Friday, May 30, 2008

Not so empty nest

The handyman found this robin's nest and egg while painting the outside of the house I stay in during the week.
I have no idea how to turn this into a trout fly, or anything else to do with fly fishing.
Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trout fishing on Memorial Day 2008

I could just make out the outline of a fly fisherman shrouded by heavy fog in the middle of the river. He cast a ghostly figure, standing there knee-deep in the South Holston River fighting a big brown trout. I saw the fisherman calmly lift his rod as the fish hit his fly. The rod bent double. This was a big one.But the fisherman was calm. Instead of whooping and hollering to his buddies upstream, he talked in a conversational tone, as if speaking to the fish.When he netted it, he held it up for me to photograph, then gently slipped it back into the river.It made an eerie picture.The year 1967 is just as shrouded in the mists of time. I recall that hot summer night in a Virginia Beach tavern guzzling beer out of frosted mugs like it was the only thing that could put out the fire we felt on our skins. We had spent most of the day in the sun, and the four of us radiated heat like red-hot woodstoves.Johnny, my teammate on the Maury High wrestling team, was back from Marine Corps basic training at Parris Island, S.C. He had just finished as top recruit and was headed for officer training school at Quantico, Va., and I was getting ready to begin basic at the same dreaded little island.He was leaving; I was going.Johnny did not surprise me. He had always been an overachiever. At 185 pounds, he was one of the lightest “heavyweights” in the Eastern District and if that were not remarkable enough, he also won a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee, where he graduated before joining the Corps.He had a lot of fun, at my expense, that night regaling me with horror stories of sadistic drill instructors and swamp monsters that ate unwary Marines. I never accomplished what Johnny did at Parris Island. I had it going pretty well for a couple of weeks, but then one morning the D.I. said “Colmrar” and I thought he said “Colmlah.”There I was, the top recruit in the company carrying the company flag, running across the field in the early morning darkness … with nobody following.I was all alone. The rest of the company had gone the other way. The D.I. was not pleased. I was no longer the leading recruit, I gathered, when he snatched that banner from my hands. He got my undivided attention in the darkness by squeezing the air out of my throat with his free hand.Well, that’s about what Johnny told me to expect. He’ll get a big laugh the next time I see him.Trouble was … I never saw Johnny again. He was killed in Vietnam.What a waste.Years later in Asheville I visited the Moving Wall, a memorial to all those boys who died over there at the Big Rifle Range. I asked a fellow dressed in camo, he was one of the visitors’ guides, where on that long series of black slabs Johnny’s name was located.You could spend hours looking. I asked for help.The guide kept going through his little book, looking for the name. For a brief moment, I had this insane idea that it had all been a bad dream and that Johnny had not died over there and that somewhere he was still alive….“Here it is,” the fellow said, pointing me in the correct direction.Damn.And now it’s Memorial Day 2008, another long weekend for most of us and a fishing weekend for some of us who would rather not think too much about the holiday all.It’s a memory I wish I could lose in the fog. But I will never forget.Semper fi.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Four trout streams in three days

By the time I got to the cabin, picked up the camera and pulled the new waders on, rain was tap-dancing on the car roof. I knew it would blow over, so I settled back to read a little. It was only about 4 p.m. Other than the thoughtless rainstorm, it was a nice spring day. I was ready for some serious lip-rippin' trout fishing.

Then I fell asleep to the rooftop drone.

The rain stopped about an hour later. I yawned, got out and rigged up the rod. I then hid under the bridge because it had started raining again. Still, I caught that brown trout that hangs out near the bridge up the street.

It cleared for good and the light cahills came off like a snow flurry about 7. I caught a bunch of nice browns, and one hatchery rainbow, during the short stretch.

I hit the North Mills River Monday, en route to pay bills and buy groceries and stuff, and fished about 45 minutes. Nothing much happening during the mid-afternoon.

Hit the home stretch in the evening and tore them up, again with Light Cahills on top.

One more time Tuesday morning, I tied on a little cahill dry fly and left the lawnmower in the yard, with another healthy half of a yard still to be cut.

I missed two fish right off, but then nailed a little wild trout...or he nailed me by surprise...before calling it a day and getting ready for work.

I shouda called in sick.
I had managed to fish the Davidson River and North Fork of the French Broad, the North Mills River and Courthouse Creek over the weekend, all sandwiched between trips to the store, the telephone company and the fly shop.
What a weekend.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Great day for trout

A day in spring spent by a river can smooth the edges of a ragged soul. The air, still crisp from the morning’s chill, has lost its wintery metallic taste and is somehow a little bit sweeter in the afternoon sun.Last Sunday the dreary clouds cracked and broke, letting puddles of sunlight through the trees. Dark clouds moved to the side, leaving a gaping blue hole overhead laced with fluffy white. The day kept alternating between astonishing brilliance and threatening gray. It even sprinkled a bit, though it felt more like a blessing than curse on my fly fishing plans.I swallowed the air in deep gulps. I opened the trunk of the troutmobile, knocked the cap off a moderately cold beverage and began developing my strategy for the afternoon’s attack. Would it be tiny dry flies, little nymphs or perhaps a streamer or hopper?It was one of those rare, glorious afternoons when the back did not hurt, the river was not crowded and I had all the time in the world.And I took my time to savor it. I guess 10 or 20 years ago I would have been aghast at the thought of taking so much time just getting the first cast off. There were times when I drove to the river with the rod rigged and my boots already on my feet ready to get splashing away in the water. I was always in a hurry to catch trout then, as if they would all be caught and gone by the time I got there if I tarried to enjoy, say, the flight of a fishhawk overhead.But last Sunday I decided to make a sandwich first. And drink that bottled beverage cooled a little in the Davidson River.The sprinkle of rain felt good on my face. It never did break out in a full-bore rain, so the plans for a pleasant day were not spoiled.After about an hour checking out the new waders, putting the rod together, selecting just the right fly and finishing the sandwich, I was ready to actually step into the river and fish.I pounded that water with dry flies for about another hour, moved upstream a little and finally, fishless and frustrated, hopped into the troutmobile to head higher up the mountain to another, more friendly stretch of water.It was getting late and just a few insects were fluttering in the air. I saw few fish feeding. The day was dropping behind the trees, leaving the water dappled with waning sunlight.I had heard from the local fly shop that the cahills had been hatching. “Cahills, cahills, cahills,” the guide told me.And, at last, around 7 that evening there they were bouncing up and down in the air, touching the water’s surface with the most delicate landings only to pop up like Yo-Yos back into the air.Like any fly fisherman, I got excited. This, friends, is what we live for.I tied on a fairly big cream-colored dry fly, looked for a rise ring and let ‘er fly.I put the little fly about 12 inches to the right of the rise, watched it drift lazily and then disappear in a violent splash.Yeah!It felt heavy, a big trout perhaps, shaking and tugging at the other end. The reel sang as the fish took off downstream, then turned and came right at me before veering off again in the other direction. The rod bent and shook. I squeezed the cork grip tight, like I was trying to choke the life out of it. I felt the thump, thump, thump of what had to be a big brown trout.Then … surprise. It leaped from the water about a foot and a half, dripping droplets of water that sparkled in the air. These brown trout normally do not jump, preferring to tug and pull and run with your fly while trying to shake loose. This was a bonus.I brought him in after a few minutes, took hold of the fly and shook the fish off. He swam swiftly away.A beautiful way to end a beautiful day with a beautiful fish.I love spring.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Famous trout dogs

These are two of my all-time favorite dogs...the little white one, called Cokie, could say my name when I came home after work or from fishing...she'd go, "Huuuuuuu" and wag and wiggle until I thought she would fall apart. I had her about 14 years or so. One day she walked out into the road, laid down and just died.
The other dog is my trout dog, Bo, who is mostly border collie but some other stuff also. He actually brought a trout to the front porch last was stiff and long dead, so I doubt if he caught it with his flea rod. He greets me by tossing his massive tail around the living room until he knocks one of Mrs. Koontz's lamps and she screams at him.
The really strange thing is I had a vivid dream about these two dogs last week. In the dream I was in a field of flowers, like one of those Andrew Weyth paintings, and the dogs had me on the ground licking my face.
Not entirely an unpleasant scene.
But when I was a young man I never dreamed of dogs......I dreamed of, well, you know.

Mountain trout fishing picks up

Trout fishing in the mountains has picked up with the warmer temperatures. Water levels are not too bad, considering we're still behind last year's rainfall by about 5 inches. I had been fishing a CDC/Elk hair caddis, floating it on the surface before skitting it across the surface before letting it float just below the added attraction that makes the one fly fish like three different offerings. For two weekends, I nailed a ton of hatchery, stocked fish, mostly rainbows. They were fun, jumped a lot and some were even big.

This last weekend brought out the hatches. Toward evening with the sun disappearing behind the hills, the light cahills began their aerial dance, up and down, up and down.

Around 7 p.m. it looked like a miled snowstorm, though the flakes fluttered in all directions not just down.

The stockers, still used to eating trout feed at the hatchery I guess, ignored the dry flies for the most part.

I tied on a light cahill..a little cream colored a No. 14 and casts to rise rings. I'd spot a feed feeding, wait a few seconds and then put the fly in the middle of where the rise was. 'im.

Mostly, I caught brown trout on the cream colored fly. The best fish came when I was almost ready to quit and head for the cabin. I hadn't seen Mrs. Koontz for a week.

The fish hit the fly on the surface, hard. He smacked that fly like it was a bad dog, then took off running in the other directions, making the reel sing as he took out more line.

It was a fine looking brown, full of gold and silver with ruby red spots on its flanks.

The new lightweight waders held up well. They are easy to get into and are comfortable to hike on the trail to get to faraway pools. They feel like a pair of khakis.

But for one of those days earlier this month, I fished in just boots and shorts. The water is warming up.