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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Big Run Farewell, May 2015

It's sad, but true; my good friend David is leaving VA to head back to his native streams in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  So it was with great urgency that we fish one last time in the bosom of the Shenandoah.  We chose Big Run for some sweet, blue line brookies.  After a successful Bill Wills SE VA TU "Trout in the Classroom" release of fingerling brookies in the South River (Waynesboro), I shanghaied Logan, had a relaxing dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery, and we met David and Robert at the Rockfish Gap entrance station to the Shenandoah National Park. 

Like other "hike in" streams in the mountains, fishing Big Run requires a commitment.  The downhill to the stream is easy enough, but time-consuming.  The hike out after a day's fishing - that's another story!

We camped overnight Saturday, rose early and made a quickie, just-add-water breakfast, and hit the Big Run Loop Trail at 7:30 am.  We wore light hikers and packed in waders and boots to make all the hike more bearable.

And so the trail begins…


We kept a good pace on the descent, making note of all the blooming flowers on the way.  They were diminutive, but pretty.




The white petals on a dogwood tree are technically sepals, not  "flowers".  The flower is the yellow/green explosion in the center of the white sepals.


One of the many feeder streams entering Big Run.  Every addition made the run bigger, wider, and deeper.


More flowers….



 We're suckers for blue line fishing.  Trickle of a stream - we'll fish it!  But this time we heeded the advice of of the folks from the South River Fly Shop and we agreed to bypass some earlier water and press on to the lower section of the stream along the Big Run Portal Trail.  It was hard to pass up promising water, but we had faith…

We switched from hiking shoes to waders and wading boots and started licking our chops.  I stayed with Logan for a bit, but it didn't take long before he got the hang of approaching pools from below and fishing his way up to the heads of the pools.  He had his first fish in short order.  For safety, we made plans to all rendezvous for lunch and so we could compare notes.

I didn't see a whole lot of rises, none actually, so even though I saw one huge brown mayfly and one big yellow bug, I decided to fish a bead-head pheasant-tailed nymph.  It was a good choice.

Here is the first of my fish that day...


And the fish were cooperative….


I took five fish up against this bank; two of the brookies were 10-11 inches.  Here's Robert seeing if the brookies would come for a dry fly take.


The brookies were loving the pheasant-tailed nymph, and I was happy to give them a little exercise.
 

Here's Logan laying out a nice line with his new kit.


We hop-scotched our way downstream, section by section fishing our way upstream.  Unconventional?  Perhaps, but effective nonetheless.  The fish were treating us nice. 


Below the confluence of the Big Run and Rocky Mtn. Run, the stream just got prettier and prettier…. 



Pretty, pretty pools.  I don't know about the other guys, but in the slower water, I was catching some pretty big chubs and a few dace.  So I tended to pass up those sections as I made my way NW.


More flowers….


Below the confluence there was a fairly long flat staircase section of the stream.  It was pretty, but did not appear to offer any holding water so I moved on. 


After lunch I enjoyed a steady pick of fish.  I had left the Scott 3 wt. in the car and instead focused my attention on my Tenkara USA "Rhodo" rod.  I had used it sporadically over the past year, but on this day, it really proved its metal and I'm not sure I'll ever go back to a rod and reel in the Shenandoah.  The Tenkara is perfect for these brookie streams!  Thanks to David for getting me hooked!


At lunch we had agreed to stop fishing at 4 pm so we could hike the ~4 miles back up the Big Run Portal and Big Run Loop Trails before dusk - the last ~2 miles would be a steady and torturous uphill climb after an early rise, hike down, and full day of fishing.  The fishing was fairly closed in making casting a technical affair.  To fish this stream, an angler needs to cast over, in-between, and through bushes, tree branches, and tall weeds.  

I broke off my nymph on some outstretched obstruction or other and lost a fair amount of tippet to boot.  It was getting late, past 4 :), so, like the saltwater fly fishing heretic that I am, I loop-to-looped a section of 5X to the snapped leader's end and put my faith in a parachute Adams to round out the day on dries.

I got to this picturesque pool and knew this was the place!  I picked up one fish, but the rise and take made me forsake my 4 pm promise and I had to have another.  Thankfully, I didn't have long to wait!  


I telescoped the Tenkara USA Rhodo down and joined David, Logan, and Robert for the long climb out.  After a couple of fords, we switched out of our waders and boots, and back into day-hikers.  Sweet relief!  Up we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.  We took breaks, snacked, and drank what water we had left - knowing that we had a sixer of Blue Mountain Brewery Kolsch-151 in the cooler in the car as a reward.


We were happy to see the rock walls lining the Blue Ridge Parkway - that's when we knew our uphill ordeal was over.  We had a nice little celebration in the parking lot recounting the day's events.  Then we beat it back to Charlottesville for some Mexican food before the ride back to Hampton Roads.  Logan and I traded "my favorite band" stories to pass the time.  

I pitched Logan and his stuff out at around 10:30 pm  and made my way home savoring the memories - great scenery, great water, great fishing, great friends!  What a combination! 

I'm looking forward to the movie version of our trip on the "My Leaky Waders" Vimeo website.

David we will miss you.  Come back to VA and the Shenandoah - looking forward to fishing with you and JR! 

Peace!  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Super Moon reds in the Lynnhaven River

Went out Sunday with my Buddy Tim and new friend Zack to fish the rising tide in the Lynnhaven River.  

First we swung by Dunkart's Hole to get the stink out of the kayaks and were rewarded with croaker and flounder.




They always like KO OZ's #2 mummichog clouser (black over olive over chartreuse over white over orange with pearl flash)

I love cloud formations and Sunday they were spectacular on the water!



And it only got better as the sun went down!


We enjoyed the paddle as we headed up river in search of redfish…


We found them blind casting as the rising tide swept us along the wetland banks on the incoming tide.  The first was a surprise having seen and spooked many cruising rays in the vicinity…



It was a nice 24" red that caused me to put down the paddle and go on the Nantucket sleigh ride as he pulled and I pumped and reeled!  After landing him and a few pics, we headed back up to the top of the conveyor belt.  There were cookie cutter 2-footers to be had on every drift!  

The iPhone 4s takes crap pictures in low light so this one was taken with the aid of a headlamp.  


A nice fight on an 8wt.  It was really exciting hearing them crash bait up against the marsh edge.  We just kept whispering "oh my god! oh my god!"


I've had many poor days and hard working skunks so it's nice to score some fatty reds from time to time!

peace!









Sunday, May 11, 2014

David Nash's video about our guided trip on Mossy Creek, Harrisonburg VA

David's newest, and one of his best, videos on our trip to Mossy Creek. Caught my biggest brook trout ever (15"), some fat browns, and some sweet rainbows. We were guided by Brian and Colby Trow. Book them! You can't go wrong.

Look for the full story and more photos in the August edition of Distinction Magazine.


Mossy Dreams from My Leaky Waders on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guided Trip with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing

My friend David is lucky.  Out of 4000+ entrants, he won a Distinction Magazine (www.distinctionhr.com) "Get Hooked Up" contest for a guided fishing trip with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing in Harrisonburg, VA.  I'm even luckier, because he invited me to go along with him!

We left South Hampton Roads at 12:30 for the drive to Harrisonburg, VA.  It's amazing once you get past Williamsburg how easy the travel is!  We had great conversation and listened to mountain tunes as the miles ticked away.  Crossing the Blue Ridge on Rt. 64 provides spectacular views.

As we went, we were intently surveying all the streams that crossed our path.  Three days of constant and pouring rain rain early in the week had left everything we had seen like a fast flowing river of chocolate milk.  And yet, we had faith.

We made it to Harrisonburg at just past 4 pm so we decided to hit the Mossy Creek Fly Shop to ogle at their fine selection of equipment and fly tying materials (1790 E Market St #92, Harrisonburg, VA 22801; http://www.mossycreekflyfishing.com/).  We purchased a few things including the materials needed for a black sculpin pattern that we thought we'd tie up for the occasion.

We had a nice conversation with Brian Trow, co-owner of the shop and guide service with his brother Colby.  John Fall with Distinction Magazine showed up and we talked excitedly about the next day's fishing.  Brian informed us that they hadn't gotten as much rain as forecast so the rivers would be off-color, but fishable - especially with streamers - perfect for targeting larger fish!  The off-color water also provided the advantage of letting us get closer to the stream without being detected by the fish.

After a while, we headed over to the Stonewall Jackson Inn (http://www.stonewalljacksoninn.comwhere we would be staying for the night.  The Inn was built in the 1880s and was one of many large grand homes that populated E. Market Street.  It's a beautiful place and Mimi, our host, was a delight.  David and I got the east facing room (the "Grant" room), stowed our stuff, and joined John on the back patio for some beers and good conversation peppered with pictures of fish.

At around 7 pm we rendezvoused with the crew, Michael Wood from Dogwood Black (a custom shirt production and bow tie company:  dogwoodblack.com/), John Fall, Brian and Colby Trow, Jessica our photographer, and David and I, for dinner at the Local Chop and Grill House (http://www.localchops.com).  The food was out of this world with some of the best scallops I've ever tasted!  Go there!  Everything on the menu we had got rave reviews!  Lots more great conversation later, spiritually and physically full, we retired back to the Inn.

Thinking of the fun to be had, I could barely sleep, and got up early the next morning to catch the rising sun in the backyard of the Inn.


With its spacious yard, it would be an excellent place for a family reunion, summer party, or other gathering.  All you JMU moms and dads, check it out!



David joined me, we raided the kitchen for some wake up juice, we set to tying some of the sculpins Brian had recommended.  


We dressed them in black and David dubbed the creation the Stonewall sculpin!


We had a fantastic breakfast at the Inn and then met up with everyone at the Mossy Creek Fly Shop.  

Our first stop was a stretch of water near the Mossy Creek Lodge (http://www.mossycreekflyfishing.com/streams/private-water/the-lodge.aspx)

Brian Trow guided us, gave us flies, and tips to fish the stream and within no time we had fish on.  This stream is loaded with quality wild fish.  Some of the rainbows were post-spawn and still impressive even with washed-out colors.  The browns were chunky!



Fishing streamers and 0X tippet, Brian had to remind us to set the hook well and keep a tight line so that the barbless hooks would not come unbuttoned!  We lost a few fish before we got the hang of it.

The pastoral setting of these private Mossy Creek waters was spectacular and we couldn't have asked for better guides or weather.  I've been fly fishing for close to 40 years, but Brian taught me many new things.  His intimate knowledge of the stream and its ecosystem, of the fish lies, of proper approach, casting, and line management gave me insights to make be a better angler - and he's a fun guy to be with too! 


This is a pretty common wild brown football on the private waters.


Wading bird footprints on the soft mud banks underscores the protected habitat and superior management of these private access areas.  When the weather warms up, the banks will be covered with vegetation.


Here's David fishing for the "bridge troll"!  He pulled one out of the cover of the shadows.


For me, this was the killer fly of the day, the Trow brothers creation - the "Critter-mite". This fly was getting it done all day long!  Buy some as soon as you can get your hands on them!  They're in short supply!   


They would also make a dynamite smally fly too!

We moved to a new stream section, had a catered lunch streamside, and then continued to fish.  I was swinging the critter-mite through deeper pools and along undercut banks and picking up fish.  We were having the best day!


To change things up an see more water, we moved again to a different spring creek. It was getting later in the day and the wind was picking up forecasting some impending weather.  The Trow brothers took us to this spot on Beaver Creek where a set of riffles dumps into a deep broad pool in hopes we might find some dry fly action.  Brian rigged up a caddis fly on top with a psycho nymph dropper.  Due to the fast running water, we needed more depth so Brian then added a second nymph, a caddis pupa, to get down to the fish.  More lessons on how to fish the stretch, reach casts, and mending lines were all appreciated.

I had one fish porpoise after the caddis dry, but miss.  I caught a fall fish on the psycho nymph.  Shortly thereafter, I landed what is probably my biggest brookie ever - a fine 15" specimen!  A few more casts, and then the caddis submerged.  I was late to set the hook and had to remind myself to do a 6X hook set, not a 0X hook set!  The line moved away not too fast, but then Brian reminded me we had not yet seen the fish and not to get too cavalier.  After about a minute we both saw a flash of the broadside and we both gasped #$&&@!  I played this lunker for about 5 minutes and did my best to smoothly palm my no-drag reel.  On about the fourth set of runs and returns, just as I was getting the fish close to shore and the net, the fly popped out.  Ouch!  

Brian consoled me as a good guide would, but we both left that run with some heavy regret!

Nearing 5 pm, we moved down to one last run. Here we were greeted by the pool overlord!


David caught a nice fish along this run and I pulled out a small brown myself.

It was time to head back to the vehicles, but Brian wanted me to plumb that first pool one more time with a Kreelex fly
(http://www.mossycreekstore.com/Brass-Eyed-Kreelex-00001.htm). Within minutes, I saw a nice fish chase it to the shore before the pickup.  Following Brian's lead, I made a few progressive casts out into the main channel.  On the last cast, a fish grabbed the fly as soon as it hit the water and put a deep bend in the 5-weight.  Brian reminded me to put a good "0X" hook set on and we were off to the races.  This lunker rainbow jumped at least 4 times.  David got the whole thing on video.  We finally got him into the net and there was much rejoicing all around!  What a beaut!


I can't say enough about our day thanks to John Fall at Distinction Magazine, Mike at Dogwood Black, and the boys at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing.  It was a trip I'll long remember and we couldn't have asked for better or more fun guides as we found in the Trow brothers.  Book them and you'll have the time of your life!  I can't want to meet up with them again for a smallmouth bass float trip!

Look for more photos and the rest of the story in the upcoming edition of Distinction Magazine (www.distinctionhr.comand on David's blog:  http://myleakywaders.blogspot.com/.

peace

Monday, April 14, 2014

BWSEVATU goes to Virginia Beach Library "How to… " Fest

On April 5, the Virginia Beach Joint Use Library had its first annual "How to…" Fest.  They were looking for unique experiences for their patrons.

What's more unique than catching a wary fish with a bunch of thread, fur, and feathers?

As a representative of the Bill Wills SE VA Chapter of TU, I was asked to provide classes in fly casting and fly tying.

The first session was fly tying.  In had a small but keenly interested group.  We talked about fly tying books and resources and some personal perspective on why fly tying is appealing.  




Then to show the breadth of the art form, I tied a size 2 (saltwater) mummichog clouser and then a size 16 parachute Adams.  It was fun.


Two from my fly tying group and another gentleman joined me outside for some casting.  I provide an assortment of rods from 3 wt. to 12 wt. and explained the types of fish to be caught on each. 


Then I demonstrated general principles of fly casting.


Even with some wind, I was able to put the fly in the hoola hoop.  Not bad!

Of course, the highlight was getting one of the audience to give it a try.  With a little coaching and attention to wrist action, we were getting a reasonable loop.  Again, the small crowd was appreciative.


Large or small crowd, we'll continue to spread the gospel of fly fishing and cold water conservation.

Peace!

Kevin