Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Trout

When I was in the 5th grade I begged for my parents to buy me a fly rod. It was months of asking for it and then answering question after question, why fly fishing, how will you learn, who will teach you, and even how do you expect to catch fish on a fly rod. Well my birthday is in April and first day of trout was in May sometime. Well I took the fly rod and a spin rod along for that year. I watched videos, talked to my cousin who fly fished, and a lot of guess and check. I remember in late August fishing a stream that I've fished my entire life. Standing in the Tulpehocken creek in late August I had a trout strike a marabou streamer.
I think it is funny how our mind works sometimes. There are many things in life I remember like they were yesterday, but still many that I can't. All the years I have been fishing I can only remember a couple fish without notes I wrote about them, but that first 10 inch rainbow trout on a black and white marabou streamer is burned into my mind. It was on a dead drift which looking back is not the first thing I would do today. I even remember the exact spot, it was a spot my friend Tiny would always make his killing, but on the day 'the rock was my spot'. Since that day I wanted to catch more fish and in time I did.

You would be shocked how many people remember their first fish on the fly. I hope your have your own and if you do not I hope this is the year for you. Good luck everyone and remember to do the best you can.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Where it all started

This past weekend I when home to PA, amish country PA. This is the place that I learned to fish and then taught myself to fly fish. It is where I had my first small stream, back country style fishing adventure. My friend Brian and I were tipped off to this stream by his father we figured this past weekend it was close to 7 or 8 years ago(sounds like a long time and honestly it was) was the first time we ever took it on. Well the plan was while I was home we would fish it. So Saturday morning we loaded up the jeep and got there as early as we could. Like most back country spots we were on dirt roads, but unlike the back country roads I drive here in GA these I knew. I found the spot as easy as I did when I lived in PA. I was excited to be there and almost bubbling over then I pulled up to the old bridge, I might have even forgot to pull the parking break.

Brian and I hit the water and then I remembered just how challenging this stream really was. We dug deep in our minds to figure out the last time we were on the water here. We came up with over 6 years before and my brother Jason was along(he landed what was most likely a 7 inch fish that day). Jason was always catching fish when we were younger, and honestly he still holds his own today. I've gotten better over the years, but looking back I don't know how I ever got anything out of this spot. This spot holds native brook trout(native meaning these fish have always been here, never been stocked unlike the term wild where the fish were stocked then reproduced). This stream is small, clear and as Brian says is unique in geological sense, and in the way you approach it as a fisherman. We were constantly getting hung up on this trip, but as we knew from the past it only takes one hole and a perfectly placed fly to pull out a good fish. For those of you who never fished for native trout a good fish can be 2 inches all the way up to 8 or 9 inches. Sounds small but well then you are fishing a trickle you can step across in most places it is a monster. Well we spent most of the morning sneaking ahead in the woods and scouting a hole of the other guy who would fish it.

We did that through a section of long runs with few bends, but then found our selves in big S turns. We then took on a different rhythm leap frogging each other. We were fishing two very different fly patterns but both getting strikes. I missed a lot of hook sets and so did Brian. He missed a couple that were without a doubt trout but I on the other hand could not say for sure if it was trout of stream chubs I was missing. He was working one section of stream and set the hook on a fish that splashed and carried on for what felt like forever only to throw the fly and get away.

Then it happened, on an over hanging bank Brian laid down beautiful drift it was just a couple inches from being under the over hang and like magic a fish hit. Brian wasted no time setting the hook and even from around a bend I could tell he had a nice fish. His light weight rod bent and he had a smile from ear to ear. He got the fish to hand and we both payed our respects to the stream and the beauty that had just taken place by just looking at the fish and the hole it came from . We took a couple pictures and let it back to its hole to get bigger and live a couple more years. We were both beaming for a while after that and it really threw us off the groove we were into at that point, but I was happy for him and us and he was over joyed for a while. Before we left I got a small fish maybe a little smaller then my pinky finger and even that little guy had amazing color, and that is why native fish are so addicting(no picture of my fish at this point). I miss my home turf and hopefully one day Sarah and I will be settled enough and live somewhere long enough that I can have new spots to call home turf.

For now this was a great weekend with my family, sad that Sarah couldn't be there but there is always next time. Next time I hope to go to another native spot further up in the woods there will be hiking involved to get to that one. Also I am going to keep pressuring Brian and brother Jason to come to GA to fish with me. I really just want to show these guy that even if I'm not fishing every night, or at least 4 or 5 nights a week that I'm not loosing my touch. Hopefully my next post with Brian in it will be from GA. As for the week ahead its back to the grind of work, but Sarah and I have been seeing the hummingbird a lot more lately so I will be trying hard to get a picture up soon. Until next time remember to 'do the best you can'.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deep in the wilderness of Atlanta

I'm known for not being able to remember names of people, places or things, but I always ask. So one day about a year ago I was on our porch and was leaning on the railing when happened to look up to see a bunch of birds at a neighbor's feeder. The thought bubble went up and I knew what I was going to do. I went to the local hardware store and bought a basic suet feeder, because that is something my brother and I put up as kids in PA. Within days of putting the feeder in the porch we had birds. The suet is a solid food you put in a cage and it brings in a lot of birds, but would read things on the internet and I keep buying more feeders and different kinds of seeds. Here are a few pictures of my bird friends, now as I stated at the start I don't do well with remembering names , but a couple months back Sarah and I were in a book store and I bought a small bird book. Peterson First Guides, these are smaller Peterson books with only about 150 pages, this book was said to be good for beginners and the back yard follower like I am at the moment. So the pictures will have names. This is a warning I'm using a book so if you see something that is wrong just let me know.

This is a Carolina Chickadee

This is a male Cardinal , but note where it is looking. It is looking to the feeder that my neighbor has that got all this started. I still haven't had many Cardinals on my porch to this point.

This is the female Cardinal she too is looking to fly up to my neighbor for some dinner.

This is a great shot of my Downy Woodpecker hanging on my suet feeder. I think there are about 4 to 6 different Downy Woodpeckers who frequent my feeders.

Here is another type of feeder I have and when I first hung it I was a little skeptical, because it is a mesh bag full of grass seed. Within a couple weeks it was attracting birds and now they frenzy around it at times.

The female House Finch at this time of year is almost always on my porch. The plants you see in the picture around her are my tomato plants.

This is the male House Finch some days there will be 3 or 4 just hanging on the socks, or on my dish feeder eating sunflower seeds.

This is my favorite visitor, it is a Tufted Titmouse. They have a blue gray tint to them and the belly looks cream color. My favorite part is the crest, lots of birds have them but these guys wear them well.

I have just bought a hummingbird feeder and there have been sightings of them already, so keep checking to see if I can snap a shot of one. There are also times when some of these birds I've shown you make such a mess on my porch that I get 3 or 4 Mourning Doves land here and clean up some of the mess. Some other birds I've had visit the porch are; Red Bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, American Robin, and now what I think was the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

I will do another bird post in a couple months when the weather changes because that seems to change the types of birds we see around here. The only reason you'd see something sooner on the bird front is if I somehow snap a shot of the hummingbird. Well as a science teacher told be once 'always keep your eye open to nature and you may just see something amazing.' I never thought to keep my eyes open to nature in a city, but look at all the nature I've got on my porch.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Select Few

So this weekend Sarah was on call on Saturday again, and I decided to go north to fish again. Thursday night I was looking for somewhere with a lot of restrictions, catch and release only, barbless hooks only, and maybe even a limit of people per day. I was looking into private water, club owned waters, and other restricted areas in northern GA. Who would have guessed that the Georgia State Parks Services has just such a place. It is called Smithgall Woods Conservation Park and it is a special regulations creek with plenty of rules. Smithgall's rules are plenty, but the one I love the most is the number of people allowed to fish the creek per day only 3 days a week.

This is the reason I love that rule. This picture was taken within 250 yards from the road, and in a creek like this anywhere else on the east coast, in a spot this close to the road there would be at least 4 people fishing. So Friday I called and got my name on the reservation list and was told the that earliest I could start fishing was 7 am. After getting slightly lost I found the place, paid for parking, and was told to take section one. Section one played into my hand it was a tight mountain section. All mountains stream tend to have some of the same characteristics especially when you get higher up in the mountains. You will find that the higher up in elevation you get the more you'll find fast water followed by a deep hole. Knowing that, you can find bigger fish in these holes, and since most people who fish know walking against the current makes it easier to sneak up on fish you can fish a section of water from the back to front. I have also found that in water like this that holds a large population of wild trout you can catch small fingerlings all day long if that is something that grabs you.

This is one of many many fingerling sized trout I was catching all day. As you can see this particular trout was not staying still long enough for me to snap a good shot of it.

This little guy did much better giving me a couple nice pictures. This is no stocked trout, it is a wild rainbow trout. I don't remember how many I caught that were this size but it was a lot and these fish even as small as they were made me happy.

This was the biggest spider I have ever seen, and it was located right in the center of the creek. The whole thing was about the size of a Gatorade bottle cap. The web well it was easy 18 inches round.

Here is a great shot showing just how wonderful the colors can be on these rainbow trout. This is a much better fish and I only got a couple this size. In the hole where I got this fish I had set the hook on what would have been the fish of the year. It was 20 inches by my best guess, I set the hook and felt like I was stuck until like started flying from my reel. Then just like that it stopped, when I checked the line I notice the knot failed and that is something I can control and really made me mad.
I spend the next 2 minutes reliving it and actually had shaky hands because I had such a rush from it. It was picture perfect, the fly drifted into the pool from the side and I watched the fish appear from the bottom and just nail the fly. Then it ran and ran out all that line and once I gave it a little pressure the knot just plan failed. Well I was in a funk for about 15 plus minutes missing every strike, but eventually I got back to me then found that hole that would get me back to the positive.

This bad boy, as the best of the day. I came to a hole that had a nice flow with lots of easy lines to drift a fly down. Well I set the hook on this guy and it pulled like it was a 40 inch striper. It pulled the line out of my hand and took some extra off the reel. I finally landed it took a couple snap shots and quickly released it so it would get bigger and I could catch it when it was 5 inches bigger.

Smithgall Woods gets an A in my book and I will be taking the trip back up there in the very near future. This is the kind of place I would love to take my brother or a couple of my other fishing buddies. I'm not sure what next weekend will bring but I'll do my best to post a couple posts this week.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Peanuts; Hot Dogs; COLD BEER!

So as promised a post about something other then the great outdoors. I want to talk about two main things on with this post first is baseball on the radio. Now I'm a big sports fan and always have been and for most sports I love seeing them live or on the TV. As for baseball I love the third option and that is the radio. The radio is something that has always been there growing up, and the same can be said for my parents and even their parents.

Listening to a ball game on the radio somehow takes me back in time. It is an amazing art to be able to paint a picture like these announcers can. I am sad when I hear about these old radio men dying off, but it is happening and I just hope there are enough people out there who can still call a game the way the greats did. Now much to my father-in-law's dismay and most of my family back in PA I think I've become some what of a Braves fan. I guess the truth is I live in Atlanta and the Braves are doing well so I'm following them closely. It is easy to be a fan when you can listen to every game. There is something about listening to the game in the car, at work,or even just on the porch in a nice night.
The broadcaster can make you fell like you are sitting in the cheap seats looking down on a green field screaming at your favorite players. The only sounds these guys work with is a constant roar of the crowd, the occasional scream from and umpire, and the sounds of the ball on the bat. That crack sends chills down my spine. Sometimes when it is happening at the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and 2 outs it will make you skip a beat in hopes to hear that it is a home run ball flying off the bad. This crack always seems to happen when the broadcaster is not talking , that is an art in its self. So to all of you baseball radio broadcasters out there I am tipping my hat to you.

Now for something that goes hand in hand with baseball, beer. I like a good drink now and then weather it is a beer or a good liquor. In this case it is a beer, this beer is something different for me and it fits well for summer. In my case I bought a case of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA brewed in Delaware

I don't plan to bore you with history of IPA or even the history of beer. The best I can do is tell you that I know a lot of beer drinkers and some with some real smarts who would laugh at me even attempting a review. So with that warning I will give a simple idea of what to expect.

Dogfish Head has a warm start almost lager like, and then the hops kick in. The hops are very grainy but it is mellow and bright grain feel. Being brewed so close to the beach I think the brewers grasped the idea of summer refreshment, but that being said most if not all IPAs have a light feel. This one is just different, I have no way of explaining it any better except to say it tastes great after spending 7 to 8 hours in 97 plus degree weather. It is simply refreshing to come home from work start eating dinner, and have an IPA.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Elk Haired Caddis

Okay, the pattern for my blog isn't going to be fish on the weekends and show fly tying patterns in the middle of the week. I have an idea for a post that has nothing to do with fly fishing, but I'm saving it for tomorrow. Yes, I'm going to post two days in a row, but I'm justifying it by making tomorrow's post about a different subject.

Now for the post at hand: We are tying my favorite dry fly. For those of you who have no clue about fly fishing there are 4 major types of flies that we use. Dry flies: They float on the water and are to look like real flies, may fly, caddis fly, stone fly these are just a couple examples of dry flies. Wet fly: These are dry flies before their wings are fully formed and ready to take flight for the first time. Nymphs: This is the beginning stage of a fly's life and it spends time on rocks on the bottom, getting kicked up by people,animals, and other obstructions that hit the water. Lastly most fly fishermen will lump this last one in with wet flies but I find that you just can not do that. Streamers: They imitate other animals in the water, minnows, crawfish, and other larger creatures. So my favorite dry fly is the Elk Haired Caddis....

For this Caddis I am using a size 16 dry fly hook. I always start my trout flies by pressing the barb down, it makes the release easier and the faster you get a trout back to the water the less stress is put on the fish. Some will say you loose more fish this way but I'd rather not get them to hand, then have to take more home then I plan on eating. To start I'm using tan thread and starting the fly in the middle and working to the back of the hook shank.

Then a single brown piece of hackle gets tied in. It helps to tie all materials in on top of the hook that way when you start to wrap you'll be starting all materials from the same place.

Now for tan dubbing, rap this from back to front leaving enough room for a wings. Dubbing, is fly tiers term for pulled fur, and comes from most fluffy animals such as rabbits, muskrats, fox, and the list goes on. It is raped around the thread and it makes the body shape of the fly your tying.

Wrapping the hackle from the back to front will fan out and it helps the fly to float. On this particular fly I trim the top to make room for the last and most important step.

This is the finish product and the last step is how it gets its name. The wing on top is made from elk hair. Elk hair, moose, deer hair, and most hoofed animals have course hair, but what it is great for is floating flies the reason for this is the hair is hollow. These hairs are used for every thing from Caddis flies to poppers which are large flies used for catching bass and other larger fish. The Elk Haired Caddis is what I caught a large majority of the fish from this past weekend and is one of my go to dry flies. I'm a creature of habit on the water and if I see fish eating dry flies, but haven't gotten a good look at what kind of fly it is I tend to tie a caddis on and give it a go. It doesn't work every time but when it doest this is a pattern that is very effective. Also the caddis fly ranges from rivers to the smallest of trickles. My favorite part about this fly is that when fishing a wild or native creek you can sometimes trick a fish into taking this fly even if it hasn't been eating dry flies all day. That is just one of many reasons why this fly is my favorite.

Still looking for the line


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boulders anyone???

Back country fishing is hands down my favorite kind of fly fishing. I have a cool story about the first time I tried it, but I'll save that for a rainy day post. Yesterday I drove to north GA and fished in the National Forest. I was fishing a creek that I've never fished before, but I found it on a map and it looked really good. The fall back plan was a short 3 mile drive over the next mountain and down into a valley. Lucky for me I didn't need to use plan B. I left the city limits at about 6:30 and just shy of 2 hours later I was in the mountains! The highways got smaller and smaller until I was on a back country road, and then a right hand turn put me on a compacted dirt road. About 15 or 20 minutes on the dirt road and I found my parking lot. After a short walk down a trail I got my first sight of the steam. All I saw was boulders and the water was running around, over, under, and through them. It was a wonderful sight, it almost took my breath away looking up and seeing a wonderful tangle of trees, rocks and water. I knew from my first sight that the fish were there and it would only be a matter of fishing them out.

It was all rocks all day long.

This is a bad self portrait, but at least you'll see what I tend to carry on a back country trip. What do you think do I look the part?

The first of what turned out to be a great day for catching trout on this stream. I normally keep a count unless the fishing is just amazing, in that case I just fish. So today I caught over 25 fish, but there is no official count. Mainly trout, but also got a rock bass early on in a deep hole that isn't pictured because I was targeting trout so I only wanted pictures of trout. I also got some small pumpkin sunnies, black nosed dace, and 3 tips of chub.

This is the low end of the spot I fished. I fished the top quarter of a mile in the morning, and then by early afternoon I was over run by people swimming. Here is a shot from a bridge that I fished after lunch, I pulled about 7 out of here on elk haired caddis. It was all about hitting the shaded edges anything in the sun was a no go but if it was in the shade the fish would rise then strike fast and hard.

This was the top part that I fished early on. The stream dropped a lot in elevation up here and so there was a lot of big boulders and deep holes to fish. All these boulders and rocks were slippery and my butt, knees, shins, and pride took a beating all day long. The hole pictured here produced a lot of the fish I caught, I spend the most time here on my way up stream. This was the smaller of 2 major water falls of the day. I climbed this one to the left out of the frame of the shot and it was a lot of fun. Part of the reason I love the back country is the adventures the terrain provides for you.

Love the spot pattern on this fish.

This was the hog of the day, it was about 2 and a half inches bigger then any others I landed and had shoulders too. It gave two good pulls and took the slack line from my hand, the only fish I used the reel on all day. He took an elk haired caddis, but unlike some others he was in the current and as the fly passed the rock he was hiding by he turned ran down stream to swipe the fly. It was amazing on the fish's part and I was just happy to get the hook set, but once I set the hook I knew I had a chance to bringing this hog to hand.

This was lunch time, and in the back country no matter how hot it is outside I like to have something real to eat. I took this soup because it's in a sealed package which made it more water proof then most lunches. It was cooked in my tea pot, which is going to make it on the gear page very very soon. Also notice the Esbit fuel stove it too will make the gear page.

A couple more fish shots. I love how there wasn't two alike all day.

Well this might be the longest post I've had so far, but I did fish for 8 hours and the whole trip was a little over 12 hours total. The long and shot of it is I will most likely go back to this spot, but there are so many mountain streams where I was that I want to try another one sometime soon. It looks like next Saturday there is a chance I'll be able to go north again, so there could be another post about the north GA mountains next weekend. This trip only makes me hungrier for the remote streams. It was a ton of work, but totally worth every minute I spent sneaking, slipping, and falling. I think I want to do an over night trip, hike in and spend a weekend set up a base camp and fish a stream or river in the back country.

I'm still thinking of a good tag line so for now just do the best you can this week.....


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Prince Nymph

So lets start this out by stating I'm not the worlds number one fly tier and I don't clam to be. That being said I take an approach to casting a fly rod that was taught to me by an old man on a stream when I was first teaching myself to fly fish. The old man said it's not always about being a picture perfect cast, but it's about putting the fly on the water just right. I've taken that advice and ran with it, I've taken it along with me in all aspects of my fishing life and life in general. So the pro fly tiers out there will look at my technique and my end product and just laugh no two flies I tie are alike and sometimes they aren't even close. The fact that my flies are not pretty or picture perfect doesn't bother me because if you turn over a couple rocks, or screen water in the stream, or catch a fly from the air while on the bank you'll notice that they all have something a little different. Bugs get busted up from currents, birds, wind, other bugs, and fish, so if you tie a nymph and the hackle is too short or you're tail pieces are two different sizes don't worry because in the wild it might be best to leave it be.

So here is how I tie a prince nymph these days. I tie them from size 20 to 8, also for the bead head I use black thread, for the normal ones I tend to use red. So tonight I'll show you a normal one so you'll see it being tied on a size 12 with red thread.

size 12 with red thread

I like to use some lead wire to add some weight because I tend to fish currents or deep pools with my nymphs

When I apply it I tend to push if to the eye of the fly to keep a nose first fall in the water because most nymphs get kicked up from the bottom and try to return there.

So once your weighted up wrap the weight with some thread so your other materials don't slip down into the turns of the weight, then you tie a crossed tail using goose biots rusty or brown in color and a piece of gold ribbing.

Then tie three pieces of peacock herl rapped from back to front leaving the gold rib behind to be rapped next

Now lets rap the ribbing forward, then tie white biots facing up or forward, along with a piece of hackle. Give the hackle two turns away from you and tie off then fold those wings back over the hackle and give the fly a head.

The prince nymph is a versatile fly used by the experts and by beginners alike. I love the prince nymph when I am fishing a new spot or the fish are looking for dark nymphs. This fly will catch stock fish, and wild/native fish as well, it is one I never leave home without at least half a dozen of these bad boys. It is my favorite nymph in recent years and if you look close in some of my trophy pictures most likely you see a prince nymph hooked into the top jaw of those trout.

Thanks for following and go get on the water everyone!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

a little something about the plans

So what do they say about the best laid plans again? Mid week when I planned on fishing today the idea was to go into north GA and catch wild trout in the mountains. It's something I love doing and since I've been in Atlanta I've only done it twice. Growing up in PA I did a lot of small stream and mountain stream fishing, and in CT where Sarah grew up there are wonderful stream right along side some great rivers. Now back to the trip that wasn't, last night Sarah and I went and had dessert and a board game with some of our friends. Two of the most wonderful people I know, a wonderful couple and they have a baby on the way, so our friends will be a family soon. Anyway we stayed with them till 10:30 or so. We got home and caught the end of a Braves nail biter(Braves won), then I decided to tie a couple flies getting ready for the morning. We ended up going to bed after 1 and well this morning I didn't get up, neither did Sarah. So with such a late start I just didn't want to deal with the 2 hour drive north and the half hour hike back to a new spot I've never fished.

So I went to the hooch off of 285 but the water was like chocolate milk and very high. I haven't figured out a good formula for fishing in conditions like this yet, but still tried for a couple hours, then hit a spot on hwy 41 for maybe a bass and at least some sunnies.

Hopefully I'll be able to take pictures of this spot at a normally level and color.

A change of spots and a change of luck, I hooked up with about 15 or so of these guys, this was the first and the worst colored one of the afternoon.

This was the last and might have been one of the better colored one.

Well the moral of the story is sometimes you can plan all week long but sometimes you just need to be quick on your feet and pull a plan B out of the back pocket. I'm kinda mad at myself for not making the trip north but Sarah is on call next Saturday so I think I'll try to make an adventure of next Saturday.

Braves game tomorrow!!!!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fishing Prep

So as of now I'm going to be going fishing on Saturday. For those of you who aren't fisherman here's what goes through your mind when you decide you want to go fishing. Where? Normally that is the first thought, but it is followed shortly by how much time will I have to fish. Then you'll decide if you want to go to a new spot and deal with those head aches or if you want to go to an old hole and hope you or someone else hasn't fished it dry. For a catch and release guy like me fishing a hole dry is still possible in my eyes because a trout will fall for the same trick only so many times before you need to throw it a curve. Once you've decided to go one way or the next you need to start thinking about flies, personally I need to tie some new ones because on my last trip I lost four or five. Then it's gear if you are going to a big river and you want to cast heavy flies or your after hogs then you need a longer/higher weight rod. Small streams are tough because they are so varied in size, and head waters are small tight and requires gear to match small and able to make tight motions.

Now for the trip I'm going to do this Saturday, I'm leaving Atlanta headed north and will be fishing just out side the Cohutta Wilderness. I tomorrow I'll be tying some flies, and maybe post some how to on some of them.

As for this blog I'll be updating my tabs at the top a little at a time, but I'll work hard to keep it rolling, and hopefully be to 100% in about a month.

More to come