Monday, January 17, 2011

Showmhowtzdun - From Aug. 2009

     Ahh, here it is. The long awaited summer vacation of yet another year in high school. What's it been, another 17 years as a freshman? Teacher, that is. One would have thought that doing it once in 1973 was enough. So this summer I had plans, you know. To fish different places and to try some new techniques. I had this compelling notion that I had to make up for last summer's fishless season due to my winter fishing acrobatics that left me with a summer of physical therapy. But anyhow.....

     So the first day of vacation begins and what do I do? I start some home projects. If Bill Engvall was around he would have said, "Here's your sign, Mary". Yeah, not a smooth move (more like dumb ass) as the home projects seriously cut into my fishing plans. I am not sure how painting the kitchen morphed into peeling wallpaper from two rooms, priming, painting, new baseboards, etc. etc. but it did. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, although right at the moment I can't think of any. Must have been all the fumes I was breathin' as a result of having had the floors refinished at the same time.

     I eventually get enough of the work done that I did head out on a road trip to North Carolina to visit son #2, AKA Sam (the best and most awesome, of course). Thanks, Sam for proofreading!!

     After two days of driving I arrived in Winston-Salem. Sam had asked one of his co-workers where he should drive Miss Daisy to for some fishing. Seems that in this area of N.C. trout fishin' takes second place to bass fishin' and one of the closest places from here is up in Virginia. At this point, I didn't mind what we went fishin' fer so long as I got into some water and pulled up some fish.

     Saturday morning dawned partly cloudy and rather humid, just like New England this summer, but we set off for the New River up by Fries, Virginia. This section of the New River is approximately two hours from Winston-Salem. We googled up directions from Map Quest and found the "shortest route" or what I now refer to as the road from hell. The start of the trip was rather routine on highway 52 N but the roads gradually narrowed and the trees began to close in. Eventually we ended up looking for Pipers Gap and driving on a "road" that was barely wide enough for one vehicle, never mind our car meeting up with Bubba's truck barreling down the opposite direction with all the ease and skill of a wanna be NASCAR Champion. It was a beautiful drive, as drives go with views from behind eyelids that were squeezed tight as I sat in the passenger side of the car. The only thing that made the drive up to the river worse was knowing that we would have to go down the same way!

     But I did manage to take in the scenery of deep dark forests that met the edge of the road. I have never seen forests so thick with oaks, maples, rhododendron and various other greenery. At one point we saw a doe and her fawns romping through one of the few open fields and barely missed a woodchuck as it tried to commit suicide in front of us. But the road from hell had frequent hairpin curves that Sam seemed to relish driving faster than my comfort level. I do believe he saw his window of opportunity to get back at mom for keeping his room clean! Either that or I have really turned into Miss Daisy.....nahh, that can't be it.

     We eventually did find the river with the sound of banjos playing in the background. Two of 'em, to be exact. To really fish this stretch of the river you should have a canoe or kayak. Since we had neither we searched along the road for "easy access". Weren't none to be found until we headed to Fries and found a very easy access point, complete with parking lot and port-o-potty. Fishin' heaven!!

     At first blush the New reminded me of the Housatonic on a late July day. Extremely wide and on this day a slow flow rate. There was a dam upriver but the flow was over the top which kept the temperatures of the water fairly warm. There were stretches of nice pocket waters as well as gentle pools that drifted slowly downriver. There were geese hanging around and green forested mountains surrounded the area.

     We parked the car and got ready to fish. It was warm so I decided to wet wade. Since Sam doesn't fish he offered to pack the couple of fly boxes along and off we went.

     First, we headed off downriver and around a small island. My goal was to fish under the trees and brush as the sun was high up at this time with the occasional cloud moving through. The wind was a constant but not too strong presence. At one thigh deep pool that was under a very old oak tree I was rewarded with one fish on and then immediately off. After several hours it was time for lunch at one of the picnic tables along the river. As I was walking to the table I noticed that the parking lot was full of pick up trucks and that there were now more guys out in the river than when I started. As I was enjoying the scenery I heard someone say, "Showmhowtzdun".

     It sounded just like that. One word all drawn out and my brain going, "Huh?".

     "Pardon, what did you say?" I asked and when he repeated himself I was able to listen closely and hear him say, "Show them how it's done."

     I just laughed because from what I could see I had shown them how it was done because I was not the only one getting skunked by the fish.

     After lunch I fished for a couple more hours. NOTHING. I tossed muddlers, a variety of buggers, hoppers, ants and beetles. I even let Sam pick out some flies just for the heck of it so he handed me some leeches. I was starting to think that the budding cumulus cloud build up and increasing wind had something to do with the lack of fish. Sam's co-worker had warned me that the fishin' lately had been tough. He was right.

     We did our drive back down the mountain only this time without meeting any other vehicles coming up. Whew! Thank goodness.
However, Sam went into his comedy routine of , "Look Ma, no hands!" while rarely applying the breaks along the Road From Hell Drive #2. As we arrived back home we heard that there were flash flood warnings for the same area of the river we had left. Seems those cumulus clouds budded into something big and along with severe thunderstorms there were also tornado warnings posted. Yup, the fishin' was tough but I definitely think those bass new something more was up.

Dan River, Virginia

Dan River, Virginia

New River, Virginia

New River, Virgina

Go figure

     I finally had the chance today to get out to the river for some practice on my two handed Skagit casting with my 12' 6", 5/6 wt. Deer Creek. It seemed like forever since I was last out, but when I actually thought about it it was just two weeks ago. Go figure.  But I really do love this new type of fly fishing and I am determined to do it right.
     So off I headed with the temperature only in the teens; 18F according to the car thermometer. I picked one of my favorite spots on the Farmington River that is just above Riverton, got out of the car, geared up and headed out. I found a spot that had no footprints leading down to the water.

     So I headed down the gentle slope through the recent snowfall from last week to a spot that I determined would have room for me to "swing" flies. I tried to find some spots where I would catch some sun puddles in the river but at that temperature it didn't really make a difference.

     I had a couple of hand warmers in my pocket, my turtle fur pulled up over my head and my fleece jacket zipped all the way up. No doubt it was cold.  I could hear the chickadees, sparrows and many other small birds all in symphony around me. I was amazed that no matter how hard I tried to look I couldn't see them, yet I could hear them. Go figure.
     I finally settled on one spot and took out some line at the same time feeling the cold of the water through my waders and all the layers of fleece I had on. I picked a spot on the opposite bank as my target and started casting. The first couple of casts weren't so great, but after a spell I was getting better. It seems that each time I head out to practice I spend less time getting the rust off my casts and more time with improving and having better casts. I was able to work a couple of different casts keeping in mind river right and river left (how you stand to the flow of the river determines how you cast). I was working hard at slowing things down, watching the anchor and not letting my D-loop fall flat. There is so much to Skagit casting that it can boggle the mind, however, I am trying to get to the point with my casting where I am not as methodical as I currently am. Not that that is bad, mind you, but I just want to be able to cast and flow as I work down the river. I want it to feel more natural.
    At one point I noticed a rock that had a bush with branches overhanging the river. Then I remembered my first time at this pool on a warm summer day. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, perhaps it was the handwarmers in my pockets, perhaps it was just the peace that I find on the river. Either way, my thoughts drifted back to a summer day about 8 years ago.
     On that particular day I had dared to venture out to the river alone. It was a big step for me and I couldn't really tell you why.  But there I was, with my 8'6" 5wt. Loomis with an X-wing caddis tied. I really had no clue as to what I was doing, I had not taken any casting lessons, hadn't read a book about it.  Nothing. But I could see that there was a fish that kept rising right over by that very same rock and bush and I was doing my darndest to get that fly over to it. So I remembered how my son would cast and tried replicating what he did.
     I did have one slight problem - and this is the God's honest truth. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do if that fish did take my fly!  Part of me wanted so much to land a fish while at the same time part of me was thinking, "You have got to be kidding. Just how are you going to get it off the hook?"
     Undaunted, I kept casting and casting to the rise. He must have seen my fly pass over his head so many times that I am sure he was bored with my antics. So I was feeling pretty confident that as time went by I had less and less of a chance of hooking him which meant less and less of a chance of having to get him off the hook.
     So I was happy as a fool,  casting to the fish, feeling the sun on my back when all of a sudden "it" happened. That dang fish took my fly.
     Go figure!!
     What happened next? Well, I remembered  what my son did when he landed some fish in the very same spot. Keeping in my what Brian did I reeled him on in right up to me and next to my leg. I then made a quick look around to make sure no one was watching the show and then I gently reached down and jiggled the hook out of his lip.    
     Once he was off he darted right back to his spot and I thought to myself, "Gee. What was all the worry about? That seemed easy enough."
     The rest is history, which brings me back to today. Today I was out two handed casting which is something I never thought I would have done. I have fished the Madison, Ruby and Yellowstone Rivers. I landed numerous rainbows in Clark Canyon Reservoir. I fished a couple of rivers in North Carolina and Virginia. Yes, I am lucky that my sons live near these rivers so when I get a chance to visit them I can also fish. I also have the Farmington right here in Connecticut and not too far away are my beloved steelhead in the Salmon River. I just love it.
     Go figure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day Fun

I had the most wonderful day today. Snow was falling, wind was blowing and there was no school. In between shoveling the snow and drinking hot cocoa I managed to put together some flies. Nothing better than listening to Little Feat and the like while relaxing.

This fly box will be filled for the CFFA banquet raffle in Feb. Then I can start on my own flies for the upcoming season.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

December cold, steelies and solitude on the river

My much anticipated three day December trip to the Salmon River in Pulaski, N.Y. was the coldest temperatures I have fished in yet. I packed up as soon as Christmas dinner was over. My suitcase was jammed with multiple fleece tops and bottoms, windstopper gloves, wool socks and I don't know how many packages of body warmers, toe warmers and hand warmers I also stuffed in there. Needless to say, I was well prepared.

Which was just as good since Monday morning dawned bright and early with a 10F temperature at the start of my guided adventure. Once again I had Loren Williams from as a guide. Before heading out from Whitakers, Loren suggested I rent a pair of their Orvis boot waders which he believed would be better at keeping my feet warm. I am grateful that I followed his suggestion. I used those waders for the three days and not once did my feet get cold. So with all my fleece layers and my new Techwick base layer and my new 300 fleece jacket not only was I warm, but I swear I looked like a giant marshmallow! And there were times when I hiked along to another fishing spot when I did break out into a sweat. Any way I look at it, I was having a blast.

It was so cold that I could get maybe two or three casts before there was too much ice in my guides! Forget Stanley's Ice Off Paste, it was just too darn cold. It was so cold that I had ice form up on my waders which I didn't know about until I went to take a big step downriver. As I stretched out to move I heard a sound that was something similar to a rip. I looked down to see what on Earth was going on with my waders when I saw the ice. There must have been almost a half inch of ice that had circled each leg and then froze them together. Wicked! When I took my step I was actually breaking apart the ice. Now that was something I had not experienced before. Still makes me laugh now when I think about it.
We had some sun early on but the clouds soon moved on in along with some wind. I don't think it got much warmer than 20F but all I needed was to land a steelie to get my heart pumping and I warmed right up. The solitude of the first day was a blessing. It is a comfort to look about me while swinging flies, enjoying the beauty of the river and simply relaxing while waiting for the rip.

The first rip of the day happened that afternoon. We had moved to another spot on the river and had been there for maybe an hour when it happened. This hen took the fly right as it hit the water on the opposite bank and she gave a brief but entertaining fight. It was especially entertaining when I started to reel her in and my reel "froze". I wasn't too surprised because it was sooooo cold but when I looked down what I saw stopped my heart. Somehow the line had wrapped around reel which made me think it was frozen. Lucky for me Loren was unable to untangle the **#!@ mess and I was able to land her and take a couple of pics.

That was the fish for the day and by 4:00 (yes, I made it the entire day) I was ready for a warm room, dinner and company. I had a great dinner at Eddy's with Paul and Sue, fellow members. They were also up for a couple of days fishing for steelies. We had a great dinner along with the usual fish stories. What was really neat for me was to meet another gal who loves these fish as much as I.

Tuesday was another 8:30 am start and this time the temperature was a balmy 15F. I think it might have warmed up to 25F that day although cold is cold. And oh yeah, the wind had picked up.

Not only had the wind picked up but there was shelf ice and anchor ice and ice chunks floating down the river. I was still having a blast though. I was snugged up again in all my layers and waiting, just waiting for a grab a pluck or preferably another rip.

That morning I was lucky to land a beautiful rainbow and I marveled at the beautiful maroon stripe along her side. She had a different fight than the steelies. It was more like pulling in your line when you have snagged a tree limb in the water. Not to many swings after that I was stripping in line when the water boiled right where the fly was. Could it be? Man, it looked like a big fish. With a prayer I sent the line back out and waited, watied and then...shazam! Another rip. This guy set me up for a good fight. With rod bent he came in went out and repeated his dance until Loren got the net close enough to git him. However, the fish took one look at the net and headed right back out! So there I am, dancing in the river with a steelie who literally did circles around me until he decided he had had enough. That was, without a doubt, the best fight with a steelie I have ever had. It was a leg shaking, knee knocking heart thumping and legal high I will never forget.

On Wednesday we started earlier and hit the water by 7:30am. It was warmer in that I think the temperature was closer to 25F and may have it 30F before we fished. The wind was also absent. My God, it was almost warm enough to wet wade!! I had another fun fight with the most beautiful hen steelie (no picture) that took the fly just as it finished the swing. I had on and lost - GROAN - a fairly big brown trout as well. Oh well, the heart still got thumping but what a bummer to have lost that one. We ran into a few more anglers but all in all the river was never too crowded.

So all in all it was one of the best trips yet. I love my new Deer Creek 5-6 wt.You can feel each and every head shake and tail whip the fish can make. That along with swinging flies is, in my humble opinion, the best way to fish for steelies.

December cold, steelies and solitude on the river. Already I am looking forward to another Dec. 2011 trip but why wait till then? I am actually thinking of heading back up in Feb. which is a hell of a lot closer than 11 months!!

Here are some more pics from the trip.