Friday, April 18, 2014

Norfork Lake Beckons

Trey Anderson shows off a chunky Norfork
Lake largemouth.
I can't imagine how much time I'd spend fishing in the Arkansas Ozarks were it not for the 650 miles between here and there. As is, the region's beautiful lakes, trout-filled tailwaters and tumbling smallmouth streams lure me a few times every year, and somehow that 12-hour drive doesn't seem that long when I'm Arkansas bound.

Early Tuesday morning, when Nathaniel and I hop in the truck to head for Norfork Lake, it'll already be our second Ozarks excursion of 2014. Last month we enjoyed a wonderful visit at Gaston's White River Resort, and we actually spent one day in the shadows of Norfork Dam so Nathaniel could spent a little time fishing Dry Run Creek.

I'm looking forward to spending a few days at Mockingbird Bay Resort, getting better acquainted with Norfork Lake. It appears opportunities striped bass, largemouths, spots, smallmouths, walleyes and crappie could all be on tap. A classic Ozarks lake -- clear, rocky and spectacularly scenic -- Norfork also serves up outstanding fishing, especially during the spring, when the fish tend to be shallow and active. I've only been out on Norfork a couple of times, so I'm eager to spend more time out there.

Of course, if time allows before or after our Norfork adventure, Nathaniel and I might have to slide just a few miles down the road so he can make a few casts into Dry Run Creek. He turns 16 in a month and a half, so next week likely marks his final opportunity to fish this fabulous youth-only trout stream.

After we leave Norfork we'll slip down to Mountain View for a day, and Nathaniel will trade his fishing rod for an instrument and will compete in the Southern Regional Mountain Dulcimer Championship at the Ozark Folk Center. Then we'll cap off our Ozark Adventure with a bit of floating and wading in the Spring River for smallmouths, trout and more before beginning our journey toward home.

Should be quite a week of fishing. Watch for reports and photos here, on my facebook fishing page, on Twitter and now on Instagram.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Like Fishing with an Old Friend

My most recent day astream reminded me a lot of fishing with old friend -- a friend I hadn't seen for a quite some time. You see, in November I broke my favorite trout rod, and I finally replaced it with a new one just like it.

As much as I'd like to tell some grand story of a giant fish or dramatically adverse conditions, the stupid truth is that I stubbed my old one on the ground because I was looking at my phone while walking across a field after fishing. I'd owned the rod, a 5 1/2-foot ultralight Fenwick EliteTech River Runner for a few years, and it had been my absolute go-to for smaller trout streams (and for most bluegill fishing) since Day 1. Even after I had broken off the first eye, it was the ultralight I always reached for when I was headed to a creek.

After breaking the favored Fenwick, I had put the reel on another rod I owned that was the same length and action, and I can't say that it didn't work fine. It did. It wasn't as light, though, and didn't give me the same casting control. Mostly, it just didn't feel right.

I'm pretty sure my trout reel grinned at least a little when I put it on the replacement Fenwick, and I did my best to make both rod and reel happy by taking them to a seriously pretty stream for their inaugural outing together. The rod did it's part, too, pulling a colorful rainbow trout from the first river run I used it to cast to that morning.

I'm happy to have my favorite trout rod back, and you can bet I'll be pretty careful with it, whether I'm climbing out of a river gorges or simply walking across field. Stuff on the phone can wait!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fishy Days Ahead

Eli Moscul hoists a beautiful Niagara River brown trout caught
with Capt. Frank Campbell a couple of days ago. Photo courtesy
of Niagara Region Charter Service.
I caught myself daydreaming about fishy days ahead, so I figured I might as well blog about upcoming fishing travel and make the daydreaming at least sort of productive.

Capt. Frank Campbell is largely to blame for my straying thoughts. He sent a note about an upcoming trip to the Niagara River and included the photo at the top of this page. One of his clients caught that brown trout only a couple of days ago. I'll be up there in early May, fishing Lake Erie out of Buffalo for giant smallmouth bass and the Lower Niagara River for brown trout, steelhead, lake trout and whatever else wants to bite. It is one of my absolute favorite places to visit.

I'd better not get too far ahead of myself with a New York state of mind, though, because before I get to the Niagara, I'll be fishing on Norfork Lake in Arkansas for stripers, largemouths, crappie and whatever else wants to bite, floating Arkansas' Spring River for smallmouths, rainbows, browns, rock bass and more and then flying to Green Bay to fish the legendary waters of Door County (Sturgeon Bay area) for jumbo smallmouth bass, jumbo smallmouth bass and jumbo smallmouth bass.

As if that weren't enough to distract me sufficiently, spring and early summer travels will also take me to Deadwood, South Dakota to fish Black Hills rivers and lakes, mostly for trout; back to Green Bay for a big-water mix of smallmouths, walleyes and salmon; and finally South of the Border to Anglers Inn on Lake El Salto, where I hope to lock horns with some seriously big largemouths.

What all that tells me -- beyond the notion that I should enjoy some wonderful days fishing over the next few months -- is that I'd better quit daydreaming and get back to the business of writing fish stories so I'm ahead of the game when I point the truck toward Arkansas next week!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rainbow & Falling Waters

We'd mostly stopped at the pull-off to get a better view of Cullasaja Falls, which crashes dramatically just to the side of U.S. Highway 64 in western North Carolina but well down in a gorge.  Then we noticed the path that obviously led to the base of the falls. It wasn't truly a trail, and parts looked more like drops than slopes. Still, we were curious what it looked like at the base of the falls and whether any trout lived down there and we were ready for some exploration.

Turned out the vantage from the bottom more than justified the steep hike in and even the climb out and that at least one trout does indeed live in one of the first deep runs below the waterfall. Based on its small size and brilliant markings, I'm fairly certain the fish I caught was a wild rainbow. We were fishing in Hatchery Supported waters, but many of North Carolina's stocked streams also support some wild fish, and the mot likely places to catch them are well away from where hatchery trucks can venture.

After exploring the base of the falls a while and climbing back out of the hole, we started up the gorge, by truck, pulled into pretty much any vacant pullout and looked to see if the river looked worth visiting at that point Usually it did. A couple of times we parked nearly at river level beside a flat section of the Cullasaja. More often, we were well above the river and had to descend a steep pig path. We only caught a handful of trout (all rainbows), but exploring the Cullasaja would have been big fun even without a fishing rod.

We capped the day of fishing with a couple of short waterfall hikes. One was to Dry Falls, also on the Cullasaja, which pours over a big overhang that a trail cuts beneath. Seeing a waterfall from the inside is pretty cool. The other was to Glen Falls, a tall series of falls on a small stream in the upper watershed of the West Fork of the Chattooga River. That creek contains native brook trout, from my understanding, but you couldn't have fished in the section we saw. Inches of water racing over steep

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Smaller Nanofil Spooled & Ready

"Do you think it's the rod, reel or line?" Nathaniel asked me about my casts, which were consistently traveling a seriously long distance. We were fishing jerkbaits across broad bars, where longer casts simply met more time with the bait in the zone, and my casts were consistently traveling farther than his (which isn't normal when we are rigged similarly."

"Maybe rod and then line," I suggested. I wasn't sure though, because our rods were similar in length in action and both well balanced, so between casts, we traded.

We again cast toward the same bank and his cast traveled a good 20 feet farther than mine. "It's the line!" we stated simultaneously and with equal certainty. He was struck by how effortlessly my line flew of the reel. I felt his line grabbing when I cast.

Nathaniel's line wasn't stiff or old. It was a soft, light copolymer that handles well and is actually quite castable. I was fishing with Berkley Nanofil, though, and we were both amazed by just how well it cast. I've been fishing with 8-pound Nanofil on a couple of rods for a while now, and have really been happy with its performance. However, that was the first time I had a direct comparison with another rod rigged the same -- other than the line type -- and I'm absolutely sold.

Castability is the no. 1 selling point of Nanofil, a relatively new "uni-filament" that was designed for spinning reels and offers tremendously small diameter, relative to break strength.

So far, I've only fished 8-pound test and have only used a highly visible white version, which definitely requires a leader for trout or other clear-water fish. I just spooled a couple of my trout reels with 4- and 6-pound low-vis green Nanofil and am eager to put those reels and that line to work! Looks like that opportunity might come tomorrow, so I'd better get some fish stories finished and some other trout junk gathered!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FLW Halftime

Brett Hite dominated the FLW Tour season opener on Lake
Okeechobee. FLW Photo
Tomorrow's take-off at Beaver Lake will start the second half of the FLW Tour season and the points race for Forrest Wood Cup qualification. With three events completed and three to go, no one is absolutely in or out based on points. That said, some have pretty substantial hills to climb while others sit in a pretty nice position.

Halfway home, the top few spots in the Angler of the Year standings are occupied by Cody Meyer, Andy Morgan (last year's 2013 AOY) and Randall Tharp (2013 Forrest Wood Cup champion).

So far the Tour has visited Lake Okeechobee in Florida, Lake Hartwell on the Georgia/South Carolina border, and Sam Rayburn in Texas, and the pros have seen three totally different types fisheries. It's been an eventful first half, with many story lines playing out. Check out FLW's Top 10 Highlights.

For the next four days, FLW Tour pros will fish Beaver, in the Arkansas Ozarks, with some anglers fishing ultra clear water in the lake's lower end and other fishing in heavy stain up the White River. The tour season will conclude with stops on two big Tennessee River impoundments --  Pickwick and Kentucky Lake -- both in June.

The championship, the Forrest Wood Cup, will be held on South Carolina's Lake Murray August 14-17.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cloudy Day Yield

Since a recent warm sunny day produced almost no pond action, Nathaniel and I decided to test a cool, dark, windy day. We made a couple of quick laps around the upper pond and walked down to the smaller middle pond, just to see who was home. While I wouldn't say we whacked 'em, we did catch six or seven bluegills and bass in a fairly short outing.

The 'gills were in the upper pond. The better bass (which still weren't more than a pound) came from the middle pond. I caught all my fish on either a Road Runner Marabou Pro 2.0 or a smaller pink and white Ugly Bug that I tied on a white Road Runner head.

I sort of wanted to try a trout stream, but I was unsure of when the rain might set in (which it still has not), and I prefer weekdays for public streams, if I have the choice. Maybe one day this week, but I suppose that will depend on just how much rain we get.