Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Day in the Pisgah NF

A Day in the Pisgah National Forest

 I followed my youngest son along a narrow trail down the mountain side over roots and between mountain laurel. somewhere down at the bottom I knew there was a stream just wasn't sure how long it was going to take us to get there. I suppose, like me, my sons take the path least followed when searching for trout.
 Standing at the bank the water ran clear and lower than normal according to my son. Woolly Buggers were the main 'getter' as both my sons will claim. Jesse Pete headed upstream and I headed down casting the Olive Bugger in straight runs and deeper pools I came across. The terrain along the stream was tricky wading with an outcropping of flat slanted boulders beneath the surface as well as waterlogged mossy logs. Tops of bigger round boulders shown above the surface water which usually was a sign of  a good deeper riffle behind. It was all manageable with a glance in the water to which direction I was headed.
 With the gray sky above made for good shadows along the banks and no glare when looking downstream. The laurel and small branches along most of the banks weren't in any way made for long rods. With my 3wt 7' Hardy Demon I was able to make short wrist casts and fine roll casts with the DT line I was using. With the clear water I tried to make long casts, where possible, which usually were made with me standing so my right casting hand was near the middle of the stream. The morning wasn't gong too good as far as hook ups go. I felt bumps and a few hard grabs sparingly but couldn't get a good hook set. I figure a few of the lighter bumps were from the many native rainbows that inhabit the stream but I'm sure a couple of the harder bumps were good size stocked trout in the delayed harvest water we were fishing. Around noon my son found me and asked how it was going. I think by then I had only caught one nice size trout. He said he caught a couple and was going to head upstream a little further. I told him I'll head up and maybe catch up with him.

 There were three trout I spied, from behind them, in the back end of a long flat pool of water. I tried to get them interested by flinging the bugger over some twigs that protruded above the water. I wasn't sure how I'd get any of them to me should I catch one but it was worth a try. I didn't have to worry about landing any cause they just let the bugger pass by them. Looking upstream it looked as though there was enough open area to make a long cast towards them without being noticed. I waded out of the water and took a path upstream to an opening   
  Way upstream from the trout I found a downed log that rested on a flat rock which was suitable to sit on. Right in front of me water gushed over and between boulders feeding a deep hole and calming down in the long tail out. ¾ across the stream an exposed boulder split the flow and a run of wavy water flowed toward the far ledge under overhanging laurel branches. Behind the split the bottom of the deep pool was visible; I didn’t see any trout below. 
 To make my casts downstream I stood along the bank. With my right hand I made a back cast lengthwise above the stream flow to keep from getting caught on any branches or laurel along the bank sides. With a little extra force, on the forward cast, the fly line shot over the water and the bugger fell downstream a distance away. I stripped the bugger in with short strips hoping for a strike. Each cast I made further downstream but didn’t get a strike no matter what action I put stripping the bugger back towards me. I sat down and took a swig of water. While taking a break I noticed there were a few sipping risers within casting distance near a downed limb down and across the water. There appeared to be little BWO’s, about the size #20 to #18, flying around in spurts. Hmmm!!
 I clipped off the bugger and knotted on a #18 BWO with a CDC wing to a 6x tippet. With a wrist cast I had the BWO drift along a seam towards the last rise I seen. I had slack in the line for a drag free drift so I knew I had to be quick with a hook set. A trout slapped at the BWO but my reactions were slow and I missed the take. A few casts later and quicker reaction, I caught a couple of the small native rainbows.

  Looking more intently in the water I noticed a trout hanging out at the end of the wavy water under the laurel across stream. I changed dry flies often trying to get him to rise. Occasionally I would cast downstream and try to coax another native to strike.
 I knotted on a smaller BWO parachute dry and proceeded in trying to convince the stationary trout to commit. On one cast I watched the #20 BWO crease the inside seam of the far wavy water. It circled over the large pocket of deep water, in an eddy, behind the boulder that split the main flow of water. I kept the rod tip high as I sat on the downed log. The BWO neared the boulder and than turned and drifted back over the deep pocket heading towards the out flow. I seen a turning flash of a big fish below and watched it rise to the BWO. As soon as his round nosed mouth sipped in the BWO I raised the rod as I stood for the hook set. The fish somersaulted, just below the surface, with the hook up and turned deep into the pocket of deep water. The 3wt rod bowed instantly as my heart raced with excitement. After the slack line slipped through my fingers the trout took line off the spool as it headed downstream in the more open water. I felt a couple head shakes with the line and into the cork handle that I gripped tightly. Water churned downstream where the trout decided to take the skirmish. The tugs on the line were forceful and the 7’ rod flexed with each jolting tug. The trout used the open water downstream to swim from one side of the stream to the other trying to free itself. I was nervous wondering if the small #20 hook was going to hold up through the vigorous battle. I had little control on which way the trout wanted to go with the undersized rod so all I could do was hold on and try to maintain good tension and rod position until the trout tires some.
 I knew I couldn’t bring him up the wavy fast current in front of me so I let up on the rod pressure and stepped over the log onto the sandy bank. Once in position I added a little more force on the rod as it arced down towards the hooked trout. It felt like long minutes went by before he decided to start swimming his way upstream with the rod pressure. He kept his distance near the far bank and I had to get the rod level with the surface water when he headed under the laurel. I had the rod handle facing upstream with the rod tip facing toward the far bank. My grip was white knuckle tight. He paused for a moment under the laurel and than took deep into the pocket with a sharp head shake. I brought the rod up though the tip pointed downward. When the fish rose to the surface I was afraid it was going to go skyward and I’d lose him. Instead he came to the surface and looked over at me as to say “You Bastard”, shook his snout at me and turned deep again. I tightened my teeth and lips around the stogie I held tight in my mouth and showed no fear at that particular moment.
 I wasn’t sure what he was up to but he was tugging at the line like a scuba diver does on a guide line when trouble arises. It felt like he was circling in the deep pool but I noticed ever so slightly he was rising. I gave a little pull with the rod downstream and I felt him turn from beneath and start to head across from me. When I put the net in the water he gave a wrenching head shake and line tension slipped through my pinching finger against the cork handle. He wasn’t ready to concede the battle yet and as long as my hook set held up I was pretty sure I’d get him in safely.
 I was knelt down with my wrist locked in the upward position trying to keep the rod handle skyward. The rod curved out towards the trout. The longer I kept my position the closer the trout came to the net. He was finally ready to accept his misfortune and came calmly to the net. I had to get him to the bank quickly for fear he would flip out as his body was long for the tear drop net.

  Though my sons told me there were some large trout in this mountain stream I wouldn’t have believed how big they were talking about. After a quick picture I placed him in the water with his snout facing up stream into the slight current along the bank. When he gave me a good forceful tail swat I let him free and he swam back into the stream.
 The butt of my stogie was coming apart and was soft from moisture holding it tight during the battle. I took the time to cut off the soft butt and relit the stogie. I tried to get another fishes attention but I think the long battle scared any other trout in the area watching. I walked up the bank to the trail and headed to look for my son.
 On the way upstream I spotted a couple of promising looking trout locations and dabbled a bit with an offering.

 Meeting up with my son he told me he found a long deep pool with plenty of trout in it. He said he did great fooling trout and hooking up with many on a couple of different color buggers. I followed him upstream to the location he was talking about. There were three guys standing on the bank below talking and fishing the same long pool Jesse had told me about. From up on the bank I could see a few trout lingering along a long tree trunk submerged in the water. I looked for a safe place to get down the bank and proceeded towards the water.
 I saw a rise down in the tail out, in the shallower water across stream. After a few casts of the dry fly, with no takers, I gave up. My son, who was watching me, said he was going to head back home. I told him I’d meet up with him tomorrow.
 He had helped me set up camp for the night, on the way in, along the dirt forest road. I planned on fishing till I got tired and retire for the night at the camping spot. I figured on fishing till noon the next day and then clean up camp, weather permitting.

 I clipped off the dry fly and decided to fish a bugger down stream till I decided to quit. I lit my last stogie for the time being. The going was tough on the stony bottom, narrow passages between laurel and brush. There were times I came across semi deep pools and good flowing riffled. Now and then I’d hook into a trout or lose one.

  Back at camp it was time to relax. I changed clothes and ate a sub sandwich which I bought on the way over. I quenched my thirst with a beer from Hi-Wire Brewers from Asheville.

 After getting everything settled I took out a bottle of bourbon and a Maduro Leaf cigar by Oscar. Sipping the bourbon while puffing on the Maduro was enjoyable by a small campfire.

 The night was cool and calm. Listening to the small creek near by put me to sleep in a tranquil state of mind.
 About an hour before daylight I heard drops of rain falling upon the tent. For a few minutes it poured down a little harder soaking the tent and camp stuff I had out. Daybreak it was still raining but not all so hard. I decided not too fish the morning and started to break camp in the drizzling rain. It wasn’t that I don’t fish in the rain but the next week I’ll have a few more days to fish. Besides, I already caught the biggest fish in the stream so there was no reason to be greedy and catch the second biggest! lol!


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