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.

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