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.
We recently received a large shipment from W.R. Case here at the shop, and most of it is part of the Spring 2016 Promo Book. W.R. Case has lots of new items being released this year as usual, and here are a few photos of new arrivals:
First are the Green Apple Bone knives, including Sod Buster Jr., Trapper, Copperlock, Saddlehorn (single blade), Large Stockman and Medium Stockman.
Another new series is the Autumn Harvest Bone knives that have a nice, deep rich brown coloration to them with just a hint orange around the edges. These knives have the Shotgun Shell XX shields in them as well. Patterns we just stocked are the Sowbelly, Trapper, Sod Buster Jr. and Muskrat.
There are two new series of orange colored knives coming out. One is the Carved Persimmon Orange series that features the raised Case logos in the bone handles. The other set is the smooth Persimmon Orange with smooth bone handles. Patterns we have now are Sod Buster Jr., Trapper, Mini Trapper, Copperlock, and Muskrat:
The Limited XX set this year is a pink/blue/purple colored bone they are calling Cotton Candy. We currently have the Teardrop, Toothpick and Peanut available.
W.R. Case also produced a series they called Painted Desert, which only featured 3 patterns: Teardrop, Russlock and Trapper. Each pattern came in 4 colors, and these are limited supply. Great Easter colors I might add.
Mark is elbow deep in the festivities out at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and ran into famous custom knife maker and designer Tony Bose at the W.R. Case & Sons booth. Tony does a collaboration knife with W.R. Case each year, and for 2016 it is the Wilfred Lockback Folding Hunter.
Tony Bose and his Folding Hunter
The Lockback Folding Hunter features a 154CM clip blade and will be offered in 5 handles: Chestnut Bone, Brown Bone, Ebony Wood, 6.5 Bonestag, and Abalone. It is worth noting that the usual Antique Bone offering each year in this knife has been replaced this year with a Brown Bone. Although they do look very similar in color in my opinion, it is a different color. Also, there is no stag or mother of pearl this year, but a Bonestag handle instead in the most limited number at 125 pieces made. They are also making 125 pieces of Abalone, 200 Ebony, and 275 each of the Chestnut and Brown bone. Lastly, look for the pricing on these to be at or below pricing than the previous few years offerings.
I’ll be honest, Mother Nature has not exactly been kind to me on my last few fishing outings. In fact, last time I had the day to go fish, it rained hard all night and by the morning of, all the rivers were completely blown out. I even drove to 4 different locations, just to see if anything was low enough to fish. This week, conditions were a little better, but still far from ideal. Recent rains again had the rivers high and murky. And it was a nice 27 degrees when I arrived. Not to mention the river itself looked a little different as some areas had been silted in from high waters. I started out throwing streamers and located a few fish scattered in the middle of the river. As I worked my way into deeper water, I caught the best brookie of the day on the streamer:
Once I had fished the streamer through the area, I switched over to nymphing with a larger black stone fly and a worm pattern. After about 30 minutes of fishing this rig, it seemed apparent that the fish only really wanted the worm pattern. After changing the worm up a few times, it also seemed that the fish mostly wanted a red one. So, for the rest of the day, that is what I used. I had to adjust the amount of split shot on occasion, and the depth of the indicator. In a few places, I went without the indicator and just did some high sticking. Keeping the worm near the bottom on a good drift produced a good many fish, and I was able to complete the slam with a brook, rainbow and brown trout all of decent size. The higher murky water was surely dictating how I had to fish, and what the fish were responding to, but as long as you experiment and adapt to conditions you can have a productive day.
This is certainly one of my favorite times of year, for a variety of reasons. October through December just seems to have so much to offer between college football, deer hunting, and great fishing. Combine that with the leaves changing color, cool temperatures and great Fall harvest foods and I am one happy camper. I got out this week and did some trout fishing, my best fish was this decent rainbow:
Many rivers in SC and NC will get stocked pretty heavy this time of year, and the DH regulated streams are back to catch-and-release only. Plenty of trout in the rivers means more opportunity for catching. My recent outing on the river started a little chilly, at 31 degrees outside. Switching between olive and black streamers to dragging a stonefly and lightning bug nymph around produced most of my fish. I did manage two fish on an elk hair caddis dry fly at one point when I wanted to just try something different. I did not see any fish rising to bugs, but figured I would give it a shot and I the two fish took the dry fly in a fairly shallow riffle, but that was the only surface action I got. One of them was a decent brown trout.
We have certainly seen our share of 95 degree plus days over the last month or so. That has almost certainly kept the water temps high and the water levels low in a lot of places. I certainly try to make it a habit to fly fish for something all year long, but what I am fly fishing for does usually change from season to season. If I am trout fishing in the hottest months of the year, I typically go to high elevation wild trout water somewhere and the temps are still reasonable. Or I may take off to a big tailwater river in TN, also where the trout are active all summer. My other options though are usually local rivers and lakes for bass, panfish and other species. I have had good success this summer on lakes, sometimes even in the hottest part of the middle of the day, which was when I managed this nice smallmouth bass:
Many of the lake fish, including this smallmouth, have been taking a combination of a Boogle Bug popper with a variety of different sinking flies dropped off the back. Shady areas tend to be the most productive, but I have also been surprised with plenty of fish willing to hang out in the sunny spots.
Local rivers can also be a great place for summer action, as the moving water is usually more oxygenated and a little cooler sometimes than the lakes. The water is not as deep overall, so the fish tend to be more accessible with the fly rod. Plenty of panfish can be caught in any of the local rivers, and most have some population of spotted bass or largemouth bass in them as well. One species I have recently targeted is the longnose gar. I am working out the details to offer guided float trips for these fish hopefully starting sometime in summer 2016. I have some more research and development to do, but if it all works out, these fish will provide another summertime alternative. Here is a pic of one I got in my last outing:
Time to be hitting the warm water fisheries for the panfish that is. May and June can be fabulous for chasing the bluegill and other panfish around on the local lakes and rivers. Typically you can find plenty of shallow bluegill as they move up on beds to spawn. If you can locate these, you can have a grand time of fast and furious catching on the fly rod. My daughter Sage likes to catch them during this time, so I got her out on the water this past week and she had a good time catching them on a 4wt set up. Using the typical Boogle Bug popper with a sinking dropper fly off of it, she landed numerous good sized bluegill. She then proceeded to give each of them a name (girly stuff like flower, sunshine etc.) before she released them back into the lake.
I have had several guided trips out recently and all of my clients were able to get into plenty of bedding bluegill and shellcracker. These fish will remain shallow for most of the month of June, especially around the full and new moons. I did some fishing from my kayak this month as well, and I managed to land the biggest bluegill I have caught so far this year. A nice fish that almost covered my lap:
I also had the joy of getting into a few smallmouth bass recently. It has been a while since I had caught one, and I reminded myself of how much fun they are. I landed several good ones while out on the lake with my buddy Fred. Looking forward to doing it again really soon.
It’s that time of year again, that time when I have to decide just which species of fish I want to chase. Certain times of the the year that decision is made for me just by knowing what the different fish like in terms of water conditions. However, the months of March through May can be fabulous for just about everything. Bass, bream, crappie, stripers, trout, and the list goes on. I try to fit in as many different fishing outings as I can during these months, and I would suggest you do the same if you can. The trout fishing has been good on a variety of rivers and I got several good ones on the Davidson river lately, including this nice rainbow:
I started early in the morning throwing streamers until the sun got up on the water. Once the bug activity started to increase I threw a variety of dry flies and nymphs, having most of my success on elk hair caddis dry flies and small rubber legged nymphs in size 18. This nice brown actually took the elk hair caddis dry fly:
I also dusted off my boat and got out on Lake Bowen for the first time this year. Water temps at the boat ramp were around 59 degrees when I launched. I caught several small bass in fairly shallow water, all less than 5 feet deep and mostly on a spinner bait. I did not catch anything bigger than 2 pounds on this outing. I did see several fish cruising in the shallows up next to the bank, so it will not be long before the first wave of larger fish makes their way into the shallows. I even managed a yellow perch from next to a boat dock, colorful fish.
Fall is always a great time of year, in my opinion. College football kicks back in, deer hunting, Fall colors of leaves changing, and of course great fishing. Many trout streams fish well this time of year, from catch and release water to high elevation wild trout water, and even some local put and take South Carolina streams. I have fished several different catch and release streams recently and had fabulous days each time. A few good sized fish brought to net as well as high fish count
Most of my large fish have been caught on smaller nymphs, sizes 16 and 18. I have thrown plenty of streamers and larger nymphs which have certainly caught me plenty of fish, but for one reason or another the larger fish have been caught on smaller flies. Just coincidence most likely, as I have certainly had good luck in the past on catching large fish on bigger flies as well. This rainbow took a small rubber legged nymph late afternoon on the Davidson river:
Will was able to cash in on his biggest trout so far while dragging a double nymph rig with some split shot trough a deep cut where we had seen the fish working.
Will and I also hit some put and take water in South Carolina. We only had a few hours, so we stayed local and had the river to ourselves for a few hours before the bank fisherman showed up. We caught a good many fish on a variety of flies including yellow stone flies, black stone flies, san juan worms, and even elk hair caddis dry flies. We were there 4 days after the SCDNR had stocked, and while there were plenty of folks fishing and keeping fish, we found more than enough fish still in the river to have some fun. Interestingly enough, most of the bank fisherman were not catching much, as the fish were not responding to any presentations that did not drift naturally. That worked in our favor, as we were wading the river and using fly rods, giving us the ability to dead drift flies, and we pulled numerous trout out of holes after other fisherman had struck out using spinning gear. So, don’t be afraid to stay local and try the SC water, you might be pleasantly surprised.