Sunday, July 21, 2013

West Virginia Trout Bummin - Back to the Beginning

I had planned to hit a few more tribs while using Spruce as a base camp, but with the water/fuel issue, I had to change my plans.

A short distance below Spruce is where the remediation work begins. There was quite a bit of heavy work completed in the main stem but a couple of the tribs had some heavy work done too. This was quite an impressive fish ladder and a fish-friendly culvert.

The next stream on my agenda (stream #6) was approximately two mile below Spruce. I stashed my backpack and went in search of the mouth of this trib. It was not easy to find - the stream didn't register on my GPS so I had to follow the topo lines to find it.

I found the mouth and shortly thereafter I had added another brookie trib to the trip.

The brookies would eventually get bigger, but not much. Maybe the bigger brookies were in the main stem??
I didn't catch any brookies of size but I did land another wild rainbow.
I fished a little further upstream than I had planned - after the little rainbow, I was hoping for another WV slam in this stream. I didn't land a brown but I did land the biggest brookie from this beautiful little tributary.
Once back on the tracks with my pack strapped on, I passed several man-made structures that will hopefully enhance the main stem fishery.
Just above this structure, I saw "people" for the first time in a couple of days. With the work done on the stream, the WVU fishery students were doing an electro-shocking survey. This section of the watershed has probably had the most data collected than any other trout stream in the state.
With the thought that this watershed is only going to improve, what a feeling that is! A main stem that could potentially be a thermal refuge when the tribs start to dry up, that would be a huge improvement.
So, on to my adventure...the next trib (stream #7) holds a special place in my heart. This is where my obsession with brook trout started. I caught my first native West Virginia brook trout in this trib in 1999.
On that day, my partner and I easily landed triple digits between us! We returned four years later and found 4-wheeler tracks everywhere and a significant reduction in numbers. However, my partner did land a very nice little fat brown trout.
What would it be like now?
I stored my pack again and headed upstream from the mouth. Again, it didn't take long to get into the healthy brookies.
This is the largest of the tribs (stream #7) I would fish on this adventure and the average fish is larger too.
 I did recall a certain "bend hole" and anticipated reaching it. When I found that hole, it was just as I had remembered it in my head. I made a few good drifts through the tail of the hole, with nothing to show.
When I made a good drift through the head of the hole, I landed another nice fish. This guy bull-dogged me so I knew it wasn't a brookie. When I got him to hand, I was very happy to see a beautiful wild rainbow.
I fished a short distance upstream from the bend hole, when I ran out of water in my hydration bladder, I turned back. By this time it was approaching mid-day and I didn't want to be a couple of miles from fresh water in the heat.
I made it back to my backpack and followed the main stem a short distance back to the tracks. This was the first structure I saw when I hiked in two days earlier and it would be the last one I saw as I hiked out. It also meant I was only two miles from the vehicle and fresh water.
 I made it back to the vehicle but I was spitting dust by the time I made it. A fresh bottle of water hit the spot!
I had a couple more tribs on my list for this watershed so I set up camp for the night within sight of the vehicle. I would be "car camping" for the remainder of my trout bummin adventure.
I set up camp with this trib (stream #8) between the tent and the car....let's see what's in this trib. The first little pocket produced this little guy.
In a little larger pool, that appeared to be the stream crossing, and directly below my vehicle, I landed the largest brookie of the trip - with an opening in the canopy and the sun high overhead.
 I landed a few more brookies in this low gradient trib but they all appeared healthy. This stream will only get better as there was a massive amount of work put in where it goes under the railroad tracks. They had build an incredible fish-friendly culvert, which will reconnect this population back to the rest of the watershed.
Day 2 summary: brook trout in 3 streams (2 new) and wild rainbows in 2 new streams.
I had another freeze-dried dinner, another early evening and another early morning. The difference in this night was NO RAIN and I would find out later this would be the only night of the adventure with no rain.
I was up early, packed up camp, had my coffee and Clif bar, then headed back out the 11-mile road to hard top.
On the way out, I stopped at two culverts to explore two more tribs. Just as nearly all of the tribs had done so far, the first trib (stream #9) produced brookies in short order.
Although I was glad to see brookies in another trib, I never like to see brookie "snakes". It's never good to see a brookie with a disproportionately-sized head. 
I only fished the first trib a very short distance before heading back to the car and the second trib (stream #10) of the day. This trib was tannin-stained and higher gradient than any I had fished so far but it also produced brookies in short order.

I landed a couple of brookies before I came to what appeared to be an impenetrable wall of cascades and rhododendron.  missed a brookie in the pool but I did not miss the opportunity for a nice photo opportunity.
 From this stream, I would hit the asphalt and head for a USFS campground in preparation for the annual Bucket Brigade on the Middle Fork of the Williams River - an annual outing for me.
It was a great adventure for me on this watershed! I caught brookies in seven new streams, rainbows in three new, and I visited the stream where this personal obsession started 14 years earlier...what an adventure!

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