Category Archives: Flyfishing

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.


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:

eno sunfish (sm)

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:


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.


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:


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:


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.


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:


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):


A great day of fishing, catching and fellowship…

joel with shad 3-15-13

Natural Bridge smallmouth trip

I just returned from a fantastic weekend of flyfishing for smallmouth bass on the James and Maury rivers in the Natural Bridge, VA vicinity. It wasn’t a bassclave, but my buddy Sam and I have convened on Natural Bridge Station to chase bronzebacks. Friday 7/20 we drove from NC to VA. Arrived at the Maury River about noon. A bit of color from heavy rain Thursday night but it looked fishable. Went to River Road and rigged the pontoons and rods. Shuttled the pickup (I brought my bike to facilitate) and hit the river. Started slow, but picked up when I switched to a yellow legged Tequeely that Sam tied. Caught a couple bass, sunnies, and redeyes in a flat stretch. Then, I found a fast run where the river splits around an island. Sam went one way, me the other. Missed a couple, but it looked promising. Got out of the boat and started catching bass on virtually every cast. I’d still be there but figured Sam would wonder where I was 😉

All told, I caught about 25 bass including this 13 incher:

Maury River smallmouth

Sam had the fish of the day on his line, about a 4 pounder that threw the hook after a couple of jumps.

Saturday 7/21, we floated float the Saltpetre to Horseshoe Bend/Narrow Passage section of the James. CSX has put up a barricade on the river side at Saltpetre making it more difficult to get the boats to the river. However, the work was was worth it!

Here’s a shot of Sam working a promising spot:

Sam casting

Tried a few different flies but settled quickly on the Tequeely again. The James was crystal clear and the yellow legs of the Tequeely pulsed on the retrieve. I got hot early and was catching fish fast, bass and redeyes. We stopped for lunch at the old train bridge abutments. It was interesting as we looked up and saw two of the biggest sycamore trees I’ve ever seen, each looking to be 7 to 8 feet in diameter. Fascinating to think how long they’ve been there. We finished our lunch, and I caught a half dozen bass in a riffle just a few feet away from our stop. Caught two more as I floated through the same riffle on the boat. After a while, I cooled off and Sam started catching ’em. However, we caught fish all day, one or the other of us.

My best was 15″ fish:

James River Smallmouth

I also landed several 11-13″ fish. Sam caught a 15″ fish in the last riffle above Narrow Passage that towed him at least 50 yards down the riffle. He also caught many 11-13″ fish. Each of us boated 40 or so bass and that many redeyes as well.

A helluva good bass fishing weekend!

UK vacation

Tower Bridge

We’re just back from a great vacation trip to England and Scotland. This trip has been in the works for several months, and it’s nice when a much-anticipated excursion comes off even better than planned. We started with a trip to see a couple of musicals in London, as advertised in the DPAC’s programs for last fall’s performances, but then added on an extension to visit the Scottish highlands.

We left NC on May 23rd, flying to London’s Gatwick Airport from Charlotte. This was an overnight that brought us to London at about 7am on the morning of May 24th. Our driver, Alton, met us and whisked us in to downtown London (“whisk” is perhaps a bit much to describe a nearly-two-hour ride through morning traffic!). We stayed at the Chesterfield Mayfair hotel in Mayfair, which was a wonderful location. Our room wasn’t ready, so we left our luggage and walked by Buckingham Palace right at the time for changing of the guards (check!), and headed down to the Thames. We went by Westminster Abbey and Parliment, heard Big Ben strike noon, and wandered along the riverside. After lunch, we headed back to check into the hotel. Over the next 2 days we walked probably 25 miles around downtown London, and saw Warhorse and Les Miserablés. We saw the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Platform 9 3/4, the British Museum, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and many other things.


On Sunday the 27th, we had a bus trip to Bath, Lacock, and culminating with an after-hours entrance to Stonehenge where we could actually walk into the circle. This was really cool!

We really enjoyed London! The city is vibrant, and we felt perfectly safe walking all around, even in the late evening after the theatre. The Theatre District after shows is incredible, with people everywhere. The weather was phenomenal, with warm temperatures, blue skies, and pleasant breezes.

On Monday the 28th, our driver Alton shuttled us to Gatwick to catch a flight to Inverness. On the approach to Inverness, we could see winter snow still on the Highlands, and as we banked into the clouds to land at Inverness, we thought the weather might not be as salubrious. Our driver, Bill, picked us up and headed across the Moray Firth and then west. As we headed west, the clouds lifted and the sky cleared. We turned south at Kinlochewe, and travelled via a single track road toward Torridon.

The Torridon Hotel

Our hotel in Torridon was the Loch Torridon Hotel, built in the late 1800’s as a hunting lodge and turned into a hotel in the 1960’s. It sits right on the shore of Loch Torridon, and provides expansive views of the rugged terrain. It’s an outstanding place to stay, both from the standpoint of amenities and things to do. We hiked, biked, kayaked, wined and dined!

I had the opportunity for an afternoon of fishing on the Coulin Estate, just a few miles from Torridon. I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch Scottish brown trout and talk with the estate gamekeeper, Neal.

Fishing on the Coulin Estate

The hiking was spectacular. The “hills” around Torridon rise almost vertically from the Loch to 3000 feet or more. The trail up one, Beinn Damph, leaves from the grounds of the hotel. It’s just under 3000 feet (2963 feet) but was a quite challenging walk with a roundtrip distance of about eight miles.

Beinn Damph summit

We stayed in Torridon for 4 days, before our driver picked us up for the return to Inverness. On the way to Inverness, we skirted Loch Ness and stopped at the Glen Ord distillery. From Inverness we flew to Gatwick overnighting in the airport hotel before heading back to NC. All in all, a wonderful trip!