Friday, January 30, 2009

Fishing with the duck

I almost had the Davison River all to myself, except for this silly duck perched on a rock in the middle of a pretty good run near the parking lot.
Neither of us caught anything.
The trout were splashing and laughing in mid-afternoon, but I never figured out just what it was they were feeding on.
I did hang one huge rainbow with an itty-bitty nymph somebody gave me for Christmas. I thought I had hung up on a log or rock, then noticed that the rod tip was shaking like a wet dog in the kitchen. I got to see the monster. That's all.
The fish had this dumb, sad look on its face, as if it was feeling exasperated at fly fishermen trying to land it in a net.
Fat chance. It somehow untied my knot, kept the fly for a souvenir and left me with a slack line.
Sometimes, I hate these fish.
But the duck didn't do any better.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fly fishing for a gentleman's fish

A thick crust of ice covered the storm door, so I had to go outside to see if it was snowing. The air had a sharp bite to it, and snowflakes danced around like feathers from a goose fight.

After about 15 minutes strapping the tarp over the trash in the truck, my fingers ached. I decided the landfill trip could wait. It was overcast with battleship gray skies, perfect for some blue wing olive action on the river. And it was snowing.

Trout don’t mind the cold. It was time to fish.So, with the remote intention of running some errands, I headed for the Davidson River. When I arrived at the hatchery parking lot, I decided to hike a bit up the trail to seek out some new water.

A portion of the trail was layered with a challenging coat of ice, and the rest of the well-worn path was full of tree roots looking like piles of snakes, so you had to watch where you stepped.After about 30 minutes, I veered off the path, down a slippery bank past some old campsites and to the riverbank where I could cast without getting into the water. I was traveling light, with no waders, so staying out of the river was of paramount importance.

Right off the bat, the little black caddis fly was nailed by a medium-sized rainbow trout that leaped twice before shaking the hook. I had tied a half dozen of the tiny CDC flies the night before, and they were working well. Black was back.Snowflakes continued to flutter like little butterflies, but the snow wasn’t sticking.

And the air began to warm.Back upstream, I stopped at the mirror-smooth pool where all the well-dressed fly fishermen gathered to toss nymphs and streamers and impossibly tiny flies into pods of humongous trout. These fish get big as pigs mainly because of all those nutrients coming from the hatchery and the fact that you cannot keep any.

There were rise rings all over the surface, and a few fishermen were landing trout here and there. You can see those big boys, the fish that is, from the bank, but they are not easy to catch. They are educated in the ways of fly fishing and can be exasperating. They can make grown men cuss and cry.

Today, though, the little fly that was nothing but black thread and feather fooled a few of of those educated trout. I cast the fly across the water while standing high and dry on the bank. It would float downstream over a ton of fish before it would begin to drag. Then, I would cast again.

I was getting into a rhythm. Snow kept falling. My mind wandered. What a nice day.

Wake up, said a monster brown as he tried to jerk the rod from my hands. Lord, was he huge. I was certain he was going to break the tippet, but the 6X held. I got him to the bank, slid him up on a shelf of ice and was almost ready to snap a quick photo of the biggest brown trout in the history of the world when he shook the fly from his mouth and slowly slid back into the river.

My heart was thumping.

The guy downstream smiled when I told the story.

“That was a gentleman’s fish,” he said. “He got off so you wouldn’t get your hands wet.”

That was good enough for me. Three trout on dry flies from the snow-covered bank made for a fine day.

Perhaps I’ll go to the landfill next week.

Let’s see what the weather’s like.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fly fishing in the snow

Yeah, I know. It was cold. The trail by the river was covered with a frosting of thick ice and the banks were fringed with snow.
Actually, the frigid temps of the early morning eased off in the afternoon, though the snow continued to fall like tiny feathers all day.
Most importantly, the trout were hitting on top. I nailed a couple of nice browns, one over 20 inches, in the Davidson River on Monday.
I slipped him up on the icy bank for just a second, then he popped the hook and skipped back into "The Trough" just below the state hatchery. He was a brilliant gold and silver.
Fellow downstream said it was "a gentleman fish" because I did not have to get my hands wet releasing him.
Hmmmmmm...a gentleman's fish?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fishing for a mermaid

I have a new fly that should work. I use a 2-carat diamond at the head of the fly, with the body wrapped with $100 bills.
I figure if I fish it slowly, very slowly, under the icy surface I just might catch one of these gal-fish.
What to you think?
I know what Mrs. Koontz thinks.
She thinks it's too cold to go fly fishing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fish poop helps balance ocean's acid levels

This is some good ... uh...stuff

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ocean's delicate acid balance may be getting help from an unexpected source, fish poop.
The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming, but also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life.

Alkaline chemicals like calcium carbonate can help balance this acid. Scientists had thought the main source for this balancing chemical was the shells of marine plankton, but they were puzzled by the higher-than-expected amounts of carbonate in the top levels of the water.

Now researchers led by Rod W. Wilson of the University of Exeter in England report in the journal Science that marine fish contribute between 3 percent and 15 percent of total carbonate.
And the contribution may be even higher than that, say the researchers from the U.S., Canada and England.

They report that bony fish, a group that includes 90 percent of marine species, produce carbonate to dispose of the excess calcium they ingest in seawater. This forms into calcium carbonate crystals in the gut and the fish then simply excrete these ``gut rocks.''
The process is separate from digestion and production of feces, according to the researchers.

The team estimated the total mass of bony fish in the ocean at between 812 million tons and 2,050 million tons, which they said could produce around 110 million tons of calcium carbonate per year.
The carbonate produced by fish is soluble and dissolves in the upper sea water, while that from the plankton sinks to the bottom, the team noted.

The research was funded by the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Royal Society, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, United Nations Environmental Program, the Pew Charitable Trust and the U.K. Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
On the Net:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Water clear, air cold, trout hiding

I have no idea where the trout were. Presumably, they were lurking in the neighborhood, under rocks or tree roots. I don't know. I never saw one.
I just wanted to get outside and feel the sun, which turned out warmer on the Haywood County side of the mountain than on the Transylvania side.
The aid had bite to it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I shoulda brought a rod

I spent a few days at Virginia Beach but, alas, I did not take my fly rod. I really don't have one big enough to fish in the surf and I almost went to the store to get a el-cheapo special just to have something more to do than take photos of other guys fishing.

In winter, you can fish almost from your car in the nearly-empty parking lot.

The only fish I saw was in my grandsons' bathtub.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Look out trout...I'm ready

I sincerely hope my first fly fishing excursion of the year is not a portent of what’s in store for the rest of 2009.

With a couple of hours on my hands Monday, I tackled the water across the road. It was still rocking and rolling after recent rain. I had gone for several months without fishing there because, well, there wasn’t any rocking water due to the drought. I guess it had been six months or so, until we got those recent showers.

The one sure thing about fly fishing — you cannot do it without the water. Trout do not sun themselves on warm rocks like snakes.

Didn’t matter. I got skunked.

I spent a good portion of last Sunday night tying Tellico nymphs, muddler minnows and Sheepflies, all of which are good, all-purpose flies you normally fish below the surface. One exception is the muddler, a ragged bushy looking thing that can resemble a small minnow under the surface or a struggling grasshopper on the top. It’s a messy fly to tie. Deer hair trimmings fall like dead mayflies on my floor, and I almost never clean up the mess.

Most fly fishermen carry some form of the muddler minnow in their fly boxes; it is a universal favorite and a good producer. If you had to fish for your dinner every day, most fishermen would opt for using this fly.

It’s also good for attracting the attention of big trout, especially early in the mornings just as the sky begins to lighten.That’s just one of the objectives on my list of things to do in 2009, if only I could muster the strength and willpower to get up that early just to fish.

The Sheepfly is a local concoction that was originally fashioned by the late Don Howell of Brevard, I believe, and it is tied on a big hook. I usually go to a size 8 for my streamers, but the boys down at Davidson River Outfitters swear it works with really big hooks, especially on the Davidson. It’s tied with a gray body, brown hackle at the collar and two grizzly hackle tips for wings laid flat on the back. I guess it looks a lot like a small baitfish to the eye of a big brown trout.

The Tellico nymph, on the other hand, looks like a bug. No doubt about it. It has the peacock herl ribbing, yellow body and bushy hackle collar that makes it look like a wiggling insect tumbling with the current.

Trout have no choice but to bite.

The biggest rainbow trout I ever caught was hooked on a Tellico nymph. I had borrowed a fly rod from a friend after all my stuff “went missing” due to financial and legal disasters, and it turned out to be a fortunate coincidence. It was a big ole stiff bass fishing rod, a 7- or 8-weight stick with the backbone of a Marine drill instructor. It had to be on that day.

I let that Tellico nymph drift through some riffles into a deep dropoff, and let the fly do its little dance. Of course, I first thought I had caught a rock or stick on the bottom, but then the rock shook. The rod tip bent over like it wanted to drink some of that river water, and I knew I had a big’un on.

Without a net, I had to guide the fish, big as a football, to the bank. I could not wrap my hands around it. I almost lost him several times.

Last Monday was not even close to that experience, though, and I quit after an hour or so. Skunked again.With a flybox full of big-trout flies, I’ll be ready to get serious next time. I don’t believe in portents.