Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mystery of the Davidson River NC.

 

Mystery of the Davidson River NC

2/08/2021


Time and again I’ve heard it is hard to catch trout in the Davidson River NC regularly. Maybe it gets fished heavy being it’s a premier trout water in NC. My son and I have fished the Davidson a few years back. That I recall we may have only caught 1 trout each during a long day of fishing.

  It is a beautiful mountain stream that flows through a forest of laurel and hardwoods. The stony river bed, like most mountain streams in NC, comes alive under the sun showing off brilliant colors of rocks and stones along with sparkling sediment. There are plenty of shaded areas as well, against the cliffs and heavy canopy. Maybe cause it runs so clear the trout are able to see a great distance and are fishermen shy. They definitely appear to be line shy. The few trout I have caught in the Davidson are fat compared to other mountain streams. Even so these fish appear to be a mystery to catch to some of us fishermen. When I’m in Western NC I just always have to give these river trout a try and break the mystery.



 

  I fished the Davidson three times while in Western NC in February. The first time out I came to find rising trout in the afternoon to BWO’s. There had to be at least a dozen or so picking off BWO’s like a young child picking out the Lucky Charms in a a bowl of cereal. I had, with me, 1 fly box I had just tied up before leaving for NC from PA. for this occasion. In the box I had a dozen of BWO’s in #18 and #16 sizes of Catskill ties and CDC para duns. I knotted one on and watched trout after trout picking off the fluttering or drifting BWO’s naturals off the surface. I watched one BWO drift into my own imitation and a trout rose and appeared to gobble both up. Not sure which one he was after but I reared back on the rod and my line tightened. He fought and struggled like a child caught taking his younger brother’s toy and not wanting to give it back. When I netted him I saw my BWO imitation in the side of its mouth.


 

 The CDC wing of my BWO was well drenched so I knotted on another. Trout were still rising for the naturals but wouldn’t touch any of my imitations. I watched two trout on two separate occasions rise to mine and inspect it as if they were gemologists looking through a magnifying glass to see if the BWO was real or fake. They both refused it and dropped out of sight. I wasn’t sure if they were seeing my 6x tippet or somehow knew it wasn’t real. Either way I didn’t catch another. Soon the BWO’s quit and I moved downriver.

  In a long deeper stretch I was stripping buggers when one trout rose to the surface in the distance. I was in the middle of the stream already up to my thighs. I knotted on a BWO Para Dun with dark CDC wings. I was pretty sure the trout had no idea I was there being he was pretty far downstream holding in deep water just out from an overhanging branch. Being I was in the middle of the river I had nothing behind me to hamper my back cast. I made a long cast just short of his last rise and let the BWO drift into his zone. He rose and grabbed it like it would be his last meal of the afternoon. I reared back in anticipation and the line tightened. Another brown trout came to net with my BWO pierced in its jaw. I didn’t catch anything on a dry fly after that one.

 I did catch one more trout on a nymph before taking off. 

  A few days after that I returned waiting for trout to rise for a BWO hatch. Well, it never really happened though very few trout did rise on occasion. It was suppose to get warmer in the day but with the cloud cover it never felt like it. The wind picked up making it hard to cast the small dries. Along with the windy conditions it got so cold my fingers stiffened to the point I couldn’t tie any more flies to my 6x tippet. I had to call it quits. 


 

 The third day I returned I was more prepared and the temp’s were to be in the upper 40’s. I brought with me a fly box filled with BWO’s I had tied some time ago with different variations and shades. There was nearly a breeze and I couldn’t wait till noon for the BWO hatch.

  I got there early and started nymph fishing the faster riffles first at the beginning of the long pool. Water gushed over a stony and rocky shallow section and emptied into the somewhat deeper water wavy against the far bank. I knotted on a little olive nymph and dropped a black stonefly below. I added a little weight to the leader to get the combination down fast. I began to nymph fish my way downstream to where the trout were rising earlier in the week. In a shallow run, near the far bank, I cast upstream and held the 7’1/2” rod level with the water following the indicator drifting in the slower wavy current. The indicator went under and I instinctively set the hook with a sharp wristing tug. The line tightened, I felt an instant jolt on the line and a fish pulled down stream arcing the 4 weight in a good bend. Tension line ran through my fingers and line spit out of the reel. I knew I had a dandy.

 He fought downstream with healthy jolting tugs swimming back and forth covering the full width of the narrow river. When he started to swim towards me I was able to see his long fat body just below the surface water. He stopped short of where I stood and took off towards the far bank beneath the wavy current. I had a tight grip on the cork and if the cork was any softer I would have left finger impressions in it. The trout battled as the rod tip flexed with each jolting tug. Nearer to me I got my net out and was ready to net him if he got closer. He swam upstream a bit, passed me and tried to hold in the faster current. I moved the rod, as he swam up river and kept side pressure on him. I didn’t force the issue though because I was using 6x tippet. He finally turned with the current and swam downstream. After a few more skirmishes I got the big beautiful butter belly brown in the net safely. He had taken that little olive nymph.


 

Well, with that catch I definitely deserved a cigar. I took out a Ramon Bueso toro and lit it up. The Habano wrapped cigar and long fillers hit the spot!

  

 After a few enjoyable puffs to get the cigar heated and burning even I fished the same combination down river catching only one smaller rainbow in a deeper hole on the little olive nymph.

  

 I fished an assortment of nymphs, keeping the little olive nymph on, in the pool where the trout rose in the past without a strike. When I saw a few, very few, BWO’s drifting down the stream I knotted on my own imitation. There were a couple trout rising seldomly further down river in the shallower tail out but none in front of me. Even so none were coming up near me I casted and drifted my BWO imitations time and again in the deeper water near me. Maybe I drifted my imitations enough that one trout thought the hatch was on. On one drift through a trout rose, briefly looked at it and sucked it down like a preteen slurping the tiny marshmallows in a cup of hot chocolate. I reared back the rod and set the hook. The trout darted about trying to shake loose but couldn’t free himself before I netted a nice healthy looking brown trout.

  

 I moved downstream some within casting distance of the shallower water. I watched trout rising to the few BWO’s fluttering time after time but wouldn’t touch mine. When the actual big hatch started the trout rose and I watched them picking off BWO’s one by one. I casted out and showed the trout just about every shade, size and style in the next hour or so without a take. You would of thought I was trying to get the trout to taste spinach or brussels sprouts.. When the hatch quit so did the rising trout. (An after thought was maybe I should have went down to 7x tippet?) I fished nymphs till I decided to call it a day without getting another strike. I was pretty frustrated over not catching more on the dry but the big brown made my day a happy one overall.

  I would say I never did conquer the mystery fully but the few trout I did catch left a lasting impression. Heck, maybe some consider three netted trout on the Davidson River a really good day.

“Maybe next time” as they say.

I lit up an AB Magic Toast Robusto for the drive back to my sons place.  


 ~doubletaper

 


 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

In Finding the Catawba River

 

In Finding the Catawba

2/07/2021


 After spending a couple of hours trying to find the catch and release waters of the Henry Fork I decided to search for the special regulation area near Glenn Alpine. I have the Atlas of North Carolina Trout Fishing Map. It shows the rivers, forks and creeks stocked with trout as well as wild trout waters. It shows interstates and main routes but does not show any secondary roads.


 

  It was only talking to an old friendly geezer on my way along the Henry Fork open waters that I found out the dirt road leading up the mountain was not privately owned as posted. With the snow on the road he doubted I could make it up the dirt road anyhow. It looked pretty bad what I was able to see so I took his advice and turned around.

  It was getting late in the afternoon and I really wanted to fish. I was hoping to find the Special Regulation Waters of the Catawba River without much wasted time. Without secondary roads on the map all I could tell was the project waters were somewhere between the town of Glenn Alpine and Lake James.

  After an hour finding a main route around Lake James I started taking roads to my left in hopes of finding the project waters. I think it was the third left, off the main route, I saw a parking lot of vehicles and the river. I found the road leading to the parking lot, I think is Powerhouse road. When I pulled into the parking area I was at the Handicap Access Hatchery supported waters. I knew the project waters couldn’t be too far down river.

  In the parking lot I saw a fisherman, at his tailgate, looking as if he was done fishing. His wet waders were in the bed of his truck as well was a spinning rod. I stopped and asked him where the Special Regulation Waters were and you would of thought I guessed the ‘Who Done It’ caricature without any clues. He not only told me how to get there, besides bragging about the big trout that could be caught, but had me follow him to where he usually fishes it at. Was this a trap?

  After driving down the road a mile or three he pulled off the side of the road next to posted signs and skeletal deer carcasses and informed me this was it. He sounded genuine in his North Carolina accent.

  After putting on our waders he even took out a fly rod. It was only a 2 weight he told me but was the only one he was carrying at the time. I followed him pass the posted signs and along a path through the heavy pines. Somewhere along the path we turned off to the right still walking through the wooded pines and brush. The whole time he was talking I was listening for banjos. The old rubber boot and red t-shirt hanging from a tree branch didn’t bother me as much as the one-eyed, pigtail stuffed doll with the faded torn skirt thrown in the bushes did. It kind of gave me goosebumps on my arms. Almost brought a tear to my eye. Once we got to the river though I was feeling much better.

  The river was wide where we were at and flowing as clear as a jar of moonshine. Not as wide as the Tuckasegee, which I fished the past week, but wide enough that two fishermen can fish both sides without interfering with each other. It was shallow enough, looking thigh high deepest in most areas, that one could wade clear across river. There were nice riffles down below that looked deep enough to hold feeding trout as well as deeper water. I could see no exposed boulders or log jams within the middle river section that would hamper casting or snagging hazards. Along the banks there were a few branchless fallen trunks, as well as a posted sign, and plenty of overhanging branches but for the most part all were accessible to cast to from out in the river. Upriver I could see the lengthy bridge which we parked before reaching it.

  As I stepped in the river it didn’t feel as cold as the mountain streams and creeks I had been fishing in. Though he told me the bigger trout like to hug the banks out from the main current I waded right for the riffles down stream. He started fishing the bank side from where we entered in the not so fast rough water. As I waded I felt the current around my legs wasn’t too strong to push me off balance easily.

  I started casting an olive Woolly Bugger towards the far bank in a slower current on the far side of a riffling section of water. I let it swing deep within the riffles and once the line straightened I started to strip it towards me when a fish grabbed it like a ‘T’ shirt being thrown from a concert stage into the crowd and this recipient wasn’t letting go. With the current the trout felt weightier than it was while giving a good fight on the arcing 5 weight. I turned my head upstream and my new friend was watching me. After I got the brown trout in the net I turned toward him and he was already nearer to me. Even wanting to take a picture of me with my trout with his own phone. I showed him what I was using and gave him a couple of olive buggers. He tied one on immediately and waded back upstream.

 


 

 There was wadeable shallow water mid river where I could fish good water on either side. I waded over and was in water just above my knees. The water deepened within casting distance down stream but also deep enough on both sides to hold fish. After letting my bugger swing through the deeper riffles I let the line straighten for a second or two before stripping it in. I let it dangle in the current twitching the rod tip to give the Woolly Bugger more action. I was stripping it in slowly when a trout grabbed it like a miler grabbing a water bottle midway through a marathon. He held on for a few seconds and then let go just like a marathon runner. It wasn’t long after that I heard John call out he was taking off. I asked him if he caught any trout. He said he had one that got off and a couple of other strikes. When I asked him what on he told me the Woolly Buggers I gave him. He thanked me for the buggers and waded to the bank. I watched as he disappeared through the forest.

  I fished another hour under the sun. I glanced around now and then watching to see if someone was watching me from the banks. The one posted sign along the river bank wasn’t that old or faded like the tin Special Regulation Water sign stuck to a fallen tree trunk. It was just an eerie feeling I guess out in the middle of nowhere, alone and in unfamiliar territory. I felt like a sitting duck. Heck, I didn’t even know if my cell phone had reception if I so needed to call in case of an emergency of some kind. I did catch a couple more brown trout. One more on the Woolly Bugger and one on a #12 black stonefly. The air began to get cooler and when I looked at my watch it was near 4:30. I fished towards the bank while wading in that direction.



 

  I walked through the pines heading at an angle towards where I figured my truck was parked. I found the wider path through the pines and followed it towards the way we came in. Within vision of my truck I saw another truck parked behind it. First I was glad my truck was still there and didn’t get towed but was starting to worry about the other vehicle? I started to wonder if I was going to be confronted by the owner of the posted property or even wondering if a NC officer was waiting for me. When I got to my truck there wasn’t anyone in the other truck. I didn’t see anyone else around nor did I see anyone in the river while I was fishing. I kind of hurriedly changed out of my wading gear and got out of there in my Dodge.


~doubletaper

Friday, February 12, 2021

Big Stones on the 'Tuck'

 

Big Stones on the ‘Tuck’

2/04/2021

 


  When I got to the Tuckasegee River, nicknamed the ‘Tuck’, early Thursday morning the river had gone down quite a bit from the day before. The sun was brighter also and there was less cloud cover. It might had been a little, just a little warmer outside but when I stepped into the river it was just as cold as I remember. I casted out a Woolly Bugger and within 4 casts I caught a frisky rainbow. 


 

 For the next half hour I couldn’t get a strike on any of my assorted colors of Buggers or other streamers. Pretty much how my morning went the day before.

  The day before I only caught 2 rainbows. One on a bugger and one on a little olive nymph.



 

 I tried nymphs, buggers and even San Juan worms but the trout didn’t appear to be hungry or I didn’t have the right snacks for them to enjoy that day.

  On the drive over today my son, Jesse Pete, stopped by a tackle shop and asked them what the trout in the ‘Tuck’ might be feeding on. After Pete told me what they told him I figured out I would give it a try.

  The guy told him size #10 or #8 stoneflies. The day before I was using #16’s and #14 stones without any takers. I dug in my fly boxes and came up with #12 2x-3x long black stoneflies. I’m not sure if I ever used such big stoneflies in Pennsylvania but I did have them. With a #18 BWO nymph and one of these black stoneflies I felt like a kiosk  employee offering some kind of free tasty tidbits in the grocery isle at a busy supermarket.

  The second trout I caught was a small rainbow on the olive nymph in the slower water out from the bank. Once I got a good mend and drift in the deeper faster water I started to hook up to bigger trout on the black stonefly.


 

 I took a break from the action and took out an Alec Bradley Post Embargo Robusto. Having smoked one before I knew the Honduran wrapper leaves a good flavor on the lips while the medium body Nicaragua and Honduras long leaf filler gives a smooth draw, enjoyable smoke and pleasant aroma. 


 

  I watched the indicator drift on this side of the seam bobbin on the small waves like a lost bottle going out with the tide. It passed by me and I let slacked line out to try and keep it drag free. Maybe after 6 or 7 yards the tear drop indicator dipped so I yanked the rod angling it over my head and right shoulder. The 5 weight 9’ rod tip section arced with the instant tight line. The trout took upstream like a torpedo and I gripped the cork handle with both hands tightly as if not giving up on a tug of war rope. I felt the spool spin line out as the trout continued its course upstream and towards the middle of the river. It wasn’t fishy wild but by the arc in the midsection of the fast action rod and the strength I was using to keep the rod up I knew this wasn’t a small dude. Once it got into the rolling waves out a ways it started to give some jolting tugs. The top rod section arced and recoiled with each forceful jolt. He turned with the current and swam downstream keeping his distance. I stood my ground and moved the rod at an angle always trying to keep side pressure on him. Down stream he turned and forcefully start tugging again and again moving ever so slightly nearer in my direction. I suppose once he figured out the tippet wasn’t going to break and the guy holding the rod was experienced with this kind of fight he decided to make a dash upstream again a little deeper. He took off like a torpedo upriver and I could tell he was swimming deeper.

  There are many sharp shallower rocky ledges in the Tuckasegee where, if one is careful, can practically wade out to midstream or even get close enough to cast to the other bank keeping on the ledges. I thought that was what he was up to, trying to run deep and get my line frayed on one of the ledges.

  I grabbed the line with my left hand, just out from the reel, and lifted the rod high keeping the least amount of line in the water and as straight to the fish as possible while keeping pressure on him to turn around. I felt the rod curve a little deeper as I moved the rod butt into my gut. I was hoping my knots wouldn’t fail. He moved towards my direction some and then turned downstream again. I started to reel in line as fast as possible trying to keep a bow in the rod. He swung in a big sweeping arc downstream towards my wake from the current flowing around my waders. He held up a bit with one tug before swimming towards shore trying to surprise me. I swung around with the rod facing the bank as quick as he tried to outsmart me. He started to swim upstream between me and the bank but then bolted across the current back towards mid-river. I brought the rod high quickly to keep tension as he passed and then lowered it some once he passed by always trying to keep a bow in the rod. This was a cunning old trout no doubt and I wonder if anyone ever got him to net in his old age. He turned down stream once more and I gave him a little line out maybe teasing him in the process. Then I felt it was my turn to trick him and see how much energy he had left. I took a few steps backward and angled the rod upstream. He reluctantly gave in and started to move upstream and I felt I was trying to drag a log uphill. Then I swung the rod towards the bank and he followed but once he got in the shallower riffles he darted back out towards mid-river. He didn’t get too far as the rod curved into the midsection again and he stopped with the rod pressure. I turned the rod upstream and he started to make a wide arc swimming upriver. Once he got straight across from me I pulled the rod up over my head and started to reel in line. The pressure was too much and he turned down river with the current. I had him closer than I ever did before. I slowly brought in line as he kept his distance but was moving in front of me as I was facing the middle of the river. He swam passed me with a couple of tugs and tail swats and with that I took out my net. I had the line pinched between my right finger and the cork handle as I brought the rod high in the air as if stretching my pectoral muscles. The big bow backed up towards my direction facing upstream. I had the net behind him and as I lowered the rod slowly he unknowing was backing right into it. I watched to make sure his tail didn’t touch the net before making a quick move scooping him in the net.


 

  What a relief! Good long fight with a netted big fish. What more could I ask for? He took the big black stonefly. I took a sigh of relief, wet my hand and let him swim back into his domain.


 

  After letting him go I took the cigar from my clinched teeth, took a big breath of fresh air, thanked God and stuffed the stogie back between my lips. I checked the time and it was just before 12. My son was to arrive around noon.

 I continued to nymph fish and the big black stonefly didn’t disappoint.



 

 When my son showed up I gave him a couple of stoneflies and olive nymphs. We fished together till we decided to go. He caught one rainbow on a Woolly Bugger before we departed while I caught a couple more trout on the black stonefly.

 It sure was a fun day of trout fishing the 'Tuck'!

 

 ~doubletaper


 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Calisthenics on Curtis Creek

 

Calisthenics on Curtis Creek

2/09/2021


 My last day in Western North Carolina I decided to fish a small mountain creek called Curtis Creek North of Old Fort. From the road, on the drive up, I could see big boulders, skinny water that opened up into larger pools and lots of wavy water. The riffles glistened under the morning sun flowing through a forest of laurel, trees and sharp cliffs. I parked in the Handicap accessible Delayed Harvest lot, got my gear on and headed upstream along a forest path.

  At the water I knotted on a Woolly Bugger without much confidence. The few smaller streams I fished the Buggers weren’t so successful as nymph fishing. With the fast shallow riffles and rocky strewn bottom I was afraid nymph fishing would consume more time with water hazard snags and retying. After some time of no takers I decided to change tactics and take a chance on nymph fishing. Because of the fast current I decided not to use an indicator.

  I had found a beaded San Juan worm in the parking area so I figured this must be popular. I looked under a few rocks and saw a good sized brown nymph that I identified as a Brown Stonefly. I knotted on my biggest Brown Stone and dropped my San Juan as my bottom fly. I grabbed a cigar out of my pocket, lit it up, looked down creek and continued on.

  

 Wading the creek was no easy task. Climbing over huge boulders along the banks to get to deeper pools was extreme effort. Carefully wading over underwater rock ledges and slippery bedrock that looked like they just came right out of a rock tumbler was the other half of the needed energy. I haven’t exerted that much energy for some time. It felt like a combination of rock climbing, extreme Yoga and Aikido.

  Finally drifting the nymphs through the riffling section the line pulled away. I made a quick yank of the 4 weight fly rod over my right shoulder to set the hook. The hooked fish swam with the current in erratic motion. Once the line straightened down creek I started to reel him in towards me. At times he appeared to spin in circles in the fast current like running with an uncontrollable kite trying to get it to raise up higher in a swirling wind. Once I got him netted I discovered I caught a beautiful wild brown trout with defining Parr marks. He had taken the Brown Stonefly.

  

 Later on I hooked another small trout but it got off before getting it to the net.

  By the time I got to the bridge it had to be in the high 50’s. I went to the truck to strip off some clothing before continuing on down creek from the bridge. The water was wide but mostly shallow with little deeper pockets. I returned to the truck and drove down the road hoping to find better water.

  I parked along the road over looking a steep cliff. The water below looked deeper and very inviting. I got my gear on and carefully made my way down the steep hill to the creek. I fished with buggers and nymphs without a strike for some time. After a couple of bottom snags resulting in lost nymphs and tangling with an over hanging branch when roll casting I was sitting on a rock along the bank. While knotting on a piece of 5x tippet, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a splash of a rising trout downstream. I looked around and saw a couple of decent size Mayflies that looked like a Hendrickson and a couple of small caddis. Another trout poked up through the surface quickly only about 25 feet away. I added a length of 6x tippet and contemplated what to try next. Being February I didn’t expect to see any big Mayflies so I had none on me. I did have a box of caddis though. I picked one out to give it a try.

  From my sitting position I made a backhand cast with my right hand and wristed the forward cast downstream. I stopped the cast abruptly which caused the leader and tippet to fall upon the water with slack. My caddis drifted, drag free, down creek and the trout snapped at it like a sitting dog being thrown a biscuit. I yanked the rod back and the hook point penetrated. I stood up and got the trout safely to the net. I took it as the brown was a hold over from earlier in the year.

 


 The small caddis got torn up trying to dislodge it from the trouts mouth. I knotted on another. Crouching down I moved down the bank within casting distance of the other rise I thought I saw. With the same casting effort, while stooped down, the caddis fell upon the water surface. To my surprise the trout rose and grabbed my fly way before I expected it. I yanked the rod upstream, the line tightened and the fish dangled at the end of the tippet momentarily. The caddis dislodged and flung up creek tangling in the overhanging branch. After that episode I fished a dry caddis up creek to the big pool below the cliff I was parked on.

  While fishing the big pool I happen to turn around when I heard stones falling down the hill. A NC Wildlife Management officer was carefully making his way down the rocky slope to greet me. After the usual “did you catch anything” question he asked to see my license. I clinched the burning cigar between my teeth, pulled down my waist waders slightly and took my license out of the back pocket of my fleece wading pants.

We had a good conversation for about 15 minutes or so. He was very informative on their single hook laws, trout stockings and any other questions I asked him. After he left I fished for another 15 minutes or so and called it a day.


~doubletaper 


 

 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Day Trip'n

 

Day Trip’n

12/23/2020


 

 It was that time of year between deer season and Christmas. I’ve been sitting home bored. The following Friday, Christmas, till the New Year the weather was suppose to get nasty and temperatures in the teens. I decided to take one more day trip to the Erie tribs. to fish for steelhead before the worst weather hit.

  Wednesday morning I was standing in cold tributary water on Elk creek. The temperature outside was in the upper 30’s to low 40’s when I arrived. They were calling for high winds but where I was fishing the cliff across the water and the bend in the creek flow upstream prevented the strongest of winds from sweeping across the section of water me and another fisherman were fishing. The wind gusts, from around the corner, howled in the distance like a lone coyote in a steep hollow a mile away. By the time the aftermath arrived it felt like a dry cold breeze across my face. Nothing too strong to rattle the tree branches above or hamper my roll casts but enough to dry out and stiffen my exposed cheeks. My face began to feel like a cold cardboard box left out on the front porch dusted in snow. The water was a limestone milky color. Just like the color of a pothole filled with water, in a limestone road, after a truck tire rolls through it. The creek was flowing favorably and deep enough, along with the color, to hide any steelhead hugging the bottom of the deeper pools. This was all because of the snow run off from the past few days. It was perfect conditions, in water clarity, as far a I was concerned.

  Fishing this area a couple of weeks before I knew there would be fish in this stretch of water even though they weren’t visible. It’s funny how other fishermen would pass by and comment how they haven’t seen any fish and asked if we seen any and if we caught any. After awhile I just told them the steelhead were well camouflaged this morning. The fishermen would disappear around the corner upstream and usually within an hour or so return and continue to walk behind me and downstream gazing into the water looking for fish as if a gold miner wasn’t going to pan for gold unless he saw a glimmer of a dusting. Eventually the fisherman just up creek from me, and having caught no fish, took to walking upstream also. This left me alone and I had the whole section of water to myself for some time.

  It wasn’t long before the coldness of the water began to make my feet feel frozen and numb. No matter what kind of socks I wear there is no way to keep the cold from taking its toll. The good thing, since no one was fishing around me, I had room to wade around to keep my feet moving to keep a warmer blood circulation to them. Other than that I was dressed for the conditions and didn’t really feel the coldness outside.

  Practically at the end of one drift my indicator dipped beneath the water surface and I quickly, with a jerking hook set, yanked the rod upstream. The fly line tightened and the rod bowed towards the hooked fish. My first steelhead was on. She shook the line like Santa swaying the reins trying get back to the North Pole before daylight. Then she dashed upstream in a flurry with a wake following her. We had quite a bit a go around but I managed to get her to cooperate and got her to the bank.


 Well, I was going to light up my first cigar but when I looked at my watch it was only a quarter to nine. I figured I’d wait at least till 10 to light up.


 In the next few hours I tried to tempt a few other unseen fish to take any of my different offerings. I hooked up two more times. One I was sure a foul hook. The other was a nice colorful male. He rose to the surface, after the hook up, and shook his head violently. He sped upstream just below the surface in front of a fisherman up creek from me. From there he turned and torpedoes past me and that’s when the hook came out and the rod straightened. The indicator, line and both sucker spawn flew up out of the water and twisted around a branch above me too far up to reach. When I looked up at the branches I saw other fish ornaments hanging from the limbs also. They were all shapes and sizes as well as different colors. I said to the guy upstream that it looked like a fair hook and he agreed.

  After retying on new leader and tippet I knotted on a couple more sucker spawns and continued to fish deep. When the other fisherman left I walked up creek and knotted on a streamer. I fished streamers to where I hooked up to the other fish earlier without a take. By then the sun started to rise above the cliff and through the trees across creek. The water appeared to clear up a bit. Since I hadn’t had a take for some time I decided to drop a sucker spawn on 4lb P-Line off a sparkle spawn that I had knotted to 6lb Fluorocarbon.

  Standing in one spot I tried to cover as much water as possible casting towards the far bank to just short in the deeper water before me. I would cast up creek, making big mends at times, so my indicator would drift downstream with my fly line trailing. On one occasion the indicator dipped and I let it stay under just a tad longer than usual because I knew there was a snag beneath in the area the indicator dipped. The indicator didn’t continue to drift down creek so I gave an upward tug on the rod but not strong enough that I thought would cause the 4lb tippet to break off. The line tightened and I could feel the rod bow down in the midsection almost forcing my wrists to unlock when the line took off upstream. I raised the rod a little higher to cut down on the resistance of the fly line through the water. As he passed me he rose just below the surface and I saw his long body. From there he dropped a little deeper and was headed to a rocky ledge visible upstream, from where I stood, below the surface. I tried to turn him with the rod facing somewhat down creek. I knew I couldn’t put too much pressure thinking he took the sucker spawn on the 4 lb Fluorocarbon. He turned down creek and stopped in front of me shaking his head and somersaulting like an old synchronized swimmer that may have participated in the Olympic games in his younger days. He wasn’t quick in doing his somersaulting as I watched him but was trying his best to get himself free of the line. His dull pink lateral line stretched from his tail to his brighter pink gill plate. His long body wasn’t as bright as the male steelhead I lost earlier but was more of a dingy color that I figured been in the creek for sometime. Either way it looked to be one of the lengthiest steelhead I had ever caught. Thinking he took the sucker spawn on the 4lb tippet I took my time and let him tire himself out before trying to coax him in too quickly. There was no one around within vision so I was on my own trying to land him without anyone to net him for me.

  As we battled I would tighten the drag at times and loosen at times depending on his forceful runs. Most of the time I had the rod butt in my gut with my two hands gripping the cork and just letting him swim fighting the tightened drag and arcing rod resistance. When he came to the surface, at times, he still had enough energy to give a few jolting head shakes before dropping below and swimming. There were times I thought he wasn't going to tire like a Christmas toy with fresh batteries.   While we were in the scuffle I waded backward towards the bank. When I would get him near the shallow water I was standing in he would force his way outward and downstream some. I had to keep him from reaching the shallower riffles downstream at all cost. I moved the rod downstream and towards the bank trying not to give him any more line. He splashed water about and got a spurt of energy to swim away from the shallows. I gave him a little line but kept the rod bowed in a good arc. He finally gave in, or I just kept enough pressure on him, that I got him to the bank. He was pretty tuckered out like a tired old beagle after running a rabbit through a grown up thicket. 


 I didn’t waste any time in taking a quick picture and getting the Sparkle spawn out from his tongue. He had taken the top spawn on the 6lb tippet and not the dropper off the 4lb. I dipped him in shallow water where he would be able to swim out of. Moving him, to push water through his gills, he revived enough and after I felt a good tail swat I let him swim out of my grip. He swam out of the shallow water a bit and rested in water deep enough he was fully submerged below the surface. It was if he couldn’t believe, after all the fighting he had done, that I released him and he wasn’t going to be Christmas dinner.


  I let him rest there while I lit up a cigar before wading out towards him. He nonchalantly swam away once I got nearer to him.


 I fished about another hour or so after that without a hook up. I wondered up stream and while I was fishing a long time acquaintance, and his son, happen by. We recognized each other right off. After chatting a bit I climbed the bank and headed downstream. When I got to where I hooked up to the steelhead earlier there was a guy and his son fishing the same area. I looked up in the tree branches, where I had lost the sucker spawn earlier, and some of the hanging fishing lures and spawn where sparkling like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree.   

  Hey, I had fun and called it a day. By then it was around 2:30. I had a couple hour drive home so I headed to the truck.


~doubletaper

 

 

 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Last Buck of Ludlow

 

The Last Buck of Ludlow

12/02/2002


 Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I use to hunt with my Grandpa Pete. I hunted anterless deer season with him every year but buck hunting was every other year. This gave me opportunity to buck hunt other areas with friends. We hunted out of a camp up on German Hill in Tionesta. There was usually at least 7 of us for doe season and buck season was always questionable who would show up. We hunted the same area in the forest near Ludlow for buck season, at least for the first day. Some of the young hunters didn’t care much for Ludlow being we didn’t see many deer there. Even though some of the guys got a buck there they nicknamed it Dudlow because of what they considered the lack of deer. I had taken a few bucks there as well as did the camp owner Mario.

  Camp life was always enjoyable back then. I was in my late teens and early 20’s when I hunted out of the camp with Grandpa and the gang. It was fun listening to the conversations, discussions and of course arguments. I was kind of quiet back then and was more of an observer in camp then a talkative conversation kind of person.

  The usual people that came to camp were aged from the oldest, being my Grandfather, to the youngest in their late teens in the early days. Mario, or Beaver as he was called, was the owner of the camp and leader of our hunting party. He built the camp when he was younger with the help of friends I’ve been told. My Grandfather and him had a special relationship that went back to when Mario was growing up. Mario’s nephews usually showed up that included Big Louie, the older nephew that I referred him as, little Louie, who I referred to because he was younger than big Louie and Jeffery who is little Louie’s younger brother. Then there was Pressure Cooker Pete S. who always brought his pressure cooker along to cook the pasta sauce on Sunday. Dan usually came in from Ohio who was an in-law. One of the twins, Carmen usually showed up every year and sometimes his twin brother Joe would show up for doe season. The other occasional hunters that would spend time at the camp with us was Jerry H., Butch S. and Tommy K. and his son. Tommy owned a sub shop in downtown Sharon. When Tom showed up we had plenty of specialty sandwich meat and good fresh cheeses. Tom was usually the cook also when he came. Mario, Grandpa and I were always there come doe season. As I said before I showed up every other year for buck season. Even though Grandpa and I wasn’t related to the rest of the group the younger folks still called him Grandpa. Mario used to call my Grandfather Peter 1-8. Never knew what the 1-8 meant but it’s something they both knew about. All these memories of camp life will remain with me forever.

  We never hunted Ludlow during doe season because we got tags for Forest County back then and Ludlow was in McKean County. When we did hunt it it was during buck season. Mario had his favorite spot to hunt from and would find that same spot next to a big old downed tree up on the saddle as he called it. Every year no matter how dark it was we’d find the spot. It was quite a hike to get there. Grandpa and I would always follow him and once we reached his spot I would continue on about 200-300 yards or so to an area I posted up every year. I remember of each dark morning I would hear Mario breaking sticks and limbs building a big fire for Grandpa to sit and keep warm by. Now you would think this would spook the deer throughout the day with the fire and all. Maybe it did to some extent but there was a day I watched a nice buck walking towards Mario and Grandpa. It was much closer to them so I had no intentions on shooting. I watched this buck get closer and closer, even though Mario and Grandpa had a fire going, until I heard Mario’s 30-06 boom. The buck fell immediately and then got up. I laughed to myself as I watched it trying to walk, much like a drunk person, until it fell over a few feet away.

  As myself I had taken a few bucks there while both of them were still alive. After they passed away I still visited and hunted the area at least once or twice a year. My oldest son got his first buck there and also my youngest son got his first buck in the same general area when they were young. My other son, Giddeon, had enough patience to pass up a cigarette head spike even though it was a chance to shoot his first buck.

  Grandpa passed away back in 1990 at the age of 89. The last few years he still came to camp but usually stayed in camp while we hunted due to his old age. He was healthy within but he knew his legs and body wasn’t for hunting anymore. Mario passed away in 1997 at the age of 72. After Grandpa died I never stayed at camp or hunted out of it. I did however meet them during buck or doe season where they were hunting. By then my boys were of age to hunt and we would hunt together. Sometimes we would meet the old gang but other times we were on our own.

  Like I said before, even to this day, I take a day to visit that same area either to hunt it or just to rekindle the memories while hiking. It still gives me chills visiting that same location in Ludlow.

  Two of my favorite buck hunts, after they passed away, was a couple of 8 points I shot while hunting by myself. The first was an eight point that I was posted between Mario’s spot and where I usually posted up back in November of 2000. It was the first day of buck season and I was leaning up against a tree. About 8:00 a buck came trotting down, from where I usually sit, and crossed about 100 yards or so broadside of me. The 300 Savage hit him squarely behind the shoulder. The buck went down but got up again and continued to trot/run away as I remember. There was no snow on the ground but I do remember I tracked him for a couple of hundred yards if my memory is correct. When it came to a little creek I couldn’t find any more blood. I continued in a straight path from his previous trail and found him within a few yards of the creek. It wasn’t a trophy buck by any means but it was the biggest buck I had gotten at the time. It meant more to me as a buck that I had gotten in memory of my Grandfather and Mario in that area that I got it mounted.


 

 My other favorite Ludlow buck season hunt didn’t last too long. It also was the last buck I had shot in the Ludlow forest in that general area back in 2002. My memory recalls it going something like this;

  I awoke in my van to the darkness of the early morning parked in a small opening off the dirt road. After a cup of hot tea and a donut breakfast I put on my warm undergarments and dressed in my Woolrich hunting clothes. When I stepped outside it was a chilly damp morning. If I recall correctly the snow had melted and with the warmer temperature I was able to feel that dampness in the air. I attached my hot seat to my belt, fastened the fanny pack around my waist and took out the trusty 300 Savage. Before starting to walk I checked my compass and then started my hike to where I wanted to sit. The ground and wet leaves made for a quiet walk except for an occasional stick that may of snapped when I walked upon them. When I got to the area I usually post at I decided to keep on walking and find a spot up near the saddle of the ravine. When I felt I was around the area I wanted to sit I loaded the rifle, brushed off some of the wet leaves next to the tree and sat down on my hot seat in the darkness.

  It’s an eerie feeling sitting in a dark forest in the early morning. You hear things that you don’t really know what is making the noises. You envision it’s animals but it just might be a branch that fell to the ground some distance away that startles you. Sometimes you’ll hear movement in the thicker saplings that just might be a breeze passing through rattling the dried leaves on the branches. Then there’s the visions and thoughts that run through your head like daydreaming but now in total darkness in a place no one actually knows you are there. It sounds like kind of a risk taking but us hunters do it so many times it becomes second nature and not as scary as it may sound.

  I sat quietly waiting for the first signs of daylight. The moon above gave me some indication of my surrounding. Trees, trees and more trees. Looking up the limbs branched out in all directions beneath the starless gray sky. A cold damp breeze would waft through the air and carry with it aromas of pine and old forest mildew. I huddled with my collar up trying to keep the cold wind from entering inside my hunting coat. When the first sign of daylight came, enough to see down the saddle of the bowl that sloped down towards the steep ravine, I looked out into the vast area looking for movement.

  I always taught my kids it is hard to pick out a deer standing in a wooded forest. Your eyes and the forest tree trunks, broken fallen limbs and boulders play trick on you. Instead you slowly gaze out and look for movement. Once you see, what you think is movement, you concentrate on that until you figure out what it might be. It could be just a fluttering of a bird. Maybe a hanging tree branch that sways with each gust of wind. Maybe a squirrel scampering or maybe a deer.

  Looking down the bowl a fog rolled across caused by the cold ground and warmer temperature outside I suppose. I’m sure the wet ground had a lot to do with the misty fog also. It was so thick, as I recall, it was hard to see just a few yards in front of me. I could feel the misty droplets on my skin and the dampness that came along with it. It would last a few minutes or so as it slowly moved out of the area with a push from a gentle breeze. I would just bow my head and close my eyes as if resting when I was no longer able to see because of the fog. Every few seconds though I would open an eye just enough to peer out to see if the fog was gone. This happened over and over again as the morning got lighter. On one occasion I opened my eyes and there was this buck walking straight towards me up the bowl. He was no more than 70 yards or so when the misty fog cleared. His nose was towards the forest floor and he slowly was walking his way right towards me. His antlers curved symmetrically above his ears. I lifted the 300 to my shoulder slowly and put the crosshairs on his nose waiting for him to lift his head enough that I could get a good shot in that soft spot between his front shoulders. I knew he would be a nice wall mount and didn’t want a head shot. Patiently I waited as he continued towards me as his head was getting bigger and bigger in my 4x9 Weaver scope. He finally stopped and picked up his head. I already had the safe off. I whispered good-bye and pulled the trigger. The 300 boomed and I saw the buck fall within my scope. He fell like a 50 pound sack of chicken feed off the back of a farm wagon. My heart was racing as I recall and I sat motionless waiting for him to get up besides trying to calm my nerves. It was so quiet after the shot I could feel and swear hear my heart thumping with every beat. He just laid there without a twitch. I took a breath and lowered the rifle. Once my nerves calmed down and I could see he wasn’t getting up I stood. He was so close I stepped off the distance between him and I. My normal walking pace from step to step is no where near a yard. I took 30 steps and stood over the 8 point. I looked at my watch and it was 7:30 in the morning. My hunt was over.

  

 That was the last buck I shot in the forest of Ludlow. As I said before I still hunt the area at least once a year. The past year, in 2019, I hunted all day there in anterless season. I saw a group of three doe running but none of them stopped for a shot. This past season, 2020, I hunted there all day in doe season. There were plenty of deer tracks in the snow but I never saw a deer. I never saw a hunter in the area either though I heard vehicles driving up and down the dirt road most of the day. It was like this small area we hunted wasn’t visited or hunted by other hunters. Kind of like a vacant lot in the old neighborhood that once a group of kids played baseball or football in every year that now has been abandoned over time. Well ‘I’ still visit it.

  There still might not be many deer in that area we used to hunt but there’s lots of memories still there! 

 

~doubletaper