Sunday, August 12, 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.

This is also one of the three stretches of water I'd planned to take my wife to this year. We made the drive and booked a room at a nearby farm through AirBnB. On our way to fish the first evening's hatch we crossed paths with a large black bear on the road, which isn't unusual.

We met my brother at the campground and walked to PhD Pool. Stacy set up shop on river right with her sketchbook and watercolors while Mark and I set up on river left with our 5wts and sulphur patterns. We sat and settled into conversation.

Mayflies began to dance above a downstream riffle so we knew they'd be above the upstream one, too. Sporadic risers began to interrupt our conversation with increasing frequency but we didn't get up; we only remarked on their particulars. We had been talking about life, marinating in the setting and scenery, and were satisfied with that until an agreeable riseform stood us up. Mark cast to and landed her; a gorgeous 16" brown brought to hand in the fading light.

With that, the three of us retired for the night and resolved to hit the water early in the morning for a full day of pocket water prospecting.

The morning found us working upstream from pocket to seam to foam line and finding more than a few smaller fish. The water was running a little high and made upstream wading more difficult than usual. The riparian rhododendrons were shrouded in cobwebs bedecked with several species of mayfly.

My wife is an apt pupil and is better at this than she thinks she is. She can put a fly close enough to where she intends although her fish fighting ability really needs some work. Practice is the best teacher in that regard.

Some brookies are prettier than others and the Savage has more than its fair share of them. There are some browns in there that are also a sight to behold. Mark fished the opposite bank and we all worked upstream together. It's a pleasure watching him fish.

We wrapped up the second evening hoping for a sustained hatch that never materialized. Bugs were flying around but they didn't bring the fish up to meet them. As the riverside forest grew dark beneath the cloudy sky we trekked back to the cars and made a fire at Mark's camp.

On our last morning, Stacy and I opted for more of the same while Mark went off on a solo downstream jaunt that took him to a deep pool from which he was able to take a few fish on a streamer. The Savage River screamer brown trout was not to be found, but a big acrobatic rainbow was eager to play.

While the sun burns off the morning fog after you've had a great few days on one of your favorite rivers, there are worse ways to spend a few minutes than in grateful streamside contemplation.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Trust the Process

High and Muddy

The wet Spring continued into May, putting a damper on a lot of the plans we had to go trout fishing. When we were free, which wasn't often, the rivers were simply blown out or the weather was not cooperative. The lack of weekend trips forced outings to occur after work. Instead of fishing for trout, I targeted some Delmarva carp. Having grown accustomed to this particular body of water and the movement patterns of its fish, I felt confident on my initial forays. On the first two trips the rain ended up severely impacting my ability to sight fish. Despite the muddy conditions, I still spotted an absolute beast of a carp. This fish dwarfed every other carp, including the pre-spawn females, and had no right being in such a small creek. The beast became my target over the course of several trips. I knew that I had to trust the process and eventually I would have a solid shot at the big guy on the block. As things progressed into June, the conditions kept improving and the fishing got better and better. 

Those initial days fishing in higher water were frustrating due to the turbidity of the water and the rate of flow. Turbid water combined with sight fishing to the same colored fish doesn't work, especially in the late afternoon with a setting sun. I used elevation to my advantage and targeted slow eddies and structure where I knew carp would be congregated. My first creek carp of the season came off a log jam. The second came off a flooded pile of sediment that a carp cruised onto looking for a meal. I simply had my fly waiting for him on the bottom. During this time, there was a lot of competition in the water for my fly's attention. Sunfish, perch, catfish, shad, and stripers attacked my offerings before they would get in the zone. These "carp blocks," were frustrating to say the least. 

A major high water event occurred at the end of May, which completely transformed parts of the creek. Thankfully, the carp population only increased and it also removed a log jam under a certain bridge that holds a lot of carp. The water eventually dropped and cleared. With clear water, the beast couldn't hide. After a few failed attempts, I retreated to a different area of the creek to catch a few other carp. Returning, I spotted the big one on a sand bar. I was about 40 ft. upstream and didn't want to get any closer. I casted down and across, allowing my fly to swing into the correct position. I mended right and gave my line slack to allow my fly to drop into the zone. I watched the silhouette of the carp move towards my fly and saw the unmistakable outline of protruding lips sucking in the carp crab. What followed was a tense battle between a mid-twenty pound carp, a 6 wt, and a flowing body of water. Eventually, I beached the post-spawn female on a shallow section of the sandbar. My largest carp of the Spring was finally tamed...

Acting like a tree, waiting for a fish to come into sight...

Poison ivy is everywhere...

There are about 10 carp in this picture...
I caught one in the lower left.

Carp blocked by a channel cat...

Carp blocked by a perch...

Carp blocked by a striper...
The Mop Fly is actually a very good carp fly. 


This carp moved up onto a flooded shelf to eat a carp crab.

Pre-spawn female.

A good one in turbid water.

A decent pre-spawner...

Hybrid eater...

Another good one...

There was a log jam here for the past 7 years. A major high water event finally broke it free allowing me to target the carp that used the structure to their advantage. 

A bridge troll...

A "little guy," on a carp crab. 

The beast tamed...

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. 


The outing played out like an episode of Fly vs. Jerk. If you haven't watched this Scandinavian fishing show, fly anglers compete against gear anglers for pike. In this case, I was on the bow with my fly rod in hand awaiting an approaching pod of migrating striped bass. Both Tyler's were in the tower, one with a 14 inch. soft plastic Hogy, and the other with line attached to a live eel. They exercised extreme patience throughout the day by giving me the first shot. When my fly hit the water, both Tylers would cast over both of my shoulders. With three different lures in the water at the same time, one would think that we would slay. In this case, the conditions were the great equalizer. Sometimes, we didn't see the stripers before they saw us, or the wind would push us into the approaching fish too soon. Timing and placement was key. Both Tyler's had hookups but getting a good hook set and maintaining it from the tower was difficult. 

After a long day of searching and avoiding storms, we had a half hour of sunlight during the peak of high tide. With the sun, we had our best chances of the day with several lures being blown up at the surface and brief periods of tension. Finally, we found an actively feeding pod of fish. With buck fever, my fly line tangled as I launched a large hollow fleye into the fray. Shit. Tyler immediately cast a hogy and hooked into a 44" striped bass. It was an awesome fish. Jerk won.