The WNC Fly Fishing Expo
by Doc Trout
I attended the Western Carolina Fly Fishing Exp held in Fletcher, N.C. recently and, while I am extremely glad to see that fly fishing here in the Southeast and especially here in western North Carolina has gained enough popularity that it warrants having a fly fishing show, I am afraid that I was rather disappointed with the whole affair. You see, upon first entering the building and taking a gander, my first impression was "is this all there is to it?" and unfortunately, a further perusal of the isles did little to improve my first impression.
While I did see all of the advertised vendors there, I was also expecting to see representatives from each of the major fly rod companies there with the entire line of each brand on hand and available for us to cast. Instead, what I saw were single, poorly stocked, racks with a meager selection of demo rods at best. In addition, the representatives from the local fly shops were just as bad with the exception of one in particular who did have a fair selection of necessities. However, one item that I was searching for in particular was a stream thermometer to replace the one that I lost out of my vest recently. You know they type with the long, black, metal case with window in the side and the glass, mercury-filled, thermometer encased inside. But, not one single vendor had one for sale at the show! Now, this strikes me as a very basic item that should have been available from at least one shop there if not several of them but it seems that I am wrong. In addition, at one point I discovered this perfect little TFO fly reel that I had not yet seen called a BVK series. Now, I upon seeing this reel, I was immediately fascinated because the one on display was both very small and very light and yet it was also a large arbor reel. But, most importantly, it was green; which I need to match the finish on my custom East Branch GLX 8ft. 6in. 5wt. However, when I asked the gentleman there about the reel's capacity, he looked at me with a blank look and told me that he had no idea what size range of fly lines it was designed for let alone what the backing capacity for each one was. Now, I can understand this because this is very technical information and people who own and/or work fly shops have more important things to do than memorize trivial data about the products they sell. But, when I asked him if he had any literature such as a brochure or an owner's manual so that I could look this information up for myself, he informed me that he did not. So, at that point, I left that particular booth very dissatisfied.
On the bright side, I did finally get to meet Don Kirk who is the mastermind and driving force behind the new online magazine "Southern Trout". For those of you who are not familiar with this new magazine, Don's vision was to create a free publication that focused specifically and only on fly fishing for Trout and Smallmouth Bass ("Bronzeback Trout") here in the Southeast. Thus, it is the first publication of its kind and after publishing the third issue in July of this year, it has acquired a dedicated following of avid readers who anxiously await the publication of the next issue. In addition to meeting and conversing with Don, I got to listen to a very interesting presentation given by Don about the history of fly fishing here in the Southeast which presented a lot of information that was heretofore unknown to me.
So, although I was a bit disappointed with the show (especially after all of the hype) , I did discover a new fly reel and a new fly line, I got to play with at least one of the new Orvis Superfine Touch four-piece rods, and I got to meet my editor. Consequently, was almost worth the hour and a half drive to get there and the $10.00 entrance fee.
Streamers; the mystery fly
By Doc Trout
I was out fishing with a client the other day and because we observed very little insect activity that morning, we reasoned that fishing subsurface would probably be more productive than fishing with dries. In addition, since the water was relatively cold that day (50˚), conventional wisdom told me that we should be fishing with nymphs even though it was late October and most of the major May Fly and Caddis Fly hatches had already come off. Thus, it was very likely that the only nymphs drifting in the current were very small and thus the fish would have to inhale countless numbers of them to get a meal. So, contrary to conventional wisdom, I decided to try streamers instead. Thus, we started with my all time favorite Streamer fly: the Beadhead Wooly Bugger in green, brown, and black. However, after a couple of hours of fishing (and to my complete amazement) we had not had a single strike. So, after sitting down to take a break, my fish-fevered mind started working on its own and suddenly it occurred to me to try a more sparsely tied streamer pattern such as a Black Nosed Dace, a Baby Rainbow Trout, or a Baby Brown Trout; all of which are in a class called Bucktail Streamers. Thus, I switched to a Black Nosed Dace in a size 10 and placed a small split shot on the leader about six inches in front of the fly and cast it into the run that we had just been fishing. Much to my surprise, on my second cast, I felt a light bump on my line so, I set the hook and it was on from there! Consequently, we spent the rest of the day fishing with Bucktail Streamers and caught numerous fish in the ten to fourteen inch range even though the skies were sunny and the water was supposedly a bit cold for Streamers. So much for conventional wisdom!
The Benefits of a Balanced Outfit
By Doc Trout
I received my new 7 pc. March Brown convertible 7ft. 4wt. fly rod today (see my gear reviews section for a review of this rod) and as I was comparing it to my 2 pc. Orvis Superfine "Small Stream" 7ft. 5wt. rod, I noticed something interesting. First, I compared the two rods side by side without reels attached and noted their flex characteristics. Then, I placed a reel on each rod and again noted their flex characteristics and, both rods were noticeably slower (more limber) than they were without the reels attached. Then, I experimented with finding a reel that would balance with the March Brown rod and I again noticed that when I placed a reel in the reel seat that made the balance butt-heavy, the rod felt more flexible than it did when I placed a lighter reel in the reel seat. In addition, when I placed a reel in the reel seat that made the balance tip-heavy, the rod felt faster (stiffer) than it did with the lighter reel in place. However, once I finally found that magic combination that perfectly balanced the rod directly under my middle finger when I grasp the grip as if I were casting, then the effect was absolutely astounding! Not only did the combination feel as if it were light as a feather, I felt like I had the ability to place the fly precisely where I wanted it with almost no effort! Thus, my opinion that a balanced fly rod and reel outfit is of paramount importance to the fly angler was once again resoundingly confirmed. So, if you want to outfit to perform as well as it possibly can, thus providing you with both greater casting accuracy and less fatigue in your casting arm, then you need to purchase a reel that properly balances with your fly rod.
The Pros and Cons of Aquaculture
by Doc Trout
A gentleman asked me the other day how I felt about people feeding trout in a privately owned section of a stream and I replied to him as follows:
That is a subject about which I have strong feelings so I will try not to rant. However, first of all, the law in North Carolina concerning streams that run through private property states that if a landowner owns property adjacent to a stream, then he also owns the property under the stream to the center of the body of water. Thus, if the same person owns the property on both sides of the stream, then he can legally deny access to that section of the stream unless it is navigable by boat. However, since this law was written and passed during colonial days, the phrase "navigable by boat" is undefined. In addition, I strongly feel that neither State nor Federal government should be allowed to dictate terms to a landowner concerning what he can or cannot do on his property. However, I am also an ardent conservationist and thus I believe that every landowner should treat the ecosystem in which his land is located with profound respect.
Thus, as a conservationists, I have studied the pros and cons of aquaculture and feeding trout in a privately owned section of a stream is a form of aquaculture. So, while I firmly believe that aquaculture is the wave of the future, considering the rate at which we are raping the world's oceans to feed our growing population, in its present form aquaculture has many flaws which are detrimental to an ecosystem. Thus, I believe that many of those same flaws apply to feeding trout in a stream. For instance, the accumulation of unconsumed trout chow and the accumulation of fish feces causes oxygen deprivation which is detrimental to both the fish in the privately owned section of the stream as well as the fish located downstream. In addition, it is my belief that a fish that is fed trout chow its whole life loses the ability to recognize natural foods and also looses the will to pursue those natural foods. In addition, it has been my experience when fishing on Wilson Creek that the fish located within the stocked and Delayed Harvest sections of that stream are far easier to catch than the wild fish I pursue on the backcountry streams because they are used to seeing humans hovering at the edge of their pens and thus they associate humans with an easy meal. Whereas, the wild fish that I pursue are far more wary such that they will spook and go into hiding at the slightest movement at the edge of their cone of vision. Also, they are far more particular about what they eat. Consequently, unlike most guides, I refuse to offer "Trophy Water" trips because such fish are invariably hand-fed on a regular basis and thus, in my opinion, catching a twenty-four inch "trophy" trout is no real accomplishment at all. However, facing a wild and wary twelve inch Brown Trout on his home water and fooling him into taking you fly is very much an accomplishment and any angler who does so should feel very proud of his skills. Therefore, that is why you don't see pictures of my clients holding huge trout plastered all over my web site unlike others.
However, as I have said many times, this is my personal opinion and I respect other people's right to disagree with me. Therefore, I don't believe that it is wrong for people to fish "trophy water" if they choose to do so. But, it is not a pursuit that I would personally choose to engage in.
How to Fish With Streamers
by Doc Trout
I was thinking about fly fishing with streamers (my favorite big water fly) the other day, and it occurred to me that different streamer patterns should be fished in different ways according to how the particular species of bait fish or crustacean they imitate normally act in the stream. For instance, Dace and Trout imitations (streamlined flies) should be cast across and downstream and then swung across the current in front of potential lies by letting the fly drift downstream while feeding the fly line through the guides with your stripping hand and then causing the fly to suddenly stop and swing in front of a potential lie by gripping the fly line with the stripping hand. Then, once the fly has passed the potential lie, you should suspend it in an adjacent eddy for a moment or two before swinging it back across the current it front of the potential lie by mending your line in the opposite direction and once again using the current to propel the fly for you. On the other hand, Sculpin and Chub imitations (such as the Muddler Minnow) should be fished downstream just above the stream bed by either attaching led shot to the leader or mini-lead heads to your fly line and then swinging them in short arcs across the current to imitate the real bait fish changing feeding positions in the stream. However, Crayfish and Wooly Bugger imitations are quite possibly the most versatile of all streamer patterns because they can either be cast upstream and dead drifted down stream while suspended in the water column or they can be cast across the stream and allowed to drift downstream and then retrieved upstream in the middle of the water column by using short, erratic, strips, or they can be swung across the current, close to the stream bed, in short arcs. Plus, these two streamer patterns are quite possibly the most effective fly patterns in existence for catching large trout!