Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Circles


Early October on the Home Water

There was a time when our forefathers would take us fishing and have to withstand an onslaught of tangled lines, broken equipment, and overall impatience. In addition to the hilarity that was fishing in our youth, my father would occasionally rent canoes or rafts. In almost every instance, my brother, sister, and me always had difficulty rowing in a straight line. Our father always passed it off as our fault and my brother earned the nickname, "Matthew goes around in circles".  How times have changed. In recent years, I am the one taking the old man out and having to tie all his knots, row him perfectly down the river, hold him up while wading, and catch him when he loses his balance on the boat. When it comes to rowing, I've realized that it never was the fault of my brother, sister, or I for the watercraft going in circles. It was my father. Recent excursions have only reinforced my new conclusions. Fishing in our family has finally come full circle...

Friday, October 19, 2018

October Float


Potential

On a cool and gray day in October high flows ferried my brother and I through mist and drizzle as we pounded the banks of our home river with gigantic streamers. The off color current dragged on the yellowing leaves of overhanging branches and vegetal flotsam lay draped and folded over every sweeping and submerged limb. We were counting on the overcast dankness loosening the inhibitions of this river's increasingly abundant big beautiful brown trout and we were not disappointed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Forty


Rudder...

It was late August and I hadn't gone tidal fly fishing in 2018. Weighing on my carpin conscious was the fact that that school year was starting in a few days and I'd probably be waiting until 2019 if I didn't get out. I found myself checking the weather and found a window of opportunity that I couldn't pass up. Despite a decent wind, I embarked to a favorable eastern shore marsh to try my luck. It was slow. With the hot summer sun beating down and a flooded marsh, I had a hard time finding any activity, let alone spotting a carp. Around midday, I found myself paddling around during a high tide checking out sparse activity in the choppy water. I had a few opportunities during down periods in wind and was able to land a few small carp. However, I had my sights set on something much larger. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Being There Yesterday

Carp fishing in the East means long periods of observing, stealth, mosquito bites and making one cast count. Usually. But every once in a while, you might find yourself there yesterday. The mythical day, usually the day before you arrived, when the fish happen to be strangely cooperative.

Mark invited me to go out for carp on a creek that he's caught fish at before and I was more than up for it. It had been more than two years since I'd landed a golden bone and I was looking forward to something that would pull. I put on some overcast colors and we rigged up one rod to share. We quickly found ourselves on an elevated stream bank overlooking a flat that bordered a deep flowing channel. Carp were cruising out of the channel and onto the flat with purpose.

Towards a cruising fish I made one cast from the bank and danced my carp crab downstream in the water column. Headed in the same direction, the fish accelerated and engulfed the fly. I forgot how hard these things pull as I fought it on the shin deep flat with our 6wt.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Savage River Diaries


The Savage is my favorite little river. It is technical but holds cooperative fish. It is accessible but engrossing. It is pocket water around every bend with distinct wild browns right where you think they'd be. It is native brookies, some pretty rainbows and at least one cutthroat. It is beautiful and cold and green. Here, I slide right into a state of flow and it's comfortable like an old and worn pair of leather boots.  This place has become my place of pilgrimage.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Fly vs. Jerk


When my buddy Tyler Nonn calls with an offer of fishing, one must be willing to drop everything in order to take advantage of the opportunity. As owner and operator of Tidewater Charters, he plies his craft in the Chesapeake Bay, the Florida Keys, and Alaska offering first rate all-tackle and fly fishing trips to major gamefish like striped bass, cobia, tuna, and more. With a booked schedule and a long list of friends who want to go fishing, that phone call is one I look forward to. When it came this Spring, I immediately canceled the plans I was driving towards, turned around, and drove back home to pack. That night I drove to Tyler Snuffer's house, picked him up, and made our way back down south to meet up at Tyler N's house. We had a great seafood dinner before heading to bed. Awaking early, the final preparations were made and we embarked for a day of sight fishing in windy, overcast, and stormy conditions. 

Perfect.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Anadromous


A Maryland Hickory Shad

There isn't much to say, that hasn't already been said, about the annual Spring migration of shad into the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Susquehanna. Every year I try to make it out at least once to catch hickories below the Conowingo Dam. I typically pick an overcast day and drive about an hour after work to fish for a little bit before dark. This allows me enough time to find a few pods of fish and catch my fill before driving home. This year, I fished the big river in high flows. The most difficult part is navigating the high water, the treacherous bank, and finding a window of casting opportunity with a long rod and skagit head.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Big Poppa Pump Goes Streamer Fishing


Spring is in the Air

Thus far, the extent of Big Poppa Pump's fishing adventures with my brother and I have been limited to nymphing for trout. It is the easiest way to get Pops on a fish with his lack of skill casting a fly rod. When we pushed off on this venture, I had him armed with a 9wt, a 350 grain sinking line, and a six inch deer hair streamer. In other words, an entirely different game. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A humbling day in the gorge


It was early April and the forecasted 60 degree day had us dreaming of willing risers. We saddled up the raft and entered the gorge despite the 40 degree water temps. Mandatory lifejacket conditions. Packed with all the gear we imagined we'd need was a dry bag of spare clothes for each of us. Along for this float was Stacy, my wife. This is one of the three special stretches of water that I had resolved to show her this year.


The day started off with a few stocked rainbows as we pin-balled between rocks while trying to steer clear of the anglers on the banks who were out for opening day of trout season. We made it through the upper sections within walking distance of the put in without embarrassing ourselves and entered a secluded waterway paralleled by a rail trail and nothing else for miles. The number of anglers dropped off and the soundscape of the gorge asserted itself.


Along an inside seam of a sweeping run we posted up in thigh deep water and showed my wife how to cast a switch rod with a double nymph indicator rig. She is a natural and was dead drifting momentarily. We talked about reading a river and where the fish would be with water this cold. After ten minutes of prospecting she set into a decent fish.



She may be a natural at casting but her fish fighting skills need some work. She started to reel in the wrong direction then laid about 20ft of slack into the run. While my brother and I shouted somewhat contradictory instructions she picked up the slack and got the fish on the reel, which we were all surprised was still there.

With continuous tension and a bent 11 footer she played the fish so I could net it. We were rewarded with one of the gorge's resident wild browns; an increasingly common little miracle in light of the polluted history of this watershed.

With frozen hands we kept the fish wet and snapped a photo before its vigorous release. We talked about our childhood memories of this river, of the dam that could do a better job of keeping it cool in the summers, of our hopes for its future. Then, we continued downriver.





I'll call it complacency, but we have only ourselves to blame for the trouble we found ourselves in a few hours later. The rapids in the gorge have names and we have a homemade book of maps with instructions for running them. We also have a spare paddle that can be used as a pushpole by the person in the bow. That book was unconsulted and the paddle was stowed when we slid into a hairy piece of water several miles from any road.

In seconds, we realized we were headed sideways over a drop of a few feet and that this raft was going to flip, that we were going for a swim and that our gear was going to be smashed.

Thankfully, we became stuck fast on the lip of the drop in some class III whitewater. Mark, sensing no other option, hopped out from the bow into the waist deep water, simultaneously unsticking us from the rock and spinning us into proper position by swinging us by the stern handles. As we went over the lip he attempted to reboard from the stern but slipped and was left standing against a boulder on the upstream side. We made it through the rapid, rowed to shore as soon as possible and ran upstream to offer assistance.

Mark was standing in the middle of the river with no way to cross to safety. We threw him an extra lifejacket and shouted across the whitewater to come up with a plan. He decided his best option was to kick up his feet and ride downriver while we backrowed into an eddy to catch him as he went by.

He cinched his wading belt and strapped on the second life jacket. I pulled hard to cross the river and got the boat near where we thought he'd come out. We signaled for him to go.

He sat back into the frigid water and was swept through the rapid. I pulled out into the current and he grabbed the end of the spare paddle that Stacy extended for him. Holding onto the pontoon, I ferried him to shore.

We were thankful for the dry bag of clothing and that this situation turned out the way it did.






The 60 degree day never materialized but dry clothes and renewed vigilance kept us warm enough. We fished our way downriver, bringing many more to hand. Mark even moved a monster on a streamer but we were ripping by too fast to make another cast.


Hours later we arrived at the pool we were hoping would be dimpled with risers. It was not. We let the tranquil waters ferry us to the takeout, and called it a day.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Bronzylvania


Keystone bronze...

Melting snow and Spring rains raised the water level of a nearby tributary to a point that peaked my interest. I was willing to bet that the smallmouth bass would be making their annual Spring spawning run with this increased flow. I called up Matt and offered him a proposition to meet me at the put in. My plan included a 17 mile float from sunrise to sunset. Ever the one to question my plan, Matt felt that 17 miles was way too ambitious. I felt confident that the high flows would cover his doubt. Several hours away, we met at the put in and launched. Adding to the doubt, was the unfamiliarity with the water way, our intended quarry, and tactics. Within a mile, a 21 inch slab of bronze emerged from some structure and violently attacked a six inch streamer near the surface. Matt hoisted an easy personal best smallie and had a huge grin on his face. What followed was an epic float with several bass hitting that magical 20 inch mark. All the large ones took a big fly placed tight to some obstruction on the bank. With the ripping current, casts had to be on the money to entice them out of their lies and into the current. Our success has us thinking of what a future Spring float would look like with slightly lower flows, a better pre-spawn window, and a second angler in the boat. 

Only time will tell...


Hunting


Jurassic


Matt setting the bar pretty high...



Little beaver...


Off the bridge abutment 



Osprey








A special silhouette... 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A False Spring


A brief sojourn before they closed the mountain pass...

Eagerly awaited every year, spring break is the pot of gold at the end of a fly fishermen's winter doldrums. As it approaches, stories are told of epic yesteryears and great fishing. Scores of twenty pound carp up on the flats, major Hendrickson hatches at the end of March, and floats down rivers hucking big streamers to hungry browns. One can daydream and anticipate replicating these moments, but more often than not, they are not easily duplicated. This year, winter showed no signs of slowing down and "spring break," felt more like a December holiday break. Nor'easter snow storms pummeled the Mid-Atlantic region bringing major snowfalls, cold temperatures, rain, and unhappy trout. Nonetheless, we persisted...


Packed for "Spring Break"





"We should be playing fetch in a lake right now"





I guess we aren't throwing streamers on this float...



Loch leven strain wild brown...



Fishing with @pafishing is always a good time...



Good ole frenchie eater...



Thankful to hit a small BWO hatch towards the end of my false spring...









A sign of Spring...