Monday, November 30, 2015

Toccoa DH Report

I had the opportunity to fish the Toccoa DH for a few hours over the long weekend.  I went for about an hour on Thanksgiving morning.  I had not checked the water levels and didn't realize it was pushing around 600.   Wading was a little difficult, but I managed to wade in at a few spots and fool a couple of trout.  Saturday afternoon I went to the lower section of the DH to get in an hour of fishing before dark. I waded in and quickly realized the fish were hugging the bottom. I tied on a large jig hook and then dropped a small warrior off the back. I picked up a few fish and waded out as it got dark.  I spotted someone fishing with worms and probably poaching. I approached and the poacher immediately left. I then high-sticked a shallow run and picked up a nice fat rainbow as darkness fell.
I need to find some time to spend an entire day fishing the river. Bright colors and heavy flies seem to be the ticket. The fish have spread out and they have "wisened up" over the last month.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Annual Blue Ridge Fall Trip

About 10 years ago EZ re-ignited my love of fishing with a trip to the Smokies.  Thereafter, we fished on a regular and frequent basis, with an energy that I think comes with youth and fewer obligations.  Doc joined the fray a few years later and we started doing 1-2 group trips a year to local streams.  Eventually Rod joined along on the trips. The trips generally involved camping, and usually an extra person or two came along for the fun.  Now, we all have kids, busy business lives, and as a result, the trips have become less frequent, shorter, and camping has become a thing of the past.
I had not fished with EZ in a couple of years, and hadn't fished with Doc and Rod in about a year.  I was looking forward to our annual Blue Ridge trip; however, the heavy rain early in the week put a damper on things.  We had planned to float Friday, but the rain derailed that plan. Doc and EZ had business obligations, so it was left to the Rod and I to find a place to fish on Friday. The only thing that came to mind was Noontootla.
Noontootla is tough fishing in my book. The water is clear, the brush is thick, and the fish are easily spooked.  I've known many a good angler to be skunked on Noontootla.  I figured we'd go up there and at least enjoy a beautiful day.  Much to my surprise, I caught a nice rainbow at the first hole.  I managed three in a few hours, and then we headed back to the cabin for some whiskey.  
  We met Doc and EZ at the Blue Ridge Brewery friday evening, and then finished up the night with darts at Fightingtown Tavern.  The next morning we woke up and took it easy - it was cold.  We went to Van Zants and ate the breakfast special, and then up to Noontootla.  EZ hasn't fished much lately, but he caught a brown right off the bat.  I caught a couple of bows as well.  The action was pretty good at the beginning, with Streamer Rod even catching a nice b
ow for good measure.  We worked our way downstream and fished hard. I missed a lot of fish.  At the end of the day Doc hiked up Lovinggood creek and caught three bows in short order.  We had a good day on the creek, and everyone managed to avoid the skunk!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sage Warranty - two thumbs up!

I mentioned in a prior post that while I was in Yellowstone my Sage Z-axis 6 weight endured a damaged guide.  I decided to bite the bullet and send it in for repair.  The warranty process through Sage works quite well. You make your claim online, pay them some money on a credit card, and then a shipping label is generated for the rod to be mailed via FedEx. I think the total charge was around $60.  Once your rod is received by Sage you receive an email confirming same.  It ended up taking about 4-6 weeks to get my rod back.  I was thinking that perhaps I had made a mistake in spending that much money to fix a bent guide, but when I took the rod out of the package, I was quite pleased. The rod looked brand new.  I double checked the serial number, and it was the same rod.  Not only did they fix the guide, it appears they either replaced or refinished the cork handle, as well as the wood insert and the reel seat.  I was extremely impressed.  I guess you pay a little more for quality, and it's worth the cost.  Kudos to Sage!   

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Toccoa DH and State of Toccoa Tailwater

I woke up early Saturday morning and decided to wet a line on the Toccoa DH for an hour before the TU meeting.  It was cold: 32 degrees when I hit the river at 8:00. I didn't have a coat and the water was high. I tied on a small ugly green bugger and roll casted my 5 weight from 3-4 different locations.   I ended up with a handful in an hour.  All rainbows and fat.  The next morning I went through the same routine with a couple to hand. I covered a lot more water. I was surprised the fish were not in the lower sections where I expected them.  I'm sure they'll spread out over the next week.
As far as the TU meeting, I learned some interesting information on the Toccoa tailwater.  They shocked up a 14 pound brown during a recent survey. They found the fish numbers down a little, but the browns are doing well.  The tailwater is pretty good for brown trout, with about 10% surviving, with some reproduction suspected.  The rainbows, on the other hand, do not thrive in the tailwater, with an estimated 1% surviving after stocking.  The brook trout simply disappear within a few weeks of stocking.  Angler frustration over catch rates recently is probably the result of less stocking over the last year or two.  A few years ago they were stocking around 40k trout. This year it's been closer to 26k.  Also, brown trout are tougher to catch, so even though the browns seems to do pretty well in the river, people aren't catching them like they would a rainbow, and hence, less angler satisfaction.

Monday, November 9, 2015

North Carolina

I drove up to meet the crew at Snowbird on Friday for our annual North Carolina fall trip.  As in years past, Snowbird did not disappoint. I ended up with about 20 fish to hand, including a slam (brook, brown, and a rainbow).  By far the majority of the fish were rainbows.  I was surprised at how many wild rainbows I caught in the DH section.  
On Saturday we decided to check out the Ravens Fork Trophy Section.  It was much more crowded than expected, and it was slow going in the morning. I was able to spot a number of fish, but they just weren't moving.  We started out up high. After lunch, we went down to the lower section. I had fished meat in the morning and decided to go small in the afternoon. Small was the ticket.  I caught a handful in the afternoon. I lost my best fish of day after a pretty long battle.  Next time I'm bringing a landing net.  One guy in our group caught a 23 inch pig using my 8 weight.  Most of the fish I caught were in the 14 inch range. The picture below is typical of what I was catching.  A good two days of fishing!  

Friday, October 30, 2015

G. Loomis NRX LP

When I was in Yellowstone last month I had the misfortune of damaging a guide on my 6 weight Sage Z-Axis.  The only other rod I had with me was a 10 foot 4 weight Hardy Zenith.  The Zenith is awesome, but not exactly ideal for the various conditions I  was going to encounter. I stopped by Arrick's Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, Montana, and checked out some of the rods on display.  I was planning to just tough it out with the 10 foot four weight; however, I couldn't take my eyes off of the Loomis NRX LP. They had a five weight.  I decided it was too expensive and left the store.  For some reason, I came back five minutes later to have another look at the rod.  I knew the NRX LP 5 weight was a top of the line rod, winning the Yellowstone Angler 5 weight shootout in 2013 and 2015.  Arrick told me Loomis was having a promotion where I could try the rod out for a number of days and if I didn't like it for any reason, I could return it for a full refund.  Sold!  I decided if this wasn't the best rod I had ever used, I was going to return it on our last day.  The result: I still have the rod!  I'm not technical enough to tell you what makes this rod so special.  It feels super light while casting; though it's probably not as light as some other high end rods. It simply feels lighter than any other five weight I've used.  It feels strong in the bottom half, but the tip is very soft.  The guides are a little different, with two stripping guides.  I used the NRX LP for all sorts of different tactics while I was in Yellowstone: size 22 caddis with 7x tippet; big hoppers; large stone flies, as well as high sticking a huge stone fly double nymph rig. The rod throws line with ease.  Casts at anywhere from 10 feet to 50 feet were effortless.  I experience zero arm fatigue.  The feel on the rod is wonderful as well.  You can't go wrong with the G. Loomis NRX LP.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

TFO Warranty - Awesome!

I damaged a guide on my TFO BVK 8 wt on a recent trip to Florida. I shipped the rod with a $30 check on Monday and received the repaired rod back from TFO on Friday.   By way of comparison, I shipped a 6 weight to Sage with the same issue on the same day.  A week later I received an email stating that it would probably be four weeks before I received my Z-Axis back from Sage.  I understand with a higher quality rod it might take more time for the repair, but I'm nevertheless extremely impressed with TFO and how they handled my repair. Simple and quick.  I won't hesitate to buy another TFO in the future.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Yellowstone Cutthroat

Caught this beauty on 6x tippet and a size 18 fly tailing three feet behind a huge ugly stone fly. First time fishing the Yellowstone - what a treat!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Slough Creek and Soda Butte

My original plan was to hike up to the first meadow on Slough Creek. We got a late start, and the rest of my group didn't think we'd have time for me to hike up there, so we fished the lower meadow.  It started out pretty rough. I picked a nice run but had a bunch of buffalo and a beaver run me off.  I only got to fish for maybe an hour. We returned to the car and ate lunch. We all decided to keep fishing, so I hiked downstream. It was hot and relatively crowded. As I stopped to tie up a technical rig I heard another in our group yelling upstream that he had a nice fish. A nice fish indeed - big cuttbow on some sort of small prince pattern.

I worked on down stream and got to a strange split in the creek. I chucked a hopper and couldn't believe it when I saw a huge trout rise to the fly and then turn around.  I thought perhaps it was an illusion.  I worked to a nice run a little further downstream and right in the foam line were 3-4 beautiful cutties slow rising to something in the water. I spent 2 hours trying everything in my fly box, but I couldn't figure it out.  I finally gave up. I figured if 7x tippet and a size 22 bwo couldn't catch one of those cutties, nothing would.  I'll be back, though.
We took a short trip to soda butte to try to get the skunk off from Slough.  It was getting dark, but we managed a couple on soda butte.  Very interesting stream.  The highlight, of course, was the cuttbow pictured above.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tough Sledding: Duck, Gallatin, and Madison

Madison Brown - First Trout on the NRX
Saturday was tough; though optimism ran high in the morning. We woke up to relatively warm weather. Breakfast was good. We drove to the parking lot at the Duck and just one other car - that was promising. We knew there were big fish in the Duck, but catching them would be a challenge. We all hiked up-stream and divided into pairs. I stuck with John. The water had no movement and the bottom was like sludge.  We worked our way downriver and got to a deep bend.  I fished the bend for a few minutes and then walked along the bank about 10 feet from the bend to give John a shot at it. A 15 inch brown swam by me towards the pool. 30 seconds later, a huge lake run brown, well over 25 inches, trudged upriver towards the pool. John was now working the pool and I gave him a heads up. He got a hit, but couldn't get the hook-up.  I then walked a little further downstream and saw three nice fish scatter. It seemed we had found the fish; however, they could not be fooled.  Brad caught a nice brookie, but the rest of us were skunked.
We then drove over to the Gallatin in the Park.  The weather was getting warm and there were plenty of people fishing. I high-sticked a small nymph in some runs and hooked into a nice fish. I thought it was a nice brown but it turned out to be a whitefish.  We all caught whitefish, but not a single trout.  One in our group wasn't feeling good (or else he just wanted to watch football!), so we dropped him off at the hotel and plotted our next move. I had noticed a few cars parked on the side of the road about a mile from where the Madison exits the park, so we pulled over to the gravel area. After a short hike we came out on a wonderful stretch of river. I caught a nice brown within a few minutes, swinging a big soft hackle.  It got dark quick and we had to leave, but this spot is high on my list for the next trip. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

On Fire

Firehole Brown
Friday, we returned to the Firehole.  This time, we fished up-high on the river.  It started out kind of slow for me.  I decided to swing a soft hackle and for the first 1/4 mile, there was very little action. I finally worked my way down to some nice runs and caught some decent fish.  The fish really turned on in the faster current and at the tail of the faster runs.  I noticed the fish tended to be bunched up in certain areas. After catching 1/2 dozen, I ended up at a small waterfall on the river, that was divided by an island. I changed flies a few times and decided to high stick the water with a size 18 flashy nymph.  I was immediately rewarded with a good catch of fish. I think I ended up with well over a dozen fish during the morning session.

After fishing for a few hours we packed up and headed down river. We stopped to use the restroom at Nez Pearce confluence, and saw a lot of fish rising. We decided to try out luck. I had immediate success high sticking. I stuck with John and we worked our way down river a little. We caught 15-20 between us, but no fish of any size. 
We finished the day by stopping off at the Gibbon on the way back to West Yellowstone.  Unfortunately, the good fortune we had a few nights prior was not in the offing this time.  I believe we were all skunked by the Gibbon, tough it was cool to share a bend in the river with this guy:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

$3 Dollar Bridge - Madison River

Thursday was cold.  We went to $3 dollar to try our luck; figured it would be a little warmer outside of the Park. I headed downstream on the road side of the river, chucking an articulated on my six weight.  The flow was much lower than last year, which made for easier wading.  I hooked in to a large fish in the main stream of the current within a few minutes of fishing. He thrashed back and forth, and after about 20 seconds, threw the hook. I saw the fish clearly, and it was a trophy to be sure.  John caught a decent rainbow shortly thereafter.  I decided to explore further downstream and fish a little along the way. I spoke with a few other anglers. The fishing was tough for everyone, and the only thing that seemed to be working were streamers.  Strangely enough, despite the cloud cover, lighter colored streamers were catching a few fish.  It started to snow after a few hours so I went back to the car to meet up with everyone.  We drove around trying to find a place to eat, but nothing was open.
We returned to $3 for the afternoon.  I worked my way upstream on the other side of the bridge, and right about the time I started to get in the water, the thunder emerged.  A cold rain mixed with snow was coming down by now. I put on a large black articulated streamer, and eventually waded out to the middle of the river. This allowed me to throw to the bank. I hooked a few fish, and finally, caught a nice brown.  My hands were numb, so I didn't take a picture.
I enjoyed the experience, even though we caught very few fish between the four of us.  We capped off the evening with a trip to the Grizzly, which is always a nice end to a day on the water.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fire in the a.m., Gibbon in the evening

We fished the firehole in the morning.  The fishing was not as good as last year, but we all still managed a few trout - a good mix of browns and bows. The weather was crazy. It got cold and looked like it was about to snow. We then headed to the Gibbon for the afternoon.  I went with John and fished the lower meadow stretch. Our leader and LL went up towards the falls.  I tied on ugly bugger and landed a nice brown on the first cast. We then worked our way down stream throwing meat in the deep bends.  John hooked a nice one and brought it to hand -  a solid 18-20 inch rainbow - probably a run-up fish from the lake. A few minutes later I high sticked a bugger in a deep pool as I was standing on the shore and landed the nice brown shown below. We were cold but happy!  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Product Review: Smith Optics

I've been fishing since I was a little kid.  I started out fishing off the dock at our house in Alaska, using a simple hot dog on the end of a heavy hook wrapped with lead.  When we were camping I would spin fish for rainbows, cutties, and dolly.  We never spin fished for salmon. When I was a teenager we would troll for salmon, and I worked on guide boats and commercial fishing boats. During all those years, I rarely if ever wore sunglasses.  I certainly didn't wear glasses to help me fish.
When I re-discovered fishing about 10 years ago, I didn't think about sunglasses being a valuable tool or necessity for fly fishing.  Eventually, I purchased a cheap pair of polarized glasses.  Then I moved up to a good pair of Costa sunglasses.  I had horrible luck with those Costa glasses and ended up using a mid-priced set of  Native glasses instead. The Native sunglasses were great, especially for the price; however, after two years, I lost them. I decided it was time for an upgrade.
I had heard good things about Smith Optics for years and decided to pull the trigger.  I ultimately selected the MaverickThey weren't cheap.  Quite honestly, I didn't notice a huge difference with the glasses right away.  However, I did notice that I was becoming much better at spotting large fish and catching those fish.  My first thought was that perhaps I was becoming a decent fly fisher.  Then I realized that the sunglasses might have something to do with it.  I spent years never understanding what people meant by "sneaking up" on large trout.  I am now able to spot large trout on a regular basis.  The effectiveness of the Smith Optics sunglasses became quite apparent a few weeks ago when I was fishing in the Everglades.  The Guide was standing on his platform looking for fish. On numerous occasions, I spotted fish that the Guide didn't see until after I pointed out the fish.  I was at a far worse vantage point - the glasses are that good! 
Obviously, sunglasses aren't going to make you catch fish.  The being said, high quality polarized glasses can make a huge difference - especially when targeting large fish.  I can't imagine trying to fish without my Smith's.  Next time you're in the market, consider Smith

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I saw it in the sky, I thought it was the 4th of July

Doc asked me to fish last week, and we had planned to go on July 3rd, but he wasn't keen or passionate about fishing with all of the rain we've had lately, so we cancelled.  With the rain, it occurred to me that Dukes Creek might be an option.  I checked with the Dukes receptionist on July 3rd to see if there were any openings for the 4th of July. Much to my surprise, there was an opening for the afternoon.  We went to the parade in Blue Ridge on the morning of the 4th, packed up a big pastrami sandwich and I hit the road to Helen, Georgia, with my six weight and a box of big streamers in the back.  I arrived just prior to 1:30 and jumped on the shuttle. I went to the lowest section and hiked down to the creek. I was hoping for high muddy water, but the water didn't seem that high and was relatively clear.  I dropped my sunglasses on the trail, which resulted in about 45 minutes of delay, but I found them and rigged up a big streamer on 4x tippet. 
After about 20 minutes of working my way upstream I cast to a shallow run of fast water by a big downed tree in the creek.  I saw the fish come out from under the tree and slam my streamer. I was then in for the best fight I've ever had on a fly rod with a trout. Despite a six weight and fairly heavy tippet, it was a challenge.  He ran downstream a good 20 yards, and kept trying to wrap my line around rocks and branches.  I must admit, this was probably the first trout I've ever had where I had to use my drag.  To make matters worse, I didn't have a net.  I finally landed the fish after about 5-10 minutes.  Thankfully, I had decided to bring my net glove or I would have never been able to handle the fish.  I didn't measure, but I'm guessing it was around 24-25 inches.  Who knows how heavy.
After I finished fighting the above pictured pig, I was sweating profusely and frankly, a little worn out. I felt like I had accomplished my goal, and I could have gone home and been happy. I started hiking upstream, casting and exploring, but not really fishing that seriously.  Around 5:00 I made it to section 2 and ran into two other anglers. I found a nice deep run and drifted my fly through the deepest part: fish on!  This fish was not a great fighter compared to the first, though he was probably 18 inches or better.
I drove back to Blue Ridge, ate some delicious BBQ, and then took the family to watch the fireworks.  This was a 4th of July I'll never forget!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sling Pack - is this finally the answer?

Like many folks, I started out fly fishing with just a rod, a reel, and a few flies.  Someone eventually gave me a vest.  I enjoyed the vest, and used it for years.  I could carry just about anything, and hooking up a net and carrying a gatorade was no problem. Like many things in life, I thought there might be a better answer. I tried out a chest pack.  I used it once and that was it.  If you can benchpress a decent amount of weight, the chest pack is not the answer.  At least it wasn't the answer for me.  Then I switched to a lumbar waist pack by Simms. This pack was pretty cool. I used it for a few years. I could carry all my fishing gear, plenty of liquids, etc.  After a while, I started using my lumbar pack as a sling.  Of course, the lumbar pack wasn't designed as a sling.
Earlier this year I was presented with a birthday present - an Orvis Safe Passage Sling. The lumbar pack is now retired.  The Sling pack is perfect for me.  It carries everything I need - multiple fly boxes, water, tools, tippet, pliers, etc.  The pack doesn't get in my way while I'm fishing - it fits as snug as I want it. I can move it around no problem. I'm sure there are other great slings out on the market - I'm quite happy with the Orvis.  I'm not entirely convinced that a sling is better than a vest, but I for me, it's better than the other options. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Bowa on the Toccoa

 I got a chance to fish for a few minutes on the Toccoa near the DH on Monday.  After catching a small bow, and with the water high, I decided to roll cast a big bugger for a few minutes to a deep hole. Third cast - and it was on.  Big fish, and rather unexpected.  Measured out at 18 inches. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Pleasant Surprise

On Saturday we decided to take the kids on a family picnic.  I had never been to Cooper's Creek, but had heard it was a pretty area.  We packed up the kids and a lunch and headed to the campground.  I had read about Cooper's Creek as being a heavily stocked stream with a ton of fishing pressure. Never have I read or heard of any quality fishing coming out of the creek. When we got to the creek I was surprised that it was devoid of people. Other than a camper at Mulky Creek, there seemed to be nobody at Cooper's. We ate lunch at a picnic table and I took the kids on a hike upstream.  After about 30 minutes of hiking we started back. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a fish rise.  I looked at the area for a few minutes and couldn't believe it when I saw a large rainbow treading water on the far bank.  I ran to the car and rigged up my six weight.  I didn't have time so I just threw a large caddis on the end of my line to see if I could move the fish. I couldn't, and the wife and kids weren't in the mood to watch me fish. I watched the water for a little while and was starting to wonder whether I was looking at a fish or just a rock.  Right before we left I took a rock from the bank and threw it over towards the fish. Sure enough, the fish scattered up stream. The fish was 20 plus inches. 
The next morning I woke up and drove over to the same spot.  I got out of my truck and went to the area where I saw the fish from the day before.  Strangely enough, there were two large fish now in the same spot.  I decided to go big - I tied on a huge stone fly pattern from Montana and waited for my opportunity.  I saw the two fish move towards the middle of the creek.  One was over 16 inches hanging out with the big one nearby.  I didn't put on waders or boots - I figured I'd spook the fish if I touched the water.  I didn't have room to backcast and I knew I'd only get one shot.  I put some line out and performed a back hand roll cast with the fly landing about 10 feet upstream of the two fish.  The water was crystal clear.  As the big bug drifted right in front of the two fish I saw one move forward.  I lifted my rod tip and there it was - fish on!  I was standing on a bank with a four foot drop to the creek.  I got the fish on my reel, but soon realized I hadn't hooked the big one - but it was still a large fish.  I managed to walk upstream, around a streamside tree, and down to a spot where I could get to the water. Although it wasn't the exact fish I wanted, it was a pleasant surprise to catch such a quality fish under the circumstances.  I watched the area for about an hour hoping the big one would come back, but I had spooked him, and so I left knowing I would need to make another trip in the near future.