Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I Fish - Reason 2

On day two of my weekend I found myself solo, which I've found is sometimes best for what I had planned.

I know of only one or two other guys who enjoy "Reason 2" of why I fish. I'm a list guy, a bucket list guy, one who just likes to check streams off. I like to pick out a drainage on the topo and prospect it for brookies and I don't know many other folks who like to do that.

I've lost some of my records beyond 2009, but since then I've caught brook trout in 53 new streams (to me) in West Virginia. If I were to estimate the five years prior to 2009, I would say double that number...and I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of West Virginia's brook trout streams.

With that being said, when I left camp I had one (new) stream in mind, but within a couple of minutes I had changed my mind and decided to prospect the tribs of a nearby blue ribbon brookie stream. I plan to hit that original stream when I do some West Virginia trout bummin' the first week in June. This day I would hit one particular little trib that had been on my radar for a couple of years - and check off a couple more while I was in the neighborhood.

The first stream is about mile hike along a USFS road, past a handful of private camps, then another mile of bushwhacking along an abandoned trail. I say "abandoned" because I could see the blue spray paint trail markers on the trees, but there was no trail.

When I finally made it to the mouth, there were brookies rising everywhere in the junction pool. This was a good sign - however the main is top notch by itself.

I crossed the main stem and picked out the first likely looking pool and...add another stream to the list!

He was a sign of reproduction, which is always good. The next likely looking pool produced another age class.

This section of stream was a series of small runs and riffles but when I found a decent pool I landed the largest brookie from my short adventure on this new stream. This guy also appeared to be a third age class.

I landed one more for good measure and with the assurance this is a healthy brook trout stream, I headed back out toward the camps and another small stream I crossed on the way in.

 I mentioned the main stem is a blue ribbon brookie stream, so when I crossed the stream and saw a good looking pocket, I couldn't resist. I was on a tight timeline, but I can always make time for these guys! 

 I could fish this stream all day, every day, and be perfectly content - it's that good. I don't like to do that though. Remember, this is "Reason 2" as to why I fish.

The second little trib of the day was much smaller and the damage from Superstorm Sandy was still evident on this little stream. 

However, it didn't take me long to land another young-of-the-year brookie. 

The fishing was tight but I did manage to land another small brookie from the 2012 brood. Again, a good sign!

Check two streams off, with one to go.

I had waded across this last stream on previous trips, including this day, but had never taken the time to properly prospect it - today that would change.

Just as I had done on the previous two tribs, in short order I added a third stream to my list, and another small brookie.

I stepped up a couple of small runs and picked up my final brookie of the day, and another age class. The brook trout population is strong in this watershed.

I typically don't like staged photos, but when I saw this red-spotted newt perched on the edge of the moss-covered rock where I landed my last brookie, I couldn't help ,myself.

My brookie fly box, 000wt, and Mr. Eft.

In a short, 2-hour span I added three new streams to my list and re-enforced the second reason why I fish.

Reason 1: I fish for the camaraderie, I fish to share amazing places with good friends.

Reason 2: I fish to explore the unknown. Everyone likes a sure thing but there have been books written about "around the next bend". I'm an explorer, that's what I do!

In four days I leave for a week of West Virginia trout bummin'. I'm strapping on a pack and headed to the headwaters of another watershed that has been on my radar for quite some time. Who knows what I will find but one thing is for sure, it will be new water (for me)!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why I Fish - Reason 1

I recently took my annual trip for our local TU chapter campout. For the last five years, the Friday of this outing has been spent with my good friend and WVU professor, Rick.

The first two years of this (now) annual tradition was a 10-mile trek into the Seneca backcountry. The third year water was up so we didn't make the long hike, instead I showed him a couple of my other favorite waters. Then, last year, he decided he would rather fish one of those streams. It was hard to believe it had been three years since Rick and I had been in the backcountry.

This year, we found ourselves planning the Seneca backcountry trip again. This year we would shuttle a vehicle to the top of the backcountry, make our usual gruelling hike over Allegheny Mountain, then fish our way out the gentle grade trail to the top - avoiding the brutal hike out after fishing all day.

Also different this year, we would have a couple of friends joining us. One of these friends would be (Don)  an old college friend that I've only seen a few times over the last 25 years.

We were up early, took care of the shuttle vehicle at the top, and soon found ourselves heading up the mountain on Horton trail. It's been a long time since my college friend and I have actually just talked and the hike in was all conversation  - it was nice to catch up! However, things did get pretty quiet when we got near the crest of Allegheny Mountain, as the final quarter mile feels straight up.

More good conversation ensued on the downhill section of the trail and before we knew it we were unloading our packs and getting ready to hit the water. Don and Rick getting the day started:

I took the first good looking run, while the others spread out upstream. I always catch a nice rainbow or brookie here - not this day. Although I struck out in the first run, it didn't take long to land my first brookie of the day.

After I got the day started off right with a nice, little native brookie, I caught up to Don and he invited me to share a nice pod of rising rainbows.

Don landed a nice little rainbow, stepped to the side, and allowed me to do the same. The day was looking good early!

This day was going to be outstanding,sharing one of my favorite sections of stream (anywhere) with two good friends.

We had five miles of stream and trail to cover, and even with four of us "hop scotching", that's a lot of water to cover - so we moved fast. However, I couldn't pull myself away from probably my favorite spot in West Virginia - the upper falls of Seneca Creek.

I snapped off several photos of the falls, caught a few wild/native fish, then moved on to catch the crew. When I finally caught up with them, they were watching Rick's brother-in-law working a nice pool. He landed one of the nicer fish of the day, a beautiful Seneca wild rainbow.

Over the next few hours I took more photos on the stream than I have in years. I found myself watching my friends work the water as I trailed with the camera out.

I could help but wonder when the three of us would be on the water together again. Rick and I seem pretty committed to making our annual outing happen every year. I hope we can get Don out with us again in the future.

When I wasn't snapping off photos of Don and Rick in the same frame, I was taking shots of some amazing water.

I didn't only take photos, I did pretty well with the rod too!

When we got to Judy Springs, a primary source of Seneca Creek, I knew we had three miles to the trailhead. It was new territory for Rick and they took turns heckling me as I fished for a couple of risers below the foot bridge.

After I whiffed at a couple of strikes, we took Rick over to see the springs. It's one of the largest spring heads I know about in West Virginia.

This was all new territory for Rick and it's nice to introduce friends to the sites that you hold near and dear to your heart. I've personally only fished above the springs on one other occasion, so I was going to hit new water myself.

The fishing didn't slow down above the springs. I walked up on another pool of risers, and in back-to-back drifts I landed these two guys.

The rainbow was my largest of the day and he was very dark - his mouth was actually black.

Then I made a couple more drifts for good measure and landed another little brookie.

By this time of the day we were covering water quickly, with a couple of miles still remaining to the trailhead. I was nearly done for the day, just watching everyone else work the water.

I caught Don landing one in this nice pool. On the tail of a drift, he landed one as he was about to lift his fly for another cast. I told him it almost looked like an accident.

I picked a nice little run next to the trail and landed one more little rainbow on the day.

Nobody in the crew wanted to end this day but when the skies opened up, they all packed up their rods and prepared for the final hike out. We had another two miles to the trailhead but everyone had commitments they had to meet that evening - as we all do in life.

Once we got to the trailhead, it was time to just hang out and laugh at each other. The day seemed to fly by but we had actually been out for nearly ten hours. It was also nice to just sit around and talk. I enjoy that almost as much as the fishing - ALMOST.

Why do we fish?

One of the main reasons I fish is the camaraderie. I enjoy sharing the water and scenery of where we find wild and native salmonids with friends. I particularly like it when it is new scenery for my friends.

I hope I have many more outings with Don and Rick - and all of my other fishing friends!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Just Cleaning Up Around Here

After fishing western Maryland a couple of weeks earlier, I thought what better way to give back to a resource than to participate in a stream clean-up on the main branch. It's also a good (justified) excuse to go fishing again.

This trip would also be the first outing of the year for my son, Ross. He always looks for opportunities to get out on the water - even if there is a little bit of work to be done first. He also doesn't mind the 4:30 AM wake up call because he can sleep for the almost 3-hour car ride.

We met a couple of friends in Morgantown, then it was on to the river for the clean-up.

The Youghiogheny chapter of Trout Unlimited sponsors this clean-up every year. The turnout was low, but so was the trash - of course I'm comparing this to the Elkhorn clean-up.

After walking a few miles of road and maybe collecting a bag of trash (that's a good thing), Ross commented that, "compared to the Elkhorn clean-up, this is more like a scavenger hunt than a stream clean-up".

We had a nice lunch, provided by the hosting TU chapter, but I could tell Ross was getting anxious to hit the water. While our friends decided on a nearby delayed harvest stream, Ross and I decided to hit a new brookie stream.

We only took one rod in - I wanted Ross to do most of the catching!

I was wet wading and I could tell by the water temperature that they were still feeling the effects of the heavy snow two weeks earlier. I guess what I'm saying is the fish weren't cooperating for Ross.

I started him out on a dry fly, then switched him over to a small green woolybugger - both with no luck. I let him fish the first few runs by himself, then I grabbed the rod to give a nice pool a second go at it. I knew he wanted to get his hands on some fish!

Sure enough, we landed our first brookie of the day, and I let Ross release him.

We continued this operation as we worked our way upstream. I would let Ross work the pool over pretty good, then I would grab the rod and give it a try.

It worked out several times as we landed several nice brookies. Ross seemed alright with this - he enjoys handling the fish and releasing them.
We fished as late as we could, keeping in mind it was a Sunday, we had a 3+ hour ride home, and Ross had school the next day. 
He was very patient but I could tell he was disappointed he hadn't landed any by himself when I told him we had to start the hike out. I did tell him we would hit a few more pools on the way out and we did.
The first nice run I spotted, we stopped to check it out. I spotted a nice brookie feeding actively in the tailout and while I found him, Ross spotted another one on up in the pool - and he didn't have the benefit of polarized sunglasses. I was impressed!
I put on a dry/dropper rig and let him try for the first fish in the tailout. The fly line got caught on some woody debris and put the fish down, so he moved on up the run.
His first drift through the run and he hooked his first brookie of the day/year! With the excitement of Ross landing his first brookie of the year, I didn't get any photos.
This was also Ross' first Maryland brookie - to go along with West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He's only a few states behind me but I have a few years on him.
I look forward to returning to this clean-up next year and Ross made a recommendation for next year. He wanted to know if we could clean up along this stream, which is maintained behind locked gates at both ends. The TU chapter is looking into it!
So, with this clean-up on Sunday, I also had the annual Elkhorn clean-up the following Saturday. I was tired of driving (which doesn't happen often) but I owed it to my mentor and friend who recently passed and was the coordinator of this event.
I was on the road at 4:30 AM again but this time I didn't even pack a rod. We knocked out the clean-up in no time. I heard comments that things are starting to look up in the area - but it's all relative. In the same amount of time we filled maybe a truck bed full of trash on the Savage we filled up 2-3 roll-off dumpsters on the Elkhorn. We also had many more volunteers on Elkhorn - a true reflection on a great man. Ernie Nester will be missed!

 I had a nice lunch, chatted fishing and fishing trips with some good friends, then it was on the road for the 4-hour ride home.