Sunday, March 28, 2010
First of all, I personally feel that handwarmers are crucial to my happiness when winter fishing. I always have at least one in a pocket and sometimes have two ready, one for each hand. My indicator that tells me I am too cold is simply this: if I can't tie knots then I'm too cold and it is time to spend a couple of minutes warming my hands. If I'm cold enough that I can't get warm using handwarmers, then I have a more serious problem and either need to return to my car or build a small fire.
To delay the inevitable, I highly recommend wearing a good pair of fishing gloves, at least on the really cold days. I prefer to fish without them but solved that problem by wearing it on just one hand. The main reason I have discovered to wear gloves is because they keep your hands dry. The exertion of casting otherwise keeps you sufficiently warm. However, constantly stripping line is a good way to get both cold and wet. Wearing a glove on whichever hand you hold the rold with solves this problem. I prefer to strip line with a bare hand. If I keep the line running between the fingures of my casting hand, the material of the glove soaks up all the moisture and my line hand stays dry. Naturally, when it is really cold outside the best method is to just wear gloves on both hands, and if they don't really bother you, I would wear them on both hands anyway. I just don't like the bulk...
Next, you need a way to stay dry. I never touch fish with gloves and don't recommend doing it unless you have a pair with a rubber finish to minimize the damage to the fish. There are two alternatives: either carry a net and simply never touch the fish or remove your glove each time you land the fish. I have used both and any time I want a picture of a particularly good fish I remove my gloves. Afterwords, the water on your hands and the cold air temperatures will have your hands miserable in no time. So I have started carrying a small hand towel or even a washcloth. I just keep it tucked in my wading belt so it is always there when I want to dry my hands.
After drying your hands, you need to warm them back up, and this is where the handwarmers come in. Using the handwarmer a couple of minutes on each hand is the perfect way to keep fishing for hours with minimal discomfort. I fish with this system even when air temperatures are in the teens and twenties which is about as bad as I have to worry about here in Tennessee. If you live somewhere where it is colder, then I'm sure you have to use some additional measures on occasion. One other thing I like to do is have a small fire going on shore if it is legal. Everyone has there own method, and I would be interested to hear any other ideas you may have on keeping warm in the winter...
Days like this one make me wish I lived closer to the Park. However, I would probably call in sick too often if I actually lived closer so its probably a good thing. Soon I'll be back, likely within the next week or two. Right now its time to tie flies so I'm prepared for the next trip...
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Each year I try to do a trip for spring break. For the past several years I have been going to the Smokies to chase trout and the first spring hatches. This year some friends were wanting to do something out of the ordinary. Just a week before break was supposed to start someone suggested going to the Everglades in Florida and doing some canoeing. While I love the Smokies, I’ll usually give other things a try occasionally as well so I cleared my schedule.
We took my canoe down and rented another. There were five of us so two canoes would suffice. With just a couple of days to go before departure, I was fortunate enough to talk to Ian Rutter and gain some valuable advice on fishing the area. This trip was not specifically a fishing trip although I obviously intended to take a fly rod along.
Before I knew it the day of departure had arrived and we were driving south. We left in the afternoon and just drove through the night, arriving in Everglades City the next morning. Originally I had hoped to paddle out of Flamingo and all my fishing information was on that area. Things worked out well though from a monetary standpoint. Canoe rentals were only $25 a day in Everglades City as compared to $50 a day at Flamingo. Also, we were able to score a beach campsite that was free. The small island we spent two nights on was between 7 and 8 miles by canoe from Everglades City.
On the way out we saw porpoises including what appeared to be a young one that was much smaller than the rest. After driving through the night, we were all exhausted. Upon arriving where we were to camp, I set up my tent, crawled in and just fell asleep.
The next day we planned on doing a paddle around the area and then going back to our beach site. I had barely crawled out of my tent before one of my friends excitedly told me to come and try to catch the shark. I walked the 100 hundred or so feet over to where they had seen this fish, and sure enough, something was slowly cruising back and forth in the surf. Back at my tent, I strung up the fly rod and tied on a big Clouser. The fish was still working the shoreline when I got back so I waded out to get a little closer. Apparently, Clouser Minnows were not on the menu. After several minutes of fruitless casting, the fish vanished for a minute as it turned around to come back down the beach. When it reappeared, it was no more than 5 or 6 feet away. The murky water kept it from seeing me and being frightened. Immediately I realized it was not a shark but a nice tarpon. The huge scales gave it away. I didn’t have much in the way of other flies to try (more on that shortly) and acting on impulse, I reached out and grabbed its tail. At first it didn’t seem to notice until it tried to move. Upon realizing that something was now attached to its tail, the fish made a rapid escape towards the open ocean. I never saw it in as close again although that evening it, at least I like to think it was the same one, was rolling probably 75 yards offshore.
After the tarpon vanished, we ate breakfast and prepared for the day’s adventures. We wanted to paddle through some of the smaller channels where the opportunity to view wildlife would be greater. Over the course of the day, we saw plenty of birds and also a manatee. This was my best opportunity to get a little fishing in, and although I didn’t fish as much as I would have liked, I still had a good time. I caught what I believe was a Mangrove Snapper and also had what looked to be a baby tarpon blow up on the fly but couldn’t hook up.
Dan Mcgrath Photo
All photos without a credit are taken and copyrighted by me.
Monday, March 22, 2010
There has been a lot of discontented rumbling about the river for weeks now, and I was really curious to see for myself how the fishing was. While I can’t provide much optimism, I can report that there are still at least a few fish in the river.
The first rig of the day was my Caney standard of a dry and dropper. After fishing for a good long while without catching anything, I decided to sit on the shore and just wait for something to rise. Once, a larger fish that had already rose a couple of times swirled on the surface across the river. However, I wasn’t about to wade across the river again unless the fish showed some consistency with its rises. After waiting for around 30 minutes, a fish rose out in the middle, just out of casting range from where I was sitting. A couple of minutes passed before it rose again, and then again. Finally, a fish with a rhythm.
Wading quietly out while stripping line off the reel, I started casting. The first cast was about a foot long and the fish rose between me and my fly. The second cast was perfect and a sudden swirl proved the fish was hungry. A major battle ensued as I brought the huge 8 inch fish to hand. The fish didn’t really fight much, and I quickly removed the hook to get the little brown back in the water.
Encouraged, I started probing the water again. Blindly covering water just wasn’t the answer so I finally reeled in and started walking down the bank while thinking about just calling it a day. Just before turning to head up the ramp, I saw a rise and decided to give it another shot. Again, I fished for awhile without hooking up. Finally I found a fish with some consistency and made up my mind to catch it. For such a little fish, it proved very difficult to catch. There wasn’t a very good rhythm to its rises so I just kept casting away. By this time I had tied on a small #20 parachute pattern that was close in color to the blackflies that were hatching. I probably cast over this fish for 30 minutes. Normally on the Caney I wouldn’t waste that much time on such a small fish but there weren’t exactly tons of fish to be caught and besides, I wanted to catch fish on dries. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I hooked the little fish and decided to take a quick picture. Sometimes I’m just as proud of catching little fish as I am of big fish. It is all a matter of perspective and the little brown I caught took a lot of patience and persistence.
I fished for just a few more minutes before deciding to call it a day. It was really nice to be back on the river again. I wish I could provide more optimism about the fishing but for now things are going to be tough. The river will fish well again but it may take a few months. Thankfully it is time to really start fishing hard in the Smokies and the warm water species should be turning on soon as well. I just ordered a float tube to aid in fishing area lakes and ponds. With the price of gas creeping up again, I’ll probably spend more time this year looking for local alternatives to trout fishing.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Even the low elevation streams will be running cool for awhile due to the effects of snowmelt. The Quill Gordons and Blue Quills should be hatching any day now, but the cool water temperatures will probably keep the hatch from getting heavy anytime soon. In addition to the first mayflies of the year, we should also be seeing brown and black stoneflies and also little black caddis.
I've been tying hard the last several days trying to prepare for the new season. This weekend I intend to put all those flies to good use and will likely fish the Caney and also hopefully the Smokies. The following week I'll be off for a few days for spring break and will spend as much time on the water as possible. It is about time as I have only averaged 3 days on the water a month so far this year. Those that know me realize that I normally fish a lot more than that. I'm looking forward to the spring fishing for various warmwater species as well. Bluegill are always fun, and it should be time for white bass and stripers soon as well... Hopefully all of you will be getting out a lot over the next few weeks as fishing heats up with the weather!
Monday, March 01, 2010