Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Cicada Symphony

Poets write about it...

Elizabeth Barret Browning heard the wind, Emily Bronte spoke to each leaf, good friend Sep felt it in his bones…signs signaling the end of summer and the start of autumn.  For me, it is something less poetic. While the cicada’s song signals the start of summer, it is their “plop” onto the water’s surface that signals to me that the dog days of summer are almost over and brightly colored leaves of fall are just around the corner.

Getting ready to drift!
That plop of a big helpless bug drifting slowly along the edge of the river followed by the slurp or SLAM of a river bass eating an easy meal...that’s a sure sign of autumn…uh, I mean fall.


To hell with this poetic crap…let’s go catch some smallies on surface bugs!

A chunky smallie
It’s an annual ritual for me and some of my fly fishing buddies…this year’s version featured Cope, Fin, Chainsaw and of course, me…Tbone.  With names like this how could the fishing trip be anything but a success? On the way up to our favorite smallmouth water, Cope and I once again pondered the aged old fly fishing question, “If you could choose but one fish to pursue with a fly rod, which would it be?”

We looked at each other and just laughed, then responded at the same time, “Smallmouth bass!”

How 'bout a 20-incher?!
Or more specifically, river smallies.  I love fishing moving water and add a fish that pound for pound actually does fight and jump as hard as any other and the fact that flies, especially surface bugs, can at times out fish other methods and bingo…you have what could be a perfect fly rod fish.  It’s certainly in the top five of any anglers list.

Not that I am “dissing” my revered river largemouth’s from my home river the Eno. They too slurp up cicadas this time of year and run a close second for my favorite fly rod quarry (at least at this time of year)…but our annual trip to the New River Valley in Virginia has to be one of my favorite fishing trips.

Fin says he'll be ready as soon as he finishes breakfast!
This year didn’t disappoint either.  Oh sure, it didn’t start too well.  We arrived at our cabin and settled in for the night anticipating our float with the guides the next day.  We tried to get to sleep ahead of Chainsaw…he comes by that nickname naturally and his well deserved reputation of being a world class nighttime sawyer of logs did not escape the rest of us.  Yet it wasn’t Chainsaw that woke us up, but the pleasant sound of rainfall hitting our tinned roof cabin.

“Crap,” I thought.  You see when it comes to rain, fishermen have mixed emotions.  I’ve had great days fly fishing after a nice rainfall but have also spent my entire trip on the porch because the rain fell fast and furious and turned a clear flowing river into a turbid torrent. 

This was a "small" one today!
We headed out the next morning…Cope and I were ready to roll, Chainsaw and Fin seemed to be just a bit behind.  Cope and I just seem to fish well together…just give us each a cup a coffee and granola bar and we are ready for the river.  We can eat later is our motto.  We arrived at the outfitters and finalized our float plans.  Cope and I fished together.  I like that, he’s always been good mojo for me.  On the way to our put in, the guide lamented the fact that the rain, and subsequent cloud cover could really slow things up…he was just preparing us for a slower than normal day due to the weather.  At least he didn’t say, “should have been here yesterday.”

What's better than wading for smallies?
We fished hard.  This is seven or eight weight water, needed mainly because throwing surface bugs 60-90 feet away can plum wear you out…a bigger rod, helps.  Plus, there is always a good chance of a trophy smallie and having enough rod to turn these prized fighters in the current ain’t a bad thing at all.

Catching a smallie while wading of course!
Our two boats floated two different sections with two different results.  Chainsaw and Fin had some success with a couple of good fish, but me and Cope…we faired a bit better.  We didn’t catch great numbers of fish, but they all seemed to be chunky bronze backs with shoulders. For the second year in a row I boated a citation sized smallmouth.  Dang I like fishing with Cope…have I mentioned he is good mojo?

The highlight of the trip came the next couple of days.  Our cabin gave us access to a major tributary of the New River. This wadeable river was known to have fair sized smallies.  It’s much smaller water but close in size to our Eno River.  It’s definitely five and six weight water.  Cope and I waded at least three to four miles in two days and caught lots of small fish, sunnies, and rock bass. We saw a fair number of quality smallies, and yes we landed a couple.

I’m not sure Fin and Chainsaw had quite the success but they are fun to have on a fishing trip. One evening I grilled up some chicken and corn on the cob…good eats for sure. We each grabbed our preferred beverage and Chainsaw made a toast, “Here’s to you…you mother f*@%ers!”

Chainsaw..."here's to you....well, you know"

For the rest of the night, no matter the topic, each of us ended our sentences with…, “you mother f*@%ers!”  It was a fun evening, and of course reminded us all that fly fishing is better with great fly fishing buddies.

My mojo continues!
I love smallies caught on surface bugs

On the way home, Cope and I relived our successes. Cope may have had his dauber down a bit that he didn’t boat a citation smallie again this year…although he did down a citation sized beer!  We then started making plans for next year’s trip.  It’s invitational only so if you want to participate you better start training now…you can also ply me and Cope with your favors.  A good beer or some flies is a start.

No citation sized smallie for Cope, but he did manage a citation sized beer!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What's Better than a Nap?

This is the last installment from our Way Out West adventures...

What’s better than a nap?  How about a nap while on vacation? When planning this trip, I told my wife I wanted enough time to feel like we could just sit back and chill if the mood struck us. Well the mood struck hard one afternoon.

It had already been an epic trip. Fly fishing, mountain biking, trip to the ER, great food and cold beer. What else could we have asked for? Well…I had asked for a recliner.  Actually the ER doctor suggested it and when we asked the High Lonesome Ranch staff if there was a recliner in the cabin they said no, but when we got back from lunch the next day…there was a recliner.

I turned the chair toward the picture windows in the den…from there I could see the pond, the mountains and all the wild neighbors…turkeys, mule deer, quail, bear and poor little grass hoppers meeting their doom at the fins of a hungry trout.

I closed my eyes for just a moment…and opened them two hours later. It was a great nap.  And so it is on vacation…everything you do tends to be better.  For instance, “what’s better than drinking a good beer? How about drinking a good beer while on vacation? What’s better than a fine meal? A fine meal while on vacation.”  Well, you get the idea.

We made every moment of our trip a memory worth remembering…even the small things like an epic nap or the adversity of a broken collar bone.  We just made the best of things because we were on vacation. 

These great memories made it hard to leave the ranch.  We did so with anticipation however.  We would drive through Rocky Mountain National Park and spend a couple of touristy days at Estes Park. After all, sightseeing is better when on vacation.  You are allowed to do silly tourist things. That’s why it’s fun to rent a car with out of state plates and drive around your own town.

Me taking a break (literally) on the White River
It was one helluva trip…we have great pictures, but more importantly terrific memories. We put a lot of pressure on this vacation because now one of the boys in college and within 3 years all 3 will be “on their own” so to speak.  So what’s better than a vacation?  How about a fly fishin’, shotgun shootin’, mountain bikin’, bone breakin’, whitewater raftin’, horseback ridin’, good beer drinkin’, long nappin’, Colorado vacation with your family?

Now onto the next adventure…