My river fishing lately has been mostly determined by what the water levels and flows are doing. With all the rain we have gotten over the past several months, my opportunities have been rather few and far between. However, when I have been able to get out I have been able to find some fish willing to eat. I think the fishing pressure has been a little less than normal overall for many of our rivers due to the higher water conditions. We finally are seeing some stretches of days with no rain, so river levels are starting to come back to normal. My most recent outing produced numerous fish, with a few decent sized ones mixed in. All the fish took streamers, worm or stonefly nymph patterns in what was still rather high water.
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.
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.
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.
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.