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.


Cutthroat Stalker said...

Hi Hugh! I've been enjoying your blog for the last hour or so. Beaver ponds are something else. I'm always amazed at the failed felling efforts of the critters - seems like there are always a few missed opportunities littering the ground around the ponds. Maybe it's just our Rocky Mountain beaver with the problems.

I've never had much luck fishing in the ponds; more luck below them. Sounds like things are winding down in your neck of the woods just like they are here.

Try keeping your feet out of the corn flakes bowl, and tight lines (of both the written and fishing varieties)!

scott c

Hugh Koontz said...

Thanks for the kind words, CS. I look forward to the spring when I will go back to those beaver ponds. for now, I fish in the snow, hopng for some BWOs or black caddis.
I managed to fish every month here in the Appalachians and I am surrounded, and taunted, by trout water.