Friday, December 27, 2013

"The Lure of Adventure Trumps Judgement" or "Our Redfish Trip to Southport NC" - 12/26/13

OK, I admit it.  I'm a sucker for an adventure.  But this time my addiction had outside ramifications, and I claimed a day of David's life.  Let me explain…

I had missed the chance to fish for redfish around Wilmington NC last summer and I've been jonesing ever since.

I was getting reports that the winter fishery had been outstanding and to make the trip down if I could get the chance.  My buddy David, aka "My Leakey Waders" had the day off, so we decided to do a shotgun trip down to Southport - there and back in one day.  The weather report was for overcast skies, light winds (NE 5 MPH) and temps in the low 50s.

We left Virginia Beach at 2 am, cruised past many flashing blue lights on the way to Emporia, VA and then rocketed down I95, then veered south to Wilmington and then SW to Southport.

My inherited aluminum battleship!

My little skiff was in the shop for repairs to a leaky prop seal so our boat of choice was a 14' aluminum battleship - a Sears-built aluminum canoe loaded with rain gear, a couple of 8 weights, spare paddle, stakeout pole, push pole, camera, and some tasty flies.

We got to the Southport marina at around 7:45 am and found ample parking (not a good sign).  We paid our $5 launch fee and shoved off (see #1 marked on the aerial below)  Our plan was to fish the low tide flats around the Elizabeth River. 

We started out fishing along the banks of the creek (#2 below).  The weather reports were a farce!  It was blowing at least 15 and I don't think the temp ever got above the mid 40's

We moved on to the marsh island marked #3 above.  There was a broad beautiful sandy flat that extended to the south of the marsh island.  We didn't see any pushes or disturbance.  It was cold!

Next, we tried fishing up into the narrow creeks at #4 above, hoping to find fish holed up and hiding in the quiet waters there.  No luck!

We continued to fish the shoreline and the oyster outcrops we could see until we got to the Cape Fear River (#5).

We turned to the right hoping to find a lee and fished along the points and shoreline of the big cove at #6.  Nothing.

We could see the exposed extensive oyster flats at #7 and held out hope for a school of reds in this fishy spot.  We struggled to hold the canoe in place with howling winds and a light drizzle but we didn't' see any fish sign and our efforts were for naught.

We paddled into the wind and back to the ramp and called it a day by about 1pm.  

We stopped by the Intercoastal Angler in Wilmington.  Underwhelming….Is there a better fly shop in the area?

Got some java juice and turned the car north.  We went big…we got skunked…we went home.  Made it home by 8 pm.

Yes, it was fun, we enjoyed the brotherhood, we saw many oyster catchers (cool) and were harassed by a mooching pelican, blah, blah, blah…..but we wanted the pull!  

In retrospect, perhaps our (my) judgement to pull the trigger was clouded by the lure of the adventure.  The weather really was less than ideal.  David is too nice and agreeable….(but don't change on me bro!)

On the flipside, we got to see a new area and will be that better prepared for the next foray for NC reds.  Can't wait for the next chance!



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Speckled Trout Fishing in the Lynnhaven River

Papa Carlo and I fished in the Lynnhaven on Veteran's Day.  (Thank you for your service Papa Carlo!)

The tide was low and rising and we started off at the usual place on Keeling's Drain.  Nothing doing so we crossed to the north side and tried a spot near an oyster reef, but that didn't tighten our line either.

We moved again - this time over by Dunkart's Hole on the way to the Western Branch - at the mouth of a small drain.  Pretty near the first cast, I felt taps.  Missed a couple bumps, got my timing down, and was hooked to a nice fish on the 6 wt. and a #2 clouser.

This one was an 18 incher.  Tagged him and sent him back to Neptune.

Caught two more foot-long specks, tagged them  and then took a break.  Carl responded with a nice fish of his own.  He landed the biggest catch of the day - a nice 20" fish on a mummichog-colored half and half fly. 

As the action slowed down, we went back to the starting point, but Keeling's Drain was like a parking lot.  We found a spot off the honey hole but near a rip and I picked up one more little speck.  One more tag for the day.  The boat in the honey hole was catching a speck on damn near every cast and when they finally picked up and left there was a melee rush to get there.  We tried, but didn't want to go all combat fishing so we shied off and finally picked up and headed for the barn.  We had a nice day, caught some quality fish, did our part for science and conservation and had fun to boot.

Can't ask for much more than that!


Monday, November 18, 2013

East Ocean View Fishing Report 11/10/13

I met David and Ron Sunday morning to cast around the breakwaters and jetty in East Ocean View.

We fished the water west for about half a mile in search of speckled trout and then back again, but with no luck.  The fishing was good, but the catching was lousy!

Next time we will get them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Will's First Trout! October 25, 2013

My friend Will was getting interested in fly fishing, getting geared up, taking lessons, and doing his research. As his personal Wizard of OZ, I deemed what he hadn't got, was a trip to catch his first trout. 

This post is dedicated to Will and his first fly-caught trout! 

Since Will is a backpacker and hiker extraordinaire, I though I would take him to the Laurel Fork on the VA/WV border. It's a nice 3.5 mile hike in, and pretty water to boot. We left on a Wednesday afternoon for the long drive to the Laurel.

In the pitch black of country roads over the mountains of the George Washington National Forest (Bullpasture, Jack, Back Creek, Lantz, and Middle Mountain), we started to notice something in the headlights.  What could that be?  Ash from a fire? Holy smokes!  That's snow.  But wait, it's only October 22!  This is the scene that awaited us when we made it to the campground at the trailhead.

Shouting many expletives, we pitched the tent hurriedly, fluffed the sleeping bags, made a quick run to the loo, and then hit the hay.  

We slept comfortably enough.  We got up to find a couple of inches of powder on the ground so we made quick work of getting a fire going to cook breakfast.

"Will, did you bring a cook set? No, didn't you bring yours?"  That's how we learned that we  would be making coffee water in the iron skillet!  It wasn't too bad.  As we sipped warm beverages, Will demonstrated his prowess with eggs and sausage in the skillet on an open fire.  Yum!

After breakfast, we got our gear assembled - anxious to get moving on our 3.5 mile hike down to the Laurel Fork.

With the snow, the trail was beautiful!

However, the wet snow on the ground stuck to the bottom of our boots making walking difficult - it was like we were walking on stilts!

We spied some trout in the tiny pools on the Locust Spring adjacent to the Locust Spring Run Trail which buoyed our spirits and gave us reason o anticipate the good fishing that awaited us down below.  Once we made it to the Laurel Fork, I coached Will in the arts of casting and nymphing in between flurries that persisted all day.  

The Fork was gorgeous blanketed in a fresh coat of snow.  

Needless to say, we had the river to ourselves.  Unfortunately, the gods were not smiling on Will.  There were a few takes, but no hookups.  That's the way it goes sometimes…

We hiked out before dark, broke down the gear, and celebrated a beautiful day on the river.

We drove from Bartow, WV and headed towards our next day's destination, the Upper Jackson River, and our campsite at Hidden Valley Recreation Area.  As we drove south, the snow cleared and we were blessed with this view on Route 640.

We must've seen 1,000 deer in the fields as we went south on Route 640 and then on Rt. 220.  We drove to Hot Springs and had Italian subs for dinner and lingered to imbibe many cups of hot coffee to warm up for another night in the cold.  

We picked our spot at Hidden Valley, paid our fee, pitched the Big Agnes, and hit the hay.  There were snow flurries again.

The next morning, we woke and Will got the jump on the fire, thoroughly cleaned out the skillet so we could make debris-free hot beverages, and then we had a second round of campfire eggs and sausage.

We had a nice chat with the campground host, broke camp and got to the business of trout fishing. 

The hike from Hidden Valley to the special regulation section above Muddy Run was only 1.5 miles, but we figured even that distance would be enough to discourage many anglers and that the trout there would be less harassed. 

(A note to self - work some blaze orange into the fishing ensemble.  There were lots of hunters (bow season) at the campgrounds and in the area.)

The hike in was easy (on no!) - through fields and on gravel paths all the way to the swinging bridge.  We must've seen at least 20 woolly bear caterpillars on the path!

The weather seemed as if it would be at least 10 degrees warmer than the day before - cool, but with sunny skies and pleasant conditions.  The stream at the swinging bridge was inviting!

We worked our way upstream - Will fishing a nymph and me swinging large streamers through the deeper holes in the river.  Within about 30 minutes, I heard some excitement down below, and sure enough, Will was into his first fish.  It was a beaut!  I hope he saved that prince nymph for a keepsake.

We continued to fish the rest of the day.  This section of the upper Jackson was gorgeous, with "I know there's got to be a big one in there"-water, and although the weather was warmer, we never did have much bug activity and no rising trout.  Will stayed with the nymphs and I kept swinging streamers through deep pockets, but with no success.  


No matter.  Will got his first fish - mission accomplished.  The scenery both days was spectacular, the company was great, the camping was good, what more could you as for.

We celebrated the fish back in the Hidden Valley parking with a little more Devils Backbone Striped Bass Pale Ale as we de-frocked, laid our gear to rest, and prepared for the next part of our journey.  We were meeting up with friends at the Devils Backbone Brewery for dinner and some bluegrass music before hiking for 2 days on the Appalachian Trail.  You can read about that part of the adventure (coming soon) at:

Now this is living!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bill Wills SE VA Chapter of TU trip to the Dry River, VA 10/19/13

Andy, David, and I left Saturday afternoon, camped out at the Hone Quarry Campground, and then made the quick shuttle to the Dry River for some beautiful brook trout fishing in the George Washington National Forest. Thanks to Deep Minnow for the great still shots in the video. I hope the Commonwealth or the Feds DON'T FRACK HERE! Enjoy!

Bill Wills' SE VA Chapter of TU - Trip to the Dry River 10/19/13 from Coastal Explorer on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bill Wills Wins TU Distinguished Service Award

With the financial assistance of the VA Council and many members, Bill Wills and I recently travelled to Wisconsin so that he could accept the national TU Distinguished Service Award.

Friday, we had to catch a flight at 6:30 am so I picked up Bill at 4:30 am to catch the early flight to Chicago.

After getting to Chicago, we rented a car and drove approximately 3 hours to Middleton Wisconsin.  Thanks to a generous donation from Bill Campbell, we checked into the Middleton Marriott.  Also we had arranged with Bill's nephew Jimmy (from Cortlandt NY) to meet us at the hotel as a surprise!  Boy, was he ever!

We were a little surprised that there were not any booths or vendors at the national meeting, but there was this one raffle for a James Prosek print if you could guess how many Swedish Fish were in the picture frame.  

After catching up with nephew Jimmy, we cleaned up, dressed up, and headed to the award banquet at the Death's Door distillery in Middleton.

The fish fry dinner was very nice and it was great to hear about all the awards for the great work TU volunteers are doing all across the country.  In addition to Bill's award for Distinguished Service, best newsletter was won by a TU Chapter in Winchester VA!  I have some copies of the newsletter I will email out to local TU members...

Here's Bill and Jimmy at Death's Door...

Bill gave a great speech followed by rousing applause.  Of course he said he didn't know why he would be singled out for any award - such is Bill's humble way.

Bill and his award...

At the after-hours mixer hosted by the local WI TU chapters, Bill was quite the celebrity and everyone was congratulating him and telling him how inspirational he was.

For some reason, Bill was especially popular with the ladies.... 

We had a nice breakfast listening to a panel discussion by the national council about branding issues, membership, projects, and fundraising.  I can tell you, even attending the annual meeting for 1 of the 3 days made me psyched to be a member of TU and made me committed to doing more.

If you're not already a member of TU, please join.  If you are a member, please renew.  TU is a great organization full of dedicated and passionate volunteers that make our environment and our fishing experiences better.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lynnhaven River Report 9/19/13

I had a nice time on the Lynnhaven River today.  It started off with a killer sunrise.

As the sun rose, the pink hue faded and was replaced by orange and gold.

Nothin' happening at the osprey pole flat so I tried a few places and finally found a feeding fish that I could cast to.  This 22" drum took a 1/0 black beauty and fought HARD! 

More feeding activity and I was hoping for another drum, but landed a small flounder instead.  Same black beauty fly.

Not a ton of action, but fun exploring and one quality fish!  I'll take it.


Sunday, September 8, 2013


On a Sunday, I chose to commune with God through nature and that meant a day of fishing with my good friend David and with the expert Captain Chris Newsome of Bay Fly Fishing and Light Tackle Charters (   

Chris picked us up at the Cobbs Creek Marina for a day on the Piankatank River.

The sunrise greeted us as we left the docks at 6:30 am.

First order of business was to catch some peanut bunker (menhaden) that Chris uses to confirm predator fish are in the vicinity and also to whip them into a feeding frenzy.  Hunting bait as the sun rises...

Bingo !

"Chesapeake Gold"

The first dock we pulled up to yielded many schoolie stripers.  They charged, wheeled around, and slashed at the live bunker looking for an escape route.  Sadistic? Probably.  But it was fun watching the bunker go airborne to escape the marauding stripers.  Those that headed into open water instead of the stripers' lair under the dock were hunted by hungry specks.

Here's one of the nicer stripers fooled by one of David's flies.

David "representin" the local TU Chapter...

In addition to the stripers, we caught one pretty speck, a flounder, and bluefish.  Then it was time to restock the pantry.  

A school of hapless menhaden...

Chris is an expert with the cast net.

A good haul...

 Dead man walking...

On to a new dock and more hungry schoolies.  David caught the nice bluefish.  

We were hoping to find some redfish and Chris did not disappoint.  For his size, this red fought like a bulldog!  

Telling us the fish were not leader shy, Chris had us using 20 lb. tippet so we could horse the fish out of the pilings.  Good advice!  I lost at least one nice fish as it took me in to the pilings and tore off the thick leader on a razor sharp barnacle or oyster.

The highlight of the day came right at the end.  Little blues and schoolie stripers were busting all over this flat as Chris kept the action going with flights of bunker.  Amid the dinks, David tied into this trophy speckled trout.  Due to its size, at first we thought it was a striper or large blue, but Chris knew better!  This pig filled up the net and some!

WOW!  What a great day.  Thank you David!  Thank you Captain Chris!  The beautiful clear waters of the Piankatank River were a welcome respite from the murky Lynnhaven River (as much as I love my home water).  

Quality fish, quality friends. Done.