Friday, September 18, 2009

'Spiders & Snakes' on Young Woman's Cr.

‘Spiders and Snakes’ on Young Woman's Cr.
May 2009
When I pulled into the camping area facing Young Womans Creek I forgot about the delay on I80 that made my arrival later than I expected. I forgot about wondering why the radio went dead half way up to Renova. I forgot about the $2,000 I’ll have to spend to get a root canal, crown extension and a crown for my #30 molar. I forgot about my problems of life in general. It was about 6:45PM I remember now, but I forgot about time, than, as I arrived at the creek.
Turning the engine off I heard the tumbling of water over the cement stepped embankment that ran across the creek downstream a piece. I opened the door of the van and was greeted by gnats and flying insects but I ignored them. I heard the riffling of a strong current of water from upstream as I walked towards the flat stretch of open water. Standing at the bank I took in the scenery and was already reading the signs. Low hemlock branches reached out from the far bank wall of rock and shale casting a shadow below from the setting sun. In between the hemlocks one thin branch of a hardwood tree overhung the waters already sporting green leaves. Though low and reaching out limbs the possibility of casting a fly to the far shadowed bank was possible. I watched as small caterpillars hung from their string of silk from the hemlock boughs. One finally fell into the water and I watched it drift just under the lone leafy tree branch. A swirl and the caterpillar disappeared, I felt a shiver down my spine as I grinned devilishly.

Back at the van I assembled my 3wt. Diamondglass rod and Quest reel. My vest was already preset with the flies that I expected to use this weekend at Young Womans Creek and on the Kettle. I slid the box of woolly buggers out of the back pocket of my vest and laid them on the van floor. I put on a long sleeve button down and pumped bug spray on my hat and the back of my left hand. With this I patted my face and neck being careful not to get any on my fingers. I slipped on my vest and put on my shades and cheater specs. After putting in a chew and I was ready for some evening action.
At the creek I looked out until I noticed another swirl under an overhang. Pinpointing that spot I looked at my fly patch and pulled off a black foam beetle. With about 8’ of knotted 6x leader I tied the beetle to the tippet. Checking for back casting distance, to which there was plenty, I gracefully started working my slow fiberglass rod, with false casts upstream, from my target. I splashed the beetle just hard enough on the water surface to take notice as I crouched down on the back of my heels. With the rod held outright I tried my best to pick out the black beetle in the shadows. A swirl appeared downstream from where I was looking and I missed the take. I waited before my next cast as I watched another caterpillar hit the water. This time, before the overhanging leafy branch, another trout took in the caterpillar. I slowly cast my beetle again but was refused. I reached in my vest pocket and pulled out my terrestrial selection. I showed the trout, ants and other beetle imitations, to no avail. I had one more imitation I had confidence in. First I knotted on a 7x tippet and then tied on a gray barking spider. I whipped the spider out towards the far bank and watched the gray speck as it drifted underneath a hanging caterpillar. With every split second the spider drifted I was ready with a split second reaction. A swirl and I yanked back the soft flexible rod to set the hook. I felt the hook set and the trout took off upstream in a hurry. On my feet I held the fish in check as my rod danced forward, in hesitations, from the zigzagging fish at the end of the line. The calm water was now active with ripples as I coaxed the trout towards me. Reaching down I slid my hand down the tippet and pinched the spider. Lightly shaking the hook the 7”appx. brookie released itself and darted off. Two more casts and I hooked into a trout downstream from the hanging branches. This one took me towards the far bank before I felt comfortable to change his direction with my light tippet. I released a 9” brook this time. For the next 10 minutes or so I failed to entice any more strikes and set my sights on the pool and riffling water below the stepped embankment.
I waded onto the first shallow water ledge and sat on my heels. In the slower pool to my left one trout rose to some unseen bug. To my right water gushed over a cement wall and spread amongst the stony bottom that continued to flow downstream to shallower water. No risers appeared so I decided to nymph fish the slow pool. Tying on an albino stone, it didn’t take long for a trout to take. I quickly set the hook the second I seen the tip of my fly line jerk away. The rod bent slightly as the small brookie fought its heart out. Reaching over the ledge below me I took the brookie in my hand and took notice to its rich orange color on its lower fins and parts of the belly. This is what it’s about, the sound of the falling water, evening fishing on a small stream and catching colorful brook trout on a fly rod. I continued to fish the pool with the albino stone and caught a few rainbows and another brookie before I took notice to mayflies starting to emerge off the water. They were about a size twelve and could have been a Slate Drake or a Quill Gordon. Anyhow, I matched the mayflies with a #12 Quill Gordon and cast into the faster moving water. A fish leaped out of the riffling water after it. I set the hook and the rod danced again while fighting the fish through the fast moving water. I released a nice size yellow spotted silvery blue brookie after picture taking. With no other takers on the big fly I switched to a #14 Hendrickson. For the next 20 minutes this seamed to be the right dry to attract attention. Though few naturals were on the water and few rises after them, I consistently made the trout rise to my imitation. I didn’t catch them all but had a blast trying. Getting into dusk I tied on a red quill and produced two more fish before I felt it was too dark to being able to see and retrieving the hooked fly from the fish’s mouth quickly.
Back at the van I lit a propane lantern and sat it between a ’y’ in a tree trunk. Being it was a long day at work and drive up I was hungry and exhausted. I resorted to eating a cold leftover grilled hotdog on a bun with mustard and washed it down with a Wacko Magic Hat beer.

After my quick cold dinner I moved gear off the rear seat and pushed the button that turned the upright rear bench seat into a flat bed. Laying upon the sleeping bag, on the flat back seat, I listened to the rushing water of Young Woman’s Creek. In my tired state, with the darkness and knowing the gentleness of my surroundings, I fell asleep effortlessly.
Morning came at 5:30am. Wanting to get to Kettle Creek before noon I woke up early and started it off with a hot cup of tea and a few packaged donuts. It didn’t take long, after looking over the enticing trout waters, to fish the morning on the Young Woman's. Not seeing any trout rising in the calm waters I went directly to the falls. Blue quills picked off a few in the early hours but closer to noon my tan body and quill bodied Hendrickson was again the favorite until the fish destroyed the hackle off of two of my imitations.
A group of fishermen arrived and I felt it was time to turn on the Kettle.
On the drive up the twisty, stony, forested road, along Young Woman's Cr. I came across a ‘branch’ ¾ of the way laying across the sunny roadway. I veered somewhat as my left tire ran it over. I then realized it didn’t look that much like a branch as I passed. Slowing down and looking into the rear view I noticed the ‘branch’ was moving!!! Backing up and stopping I seen it was a snake, and from the rear of it, it was a rattler!! I quickly got out of the van and grabbed the digital camera. Not very good with a digital I did my best taking a few pictures. Holding the camera out in front of me and keeping an eye on the rattlers head I tried to focus on the rattle, head and body. I was hoping the pictures came out alright. The snake was moving through the ferns and brush so I hurriedly went back to the van to get the 35mm. camera! The snake stopped in a good coiled position with his head raised, looking away from me, as I snapped a few shots. I got back into my van and headed to the Kettle. Nature and I have got along for many years without any hazards and I was planning on keeping it that way!
The afternoon at the Kettle was spent raising fish to Gray Foxes and Blue Quills and a few beetles thrown in until the downpour washed the thought of any more risers away. Sunday morning was spent fishing a few woolly buggers in the project area in the higher brown stained water from the rain during the night. Sunday, late morning and early afternoon, I spent trying to get fish to rise downstream from the town of Cross Forks. Not producing any Kettle Creek fish on dries I resorted to fishing bait, ugh, just to make sure there were still stocked trout left over in the ‘all tackle’ part of the creek. The wind kicked up and I was getting bored. With the thought of Young Woman's still calling my name I returned to her to fish out the remaining light of day.
Again, alone at the Y.W. creek, I selected my 4wt. Powell rod. The air was cooler now, a bit overcast and with a slight breeze. Not seeing any risers in the calm water I walked back down to the stepped falls. A few Gray Foxes emerged with small sulphurs and a few March Browns. The few fish left without sore lips from Friday night or Saturday morn didn’t want anything to do with my sulphur or March Brown imitations. I ended up picking off a couple of small native brookies but it was the fish I caught on the first Ginger Quill I tossed in that I’ll remember best.
Sitting on my heels I tied on a #14 Ginger Quill to help imitate the lighter yellowish flies coming off the water. My cast was in a seam of fast water extending from the gushing water over the cement wall. I watched the fly drift at a quick pace as I fed line out to keep the fly atop the water. From under, a fish rose taking my fly as it exited the water with a splash. I set the hook and stood up immediately with the rod high trying to keep my fly line out of the water as much as possible. The fish took me right into the fast under-current and than came back towards me. There was a visible submerged branch close to the falls with room for the fish to swim underneath. I held the line tight with the rod level as the fish swam towards the submerged branch. When he darted sharply and deep towards the submerged branch I lifted the rod quickly and the jolt was shocking enough that he swam over the branch. I kept the rod extended out from the falls trying to keep him from under the bubbling mass of falling water. He turned downstream as I tried to force him towards the slow pool to my left. He wanted nothing doing and continued to fight in the fast riffles spraying water with his quick tail slashing. He wasn’t giving up and neither was I!
We fought a few more rounds and I finally got the rainbow to my hand. He was evidently a hold over. His distinguished deep dull maroon lateral line started thinly in front of his tail and widened as it reached onto its gills. Dark spots covered his upper olive, silvery body where as, below his lateral line, less spots were present upon his darker flesh tone upper belly. His mouth seemed big for only being about a 14” fish but he fought with the fierceness of a bigger fish in the fast water. ‘What a time to forget my camera’ I thought. I unhooked the Ginger Quill from the trout’s tongue and released the handful of fish into the pool of water below the ledge. I ended my fishing casting upstream towards the back end of the fast water before it spread out into the shallow water I was standing in. With a parachute Hendrickson I caught one small brookie and missed another.
I relentlessly went back to the van, put away my gear and changed into driving clothes. The long ride home without a radio will get boring I was sure.
I lit up my last Cohiba Pequenos as soon as I reached rte.120 towards Renova. I figured the cigar should last until I got to I80. I also figured I had to sing my way home being that my radio didn’t work. Now, how did that song go by Jim Stafford?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Winston's and a Bean

4 guys and 2 Forks (part 2)
Three Winstons and a Bean

The sun breaks through the early morning cloud cover above the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rays of light brighten the top portion of the pines displaying the rich green pigment of their boughs. The bottom boughs are still shadowed in a dull olive state. Rising vapors of moisture diminish in the air around me like the steam from boiling pasta water. I sip on a cup of hot tea as jets of water pulsate against my lower back and below my shoulder blades. Jeff had said soaking in the hot tub spa, that sat on the back deck of our rented cabin, would loosen up my joints and get me ready for a full day of smallmouth fishing. The spa thermometer reads 103*. It’s already 70+ degrees, at 7:00am, outside in Luray Virginia and I’m soaking in 103* water! Doesn’t make sense to me! I finish my cup of tea, turn off the jets and walk into the air conditioned cabin. ‘Heck‘, I think, ‘I was born ready to fish!’

My 2 sons, Jeff and I meet our guide, Jack, at Harry Murray’s Fly Shop/Pharmacy in the small town of Edinburg at 9:00am. After discussion we decide to fish the North Fork of the Shenandoah River until around 1:00 and then head over to the South Fork in the afternoon. After meeting Harry Murray we buy a few flies and poppers the guide suggests and head to the North Fork.

At the bank of the North Fork we look out over the water before getting our gear together. The clear water flows at a slow gradient meandering around small islands of Stargrass and surface rocks in shallow areas. The rising sun brightens the bottom of the of the river and exposes the 2 to 3 foot strands of Stargrass submerged and wavering in the slow undercurrent. Not being that wide across the river it looks more like an inviting Pennsylvania trout stream than a full blown river. Jeff and my sons notice fish rising upriver while I was noticing the shaded waters of the river in small coves under the heavy leafed trees along the far bank.
Back at the vehicles Jeff pieces together his 6 pc. LLBean 6wt. Rod. If there is one rod that fits Jeff’s casting stroke to a ’T’ it is this one. With this in his hand he casts smooth and graceful with less effort than any of his others. I piece together my few months old Winton 6wt. 9’ vapor rod. Jack takes out the rods the boys are going to use. They are Winston 9’ 6wt. Ascent rods over-lined with 7wt. Bass tapers. Not bad for a shop rod to use all day!

Back at the river the group, including Jack, head upstream to the tempting rising fish.
I have my sights set on the slow water coves and slowly fish my way towards them with one of my infamous olive woolly buggers. With a 9’ 3x tapered leader, as prescribed by Harry himself, I over-hand cast out into the waist high clear water. At the end of the swing, on my second cast, a bump is felt and I set the hook. The fish fights across stream, below me, and I bring him in through the current. I lift the fat 11” chub, I later find out they are fallfish, with my left hand and call out to the group upriver and show them the fish. Within 3 more casts I produce a 9” smallmouth that takes the bugger on the swing. By the time I’m within comfortable casting distance of the far bank I pull in two more fallfish and another small smallie. Hearing a frog croak against the bank, downriver, I feel it’s a good time to try a popper. I select a homemade cork popper that’s painted green with yellow spots. With its chartreuse tail and brown rubber legs I feel should give it movement enough to draw attention when I’m not pooping it. The Winston rod casts the popper nicely and it plops upriver below a small run of water flowing through a cluster of shallow rocks and stones. With a quick pull of line, to attract attention, the popper gurgles up some water as it flows downstream. A small surface splash and I pull back on the long extended line. I feel a small fish on the other end and bring him to my side. A 6” sunfish dangles from the size 10 hook. I shake the fish off the hook and proceed with my fishing. This time I cast under an overhanging branch and as soon as the popper hit’s the water a fish surfaces and attacks it. I wrist and strip set the hook and the fight tells me this isn’t another sunfish. I let the smallie fight along the bank shortly and then bring him across the current to hand. I release another 9“-10" smallmouth. Working the popper and the olive woolly bugger I continue to hook up with smallies and other fish and this keeps me in the general area.

It doesn’t take too long before the group passes behind me to fish downriver in deeper water.
Jack stops by and we chat about fishing. He convinces me, easily I might add, to try a blue Harry Murray popper. I let him tie the popper on using a Duncan loop. Casting out into the cove and working the popper doesn’t produce any strikes. Jack finally gives up and suggests maybe going back to the popper I was using before he showed up. I show him the unattractive popper and tie this to my leader. Within 5 casts I produce a smallie at the end of my line.

Now I’m not putting down Harry Murray’s $5.50 professionally tied eye catching blue popper by any means. In fact the boys and I did catch a few fish later on it while blue damsel flies were roaming the waters. I was just proving a point that a 5 cent painted Trader Horn cork, when prepared to catch fish, eye catching to the fishermen or not, can still produce caught fish!

While Jack and I were talking we noticed Jeff pulling in fish almost one after another. He found the ’gathering’ and was catching smallies and fallfish with a Harry Murray olive Strymph. With the three spaced out downriver from me I noticed all were hooking into fish occasionally but Jeff found the real hot spot.

Near noon Giddeon and Jeff moved down river further and that gave me a chance to move into the deeper water. Jeremy hung around near me and we fished the far bank, still under shade, catching a few fish now and then. It also gave us some good father/son time to shoot the bull.

Around 12:30 the clouds finally broke up into small masses so the sun could beam its powerful rays more often upon us and heat things up. We broke for lunch around 1:30pm. Back at the vehicles Jack laid out a spread of cold cuts, chips and fruit. We elected to drink our beer with our lunch instead of his bought spring water.

Talking amongst ourselves Giddeon felt comfortable with the ascent rod. He enjoyed the action and liked the power it had to cast the heavy weighted streamers and buggers he was using. Jeremy felt the difference also but with his gradual easy casting stroke felt he would have been more relaxed with his own 5/6 wt. rod.

After lunch we packed up and followed the guide to the deeper faster running waters of the South Fork below a power dam for some fast action, quick current, and fish fighting fun!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

4 Guys and 2 Forks

View from the cabin

(A Shenandoah Experience part 1)

My sons, Jeff and I decided to adventure south to the Shenandoah Valley in July. As seasoned trout fishermen we wanted to test our stream knowledge and fly fishing capabilities for smallmouth in the Shenandoah River. We selected the North and South Fork around Luray and Edinburg Virginia. With a guide set up for Friday, out of the Harry Murray Fly Shop for some helpful instructions, we were ready for some river action. When we were off the river we brought plenty of venison in forms of burgers, roasts and chip steaks. A few bottles of home made wine with cheese and crackers as well as beer, beer, and more beer! Here’s how it went.

A Dose of the Shenandoah
July 23, 2009

Thursday evening, about 4:30pm, Jeff and I rolled into the small town of Edinburg Virginia after a 4 ½ hour drive from Pittsburgh in the ‘ol van’! We found Harry Murray Fly Shop/ Pharmacy on Main Street. We introduced ourselves to Harry and after a short conversation he prescribed a dose of Shenandoah River water to cure our smallmouth fever.
We followed the Tom-Tom over the Massenutten Mountains through the winding roads of Edinburg Gap. We found our semi-secluded cabin and emptied our non-fishing gear into our weekend retreat. We took a few bottles of our own prescribed thirst quenchers of La-Batts and Busch with us.
We found a Wal-Mart and bought our out-of-state fishing license. The girl was nice enough to scissor cut the computer copy of our licenses. Another employee showed up and he told us that night crawlers and certain rubber worms and jigs work well for catching fish in the river. Ya, right! He did tell us of a couple of places to try on the river though. We thanked him.
At the river we geared up with our fly rods and walked down a trail, above a small dam, as Harry prescribed for our evening exercise. Jeff wanted a little more exercise and proceeded up river. Looking over the water in front of me I decided to stay put and begin my fishing below the riffle run of wide open water before me.
Under the sunny and partial cloudy skies I began my smallmouth fishing. It didn’t take long before a fish tasted my olive woolly bugger. The fish put up a good hard fight in the fast deep current. I brought in a fat 10” chub looking fish and released him. After another chub fish I was beginning to wonder where the smallies were. Working the olive bugger in deep pools between the faster runs I finally hooked into a smallie. He fought across the bottom of the run and I brought the 9” smallmouth to hand. Looking upriver Jeff had a hook up too. My next option was to see how my home made cork poppers worked in these waters. Casting into the slow eddies and deep pools I popped the cork towards me and waited. My first catch was a sunfish but continued casts and working the popper produced those chubs and a few fat active smallmouth in the 7”-9” range. We fished into the evening with good success. I even found a few selective fish that took one of my orange Humpy pattern. Our fever was receding.
Back at camp we ate deer burgers and relaxed with a few beers while waiting for my sons to arrive.
My eldest son, Jeremy, was picking up my son Giddeon in DC at the Ronald Reagan airport. The flight was supposed to come in at 11:00pm. We got a call from Jeremy telling us the flight was delayed and wasn’t sure when he would get in.
When it was all said and done they arrived at the cabin at 4:10am. After welcoming my sons they hit their sleeping quarters tired and fatigued. At 10 minutes to 5 a cock crowed in the early daybreak of the morning light. My sons, nor I, were very happy.
We were to meet our guide, back at the shop, at 9:00am for some prescribed personal relief, the fishing kind!!