Sunday, July 21, 2013

West Virginia Trout Bummin - Rain, Rain, Rain

The final leg of my West Virginia Trout Bummin Adventure would conclude on the upper Williams watershed in a USFS campground.

After finishing up my first leg, I made a short stop on a trib of the Slatyfork section of the Elk. I had fished this stream (stream #11) a few years earlier and landed several small brookies. I had since received reports of wild rainbows in this stream and I had t find out for myself.

I made the short hike in during the heat of the day but I knew this little trib had a good canopy, so I wasn't concerned about the high mid-day sun.

This stream was as I remembered it but it had been hit hard by the heavy snow of Superstorm Sandy - there were downed trees everywhere. However, it didn't affect the brookies, as I caught brookies of a couple of different age classes.

I didn't catch any wild rainbows, but it was nice to see the brookies still doing well.

From here it was on to the USFS campground and as opposed to another freeze-dried dinner, I drove into town and had a nice hot meal at a local restaurant/hotel, then it was back to the tent - just in time for the rain.

This night the rain would not let up and my coffee would be prepared in the tent vestibule before throwing on the rain gear and heading out.

I had three tribs on the upper Williams on my list for this day - the last three tribs on the main Williams.

The first trib (stream #12) was slightly off-color, which brought out the wild browns.

I also caught several brookies out of this trib but with the rain I  didn't take the camera out. I like to have digital proof of my catches when I'm exploring, but not at the risk of my camera.
After fishing the first trib for a short distance, I headed back down to the mouth for the hike upstream to the two tribs that make up the Williams proper.
It had been raining all  night and all morning, so by the time I made it to the junction the two tribs were chocolate milk!
You can see the current from the second trib coming in on the right - the beginning of the Williams River.
I was surprised that the upper Williams, and the two headwater tribs were meadow streams - I didn't imagine that when I planned this trip.
I did fish up the trib to the right (stream #13) but it was no use fishing in the heavily stained water, I will be back when conditions are better.
After a wet hike out, it was back downstream for lunch. The rain held up long enough for lunch, the it was back on to stay. Another freeze-dried dinner but this evening I would have company with a friend from Morgantown who was also in camp for the Bucket Brigade. I stayed up past sunset this day but it was another early the rain again!
I had a couple of streams downstream on my list for this day. I made the short drive downstream and the ran seemed to let off - until I parked. When I grabbed my rod, I also had to grab my rain jacket again.
I had to wade across the main Williams to get to the first trib, but it was worth it. This trib (stream #14) would be the most beautiful of the trip - even in the rain. It was very high gradient and lined with rhododendron.
It also contained brookies! You can tell by the darkness of the photo how dark it was on this stream, between the dark skies and the heavy rhododendron, it felt like I was fishing at twilight.
There were a couple of nicer brookies landed in the plunge pools.
I had to leave the stream a couple of times to navigate upstream. When I had to make a decision at another impassable section, I decided to call it quits on this stream.
From here I drove further downstream with two more tribs on my list. By the time I reached my next destination it was raining much harder, but I was here to fish.
I wandered through the woods trying to find a trail while navigating with my GPS in the driving rain, when I glanced down and saw the screen fading on my GPS, I decided I had had enough. There will be other times to explore and I had to protect my gear - I never leave the vehicle without my GPS and the accompanying SPOT emergency satellite communicator.
I drove back to camp, grabbed some clothing and headed into town for a (dry) motel. First stop though was the local grocery store for a bag of white rice to dry my GPS unit.
I met up with some good friends at the hotel and it was nice to sleep without the sound of rain on the tent.
The next morning it was back to the campground to break camp for the end of my adventure. It started raining again as I started breaking down my tent - quite fitting for the final leg of my West Virginia Trout Bummin Adventure.
The rains did stop in time for the annual Bucket Brigade, which was another successful year. We had over 100 volunteers, more than half were Walmart employees. We moved another 6-7 tons of limestone sand into the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Williams. I didn't stick around long enough for a group photo, I had to be back in town to pick somebody up at the airport...but as I drove down the road I mentally summarized my adventure.
Five watersheds, 14 streams, brook trout in 11 streams (10 new), rainbows in four streams (all new), and brown trout in two streams (both new). That's quite an adventure!

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