Posted on February 9, 2012 by Administrator
Abby is my 4th grandchild (of 5 ) and 2nd granddaughter (of 3) . Taking her fishing has been my great pleasure and an on-going , now 4 year long (she caught her 1st Elk River trout at age 2 ) , study into viewing the river through her eyes , the eyes of a child ….
To a child there is no pressure to produce trout and although they view them as good things they do not elevate them to a more lofty pedestal , then say for instance , a crawfish or string of frog eggs . All things on the river are of equal importance to her and deserve equal attention ….. The tiny young of the year black nose dace is , in her eyes , every bit as interesting , and special , as a sipping 18″ brown . This is especially true after she has caught a couple trout on a given evening ! 2 trout are enough for anyone in her mind because to give trout more attention would , of course , require them to slight another creature and this simply is not acceptible ……
Early in our joint venture I would do my best to sell her on the idea that if 2 trout were a good thing , 5 must be a very good thing and a couple dozen utter bliss ! This being the case , (and with utter bliss rising within fairly easy casting distance ) might it not be wise to have a go at bliss instead of settling for merely good …… That was my pitch , night after night , but the little girl was having none of it ! Now at 1st I considered her viewpoint on the matter darn near heresy and at times I became impatient , especially since it soon became apparant that the other river critters were not to be viewed alone ….. “Are you sure Pap can’t catch a couple while you look at the tadpoles ?” I might ask , only to be told “they aren’t tadpoles , they are little fish , come look !” Not looking was NOT an option and so grumbling all the while , I would stop and go look at whatever miracle it was that she had found . This is how it was fishing with Abby and I kept telling myself that I just had to hang in there and try to teach her , stubborn student though she was !
I don’t even remember when the real miracle started to take place , probably because it crept up on me slowly , little by little . What I eventually started to become aware of , little by little , was that there was indeed a teacher and a stubborn student involved in this relationship but I had our roles completely backwards ! SHE WAS TEACHING ME !! Abby was teaching /reminding me that there is more to life then chasing numbers and more to the river then trout and sometimes you have to set down the rod and just take a look around or you will miss out . If you never take your eye off the trout you will miss the rainbow darter , you won’t notice the caddis that look like a moving clump of sticks and you will never be aware of the tiny scuds that live in the moss . The river is the sum of all its parts and you have to slow down to see them , and her . I am not going to try and tell you that I can do this all the time , but I do try and do it . The bottom line is that she is a pretty patient teacher so there may be hope for me yet …… Thanks Abby !
What a strange thing it is to say that ! It has been ….. well forever since I took a day and spent it strictly in pursuit of the little fish of the fountains . There was a time , long ago , when that was my favorite thing to do and when I left them for the river and her browns my thought was that I would not be long away but the brown sipping fish and the big hatches of the Elk quickly all but erased any memory of the days spent on the little freestone trickles until I found myself almost in denial of having ever visited them …
Enter a big thunderstorm and the blown river that resulted , add in a visit from a couple of my best fishing buddies who simply couldn’t get up this year until the night of the storm and didn’t like the prospect of fishing streamers in brown murky water and you have the recipe for the return to my roots .
And so it was that I found myself stringing up my rod on the banks of a jewel of a pond on the property that we refer to around here as “The Point ” . Truth be told I was in no hurry to take part in the actual fishing though I was enjoying watching my friends quickly rigging then almost running for the banks and just as quickly casting and hooking a couple little 8″ brookies . I say little because on the Elk you usually hear an 8″ fish referred to as a “little bastard” with the context being something like “I can’t keep these little bastards off the fly long enough to get at a decent fish” ….. This wasn’t the Elk though and I soon came to remember that a true 8″ native was more properly referred to as a “good one” . Eventually I did get around to actually fishing and several casts into the adventure I was rewarded with a “little bastard” of a brookie his length being around 4 or 5″s . I had to admit though it was a good looking little bastard at that ! In fact it was stunning . This started a run of stunning little bastards that was to prove so hard to break that I soon found myself uttering the same phrase one hears about 8″ers on the Elk …..
Had I stopped at this point it may have been a long time before I would have considered leaving the river for the trickle fish again ! Fortunately though my friends expressed a desire to check out one of the small freestone streams on the property and as I am a fan of moving water I was glad to get off the pond and take them there . This is where it got a bit more interesting …..
The 1st cast on the 1st run produced a nice one (7″) . This was followed by a good one (8″) , another nice one , a bunch that were borderline nice ones (6″s or so ) and of course a lot of little bastards (see description above) but as we worked our way upstream there were definitely enough nice and good ones to keep my attention . We had maybe covered 1/2 mile when I 1st realized I was getting excited by the prospect of fishing a little run that justhad to hold a couple of nice ones ! It did . Within another 1/2 mile I was flat out enjoying myself ! There I said it out loud . I was enjoying chasing brook trout !
I left the stream having promised both myself and the little fish that this time I would make a real attempt to visit them occasionally ….. When I got back down to the shop they asked me where I had been and without a bit of shame I replied “brookie fishing ” . You could have heard a pin drop …..
What is it about trout that will cause a seemingly sane individual to drive for hours, sleep in a tent in the cold, eat potted meat or Ramen Noodles and stand in a cold rain all day?
Why is it that someone who drives to get to the grocery store 2 blocks away will hike for miles up steep boulder strewn terrain riddled with rattlesnakes just to have the opportunity to have a chance, no guarantee mind you, to hold one for a brief moment? Just what power do these creatures have over us? When you have spent (wasted?) as many years as I have treating the symptoms of the disease that afflicts all of us, it is inevitable that you think of these things from time to time…
Answers to these questions are not easy to come by! We as fishermen might answer that they are special fish that live in special places but this would beg the question “what makes them special compared to other fish?” That’s a hard one to answer! The musky grows to be much larger, the small mouth bass is a better fighter, the lowly carp much harder to catch on a fly, the shad faster and the sunfish more adaptable. The trout comes up short against his fellow fish in all these areas and yet we, his followers, still adamantly hold the belief that he is superior to these other fish.
Perhaps the answer, in part, lies in the fact that the trout is in fact not superior to these other hardy fish but rather is a quite fragile creature unable to tolerate even a fraction of the environmental ills the others above shrug off without any difficulty. Perhaps it is because we know, in our hearts, that we (people) have abused the homes of these fragile creatures so badly and for so long that we have driven them from large portions of their former range, their forced exit leaving a void that was soon filled by the “lessor” fish mentioned above. Perhaps it is because the remant of their original range, that they now inhabit, is often some of the wildest, most beautiful, least spoile , land we (people) have allowed to continue to exist. It’s a great thought but [a productive yet sewage laden trout stream] with all its followers tells us this can’t be the case. The Yellow Breeches at Allenberry, Oak Orchard, and the Elk River Mill Pool during Sulphur season, tell us the trout’s power has very little to do with solitude and I say this knowing full well others will disagree vehemently. No I don’t think any of these things explain it sufficiently.
I think the only thing we are left with is beauty and that of course is a very subjective thing. Having said that, trout are undeniably beautiful creatures! We can argue about which member of the family is�more�beautiful but not about the fact that all of them�are�beautiful. A man, if he is fortunate, will get to hold a few beautiful things in his lifetime and the trout is one of these. If you stop to consider how many things you will hold in your lifetime and of those how small the percentage is that could be considered beautiful perhaps it does make total sense to go to such great lengths to up that percentage a bit. With all the ugliness in this world I think it wise to never pass up an opportunity to hold beauty in your hand, then turn it loose that another might touch that beauty too.
I believe it wise to quit at this point having for the moment become comfortable with the answer. That will no doubt change soon enough but for now it is satisfactory .
August 2nd Mayfly Activity ....
Elk River & Sulphurs . The two have become almost like saying bread & butter ! Mention the 1st and the second comes immediately to mind and that isn't surprising given the fact that the #16 Sulphurs are an incredible hatch here and produce spinner falls that simply have to be experienced to be believed ! Millions of insects , blankets of spent wings and a sea of snouts (hundreds of rising trout . These are what you can expect to encounter on a late May evening , a full blown cauldren of Snout Soup , the good stuff :) ...
The thing is though it has gotten to the point that for many that is the only time they visit the Lady not realizing that there is almost always a fishable hatch to be enjoyed here . This seems a shame to me .... The Elk River is a bug factory that should be treasured for the diversity of her hatches perhaps even more then for the sheer numbers she produces of her most famous one ...
Come here in March and there are flotillas of #16 black stoneflies . Visit in April and swing softhackles with Grannom Caddis and Quill Gordons hatching . Come here in early May and find yourself floating big March Brown duns . Come here fron mid-May - the end of June and you need several fly boxes just to have a few of everything you will encounter . Visit in July and strip Iso nymphs or hit the pocket water with a Light Cahill tandem or fish the Cornuta hatch . August & September you will hit both the Caenis and the Paraleps along with a variety of caddis . October brings us the big Autumn caddis . Now throw in the many different subspecies of Baetis (BWO's)( at least 1 of which is almost always hatching here) and the year round midge fishing and you start to get the picture of a more well rounded river and the above is just a sampling of all that hatches here .
Yesterday , August 2nd , I encountered the following mayflies ... #14 Isos , #14 Light Cahills , #14 Epeorus Vitreas (looks just like its cousin the Quill Gordon) , #22 Bwo's , #28 Bwo's , #18 Paraleps and a #18 or20 white spinner that I have no idea what it is . If we look at what I have encountered in the last week you can throw in giant Hexagenia and tiny Caenis . That's 9 different mayflies hatching the 1st week of August :) ! I also encountered a huge variety of midges and rising trout that were completely locked in on the tiny flies .
The Lady is not a one trick pony ;) ...
One of the benefits of paying a visit here before (or after ) the Sulphur hatch is that you will often be able to have great match the hatch fishing without the crowds . I am not saying avoid the Sulphur hatch ! It is a great time filled with incredible rises of fish and with fellowship . You will make new friends and catch up with old ones while you share the soup and this is of course a good thing . It is so over the top that there is room for all . That being said there is something equally special about having large sections of this wonderful river to yourself at times and still being able to stand in the presence of pods of rising fish at dark :) . I have done this most evenings the last couple weeks , almost feeling guilty ...
The point of all this is take some time and check out the seasons on either side of Sulphur season . I am guessing you will be glad you did !