Thursday, June 16, 2011

West Virginia Brookie Bum Adventure - Part 1

Back in 2009 my friend Phil Smith (maker of my Vandalia Rodworks bamboo rod) hatched this idea of packing into a brookie stream for a few nights We decided to call it the Brookie Bum Adventure and after the first we decided to make it an annual event.

In 2010 Phil was building a house and I was in the process of transferring the family to Kentucky, so we had to call off the event. Earlier this year we made the decision we weren't going to let it slip by again. The decision was then - where and when? After talking with the head of the West Virginia limestone fines treatment program the decision was fairly easy - a stream in the Cranberry Wilderness Area that most people thought was dead.

I was going to extend my part of the adventure and do something I have never done before. I planned to spend an entire week vacationing/fishing in West Virginia. I have done several three or four-day weekends but I have never spent an entire week chasing brookies across the state. My vacation was nine days and started early on Saturday morning, on a stream I know very well, and later that day meet a friend from Virginia TU to show him the upper end of the very same stream.

This stream usually does not wake up until late morning, but that day was not the case.

Typically on the lower end a good day is double digits but this day I hit double digits in a couple of hours. They didn't have much size but they did make up for it in beauty - excuse the quality of the photos, I struggled with photo quality all week.

Following a great morning on a great stream I met my friend for lunch, then I took him to the upper end to show off one of TU's greatest success stories in the state.

This stream was dead twenty years ago and through the miracle of limestone fines, it is now thriving.

Streamside, we talked TU for a good while before hitting the stream. I also got to practice my field surgery skills as my friend stepped on his leader while holding a fly in his teeth....OUCH! To add insult to injury, as we were about to hit the stream a stranger came walking down the road and he had just fished the section of stream we planned to fish.

We were fishing behind somebody but my friend was very impressed with the ruggedness of the stream, which helps make stealth much easier.

He was able to pick up several small brookies on the short period of time we spent on stream.

I poked around in a few pockets and picked up a few little guys.

The bigger fish eluded us, but I blamed that on fishing behind somebody. This is one of the residents I caught in this stretch a couple years earlier.

My friend had a four-hour drive ahead of him, so we called it a day about 7:30 - just as the yellow sallies started coming off very heavy.

I told him next time we fish it would be on his "turf", which happens to be Shenandoah National Park. Brookie Bum Adventure 2012 perhaps??

I set up camp for the night along the USFS road heading to the stream and got up early the next morning to drive to my next destination.

I had fished the main branch of this trib but I had received a report a few weeks earlier that one of the forks also had brookies. This steam was also dead a few years ago but after limestone fines treatment started in 2005 the brookies have made their way back into the extreme headwaters.

The confluence of the forks was amazing, I wish I would have taken more photos! The right fork drops in with a series of small falls while the left fork drops in with a series of cascades...amazing!

The edge of where the left fork drops in.

After checking out the confluence, I decided to give the left fork the first shot. It didn't take long to start picking up little guys in every pocket. As I moved upstream I got into some higher gradient water and larger pools. Larger pools equals larger fish.

I picked up this guy in a likely ambush point, in dead water between two large boulders.

On upstream I picked up this nice brookie with amazingly blood-red pectoral and pelvic fins.

I caught brookies in every likely location and with the knowledge that the population was alive and well I backed out to try the other fork. Add new stream number one to my West Virginia adventure.

Once back to the confluence I gave the right fork a shot. The right fork is a beautiful little stream but another small trib further upstream drops low pH water into it pushing the overall pH to below levels that would support a healthy brookie population.

I fished and kicked around upstream a couple hundred yards and turned up no brookies. With this slight disappointment, I made the decision to hike down the main stem and fish back to the confluence.

The overnight rain had made the main stem very slightly off color. With the slight coloration I was pleasantly surprised that the resident brown trout population came out to play. I caught five or six of the little, cookie cutter browns.

Once back at the forks, I decided to take it all in. I climbed up on the large table rock that separates the two forks, took off my pack, used it as a pillow, and took a short nap.

When I woke, I pulled out some line, and picked up a small brookie my dapping over the edge of the table is good!

After the short three-mile hike out (GPS tracked 8.4 miles in total), I decided to have a little dinner at the trailhead picnic table. At 4:30 I thought my day was over, but that would not be the case. As I was leaving town Saturday morning, I sent an email to the head of the WV limestone fines program informing him where I would be for the weekend. Would you believe at all of the area he had to look for me he found me at the first stop?

His recommendation was either hike back into where I just came from or hit the stream we would perform the bucket brigade on six days later. I chose the latter, so at 6:30 PM we were hiking into the Cranberry Wilderness.

My partner caught one nice brookie, which I landed for him - note the watch, but it's his catch.

The fishing was slow but my partner made one amazing discovery!

For the first time in over 50 years we had brook trout young of the year in this stream - all thanks to the many volunteers who have made the bucket brigade a success!

We fished over a mile into the Wilderness Area and at 8:00 PM we were still headed in - it gets dark at 9:00 and I didn't have a light. Luckily, when I hike with this guy it is like chasing a mountain goat. The guy is a machine!

We made it out with just enough light to not need the light and it put me at nearly twelve miles of hiking for the day. By the time I made it back to my vehicle and to the trailhead where I was to start the second leg of my West Virginia adventure, it was too late to set up camp so I slept in the vehicle.

The next morning I would meet Phil with plans to pack into the Cranberry Wilderness for four be continued.


1 comment:

Dave B said...

Beautiful country out there Chris. Hope all is well.

Dave B