Category Archives: Flyfishing

Clearwater, winter 16-17, first trip

One of the great things the local TU chapter does is to work with the local YMCA to run a winter trout fishery. They put 2000 trout in the ~5 acre lake in October, and again later in the season. This gives us piedmont residents the chance to catch trout 15 minutes from home, rather than 2 hours! Today was gray, overcast with temperatures in the low 40’s and spitting rain, but it was one of the two dates Sam and I had booked this season so off we went. I started quickly, catching a nice rainbow less than 10 minutes after getting to the lake. I’d have to wait awhile for others, but we caught fish throughout the day…not fast action, but each of the 7 anglers caught several. Sam and I each netted 8 or so nice fish, with other break offs and missed strikes. A great day! We used nymphs, dries and streamers. It varied throughout the day. No discernible hatches, so catches were a matter of getting the fly in front of a cruising fish. You might think this is like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel, but not so! These can be very tough fish to catch, especially when they zero in on hatching midges, for example.

Looking forward to next time!

Sam with a rainbow

Sam with a rainbow

Joel with a nice fish, too

Joel with a nice fish, too

Closeup of a typical stocked rainbow

Closeup of a typical stocked rainbow

Clearwater 2016, v1

As my (one or two?) regular readers know, I like to visit a local “lake” that the TU chapter stocks with trout for a winter fishery. Let’s see, trout, hanging out with a few fellow anglers I don’t see often enough, only 15 minutes from my house, what’s not to like?

Joel netting trout

First fish of the day

On January 9th, I had one of my two seasonal visits to Clearwater. The fishing was slow, as recent rains had muddied the lake, but all the 8 anglers there each caught a handful of nice fish.  I caught mine on egg patterns, a fly that I’ve historically used in the winter with great success, but not at Clearwater. Great fellowship, and always fun to hang with my fishing buddy, Sam. Already looking forward to the next trip there!

Joel releasing a big trout

This one put a nice bend in the rod

TU said that they put a lot of browns in the lake this year, but I didn’t see any. Maybe next time.

White Bass 2015

I practiced some defensive calendaring today (which is pretty bad for a retired dude, but the part-time job can create some schedule challenges 😉 ), marked off the afternoon, and drove about 20 miles from my house to where the Haw River runs into Jordan Lake (central NC). The spring weather was spectacular, with temperatures in the low 80’s and blue skies. It’s “yellow season” with the pine pollen every and spring busting out all over. My goal was to catch some white bass on their spring spawning run up the river.

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Haw River View

I got to the Robeson Creek canoe landing about 1:30PM, after taking care of a few things in the “office” during the morning. I rigged up, and headed down the trail from the parking lot. I crossed Robeson Creek, and walked upstream past the end of the impoundment to the running water. There were a few fishermen around, mostly with buckets they were hoping to fill, and I walked upstream to a pool that had worked for me in the past.

The water was pleasantly cool and perfect for wet wading.  The water level was low, and the river was clear.  If the water had been high or stained, this wouldn’t work, as the Haw is like wading on greasy bowling balls.  It’s a big river, and if the water is up, it gets too deep pretty quickly. I cast a black sparkle wooly bugger a few times, but I wasn’t feeling the love with that fly. I put on a white Shenks’s streamer, and immediately hooked up with a nice little white bass. These guys can put quite a bend in the rod, especially when they leverage the current.

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Haw River White Bass

 

I fished for about two hours, an hour in one place, and then moving upstream to another spot for another hour.  I caught about 15 white bass, several small largemouth bass, a few sunfish, and one nice black crappie (below). All fish were on the same white Shenk’s streamer. All the white bass were medium-sized males.  I didn’t see any of the larger females; they’ve not come up the river yet.

Nice black crappie

Nice black crappie

About 4PM, I decided I’d had a great day, the bite had slowed, and I headed for shore and the trail back. Got back home before 5PM, in time to sit on the porch with my wife and a glass of wine.  Not a bad day!

Another day at Clearwater

Two days of fishing in the last three?  Wow! Sam and I met at Camp Clearwater today to try for winter-stocked trout (too warm here in the NC piedmont for a natural population). This is such civilized fishing.  Leisurely morning at home, walk the dogs, breakfast with the wife, newspaper, coffee, and then drive less than 15 minutes to get there. Since the gate opens at 9AM and there were only 6 rods scheduled, no need to rush 🙂 .

I met Sam in the parking lot at ~9:20 and compared notes on flies to try. The last time we’d ben out, the key was small midges (#18 or #20) as droppers below a dry as an indicator, primarily. We decided we’d stick with that, and the telemetry from the Lake Master was that this would be effective. It worked, but was slow, technical fishing. Trout were madly jumping all over the lake, sometimes hitting the dry indicator, most times nudging the dropper, but were devilishly hard to hook, especially on long casts, and then hard to keep on the hook. I managed to land several over the course of the day, most hitting a “Sweet Thang” tied by Sam, a tiny #20 bead head with a brown wire-wrapped body. Hell, I can hardly see ’em much less tie ’em!

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Clearwater Rainbow

At one point, Sam and I were casting from a long dock, with another angler between us. We were both catching fish, and he was getting skunked.  Sam passed him a Sweet Thang and he got two in short order. Keeping with the osprey theme from my post last Friday, as we stood on the dock, we watched an osprey grab a trout from lake and head to a nearby tree. It hit the water with a giant splash and I first thought a mondo trout had jumped until I saw the osprey.

I caught a few on my dry indicator, a #16 CDC emerger, but mostly, they’d clobber it but miss the hookup.

It was a nice day, pleasantly warm, in contrast to our recent chilly weather.  Nice fellowship with our fellow fishermen and the Lake Master. A good way to spend the day.

 

Shad, ospreys, and eagles

Osprey eating a shad

Osprey eating a shad

 

St. Patrick’s Day, this past Tuesday, was beautiful with blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70’s. Was that the day that I made my annual trek to Weldon for the shad run?  Nope! Sam and I waited until Friday the 20th, with temps starting in the 30’s and topping out about 50, with some drizzle and thick clouds. However, it was the best day for the two of us to get together so we loaded up the canoe on the old red truck for the 2 hour trip.

We didn’t rush due to the cold and rain…rain which was pulling out to the northeast. We timed our drive well, and the rain was finished by the time we arrived. We paddled across the river to our usual spot, but things didn’t look too promising, as we were virtually the only folks at the landing — never a good sign with something like the shad run, where people fishing means the fish are in. However, onward! We beached the canoe and clambered over the rocks to the top of the “Little River,” where the flow splits 90/10, with the small flow being the “Little River.” The water was quite chilly (49F) as I wet-waded through crotch-deep water to our favorite fishing rocks 🙂 . Invigorating!

Well, to say fishing was slow was an understatement.  However, I did manage a half dozen Hickory Shad, and besides, the camaraderie made the trip worthwhile, regardless of what we caught.

Hickory Shad

Hickory Shad

All the fish I caught were on a single orange fly…orange chenille body, orange bucktail wing, with some gold crystal flash added for good measure. This particular fly had bead chain eyes rather than the weighted eyes I usually use, and that may have made a difference but I think it really was more just putting the fly in front of a fish, and I had a better day of that than Sam.

We saw a number of ospreys during the day, mostly as fishless as us 🙂 but one did catch a fish just a bit down the river from us, and it flew into a nearby tree to eat the shad while we fished. We also saw a bald eagle, also clutching a shad, on the far side of the river. In the past, we’ve seen wild turkeys fly by, but none today.

All in all, a great day of fishing, so-so catching, good bird watching, and great fellowship.

New platform for the Flyfish listserver archives

I spent a bit of time this weekend knocking a job off my digital “todo” list. Back last fall, the old Parallels virtual machine that ran the Flyfish listserver archives finally succumbed to old age. It was a very old instance of Red Hat Linux, but the virtual disk had become corrupt and would not stay up. I had copied all of the data, configurations and programs (WAIS/free-WAIS-sf) to my iMac, but had been procrastinating on trying to rebuild.  I wanted to change Linux distros and I figured I’d probably have to re-make all the programs, and was “looking forward” to compatibility issues when I set it up. However, cold, nasty weather is good for hacking and not much else, so, I started the process.

I decided to run a basic server installation of Debian. I didn’t want any of the GUI and it seemed that this was going to be one of the best platforms to grab a basic installation like this, plus I like Debian and the way the update and program installation work. I first played with it on the Raspberry Pi, which initially came out with a version of Debian. So, I downloaded the ‘Net install ISO (about 280MB), and created a VM.  I then installed the packages I wanted, and set about installing the archive server.

I have almost 25 years of postings to this listserver archived, so it took a few minutes to copy over all that “wisdom.” Then, the Wais configuration “source” files. Then…the binaries for the Wais programs…and they ran! Guess since I built it with gcc and the target was i386, there really weren’t any dependencies from the old platform. I did have to tweak one of my scripts that had a hard-coded path to the cgi-bin directory, which has moved out from under the var/www path under Debian to improve security.

I’ve still got a bit of cleanup to do, including collecting and indexing the postings from 7/1/14 to the present, but that’s a simple task.

The old thing took just a couple hours to set up. Check it out at archives.flyfishlist.org!

Camp Clearwater Trout

I’d been eagerly awaiting the “trout season” at Camp Clearwater lake, just a handful of miles from my house in Chapel Hill, NC. The lake is seasonally stocked with rainbow trout by the local Trout Unlimited chapter and it’s run as an annual cold-weather catch & release fishery. The trout get acclimated very quickly, getting tuned in on the mayfly and midge hatches, and can be quite challenging to catch.

I arrived just after the gates opened at 9am, having booked one of the eight angler slots. While I was rigging up, my buddy Sam pulled up, and we strategized on fly selections for a chilly, overcast day. The morning was above freezing, unlike the previous day, thankfully. I started with a Chili Pepper, having used it to great success at Clearwater in February. I caught a nice trout on my second cast!

clearwater trout 1 (1024)

I had a couple more strikes, but then things went cold for me. Some of the guys on the other side of the lake seemed to be doing better, and we figured we’d swap intel at lunch. I picked up this very nice fish in the late morning, also on the Chili Pepper, but overall it was a slow morning.

clearwater trout 2 (1024)

We saw that some folks were having success with nymphs suspended below a strike indicator, a technique we’d used at Clearwater before. I lost a really nice fish to a bad knot and then promptly landed several nice fish, including this one below, using a stimulator for an indicator with a bead-head flashback pheasant tail dropper.

clearwater trout 3 (1024)

We were casting well out into the lake, 40-50 feet, and the takes were slow and soft, but the action was steady. Then, Sam picked up 3 or 4 fish on a tiny midge dropper.  It was a size 20 bead-head that had a brown body, called a “Sweet Thang,” and it sure was. In the meantime, I’d not had a strike for a while on the pheasant tail, the air was filling with midges, and trout were jumping. I bummed a “Sweet Thang” from Sam, and  we each caught several more nice fish on that combo (again, I had the stimulator as an indicator).

We ended the day with the pleasant feeling that you have when you’ve caught plenty of fish, and when you LDR one, that’s great, since you didn’t have to net ’em. I headed home about 4:30 and lifted a beer to a great time with good friends and fine fishing.

Shenandoah Smallmouth

I had a chance to get away for a long weekend with my fishing buddy, Sam. We needed a smallmouth bass trip, weighed our options and the weather, and headed to the South Fork of the Shenandoah. We’d decided to camp, and headed for the Shenandoah River Outfitters near Luray, VA. When we got there, they asked, “do you have reservations?” That’s always a bad sign. I’d checked their website and it was showing clear availability all month, even on the weekends. Seems that was not really the case. They said they could give us Thursday and Friday night, but not Saturday. Fortunately, they had a cancellation, and we ended up with a site for the entire weekend (plan B was a motel in Luray). It’s a decent place to camp, but it sure is kinda crazy on the weekend as they manage the tubers, canoeists, and rafters. I’d never seen a 36-canoe trailer before, but they have a couple of them! We got there in time to cook dinner and then go out to wade fish a bit before dark. We tried an access point a couple miles downriver from the camp. Sam caught a couple of bass, and I got a nice fallfish, on a popper, no less! As it got too dark to wade in fast water, we headed back to strategize about our float plan for Friday.

We decided to float from Foster’s Landing to Seekford Landing, which is 5 miles. We used the trusty “bicycle shuttle” (me dropping off Sam at the upstream point with the boats, and leaving the truck at the takeout, and biking back. Saved a shuttle fee of about $50 😉 . Here’s a shot of me as we were ready to start out.

Joel at Foster's Landing

Joel at Foster’s Landing

We floated from about 11AM until 5PM, and both had good fishing all day. We each caught 25 or so smallmouth plus additional sunfish and fallfish. No big bass, but they were all hard-hitting and acrobatic. Here’s a typical fish…

Shenandoah smallmouth

Shenandoah smallmouth

I caught almost all of mine on a brown crayfish pattern. It was working for me, so why change a good thing? I was intrigued by the sunfish on the Shenandoah. They would hit in some very fast water, much more so than where I’m used to catching sunfish on a smallmouth river. When a fat sunnie gets sideways in current, you’ll think it’s a nice bass…except no jumps.

For Saturday, we decided after considerable thought, to wade fish. Sam wanted to show me the area below the Luray powerplant, where he’d had good success in the past. We headed up first thing in the morning. The problem was that the water was quite cloudy. I think that it was from the water coming over the dam, stirring up sediment that had settled out by the time it got a mile or so downriver. Anyway, we couldn’t see our feet, which is not good, and decided to go downstream. We fished Bixler’s Ferry access, Bealer’s Ferry access, Foster’s Landing and Seekford Landing. I did reasonably well, especially at Bealer’s. Sam didn’t connect on as many bass, but it was still a great day.

One thing that was an issue for us both floating and wading was the amount of aquatic grass. Many areas were almost matted down with it, making the fishing tough. Sam had fished the Shenandoah before but didn’t remember the grass being as dense. Maybe he was fishing earlier in the season. We weren’t sure. Anyway, it was a great weekend and good company. Sunday, we both needed to get back home so we packed up and drove the 4.5 hours back to central NC. Already looking forward to the next time I get a smallmouth on my line!

Sunfish on the Eno

June was a busy month, with most of my time dedicated to being Director of Shakori District Cub Scout Day Camp. I’d not been over to the Eno River lately, so with glorious low-humidity sunshine the weekend forecast, I decided to carve out some time for fishing today. I wanted to fish some of the long, deeper pools, so I packed my float tube instead of planning to wade.

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The stretch where I headed is one of the upper parts of the Eno River State Park, but it’s a place that’s very lightly used, even on a holiday weekend. I only saw two other people in the time I was there.

I hiked in from the road, carrying my float tube with pack straps for easier transport. The water was cool, low and clear. I started working some streamers up next to the banks, in the shady spots, and started catching lots of sunnies. Not big, but lots of fun.

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I spent the next 3 hours catching and releasing three or four dozen sunfish. I had a few hits on poppers, but mostly on a variety of streamers. I kept hoping for a largemouth but didn’t hook any. I saw many small, 6″ bass swimming in the shallows, but couldn’t find any bigger ones. It was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed the sound of the wind in the trees and the pleasant breeze that gently pushed me downstream.

Knowing I had a ways to bushwhack thru the summer undergrowth back upstream to the access trail, I decided it was time to head back home for a cold one…it’s sort of like walking downhill, you know you’ve got to hike back out!

It was a great day. I need to see if I can get one of my buddies to do this with me one day, and do a car shuttle and a longer float. Something to plan for next time.

White Bass at Penny’s Bend

Here in the Triangle area of the NC piedmont, we have two main runs of white bass from our local reservoirs, Jordan Lake and Falls Lake. One goes up the Haw River from Jordan Lake, and the other up the Eno River from Falls Lake. I’ve historically fished the Haw River run, but I’d not done so in several years. The Haw is a bit closer from my house, about 18 miles as opposed to the 27 miles to the Penny’s Bend area of the Eno. The weather was looking great this week, with temps in the 70’s and blue skies, with redbuds and dogwoods blooming…but the problem was that Monday of this week gave us heavy rain and flooding, with both rivers rising several feet. I decided to go to the Eno, as the Haw is a much bigger river win a bigger drainage and I figured that the Eno would be much more fishable on Thursday.

I wasn’t sure if I’d want my canoe, but I figured it could ride on my truck if I decided not to use it. So, canoe on top and with a load of flyrods in the cab, I took off for Penny’s Bend. When I got there about 11:30 (a dog walk, a workout, breakfast and 3 lattes can slow you down in the morning), I was not encouraged. The water was very stained from the week’s rain. There were a fair number of fishermen on the banks, sitting on 5-gallon buckets they hoped to fill with bass, but the rods were still. I grabbed my favorite 5-wt, as well as my backup ultralight spinning rod, as I was not sure if I could find a spot for a back cast. The banks were muddy and slick from the several feet of chocolate-colored water that had been coursing thru 3 days earlier. At the Old Oxford Road bridge, the Eno is about a short double-haul cast wide. I watched from the edge of the bridge a while, and decided the water was shallow enough to wade to a little island next to the main current just at the top of the main pool…if I could get down the muddy bank with inserting a flyrod up my…well, you get the idea 🙂 . Whew! Made it, and then into the cool, fast water. It was probably about 60F, but I didn’t take the temperature. I was wading wet, and the water, calf deep, felt good.

What fly to use? I decided to follow the old adage of a black fly in stained water. Tied on a black sparkle bugger, made a cast and wham! a small white bass on the first cast, aimed at the seam between the fast riffle and the eddy in the big, deep pool.

white bass 1(sm)

The next three casts brought 3 more fish! My streak broke on the fifth cast, however, as my bugger snagged a stick floating in the current. For the next hour or so, I was almost continually hooking and landing white bass. Almost all took my fly in a circle at the edge of the current no more than 20 feet across; with these bass, it’s all about finding a seam where the schools are traveling. These were not big fish by and large, but lots of fun to catch. So many, in fact, that they finally chewed up the bugger and I had to put on another one. A happy thing! By 1pm, the bite was slowing – I was still catching one every 5 minutes or so, but they were a bit bigger. My best fish of the day took the fly in the fast water, and stayed in the current, putting quite a bend in the 5-wt.

white bass 2(sm)

Another flyfisher arrived and took up a position on the other side of the riffle. He immediately caught one, but then no more. I was ready to go by then, as I’d really had my ticket punched. He slid into my spot as I climbed the bank (I found a better way up than down), and I wished him well and headed home for a cold beer!

A heckuva a nice spring day!