Monday, March 25, 2013

The Passing of a Mentor and Friend

This is not an entry I want to make but I can't think of a better way to pay my respects to one of my Trout Unlimited mentors and a good friend.

I received an email yesterday informing me that my TU mentor and fishing friend Ernie Nester passed away after a short battle with cancer. Ernie was one of the founding fathers of West Virginia Trout Unlimited, he was the first state chairman and the first chapter president of the Kanawha Valley chapter. The Kanawha Valley Chapter was recently changed to the Ernie Nester Chapter of Trout Unlimited and he was affectionately referred to by many as "Johny Troutseed".

I referred to him as friend and mentor. If it were not for mentors like Ernie, I never would have accepted the position of state chairman or even NLC representative. I knew I could always count on Ernie to answer any concerns.

What I think I enjoyed even more than his support in TU were his fishing reports. I was lucky enough to be on Ernie's distribution list for his fishing reports. This was (to my knowledge) his last report from his beloved Middle Fork of the Williams:

On Sept. 7, 2012 I fished the very lower section of the Middle Fork of the Williams from 12:50 until 3:10. The water was very low and the Williams at Dyer was running about 70 cfs. The water temperature was 64 degrees at 1:15 and 66 degrees at 3:10. I moved 22 brook trout, hooked 5 of them, but only landed 1.

I will miss these reports and I will miss his leadership and direction at two TU events I attend every year. If you go back through my blog entries, you can find multiple entries for both the Elkhorn Cleanup and the Middle Fork of the Williams Bucket Brigade - both of which he coordinated. I don't fish Elkhorn except following the clean-up. I don't assist with the clean-up to give back to a resource that provides enjoyment for me, I do it purely out of respect for Ernie.

The stream I fished a couple of weeks ago, and my last blog entry, was the first stream I fished with Ernie in 2005. I thought of Ernie several times as I fished that day, remembering taking turns fishing holes - several of which remain unchanged.

I also had the pleasure to complete the Wyoming Cuttslam with him and Josh Parks in 2007. One of the memories of that trip was when we were fishing a brook trout stream in the Colorado River drainage. Josh and I were catching 6"-8" brookies for dinner when Ernie landed this 18" Snake River cutthroat.

A couple of days later we were fishing another stream in the Colorado River drainage. Again, while Josh and I were landing 6"-8" Colorado River cutthroat, Ernie landed another 18" fish!

I appreciated the lessons and Ernie even gave me a couple of his "gray" nymphs that he landed both fish on.

During the same trip, Ernie led us to a lake in Yellowstone (not Grebe) where I caught my first grayling.

I was eventually able to return the favor, putting Ernie on one of my favorite western streams on his last trip out west in August of 2012. He made the hike into Big Meadows on Tonahutu Creek in RMNP and he agreed that was indeed "brook trout heaven".

Also on his final trip west, I was able to direct him to greenbacks and Colorado River cutts in RMNP. He had caught greenbacks on a trip to RMNP in 2007 but it appears as though he caught his first greenback again.

Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado River Cutthroat

Ernie and his fishing partner put in 48 miles of hiking on that trip, hard to believe he was diagnosed with cancer a little over a month after that trip.

After receiving 12 reports from that trip, I suggested Ernie and I coordinate another trip out west together - I had a few more streams and species I wanted to share with him. His response to me was: "That is a nice thought, but I cannot keep up with you". I don't need to worry about him keeping up with me on my adventures now, HE WILL BE WITH ME EVERY STEP AND HE WILL BE WITH ME WITH EVERY NATIVE SALMONID I LAND.

Not knowing Ernie was early in his battle, I sent Ernie a report from my last trip of the year for 2012. He responded by requesting higher resolution photos of my brookies - which he did often when I sent him reports.

Trout Unlimited has lost a great advocate and I have lost a great friend/mentor. I look forward to the day when I can again join Ernie on brook trout heaven as I'm sure he is already there waiting.

I will miss you Ernie!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

This Crazy March Weather

After looking back on my blog entries for 2012, I noticed one thing: I did not fish nearly as much as I had in the previous few years.

I did, however, add a few items to my personal list:
  1. A new species in the Paiute cutthroat
  2. Eight new brookies streams in Virginia
  3. Only one new brookie stream in West Virginia
Looking forward to 2013, I have a few tentative plans on my radar.
  1. TU National meeting in Madison, Wisconsin: catch brookies in 4 new states (Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula). This will also be the 2013 edition of Brookiebum
  2. Backpacking trip in the Smokies in June, finishing up with the Bucket Brigade back in West Virginia.
  3. Another visit to the Smokies with my son at the end of July.
  4. I've also been invited to backpack into the headwaters of the North Fork of the Big Thompson in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  5. A visit back to the brookie streams of the Savage River drainage in western Maryland -haven't been there since 2004.
I also hope to get in a few more day trips to explore West Virginia's brookie streams, similar to this past weekend when the March weekend temperatures reached the upper 70s. Just five days prior to this day trip it was snowing and the mountain areas to the east received several inches.

Because of the snow and possibility of snow melt, I put off the decision to go or stay home as late as possible. I made the decision to go at 8:00 AM and by 9:00 I was on the road. By 11:30 I was parked and gearing up for my first outing since late October. The temperature had already climbed to above 60 degrees so I made the decision to leave the waders in the vehicle.

It was March 10 and I was wet wading! This March weather is crazy! Four days prior the mountains of WV received several inches of snow and three days after this trip it snowed again - crazy!

I tied on my usual cold water fly, a size 12 olive woolybugger, and in the first pool I caught my first brookie of 2013.

Being a little rusty from the long winter lay off, I soon lost the bugger in a nearby downed tree. I will say this:if this stream is any indication of the damage super storm Sandy left behind, the small stream fishing is going to be difficult! West Virginia received three feet of snow in some location, combine that with trees that had yet to drop leaves, and you have significant damage.

Enough excuses, I tied on my most popular set-up: a size 12-14 stimulator with a 16-18 bead head pheasant tail. Soon after re-rigging, I caught my first brookie on a dry fly for the year.

As the sun rose higher, the water temps raised a few degrees, and the top water action was outstanding - it is March, right?

I only landed one small brookie on the dropper, combine that with high numbers of downed trees, and I soon removed the dropper. I was fishing strictly a dry fly in early March, this was great!
This brookie stream is the closest to Parkersburg which makes it a great candidate for a quick road trip. However, it is NOT the most aesthetically pleasing stream as it happens to be the local "dump". The hillside is littered with tires, appliances, and general landfill material. If you keep your eyes focused on the water, it's just like any other brookie stream, except for the washer/dryer hole.
I landed brookies both above and below the log jam at the washer/dryer hole.
 A nice brookie from above the log jam.

As I moved up stream, I could feel the water warming and the dry fly action rose with the temperatures.

Having told people I would be home by 5:00, I soon found myself looking for a good pool to call it a day. I didn't find a good pool but this next brookie made for a great ending to a quick road trip. A very nice brookie in the 8-10" range.
There was much more good looking water ahead of me but if I was going to be home on time, I had to pull myself away from the stream.
On the short hike out, I heard another sign of spring. The sound of mating amphibians filled the air. I wish I could remember back to my vertebrate zoology classes in college and the distinct sounds of each species. I believe these may have been wood frogs and the puddles were filled with both frog and eggs. As I neared the puddles the frogs headed for the woodlands but their eggs filled the small pools.
 I look forward to 2013, just like I do every year, and I hope this crazy March weather holds out for my next planned trip. If the weather holds, I plan to be somewhere on a stream on Good Friday - possibly my first trip to western Maryland in eight years.