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.