Saturday, May 28, 2011

And Sometimes it Rains!

April was one of the wettest months in history! In the Cincinnati metro area we were 3/4" of precipitation away from the all-time record...and it continued into May.

This weekend outing back home had multiple goals. It was the WVCTU Spring Council Meeting, the Blennerhassett Chapter Campout, the WVCTU Fly Fishing School, and my annual outing into the Seneca Backcountry with my WVU Professor friend.

It was one busy weekend and it started with a 4-hour drive to WV then, after waking at 3:15 AM, another 3-hour drive to the trailhead. Unfortunately, it had rained several days prior and was raining as I met my friend.

You can see from the USGS Water Gauge (normal flow of 300 CFS), we were 4X the normal flows!

As opposed to making the ~ 10-mile trek we chose to explore new water on the other side of the mountain. I had fished a number of streams in that area which my friend had not. The only thing better than exploring new water is sharing it with a good friend.

The first stream we stopped at has had major work done to it over the past few years, including tree plantings and livestock fencing in the headwaters. From the bridge crossing the stream has two very distinct profiles. Upstream it is a lower gradient stream, meandering through large hemlocks and open, high meadows.

This section of stream reminds me of Tonahutu Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park, just above Big Meadows. Both are equally beautiful!

Downstream from the bridge it takes an entirely different profile. It is a high gradient, plunge pool type stream that is my preference when chasing the natives. You'll have to excuse the quality of the photo, I was using my waterproof video camera...did I mention it was raining?

The water was moving pretty good and we managed to pick up a couple of small brookies (sorry no photos), so we decided to try another of my favorites in this major watershed.

We drove the short distance to the trailhead of another stream that originates in Virginia and flows through West Virginia before meeting up with the Potomac. By the time we made it to the trailhead it had stopped raining, but had the damage already been done?

Instead of hiking to where the trail meets the water, we barreled down over a steep embankment to the water and almost immediately started picking up fish. The water was up a bit and still moving pretty good but it did not prevent these small jewels from coming out to play.

Then magic struck! As we made it to this large, green pool the big boys decided to come out to play...on top!

I fished the tail out while my partner hit the head. I picked up two of these nice specimen (on top).

Then, as I was standing and watching, my partner picked up this big guy - probably pushing that 12" threshold.

We continued to pick up a few fish here and there as the water continued to rise from earlier storms. The sun also played peekaboo with us on and off and every time the sun would come out heavy hatches of yellow sallies would come off - what a great time to be on the water!

By the time we decided to call it a day, the water was up to the point the only place we could find to cross was crotch deep and ripping. It made for an interesting crossing with a DSLR camera around my neck, but I made it.

The other great thing about spring: the wildflowers are out and the critters are awakening. I found this Jack-in-the-Pulpit streamside.

This little guy also met us on the trail for the hike out.

He's a harmless black rat snake but I wouldn't recommend this trail in the heat of summer. It is one of the rockiest, snakiest trails I have ever been on and it's located in Timber Rattler Central!

Following a great evening with good friends around a campfire, day two included the State Council Meeting and the Fly Fishing School. The question was: where do I fish before the council meeting?

I had marked several tribs of the upper West Fork of the Greenbrier fr exploration, so today would be the day. I thought that with a couple of hours to fish I could hit a couple of them...until I actually made it on this first stream.

In the lower reaches the stream flows through a beautiful high meadow before transitioning into the hardwoods. Over 100 years ago this was home to a logging community and there are still remnants of this.

The recent rains seemed to have passed through this small stream already but I still only moved one fish in the meadow. Once I got into the section of stream with good canopy it was a different story.

Sometime since the logging had stopped, somebody had done some major instream work on this stream. There were standing K-dams, log dams, and log re-routing of the stream. The little brookies seemed to appreciate all of the hard work.

It's always good to see the little guys in the stream too.

The fishing was so good and seeing the amount of work done on this stream was amazing. Add another WV stream to my life list. Needless to say, I didn't make it to any other tribs before I had to head over the mountain to WV State Council...too much water, too little time.

I had been anticipating State Council for weeks now! Not for reasons you would expect, but because I would get the return of my Vandalia bamboo #003! I had broken the butt of this rod the previous summer while chasing (unsuccessfully) Paiute cutthroat on Silver King Creek. Phil Smith, the rodmaker, was replacing the reel seat with a piece of 2,000+ year-old bristlecone pine we had picked up during our 2008 Colorado Cuttslam trip.

Following State Council it was back across the mountain for a presentation at the WVCTU Fly Fishing School. What was my presentation? Travel planning and native species, of course.

It was another great evening with great friends around the campfire.

The next morning it was goodbyes to old friends and decision time again. Back to the headwaters of the WF of the Greenbrier? A couple of friends had fished another small trib the day before and recommended it and it was on my route home.

Once on the stream, it didn't take long for #003 to return to form....the return of #003!

As always, it's good to see the little guys in there.

With over seven hours of driving ahead of me, I spent only enough time on the stream to validate a healthy population of brookies. Add another stream to the WV life list, then it's Cincy bound.

Before I could make it to the hard top, I ran into one more of the natives. This grouse wanted to play chicken!

Although the rain put a damper on day one, it was a great weekend with great friends! I can't wait until my next trip "home", I'm going to do something I've wanted to do for years. I'm going to take a week of vacation and stay home in West Virginia - backpacking through the Cranberry Wilderness area.

Until next time...