We continue to seem to be right on the cusp of really good fishing. I have heard a couple reports of fish taking dry flies, and I have witnessed a rise or two, but fishing dries has mostly been a slow process of prospecting. I saw several small (size 16) tan caddis today, so that might be changing.
I caught this solid, healthy trout on a size 14 black stonefly nymph. Having seen caddis, I know what I will try next time I’m out on the stream.
Day 2 of my recent trip to Virginia started early. It has to if you want to fish Beaver Creek, one of the coolest trout fishing opportunities I know of in the Mid-Atlantic. I had such a great time here last year, I’d been looking forward to getting back for a while.
Beaver Creek reminds me a little bit of the Guadalupe River in Texas–it’s a beautiful setting managed by a TU chapter to limit access and create a special fishing opportunity. Only 4 people are allowed to fish Beaver Creek in a given day, determined by a first-come-first-served policy. You have to physically go to the 257 Grocery on Briery Branch Road to get your permit, and no advance reservations are allowed.
Like its namesake spring creek in Maryland, the stream maintains a relatively stable temperature all year. Fish are healthy, strong, and well fed. And large.
I hooked no less than 12 fish of similar size–and 2 decidedly bigger–in the 4 hours I fished Beaver Creek. Unfortunately I landed far fewer than that–my 4-weight wasn’t up to the task of guiding these fish away from in-stream obstacles. It could merely make suggestions.
With a giant grin semi-permanently etched into my face, at some point I decided I had played my fair share of large trout. Rain was supposed to hold off for another couple hours, and I wanted to see what the Skidmore Fork was about. I’d also been eager to test out my new tenkara outfit. With no pressing need to catch fish, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity.
The Skidmore Fork is technically a tailwater, running out of Skidmore Reservoir before joining up with the Dry River. With water temps at 46 and air temperatures in the 70’s, caddis were present if not particularly abundant. I didn’t witness any rises, but decided to stick with dries anyway.
Two different brookies came tantalizingly close to taking my caddis pattern and becoming my first fish on tenkara. I missed both of them, but I was OK with it. A note on tenkara–it is fun. I found myself thinking “this is what fly fishing is meant to be”. Yes, tenkara is limited in application, and the majority of my fishing will likely always be ‘regular’ flyfishing, but on a small mountain stream it is hard to beat the simplicity and ease of tenkara.
On Wednesday, I took advantage of the first day in recent memory that ambient temperatures weren’t encouraging water to freeze. I was prodded partially just by the desire to be outside, but also by this:
I had driven over the river in Monkton last week, and it was frozen over. Theaux at the shop said this is the first time he’s seen this in 15 years. But that is nearly 9 1/2 stream miles below the dam. Could ice be covering the river just over a mile below the dam? I hoped not.
I didn’t even bother bringing a fly rod. I just strapped on my gaiters and yaktrax and went exploring on the upper Gunpowder (above Falls Rd, where the stream gauge is.)
So, the good news is that the top section of the tailwater is NOT frozen.
It was great to get out on the trail, although calling the stretch by the boulder pools a ‘trail’ is generous. I wouldn’t recommend going on that trail. I know it by heart from the hours I’ve spent there during non-snow covered times, but there were still sketchy moments. It was beautiful, though.
Despite the frozen gauge, water temps are slowly creeping up. I’m hoping winter breaks soon and we will see some decent fishing in the not too distant future.
Every time I write a Gunpowder Fishing Report, fishing conditions seem to immediately change. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time.
Fishing has improved. We had a very cold and wet spring, which seems to have thrown off the river all summer. Where I would normally have been fishing caddis and terrestrial dries all summer, I was reduced to nymphing just to make myself feel better. This last week things seem to have changed.
In addition to some very good success prospecting with beetles, I have seen several hatches in the last week. They looked like trico hatches, although fish have responded better to tiny olive imitations. I have also seen and had more success with caddis this week than any other time this year.
Another thing to note: that rainbow in the picture above was caught well above the stocked section. We’ve been seeing much more of that than usual this year. Hopefully this just means that fish have been moving around more than normal.
I just realized it has been over three weeks since my last post. Sorry about that–I have been on vacation in New England for a good bit of that time, and living in Baltimore I have learned not to broadcast my vacations… I did get to fish a little bit, mostly on smallmouth rivers and brook trout streams.
I’ll be back with Gunpowder Fishing Reports this week. Since I haven’t been on that river in nearly two weeks, any report I could give would be stale. To help make up for my laziness, I will clue you in to a very easy-to-tie fly that will be a key part of my arsenal this time of year. Terrestrials are gearing up on the Gunpowder, but my favorite and most productive dry from here through about October is the No-Hackle Caddis.
Credit for inventing this fly goes to Bob Wyatt (see the Spring 2013 issue of Fly Rod and Reel Magazine, www.flyrodreel.com), who calls it the No-Hackle Deer Hair Sedge. He ties it prettier than I do, but I can’t imagine it’s that much more effective.
The tie couldn’t be more simple. Dub a body, then tie on a deer hair wing. That’s it. I use all sections of the deer hair, but the thickest ones float best. This fly floats better than any fly I have ever used, yet trails its tasty looking dubbed body in the film. This often entices very aggressive strikes. Nearly any color dubbing can work. My favorites are yellow, gray, and natural hare’s ear, but I have had success with half a dozen other colors. I also typically tie in size 14 or 16. You can match your flies to the size and color of caddis you see on the stream, or use it as an attractor.
The best use of the No-Hackle Caddis is in slightly broken water, like a riffle or current seam. I have had very productive days with this fly not just on the Gunpowder, but on mountain streams from the Hyalite in Montana to the Appalachian freestoners in Shenandoah National Park. Last week on the West Branch of the Battenkill in Vermont, I only had 45 minutes to fish. I tied on the fly pictured above and raised 5 brookies in that short time without ever changing flies.
The fly has incredible floating properties. You can easily drop a small nymph off the hook. A special bonus: you can swing the No-Hackle Caddis like a wet at the end of your drift, and if you don’t get a strike on the swing (which happens more than you might think), false cast once then fish it again as a dry. You can do this for a surprisingly long time between applications of your favorite powder floatant.