link for more info about what they do.
The weather forecast looked iffy, with lows around the freezing mark and predicted 20-30 mph winds. Thankfully neither of those really panned out, and the temps were in the 40s-50s and the winds really never got bad, only a few gusts here and there. After a good breakfast, I gave a short group lesson for the guys new to fly fishing.
After the short lesson, it was time to get everyone in the water and get after some fish. We started out most guys throwing small streamers to try and get a few of the aggressive fish to chase and bite. After that, we switched over to drifting nymphs under an indicator, and it seemed that the trout were willing to take stoneflies quicker than anything else we tried. The key was focusing in on the areas of deeper water relative to the surrounding area. All the guys had opportunities to land some trout. Several of the guys that were more experienced wandered off to new water and did and their own thing. The rest of the group stayed in an area right in front the cabins and had a great time fishing together.
While I was moving around to scout some new water, I was lucky enough to hook into a nice brown trout that was willing to take a photo:
Each evening the guys enjoyed a great meal (shout out to Jim Sharpe for the awesome bacon wrapped grilled pork tenderloin on Saturday) and some good discussion around the campfire. Great messages were brought by Charlie, Tim and Levi to cap off a great Spring Adventure weekend for the guys that made the trip. Enjoyed my time as always, and thanks to New 4rMations for inviting me to be a part of it.
This week I hooked up with my buddy Fred (Stepp Outdoors, https://www.facebook.com/Stepp-Outdoors-1624514371160753/) and we got after some trout in the local NC DH water. Conditions were less than ideal, windy at times, with high water conditions. We started mid-morning with double nymph rigs, plenty of split shot and Corqs Indicators. Wasn’t long and we were into fish, and one of my first of the day was actually my biggest brown trout of the day, a rather feisty football of a brown trout that took several minutes to land.
The fish seemed to be spread out, not bunched up like you would typically expect. We had to continue to work the water, move around and make plenty of drifts. Our bites were mostly coming on stonefly nymphs and worm patterns. Fred landed a good brown shortly after mine. He was getting some good work in on his newly acquired St. Croix Imperial 3wt rod with Redington Zero reel, an awesome combination.
We worked the same stretch of water for most of the day, covering the area well with lots of casts. You had to do a good job of mending and presenting the flies with a good drift or the fish would not fall for them. Keeping the flies deep with split shot also seemed to help. I was putting my Allen 10′ 4wt Volant and Allen Tout II reel to good use. I did some high sticking as well as using the indicator. We eventually both completed the east coast grand slam of brown, rainbow and brook trout and did so with some pretty decent size to boot. Here was another good brown I landed.
Our best brookies of the day:
And finally, here are our best rainbow trout of the outing:
After we worked our way upstream a ways with the nymph rigs, we did switch out to streamers to fish our way back down. Both of us were able to pick up a few more fish on the way out. Of particular note was one area I had nymphed and caught two fish from, after I switched to the streamer I was able to pull about 6 more fish from the same run. The fish in that particular spot just wanted to chase a bigger meal I guess. It was the only area that seemed to be the case though. Just shows you that making a change sometimes can make a difference. Most importantly though, we worked the area well, fished for numerous hours and made lots of drifts and our persistence paid off with a fabulous day on the water.
Sometimes you have the luxury of planning an outing based on the best weather conditions. Other times, you just go when you have the chance, and deal with what comes. This week I was dealt a balmy 22 degrees and plenty of ice, but I decided to give it a go on some blue line wild trout water.
I started out with a double rig of a small black stonefly nymph trailed by a micro egg pattern in size 20. I have always have good success with a micro egg in wild trout water during cold winter months. I typically use the micro size because these fish tend to run in the 5 to 10 inch range, and larger egg patterns are difficult for the smaller fish to get hooked up on. The micro egg paid off again on this outing, as it was responsible for many of the fish I caught. I should take the time to mention that I used the largest sized split shot I had on me, as the fish were all holding in the deeper runs and pools.
Most of these fish required multiple drifts through the deepest runs and holes, and the takes were very soft and subtle. I was high stick nymphing without an indicator with my 8’6″ 3wt St. Croix Imperial rod. The rod has just the right amount of length to high stick fish with in the tighter wild trout streams. The Imperial also has a nice soft tip to it, making a good choice for protecting light tippet, as I was using a 6X fluoro tippet in what was very clear water. A few notes about fishing in these cold conditions: First, it is a good idea to take an extra set of clothes and leave them in the vehicle, just in case you take an unwanted fall and end up all wet. I did have an extra set of gloves in my pack as well, and needed them after my first set of gloves had gotten wet. Wet gloves do you no good in sub-freezing temps. A day in these conditions can be ruined quickly with an untimely slip. And speaking of slip, my next note is that you need to pay close attention to where you are stepping and walking. Most every surface that is wet, but not in the water itself, is covered with ice. So, when walking, you need to keep you feet in the water itself, or be stepping on dry rocks. Pay attention to what you are doing, fish thoroughly in the best areas and you can still have a very productive day.