Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Is (And Always Will Be) Home!

With my move to the midwest, I have had this weekend circled since the date was set. It is the weekend of our local TU chapter campout and it just so happens to coincide with the spring TU State Council meeting.

I haven't seen some of these friends/members since I left home in November and I was really looking forward to catching up.

I also received a call a couple of weeks earlier with an invite to revisit the Seneca Backcountry with a friend who hiked in with me last year. The previous adventure took a year to coordinate, this trip took less than five minutes.

I was to meet him at the trailhead at 6:30 AM, which meant (following a drive home from Cincinnati) I had to leave Parkersburg before 3:30 AM. When I get psyched for a trip like this, I never have a problem getting up and driving that early.

Following a nice hike up and over Allegheny Mountain, we found that the rains from earlier in the week had good flows everywhere.

I typically go small on this stream. My favorite set up is a 16 EHC with an 18 BHPT dropper, but with the flows I couldn't get the fish to rise to the small dry and the small nymph wasn't getting down. I did manage a few with this setup, but not what it should be.

I had to move to a bigger setup, with a large stimulator and a 14 tungsten beadhead hare's ear. They weren't real fond of the large dry, but I picked up a few.

What they did like, however, was the large nymph dropper! It was fishing as usual on the upper Seneca canyon - picking up brookies and wild bows in every pocket and pool.

I picked up some of the most beautiful bows I have seen anywhere in West Virginia.

The brookies were digging the nymph too!

The fishing was great all day, but as usual on a trip into this area you have to eventually realize you have a brutal hike out. Depending upon how far upstream you fish it can be almost 5 miles out.
It was a great day of fishing with a good friend and that is what coming home to West Virginia is all about.

From the trailhead it was up & over Spruce Knob and on to the next destination of the weekend; the 4H camp at Thornwood and the Blennerhassett chapter campout. It was great to be back with the gang - it doesn't get any better than sitting around the campfire with friends.
The next morning it was up and on the road early to get in a few hours of fishing before TU State Council. I was in search of a new trail and a new stream that headwaters in Virginia.
After finally finding the trailhead (after a wrong turn put me in Virginia), it was a short mile or so hike into the stream. As I was tying on a fly, I saw a rise in the tail of the next pool...first drift:
The next pool produced another good brookie and the third pool produced this fat little brookie from under some overhanging rhododendron. Notice the "gut" hanging over my finger!

As I fished upstream I thought it started looking familiar. Was I on the right stream? Believing I was on a stream I had already fished multiple times, I turned and headed to the mouth to explore the area I thought I should be in.
The stream I thought I should be fishing was quite large and with the recent rains was too big to fish with my 2wt bamboo. I did, however, find this: my first lady slipper.

On the hike out, I ran across this guy in the trail. He posed very nicely on the bamboo.

Once I made it back to the vehicle; I made me a nice cup of coffee on my backpack stove, changed into some dry clothes, and double-checked my gazetteer. It was true, I did actually fish a stream I had on my life list - I hate not having my GPS. I also couldn't believe how large the stream was that I should have been fishing. I'll need to fish several miles upstream (in Virginia) to add this brookie stream to my list.
Following a very nice State Council meeting, it was back toward Thornwood. Before I headed out, I double-checked the gazetteer again for another route into the stream I had checked out earlier in the AM.
I crossed the state line at the top of the mountain and headed back down the other side, into Virginia on a narrow dirt road.

Once on the water, I found it was also ripping (but again not off-color) from the recent rains. I walked downstream a very short distance and fished my way back to the bridge where I had parked.
As I made it back to the bridge pool, the skies had turned black and looked like the rains were eminent again. But what the clouds also brought out were the BWOs and rising fish everywhere. I had to dig deep in my box to find a BWO parachute, so I tied it on - game on!
First drift:
I picked up several more small brookies before the driving rain forced me off the stream.

I had added another stream to my life list, so satisfied that I had found the stream I should have fished in the AM, I headed back to camp.
It was another great dinner and another great evening around the fire with friends. The next morning we posed for a group photo before heading our separate ways. This is a great group of guys - the same guys that treating my son like one of the guys the year before.

I headed to a small trib on the top of Cheat Mountain with another good friend, whom I typically am lucky to fish with only once a year.

This is another new stream for me and another stream, which contains both brookies and browns.

I picked up a nice little wild brown and a couple of YOY brookies. This little brookie was a bit camera shy.

Size does not make a trophy to me and it's always a good sign to catch the little guys. My partner for the short time on this stream picked up one nice little brookie on a woolybugger, so we know there are at least a couple of different age classes of brookie in there.
This is a beautiful little stream and I wish I had more time to fish it but I had a 3+ hour drive to Parkersburg and then another 4-hour drive to the Cincinnati area.
As I drove home, I realized that no matter where my travels in life take me the people and places in West Virginia will ALWAYS be home to me.

The Search for Methuselah

This is a continuation of my trip into the Nevada desert in search of Lahontan cutthroat...there were no trout harmed in the making of this entry.

From the Lahontan stream I drove to Bishop, California in preparation for my hike into the bristlecone grove - my first time to California.

I rose early the next morning to get some nice shots of the Sierras in alpenglow. I was amazed at how much snow remained up high. This snow is what pointed me to Bishop when I wanted to go to Lone Pine in search of my first true golden.

Due to snow, the road into the bristlecones was closed two from the trailhead, so I parked at the gate and the Sierra overlook.

You can see why the road was closed, but it probably won't be long before it opens.

I had the 4.5-mile loop trail all to myself, didn't realize until later that this may not have been a good idea.

Shortly into the trail, the sign says, "stay right", so I went right. I soon found that all north-facing slopes had a good bit of snow remaining. After about 1/4 mile of intermittent searching for the trail and post holing, the trail disappeared.

At this point I turned around and decided to take the left fork of the trail. As I made my way around to the east and south facing slopes the trail opened up and became much easier to follow. I soon found myself among the ancient ones.

These California bristlecones (Pinus longaeva) are a different species than the bristlecones I visited in Colorado (Pinus aristata) and much older. This loop and this grove is said to contain the oldest tree in the world Methuselah, which has an estimated germination date of 2832 BC - and this is why I made this journey.

I didn't know the exact location, all I had were GPS coordinates and a photo. Unfortunately, my GPS is in dire need of a charging cable, so I was "flying blind".

I started the hike with three layers (it was in the upper 30s) but as the sun rose higher it turned into a beautiful day.

I believe Methuselah is somewhere in the vicinity of the next photo, but without my GPS I couldn't pinpoint it exactly.

As I made it to the 3.5-mile mark of the trail, I knew that I would soon be encountering the section of the tail that remained buried beneath a few feet of snow, so when I intersected the Schulman cabin trail I made a very good decision. I was now out of water (1.5 liters) and solo, so I made the decision to take the shortest route back to the vehicle.

The cabin trail took me up several switchbacks to a saddle where I could see the road to the trailhead.

From the saddle, I abandoned the trail (I normally abide by the off-trail restrictions) and headed straight downhill to the road. I stopped one last time to take a shot of this solo tree....

...and this unusual remnant.

One last note from my first adventure in the Sierras: it amazes me to see cactus around 10,000 feet!

This specimen was somewhere around 8,000 feet on the way back to the main road.

Finally, this guy that just screams "Do Not Touch", were quite common in the California and Nevada desert floor.

I did not find Methuselah but it was a nice hike (8-10 miles) and it was nice to be back up in altitude. I'll take 50% on a short trip like this!
I plan to revisit the Sierras later this year, but next time I will be packing a fly rod and (hopefully) there will be a few trout involved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Desert Trout - Lahontan Cutthroat

My company sent me to the Nevada desert in order to train on fuming acid spill mitigation. Most "normal" people would spend a couple of free days on the Vegas strip, but not me! I checked around for something to do away from the Las Vegas strip and thanks to friends at The Angler's Life List and the Nevada DOW I found this...

The Nevada DOW agent gave me the exact directions to find this stream. I have never been in the desert and what I didn't realize going into this was how rugged it would be.

I left the 4 Queens casino at 5:00 AM and by 6:00 I was in the town of Pahrump picking up plenty of water - I also carried my water purification filter. I turned off the hard top and soon found that it would be slow going. These weren't the gravel roads of Wyoming, where 30-40 mph is possible, this was 5-10 mph and that was pushing it! I assumed I would be heading somewhere in the vicinity of the snow (in the desert?).

The desert itself was incredible! Apparently they had a wet winter and it was green and some plants were in bloom.

Beavertail cactus in bloom:
I was a bit late for the yucca bloom, but there were still a few out there:

As I gained altitude, the Joshua tree became more prevalent and I took this shot of a fine specimen in the low light of the early morning.
After nearly an hour of off-road driving, I had made it to the first part of my destination (I was beginning to wonder).

The canyon stream would eventually be back and to the right of the USFS sign, but it would be an adventure in itself. The road turned to a cobble trail and I spent another thirty minutes crawling.
I finally made it to water and made one stream crossing. When I made it to the second crossing, a little deeper, I decided to get out to inspect the crossing a little closer. I think I could have crossed but on the other side the road turned to a second channel of the stream. I was almost 90 minutes from hard road and solo, so I decided discretion is the better part of valor and I parked and made the final hike to the trailhead on foot.

Once at the trailhead I found myself at a very nice looking pool, so I strung up my 6' 4-piece pack rod and thought to myself: what do desert trout eat? I tied on a small stimulator and on the first drift I had three fish inspect my fly...were these the fish I was in search of? Another drift and this guy was brought to hand.

My first desert trout, a Lahontan cutthroat, and my 8th cutthroat species added to my life list.
I picked three or four more cutties from the trailhead pool before I moved on. I eventually switched over to my "bread and butter" rig of an EHC on top with an 18 BHPT dropper. I soon found out this set-up works everywhere!
I picked up numerous fish of multiple age classes.

When I got to a section of stream where the canyon choked down, I sat on the pool at the bottom of the canyon and picked out cuttie after cuttie. I probably landed over ten fish from this pool - and missed nearly as many...typical cutthroat fishing.
The last little Lahontan from this pool had an unusual dark color to him.

The DOW agent informed me to be very careful when working along the stream banks as it was nearing snake season. With this warning and no easy way to move on up the canyon, I decided to call it a day. I had completed my goal, with several Lahontans landed, and I had another adventure ahead of me with the drive out.
I stopped and worked the trailhead pool one more time and picked up a couple more beautiful cutties before calling it a day.

After an hour plus ride back out to the hardtop; it was on to Bishop, California in search of the Bristlecone pine tree called Methuselah...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Elkhorn Cleanup 2010

It would have been a 6-hour drive from my new location to this event; luckily I had business in WV the two days prior to the event. Either way I don't plan on missing this event anytime in the coming years. This is one of the best TU events going as far as the comaraderie of the weekend goes.
As with 2009, I was able to hit some brookie water on the way down.

I fished this small stream during Thanksgiving weekend, 2009. This is what it looked like last time I was on this stream:
I had a new fishing partner on this visit and the fishing was still very slow. In a couple of hours of fishing I brought one brookie to hand and missed another small fish - he gave me a couple of opportunities.

The one brookie was all I had to show but it was another new stream to add to my personal list.

The following day was the cleanup and the numbers for 2010 were about half that of 2009.
I helped clean a new section of stream this year and we could have used the numbers from the previous year, as you can tell by the before and after photos.




Following the work we all gathered back at the Ashland Company Store to exchange stories of rare finds. During my work that morning I discovered the area "rich" in sports. Among the items I picked up were: a baseball, football, multiple basketballs, soccer ball, and a boxing glove. I believe the winner of the rare find went to the individual that found a parking meter.

After a nice fried chicken lunch, it was time to hit the water. Over the last three years, I believe this is the only stream I've fished not in search of native salmonids. The closest brookie water is over an hour away, across the state line, in Virginia. What this stream does hold is some of the nicest colored 100% wild rainbows and browns...and on this day I caught plenty of both.

The blood-red adipose fins on the wild browns are amazing!

After a nice day of fishing, I finished off the day with a great surprise. I was dredging a woolybugger through a deep hole when I felt a tug on the swing. Much to my surprise, and my partner's surprise, I landed this guy.

My fishing partner has been fishing this stream for over 15 years and has never caught a brookie. I'm not sure where the closest stocked water is or if a "bucket biologist" has tried to introduce brookies, but I do know there are currently ZERO "natives" in these coal-country waters.
I have since received reports of others catching brookies in this stream and the possibility of brookies in one of the tribs, of the tribs...so who knows??