Sunday, June 26, 2011

West Virginia Brookie Bum Adventure - Part 3

With the backcountry adventure cut short and behind me, it was time to do some exploring. The only thing better than finding a new gem is sharing one of your finds with good friends and that is where I found myself on day six.

After having an outstanding day on Sunday on a new brookie stream and finding the browns out to play below the forks, I had to share it with a couple of good friends. This day would be a bit different as we would stop about a half-mile short of the forks in an attempt to coax some of those wild browns into coming out to play.

This section of stream is high gradient, boulder hopping, pocket water at it's finest. Can you spot my two fishing partners for the day?

Unfortunately, the water level had dropped about 6" in the previous four days and the brown trout were nowhere to be found. However, the brookies were more than happy to cooperate!

As we made our way to the forks, I let my partners do the majority of the fishing as I had already added this stream to my personal list a few days earlier. The drop in water level made stealth a little more important but didn't slow the brookies down at all.

Phil adding the left fork to his list.

Chris checking the box shortly thereafter....

...and then the double.

With a 3+ mile hike out we made it a short day, even though we fished past where I had gone earlier. The stream looked to be getting a little more gradient to it but we had done well.

On the way out Chris was able to do something I was unable to do on my prior trip to the forks - he caught a brookie out of the right fork. It was in the second pocket above where the right fork dumps in but it was still in the right fork. I may need to do a little more exploring on the right fork.

By Thursday we were already established in the USFS campground in preparation for the WVAngler campout weekend and the Middle Fork of the Williams Bucket Brigade scheduled for Saturday. That evening we spent a good amount of time hanging out with the other early arrivals for the weekend, talking fishing - these events are great for gaining important intel for future explorations.

Day seven would be a whirlwind, marathon day - hitting as many brookie streams as possible in two different watersheds. We would start at the top of the North Fork, stopping only long enough for each of us to catch a brookie; then repeating the same as we drove up the South Fork. This section of the report will be as fast and furious as our fishin was for the day.

New stream #1:

New stream #2 and trib of stream #1:

We both struck out on stream #3 - many streams in these two watersheds are highly acidic and many of them have limestone fines dumps on them. We both proclaimed this stream "dead".

Stream #4:

We both struck out on stream #5, so it was on to stream #6:

The final trib we fished on the North Fork came with an asterisk - I mentally "starred" this stream as a need to fish it again when I can spend more time on it. Stream #7 - I caught these nice two brookies in back-to-back pools:

The summary for the North Fork was seven streams (all new to my personal list) and brook trout in five of them.

Next on the agenda was a repeat on the South Fork with the only difference being we would be driving up the South Fork - versus going down the drainage on the North Fork.

Stream #8:

Stream #9:

Stream #10:

Stream #11 was another asterisk stream and the biggest stream we fished on the day - it also gave up the largest brookie of the day:

The final stream of the day (#12) produced a brookie below the culvert, but nothing above the culvert or the road. My conclusion: the culvert was not "fish friendly" and the stream above the road appeared fishless.

What this stream did, however, produce was an amazing discovery - something you don't find unless you do a little exploring. As I watched Phil prospect a couple of nice pools, something caught my eye on upstream. What we discovered was an amazing 20' waterfall!

But with this beauty, there was also a "beast". Nearly the entire South Fork watershed is owned by an out-of-state paper/timber company. As beautiful as the waterfall was, this clear cut job was equally ugly!

With this we called it a day, we had real work to do the next day. The totals for the day: 12 different streams fished and brookies caught in 10 of them (all new to my list).

That evening in camp the remaining WVAnglers would arrive in camp and we would, again, exchange stories and intel. I picked up a couple of tips that I would follow-up on before the adventure was over.

Day eight started with the fourth annual Middle Fork of the Williams Bucket Brigade. I have blog entries for the previous two I had been part of, and when you think it can't get any bigger...

The first year (2008) there were just over 30 volunteers, in 2009 we had over 60, in 2010 we received partnership with Walmart and we had over 100 volunteers. Again this year we partnered with Walmart and we had over 120 volunteers. We were able to move over nine tons of limestone sand a quarter-mile into the Cranberry Wilderness Area, one 25 pound bucket at a time - and we did so through a very impressive thunderstorm that rolled across the mountain!

This is by far the single largest TU volunteer event in the state, and quite possibly anywhere in TU. This is even more impressive considering the physical labor involved.

Following the Bucket Brigade Phil had to return home, so it was soloing again in search of brookies. My plan was to follow-up on a tip I received in camp. It would be a short, 1.5-mile, flat, trail hike but when I got to the trailhead I checked out the map and thought I could cut this hike down by going through a public hunting area. Eight days of hiking, followed by the Bucket Brigade, was beginning to wear my body down so I was looking for any short cut I could manage.

The map showed the trail going completely to the public hunting grounds - I never found it!

I did, eventually, make it to water but what I found was a very low gradient stream. Had I not been told it contained brookies I would have passed it by as a fine chub stream. I did manage to pick up a couple of little guys when I found good moving water.

I continued to work my way upstream but the profile never changed, so I started fishing in and around the root balls. I missed a couple of brookies before landing this guy in the 10" range.

On dead legs with no trail, I didn't push it. I did manage to fish about a half-mile of stream, add another new stream to my personal list, and managed to have these "locals" walk up on me.

Back at camp there was many of West Virginia's finest home-made adult beverages to be consumed. There were many stories told, a guitar and a mandolin came out, and there was some good music to enjoy by the campfire. It's always a good time when the members of WVAngler get together!

I don't know what time I crawled in my tent but I was one of the first to awake - I had seven hours of driving ahead of me. I packed up my camp, said my goodbyes, and headed down the road. But before I called an end to Brookie Bum 2011, I had one more stop to make.

I added one more new (roadside) stream to the list to close out my adventure.

With the release of this final brookie, I called a closed to my West Virginia Brookie Bum Adventure. Some of my totals:
  • 24 streams fished
  • brookies caught in 20 streams
  • 15 new brookie streams added to my personal West Virginia list
  • and over 60 miles hiked
I can't wait until Brookie Bum 2012! I'm not sure where it will be but I do know Shenandoah National Park is a leading candidate.


1 comment:

Phil said...

Yeah man, SNP, SMNP, New Hampshire/Vermont/Maine. All good candidates. If we need to keep it short due to a Colorado trip, we can certainly make do with a canvassing of upper Shavers.