Monday, November 23, 2009

'Pirate Rainbows'

‘Pirate Rainbow' Hunting

I heard there were big rainbows lurking in the waters of the Big N. After checking out the waters Saturday afternoon, in which I caught a couple off guard, I decided to return Sunday for some more swashbuckling.
Sunday morning I met my fish mate Jim at the old grist mill at 8am. Just so be it navigator Harry happened to be there in the lot stringing up. We talked it over and we all got our preferred gear and weapons together and went out on the waters to do some ‘pirate bow’ hunting. With the sun begging to rise in the distance it was still chilly enough that long-johns were appropriate and heavy wool sox for wading the cold waters.
Jim Mate went straight to the short falls. His search brought him a few small rainbow swabbies. Harry and I searched the waters in the most famous part of town for about an hour. I hooked into two brownies this side of the bridge. Harry hooked into a ’bow’ in the deeper part of the waters. After Jim Mate met up with us again we headed downstream where I was sure more notorious big ‘pirate bows’ would be lurking the waters.
The sun never quite opened up into the sunshine we expected so coaxing the ‘bows’ to the surface with dries were not to be. The water below the bridge opened up to shallow riffles that were deep enough to hold hungry pirates before flowing down into darker waters. The pirates would be holding tight to the bottom in the riffles or along the shadows of bank cover. Exposing ourselves to early I was sure going to make them take to the deeper waters. Our movements were to be slow and cautious with long range casts or slow sweeping swings of our tempting offerings. We spotted a few pirate bows docked out from the shoreline, waiting for any pirate hunter to enter the waters from the conspicuous land entries. We stayed among the watery riffles trying to hide our locations.
Soon Jim Mate headed downstream alone to pursue more uncharted waters while Harry and I hunted closely for notorious hidden pirate bows.
Water rumbled, midstream, around the few bigger exposed boulders. The sun was hidden behind gray clouds casting shadows upon the surface waters, the air chilly as we waded among the cold waters. Branchy trees lined the downstream waterway from the main part of town. We searched around each boulder, riffles and waters edge with precise drifts and swings. We came to a small cove overshadowed by long branchy needled pines. Boulders roughened the backdrop banked landscape. Slow smooth water flowed into the dark cover with a natural unhampered flow. A few submerged boulders protected any resting pirates from snaggers or amateurs. We spotted 2 ‘bows’ on sentry this side the entrance of the cove. We snuck up, from the side, and got into position to make a nab.
While Harry worked an olive woolly bugger near the stationary sentries I swung a white bunny leech into a shallow riffle out and downstream from the cove. Wham, a pirate bow tried to steal my offering by surprising me but with my quickness of my weapon I tightened up and sank’r deep. The ‘bow’ splashed water like a double blast of chain shot, shot out of a cannon barrel and falling into the water. I almost lost control from the blinding attack as he stripped off line instantly but I got my composure back and tightened it up and kept him out of the cove from alarming any of the residence in the pirate haven. He battled in the small riffles with his dorsal abruptly showing before turning downstream. I forced him to my right and he followed briefly before quickly turning and heading back towards the tail out of the cove. I kept the rod bent and followed him with the tip letting him fight the current. He finally turned upstream and we sparred shortly before he gave in and I netted him.
Just after releasing the ‘pirate bow’ Harry hooked into one of the sentries. I wasn’t paying attention to the fighting pirate but noticed Harry’s weapon flex for the last time before it straightened and the line went slack. Harry lost the battle and we watched as both sentries entered deeper into the cove.
No pride lost as we weren’t there for the kill, just the fooling and some hearty combat.
We walked away knowing the sparring commotion was a fare warning to our presence outside the pirate haven. We waded to the downstream side of the small grassy island we were on. Harry started to search the riffles of the wide open water. I searched also for a short time then double backed for another try in the pirate cove. I kept my distance with a low profile and side armed my offering far against the rocky cliff under the hanging pine branches. I gave any hungry soul something to think about as the slow swinging bunny leech came into my view just below the tail out of the cove. I moved a little upstream and laid the leech ¾ the way back into the cove. Mending upstream, making sure my presentation would enter the cove first, I lifted the rod tip and jigged the leech towards me and then letting it fall back again. A lighter colored figure darted out from the dark side of the cove and followed my offering. I continued to tease the ‘bow’ by bringing my rod to my left and upstream still jigging the leech. The ‘bow’ couldn’t resist the slow moving target. On a back drift I watched the white leech disappear into the ‘bows’ mouth. I set the hook and the swashbuckling began. After a quick bend of the rod he surfaced with maddening head shakes and body twists. He was like a possessed criminal leashed to a chain. Furiously he bent the rod further and I relentlessly gave him more line for fear of losing him. He turned broadside to the current and the force pushed him downstream even further towards the end of the cove. I lowered the rod and pulled the tip upstream cautiously and he followed momentarily. Turning broadside again he used the current to his favor. We fought like two swashbucklers trying to gain leverage and the upper hand. He threw water, as a distraction, each time he came to the surface. I kept enough tension not to over tension his quick headshakes. Time and again he quickly submerged and the rod flexed with each downstream escape route but I kept my cool and directed him in an opposite direction. With a little finesse of my own I finally convinced him to give in.
Some of the notorious ‘pirate bows’ we had the pleasure of swashbuckling with!

Swashbuckler Broadside

Capt. Hookjaw

Ol' Caudal Fin

Buccaneer Scratch

Thursday, November 12, 2009

pics on the big N

I was fishing the big Nashannock last Sunday evening. There was a young woman taking pictures of me. It's not very often you get pictures taken of yourself by complete strangers, at least not I. anyhow, her and her husband were up from Texas and they were visiting the area.
I thought I'd share some of the photo's she took, pretty cool!!
thanks Janie

photos by Janie Nelson

I title these as 'why I should tuck my shirttail in while fishing' gees, I could have been on the back cover of a fly fishing mag~ lol

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jeremy and the Hellgrammites

4 guys and 2 forks (part 3)
Jeremy and the Hellgrammites

After a picnic lunch along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River we got into our vehicles and headed over the Massenutten Mountains through Edinburg Gap. We followed our guide around the winding mountain roads, cross the river and ended up at a parking lot near a power plant. a sign welcomed fishermen, something i don't see too often! After gearing up we headed down the long path behind the power plant fence and than a dirt trail that lead us to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. We stood just below the discharge water from the plant. Up to our left, a few hundred yards, water poured over the tall wide wall as the sunlight seemed to enhance the falling waters with its bright rays. The blue sky with bellowing white clouds made for a picturesque scene. The water ran swift and clear with a light green cast and warm enough to wet wade in. Three quarters of the way across the river from us, an island extended downriver beyond our sight. The wideness and deepness as the river looked was more of what i expected as compared to the North Fork.

I had my sights on getting across the river to fish the shaded banks along the island, getting there was qustionable. The others spread out along the river as i'm sure they all had their plan of attack.

First off my olive woolly bugger produced a hard take in the knee deep water just below the deep discharge water. a fighting fallfish came to hand and i lifted it for all to see and to encourage them that there were hungry fish in the river. Slowly making my way across the river, i began to get a lay of the bottom. What i call table rock, that's long slabs of flat rock, angled up from the river floor along with submreged boulders. This made for deep runs. In most places the water was deep enough that strands of stargrass and other vegetation to waver in the current which made for good cover for smallmouth to lie in ambush. Carefully shuffling and long stepping across the table rock and boulders i made my way within casting distance of the island shore. Casting a bugger or a popper or two i thought would surly produce some lazy fish but found this was not the case. The fish i caught were all in the sunshine of the warm waters.

I slowly waded and fished my way down river casting buggers and poppers around the outgrowth of small stargrass islands. Usually this produced quick strikes of any hungry smallies. The fall fish seemed to hit the poppers at the end of the drift if i let it swing to the tail end. The fish would strike at the bugger either on the swing or when i short stripped it in. The strikes were hard hits and fighting the fish through the swift current and forcing them in calmer water around submerged rock with force with 2x or 3x tippet with my 6wt. rod made for great fun.! Either way i was catching enough fish to keep me happy and confident that there were more hungry fish downriver.

Down around a bend i was able to see where the two waterways met up again below the island. Between me and that point the river widened more which made the river water just over knee deep and that made for a good outcropping of rocks that jutted out of the water. My eldest son, Jeremy, was fishing this section with a bent fly rod and a smile on his face.

Jeremy doesn't get to fish as much as the rest of us but still loves the outdoors and when he's away from home, partakes in the relaxation of fishing.

I slowly fished towards him as he stood pretty much in the same area casting around, about 100 yards down river from me. I'de pick up a smallie now and then but i swear everytime i looked his way he had another fish on! I finally stopped fishing and watched him. He roll casted a heavy fly with a forward push motion. The heavy fly he was using would splash a bit into the water and soon i'de see him rear back and set the hook. He did this time and time again. I couldn't wait any longer and kind of hurriedly fished my way within talking distance.

"Looks like you're having a good time"

"After the guide showed me what to look for and the feeding zones I started to catch fish" he commented back.

"Watcha using?"

"Those black Hellgrammites you tied up!"

Before going down to the Shenandoah i saw, in one of my fly fishing mags, Harry Murray's top ten flies for smallmouth. He had a hellgrammite pattern that i never came across before so i tied a bunch up for the trip..

I tied one on just then and started to fish with it. Jeremy and I were having a field day hooking up with smallies practicaly behind every rock. The hellgrammite produced some vicious strikes as it sank or skirted the bottom of the river. It made for a fun and active time for Jeremy and me as we made our way down river towards Giddeon and Jeff.

Giddeon and Jeff were fishing deep in the middle of the river below the meeting point of both waterways. There seemed to be a deep underground gorge between huge sunken boulders. As we fished with them they both hooked into something big enough they couldn't bring to surface and the fish eventually broke them off.

After 5:00pm the guide started fishing with us and caught the biggest smallie of the day, about 15", in a back eddy close to shore. As evening came upon us we had our fill and headed back up to the vehicles. Hungry and content we thanked our guide and we headed for our cabin in the woods.

Back at the cabin we opened the front door to the aroma of deer shoulder roast simmering in the big crock pot with potatoes and carrots. We sat around the dinner table like a bunch of hungry wolves devouring a fresh kill only with bottles of cold beer. Later in the evening we sat outside the rear deck and dicussed Saturday's destination with, of course, a few more brown bottles. We hit the beds tired and fatigued from our successful day of fishing!

Saturday morning we'd start off with a hearty breakfast with no time engagement to meet anyone. We would be on our own.