Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label High Stick Nymphing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label High Stick Nymphing. Show all posts

Monday, November 22, 2021

Stay With It

Every year, I take a fishing trip in early to mid November. That trip is usually to the Smokies, and I usually end up camping for at least a couple of nights. This year, I decided to head to Smokemont Campground near Cherokee, NC. A couple of friends were planning on joining, either for both the camping and fishing, or at least for a day of fishing. 

The camping trip was a big success. A good rain the last night meant I was packing up wet gear the Friday morning I left. That slowed me down slightly, but still I was out of camp by a good time and headed to the first of a couple of destinations for that final few hours of fishing. Deep Creek is one of my favorites, probably because something good always seems to happen when I fish there. Nowadays, it seems quite crowded, yet the allure of a stream that has produced so many nice brown trout for me over the years keeps calling me back.

My buddy John was with me who also happened to be along when I caught the big brown trout I had been hunting for over a year. On that occasion, he just happened to have a GoPro with him and captured the whole thing. What a special treat. On this trip, I brought along a GoPro myself and was soon reminded of the importance of really dedicating to the process if I'm going to try and film. 

We had cut through the woods into a semi remote stretch of water where I knew there was a good pool or two. I was rigged and ready with a Tellico Nymph and a small caddis pupa and a euro style sighter. I've been using sighters when high sticking at least half of the time and almost always when I'm trying to teach someone such as on a guide trip. There are some obvious limitations to the use of a sighter section, but also a lot of positives as well. Anyway, I had this rig and started working up through the run. 

I didn't have a lot of expectations. A cold front had moved through during the night and the water temperatures were on the downhill slide. This time of year, water temperature direction seems to be a lot more important than the actual number. I would take 40 degree water after several days in the 30s, but don't want to see 48 degree water after several days in the 50s.

A couple of bumps encouraged me that this might turn out to be a decent day after all. Some small rainbows were messing with the caddis pupa but not quite getting hooked. Finally, I made a longer cast up the far seam. The flies bumped slowly along the bottom of a ledge as they dropped towards deeper water. One of the subtle pauses lasted a fraction of a second longer than the others had been. I raised the rod tip a bit and met slight resistance. Lifting even further, I finally went into the hook set that should have been my first move. Sure enough, the weight of the ledge turned into the weight of a fish after all as the nice little brown started bulldogging. This was another variation on the theme of never giving up on a possible fish. You have to stay with it, and in this case, I did. The fish was my reward for not giving up. 

Deep Creek wild brown trout


The funny thing here is that I was really certain I was stuck on the ledge. Never mind that this was a great brown trout spot with softer water on the edge of a seam over bedrock. I thankfully didn't give up though and the fish hung on just long enough for me to turn it into a hook set. Most days, the fish in the Smokies are too quick and don't give you time for half hearted hook sets though. The real lesson is that you need to set on everything. This is something I preach every day as a guide, and yet here I was relearning the lesson for umpteenth (or billionth) time. This is something I see over and over again as a guide. Whether it is high sticking/tight lining/euro nymphing, or indicator nymphing, or even fishing with a dry dropper, people are quick to write off small jiggles and ticks as "just the bottom" or "just a rock" or, well, you get the idea. When you are nymphing, if there is any glimmer of doubt in your mind that a fish might be eating, set the hook. 

The only bad thing about this fish is that I didn't have the GoPro rolling. Yep, I went to the effort of bringing it with me, but didn't use it nearly enough. The best fish of the day wasn't captured on video because I thought I was just warming up. If you are going to start filming your adventures, my advice is to film everything. You never know when the fish of the day might strike.

Thankfully, the rest of the day had me dialed in just a little better. Soon I was catching some more fish, setting on every slight hesitation. The rainbows and browns were coming willingly, just often enough to keep me focused and engaged. Too much time between fish tends to lull the angler to sleep, but steady action keeps one's reflexes ready to strike.

Deep Creek wild rainbow trout


As we go into the winter season, this lesson is even more important to learn. Trout tend to move slower and more deliberately in cold water. Often, you may not see much indication that the fish has taken the fly, but find an excuse to set the hook every single drift. You'll be amazed at how many of those turn into fish...



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pocket Water

Some of my favorite water to fish is pocket water.  On small streams that may be 90% of the water on the whole stream.  On larger classic trout water, larger pools and runs may predominate but the pockets behind in-stream obstructions are still some of the best water in the river.  High stick nymphing is my method of choice although streamers and even dry flies have their place at times.  While on a hike this past weekend, I came across an ideal pocket behind a large boulder.  Unfortunately I did not have a fly rod with me but I will return!  Just imagine what must live behind this boulder...