Sunday, April 2, 2017

The River Tuckasegee

The River Tuckasegee
North Carolina 3/23/17
 After my sons showed me the river I was going to fish they continued on to their work sight. I drove down the road, following the river, to get a good view of the water. There were already a few fishermen fishing the project waters in the 40 degree morning. Down stream I turned around and headed up river again to an area that looked like good water with an outcropping of boulders and plenty of deeper pocket water. After dressing for the cold morning I decided on chest waders and strung up my 4 weight 9' rod. I looked over the river and knotted on a Woolly Bugger before entering the water. With 4 cigars I figured would last me till me sons join me in the afternoon. I put a water bottle in my bottle/belt holder and walked down the bank to meet the river.
 The water was clear but the sun hadn't overtook the river just yet. The river looked mostly knee to thigh high deep but there was plenty of deeper pockets behind the outcropping of boulder and nice deeper wavy runs that were sure to hold fish. After getting a few yards out from the bank I made a long cast into the river and let the bugger swing with the current. My next cast was a little further out not really concentrating on a set target. On the swing the line shot outward and I set the hook with a quick wrist. The trout darted out further in anger and began to struggle with the line as it swam in the current. I turned it around and soon it was reluctantly coming towards me with twisting tugs. The aggressive rainbow wasn't too happy being netted and wiggled quite harshly before I was able to get the hook loose and release him back into the river.

I was slowly making my way along the rocky bottom wanting to get serious once I got below a rock formation that ran across the river with plenty of crevices and seams between the boulders. I decided to not get in a hurray and decided to work the bugger in a couple of short deep pocket waters that I would be surprised didn't hold fish.
 My fifth cast was in a shallow run that flowed and made a good riffle seam into shallower water before entering between the cross river boulders. If there was a trout holding it had to be up against the side of a flat boulder or keeping steady in the back end of the deeper pocket. My cast was up stream and I let some slack in the line so the bugger would drop deep before swinging into the seam flow. I held the rod tip up as if nymph fishing and then swung it down stream and let the bugger swing into the deeper tail out. The tug was quite noticeable as the arc in the fly line straightened. When I pulled back and set the hook the rod arced into the butt section and there was no give like the previous trout. I felt a couple of forceful  head tugs. I tightened my grip on the cork as line spun off the spool as the big fish B-lined to the middle of the river. I could feel the trout struggle with the taught  line with twisting tugs as it swam upstream. I held my ground not forcing the issue and let the large trout exert its energy. The torque of the flexed rod began to take its toll and he swung down river keeping his distance. I kept the rod tip up when he swam with speed not wanting too much line to drag in the water. When he was near enough and battled beneath in a small area I lowered the rod tip level with the water surface. It's always hard to decide when to start forcing a big fish to come to me. I know I'm only using 5x tippet so too much force too soon, where he has enough energy to turn quickly and shoot out like a cannon ball, could be a story of 'the big one that got away.' When I got him turned up river I moved the rod up stream and he followed the initial pull. I pinched the fly line between my finger and the front of the cork grip trying to hold the rod steady while I reached behind me for my net. I had the net ready and slowly lifted the rod up and over my head while reaching out and under the trout. The big trout belly flopped in the net and almost forced itself over the brim but I was able to steady the net, with the heavy trout inside, with a lock wrist and a clinched fist over the wooden handle.
 I admired my catch for a second or two. It laid arced in the web of the net with its tail raised above its head in the undersized trout net. After finding the hook, I took my hemostats and unhooked the bugger from its jaw. A turn of the net and he turned right-side and swam back into the river water.

 I hadn't been in the river more than 10 minutes and already felt I had scored my share of the $38.00 I paid for a nonresident license and trout stamp. It was still the early morning, before 10, but a reward cigar I felt was in order.

 Puffing on the stogie I continued swinging and working the bugger along the seams and riffles caused by the outcropping of big boulder. I continued catching aggressive rainbows after aggressive rainbow as if these trout were just stocked but the way they fought I knew they inhabited the river for some time. On occasion I'd hook up with a brook trout but rarely. Now and then a fish would rise but I couldn't see anything along the water. I did try a small dry fly on occasion but never got a reaction from the trout towards it.

 I notice along the far bank a few fish were rising and made a decision to head that way. I knotted on the Woolly Bugger and fished it while carefully wading over the rocky bottom within range of the slower current out from the far bank. Once within distance I contemplated my options.
 From past experience I've learned sometimes big fish hold in the slowest of water near the bank away from the bustle of rough water and aggressiveness of smaller fish competing for food or fun. Maybe they just lay there soaking up the sun like a tourist on the beach. Just lying around waiting for a beach maid to bring him a tall cool tropical drink. Whatever the reason I've found this happen more than once.
 Plopping a heavy bugger in the slow current might alert the trout and become wary. I wasn't sure what the depth really was since I kept my distance and was more afraid to snag up and cause water disturbance. I decided to knot on a sucker spawn with one of my bi-color 'tropical' San Juan flavor worms as a dropper. With a little added weight on the leader I made an overhand cast, of the tandem rig, and dropped it upstream from the slow pool and let it drift under an indicator upon the slow surface current. The tear drop indicator stood up for a split second and dipped ever so lightly on the surface. I yanked the rod over my shoulder for a hook set and I felt the 4 weight rod arc somewhere near the butt section. There was no give on the other end like the 11-14 inch trout I had been catching. I felt a sharp nudge in the line and then the tight line started to move upstream like an oversized carp awakened by a deep sleep by a sharp pierce of the lip. Line was slowly pulled from the spool as the flexed rod and spool drag wasn't hampering the fish in the direction it was deciding it wanted to go. I stood with my right hand gripping tightly around the cork handle and my left finger pinching the fly line letting the line slip through my fingers with tension. Once the fish reached the oncoming faster current it took off upriver like a powerful tug boat as line still pulled out from the spool. A quick couple of thwarting head shakes, as like a horse trying to shew away flies, and than the trout decided to turn and pick up speed swimming downriver. I lifted the rod high keeping a straight line to the fish as I reeled in line onto the spool. Once I felt the rod tip flex with pressure I let the fish fight the drag and rod flex as it continued downriver. I quickly turned the drag knob two clicks tighter and in a few seconds the fish turned upstream and fought with spotty tugs and thwarts beneath the surface.
  It was evident this fish was a brute. I hadn’t got a look at it so I was trying to guess what it was. It swam and felt like a heavy weight carp but with the head shakes and tugs it couldn’t be. It didn’t fight as frisky and wasn’t as fast as a big rainbow. A heavy brown usually battles tooth and nail beneath with an occasional alligator roll trying to get free. This fish just seems to lumber about with tugging head shakes at times as if to wonder if he was still attached to something. It had lots of room to roam around so I just held on and hoped my line doesn’t drag on exposed rocks and fray.
 He stopped right across from me but still some distance away. I could see the swirl in the surface water where he put up some commotion below. The rod flexed with his wayward actions and I probably looked like I had snagged a drifting log as I stood puffing on my stogie. When the fish decided to move I got ready for another swimming trial. He headed upriver again but abruptly turned towards me. I reeled in line while keeping tension with the bowed rod. He swam within a few yards of me and then high tailed it down river once more. Tensioned line peeled off the spool once more as there was no stopping the brute. Once down river he seemed to calm down and began to slowly swim towards me in no hurry. Again I reeled line into the reel keeping the rod tip bowed towards him. Within sight he swam up river in front of me and I visually seen his silver bluish sides beneath the surface. A short distance up river he curved around and started to come towards me again. I reeled in more line till he looked like he was within distance of netting. I had the rod angled in front of me as I reached for my net with my other hand. After submerging the net in the water I brought the rod high and the trout gingerly entered the net without much fighting. I stared at the brute of a brook trout. It had to be close to the longest brook trout I ever caught and definitely the heaviest.

  Well, with that fish I deserved a shot but I hadn’t brought the flask with me.
 I made a few more casts with the tandem set up into the slower water but didn’t pull anything out. I switched over to the Woolly Bugger and for the next hour or two waded and scoured the river for more hungry trout.

  I was catching trout after trout. Just after noon I was getting a bit hungry and slowly started to wade towards the road side bank. I spotted a wooden landing net drifting down river heading between the river bank and me. I slowly waded and intercepted it before it was able to pass by. It was well made with a rubber net. There was a magnet on a lanyard that had apparently got away from someone upstream. Looking up river I saw no one that would have been in the path of the lost net. There was a bend in the river that I couldn’t see anyone beyond that. I took the net to the truck and laid it in the bed. If someone was interested in finding it they were sure welcome to come and get it.
 It was about 2:30 or so. I took a couple of bites from a sub sandwich I bought and rested a bit on the tailgate enjoying the sunshine and the cool breeze. Occasionally a vehicle would cruise down the road as if looking for someplace to park and fish. There was enough space to park in front of my truck but no one decided to stop. After some time I headed back into the water where I started fishing in the morning. There was one fisherman upriver who was landing a trout. ¾ of the way across the river another fellow was nymph fishing towards the middle of the river. I dipped into the water and waded out far enough to make a long cast without interference from the bank side trees.
 I slowly waded and made my way to a deep run I had fished and caught trout earlier. Spending a short time drifting the woolly bugger through resulted in no strikes. When the other fellow waded down river I started to wade within distance of where he was fishing. After a couple of long casts and swinging the bugger I finally connected with another trout.
 I was mid river, facing the road when my sons showed up. They got their rods and gear on and joined me. They fished up river but within conversation distance. By now I was dredging the bottom with a nymph and a San Juan as a dropper. I’d pick up a trout now and then. 

 On one occasion I felt a hard strike as my imitations swung near the end of its drift beneath a little faster flow. I suppose it looked like a drowned worm being swept away by the current. The strike was so hard that the trout may have set the hook itself. I lifted the rod and gave it a little yank to make sure the hook was set good. The trout on the other end shot out of the water in full acrobatic form. It plunged back into the water and shot right back out like someone stepping into streaming hot bath water too hot to enter. He returned to the water, swam a short distance and once more leaped from the surface skyward. Maybe he was practicing for a high jump meet later on? From the looks of it he might win.
 When I finally got this energetic trout to the net I seen I caught my first brown trout in the river. This completed the trifecta for the day.

I watched my one son catch a few trout but my youngest hadn’t caught a trout yet in the short time they were fishing. Giddeon headed to the bank and I followed shortly after. Just before I made it to the river bank I heard Jesse Pete call out he had one. I turned and watched him bring it in.
 At the truck we changed clothes. I told them there were trout all over in the river. I also told them I had never caught so many trout in one day in my life that I could recall.

 Another successful new trout water experience in the books!!! 


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