Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter's sparkle

It was the kind of winter day you’re almost embarrassed to admit was unexpectedly cold. It was, after all, officially winter. It was almost Christmas. Smoke curled from neighbor’s chimneys.It’s supposed to be cold.

But, up until this past Monday, it had been wonderfully temperate, even warm. There had been some great days to fly fish for trout and have pretty good success while wading with just a light shirt and cap. No need to bundle up too much.Monday’s weather turned like an angry beast. The wind howled.

I had an extra cup of coffee, wrapped in fleece and wool from head to toe. Our storm door was covered with a thick sheet of ice, giving it a fancy, old-timey window appearance. Sunlight struggled through the thick crystalline crust.Well, against my better judgment I left the cabin. I had a couple of hours to kill.

I rode around trying to spot some trout from the banks, but nothing stirred except trees in a brutal wind. Gusts gave the air a razory touch with enough punch to slap you back into the warming car. I checked the usual bridges too, but abandoned the water along the main road to head up into the forest.Up the dirt road the air calmed.

Hovering on either side trees blocked the wind like protective grandmothers with large, wrinkled fingers. A little sun came through.

But the air still had that cut to it and by the time I had the rod out of its tube and the reel screwed on my hands felt like they were being squeezed in a vise. I got back inside to tie on the fly.

After a few minutes I had soaked enough warmth to attack the water. I wasn’t ready to splash around but I could flip a bushy fly from the riverside rocks without getting wet. Everywhere there was ice. It wrapped itself around mossy rocks like fine lace, and ringed others with the sparkle of diamond necklaces. Drooping rhododendron leaves dripped pendant-like globs that reminded me of earrings Elizabeth Taylor might have worn in her heyday. One particular boulder sported a tiara, with icy jewels the size of grapes spaced evenly around its top.

Everywhere it dazzled and sparkled.Not getting any hits at the first campground, I warmed myself with a short ride upstream to the little wild creek, hoping those little rainbow trout were stirring a little.I always get some action there, I thought. It may just be a splash and a miss, but I at least get one or two shots at catching a trout and I don’t have to get into the water to do it.

Steep slopes on both sides held off the roughness of the wind. I could get a couple of good casts in without worrying much about where the fly would land. Ice dripped all around. In winter my creek becomes even more beautiful, with an added quiet that lends it a certain degree of grace and charm not found in the summer.

Within ten minutes I realized the fish were not interested in anything but hanging out under rocks, retreating into their winter mode where the metabolism slows. Trout eat less in winter. I eat more. That got me to thinking I should be taking Mrs. Koontz to lunch. Something hot and wintery.

It’s that time of year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pretty cold but pretty just the same

Everywhere I looked along the banks Monday there was crystalline sheets, needles, blocks, coats, drooping globs like diamond ear bobs...

But it was way too cold until I got up the dirt road and lost the wind. The sun felt good on my face. Soothing.

It was still cold enough to hurt.

And the fish hid.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Release and catch not for me

An angry rain beat the metal roof with ferocity, like someone had just dumped a truckload of gravel on our cabin, and I rolled over under the blankets hoping to sleep through it. Outside the sky bubbled with dark clouds.Well, we’ve had a week of rain in the mountains, the rivers and creeks are up again and I was ready to get out and catch some trout. I struggled out of bed slowly, for I feared the water would be muddy and hard to fish. It turned out to be clear as jar whiskey kept in a freezer, just not as cold.I wrapped up well, rigged up with a black wolly bugger that usually works in high water and crossed the street to the front-yard stretch of my river.
Surprisingly, I caught nothing. Not even a bite.You could tell how high the water had risen by the flattened grass on the banks. The North Fork of the French Broad had gotten rowdy during the week. Downed trees blocking the water had shifted or moved on. Most of the trash had been swept away.
Overhead, a bald eagle circled the neighbor’s pond four times, then disappeared as I reached into the car for the camera. He was fishing also and not having any luck, neither.I moved to the fire station hole, changed flies after that black wooly bugger failed to get even a bump, and began to catch fish on the yellow Tellico nymph. Boom, boom, boom.The relentless drizzle continued to kiss my cheeks, but the air stayed warm. Over the bank an old barn rose ghostlike through plumes of mist. I was having more fun than the law should allow.Then it happened.
While photographing one of the trout I caught, I unhooked the net because the cord was in the way. Dumb move. I dropped the net, cussed and lunged as it scooted downstream like a frightened duck.I began to run along the bank, trying to get a little ahead of the bobbing net.
After about a couple hundred feet of running with waders and rain gear and wading boots too large for my feet, I splashed into the river, stumbled over river rock round as bowling balls and reached for the net that was one foot beyond my reach. And missed as it sailed by.More colorful language followed.
And I began to run again with those boots flopping like clown shoes. They are great for gentle, cautious wading. They are, however, not New Balance running shoes. I leaned the rod against a tree and ran harder.My lungs were burning like fire. Again I splashed into the middle of the river, got downstream of the approaching net that was picking up speed like Michael Phelps on the last lap.
I reached for the wooden frame, stretching my arm as far as I could ... and caught it.
That catch felt almost as good as landing a huge trout. What a triumph.Normally, with a few exceptions each summer, I am a catch and release type of fly fisher. Monday, I tried release and catch. It sucks.
I’m going back to the old way.
My knees still ache.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catching trout in the rain

Well, we have plenty of water now. There was a steady and relentless drizzle Monday and the water, though a little high and rough, remained clear as whiskey in a jar.
When I switched from black to yellow, I began catching trout, rainbows and one nice brown. The Tellico nympth did the trick when all else failed, which now that I reflect on the matter makes perfect sense.

High and muddy, fish dark flies...
and fish something bright and yellow when it's high and clear.

It never got too cold all day.

Just wet.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Time's fun when you're having flies

Sunlight sparked off the water in the silver winter air. It was cold enough to sting your fingers in the shady spots, but in the open it was a nice day, too pretty to stay inside.
The fog that had draped the mountains during the morning had fallen off, way back behind the ridges, so even though the forecast for fish activity was poor, I headed down the mountain to the “Delayed Harvest” waters.
It’s a dizzying ride down my hill to Rosman, with more twists than a plate of linguini. Then, you follow another little curvy road. Once there, though, it’s usually worth it. And it gets easier.

It is so easy that you can just about stop your car, roll down the window and cast a fly from the road.
It is that accessible.

And, it is guaranteed that there are at least some trout in that water to fish for. You may not catch them. But they are there, for from October to June the fishing is entirely catch and release. After the second Saturday in June, you can keep ’em, gut ’em and cook ’em if you like.
Sometimes, I do.

But this is December. I toss ’em all back, if not because of the law, then because it is too cold to hold a trout, dress him out and stuff him in the vest for later. By the time you finish all that fuss, your hands are numb as river rock.
The air had a briskness to it earlier, then warmed a bit into the high 40s, but I saw no fish rising in the usual spots.
Since it was Monday, I had most of the water to myself, and I took my time. There was really no hurry. It was early in the afternoon.

But nothing was hitting, bumping or even for all I know looking at the two-fly rig I drifted through the riffles and runs. At least the waterfall was pretty, and the air around such falls always makes me feel good, for which there is a scientific explanation but I did not care.
All was well in the world. I was at peace.
But I was determined to catch some trout this time, so it was more than a little encouraging to see rise rings downstream.

I eased within casting distance of the first feeding trout, figuring they were either gobbling up blue wing olives or dark caddis flies from the surface.
I changed flies. The little olive CDC flies seemed to be just the trick, floating low in the film because of its lack of hackle. The first fish sipped the fly as it drifted across and down the river, jerked his head, cut a zig-zag pattern with the line through the water and even jumped once.

I caught a handful during the next hour, all fat and pretty for hatchery-bred brook trout. I fell into a mindless groove.

I had intended to return to the cabin after about an hour or two but managed to kill the entire day.
Was there something I was supposed to do for Mrs. Koontz at the cabin?

Like they say, time’s fun when you’re having flies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It was cold but.....

I tried to get some photos of myself fishing near the falls, but the camera counted to 10 faster than I did.

Fish pictures turned out nicely.

It started cold, then warmed a little in the sun, then the sun disappeared and, lo and behold, trout began to rise...I caught four with a BWO dry. About 2:30 to 3:30.

Full report Sunday after my column gets written.

There's a bunch of rain coming down outside. Augers well for the weekend, and I have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to fish next week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

They said it was cold

Ice on the rocks, and this is DOWN the mountain near Rosman.

Few people, and no fishermen, there Monday. All to myself and I caught all the fish in the river, though they looked suspiciously similar...all hatchery raised brook trout about 12 to 13 inches long.

All hit the same BWO dry fly late in the afternoon, from 2:30 to around 4.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cloud ate the blue sky

With a couple of hours before Mrs. Koontz was ready for the drive into the big city, it seemed only natural to ride up the road to my favorite little creek. The sky was clear as new glass. The sun was achingly bright. And I had the itch to get outdoors.
It seemed foolish to do otherwise.

You know such conditions do not auger very well for trout fishing, for those little wild fish I like to catch are more than spooky in the gin clear water under the sun’s spotlight. They are near impossible to catch. Cloudy days are usually better.

There were no insects hatching but, hey, this is winter. It was an in between type of day that was not quite warm to get the fish dimpling the surface with their rise rings but not cold enough to keep a fly fisher inside tying flies for next year.

Yeah, I bundled up and went.
Out of the path of the wind, the sun felt soothing. I took my time, in no hurry for anything since I had at least two hours to kill. I lazily got my stuff out of the truck … waders, boots, rod, vest. As I began putting on the waders I felt a little chill and looked up.

Aghast, I realized that a cloud black as a new Bible was eating my blue sky sunshine in one big voracious gulp. Within a minute the entire afternoon changed complexion and the temperature dove like a falcon after a rabbit.
I wrapped up some more, adding a sweater and a fleece jacket over my camo jacket.
The air snapped at my fingers like a hungry dog. I decided to get back into the Troutmobile, fire up the engine and defrost in the dragon breath roaring out of the heater.

It got colder, it seemed, when I emerged from the car to string up the rod.
A thin snow fell like petals. The only sound was the creek dancing over rocks.

I tried the old favorite spots where trout had hit the fly in the past. With a little dark caddis tied on, I flipped it into the little pools and puddles against the bank. I caught a tree and a bush, but managed not to lose the fly. This was no time for changing flies with numb fingertips. I almost cried when I dropped my pliers into the water. My hand came out numb.

The creek opened a little, allowing a full-throttle cast to the gentle water upstream. There was plenty of air be-hind me and no trees to reach out for my fly. It felt good to let a long cast loose on this little creek.
It would have felt better to catch a trout.

But there are times when you just go fishing because you can. Life never promises to let you catch the fish, so you go out and just try and breathe deeply. That cold air seems to have a healing effect, and it makes a heart merry.
The snow kept falling like little mayflies boogeying in the air. The dark cloud hung overhead.

That night while driving home from a big city dinner, the sky opened just a tad, almost like a curtain drawn back from a round window, and presented one of nature’s rare visual treats, a light show with a cosmic theme as Jupiter, Venus and a sliver of the waning moon grouped tightly.

Perhaps they meet to catch up on solar system gossip. It doesn’t happen often. And it won’t occur again for many years.
For a moment, it was there for us. The clouds took away my sunny afternoon but returned to give us something special at night.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Great fly fishing gift for Christmas

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let the chips fall where they may

These buck-toothed critters are really something. They just let the chips fall where they may, along with trees.

The stump shown here once held up a pretty tall tree, which now blocks the path by the Davidson River just below the visitors' center parking area.

Not much of an obstacle, though. You can easily walk around.

After I shot this photo, I checked out the smooth, glassy pool. There was one flyfisher a little upstream, but nobody else. It's getting too cold for some folks, I guess.

I saw a nice splashy rise, let out a few casts and decided I really did not want to handle any fingers already were like popcicles.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The beavers know there's trout there

Monday was a miserable day in my neighborhood. The air was cold enough to force me to switch hands carrying the rod every minute or so, and a rain as steady as life’s miseries spit in my face. There were no insects hatching over the Davidson River’s surface, but that was no surprise since winter is almost here. And, I saw no rise rings dimpling the smooth pools.

On the plus side, there were few other anglers to crowd the river. I think I saw three, and they were near the visitors’ center next to the hatchery.
I pretty much had the place, dreary as the weather was, to myself.

I set out to find new water. I left the three lonely, fishless fly fishers and strolled along a soft carpet of leaves soggy as cornflakes. The path, when I could see it, felt like a thick rug.
Bundled in fleece and thermal and vinyl, I kept dry and warm mostly.
I walked where I had never gone, past the usual stops and campsites that just a few weeks ago had been alive with voices and laughter. These are easily accessible and popular places to spend a night or two outdoors.
I kinda like it quiet. Even the leaves, now drowned with the cold drizzle, were mute. There was a little breeze, just enough to throw my fruitless casts astray.

I tied on a yellow fly I could see easily while searching for reclusive browns. I had no luck.
After a half-hour trek, I veered off the beaten path, down a slippery slope and through some rhododendron to find the river.
When everything opened up, I found myself carefully stepping through a bog surrounding several dammed beaver ponds.
Hey, I thought, this is the stuff of magazines. I’m sure to find some trout in these waters.

As engineers, beavers have few peers. While their abodes did not impress me with their aesthetic qualities, they were sturdy.
It really looked like somebody spilled a truckfull of sticks.
It was pretty though. After a couple tries with the yellow fly, I sat back to drink all this in. Tall brown grass rimmed the ponds. The mountains were smoking through the mist. The sky looked like a freshly painted battleship from my hometown of Norfolk, Va.

And the air tasted sweet and clean.
I asked Kevin Howell of Davidson River Outfitters if there were, indeed, trout in those ponds, and he assured me there were but that late spring and early summer were the best times to fish there. Come back later.
Elsewhere, fishing has been best on cloudy days, with dark caddis dry flies No. 14-18 doing the trick. With a high sun and clear skies, the trout are just too spooky this time of year, Kevin said.

I had a heck of a time getting back to the path, which had completely disappeared from the face of the Earth during the hour or so I wandered around the bog dodging beaver holes and stumpy grass. When I at last found the path, it felt like a triumph of will and determination. Or relief.
Back near the hatchery I stopped, looked over the cold, cold water and spotted a splashy rise near the far bank, so I inched my way into the water, let out some line and let the fly sail.

It was a pretty cast, an almost perfect roll cast, and the fly floated exactly where the trout was supposed to be waiting for his next morsel. I waited and waited. The fly floated and floated.
And the trout just ignored it.
Miserable, huh? Not really, for I know where the path leading to the beaver ponds is and I’ll be back in the spring.
For now, I’ll just leave it to the beaver.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Leave it to beaver

I was stumbling around in the cold rain Monday, wandering along the banks of the Davidson River. I veered off the path.

When I looked up, I found the beaver ponds. Looks like just a pile of sticks holding back some slow water, creating some nice ponds that had no trout in them at the time. Well, they weren't feeding. There were no rise rings. It was cold. It was raining. No insects hatching, either.

And then I came across the front door of Beaver's home. I started to ask if Wally was home, but The Beav did not answer.

Oddly, the cold rain warmed about 2 p.m.. I was wrapped pretty well, so I stayed relatively dry and warm.

But I never caught a fish.

Didn't step in that big hole in the ground either. I left that to The Beav.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Delayed Harvest, instant joy

The sky had a deep blue to it, with the clouds wiped off to the side. Only a few white streaks remained, and the sun felt good when the wind died for brief periods. It wasn’t too cold, either.

It was a perfect day to attack one of the Delayed Harvest Streams where you are guaranteed between October and June to have trout to fish in the water waiting.
Now, there is no sure bet you are going to actually catch one of those fat rainbows they stocked a couple of months ago, but it’s always fun, especially as winter approaches, to get out before winter stomps all over our weekends.

The Delayed Harvest designation was a great idea. Between October and June, all fish caught must be returned. None can be kept. When June rolls around, the stream goes from catch and release to catch and keep. This ensures that the water is not fished out during the cold weather.
There are other fishery designations where you can keep trout and there are year-round Catch and Release waters where you cannot keep any trout.
There is a good balance.

But the Delayed Harvest may be the most popular, especially in winter. They are sprinkled around the area at the Pigeon River in Haywood County, the East Fork of the French Broad near Rosman and a portion of the Laurel River in Madison County and they are all full of trout.
I hit the East Fork about 2 on a Sunday afternoon, which was a little late to take advantage of a warming sun that can sometimes get the water temperature up enough to stir some trout appetites. Before lunchtime would have been ideal, like just after a lazy morning watching my breath puff clouds in the chilly air. As the chill eases, the fishing can pick up.

I fought through a jungle of rhododendron to get to the river and, along the way, managed to lose a battle with a broken branch, which stabbed my eye. And that reminded me of an old saying I heard 20 years ago.
When you asked old timers in the mountains, “How’ya doing,?” they would answer, “Better than a sharp stick in the eye.”
Always wondered where that one came from.

I took a few photographs, focusing with my one workable eyeball while the other continued to tear up, then got down to business. I rigged up with a big ole Sheepfly, a popular wet fly for the nearby Davidson River, and hit a few likely spots. Trouble was, of course, it was a Sunday and everybody and his brother was also out there pounding the water, spooking all the trout.
I got no hits.

In the past I found that yellow flies really work great on the DH waters. I also discovered that changing flies after every catch seemed to keep these hatchery-bred trout interested in my floating buffets. It has been a rare day for me to fish the same fly, dry or wet, all day. It happens, just not often.

It’s also nice to know that there are some whoppers out there waiting, probably under that ledge by the big boulder or by a big ole tree root. Last year on the East Fork I spent a couple Sundays just trying not to break off the fat big-uns that snapped my tippet easily as spider webs.
Later, I got the hang of it.
Sunday afternoons fishing on DH trout water are sweet as Thanksgiving pie.
But you know what? Weekdays are better. Those others guys went back to work.
The trout are waiting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's with the house addition?

I just can't seem to get it into my head that the newest addition to our montain home is a good thing.

Now, it does adds something to the cabin's appearance, something akin to FEAR and LOATHING.

Cabin of the Monster Bugs. Enter at your own risk.

Funny thing is...nobody noticed.

I'm glad for cold weather, for now we (I) can take care of our little addition.

It is time for the little buggers to move. They do not pay rent, do not contribute to the upkeep of the lawn or take out the trash and they sleep at night so there is little chance of them stopping a burglar.

I've decided to evict them. Goodbye bugs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Going for the snow

This is just a sprinkle of snow we had in October, which is pretty early for the Southern Applachian Mountains near Rosman, N.C. It melted before lunchtime. All that was left was this little dusting.

Well, that was then and this is now. They are calling for some piles of snow today and I am off to the mountains for two days of shivvering fishing fun.

The snow won't stop me, but it may teach me a few new slipping and sliding dance steps that the leaves forgot last week.

I may need a sled.

Sliding and shuffling to the creek

I'm having a love/hate affair with autumn leaves, that stuff all shades of brown that’s buried the landscape and covered the surface of my favorite trout streams.
The hills resemble rusting cannonballs amid a pile of bare sticks, where just a couple weeks ago these mountains were ablaze with some of the most dazzling color in years. And everywhere there are leaves in yards, on cars, along dirt roads and clogging the flow of my favorite trout streams.
At least I can say I get a hookup with almost every cast now, though mostly I'm sticking my flies into dead brown leaves instead of lively brown trout.Last week I hiked to the headwaters of the North Fork of the French Broad River, up along tiny Courthouse Creek and past the waterfall and the last campsite. I didn't quit until the trail turned vertical and I was ready for horizontal.
Still, the trek was nice. The air had a quiet sweetness away from the highways. Like brown birds resting their wings, the leaves bobbed on the little balsam fir and appeared to be ready to take flight as I passed.I saw very few trout along the way, though I did try from time to time. Mostly, I just enjoyed the fall sunshine and shuffled through the crackling leaves that crunched under my boots like corn chips.
It all brought back memories of boyhood and diving into piles that Dad had raked.The next day I foolishly decided I was once again young enough to tackle The Gorge on the North Fork. I tumbled down a narrow path to the water, and this time the path was hidden by … you guessed it … dead leaves. It's a half-hour hike in perfect weather. This took longer. I lost the path. I was huffing pretty good, sliding and slipping down the steep incline, and hanging on to every tree and branch along the way. I fell three times.
On the third fall I stayed on my butt, pushed off a little and slid about 30 feet downhill like a kid on a sled. It was better than slipping and busting bones on rocks. I did it three times, each time it felt like a ride at the county fair.
At the bottom at last, I was worn out. I fished a while before realizing I had made a colossal mistake. Rain threatened. It was an impossibly steep climb back to the troutmobile. I still had not caught any trout.Halfway back, grasping at saplings for help, I realized a person could actually die of a heart attack here and not be found for days. I considered that it was perhaps a fine place to die, but not today.With my heart pounding my chest like a bill collector at the door, I reached the top. Still alive.
So, I have to admit sliding on a soft cushion of fluffy leaves was fun. And shuffling up the forest road, kicking leaves this way and that, brought back fond memories.But it would have been more fun if I had caught some trout. This weekend's forecast is for snow, which calls for a different style of slipping and sliding.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The worst day fly fishing ...

The sky was swept clean of clouds, with even the tiniest wisps tucked away behind the horizon. The sun was shining hard and bright enough to bounce off the granite and hurt. Leaves were falling like huge flakes of multicolored snow. The air was mild.

It looked like a great day to get on the water and fly fish for trout.
Well, I knew it was going to be tough. The solar/lunar tables predicted the slimmest of chances of finding hungry trout and, like I said, the leaves were beginning to fall heavily, clogging the streams and creeks in the Pisgah Forest where I hide on my off days. The forecast was so bad, in fact, that I almost didn’t go. On a scale of one to 100, my two off days registered in single digits.

Of course I went.
I turned off on a dirt road, driving through a tunnel of sparkling color to one of the tiny creeks that help swell the French Broad River. Some beech trees were bare, resembling a skinny old man’s hands reaching to the sky.
There was, though, enough color to give the feeling of driving through church. Red and orange and golden light poured through the hemlocks, dappling the service road with splashes of light.
I could have just pulled over to take a nap.
But the urge was too strong. It kept pulling at me, like a big dog on a leash that wants to play.

I gave in.
After getting rigged up, I gulped what was left in the beverage bottle to wash down lunch and walked downstream to get to the water.
I nailed a fish early, a tiny wild rainbow about the size of my thumb. It may have been the littlest fish I have ever caught on a fly. It belonged in an aquarium, but a big guppy probably would have eaten him. I let him go.

Upstream, I caught another little guy, popped him off the fly into the water and moved on.
It all went downhill from there.
I was soon getting hookups on just about every cast. I hooked up with rhododendron, hemlock and pesky floating leaves that seemed to go out of their way to attack my fly. I popped off several flies.

I got nasty tangles in the whispy tippet that rivaled anything my mother could crochet. My language grew more colorful.
I slipped twice, busted my thumb enough to cover the rod’s handle with blood and knocked off my brand new sunglasses, an event I didn’t notice until after I got back to the car, which meant I had to struggle back up that little creek to search for them.
I had a few more tangles and stumbles and cussed some more.

But I made it to the smooth pool where the creek opens up. I let out a soft cast, watched the fly float for what seemed several minutes before the water expoded and brought in a brightly-colored rainbow trout.
I had him in the net so I could get a picture, while keeping the fish in the water. The rod got stuck in a tree branch, I stumbled and dropped the rod and the fish got away before I could snap the photo.

Dang. (Or words to that effect)
The sun slipped away as easily as that last fish, and the air got suddenly cold.
I slipped away with the headlights on, wondering how on earth it could have been worse.
Later at the cabin, the answer came to me … I could have stayed indoors.
The worst day of fishing is still better than the best day on a couch.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Let's go fish, Mr. President-Elect

“One way or another, after this presidential process is over, whether–because I lose or because I win–and I’ve got a little vacation time coming, I’m going to learn how to fly fish.”

All I want to know, Mister President-Elect, is...what time are you coming?
It just turns out I have a couple days off and the fishy/moon/sun calendar predicts pretty good chances of catching some trout Monday and Tuesday.
Monday is Mrs. Koontz's birthday too. Your visit would please her.
If we're lucky, we can fish midges and catch lots of big brown trout in the mountain streams of western North Carolina.

If it goes slowly, we can toss streamers and wooly buggers on the Delayed Harvest portion of the French Broad River near Rosman and catch rainbow trout big around as footballs.

Or, for a nice hiking/fishing escape, we can go to one of my favorite brook trout streams and catch leaves, bushes, trees and perhaps a hornets' nest (just kidding). And brookies.
I work nights so I generally sleep in, but if you let me know ahead of time, I'll set the alarm and the border collie will lick my face early.

I got some rods and flies. You bring the beer.

Trout takes photo for fly fisher

So, I gave the camera to the rainbow trout and this is what comes out. I thought he caught the dazzling fall colors pretty well, which is the highlight of the fishing year up here in Transylvania County.

Naturally, I got hookups on almost every cast...and some were trout. Mostly, I shook off wrinkled, dead leaves and cussed a lot.

I gotta work on that. The leaves, not the cussing. I got that down pretty good.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Loving fall colors

Just some shots of the French Broad's North Fork and the Davidson River in western North Carolina
Colors are dazzling this year

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fly fishing near Gator Rock

I find it difficult to accept that the original mountain men named this protuberance along Route 215 near Rosman "Gator Rock", for I cannot for the life of me see where the rock resembles an alligator, and besides, who ever saw an alligator in western North Carolina.????

I would have called it Plott Hound Rock, or Dinosaur Rock or Eagle Head Rock.

The more I look at it the more I see a laughing eagle.
He's probably laughing at the folks who named him Gator.

Anyway, it certainly was pretty last weekend riding through that tunnel of color into town. It's a great year for fall foliage.

Fly fishing was tough. Just one brown. Did snow some Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Only bright spot was the week before

I would love to say that I tore 'em up last weekend, but the truth is I had only one real strike the entire day Monday and I slept most of the afternoon Sunday listening to the chatter of a tumbling creek. When I opened my eyes Sunday, it was dark. I went home without even wetting the line, though I did manage to rig up and tie on a little dry fly.

Monday, I voted. Cut some grass too. I also ran errands while in the tiny town of Brevard, knowing the fishing was not forecast to turn on until late in the afternoon.

The forecasters were correct - I never saw a rising trout until after 5 p.m.. And those trout, friends, were tough to entice.

For my trouble I got one 30-foot handshake, then lost the fish.

The photo you see here is from the weekend before last. Now, that was fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trout bending fly rod a pretty sight

There are few sights in lilfe prettier than a bent and shaking fly rod with a struggling brown trout at the other end, with a background of deep blue sky and fall foliage on the banks.

The brown trout are hitting tiny flies, when your fly can avoid the floating dead leaves. I expect those leaves to be quite a problem from now until, well, Christmas.

But then, it is pretty out there surrounded by mountains as colorful as Grandmother's quilt.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall brings leaves, colors and brown trout

You know it's fall when your dry fly keeps hanging up on floating leaves and brown trout attack with a vengeance as the fly nonchalantly bounces on the river's surface.
The colors bouncing off the mirror-smooth water are blinding and mesmerizing. I almost forgot to pay attention and look for rise rings to cast to. Almost.
I found a seam next to the bank, sheltered by overhanging rhododendron hugging blocks of granite. The water tumbled over some boulders, splashed like kids at camp and settled down to a smooth, clear pool full of mystery.
I put the little Adams midge a little ahead of where the last rise was. I let the tiny fly float and float and ... spash ... there it goes across the pool, then straight at me and then away again to the other side. The rod shuddered. I tightened my grip.
It was almost too easy.
But I had paid my dues earlier in the day, casting downstream to let the fly reach the trout's feeding lane before he spotted my line and swam away. I let out many feet of line, more and more as the fly sailed down the North Fork of the French Broad River. I got one hit and lost him. I wasted a lot of valuable fishing time (VFT) before heading upstream. I could see the feeding trout from where I was hunkered under the branches.
It was supposed to be the best day of the month for fishing, especially between 11:30 and 2 p.m.
And, you know what? It was. The forecasters hit it perfectly Monday and Tuesday.
Fall fishing at its best. With the exception of one rainbow trout, all the fish I landed were browns during the three-day period.
And with their fall colors sparkling gold and red and silver, those trout fit right in with the season.
You know its fall when the fish match their surroundings.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the way to a trout stream

I was really just trying to get a shot of the clouds hanging out over Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway when this bird flew across my view.

I'd like to say it was an eagle, or at least a hawk, but I cannot be certain since he zipped away quicker than a blink.

I did make it to the stream a little later and managed to land two pretty brown trout, all wild and sparkly with fall color.

And here's an artsy shot of a wiggling rainbow caught in the same creek the week before. Too bad he would not stay still for the camera, but you can tell it was a fish.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's the secret?

What’s the secret?
The wind italicized the world, bending everything to one side. You could hear it whisper through the dying leaves but it was tough to figure out just what the big secret was. I just hoped it would die enough so I could whip my fly line over the quiet water and perhaps, with luck, actually catch a trout with a dry fly.
It almost never happens. The Baptismal Pool up the street from my cabin is mirror smooth but rough as broken glass to fish. The fish are wild and spooky. A kingfisher’s shadow sends them scurrying for cover under rocks deep in the pool. A sloppy cast scatters them every which way, and they seem to lose interest in eating little bugs on the surface for at least an hour.
I learned you have to be stealthly, to bend over or kneel when casting and to blend in with the surrounding rock and rhododendron if you want to catch one of these jewels.
The pool is pretty popular. People leave their Mountain Dew and smashed Bud Light cans along its banks. There’s the remnant of someone’s camp … a torn blue trap. There’s some half-burned wood from one of the bushes the campers sawed down. I wonder if they knew that wood produced poison smoke.
The pool, despite the small amount of litter, has been used for baptisms, weddings and as a wonderful place to cool off in the hot days of July, though the swing rope is now history after a winter storm tore down the tree it was tied to.
It’s a pretty spot. And way too close to the road.
But catching trout is the only part I am interested in. For six years, I have tried to master this little bit of heaven (hey, people get married and baptized here), only to be turned away fishless time and again.
Last week I had a little better luck, though I still left skunked.
I tied on a small dry fly and then added some fine tippet…about 18 inches or so. To that I tied a really tiny nymph. This just might do the trick, I thought.
So, I hunkered down at the head of the pool, next to the rushing water tumbling over smooth rocks. I stayed low, so the trout would not spook, and flipped the rig into the riffles, letting the flies drift downstream close to the steep bank.
I pulled out more line with each cast, let the flies swing around until the line was straight and held my breath.
Come on, trout. I have only a few minutes to fool with you. I promised Mrs. Koontz I would take her to the store and dinner at 3 p.m.
The sun stabbed through the hemlocks like prongs of a huge golden fork. My mind drifted ….
Then the rod shuddered, and there was a splash where my fly should have been. Dang. Missed him. Running out of time, I managed to miss three more trout before putting them all down for the day.
And as I left, I listened for the secret I wanted to hear.
But all I heard was the wind whispering through dying leaves.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fly fishing the Baptismal Pool

It used to be known as the swimming hole, but a storm broke the tree holding the swing rope last year and there is no way to dive into the middle where there used to be a lot of deep, cold water.

I have seen teenagers laughing and diving into it, couples getting married by it and new members of a Christian church getting baptized in it.

The one thing, though, that I would really like to see is a fly fisher (me) pulling in a huge, wary trout from it.

It is a tough pool to fish. Its surface is mirrow-smooth; if you sneeze, ripples spread over its surface where the fish spook easily. You have to use long, light tippets and tiny flies, for these fish mostly are picky eaters.

I have caught some, but only in the rougher water at the head. Never in the middle, though you can see the trout from the high bank. They sorta mock you.

I have, however, discovered a little secret. I tied on dry fly, with a long, fine tippet about 18 inches around the bend in the hook and fished a itty bitty wet fly at the end. I figured two flies would be better than one on these difficult trout.

It did. I hooked and broke off three and then ran out of time. I was supposed to take Mrs. Koontz into town at 3 for dinner.

So, this Sunday, fish, watch out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A perfect fall day on the stream

I was afraid that Mrs. Koontz's errands were going to get in the way of my VFT (valuable fishing time) Monday but it all turned out well since she did not have to pick up her car from the shop until 3 and the best fishing time for the day was between 12:21 and 2:07 p.m.

Those solarlunar tables hit it right on the spot. Although I did not land a lot of those little wild trout, I had plenty of action. The fish slapped at the fly repeatedly. I got hits with almost evey cast but I am not nearly quick enough to hook all of them. They are wild critters, after all.

There were just a few leaves on the water now, so that was not much of a problem hooking dead tree droppings. You could still fish a dry fly.

I did managed to hook a couple hemlocks and I lost a couple of flies during the two hours I spent on the tiny creek up the street.

There was even a small caddis hatch, and the little buggers danced in the streams of sunlight coming through the rhododendron.

It was a great day on the water. I tried again after dinner but the trout were not active at all. I quit when the rain poured out of the clouds.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On a mission with a stick

This fellow with the blushing red cheeks better be on the lookout Sunday when I pass by his home in the North Fork of the French Broad River. I'll be out waving that silly stick in the air again, hoping the little hook with feathers and fur on it hits the water just right and tempts Mr. Trout into gulping it with gusto.

Or else, I could go hunting for brookies near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It should be a decent weekend for fly fishing.

Report later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hope to miss the crowds

The photo shows a motorcycle too close to the driver's side of my Troutmobile Sunday afternoon as I took a leisurely ride home on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which by the way was way less crowded than I expected.

Perhaps the lull in touristy hordes will continue through this weekend when I plan to hit the tiny streams at Graveyard Fields. I caught some brook trout there several years ago. They were all tiny and pretty, like the little char are supposed to be.

The leaf peepers will be upon us soon. There's something weird about the folks in Asheville and surrounding areas and their insane fascination with death.

Dead leaves on the ground drive these people crazy. Dead leaves hanging on with their last ounce of life in a tree entrance them. They photograph it, videotape it, pose with their families in it, let the children roll in it.....

They're DEAD, people. Leave em alone. Stay home. Quit taking all the parking places on the Parkway.

And watch the motorcycles, not the dead leaves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Camera takes a dunking

I got to photograph some trout under water this past weekend, and the camera still works. I have had the Pentax Optio waterproof edition for a couple months but had not worked up the nerve to baptize it until recently.

Unfortunately, I discovered that trout are pretty camera-shy in the mountains, just like the human residents who live up in the hills to get away from cameras and people.

I was promised all the errands would be finished by 5:54 p.m. Monday, which was forecast as the best time to fish for the day, but there were stops at the ATM, at the phone company, at the grocery, and at another grocery and one more stop I forgot...and the sun kept sinking deeper and deeper behind the mountains.

It was dark when we got back to the Trout Cave...With little moonlight or starlight, the water was black as new Bibles.

Sometimes, it is not possible to plan for everything.

But the camera survived.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a sign of the times

Well, now, Mrs. Koontz has erected a fine sign hanging from the maple tree in the front yard of the Trout cave. The other side has our new address number mandated by the good folks at 911 so they know exactly where we are if there is an emergency.
At first, I thought she was making a subtle hint.
But, you know, when Mrs. Koontz says jump ..... I fly...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You dirty rat....

He told me he didn't do it. He never broke into that house to try and steal dog food.
Strangely, I believed him. After listening to him scream his innocence, I broke down and helped him escape from the prison he was being held in, pending his first appearance in court.
I put the whole jail in the troutmobile and took off up the mountain. Ralph needed a nice place to reside with other furry little critters.
I let the door down and was trying to hold the camera with the other hand but I lost Ralph. I didn't know where he went. I called his name, but of course he wouldn't answer, what with him being a recent jailbreak and all.
I got into the car and began to drive off. Then, I stopped, got out and saw Ralph scurrying from under the car where he had been hanging on to the axle or something in a vain attempt to get back to the dog food down the mountain.
Not this time, you little thief.
And I watched him scamper off.
He never found out who ratted him out.