Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts tagged ‘trout fishing’

The Question Everyone Wants to Ask

Our friend, Ed Brownfield, asked the question many want to know the answer to, and he wrote it perfectly:

Greg and Kelly

Love reading your blog although I am not a fisherman.  It seems to be an expert fisherman you have to have lots, like years of experience!  In addition to that you have to spend lots of $’s on equipment, flies, waders, tackle, licenses…..   After investing lots of time and money in learning the sport and acquiring the equipment you have to travel the world seeking the best place to find the fish and then try to out smart them.  I get it, but what I don’t understand is how two very bright guys (that’s you two) keep getting outsmarted by the fish????  I keep reading your blog and following your travels ……you meet nice people, enjoy wine and camp fires at beautiful campsites in the evening, eat great food, and fish for hours BUT you don’t catch fish.  Ummmmmm just trying to understand the lure of failure (lack of bring home the bacon…or fish) or is fishing a way to celebrate a wonderful and long term friendship of two good guys and a way to enjoy the absolute beauty of nature?  I am just trying to get a handle (understand) on  a sport that’s unknown to me.

Your devoted follower
Ed

Thanks for the question Ed. We are hardly expert, although we have been fishing off and on throughout our lives. We grew up trout fishing Virginia’s small streams for Brook Trout, still my favorite fish. Ounce for ounce, the best fighting fish I have seen. They pounce on a fly, jump up in the air three or four times in a tiny pool, run upstream, downstream, duck under sticks, logs and rocks trying to get off the hook. A seven or eight-inch trout is a keeper in those streams and you could keep five of them a day. A native Brook Trout is still the best eating fish I know with a convenient handle on each end for eating and they are easy to clean.

We are as good as anyone fishing smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah or the James River.  We are pretty good with largemouth bass. Fishing across Canada in 2013 we had to learn very different things. Many of the rivers were huge, deep, wild and scary. Over four months we learned we could catch Cutthroat Trout, but they are similar to Brook Trout. They will jump on most anything. We got better with Rainbow and Bull Trout, but it was a whole new game. You have to fish deep, and we like to fish the surface. It’s just more exciting to see a trout jump on a dry fly on the surface, but if you want to catch them, you have to do different things. We found Brown Trout to be even more finicky.

We are amateurs. A professional guide may fish the same stream every day. They talk with each other about what works and where it works. They guide people of all skills. It is often good to fish with a good guide on a river that is new to you. Then you can see what they use, how they use it and where they go. Trouble is that can $300-500 a day or even half day. Some guides are well-worth it. I met a man last night with a 30′ Airstream Classic who fishes all the time. He is here in Butternut Grove for the season. Then he will move south, fishing South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, fly fishing all the time. About 50% is salt water fly fishing. He ties his own flies and makes his leaders. That puts him in a pretty elite group.

These professionals have the best gear, and they also know how to throw a fly. Like watching Ernie Els swing a golf club, it is beautiful to watch. Effortlessly, they throw a fly twice as far as I can. With a flick they “mend the line” so there is no drag on the fly. They can target a rising fish and throw with pinpoint accuracy. I might try to swing my golf club like Ernie Els, but it’s never going to happen. However, the image of a great fly caster is a good thing to have in your mind. Kelly’s father was both a great golfer and a great trout fisherman. He did both effortlessly. Sometimes you get in the zone and for a while you are the master and you begin catching fish.

No matter what happens on a trout stream, it’s always good. Trout do not live in ugly places. Yes, we want to catch fish, the more the merrier, but when you stop and look around, it’s always pretty. I wouldn’t do well playing Pebble Beach golf course, but it sure is a beautiful place to be. I’d rather be on a trout stream, win, lose or draw. The challenge here is to get out of our comfort zone, stretch our abilities and learn new things, see new places, and meet new people.

The esthetics of trout fishing is great, but so too is the exercise. Maybe that’s why we like Brook Trout fishing. You continually walk the stream, fishing up the mountain all day. Then you have to walk back down to the car. Do that every day, and you will become very fit. Wading bigger streams and rivers in deep water is weight-lifting for the legs.

Every river is different. Often different sections of the same river are different. Fishing Penns Creek is vastly different than fishing the East Branch of the Delaware. So on a trip like this one, we are fishing a different river system every two or three days. Thank God for fly shops like Catskill Flies that tell us what to do and what to use. The people we have met on the streams and in campgrounds have been incredible. They readily share their knowledge of the area and in their fishing techniques. I need to take more pictures of them, but their images are forever etched in my brain.

An issue we were well-aware of is pressure. A book and a movie changed everything and brought millions of people to trout fishing – “A River Runs Through it”. On Virginia’s little streams, the pressure was too much, and many streams were fished out. Gradually things changed so you can no longer keep wild trout, and there are very few “natives” any more. Stocking is a necessity. Warming climates didn’t help, and acid rain changed the ph of the streams.

These famous streams we are pursuing get tremendous pressure. Every hole on the Beaverkill has a name and most have parking places. Access is easy, just drive your car to the hole and fish, get back in and drive to the next hole. These are well-educated fish, and you have to do everything just right.

Timing: the damned problem we have issue with may speak to our weakness. We need to be fishing at the same time as cocktail hour. The Golden Hour is just before sunset. I get up early, and by sunset I want to be fed and in bed. Summer is not the best time for trout fishing, as the waters warm. However, I am pleasantly surprised that the opportunities are still good.

We want to catch fish and show pictures of these beautiful fish. Hopefully we will be able to do that. Today is another opportunity. Thanks for the great question Ed.

Scouting Penns Creek and Fishing Creek

Saturday, June 22, 2019

As we packed up at Bumblebee RV Park, Andy came by to say hello with his dog, Charlie. We chatted for a while. This is a nice campground with very nice owners. Since Lisa and Andy work remotely, their WIFI system is great. They have owner’s WIFI, camper’s WIFI and full-timer WIFI, so there is plenty of capacity for everyone. With an excellent shower house, good water and electricity, we are going to miss these conveniences. 

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We drove 4 hours northeast, mostly on 220. Again, it was a beautiful, uncrowded highway through the mountains. We didn’t trust our phone GPS as we turned onto a gravel road 11 miles from Poe Paddy State Park, especially when a sign pointed to Poe Valley State Park. Were we going to the wrong place? Creeping along, we finally came to Poe Valley State Park and a paved road. There were lots of houses and cabins and a lake with a big swimming area. It was cool here in the mountains, about 72 degrees, a great escape from the summer city heat. We were sure we were in the wrong place when we saw a sign for Poe Paddy State Park 3.5 miles ahead. 

Then the narrow road turned back to gravel and followed a gorgeous trout stream – Poe Creek. Finally we arrived at Poe Paddy State Park, happy we weren’t in the wrong place. There was no office, so we stopped and found an information board with a map of the park and campground. We had reserved site #146 for four nights, since we had three streams to fish in this area, and the campground is on one of them – Penns Creek. The sites are huge in this nice park but here are no showers, power or water hookups.

After setting up, we drove to the end of a road and walked along an old railroad bed. This was a logging camp years ago, the train being used to haul lumber. Now it is a beautiful bike/hiking trail along Penns Creek. The river was muddy and flowing pretty fast. Seems to be our trademark when fishing – camped right on the river, but too muddy to fish.

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We have a printer in the Airstream that we use to print fishing licenses on the internet, but there was just one problem – no WIFI and no cell service. With our cell booster, we got one bar of service, but it was not enough to get on the internet. As we started to drive out of the parking lot, a warden drove up. I rolled down the window and asked if they sold fishing licenses at the Poe Valley Park office. No, he said as he got out of his brown truck and came up to the window. “You have to go to Milheim hardware store over the mountain”. Of course we know nothing about where we were. He could quickly see we were going to get lost, so he pulled out a map showing us where to go. He also told us they stock “the heck out of Poe Creek”. Then he showed us where Fishing Creek was and where to fish it. Turns out he is a school teacher, teaching physical education and history, and works as a warden part time. He was a fit guy with a big, easy smile. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and a tool belt with a pistol, flashlight and other gear. I asked if we were in a rough neighborhood, and he just laughed. Why he took so much time with us, I don’t know, but he said, “Look, I’m headed home in that direction. I have to make a quick stop to check people at the boat launch, but you can follow me”. What lucky people we were to find a guy like this! His name is David Martin. Pennsylvania is lucky to have a guy like this.

After a quick stop at the boat launch, David brought us a copy of the rules and regulations with a list of all the trout streams – Geez! Then he takes a right on a gravel road going up the mountain. It’s a narrow road with a fair amount of traffic. You have to hug the edge to pass other cars and trucks. Tom stopped to pick up a big chain someone lost in the middle of the road. As he was picking it up, he looked back and yelled, “SLOWDOWN!” I hadn’t even noticed the car behind me that had obviously skidded to a stop. It was Saturday and everyone was out. At the bottom of the mountain we turned right to follow Penns Creek into Coburn, where he stopped at The Feathered Hook Fly Shop. They didn’t sell licenses, but a nice young man inside brought us two printed maps of the roads, towns and streams on it. Milheim was only 2 miles down the road.

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Seeing we were in good shape now, David said he was going home to take his wife out to dinner. We thanked him profusely and went into the fly shop. This is quite a fly shop with everything in it. The wall is lined with fishing boots in every size! I looked around while Kelly talked to Tess. She said the trout can see better than you think in cloudy water, but the time to fish is late in the evening. Apparently there is a hatch at that time. Memories flashed back to the Columbia River with our guide, Rod, out of Castlegar, BC, when there was a huge mayfly hatch from 6:00 until dark. He had said there was no real sense in going out until then, since the fish waited to gorge on big mayflies. 

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Tess is quite the fisherwoman, having fished her way across the United States recently. We told here we had fished our way across Canada in 2013, so we traded favorite trout streams. Her favorite is Penns Creek. She told us what to use, so we bought $40 worth of flies. With the hundreds of flies we have, why do we never have the right ones? We could tell she knows what she is talking about and later decided to see if she could guide us, but she was booked up. Too bad. It would have been fun and educational to fish with her.

Using the map they had printed for us, we headed over to see what Fishing Creek looked like, and maybe get in a little fishing. The trouble was the map listed route numbers, but the road signs were in street names. We found Fishing Creek in Lamar, but couldn’t find the right way to the area Tom had told us to fish. We stopped to ask a gentleman sitting with his wife in the shade of their garage. He told us which way to go, but we still couldn’t find it. We were embarrassed when we passed by him three more times. I was ready to give it all up, and I was ready for a drink when Kelly talked to a young man at a gas station. With fresh directions, we finally got on the right track. 

As we headed up Fishing Creek, once again it was muddy. We passed two seasoned fishermen walking up the road. They looked tired and grumpy, but I slowed down and asked how they did. One said, “We’d have done better at the water treatment plant. At least we’d have caught something brown!” That’s what I needed, a good laugh. I guess there are brown trout in this stream. 

After cruising the stream a while, we headed back home. It was 6:00 and we were tired, but the decision for tomorrow was easy. Everything was muddy except Poe Creek near our camp, and Tom said it was well-stocked.

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Middle Fork Salmon River, Thursday

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How can you go wrong starting your day with eggs Benedict? It was another perfect day to be on the river. It was Ty’s first day taking the “Sweep Boat” down. This is a huge job. All the gear is in that boat, and it must weigh thousands of pounds. It’s called a sweep boat because of the two paddles front and aft that sweep back and forth. AJ said in some ways it is easier to control, but here’s a man with years of experience on the Salmon, Colorado and recently the Red Nile in Africa. A book could be written on the stories he told me on this day. AJ is the one guy I would trust to take me down the Colorado. I think he has made 22 trips down it and may be on it after this week.

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The sweep boat goes down first and sets up camp. How Steven got that boat down the small river we started with on the first day, I’ll never know. It would be fun to ride it that day. It is bound to get stuck on rocks, but how would you get it off?

Hidden Valley

As usual, click on any picture to enlarge it.

Hidden Valley is a very special place in the National Forest in beautiful Bath County, Virginia. Miles of trails to hike, trout fishing on the Jackson River and a very nice campground. There were beautiful wildflowers everywhere. It is just outside Warm Springs and 4 miles from Hot Springs. There is a B&B right on the river, but I didn’t go inside. Testing our new solar system by Lew Farber at Solar Tech Energy Systems in Naples. Under poor solar conditions, cloudy skies, rain, parked in the trees with a bush hanging over the panels, the system performed great. Seven days with no hookups and no issues! 

I have not seen Kelly so depressed! After losing 5 big trout, he felt like he had lost the touch. I have had plenty of those days, but he doesn’t often lose big fish. What is nice to know is that there are big fish in that river. There is so much pressure from so many fisherman, it is a wonder anything survives, but we see they are well-schooled.