Chasing Rainbows…

…and Finding Brook Trout

Hoping to follow up on my recent rainbow trout success with more of the same, I headed off to a different stretch of the same river. It seemed like a great plan. The plan was solid. It was the execution that went to shit.

Upon arrival, I found that I had packed my chest waders, but not my wading shoes. Damn! A limited time frame did not allow for a round trip to pick up my shoes. High water and treelined banks would have made flyfishing from dry land ineffective. Double damn!

What was Plan B? I had no plan B. I was hoping to check the ice status of a nearby lake, if time allowed. Maybe this was plan B. This lake has good fishing for mixed species and fair shoreline access. I could make this work. Well despite recent warm spells with temperatures that surged into the 60’s and 70’s, the lake was still fully covered with slushy ice. Balls!

Racking my brain for options, I decided to hit a roadside spot that I had never tried before. It had a reputation for holding numerous brook trout. Sounds good. The pool did not hold the numbers of fish that I had heard and hoped, but it did have one nice brookie that immediately grabbed my fly. As I swung it to hand, he shook the hook and dropped back into the water. That was the end of that spot. Half a damn or maybe one ball!

Off to the next spot. This was one I have fished a time or two. Open shoreline on a small river with smallmouth, mixed panfish species, and a remote shot at a trout. Well, I may as well have faced the other way and cast into the grassy field. I realized quickly these fish weren’t buying what I was selling. I was growing comfortable with failure now.

Running out of time and patience, I had one spot left. A small mountain stream closer to home with a reputation for native brook trout. Remember now, this was a wading trip without wading shoes. I did not have proper shoes for anything but driving. I was wearing Crocs – the worst shoe ever created for physical activity. This was going to be like bouldering in bedroom slippers. Oh well, no choice and no time.

Well, brook trout I sought and brook trout I found. Every pool held at least one, and often more. I didn’t count, but I caught enough to make my earlier failures laughable. One by one and a couple times two by two they came to net and hand. I was the proverbial kid in a candy store. What they lacked in size they more than made up for with their cooperative spirit. Success at last!

Here a brief recap video showing a few of the fish:

What’s the moral of the story? I don’t know. Don’t give up? Stay positive? Be flexible? Pack more carefully? Maybe it’s just go fishing and you’ll feel better.

 

 

Meltwater and Rainbow Trout

With melting snow and ice swelling local streams, it was time to add another salmonid to the 2018 flyfishing list. The rainbow trout is now #3 on that list.

The gentle rise of meltwater added only the slightest stain to the water. The river held enough turbidity to put the fish at ease, while enough clarity remained for easy sight feeding. Conditions were perfect for nymphing at close range.

My rainbow trout pattern Buff pales in comparison to the colors on the real thing.

“The List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout
  2. Brook Trout
  3. Rainbow Trout

Brook Trout, Speckled Trout, Brookie…

… and now #2 on my 2018 flyfishing list.

Last week, I set a goal to catch 20 different species of fish on the flyrod by the end of the year. This week, mild weather gave me the chance to add to the list.

Being my first visit to this particular, small mountain stream, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, I found some native brook trout receptive to my flies. Here’s the release of the first one:

A large mouth and a matching appetite make brookies vulnerable to over fishing. Whether mandated by your state or not, careful catch and release is the rule within their native range. These beautiful fish are slow to grow, slow to reproduce, and too valuable to be caught just once.

Brook trout are clearly one of the prettiest freshwater fish.
Brook trout are a “State Fish” for at least 9 of the 50 states (some recognize multiple species). As much as that shows a lack of imagination, it also reflects the iconic position of the species.

“The List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout
  2. Brook Trout

Winter Musings With a Goal

My fishing habits and preferences are continuously changing. I used to think of it as a circular path, but it’s really more like a jumble of old monofilament. It’s sort of like a spiral, but with many points of unpredictable intersection.

I was born into spin fishing and have jumped around between spinning/baitcasting and flyfishing since I was a teen. There was a period of several years where flyfishing was clearly my preferred method, but I never fully put away the conventional tackle. For the last decade or two the flyrod has been a tool reserved for special occasions.

That doesn’t make sense. When I do break out the flyrod, I always have the same thought; I should do more of this. I enjoy almost every aspect of it. I like the casting, the fight on the long rod, the finesse, the fly tying, even the reduced weight when traveling is nice.

I have heard more than one person say this in varying terms. If you want to switch to flyfishing: sell your spinning tackle, put your spinning rods in the closet, don’t bring spinning tackle on the boat etc., etc. That is too miltant to me. Plus, it leaves a lot of meat on the bone.

I came up with a better psychological strategy to implement more flyfishing in my schedule. I’m going to challenge myself to catch 20 different species on the flyrod by the end of the year. Why 20? First I thought ten would be enough, but there’s probably five intentional gimmees and another five common bycatch in my local haunts. Without making a list and over-thinking it, I semi-ambiguously decided on twenty species. That’s it.

The game is afoot!

#1 Brown Trout. What this wild brown lacked in size, he made up for in significance as the first species on my 2018 flyfishing list.

Flatty New Year!

2017 was a year of consistency over size. I’ll take that – for now anyway.

A nice one from some butt-clenching, high water.
I didn’t think they made flatheads that small.
A nice fish to cap a strong morning.
After changes in weather, tactics and location, it was a return to the original plan on spot #1 for more like this.
And, the one that got away.

Mixed Doubles Through the Year

Whats more fun than catching a fish? Catching two at the same time.

How could that get more interesting? Simultaneously catching two different species, of course.

A small pond double header of largemouth bass and black crappie in the early spring.
A river twofer of smallmouth bass and channel catfish on a summer float trip.
Early fall brings some great panfish opportunities like this bluegill and black crappie combo.
The cool water of the late fall sparks salmonid activity. This RBT and LLS pair will attest to that.

One from winter: the pic at the top shows a mixed double of rainbow trout and chain pickerel captured over deep water. They were sharing that location to feed on a school of alwives. Notice the third fish in the net. That alewife was barfed up by the pickerel. The gamefish were released unharmed. The alewife was DOA or maybe DOB.

Roadside Opportunities

This is a tactic I employ far too infrequently, and I’m actually prepared this time. I’ve got a rod & reel and some good searching lures. I’m on the way home from a road trip with a loose schedule. An interesting bridge over a steep valley makes me instantly curious.

A short, steep hike through misty rhododendrons and cedars reveals a midsize freestone stream. I’m thinking – smallmouth for sure!

Fish #1: a leeping, pink finned rainbow trout is a nice surprise.

Fish #2: a little smallmouth bass. That’s more like what I was expecting. A couple more of those and it’s time to move upstream.

A deep, slow pool yields a mix of largemouth, smallmouth, and sunfish.

Rivaling the rainbow, this bluegill may have been the gem of the day with shades of purple, turquois, and burnt orange.

Turning a monotonous grind into a mini adventure is as simple as being prepared and being willing to stop. A rod & reel and a small box of confidence lures is all the equipment you need. Most importantly, you have to stop. If you don’t stop and try, you’ll never know.

Crappie Identification Methods

Crappies come in two varieties – black and white. You would think with descriptive names like that, telling the two species apart would be as easy as, well, black and white. For a crappie beginner, the differences may not be that obvious. For example; the very light colored fish at the top is not a white crappie. It is a black crappie.

The round body and an overall mottled color pattern signifies a black crappie.
An elongated profile and mottling arranged in bars identifies a white crappie.

The most conspicuous difference is the patteren on the sides of the fish. The white crappie has dark blotches arranged in bars. The black crappie wears his blotches in an evenly distributed pattern.

Body shape is another ID cue. Black crappies have a more round silhouette. White crappies are more “stretched out”, and have a little more of a snout.

A white crappie with 5 dorsal spines.
A black crappie with 8 dorsal spines.

The most analytical identification characteristic is a count of the rigid spines of the dorsal fin, A white crappie will have 5 to 6 spines. A black crappie will have 7 to 8 spines. When in doubt, a quick count of the spines will provide a near certain identification.

The range and preferred habitats of the two species overlap quite a bit. In my area, the black crappie is the dominant species. In other areas, the white is the dominant crappie. In either instance, it is still quite common to run into both species during the course of a season, or even in a single day. With these three methods to differentiate the two species, you will always be sure of a proper ID.

A pair of text book black crappies.
A classic example of a white crappie.

Yet Another Use For the Uni Knot

1. Pass several inches of line through the eye of the hook.
2. Loop the line along the shank of the hook.
3. Wrap the tag end through the loop and around the shank about 5 times.
4. Moisten the line and draw it partially tight. I find it is easier to control if you start this process near the bend of the hook rather than near the eye.
5. Moisten the hook shank, slide the knot up to the eye, and draw the knot fully tight. Trim the tag to a reasonable length.

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