Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hokie Bird shot down

The air was heavy with the scent of Corona and grilled burgers as I swam through a sea of football fans creeping toward Bank of America Stadium Saturday. It was hot too, and boy, did I want one of those Coronas, but I had to work after the Va. Tech-East Carolina game.
My old school was favored by about 10 over the Pirates, but I was not feeling particularly cocky like a Hokie Bird should. We lost one good player because he couldn't behave and another was redshirted after going 5-0 last year as a freshman starter. What gives?
So, the starting QB marches the team right down the field like he owns it to open the game...then throws an interception.
Heck, this is painful.
We took the lead, stretched it out some and then fell apart in the fourth quarter, giving up two costly scores to drop the season opening 27-22.
I had not been to a Tech game since the 1970s. When I was in Blacksburg as a student, we had this little dinky stadium with no bleachers in the end zones, just a nice grassy slope. Students sometimes rolled down those slopes, on purpose and occasionally because of ... well, you know kids in college.
Now, football is Big Time in Blacksburg. It is in Charlotte also, and the Pirate and Hokie fans pushed the limits of Bank of America Stadium.
It is neat.
You cannot help but love those panther statues outside the gates.
The drive to the stadium was slower than molasses flowing uphill in February. We creeped the last couple of miles so slowly you could hear the fan penants flapping in the reluctant breeze like the wings of Hokie Birds.
I mentioned burgers, but did I tell you I got the feeling WE were being herded as official-looking people kept whipping, eh, directing us to keep on moving along little doggie............? I now know what cows feel like on a big drive.
I thought I handled the defeat well enough. But then I couldn't find where I had left the maroon troutmobile. Did I mention nearly everything was maroon? And that everything in the Big City looks the same?
Half hour later I found it, sitting right where I had left it, steaming like a lobster in the sun.
I was dripping with sweat.
My feet hurt.
But, you know, the iced tea in the press box was sweet. And the food was good. And the game WAS exciting, even though in a negative way.
Now I have the remainder of the season to look forward to.
It can only go up.
Like a Hokie Bird.
Go Tech.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hooray for the rain

Perhaps this weekend there will be a little more water in the creek than last week or the week before or .....

The rain has certainly been appreciated, though there have been some late-night dicey moments on the Interstate driving home from work.

Tropical Storm Fay shook like a wet dog, spraying water up the coast into the mountains of North Carolina where my favorite trout reside. The fishing should improve.

The water levels on the French Broard River headwaters where I live have been a little better than last summer, according to Richared Coadwell of Headwaters Outfitters where they rent canoes and take people tubing and fishing. Closer to Asheville, an article in the newspaper said the water was the lowest since the 1890s.

You can hop across the French Broad River just about anywhere in Asheville and never get your ankles wet.

My little creek up the street was looking pitiful last week, though I know there are still trout there because they splashed at my fly a couple of times. I did not catch anything until I moved downstream to fish under a bridge out of the storm.
Now, we got water.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One bad cast breaks the glass

This pool near the Parkway is so smooth it is almost impossible not to spook the wild trout that live there, but I try. Last Monday I got one decent cast out to the middle of the pool, watched the little fly float merrily for about 60 seconds, got distracted and missed the splashy hit.

The glassy pool shattered into a thousand pieces, so to speak. I never got another hit.

In fact, I reeled in after a futile 10 minutes and took off to beat the rain, ending up under a bridge near the fire station where I could cast without getting soaked to the bone.

I managed to catch half a dozen rainbows before it got too dark, a fine ending to a frustrating day of fly fishing.

I'll be back.

Barbie rod never caught this fish

From two years ago, just to put that Barbie Rod cat in perspective. This is what one might call a humdinger in North Carolina. Yeedoggie, what a fish.

Fri., July. 1, 2005

Thai fishermen netted a catfish as big as a grizzly bear, setting a world record for the largest freshwater fish ever found, according to researchers who studied the 646-pound Mekong giant catfish as part of a project to protect large freshwater fish.
“It’s amazing to think that giants like this still swim in some of the world’s rivers,” project leader Zeb Hogan project leader said in a statement. “We’ve now confirmed now that this catfish is the current record holder, an astonishing find.”
Others have made claims of finding larger sturgeon, but the International Game Fishing Association says the largest sturgeon on record is 468 pounds. That fish has also held the record for largest freshwater fish caught.

Fly fishing with a Barbie Rod?

For the record, I pulled this out of the Winston-Salem newspaper.

I do not think a Barbie Rod works for trout, but who knows???? I may have to hit the big box store this weekend and pick up one of those pink rods.

Ain't that photo grand?

ELKIN - David Hayes doesn't usually fish with a pink Barbie rod and reel, but when his 3-year-old granddaughter Alyssa handed him her fishing pole, he used it to haul in a state record channel catfish.
"She said, 'Papa, I gotta go potty. Hold my fishing rod,"' Hayes said. "She wasn't in the house a few seconds when the catfish took off with the bait."
The catfish weighed 21 pounds, 1 ounce, which has been certified as a state record by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The Barbie fishing expedition started Aug. 5 in eastern Wilkes County. Hayes, 56, and Alyssa have been fishing together in the farm pond behind his house since she was big enough to hold a pole. Her father bought her the Barbie fishing rod for Christmas.
She had caught a few bluegill before her potty break. As he held the pink fishing rod, Hayes said, the water started to look like it was boiling. The catfish ran out twice with the line by the time Alyssa came back out.
"Papa, you're going to break my fishing rod," she told him. "Wait until you see what I've got on the other end of this rod," he said. At 32 inches long and 22 1/2 inches around, the fish was 2 inches longer than the fishing rod. Hayes was trying to land the 21-pound fish on a 6-pound test line.
"I was pretty sure I was going to lose it," he said. "I was hoping I would hang onto it long enough for Alyssa to see it. When she did, she squealed so much it took off on its last run." Finally, after 25 minutes, the catfish gave up.
Hayes stood on the dock and used a net to scoop the fish out.
A deer hunter, he had bookmarked the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission's Web site on his computer. He knew that the site had fishing records, and he went in to check. He saw that the record was 18 pounds, 5 ounces, caught by Wesley Trucks of New Bern in August 2007. Hayes packed his fish in ice and visited a wildlife biologist who lives nearby.
The man advised him to get it officially weighed. It was about 8:30 p.m. when Hayes and Alyssa, still holding the Barbie rod, walked into the Thurmond Grocery, which has a state-certified scale. Ernie Trexler, the assistant store manager, was a witness.
They got an empty box, weighed it on the digital scale, then put Hayes' catfish in the box and calculated the difference. People gathered to see. They whooped and hollered when they figured up just how heavy that old catfish was.
"Biggest catfish I've ever seen," Trexler said. "He was really happy. He said, 'I can't believe this. I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was this big.'"
Alyssa celebrated with a juice drink. Hayes got a soft drink and a pack of crackers. They hadn't had a chance to eat supper.
The monster fish is in Hayes' freezer. He's retiring the Barbie fishing rod, and will buy Alyssa a new one. A friend plans to mount the fish and rod for him.
Yesterday, Hayes was getting calls from news organizations across the state and a call from CBS, which asked if he would be interested in coming to New York.
"I'm not going to New York for a fish," Hayes said. "That sort of surprised me there. I didn't think it was that big a deal."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fly of the month club

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Great gift idea
Free trout flies, a different fly with each issue every other month
Only $14.95 for a year's subsciption
Includes stream reports, adventures and some history
Each fly is a traditional Southern Appalachian fly that is difficult or impossible to find in regular fly shops
Flies like the Smoky Mountain Forktail and the Yallerhammer, along with some history of where they originated
Subscibe by sending check or money order payable to:
Smoky Mountain Fly Club
582 Parkway Road
Balsam Grove, NC 28708

Friday, August 22, 2008

Daddy needs some new shoes

Well, I was all ready to go buy a new pair of wading boots for my fly fishing adventures when I noticed my car tires were showing air. It was a difficult decision: Should I opt for the tires so I do not spin out on a mountain road that has more twists than a plate of spaghetti, or go for a snazzy new pair of Chota felt-soled wading boots. Tires will keep me from running into the creek and kiling myself, but new wading boots will keep me from slipping and falling into the creek and killing myself.
I've caught myself slipping or river rocks and steep banks several times in the last two weeks, so I took a close look at the scruffy boots, only to discover they were as bald as my car tires.
Folks, the No. 1 safety rule in fly fishing for laughing mountain trout is to get there safely without wrecking your troutmobile. Good boots are close behind, but still behind, at No. 2.
I got a deal on the tires.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fly fishing for berries

I was all ready to load up on blueberries near the patch along the Blue Ridge Parkway the other day, and the bushes were still pretty full. I also got the aadded pleasure of finding ripe blackberries in the same patch which, if it were not so close to the road, would be a favorite meal site for black bears.

On Monday, I did not share with bears or anybody else. I filled about half a plastic bag from the grocery store before calling it a day. Mrs. Koontz had nothing to bake with, so my breakfast cereal had a more than generous topping of blue/blackberries.

The water all weekend was low and warm, though the evening rains managed to cool things a little. Nothing much happened with the trout until near dusk, and they came to life as the sun began to disappear. I hung into five or six nice rainbows before one of the bigger ones snapped me off on a rock he scooted under. I fished the Davidson with no luck earlier in the day and finished up on my home waters. The air is beginning to smell like football.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fly fishing off the Parkway

There are some extras this time of year fishing little creeks off the Blue Ridge Parkway, though these waters rarely give up large lunkers. But there are some awesome sights along the way, like Looking Glass Rock (shown here) and awesome delights, like handfuls of wild blueberries ( also shown here).
The blueberries never made it to the car. They were good but not plentiful and I was reminded by Mrs. Koontz that it is the THIRD weekend in August when the berries are ready for cobbler-sized hauls.
I'll be out there this weekend.
The fishing was spotty, with little real action until just at dusk when the bows came to life near the fire station.
I had managed, using a yellow CDC caddis ( also shown here) to catch a nice brookie from a spot across the mountain Sunday and with the same fly (a newer version since the other had been chewed up pretty well) I landed a brown and several rainbows Monday evening.
For the weekend: a 3-trout slam...speck, bow and brownie...and all in all it was a good two days on the water.
I'm ready for more.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fly fishing at the Davidson River

I suspect I am fishing right now (Sunday afternoon) at this bridge on the Davidson River where Looking Glass Creek meets the nationally-renown trout stream. While fishing from under this bridge last year in a driving rainstorm, I hooked into a monster fish who decided he would keep my black marabou muddler, along with a couple of feet of broken tippet.
Hope I get the chance to hook up with him again.
The little butterfly with the intense look in his eyes landed on my leg last week as I nursed a busted shin that looked far worse than it actually was. He hung around, landing and taking off and then landing on my leg again and again for a few minutes, then it was time to get up and go fish some more.
Today and Monday are not forecast to be good fishing days.
But any day on the river is a good one.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Keep fly rod in sight

A tip of the ballcap to Lefty Kreh for this tip: Always put your fly rod on the windshield of your car, not on top. I once put a rod on the top of my old car and now I no longer have the old car or the rod.
Last Monday I put my stuff int he back of the car, jumped in and started to fire up the troutmobile guessed fly rod was on the windshield.
Again, thanks to Lefty's tip my rod tip did not get run over.
It probably works with cups of coffee also, but you probably never did anything like that. Right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A perfect cast for the perfect fish

It does not happen that often. Certainly, not often enough.

I caught that pretty brook trout with a little red quill dry - now get this - on my first cast from under a bridge. I could not even see the fly when it landed because some rhododendron was covering the left side of the tiny pool. I heard a faint splash, set the hook and had him. Yeehaw!

After that wonderful and astonishing exprience, I stopped on the way home to check out the blueberry patch we had mauled a couple of years ago for cobbler ingredients. Alas, I was either late or early (Mrs. Koontz says, "Early.") I will return this weekend.

The forecast for fishing this Sunday and Monday is stinking. But I will not remain indoors. If I cannot get a trout to hit a fly, I guess I will spend most of the day searching for the elusive blueberry or napping by a musical creek. It's not always about the fishing.

Sounds like I am having too much fun.

This flag still flies

I know this has little if anything to do with fly fishing, but it's worth a notice.
The flag displayed at Flossie's Hot Spot on Riverside Drive in Asheville caught my attention the other day while I waited for the air to cool before hitting the river.
A little old lady, probably in her 80s, sold the flag at a yard sale. She told Debbie that she could not bear to look at it in the drawer anymore. It had been with her for about a half century, and now she was selling it for just a couple of dollars at a yard sale.
You see, men in uniform gave her that United States flag all folded and neat after they buried her husband, who had been killed in battle during World War II. You may think it callous of her to sell such a treasure, the last remembrance she had of her late husband who was cut down in the prime of his youth in a land far, far away so many years ago. But she had to sell it. It just broke her heart to look at it day after day.
It kept reminding her of something terrible.
Now, every time we go into the little tavern by the river, we are reminded of something wonderful and precious.
Our freedom.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

When trout should hit the fly

If all goes well Sunday afternoon, I should have another chewed up fly like the one shown in this photo from a couple weeks ago. The fish smashed it over and over until the feathers started to loosen and fall off. It was a production fly.
It was also a fly I did not tie myself. It was given to me by a couple of heavy beer imbibers who knew little about catching trout.
But their fly worked.
Sunday and Monday's best times, according to the position of the moon and all the almanacs, should be in the early afternoons from 1 to 4 and 3 to 5.
We'll have another report on that and the water levels when we get back.
Keep the faith.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fly fishing with Buddy...again

I did not fish at all Sunday, preferring to sit back, read the Sunday Times and listen to the music of Courthouse Creek bouncing off the rocks.

It was good to be alive.

Monday was different. As I approached the fire station bridge, I could see numerous trout rising in the placid pool. (Note rise ring under the bridge)

I had caught a couple rainbows, one fairly large, just downstream but could not entice the huge brown I just knew was lurking in the deeper part of a rapidly dwindling river. The water was low, despite recent rains, and warm, up in the 70s at the Davidson River a little lower down.

It was about 65 degrees on the North Fork when I went out, and there was quite a bit of action upstream, although I never saw any caddisflies or mayflies.

I tied on a No. 16 CDC caddis and let her rip.

As I worked my way upstream, missing a good trout in what I call the shaded tree pool, I noticed lots of rising trout closer to the bridge. I carefully made my way over some rocks along the side, trying not to make a spectacle of myself and scare the fish.

I was just about in a perfect position when I noticed some movement up on the bank. I was a man. Clad in blue denim coveralls, boots and a ball cap. His cheeks puffed out to one side. He still had that scraggly black beard that was cut short. He was jabbering about something, but I could not hear a word over the rushing water behind me.

It was Buddy.


He is a talkative sort of country boy and I finally made out that he had just bought himself a flyrod and WalWart or some big box store and had been practicing in his yard slinging flies in the grass. Hope he didn't hook one of his neighbor's dogs.

Buddy said he just wanted to watch.

OK, Buddy, watch away. But you scared all my trout.

I gleaned this much from the one-way conversation - his daddy will eat any fish, and his momma likes to catch trout.

Buddy don't care much for trout.

But he can filet a gar (one of those funny-looking fish people further south catch. They had long noses and a gastor-like mouth. Lots of teeth.)

Buddy said he caught one in Florida, sliced that bugger up in filets and cooked em up. Yum.

But he don't care much for eating trout.

Daddy, who is known to have shot trout from the top of the bridge, will eat anything.

I got a little concerned with the warm water when I caught several little bluegill the size of potato chips.

I never used to catch those warmwater fish up that high (about 3,500 feet).

But they were all pretty.

Buddy left after a while, and I caught a couple more trout.

It was good to be alive.

It was better to be alone.

Hummingbird dogfight photo

I have no idea what the little hummers were fighting over because there certainly enough flower blooms to go around.
Perhaps it was all over a female.
The little guys really went at it for about 5 or 10 minutes.
Click on the photo to make it of the birds is just a blur being bumped in the air.
I spotted at least four out there last weekend.