You are here: John's Blog
I always enjoy the great cross section of different fishermen types that I get each year. For the life of me I can't figure out why more women aren't taking up flyfishing, the ones I do get are much more patient than men and generally straighten out the learning curve a tad quicker. Getting leaders and tippet fouled up during the course of the fishing day is part of flyfishing and the ladies tend to tackle these trying times with a controlled and methodical approach rather than the angry frustrated route taken by the guys which usually ends up with some cussing. I know, I do it myself sometimes lack the restraint to keep from getting flustered and in the process losing valuable fishing time.
A fishing trip with a sibling can make for a great way to bond in beautiful settings. These 2 sisters were keen and veteran fishermen who caught lots of nice trout with me but still would take a little time to just kick back and enjoy the gurgling stream along with other wildlife sounds. Both have high pressure jobs and the trout experience provided great therapy. The great sound of running water coupled with other bird and wildlife sounds can be huge relaxants as you enjoy the peaceful ,undemanding environment. Catching trout is the number one mission but enjoying the other stimulants out there is pretty good stiff too. They inspire the soul.
As a trout guide it's always fun to look back this time of year and think about all the many people I have had the privilege to introduce flyfishing to. You just never know what might happen or what might end up staying with you or your fishermen for life. Not bragging here just want to show you that learning works both ways. This past year was one of my best ever, the weather cooperated even through the summer and I had very few cancellations all year. My Intro half day trips last 4 1/2 to 5 hours and I'm always amazed how quickly the time passes by. I pack a lot into these and there has to be a balance here, yeah it can be intense but you have to keep the fun element always close by. One young man on my Intro- Stream experience trip made me very aware of this. I had brought him along with instruction on casting and setting the hook on a trout and the other important parts of sport at our mountain trout pond and we decided it was time to hit the stream. He caught some small trout early and I gave him a small #16 dry Black hard body pattern to work a deep ledge pool under an overhanging tree. Low and behold a big old 21 '' brightly colored Rainbow sipped the fly 3rd cast and went air born 3 or 4 times and the fight was on.. We had fairly light tippet on and the trout proved quite a handful in the faster water as my young fisherman battled him. I have to admit I yelled a couple of times at him to make a point but the second time he started laughing. My goal is to see the trout in the net and things can get intense most times as I instruct my fishermen what to to do and not to do in a fish fight.. No one had ever laughed the way this fisherman did during one of the most critical times of of a fish fight.Well I started laughing after my second yell and after several more minutes the old hook jawed trout was in the net. We caught several more trout in the 14''- 17'' range and yeah I started laughing after every second yell with my outstanding young angler We both had one fun time, I had forgotten the fun thing that I told you a lines ago.
After 58 plus years of visiting Virginia mountain trout streams and rivers I , like most experienced fishermen, have a pretty large memory bank of my favorite trout places to visit. Don't get me wrong I cherish every time and place I go myself or take folks but some of the same spots have produced the most memories. If I think about it this favorites list I have to take into consideration the natural beauty of most of these as well what makes a particular pool special. Maybe it produced an unusual experience of same kind such as a particularly aggressive trout's take of the fly, maybe we caught a trophy trout in an unusual spot we didn't think he was supposed to be. Maybe it is the sheer numbers of times we have been successful at a fishing spot when other spots failed, a ''honey'' hole most would call it but some on the favorite list may have only had a 1 time memorable event. Fifty years ago I was flyfishing on Pedlar and miscast a dry caddis to a pool. The fly wrapped around an over a low overhanging limb and was bouncing 2'' above the water when all of a sudden an 8'' Brook trout came up and nailed it. it's not always what but how, I can still see the little Brook jumping 2'' to get my fly. It might fool you but size of fish is not always enter into the criteria like the one above. Of course what makes many of these spots memorable in the first place is that most meet the trout's life needs and have continued to do so for decades, centuries, etc. Maybe your father or a friend passed one these prized pools down to you. One on my lists is on a very small 6' wide National Forest stream where about 25 years ago I was fishing for native brookies and was rudely awakened when I presented a small stonefly nymph to a trouty looking spot under a huge hemlock. An eye popping 21'' 4 pound hooked jaw Brown took the fly in an almost violent fashion, I snapped his picture and he went back under ''his'' rock. Good things have happened to me fishing around more public bridge abutments, of course the place I caught my first trout is on my Hall of Fame list of trout places. Years ago I caught a huge trophy Rainbow tucked way under a ledge in a Bullpasture River trib after I know a 100 people had fished it 2 days before, yeah it's on the list. Sometimes you have to share a favorite with more people. This past fishing season produced the biggest trout on the days weather sent most anglers packing, so it is a contributor to making the list. Right time right place of course is big.
I hit the water for a couple hours yesterday in 32 degree air temps and came to one of the public spots on my list. I caught 4 trout nymphing in just a few casts which was pretty good on a cold winter day. I changed to a minnow imitation. First cast produced a beautiful 21 '' Rainbow, still full of color and fight as I released it. Hopefully another angler can have the same experience I did at this pool, maybe it will make his or hers ''favorite' list. This same pool produced a 5 pound hook-jawed Brown several years ago, I remember it because as I was getting ready to snap a picture of the trout I dropped my brand new Sony $800 camera in the drink and ruined it for good. Every time you go fishing you're running the risk of making a lifetime memory whether good, funny or bad. What a pleasant thought. I better get off here, I'll be telling fishin' stories from now on. Time to get started on your own ''favorites'' list. John
Summer trout fishing is usually a little slower, you have to work a little harder to catch fish which can be a good thing. Trout are spooky in the lower flows and you have to approach pools in stealth mode. If you learn to catch them ''hard'' you should not have a problem catching them other times of the year. I like to explore streams at this time even if I'm not fishing that much, it will give you special insight into the structure of a stream and this can be used later when you are fishing the same water when flows are higher. I have watched trout spook when a high flying buzzard casts its shadow over them lately. Lower flows see predators move in, blue herons hunt them trout all night so any fishing plan right now has to factor in stealth. Osprey, snakes, eels and 4 legged critters are out there looking for an easy meal now. The old trout self preservation moniker, ''to hide is to live'' is very true. Any good predator like yourself will always be studying his or her's prey's habits and likely holding spots. Case out their ''joints '' if you get my drift. John
Spring Edition - 2013
I have had the honor of taking of taking many, many people flyfishing over the years and the education process cuts both ways. They depend on me to introduce them to a brand new pursuit from the starting gate many times. Others may have varying degrees of experience, it makes no difference. We all learn from each other I will always believe. One of my favorite fishermen over over the years has been retired U.S. Virginia Senator John Warner who was once married to Elizabeth Taylor. John is an experienced fisherman whom I have had a lot of fun with on several occasions.
Fall Edition- As a professional trout guide I get fishermen from all over the world and with that comes a huge commitment from my end to make the day special for each and everyone of them despite having nature throw you a curve every now and then. A few years ago I had a 2 day late Spring trip with some clients from New England who only wanted to catch trout on dry flies, top water as we call it. This certainly is the most focal and dramatic way to enjoy the sport of fly fishing if nature cooperates. The night before our first day we had an unexpected 2'' rain storm hit on the waters I had laid out for the first day. We headed out to the stream next morning and it was running high and very muddy. I knew my clients were not happy but I always have a backup plan. I told them that dry fly fishing might just be impossible this day and that we would have to change the mindset and fishing strategy a bit. I sensed some disappointment but I tried to stay on mission of making a special day despite what nature had dealt us. We drove for an hour to a high elevation high gradient mountain headwater stream loaded with wild Rainbows. This type stream can usually taking a pretty good rain but still be fishable in a few hours. This stream was running high and what I call milky when we arrived and really in great shape to catch a trophy fish.
One good thing about a flyfishing outing is that most times you come away with a good story, share a great a time with friends or relatives, enjoy great scenery and you generally always learn something no matter how many times you go. I know because this has always been the case with me.
Just a few years ago I had a single angler who wanted to experience the Jackson Rver in Bath County. I always get psyched up a little more when taking folks up there as the Jackson is as good as it gets in Virginia trout fishing. We took a long hiking trek in to one of my ''honey'' spots that May day. Caddis activity was very heavy this day and we started fishing upstream in a long section of riffle water. The dry #14 Tan Caddis started turning trout heads immediately and in a 300' section we caught and released over 40 colorful Rainbows and Browns in just a little bit. One was a big ole 5 pound hook jawed Rainbow. I told my guy that this was an exceptional time so enjoy it.