Diamonds and ‘Bows’ Along the Davidson
North Carolina Fish’n 2011
On Sunday we woke up early and headed for the Davidson River. Giddeon parked along the highway up from a campground. He wanted to hit this section early before the campers, swimmers and kids throwing debris in the water awoke. As we assembled our gear I noticed the white and green diamond shaped sign, attached to a tree, that designated this as hatchery supported waters.
We climbed down the steep bank, over basketball sized boulders and came upon a deep swimming hole. Bigger boulders lined our side of the steep bank as the other side was obviously the side to be on for fishing with a fly rod. After wet wading across the cool clear water, to the sandy far bank, I took the time to take in my surroundings.
Back home in Pennsylvania we would consider this water a creek more so than a river. There wasn’t anywhere I could see that I couldn’t cast from one side of the bank to the other without too much effort, except for the swimming hole, mind you. Even the water flowed clear and clean looking like many of our mountain creeks. Boulders and rocks peeked out from the water level as water rushed around and bubbled some on the downstream side. Water flowed over sub-surfaced flat stone causing different crosscurrents, clashing together in never ending riffles. This made for quick reactions on the fish’s part if they were to rise for a dry presentation. The riffling effect should give good cover of leader and tippet under the morning sunshine that sparkled off the river water.
I circled around the small swimming beach area and came to the entrance of the swimming hole. Here the water ran clear and with good rolling flow. The river bed was an assortment of small stones and rock that gave good camouflage to any still setting trout hugging the bottom. I tied on a white wooly bugger and cast out to check the undercurrent. The white bugger was easy to see in the clear water and gave me a chance to see the depth it would swing and drift. This would help me determine my upstream mends and applied weight as I wade downriver. After a few test runs I switched to an olive bugger and added a weight strip about a foot or so up from the bugger. Within four more casts the first stocked rainbow came to hand.
We fished the deep swimming pool quickly, as it didn’t seam anything was very hungry. Downriver Giddeon took time to fish some blow downs while I continued downriver. Seeing the bottom of the river, was very deceiving. It looked shallow in a lot of the areas but once I got there, what I thought was shallow, ended up to be at least knee deep most of the way. This slowed me down a bit and I took time to cover more area before moving downriver further. By the looks of things you would think that there was a trout behind every submerged boulder but the bugger wasn’t producing anything. It took my drifting a nymph before I was able to hook into another rainbow. Giddeon switched over to nymph fishing also and we caught a few small stocked rainbows before he decided for us to drive upriver to newer territory. Besides, the camping kids started to wade in the water, along its banks, looking for crayfish. Soon after that it was dog exercising time as a big splash caught my attention upriver. I turned to see a lab splashing in the shallows than swim to the thrown branch drifting in the swimming hole.
Giddeon stopped at a cleared parking area along the road. He showed me the yellow and red diamond sign that designated this section of the Davidson River as Catch and Release. We headed down the well traveled path to a conglomerate of big granite looking boulders that just about dammed the water across the narrow river. Water pooled before one of these granite looking boulders near us, while just out from this, water tumbled over long flat rock just beneath the surface. This caused a good flow of white wavy water and current that flowed quickly towards the far bank. There wasn’t any doubt that the depth below was deep. Against the far bank shelves of granite rock protruded into the deep water hiding any sign of the bank itself. Laurel branches overhung the deep pool and made for a nice shady area where trout could escape from the rising morning sun. Giddeon headed upriver and gave this lower section for me to fish.
The afternoon sun was upon me now and full view of the middle section of the river. There wasn’t any action in the shade along the far bank that I could see. Most of the inconsistent rises were just down, and around, a big overhanging Maple. Its limbs were scarce and the few scattered leaves, upon these branches, weren’t much shade to the water below. I noticed a few dimples now and then down further in the middle of the river but I was going to concentrate on the ones just out from my side of the bank. A good, soft, angled cast should get the fly near enough without much surface disturbance under the rising noon day sun.
My first few casts would be in front of me to see how my new mosquito pattern floated and its visibility. With more of a wrist cast, for the short distance of the 9’ Scott rod, I mended upriver, in the air, before the mosquito fell to the water. It drifted upon the surface current from the deep pool above. I watched as it kept the same drift as the foamy bubbles that surrounded it. At the end of that drift I cast out a little further and mended line as I did before. I held the rod tip high, just upstream from the drifting dry. A trout took air, engulfing my fly I suspected, and I lifted the rod back instantly from this surprise attack. I remember seeing the trout’s orange underside as it porpoise out of the water, facing upstream, before reentering the river. Not sure how I missed the trout but my 7x tippet and tapered leader flew back and hung over a tree branch behind me. I turned to see my mosquito hanging form the limb as if it was caught in an invisible spider web. After untangling the line I cast out a few more times in the foamy current without another rise. I slowly waded down the shore line trying not to disturb the silt beneath my wading boots to get into a position to cast downriver.
There was a dimple or two about a foot or so from my side of the bank below the Maple tree. Occasionally a rise would come within the slow moving groups of foam bubbles that drifted along. The water was clear and with the sun behind me I kept my distance and my movements slow. I suspected the trout didn’t know I was around yet so I concentrated on my first cast to make sure the fly line didn’t splash upon the water or shadow upon the surface as I false cast to get line out.
I was glad I decided to take the 5wt G2 Scott rod. With its medium action I would be able to move my casting arm in a slower motion as to not attract attention to the fish downriver. The natural finish blank kept any sparkle of sunshine reflection from alerting the fish. The weight forward Clear Creek olive line should be a good camouflage color with the forest that surrounds me.
In a medium slow casting stroke I false cast out and towards the far bank as I let line out with each stroke. My last forward cast I turn my elbow and forearm pointing my rod downriver to the direction I want my Mosquito to follow. The olive line loops easily and at the end of the cast I wrist the grip back a bit. The fly stops its forward motion and drops to the water surface before my leader. The fly line lies upon the water in S bends as I intended. I take in line to straighten the big arcing line some and watch my Mosquito flow with the foam bubbles.
This is where patience is a must. Watching the fly moving in extra slow motion upon the almost still water gets monotonous. Waiting for the dry to reach the most recent activity downriver gets uneasy. I wanted to look away for other risers but I knew the instant I look away I may miss the take.
The S bends straighten even more. A trout surfaces…. about a foot away from my visible Mosquito. The suddenness of it makes my wrist twitch but I have control and keep from flinching any further from disturbing the drag free drift. I push line through the rod eyes helping the dry drift further on, drag free. The trout never rises again and I watch my dry start to drift towards the near bank as the line straightens. I slowly move my rod up lifting the fly line off the water. Than with a smooth quick rising back-cast I bring the rest of the line and fly off the water and into the air. I cast again dropping the fly nearer the last rise. After the drift I shorten my back-cast and let the line fall in front of me. I reel line in and concentrate on how I’m going to cast beneath the Maple limbs and get my fly to drift to the subtle rises beyond. I start a false cast as before bringing my forearm level with the water and sidearm the rod with a quick stop on the forward cast. The line arcs, as I back up the rod tip, and the fly loops under the Maple tree. The #18 Mosquito falls upon the water like a, a, a Mosquito thinking its landing on skin. It drifts downriver; I’m sure within sight of the earlier sippers. At the end of the drift, I don’t want to scare any fish with a sudden lift so, I slowly drag the fly across the water. The Mosquito follows the thin 7x tippet that is almost invisible upon the surface. From under the tree limb now I lift the line with more force. A fish grabs at the skipping Mosquito. I try to stop my back casting motion but I’m too late. The 7x tippet snaps under the forceful pressure and I’m again left fishless. Grrrrr!!!!!!!
I tie on another Mosquito but no risers are seen in the next fifteen minutes or so. I’ve been had! I slowly wade the bank down river and attempt to get a trout to take a slow moving nymph. I watch as fish after fish appear from the middle of the river towards my drifting nymph. It’s as if they examine the nymph than look over and see me looking at them in anticipation. They turn away and swim back to the whereabouts.
The slowness of it all is wearing down my patience. I wade out further towards the middle of the river and while the waves and water surface settles back down, from my movement, I trim off the 7x tippet. I knot on a good length of 6x fluorocarbon. To this I tie on an olive woolly bugger and decide this is my last offering. I reach in my pocket and pull out a Vintage Cameroon. After lighting the medium body, but smooth drawing cigar, I take a good puff and look over the situation. I decided to work the bugger along the far shore line and let it swing down river.
I got within casting distance of a shaded area just out from the far bank. A lone crooked branch reached above the water surface with one limb dropping into the water like a dropped antler tine. The water looked shallow but I was experienced by now of the illusion in the clear water. My first cast, before the branch, produced a good strike. I got a good hook set and finally got a nice rainbow to hand. It wasn’t until later I found he spotted the camera lens with water but was worth keeping the picture. After a couple more rainbows in this shady area I continued down river.
The wide section of flat water flowed among shallow rocks and than turned towards the near bank. It flowed around and through bank-side dead branches and slowed into a deeper section among bank-side boulders. There I had a good fight with a long slender rainbow. I wasn’t able to get my net out in time to net the frisky fighting rainbow on the 6x tippet. When I got him in the shallow water near shore he propelled himself upward off the pebbled bottom . When he slapped back onto the water the woolly bugger came unhooked and he slithered his way back into the deep pool.
By now I was wondering where Giddeon was when he suddenly appeared on the path above the bank. I followed him back to his truck and he said he found a good pod of trout upriver he was teasing and catching a few. We traveled upriver one last time for some evening fishing.
After parking near another Diamond sign we followed a long and winding trail to the river again. I figured it should be quiet and less fished than the sections we had already tried. To my surprise we found an old camp sight on each side of the banks. It wasn’t long before I came across two other fishermen. I did see quite a few trout but they were well aware fishermen were in the area. I caught one trout in the shade of the far bank before Giddeon showed up again and we headed back up the trail towards the truck.
We quenched our thirst roadside before heading to his house in Asheville for pizza and beer!
Another good day, missed a bunch, but still had a lot of fun!