Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Elkhorn Cleanup 2009

This is one of my favorite annual TU activities as it is time spent with friends and, oh by the way, we do a little work too.

The plan was to leave work and be at the campground before dark. With temperatures in the mid to upper 80's, I didn't make a full day of work. I cut the day short by a couple of hours and stopped at a brookie stream I had not fished in a couple of years.

I had seen reports last year during the drought of long stretches of stream with no water at all. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought I would check it out.

I started with a personal favorite setup of a small caddis dry and a small pheasant-tail dropper. I moved a couple of fish, but no takers - a good sign considering the drought reports. After a short while (all I had was less than two hours to fish), I switched to my reliable olive woolybugger.

I pulled this guy out of the first hole with the small, olive bugger:
With very little time to fish, I pressed on. I was moving fish in nearly every hole! Apparently the drought didn't affect the adult fish. I caught this nice specimen, shortly after the first.

During the short time on the stream, I saw something I rarely see on a brookie stream - fish rising. I could not determine what they were rising to and I could not entice them with the woolybugger so I pressed on.

With little time remaining before I had to turn and head for camp, I fished one more hole. This guy was the result:
Overall, it was a very nice outing for the short period of time I had to spend on the stream. I did, however, have time to play with the circular polarizer lens on my camera. Too often I settle for the signature watch shots and forget about the beautiful "piece of grass" I chase these beauties with.

I was very pleased how these shots turned out!

I believe early spring may be my favorite time of year to hit the stream. The green is beginning to return and the wildflowers are popping everywhere. On the way back to the vehicle, I ran across these. They were growing among the violets and wild geraniums - they are dwarf larkspur.

It took me a little longer than I had planned to find the campground, but I found it. What a site it was, there must have been 50+ TU volunteers gathered in preparation for the clean-up the following day.

After a late night of great stories and laughter, it was up early for breakfast before heading to the stream.

I have taken part in this clean-up in three of the last four years, only business travel last year prevented my attendance. I must say, we ARE making a difference. My first couple of years we gathered much more "large" items....tires, appliances, etc. This year it was mostly plastic bottles and paper/styrofoam plates. Other than a Girls Gone Wild DVD, my favorite find was "His Airness".

We were done in three short hours and then it was a gathering for pictures and lunch. I didn't get an exact count but my guess would be close to 100 volunteers. There were three chapters represented and many local citizens. We had volunteers from North Carolina, Cleveland, and Indianapolis!

It was also a very nice location for this lunch gathering, the restored Ashland coal camp company store. The history in that place, and that area is amazing.

After a quick lunch we had time to hit the stream. I fished with a new friend in a section of stream we did not have enough volunteers to clean. Notice the "structure" in the pool he is targeting? This is the type of structure I was accustomed to removing from the streams during this event.

On a personal note, I have not caught a brown trout since I attended this clean-up two years ago. This also includes three trips to the Rockies and several outings in West Virginia. I spend all of my time exploring native waters, but I can make an exception for this great event. Here is my token brown trout.

It was tough fishing, the clear skies and the upper-80 temperatures made thing quite difficult.

After a long, hot day of cleaning and fishing it was back to camp for another great evening of fellowship. Great people! Great food! Great friends!

I made plans to hit a stream in Virginia early the next morning with an old friend I had not fished with since our Northern Rockies Roadtrip in 2007. I also wanted to see a new "fish friendly" culvert Virginia and the USFS had installed last year.

I am not getting any younger and with early morning plans, I made it an early night.

The next day started before daylight with a wake-up call from our host that day. Our destination was a stream just across the border in Virginia. I had fished it two years ago, just long enough to peak my interest.

These were my on stream partners for the day.

As normal procedure, I started with an EHC and a small BHPT dropper. I was given the privilege of the first pool and it paid off. I landed three small brookies in the first pool!

The fishing was slow, but consistent for the better part of the time we were on the stream. The weather conditions from the previous two days were repeated again this day with clear, blue skies and rising temperatures.

I did manage to land one nice fish, as most fish caught were in the 4-6 inch class. With the clear skies, they seemed to like the dropper.

I took time to pose him with the Vandalia bamboo.

As we moved up stream, it got much tighter with the overhanging rhododendron. Mixed in this jungle we found this nice streamside camp. It was hidden very well and would make a nice spot for a potential future visit.

Somewhere in this tight cover I missed a trophy brook trout. He came to the surface from a pocket I cold not see the bottom. I hooked him briefly and then he was gone, my guess would be a 12-inch fish. The big ones always get away!

With three plus hours of driving in front of me and one more stop, I called it another quick day. The only thing remaining was to fight our way out of this rhododendron jungle. Somewhere in the process of finding our way back to the vehicle we got separated. While standing streamside waiting on the other pair, I tied on old reliable woolybugger and picked up one more brookie for good measure.

On the way home, I made a quick stop to see this new culvert. It was installed last year in order to reconnect brook trout populations in these tiny headwater streams. I have been told they are quite expensive to install, but if the USFS and Virginia can find the funds we should be able to as well.

It was a great weekend with great friends and I am already looking forward to the 2010 Elkhorn clean-up.


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