Trip to the North Fork

This Saturday will my first time fly fishing in Virginia this year.  The fall was simply atrocious.  Drought conditions kept many of the mountain streams in Shenandoah National Park low and according to some folks in the UVa Department of Environmental Science, killed a significant amount of trout.  Even my old stalwart, the Trout Unlimited section of the "Moorman's River" was unfishable.    Due to the drought, not much water was released from the reservoir above.  Why there is a dam here is worth a post in itself.  

I will be checking out "North Fork of the Moorman's."  This river has some of the best brooktrout fishing in the area and involves a nice 2 mile hike.  I have seen black bears, deer, and all sorts of birds on the North Fork.  A sign at the start of the river explains to visitors that "no trout have returned" since a flood years ago.  May everyone cherish this illusion.  


Report on Mexico

Friends, I spent a week in Baja California earlier this month.  Though I have been going there since 1994, this recent trip was the first time I brought a fly rod.  In the winter of 2006, I went surf fishing with spinning tackle and dead squid on a trip organized by the hotel I stayed at. The short trip produced a rockfish.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, rockfish are poisonous critters. When I showed the fish to the hotel "fun guide," he took the hook out and handed the thing back to me.  Seeing its spines, I asked him, in spanish, if the fish was dangerous.  "No worries, meing," he replied.  

As I took the fish back to the ocean, the thing skewered me in the hand.  Soon enough, my hand turned the color of the ocean and puffed up like a balloon.  The pain was excruciating.  If you are ever in this situation, I found out later, stick your hand in hot water immediately.  Better yet, do not go spin fishing with bait.  The fly fishing Gods certainly have punished me for my transgression.

This year, contrary to the advice of my brother ("Stay away from the ocean fish dude"), I decided to try fishing again.  My folks gave me an Scott A2 8-weight paired to a Lamson litespeed.  The first couple of days I casted off some rocks to areas where baitfish collected.  After working at this for a while, I decided that blind casting was ineffective.  The only fish I caught was a toothy looking "Gar."  Another fly-fisher I saw, however, was catching a ton of yellowfin tuna with a spey rod.  He actually broke his rod on a roosterfish. The man was guide from Florida.  So my failure may have been due to differences in ability!  

A few days later, when walking on the beach.  I saw a strange sight.  A stingray jumped out of the water and then suddenly, the ocean erupted.  A school of Jack Crevalle began a feeding frenzy on small silvery baitfish (Mullet??).  They forced them against the shore, attacking after the waves crashed.  My brother ran out into the surf and the fish darted in and out of his legs.  I rushed back a half-mile to the hotel, ran to the room, and grabbed my fly rod.  All the crank-baiters did the same.  I tied on a big silver Enrigo Puglisi fly and started casting, placing a 40 foot cast behind where the Jacks were feeding.  Stripping back as fast as I could, a 25-pound fish took the fly about 7 feet from my feet.  The Jack proceeded to take the fly 100 feet out in the ocean.  The fight was on.  This fish was the biggest and most power I had ever seen, let alone caught.  I gradually brought him back into 15 feet, despite the stupid ducks (cormorants?) cutting across my line.  When we looked each other in the eye, the Jack cut to the side.  All of the sudden the line went slack.  I let some expletives and looked at the end of my leader.  The knot had slipped.  

Despite not landing the Jack or getting any pictures, my brother and I decided that it was a "catch."  Only the locals brought in fish, using soda cans, raw tuna, and fishing line.  When fighting the fish, I had put down my pliers behind me.  When I turned around again, they were gone.  A woman said a drunk guy in a trucker hat made off with them.  One only knows why she did not bother to question him.  Earlier, my reel case had disappeared when I was fishing.  The thiefs, I bet, were fellow tourists.  

Two other thoughts about Mexico.  First, Mexicans and the average fat-American do not know what fly fishing is.  Many times folks walked behind me while I was casting a size 2/0 clouser.  They only bothered to ask while going in front of me to "see if I had any lines out."  Second, fly fishing guides are sparse in Baja.  The only "fly shop" I found offered trips where, the attendant assured me, only "minimal casting was necessary."  She told me that the boat captains threw out chum to attract dorado, marlin, yellowfin, and roosters.  Then one could just cast fifteen feet into the frenzy.  My dad and I looked at each other and left.  In all fairness, the shop could probably "accommodate" those who actually wanted to fly fish. 


Thomas Jefferson Trout

I decided to start this blog to write about fly fishing and life in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Though I grew up in Salt Lake City Utah, the past six years have been spent in a multitude of places.  First, I went to the University of Oregon and spent a year there.  For some reason, I decided to transfer to U.C.L.A.   After graduating in 2005, I started graduate school at the University of Virginia.  Through all the moving, studying, and adjusting, I had little time to fish.  

 When I got settled in Virginia, I walked into a fly shop near UVa.  When I said I was from Utah, the attendant sniffed and explained that the "fishing out here was not as good as out west."  He was wrong.  The streams in the Shenandoah National Park are beautiful and teeming with wild native brook trout. My good friend Paul, a native of upstate New York, showed me the in-and-outs of these streams.  An hour away, spring creeks offer challenging fishing for big browns.  The fishing is not "worse," but different.  In fact, I have spent more time on the water here than in Utah.  Fly fishing is not about catching the most and biggest fish.  Otherwise I would just use dynamite or electro-shock tools.  Fly fishing is about enjoying--and more important--understanding the natural environment around you.  It is also about the feeling of casting and spending time with close friends. 

This blog will have articles on many different aspects of the fly fishing world.  All too often we avoid politics, when the resources we enjoy depend on active engagement in the political process.  Therefore I will post my views on issues affecting the fly fishing community and what elected officials are doing about them.   Second, I will publish comments about the future of fly fishing as a sport and business.   I am increasing disturbed by the "wal-martization" of the industry.  Yet, I am pleased that the values of conservation and equal access are becoming more widespread.  Less serious, there will be posts on gear.   My brother says that I am a "gear-whore." Though the happiness of acquiring new stuff soon fades and material desire wreaks havoc on budgets, I cannot seem to avoid it.  I enjoy learning how rods are constructed, how reels work, and new advancements in technology. 

Let me know what you think.  This blog is a new endeavor.  I hope that I will keep up with it.