Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day Trippin'

When people ask me why I don't like Kentucky or why I want to return home to West Virginia, my answer is always the same: "It's a long ways from a wild trout stream".

One of the things I miss most about West Virginia (other than family and friends) is the fact that I can take off early in the AM, fish all day, then return home the same day - a day trip. This particular weekend I would find myself home in West Virginia again, so I made plans for my first day trip in quite some time.

I would be fishing with a former co-worker who I taught to fly fish three years earlier. I fished with him two years ago where I taught him to fish a dry/dropper rig but, with my transfer, last year we weren't able to hook up. We were also supposed to connect while I was camped out for the WVAngler campout earlier in the month. He drove within 20 feet of where I was sitting in the campground but I did not see him and he went on to another nearby campground. We shored things up for this day and at 4:00 AM I met him at our typical rendezvous location.

Three hours later we were rigging up our rods on the upper end of my favorite limestone fines brookie stream. He had never fished it but I had been on it exactly three weeks earlier as I started my 9-day brookie bum adventure. This was the last weekend in June, which last time I checked was still in the season of summer, but when we stepped out of the vehicle the thermometer read 54 degrees....still summer, correct?

From where we parked we had two options: upstream through a small canyon or downstream and fish back to the vehicle. If you choose the small canyon you are committed to a good 4-5 hour adventure, otherwise you will find yourself scrambling up a VERY steep hillside.

I've never been in a hurry to get started on this stream because it typically doesn't "wake up" until mid-morning. This was not the case on this day, it was lights out from the time we hit the water! The only problem was it was overcast and dark under the heavy canopy. I had to use the flash for some of the photos - I prefer natural lighting for taking photos of brookies.

The first of many fish on the day, from one of the first pools.

Shortly after this first photo a small rain shower started and I was forced to put away my DSLR and break out the waterproof video camera. The low light conditions remained and I was still forced to use the flash on the smaller camera. This little camera is functional in a pinch for still photography but I don't think the DSLR will even do these brookies justice. That's another reason I love this stream, the brookies hold their color year-round.

Not that I count, but I've always had better numbers on the upper end, but nothing like this day. Between the two of us, we were catching brookies in every likely spot.

Like I said, I'm not a numbers guy, and I am usually quickly satisfied to know the brookies are doing well. As was the case this day and I soon found myself watching how my pupil from three years earlier had developed into quite the fly fisherman.

I watched how well he managed his line and his drift - I was quite impressed! That is one of the things I tried to stress early on: stealth and distance is secondary to a good drift. I've caught more fish within a few, short feet of my own feet than I could even begin to count, all by minding my line and drift.

I watched him land fish after fish and I was quite content with this but he insisted I share the pockets with him - there were plenty of brookies to go around.

We soon found our self within sight of the vehicle and the rain had stopped, so I was able to put away the rain jacket and break out the DSLR again.

Just before I stepped out of the stream I saw one more good looking pocket against the bank. Sure enough, there was a good brookie in the small pocket - not much of a photo (he did have a head on him). This photo reminds me of some of those old family album photos where your mom or your aunt cuts off somebody's head. Everybody has one of those somewhere.

As I leaned my rod against the truck, I stood high above my partner and watched him pull one more brookie out of this nice, deep pool.

After a tailgate lunch we made the decision to off the mountain toward the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area and another new stream for him. I had fished this stream briefly one snowy, October day in 2009 and not again since.

This stream is another limestone fines brookie stream that, up until October of 2009, I thought was dead. We fished through the camps and we didn't pick up anything of any size until we got above the camps. What we did catch though had a very unique hue to them. For some unknown reason this stream has a yellow tint to it. The first stream had a "tea-colored tint" and I joked that this stream had a "lemon aide-colored" tint.

The brookies have apparently adapted to the stream and have developed a yellow tint to them. I joked that this is what happens when brookies and golden trout breed.

As I mentioned, once we got above the camps we started picking up some nicer brookies - with the unusual yellow tint on them.

My partner's tail-out brookie:

This nice brookie came out of a nice pool that my partner had already landed one from the tail-out.

The fishing on this stream was just as good as the stream we fished earlier in the day. Every likely looking pocket/pool produced one of these guys.

As I sat at this small pool waiting on my partner to tie on another fly, I took this shot that shows the unusual color of the stream.

We fished about a half-mile of stream before deciding it was time to call it a day. This would be my last fish of the day and really shows yellow hues of the brookies in this stream.

For some unknown reason this guy was in no hurry to return to his home, so I snapped off a few shots of him saying goodbye.

The fishing was good all day, considering this time the previous year all of these waters were near bone-dry. What a difference a year makes!

We stopped by another stream while taking the long way home. My partner missed a couple of brookies in the short, fifty yards or so, of stream we fished. It was hard to put a damper on this day.

On the way home we talked about going to Colorado and Wyoming. He said he hated to waste money by going out there and not being able to catch any fish. I re-assured him that the way he fished that day he would have no problem catching fish out west.

I got a text from him yesterday - he had just purchased his Colorado fishing license for his first trip to the Rockies. Another success from the day trip: a new partner for my trip out west.