Category Archives: Flyfishing

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!

Shad fishing 2014…

The calendar said spring, but the weather was anything but springlike this morning when I headed to pick up Sam for our annual trip to Weldon. The temperature had dropped into the mid 20’s overnight, and was still below freezing when got to Sam’s house. It’s a good thing shad fishing is “civilized” with the bite being largely unaffected by time of day. We figured that by the time I navigated the traffic jam to his house, factoring the 1:45 hr drive to Weldon, we’d be on the Roanoke River by 10:30. And we were, but the temperature was still at freezing when we put the canoe in the river to paddle over to our favorite rock. We portaged the “big rapid” and set up shop at the top of “Little River,” a fork that creates a large island.

There was one boat anchored about 50 yards downstream of our rock, and they were catching fish. That’s a good spot they were in, but in a canoe it’s difficult to anchor and fish in such fast water. The flow was at 7400 cfs, higher than I’d like, but fishable (at that level, a river-knowledgeable captain can take a power boat up the rapids, but I would not want to do it at less than 10,000cfs) . The trick with shad is to find the right seam in the current and the right depth, along with the right color fly and right speed of retrieve…small differences can have a big impact on success. Our position was good, but not ideal given all the variables today. The fish were there, but not in the numbers we’ve seen on some trips. The water was still quite cold due to the late spring.

We started with pink flies and orange flies, but no strikes. We were using intermediate sink tips on 7wt rods. As much as anything, this is because you spend the day making long double-hauls, and it’s just easier with a rod with some body strength. Finally, since we weren’t catching anything, we hollered to the guys in the boat…”what color?” They said green and yellow. Tried that and started catching some fish. The sun went behind some clouds, the wind kicked up and I was seriously thinking about putting on my neoprene gloves, in late March! Geez, this is the South! After lunch, we tried some other colors, and pink produced as well as chartreuse. Go figure! All told, each of us caught 15-20 Hickory Shad. These are strong, acrobatic fish that will bend your rod.

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It was a good day. It’s great to catch up with Sam, and we each caught enough fish to be content. I’ve had days when I’ve caught more, but also days when I got skunked. Fishing, catching and fellowship. I need to do more of this…

Winter trout

Today was my second day this season to fish the lake at Camp Clearwater, a YMCA camp near Chapel Hill. It’s just 8 miles from my house, and the local TU chapter supports a winter trout fishery there. It has been winter for sure, even here in the south, and the north bank of the lake was still covered in snow and ice, though the temperature was in the upper 40’s under sunny blue sky. Naturally sustaining trout populations are usually at least a two hour drive for me, so this is a luxury. While these are annually stocked fish, the lake is several acres in size and the fish are often quite challenging to catch. In December, I fished hard all day and caught just a couple. However, today was different. Unusually, I outfished my buddy Sam, though I need to give him an “assist” as in basketball, since he tied the flies I used for about half the 15-20 fish I caught, including this very nice one:

joel with nice trout (medium)

Most of the fish I caught today were smaller like this one. However, they were often spunky and acrobatic, with many jumps:

smaller trout (medium)

I caught about half of the fish on a Chili Pepper streamer that Sam tied (including the big one), and most of the others on an olive fly with an orange front highlight that another fellow angler shared (he called it a “Diawa” but I can’t find a pattern; will have to reverse engineer!). Orange seemed to be the ticket today. Lest you think I’m a complete fly mooch, I did catch one on flashback pheasant tail I tied 😉 . When I wasn’t fishing the streamer, I had a dropper rig under a strike indicator with the flashback pheasant tail as the upper and the “Diawa” as the bottom.

It was a great day, with great fellowship. I’ll be sure to sign up for Clearwater days again next year.

Bring on spring!

Here in NC we often get spoiled by warm days in February, hinting of things to come. It’s been a cold winter here (I know, we are spoiled!) and I’m looking forward to spring. As I shoveled a few inches of snow and slush off the driveway today, the sun was warm and getting higher in the sky, the wind light, and the birds chirping. Soon, the shad will start their migration up the rivers from the sounds and Atlantic Ocean, and I was thinking about sunny March days, catching dozens of fish. I am looking forward to being able to (hopefully!) mesh my newly flexible schedule with the arrival of fish, warm days, and sunshine. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy a day of trout fishing this weekend at a local pond, stocked during cold weather…

Trying out the new float tube…

I finally got a chance to try out my Creek Company U-Boat 2000 float tube today. I bought it for my birthday at the end of June but just hadn’t gotten an opportunity to get it wet yet. It’s a basic tube, but has all the features I’ll need, I think. My “use case” for this is floating in the small warmwater streams in central NC. I’ll use my ODC816 pontoon, which I’ve had for years, for long floats with white water such as the James & Maury rivers in Virginia. I went to the Eno River today, starting in “Terry’s Pool” (which is almost too shallow) and then heading downstream.

I inflated the boat at the truck, slung it over my shoulder, and headed up and down the hill, about 1/4 mile to the stream. I put the fins on over my shoes, but quickly decided the stream was too narrow and shallow for effective use of fins, and just kicked along with my wading shoes. I decided to start with a crayfish pattern at the end of my 5-wt, hoping to snag a Roanoke Bass out of Terry’s Pool. I thought I had one, but it turned out to be a really nice chub. As I slipped into the deeper, slower water below Terry’s Pool, I started picking up sunnies like this one:

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I tried a couple smaller streamers and picked up several smaller sunnies, but switched back to the larger crayfish to try to get larger sunnies or bass. I fished a brown crayfish for a while, until I lost it to a tree 😉 . I put on a green crayfish (same exact pattern, just a different color). The first cast with the green, I snagged this nice little largemouth:

eno largemouth (sm)

He jumped out of the water several times before I brought him to hand. I caught several more nice sunnies on the green crayfish, but no more bass. Eventually I saw a nice break in the bank to make it easier to climb out, and decided to head back to the truck. I’d only been in the water about 2.5 hours, but I knew the hike back along the bank was thru a summer’s growth of brush. Sure enough, I had to crash thru head-high annual growth to get back to the trail. The only good things were that there were no briers, and no ticks, as they are much worse early in the year.

As I type this, we’re having thunderstorms and flash flood warnings, so I’m feeling vindicated about coming back a bit early! It was a great day, and an auspicious first outing for the U-Boat!

A Roanoke Bass for Father’s Day

What do you want to do for Father’s Day dear? Why yes, I’d like to take a short trip over to the Eno River and see if I can catch a Roanoke Bass. These are a fairly rare, spunky overgrown sunfish, and are quite wily and strong for their size. Left the house shortly after 10am, fortified by three lattes 😉 . Drove the 15 miles to the Eno River State Park, rigged up and hiked the quarter mile to the river. The water level and clarity were perfect. Our piedmont streams are never crystal clear, but I could see the bottom in 3 feet or so of water. I’d not been to this particular spot in a couple years, but I remembered why I like it so much. Clear water, deep shade, and the quiet of being far from a heavily traveled road.

There were two trees which had fallen into the middle of the pool I wanted to fish, but there was still water to work around the them. I put on a crayfish pattern and soon caught a 12-14″ sucker. These guys are great sport and strong, so I was not unhappy. I lost the crayfish in a tree (tugged an a subsurface snag and it flipped into a tree when it came off…oh well! Time to change flies! I put on a small green rubber legged streamer, flipped it near the snags and had a very strong strike. Brought in this Roanoke Bass:

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No more action there, and I walked downstream to a long pool. I was trying to figure out the best way to get down the steep bank. I put my rod down and figured I could swing in on a stout ironwood tree on the bank. I was trying to decide where to step when I slipped, shinnied down the tree, and info the water. Not graceful, but effective! I worked up the pool in cool, waist deep water, picking up lots of sunfish but no more bass.

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Came back home about 2pm, and now getting ready for Father’s Day grilling. Not a bad day at all!

00-weight fun

I’d not visited the sunfish in Morgan Creek lately. I had a wee bit of time this late afternoon, so I picked up my 00-wt Dave Lewis-built Sage TXL, put a fly box in my pocket, my tool lanyard around my neck, and hopped onto my bike. I peddled 1/2 mile to the stream at the edge of the neighborhood and walked a few hundred yards downstream to a favorite spot. Tied on a flashback pheasant tail and caught a little sunfish on the first cast. Then, hooked this one:

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This is a tiny creek, and this is a wily lunker 😉 . Caught and released several more, while working my way upstream. Landed this one in a big pool that’s trapped some snags after recent heavy rains:

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It’s not high adventure but even these little guys bend the 00. Missed the best fish of the day, tho, and that’s a reason to go back. Only a bit over an hour, including biking, but its a great mental refresher!

Loaded up for shad and nowhere to go…

It’s been cold this week, with temperatures 15-20F below average. Last night, it was in the low 20’s, heading for an afternoon high of 53. However, I was still planning to head to Weldon to try my hand at shad again, and hopefully better the good trip I made last week. I’d originally planned to go with a UNCG colleague, but issues arose at work and he couldn’t make it. As it turns out, that was not a bad thing. I loaded up this morning and left the house about 9AM, as I was planning to let things warm up just a bit on the 1:45 drive to Weldon before I got on the river. Got to the stoplight not far from the house and thought I’d check the water level, and it was at over 18,000cfs, which is over 4x as high as it was last week! They were pulsing water from the reservoirs upstream. The graph showed that they’d done that yesterday as well. The water levels probably would be down to 6,000 or 7,000 by noon or 1PM if they held to the same pattern, but I decided that given the cold temperatures (both air and water – last week the water was only 50F), uncertain fishing prospects, and about 3.5 hours in the truck and burning $35 of gas, I’d just turn around, stay home and enjoy a “staycation” day. Think I’ll do some yard work today. Not as much fun as fishing, tho 🙁

Shad 2013

Headed to Weldon, NC, to fish the shad run on the Roanoke River today. It’s been a cool spring, and I had wondered if it was too early. Preliminary reports were that some shad had been caught last weekend, so I loaded up the pontoon boat and headed to Durham to pick up my regular fishing buddy Sam and his son Bryan. It was a cold morning with lows below freezing, so we weren’t in a big rush to get there. Arrived about 10:15, and started to fit out the boats. The river was running about 4,100 cfs, which though low by historical standards is a nice level to fish. The river at Weldon is dam controlled, with a series of three large reservoirs just a few miles upstream. I took the water temperature, and it was ~50F, which is a bit cool. The air temperature was headed for 60F under sunny skies. We crossed the river and beached the boats on the big island across from the launch, and headed for a rock island in the “Little River” (where the river splits with about 90% of the water going down the main branch and the rest down the Little River). We’ve done well on this rock in years before, and today was no exception. Just after I waded over, I caught this nice shad.

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While I caught this one on an orange fly, pink proved to be the color of the day. We caught fish at a modest pace, but steadily, with each of us catching 12-15 fish. They really aren’t at Weldon in huge numbers yet. I’m heading back in a week and I’m hoping for a really good day. However, we certainly caught enough to have a nice day. One highlight was seeing an osprey fly right past us with a freshly caught shad in its talons:

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We saw an otter swimming in the river as well, but he always dove below the surface before I could get the camera out. The shad we caught were of good size; I caught this one, the largest any of us landed (not the best picture as the fish rolled in the sand as I was unhooking it):

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A great day of fishing, catching and fellowship…

joel with shad 3-15-13