Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Having faith when fly fishing

If you are a fly fisherman, you have to have a certain degree of faith in what you’re doing on the river. You hope, of course, to catch fish. To do such, you have to have faith in the fly you’re using and a belief that the water you’re fishing actually is home to some nice, fat fish, which do not have to be trout but do have to be eager to hit your fly. Where I spend the weekends, the water is full of trout.
We got rainbows, browns, brookies and the rare tiger trout in the mountain streams of western North Carolina, where I skip from rock to rock in the creeks and rivers every chance I get, searching for some of those hungry trout.And I have faith I will find some every time. I never leave the house harboring the belief that I will not catch a fish — of course I will.Without that belief firmly imbedded under my ragged, green fishing cap, it would all be close to a waste of time.
Actually, you would call it hiking. That’s what Henry Thoreau, who was not a fly fisherman, did. He liked to saunter through the woods around his little pond, without a fly rod, just to drink in nature’s beauty. Good for him. I have to have fish to hunt.
Today I expect to hunt trout.
As I type this, a vicious rain is peppering the rivers and creeks and perhaps even startling my little wild rainbows and browns. There was even talk of violent tornadoes and thunderstorms.It will clear. I have faith.
The sleepy sun will peep from under that thick quilt of gray sky, the air will sparkle with astonishing brightness, and trout will rise to gobble mayflies, with perhaps a sprinkling of tiny midges for seasoning. I am ready.
I spent way too much time tying flies last weekend. Randomly, I switched from a couple of huge monster streamers to little mayflies, with no sense of rhyme or reason. Some tyers can sit and tie dozens of the same fly over and over. My attention span when tying trout flies is akin to a butterfly hopping from one flower to another. Lack of focus, I guess.
But I keep the fly boxes full.And I have an unexplainable faith in their effectiveness, though few resemble what you would find in a catalogue or fly shop because of their natural scruffiness. I tie scruffy flies. They mostly look like one of my border collie’s chew toys, ragged and about to fall apart, but trout seem to like them. I generally catch fish.
And I have faith in those scruffy flies.How can a fly fisherman not be full of hope and high expectation upon spring’s arrival? This time of year, we fly fishers tingle with anticipation, knowing the air will soon fill with fluttering caddisflies and the splashes on the water’s surface will be feeding fish, not torrential rain. Life is good and all is well with the world.
You’ve got to have faith.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fly fishing stump time

Spring has been teasing me like that redheaded high school cheerleader who stayed just out of my reach for four long, lovelorn years. I cannot seem to catch up with it. For the past several weeks I have watched trees explode with blooms like popcorn. Wild violets dance among the grass and now the redbud blushes along the highways I have to drive each day.
And each of my past two weekends has been a bust, with bitter cold snow and ice followed by steady, miserable rain, each sandwiched between five wonderfully spring-like (work) days.
It’s becoming a bit too much to handle. All the dry flies have been tied, plus some bigger experimental streamers and nymphs, so I’m through with dreaming and ready for the mayfly hatches that fill the air with snowy golden bugs enticing hungry wild trout. I am ready. Boy, am I ready.The Troutmobile is ready too, sporting new brake pads to keep us from running off those snaky mountain roads. We changed the oil too.And though the world sparks to life with each spring, the tempo on the water eases. There is no rush. The sun sets later in the day, so you can fish way past dinner. There’s more time to study the water, if you please. There’s more time to watch and learn.I call it Stump Time.It’s time to spend sitting on a stump, waiting for the inevitable stonefly hatch or searching for tell-tale rise rings where trout are feeding. It’s a time to spend watching other fly fishermen, which can be a thing of beauty when the show is put on by a master. It also can be torture to watch a novice lashing the water’s surface with sloppy casts.
Stumps can be fallen trees, smooth rocks or just soft spots on the bank. I have found some rocks so smooth and comfortable that they put me to sleep in the afternoon sun almost as like a Lazy Boy recliner. Since I am slower than molasses when changing flies, these stumps also provide brief resting spots.
Stump time also can be the obvious period for reflection when the trout will not hit any fly tossed on the water. These are the times the trout have you … stumped. You have no idea which fly they want, or even it they want any fly at all. So, you reflect.
You can think about the fish, which is paramount, or you can lose yourself in the wonder of nature and just zone out for a while. I tend to the latter more and more. Drink the air in big gulps, wrap up in the comfort of the wild and drift off. Hawks and turkey buzzards soar in the sky. A beaver startles with a loud splash of warning. A doe shows up unexpectedly, looks you straight in the eye, and then is gone quick as a wink. Wow, where was that camera?
You have to love spring. It’s when all these things that really count brighten with a sharper focus. It’s flowers on the banks, buds on the trees and insects hovering over hungry trout.Spring is a season to be embraced.
Perhaps I can catch up today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trout don't mind the rain

In two miserably wet days I caught one trout, but mostly that was my fault not the weather's and certainly not the fish's. What's to whine about? We need rain. Still. I managed to kill some valuable fishing time (VFT) while running senseless and meaningless (to me) errands for someone who believed with all her heart that those errands were important, more than fly fishing for trout.
There is something just not wholesome about that.
Fly fishing for trout, on the other hand, is entirely wholesome, healthy and balm for the tattered soul.
Ah...just one fish?
And it felt good out there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trout rips into ragged fly

It was just a ragged CDC caddis fly that was handy, so I tossed it into the fire station pool and watched in disappear in a splash.
I had hopes of hooking into the monster brown that resides in the area, but it was still fun to catch this acrobatic rainbow.
The water has warmed some, what with the temperatures in the 70s lately, so it did not kill me to hold the camera underwater for more than one shot. The other underwater photos were either fuzzy or the fish wiggled out of view as I snapped the shutter.
Rain forecast for today and Monday.
Perhaps I'll find a BWO hatch.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another warm memory in the net

What does your average, fanatical fly fisherman do when the sky erupts like an angry beast spitting cold wind, sleet and snow?
Go fishing, of course.
The temperatures had dipped like crash-diving planes, forcing me to sit inside the troutmobile with the heater blasting while I tied on a fly. Sleet sprinkled the hood of the car like salt. The wind howled. Sunday’s storm was on the way.
So, naturally I tied on a big ole’ bushy dry fly, a parachute Adams with a yellow post that made it easier to follow while the white stuff fell on the water. I had no luck out in the open but just before dusk I made one last stop to try for one of those little brown trout that love to hide under the bridge up the street.
I kept in the shadows so I wouldn’t spook any trout, though I hardly expected to find any. I moved slowly. Each step took about half a minute. When I got close enough to rollcast the fly into the current, I put it into the middle of the current just outside the shelter of the bridge. This happened a couple of times, with no success, and I was about to head for the cabin when I saw the splash and felt the tug at the end of the line.
The line cut one way and then another through the water’s surface, then the little rainbow gave up the fight, wiggled in my freezing hand while I tried to take a photo and then slipped back into the creek. The little white pellets of ice kept falling. The wind continued its angry howl and I called it a day.It was time for hot coffee and a night tying flies for the next day, which I thought would prove interesting with the oncoming snowfall. We expected a half-foot to 10 inches up the mountain, but it never happened. We got 4 inches, at best. By lunchtime Monday, just a muddy mush was left. The snow was pretty for a couple of morning hours.
Now, the roads were clear as the blue sky.Armed with a box of newly tied flies of all sorts and sizes, I assaulted the East Fork of the French Broad River, stopping along the way down the mountain at some of my other favorite spots.
I threw everything at them. I tried a fuzzy streamer. I tried a gray nymph. Then I tied on a yellow sparkly CDC dry fly. My Royal Coachman was ignored, as was everything else I tossed into the water. I was ready to just toss the whole box into the water.
Elsewhere in the state people we still digging out of the snow. Somehow, we had dodged the storm bullet, which allowed me enough mobility to get to some other water but which did not help me catch any trout.
Monday was a bust. I got skunked.
But, like that one good golf shot out of 80 nor 90 bad ones, that Sunday trout caught on a dry fly under an unpleasant sky was all that I remembered later.
A psychologist would call that selective perception, or something like that.
To me, it’s just another warm fishing memory that I am as comfortable with as a hot cup of coffee.