Thursday, June 26, 2008

North Carolina Brookies

[I have removed the name of this stream to protect it from individuals who may not practice catch and release.]
Last weekend I fished the **** in North Carolina. I got an early start, the Smokey Mountains are very beautiful in the morning. It is easy to see how they got their name. The **** runs through an area known as the *****. This sign explains the origin of it's name.
The **** has 2 sets of falls, the **** falls and the **** falls. The wild brookies inhabit the waters above the **** falls.
I hiked to the top of the **** falls (about 2.5 kilometers). The stream and trail go through a beautiful meadow filled with wild blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. This makes it a very popular tourist stop, so you need to go early if you want to fish.

The wild blueberries were not quite ripe yet, maybe 3 more weeks.

A view of the **** falls.

A typical pool where brookies like to live.
I caught 10 brookies for the day and I probably missed twice that many. They are VERY fast and the hook must be set firmly and quickly.

The brookie is considered by many to be the most beautiful of all North American trout. I have to say I agree. Although the native brookies only grow to about 7 or 8 inches in length, they are a lot of fun to catch. I will definitely be returning to the **** again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fly of the Week (#3) -The Royal Coachman

This week's fly is the Royal Coachman. The Coachman is one of the most famous of traditional flies. It is considered an "attractor" pattern because it does not imitate a specific natural fly. It does however have characteristics of several types of flies. It is often used for "prospecting" on unfamiliar streams or when it is difficult to figure out what the fish are feeding on.
I have heard that brook trout are particularly fond of the Royal Coachman, but that rainbows and browns may turn their nose at it. Since I am planning to fish for brookies this weekend in unfamiliar waters, it seems to be a likely choice. I will let you know how it goes.

This fly was tied on a Tiemco TMC 531 #14 hook. Wings are white turkey quill. Tail is pheasant. The body is two strands of peacock herl with red silk floss. And the hackle is coachman brown.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fly of the Week

At our farewell party, Mr. Sakai san presented me with a book of 15 Traditional Flies (+1) from the fly fishing class. I have decided that I will try to learn to tie one fly each week. So far I have learned the first two flies in the book.

The first fly is the Light Cahill. I used this fly on Laurel Fork last week. It just so happened that this is the fly they were hitting on. The wings are made of mallard flank and the hackle is light ginger. Tied on a #14 Tiemco TMC 531 hook.
Here is the second fly in the book, it is the Quill Gordon. The body is made of stripped peacock quill. It uses the same mallard flank as the Cahill and the hackle is medium pale dun. Tied on a #14 Tiemco 531 hook.
Inside the book was a "Soft Hackles" sticker. Mr. Sakai san said that I was now an official member of the Soft Hackles fly fishing club. I count it a great honor.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Laurel Fork

I returned to Brevard, NC last Friday to try a different stream for the ellusive Native Brookie. Friday evening I fished Avery Creek and caught two small wild rainbows. The stream was very small and the water level was low.
Both rainbows were caught on a #18 Light Cayhill Mayfly.

Susanne and I spent the night in Brevard and I tried my luck again on Saturday morning. I started fishing about 6:30 am on Laurel Fork. Laurel Fork is a main tributary of the Davidson River. The conditions were much better than Avery Creek. There were many small plunge pools and pocket water. Laurel Fork is a "Catch and Release" only stream. It contains both hatchery raised fish and wild trout. Because it is a "Catch and Release" stream there is less pressure from fishermen.
I caught a nice 9" (23cm) brown. This was my first brown trout in the US.

I also caught several nice wild rainbows, the largest being about 10" (25cm).

That night we visited some friends in Highlands, NC and had a very nice meal at the Fire Side restaurant. I had pan-fried rainbow trout and spicy grits. They get the trout locally in Andrews, NC.
I still was not able to catch a Wild Native Brook Trout (brookie). My fly fishing mentor Dr. Kawano is very eager for me to catch a Native Brookie. I have been researching native brookie streams in North Carolina. Here are a few of the things I have learned so far.
1. Brookies require pristine, clear, cold mountain streams. Pressure from acid rain and silt from improper development have led to a decline in brookie habitat.
2. Brookies do not compete well with the non-native trout species (rainbows, browns and northern brook trout) that have been stocked in the mountain streams of the Appalachians over the past century.
3. As a result of habitat destruction and competition from non-native species, the native brookies can only be found in the most remote high elevation streams in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
4. Native Brookies will likely be found in streams at elevations above 4000 ft that are cut-off from lower streams by a natural barrier (such as a waterfall) that prevents the non-native fish from traveling upstream.
I discovered a research paper from Western Carolina University where DNA testing was performed on wild brookies in Jackson County. It found many streams where the brookies had interbread with non-native northern brookies that were introduced through stocking. It also found several streams that still have pure Native Appalachian Brookies. I will not publish the names of these streams here, but if you promise to catch and release I might email them to you.
I can't wait to try to catch some of these little jewels.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Looking Glass Creek

I finally managed to go fly fishing for the first time sense returning from Japan. I would have gone sooner but I had to have outpatient surgery that I had been putting off.
Susanne and I went to the Davidson River in the Pisgah National Forest located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. About a 2 hour drive from Greenville.

The main part of the Davidson River is hatchery supported, but heavily fished making the fish very spooky. I decided to fish one of the streams feeding the Davidson called Looking Glass Creek. It is a small spring creek with constant water temperatures between 50-55 F (10-13 C). Because of the cold water conditions, it can be fished all summer long (with no closed season).
Looking Glass Falls is a 60 ft (20 meter) waterfall which provides a natural barrier that prevents the hatchery fish from going upstream. This means that the area I fished above the falls is a "wild"area.

(Susanne at Looking Glass Falls)
The “wild” areas are mostly inhabited by native Brook trout (brookie), wild rainbows and browns.
We arrived at the stream side around 2:30 pm. I tied on a #18 cripple mayfly (a fly given to me by Kurematsu-san while I was in Japan). The stream was only 2 to 3 meters wide and the water level was low because of a recent dry spell. There was also a lot of mountain laurel and rododendron overhanging the stream, making casting difficult. Short side casts were the best way to fish most areas. My first cast produced an 8” (20 cm) wild rainbow, the largest of the day as it would turnout. It was fun catching the fish right in front of Susanne. After a few pictures I walked about 15 ft upstream and caught another one. I new it was going to be a good afternoon!
I managed to catch 7 raindows in an hour and a half. They were small fish but it was big fun!

On the return home we stopped at the Ranger Station and spoke with the park rangers. They gave me some good information on other places to fish in the future.
I really would like to catch some of the wild native brook trout that live in the remote higher elevation streams. I will definitely be returning to this area soon.