We weren't supposed to go fishing today.
We weren't supposed to catch a 16-inch wild brown on a small brookie stream.
All Mondays should be like this.
Lesson of the day:
ALWAYS bring a net, even when you "know" you won't need it.
All fly fishermen are easily spotted, they wear their passion for this sport on their sleeves.
Their cars usually contain a collection of stickers and fly rods are easily spotted, random flies can be seen adorning the headrests or flip down mirrors.
There's usually a healthy layer of dirt coating the car, no matter how old or new.
At some point in general conversation fly fishing will come up. You'll hear about an epic fish, blown out river or favorite trip, this is inevitable.
Quick dry clothes are all they own. You will rarely see them not sporting a t-shirt, flannel, and fishing hat.
When you go for a drive in their car, chances are it will smell like wet feet and some type of tobacco, no matter how clean they keep it.
You'll find fly tying material, specifically feathers, everywhere. In the laundry, in your bed, kitchen counter, everywhere.
You'll also end up finding flies, in all the same places, and you'll probably have to pull one out of your dogs paw at some point.
All coffee table reading material will be replaced with the latest issue of The Drake or Fly Tyer.
Vintage tackle and pipes will begin to appear on mantels, side tables and armoire's.
They'll take you to see short films and documentaries on the sport, they don't even know what standard blockbuster just came out.
Your casual dinner conversation will consist of what kind of reel seat would look best with a flamed bamboo rod. This should last roughly 30-45 minutes, depending.
No vacation is taken unless the main goal is fishing.
Eventually, you'll learn to ignore it or you'll give in and you'll become just as bad if not worse. And, the argument over finding random flies in dogs paws will turn into another conversation about why you should always fish barbless.
If you were to give me the option between fishing a large, glorious river filled with honey holes and packed with giant, hungry brown trout or a small backcountry creek, I'd probably pick the creek. I'm not opposed to the first, in fact, brown trout may arguably be my favorite. But, there's a different kind of magic found back in the mountains amongst tiny, blue ridge beauties.
For many months now, if not years, Jacob and I have been discouraged by both the population and size of the wild water trout. Most of the time you're going to catch a tiny rainbow, if you're having an exceptional day you'll get to meet an even smaller brook trout, but probably only one or two.
We make it a point to try and fish known brook trout streams, making sure to climb high enough to reach them. We leave these streams having caught fish, but not as many, not the right species. The rivers are warmer, the bug life is not as plentiful. While there's still fish, it is discouraging to recognize that it has changed, that it's not what it once was.
We headed out this weekend with a friend in hopes of finding the elusive Southern Brook Trout. The filled parking lot in the wee hours of the morning was not an encouraging sight. Being good anglers, we scoured the cars for evidence of the tell-tale fishing stickers. None were found and we determined it was in our best interest to brave the hikers and campers for the fish.
And, fish we did find!
Pools, runs, slicks, filled to the brim with large beautiful brook trout, not one rainbow or brown was even sighted. The bright orange fins with stark white borders were noticeable a mile away.
Plenty of time was spent "resting" a pool, but really we were just admiring something that's so scarce.
I spend a lot of time on a healthy brook trout stream just savoring the artistry of it because around here, it's a rare thing.
I hope that maybe one day this will become the norm.
I hope that perhaps our past efforts and future efforts will pay off.
I hope that we will learn to conserve, to keep clean, and to treasure all of our streams.
But really, I hope that we, as anglers, will be better than we were before.
It started Saturday night and it hasn't stopped.
Thunderstorms and planing.
That's right, the weather has prevented us from fishing and so, Jacob started planing a bamboo rod.
I haven't seen him very much the past few days and I don't expect to for a while. The obsession has begun and it won't end until the rod is completed.
I'm going to hear endless rants about node spacing, angles, silk, and possibly shimmers.
Oh, the dreaded shimmers. But, that's ok.
It's always an interesting process to watch, seeing pieces of bamboo go from seemingly mismatches pieces of sticks to a completed work of art.
It's going to thunderstorm again today, so there won't be any fishing. The sky has changed from a muted sunrise to dark and menacing in just a few short hours.
I hear that the planing should be completed today.
Next up, gluing.
Every year a certain ritual takes place, where we return back to the wild.
The larger, more accessible bodies of water turn into swimming holes and tubing streams, rather than the glorious rivers that house 30-inch brown trout. Those cold winter days of peace and solitude are over.
And so, you search it out.
You wash out your waders, hang them in storage for the next few months.
You dig out your wading socks and booties.
You accept the fact that your car now always smells of wet feet.
The 9' 5 weights have been safely tucked away and the 7' 3 weights take their place. Your fly boxes go from housing large nymphs and streamers to the smallest of dry flies, in every color and pattern imaginable.
You don't need to tote around three, four or even 5x anymore, so the spools are stacked neatly in a soft sided tackle box, probably in your garage or basement.
The reel you carry with you, only one, is needed just to hold the line, the drag system is not a concern anymore.
Trophy fish go from being in the high 20's to maybe eight or ten inches.
It's time to hike into the great beyond. Find streams where you make or may not be able to even cast. Get used to laurels and rhododendrons eating more of your flies than the trout.
Hey summer, nice to see you again.
I can't wait to see what adventures you have planned for me this year!
I can't remember the last time I was able to say that. Sure, we've had occasional rain bursts that caused the rivers to run high for a few hours, but we've had high water consistently for some time now.
I've been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Now I just hope it sticks around this summer and we aren't in the same mess we were last fall.
I'm looking out the window in my studio and I can see the sky getting darker.
The weather channel says to expect thunderstorms.
It's going to be a good day.
Dogwood winter. It's a thing here, happens every year. Just when you've really gotten geared up for spring, the sunshine welcomes your face every morning, those sweet little flowers make their appearance, and the dogwood trees begin to bloom. Bam! It's winter again, and it'll happen again when the blackberry bushes start to bloom.
This week has been filled with unproductive days on the water and busy days spent in the shop. Which means few moments spent with trouts, but I can't blame them, water levels and temperatures fluctuating to such extremes, I wouldn't want to play either.
Sunday we were able to escape for just a few hours. You see, the guiding season has also kicked into high gear here, which means less time spent on the water with my favorite angling model and therefore fewer photos. I'm not so into selfies.
For only a few hours, it was wildly productive, other than only silver fish being caught... Damn silver fish!
Jacob and I have had a longstanding rivalry, a house divided if you will.
Glass vs. Grass.
He's a diehard bamboo angler and I'm pretty partial to fiberglass. We've both retired all of our graphite rods into "the guide business" and moved on to more classy equipment.
We have this funny way of talking about our rods like they're doing the fishing.
"oh, looks like the glass beat out the grass today"
"Seems like the grass has more fish in her today"
Recently I purchased a new fiberglass rod. I'm not one to make purchases lightly, I have to research, reading and watching everything I can find on the product. I have to know all of the reviews, compare those reviews and specs in pie charts and diagrams. It's taken me months to commit to buying something. Even then, in the case of a fly rod, I have to cast it multiple times to find out if it "speaks" to me or not.
For being as free spirited as I am, I suppose this is my one grounding quality.
When I began looking for another glass rod, one that could hold more weight, but have a little more reach, I kept finding these incredible casting videos of a man, Tim Rajeff.
That's what put Echo Fly Fishing on my radar. I started the process, reading retailer reviews, looking up the threads on The Fiberglass Flyrodders, and finding an older post on The Fiberglass Manifesto.
Two months later, I was ready to commit.
The Echo Glass is truly an amazing rod! I love it!
I purchased the FG-690 (9', 6wt), as previously stated, for reach and larger nymph rigs/streamers. But, I've fished also used it for teeny, tiny midge fishing as well, when I need that extra length or when casting distance in the wind.
The first thing I noticed about this rod is that it is deadly accurate! In about every situation imaginable. I've chosen to underline it with a 5wt, Intouch Rio Perception line, for the smaller midge rigs and use the Royal Wulff - Bamboo Special 6wt for larger flies.
In addition to matching my casting style superbly, the rod also offers an incredibly sensitive tip, even in the 6wt. I fish primarily based on feel. I can't see indicators, so I don't even mess with them, rather spending my day's tight line nymphing when dry flies just aren't getting it done. This rod gives me the extra sensitivity that I desperately need, but with a strong butt section, handling a 20" brown I caught a few weeks ago with ease.
Almost everything about this rod is spectacular. It's an excellent price point, comes with a lifetime warranty, and is a lovely honey, orange color. Seriously, all around great! The only thing I dislike about it is the reel seat, but I'm sure that comes from living with a rod builder, which leads to my wish that this rod was available as a blank.
We've had some pretty bizarre weather here in the Southeast for the past few days. Summer one day, tornadoes the next and possibly snow tomorrow.
Mother Nature, I'm sick of your schizophrenia.
(I also fully accept that it's man kinds fault.)
We woke up yesterday morning in hopes of fishing ahead of the front and catching some wildly hungry browns.
It didn't happen.
As soon as we got to the river it started to thunderstorm. Rain, no problem. Struck by lightning, I think I'll pass.
And so, we headed home to work. There are rods that need built, restored, put back together and socks that need sewn.
Over the past few weeks I was able to collaborate with a bamboo rod builder out of Montana to create a sock with ferrule plug pockets that would not be overly bulky and not contain any buttons, clasps, or velcro.
I think what we came up with is pretty great and I couldn't have done it without him.
Thanks, Don for all your efforts and I'm so happy we came up with the product we did.
If you've never hear of Don, check out his site here.
Kind words from Don:
Rod socks, rod bags, fly rod under ware, whatever ya wanna call 'em came in the mail today, and they are quite nice! Love the first two you made for me, and I say 'first two' because there will be more...
I will be in touch!!!
Thanks, glad I found you!"
Here's an update on the socks I'm currently offering and a price list.
Standard, straight hemmed cotton twill sock
Standard, straight hemmed cotton twill sock with ferrule plug pockets
$25.00 + $5.00 per pocket
Standar, straight hemmed cotton twill sock with flannel lining
Straight hemmed solid color flannel sock
Cotton twill sock with flap
The thermostat read 78 degrees; we checked the water, it read 58 degrees. I'd already removed most of my layers and was regretting the choice of waders. The air felt heavy and wet.
It was the second day in April.
We'd made a choice to escape early and head into the wild in search of small trouts and no people, little did we know that this may be a necessity already.
My wrist watch read 3:30, and the water was getting dangerously close to being too warm.
It was the second day in April.
The warm smell of honeysuckle, pine, and decaying bark filled the air, only every so often could you smell the crisp, clean smell of wild water. The sun was high and bright, not a cloud in the sky, and the richest blue you've ever seen. We took turns crouching in the little shade the laurels provided. It felt like the dead of summer.
If we're lucky, we may get another month of trout fishing if the weather continues the way it has been.
I'm hoping for a long, wet spring. Today is dark and gray, rain falling and I feel hopeful.
I've already set my sights on bass bugs and a six weight, just in case.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.