Sunday, October 19, 2014

Capt. Eli

Eli, 5, running the boat for his brother Asher and me.
Eli enjoys to going fishing. There's no doubt about that. However, I sort of think he likes paddling the johnboat around the lake even more than he likes to try to catch fish. He's gotten pretty good at it, too. For a not-quite-6-year-old, Eli shows surprising command of the boat, especially considering that he works from the middle and has to move a couple of steps to switch paddling sides.

It used to be that when I handed Eli a paddle I was resolving to happily cast from wherever the boat happened to spin, which effectively meant not really fishing for a while. I didn't mind that at the time, but I have to admit that I kind of like him easing Asher and me along a bank so we can cast for bluegills and bass. In truth, I like it better than him slinging a hook past my nose when he casts from the center of the boat!

Yesterday wasn't a big fish catching day. We got a few bluegills in one mid-day pond lap. A couple of them came with Capt. Eli paddling, so I'm giving him guide credit for those fish!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Birthday Fish

It seems I might have told Autumn a story on her eighth birthday. You see, I told her she had caught a warmouth, a species she'd never caught before. Having looked at a couple of comparative photos and habitat descriptions this morning, I'm pretty sure she actually caught a green sunfish. Either way, it was a kind of fish she'd never caught before and her first fish as an 8-year-old. She caught it on a Rebel Teeny Wee-Craw after seeing fish movement near the bank and casting in that direction.

Birthdays are often fishing days around here, and yesterday was no different. Autumn went to Moccasin Creek State Park, stopping to feed the giant trout at Mark of the Potter along the way, and fished a bit in the creek, Lake Burton and the catfish pond, which is next door on the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery property.

The catfish pond produced a few hits, but no hooked or landed cats, which is rare. It's late in the season, though, and I don't think they keep a lot of fish stocked in the little family fishing pond when there aren't many people fishing.

We started at Moccasin Creek (her fishing; me watching), which is a youth/senior citizens stream within the park. We didn't linger long, though, because as is usually the case, camping senior citizens were camped out in the most productive areas, leaving little opportunity for an 8-year-old girl to catch a trout on her birthday.

She caught her sunfish, which was our lone fish, from the lake itself, close to the mouth of the creek.

Autumn finished her time at the park on the playground, and then we wrapped up the birthday fishing outing with sandwiches and sundaes at McDonald's on the way home.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trout Itch Worse

Big Snowbird Creek, near Robbinsville, N.C.
You know how when you scratch an itch it only gets itchier? Of course you do. Well. It would seem an itch to fish for trout is much the same way.

Last week's trip to western North Carolina included three marvelous days on the Nantahala River and Big Snowbird Creek. With the weather cooling a bit, leaves changing and North Carolina's delayed harvest season opening, I had been itching to get in a stream and to catch some trout. Those waters were soothing, while I was standing in them. However, the itch has been worse than ever this week as I've been sitting at the computer, writing fish stories, and I keep finding myself wading up stream in daydreams. Some streams are nearby and very familiar. Others are legendary waters much farther from home that I've never seen with my own eyes.

At the risk of making things even worse, I really need to get back in a stream next week, if not this weekend!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Double Ugly Rig

Trout I caught on a jig/fly tandem rig last week were about
evenly divided between taking the jig and the fly.
Fly-fishermen commonly use dropper flies, drifting a nymph beneath a bushy dry fly, a pair of nymphs or some other combination, and I've recently found good pond fishing success with by trailing a No. 10 or 12 Hare's Ear or other nymph behind an Ugly Bug, which is my name for any hair jig I tie. The idea of the rig is have something a bit smaller and freer moving trailing the Ugly Bug. When a fish turns on the bigger bug but resists hitting, the smaller offering behind it provides a second chance at an easier target.

Knowing I'd be fishing mountain streams last week, I tied up a handful if "Ugly Nymphs," creating buggy offerings from fur, feathers and No. 8 (the smallest size I had at the time) Daiichi Bleeding Bait octopus-style hooks. I didn't try them at the Nantahala because the stream was high and somewhat stained, so the fish were already in reaction mode. Big Snowbird was super clear, though, so after we'd fished a while I decided to tie a bit of 4-pound leader to the bend of my Ugly Bug hook and tie an Ugly Nymph to the terminal end. The one I chose was all peacock, with a narrow, peacock wrapped body and a few short strands of peacock hurl creating a tail. It looked buggy to me, but I'm not a trout.

Some fish agreed. Whether I caught more fish than I would have without it I really don't know, but my catch was split about half and half between the jig and the fly from the time I added the trailer, so I tend to think that at least a couple of those fish would not have hit the jig alone.

I've since gotten some smaller hooks of the same style, and I have some specific bugs in mind that I want to tie and try. In other words, the Double Ugly experiment has only just begun!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Colors Quickly Changing

A beautiful autumn morning on Big Snowbird Creek in North
Carolina's Graham County.
Having spent most of last week in the mountains of western North Carolina, I was struck by how much the colors changed in the short time that I was there.

Nathaniel and I fished on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and Friday's photos are noticably more colorful than the others. We were admittedly in a different stream, a little farther up the mountain. Still, the entire landscape change from green with hints of yellow and red to one with more warm colors than cool ones.

The change was even more notable at Fontana Village, where we stayed, because we looked at the same mountainsides every day and could see the color creeping down the mountain and filling the forest a little more each day, and the drive home was so much more colorful than the drive there.

Of course the fuller color didn't quite follow us home. Gray skies, a fair number of leaves on the ground and hints of color do create an autumn-like appearance when I look out the window, but we're still two or three weeks from the nicest fall color in North Georgia.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pleasant Change of Plans

The plan this morning was to fish a section of delayed harvest trout waters on Big Snowbird Creek that I'd never before seen. I knew trout would be very well stocked this early in the release-only season, and I'd heard a paralleling gravel road provided plenty of places to get in and out of the creek.

A rainy morning I assumed would be a good thing because it would lessen crowds in waters I expected to be very popular on a Saturday. As it turned out the rain made mush out of a freshly graded road that was actually dirt, not gravel, and with my gocart (Ford Fiesta) I dared not try to make it to the delayed harvest section.

We were to the stream, though, and wanted to fish, so I pulled over when I could and we stepped into hatchery supported waters that probably hadn't been stocked for more than a month.

It started slow, and we wondered at first if we were among fish at all, and when Nathaniel caught a brook trout after 15 or 20 minutes we felt like we'd found success. When he caught another on the next cast, hope grew that we'd find more.

As it turned out we caught quite a few more. By our best tally we caught 19 trout, including two really nice rainbows that Nathaniel caught. Maybe the best part, though, was that the many trucks that came up the dirt road all went right past us to the delayed harvest section, so we fished through about 3/4 mile of stream and never crossed paths with another angler.

I don't know what we would have caught had we gotten to where I'd meant to, but I can't imagine it would have been a better day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Swinging Road Road Runners

Often I drift a Road Runner, casting upstream, allowing the lure to tumble in the current, and using the rod and reel only to keep the bait from dragging bottom too much and to pull it a bit and engage the blades. Other times, I cast mostly cross-current and simply reel or work the bait with slight hops and drops. Occasionally I let the bait swing downstream, in the current. I always experiment early in the day, and let the trout decide, and this week they absolutely wanted the downstream swing.

The swinging approach is fun and simple I cast directly across or current or across and slightly downstream, let the bait sink a little on a slack line, and then just flip the bail and hold the rod. The trout hit the bait as is swings downstream or even after it has made the swing and is simply dangling in the current, with the little Road Runner blade just spinning the current. This week, quite a few fish took the bait when it was just hanging. If the bait is hanging in a likely fish-holding area, I'll often twitch the rod a few times to convert watchers into eaters, and then I might reel is slowly upstream.

Streams, of course, are mighty dynamic, and various factors, including the depth of a run, the placement of rocks and the amount of current, dictate how tight I keep the line, how far I let it tumble, how long I leave it hanging and more.

We actually caught at least a few fish presenting our Road Runners pretty much any way they can be worked in a couple of days on the Nantahala River. The swing was the top producer for me, though, and is definitely a presentation that's worth trying if you have not done so.