Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hummingbirds have dogfight

The hummingbirds were out in force last weekend on the Koontz mountain farm, sniffing away at the beebalm in the field next to our cabin.

Two males got into a bumping match, which turned out to be pretty entertaining, though difficult to photograph. They move fast.

I could hear them thump, thump, thumping in the air, looking like World War II fighter planes over the Pacific.

Flying Tigers and John Wayne come to mind.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trout boo bottled water

Bottled water is evil.
Demand for the stuff is staggering and astonishing to one who drank from the tap most of his life.
This plastic bottle stuff, to the tune of 9 trillion gallons guzzled in the U.S. alone last year, is inundating our landfills and roadsides.
Aqua Blog Maven in California quoted a story from Fox News a few months ago that 86 percent of the water bottles are not recycled.
The landfills get 38 billion bottles every year.
These things are not environment-friendly.
It cost a lot in energy and fuel just to get the bottles transported.
Made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PETE, many of the single-use containers end up in China, where they re-use them to make useful stuff. No one else does much recycling.
I once thought filling the empty bottles with some of our spring water would be OK, but the plastic leeches evil chemicals into the water over time and the bottle is not exactly germ/bacteria free after I have used it. It needs a chlorine bath.
The really sad thing is more than 25 percent of that fancy bottled water comes from ... get this ... municipal water supplies.
Go figure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fresh trout cooked on a stick fire

The trout came to life late Sunday, with the first rise rings appearing about 8:45 p.m., just prior to sunset and darkness black as new Bibles.

I tied on the right fly, did a few false casts and then let her rip...right into a rhododendron 15 feet behind me.

It ripped the fly right off, and I was out of time. Say goodnight, Gracie.

On Monday the air was thick as waffle syrup, so I spent a good portion splashing knee-deep in the cool mountain water.

About 3 or 3:30 the fish turned on. That set right with my recent research ... the nearly full moon was at its maximum "under" around 4 and the good fishing should last until just before 6.

I began to nail 'em, one after the other, mostly little stocker rainbows with a lot of fight and wiggle. A couple liked to show off by leaping and leaping and in general scaring all the other trout with their meaningless acrobatic splashing.

I kept a couple. Banged 'em on the head with the butt of my knife, gutted and cleaned them out and wrapped them in wet grass before putting them in my vest pocket.

I surprised myself by hooking a large brown with one of those disgusted, half-angry retrieves after my dry fly had sunk.

Strip, strip...wham.

He ran to the other side of the river, then toward me, then he turned downstream and I knew he was going to break off.

I got him on the reel and was ready with the net, for a change, when he popped the hook.


I got the stick fire going with the Style section of the NY Times, popped a beer into the cool creek to chill and sat back while my trout - impaled with green sticks - cooked to perfection over a slow, smoky fire.

Just a little salt and pepper and...hey, wait a minute I forgot the Guiness in the water.

The little fire died down after a couple hours. I caught a wild rainbow while I waited for the others to cook, but I tossed him back. Another day, perhaps, I thought.

I felt the first drop on my hand as I polished off the last drops in the bottle.

Within 10 minutes I had loaded everything into the troutmobile and was scooting up the road over a carpet of sparkling hail.

It did not just rain...the faucet was left wide open.

Lightning flashed like overhead cameras.

I got home wet and smelling like fish.

Life is good.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Getting rid of yellow jackets

I really, really, really hate these guys.
I've learned through painful experience to carefully watch my backcast when fly fishing.
I have hooked trees that were attached to nests and I've run over some ground dwellers while mowing the lawn, another good reason not to mow the lawn.

Anyhow, here's a tip on how to get rid of yellow jackets, from a fellow in Asheville.
Rubbing alcohol, cheap and effective. Pour a bottle of Rubbing alcohol into a large cup, this will allow it to be poured quickly. Pour it into the hole at night when they are nesting to quickly saturate the nest. Most that get a good dousing will normally freeze to death! The evaporation of the alcohol pulls heat out of them too fast and chills them to below a survivable body temperature. One or two applications usually does the job. You can put it in a spray bottle and knock out ones flying around inside your screen room or house. They will fly at you but quickly drop to the floor when hit with the mist. Coat them once or twice and they will certainly go defunct.
Best of luck mike -- Michael Fortune Green Hill Urban Farm 40 Green Hill Ave Asheville, NC
828 775-0548

A tip of the fly fisher's (and landscaper's) hat to you, Mike.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fly fishing by sun and moon peaks

I have no idea who sent it to me, but an article by Joe Bucher about which times are best to catch big fish came via the e-mail.
I thought I would pass it on.
The jist of it all is that the "...simple rise and set of both the sun and moon has far more impact than any other daily sun or moon position. That is, bar none, the single most important daily triggering factor of both fish and game."
Details are at
Me? I just stop the car whenever I pass trout water and fish. Moon, sun or nothing at its peak except for my driving obsession with trout on a fly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Political compass quiz for fly fishers and others

Here's a little political quiz that will tell you how your beliefs stack up against some of history's most famous and infamous.
It takes a few minutes but it is fun.
Are you like Stalin or more like the Dalai Lama?
I was Ghandi.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Overfishing endangers food supply

The little brown trout appears stunned by the news that the world's seafood supply is rapidly disappearing due to overfishing.
Check out and the article in
Seafood lovers, it does not look good.

From the article by Lee Crockett:
"A 2003 study found that the last 50 years of industrial fishing have reduced worldwide populations of large predatory fish - sharks, swordfish and tuna - by 90 percent."

And, "Since 1972 ... researchers have documented the global extinction of at least 16 known species of marine fish and mullusks, birds and mannals."

Oh, well, the oceans are big, right? And there are plenty of sea critters to harvest for food, right?

Perhaps not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A strenuous fishing weekend

The weekend turned out to be a serious workout. I spent a lot of time crawling over boulders the size of Humvees and kneeling on sharp river rocks to keep from scaring some very skittish wild trout. I missed a bunch, scared a lot more and caught a couple.
The toughest fish was a little brown trout I discovered hiding in the Pigeon River, just upstream from a gaggle of giggling teenagers swimming in the deepest pool.
The water was a comfortable 65 around 4 p.m., and I never had the waders on all weekend. It felt good to be in the water.
The Highway Department workers scared my favorite bridge trout, but I returned late in the day to catch another little wild trout from the other side of the bridge, a first!
Alas, the larger fish skidaddled after my first not-so-sloppy cast.
I cut way too much grass with the new lawnmower, leaving it in the middle of the yard for the stepson to tackle and finish the job.
That and that long stretch of boulder-strewn Pigeon River - I spent about 4 hours hopping those rocks - wore out this hacklefaced fly fisher. I slept well that night.
And dreamt of wild trout.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Through the rhodo hell to the trout stream

Today and Monday I plan to tackle a portion of my home creek that I have never had the nerve to struggle up and I am not even sure there are any trout up there.
I know one thing - I will find the rhododendron hell, those twisting, gnarled, grasping, hat knocking bushes with the pretty blooms that make getting to the creek, and back up the bank to the road, so challenging, as we say in the fly fishing world.

These plants are not always the benign shrubs the brochures touting the Blue Ridge Parkway make them out to be.

Besides skinning elbows and knocking off hats, the bushes sometimes hide hornets' nest, so watch your backcast.

The story goes that a bull once got caught in some rhodo hells near a western North Carolina mountain town. The cowboy bushes got ahold and would not let go of those horns.

The bull, by the name of Cassius, died.

And the town that took the bovine's name somehow butchered its spelling.

The town is called Cashiers.

That sorta sounds like Cassius if one has been imbibing from a mason jar, which of course is another mountain story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm getting skunked and Buddy shows up

I had a tough weekend fishing, though most of it was because of afternoon thunderstorms tossing jagged bolts of lightning at me. They missed. But the rain disturbed my nap Sunday.
I did a little exploring down the road on Tuesday, checking out the falls and the now-muddy water of the North Fork of the French Broad. The falls were OK but they look much better when it isn't muddy with rain.
I tried fishing my favorite spots close to home, only to have the fish tease me with quick grabs and even quicker releases. I was fishless for two and a half days and beginning to long for those long-ago days on the golf course.
I ought to quit this foolishness, I thought.
The Tuesday rain passed, leaving some dark clouds around the fringes and some remarkably fresh air to breathe. I tumbled through some rhododendron tunnels looking for new water, bumped my head on the branches and left some new scars on my bare legs. It is July; who wears waders?
While darkness begin to settle overhead, I began to get more than just curious splashes at the hopper I tossed into the current. I began to catch little rainbows, and at least three rather large ones that broke off, with some regularity.
I was having too much fun.
That's when I heard the sticks breaking and the brush being brushed aside.
Aha, there's my old buddy Buddy, my talkative neighbor checking me out to see if I was bothering his little pet stockers downstream.
It seems that Buddy lost a couple of his golden trout, which are not native, and was afraid someone had jerked them out of the river. His momma likes 'em.
Haven't seen 'em, I said.
He kept right on talking.
Having learned my lesson a couple weeks ago, kept right on fishing.
I just didn't answer.
I really have little idea what he was talking about.
He was a bit distracting, and I lost a couple trout by not paying enough attention.
But he got the idea.
He went on downstream to feed his pet trout.
I stayed put and caught more trout than I could count.
That, friends, is when you know it is good. The hopper was ragged from trout chewing it.
And I didn't have to stop to tell Buddy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Trout love those little yellow sallies

My favorite bugs are getting scarcer. I love the little yellow stoneflies, or yellow sallies, and my wild trout do too.

In the evenings during May and June the air fills with the little golden flecks, sparkling in the waning sunlight like flakes of snow, and the trout lose all sense of decorum to nudge each other out of the way.

There were not very many of those little guys dancing over the water's surface last weekend, but I managed to escape the long weekend without getting skunked ... I caught a mess of trout on the third day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One good fishing day

I was having a horrible day fly fishing for trout over the weekend. First the weather got me, then there was some thunder and lightning, then I fell asleep by the creek to wake up to rain pelting my face, and finally the trout were not cooperating.

Sunday and Monday I went fishless. Skunked. Zippo. Nada. Bummer.

But I really did not fish that much.

Tuesday, I gave it my all.

And did not catch a thing until 7 p.m. when they started popping the surface gobbling my hopper fly.

I lost count, which is a sign that the long weekend ended on a fine note.

The photo below shows a fisherman at the Davidson releasing a nice rainbow trout below the bridge at the state hatchery. It was crowded there, with fishermen and trout.
Water is still low everywhere. Best times are in the morning and late evenings. Few hatches still going on.
Hoppers and inchworms rock

Friday, July 4, 2008

I never fly fished with Bozo

I thoght we all could take a moment to remember Larry Harmon, AKA Bozo the Clown, who was a genuinely nice man who always had something good to say about everybody.
He delighted me as a child with that scary hair and big ole red nose.
Harmon died at age 83 Friday.
I'll miss him, but, of course, his legacy lives on whenever somebody pulls some bonehead stunt and we all stand back and holler...
For now, it's just goodbye to one man who made a small child laugh with glee. Thanks.

Davidson, S. Holston fishing well

Fishing reports from the South Holston, where the water level is never too low but sometimes too high and rowdy when the dam opens for generation, and from the Davidson River, where all the water in my neighborhood is getting lower and lower.
Rod Champion, shown in the photo watching the water ebb and the fog lift on the S. Holston, says the sulphur hatches are awesome. He and his son, from Kings Mountain, run an fly shop there,
On the Davidson, my fly fishing neighbors at the Davidson River Outfitters shop, the water below the hatcher is OK and cooler than 70 degrees in the mornings. Inchworms are tumbling, yellow sallies are dancing in the evenings with big, bad light cahills and the beetle and ant action in the afternoons are doing well.
I stopped for just a bit last week and watched two fishers release pretty good sized trout.
The photos here are from the S. Holton a couple years back. It remains wide, stuffed with brown trout and full of water to the brim.
Notice the rise rings.
Time to head for the water.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

How low can the river go?

I am not very optimistic about the water levels in this drought-stressed part of the nation. Each weekend I ride to the mountains to find a little less water in the rivers, streams and creeks near my home.
Across from our cabin, you can see the trout making waves as they scoot from one side of the pool to another, all because of the low water.
Places where the water came to my waist barely hit my kneecaps. Check out the photo; the water used to come up to where my butt is. No more.
The trout are very spooky.
I read earlier this year that the drought now sucking the life out of this particular tip of the nation where Tennessee, North Carolina and Tennessee meet is like a slow motion Katrina.
It's a major disaster moving with glacial insouciance.
It ain't getting better. So far this year, we have had about 14 inches of rain.
We normally get nearly 23 inches by July 4th.
Soon the trout will need sunscreen.
Pray that it rains.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fellow fly fisher saves me a trip

One of my favorite flies is the sulphur dun, no-hackle, dry. I usually fish #16 and sometimes #20 and almost always late in the afternoon or evening when the sun begins to tumble behind the hills.

During the afternoons I'll use a bigger attractor, like a hopper or stimulator. If I get splashes but no real grabs, I'll tie on a tiny ant or beetle.

They all work well unless you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. It pays to pay attention.

Two weeks ago I was polishing off a peanut butter sandwich and washing it down with dark beer when one of those big ole SUV things pulled up beside my car by the bridge. An old man with a white mustache hanging on his upper lip like the remnants of a milkshake, asked if there was enough water anywhere around to fish.

He had on jeans held up with wide suspenders. I took him to be retired, with enough time on his hands to scout where to fish without any hurry about it. It was a Tuesday.

He had come up from Hendersonville by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and had passed Graveyard Fields up the road, a place I had planned to fish for brook trout later that day.

Don't bother, he said. There's no place to park.

In the middle of the day? Tourists descending like locusts already?

So, I spent the day on the Pigeon River. Caught a few, lost a few and had a good time. I was glad I had paid attention.

At least here, I thought, I had a place to park.

And the only crowd after the mustache man left was the amorous couple giggling on a big rock in the middle of the creek.

Life is grand.

Coral trout in Australia

I would love to catch some of these pretty fish on a fly, but the mountain streams of North Carolina are just too far away.

Coral Trout Thrive in Protected Parts of Reef

Published: July 1, 2008
In 2004, Australia banned fishing in about a third of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by creating a patchwork of “no-take” reserves covering about 45,000 square miles. The move was opposed by many sport and commercial fishermen, fearful that their hobbies and livelihoods were threatened.

Get Science News From The New York Times »

They needn’t have worried, according to a study by Garry R. Russ of James Cook University, Alistair J. Cheal of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and others. Writing in Current Biology, they report that numbers of coral trout, the group of species most coveted by both sport and commercial fishermen, increased rapidly after the reserves were created.
Using underwater imaging, the researchers conducted surveys of protected and unprotected areas before the plan went into effect and about two years later.
They found that there was no significant change in the unprotected areas, but in the no-take reserves the density of coral trout increased by as much as 60 percent or more.
The researchers say that the increased numbers of fish mean that more larvae will be produced. And since larvae can be transported by currents to neighboring unprotected areas, that bodes well for the two-thirds of the barrier reef where fishing is still allowed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Trout still laughing

I tied up some sheepfly flies before tackling the river this past weekend, but they did little good.
All I caught with that fly was a tree branch that had a hornets' nest attached to it. I felt the tug on my backcast and stopped, looked back at that caught my fly and froze.
I did not move.
I did not yank on the line.
I slowly backed out of the water, verrrrrrry slowly.
I had about 50 feet of line out, was on the river's bank behind another tree and gave it a big, quick yank to pop the fly loose.
Hey, it worked. I lost the fly but did not get tattooed by angry bugs.
It was pretty out all weekend, despite some threatening clouds that hung around like sullen teenagers at a mall that just closed. When it did rain, it was little more than a sprinkle.
The Davidson was crowded (big news) and the water fairly low. But on Monday those fish went crazy as I was driving into town for Mrs. Koontz. I stopped to look just below the hatchery and the water was boiling with feeding trout. Some anglers, like the one in the photo, actually caught some.
I had to get to the bank in a hurry before it closed. Then to two stores and a sushi restaurant( again for Mrs. Koontz),
When I returned to the Davidson several hours later, the show was over. No fish were moving.
I passed the white and black horse on the way home. There used to be a black and white horse in the same pasture. Wonder what happened to him?
In the end I managed to escape a serious fishless skunking as darkness dragged the last bit of light from over the river Monday. I had grabs from several and actually hooked a couple with enough heft to break my line, but did not catch anything until the sky turned rose and shadows melted into the ground.
You could hear the other trout out there just under the surface of the water ... laughing.