TJTU Announcements

The dry weather  is preventing the usual fall return of brook trout fishing in the Shenandoah National Park.   Nevertheless,  Thomas Jefferson Trout Unlimited is gearing up for the fall season.  There will be a meeting in the University of Virginia's astronomy building at 6:30 pm on Thursday, September 23. 

There will also be a river clean-up at the Moorman's River below the Sugar Hollow dam on Wednesday, September 22 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.  Contact Chubby Damron at damron1961 [at] comcast.net to volunteer.  


The Fly Cast

The blog has not had content for several days.  I have been busy preparing lectures for teaching, exercising my excitable golden retriever, and planning an upcoming academic conference.  However, I've also been reading up on fly-casting technique and offering some fly-casting instruction to colleagues and friends.  From my reading of Lefty Kreh, Joan Wulff, Mel Kreiger, Jason Borger, and some of the articles on www.sexyloops.com, it seems as if there are two distinct theories of fly-casting and associated styles.  Lefty Kreh advocates four different "principles" of fly casting.  They are:

1) You must get the end of the fly line moving before you can make a back or forward cast
2) Once the line is moving, the only way to load the rod is to move the casting hand at an ever-increasing speed and then bring it to a quick stop
3)  The line will go in the direction the rod tip speeds up and stops
4) The longer the distance the rod travels on the back and forward casting strokes, the less effort is required to make the cast

Lefty also recommends keeping a "straight" wrist and keeping the "elbow on the shelf"--i.e. on the same plane, parallel with the ground throughout the cast.  

Casters such as Joan Wulff and Jason Borger have a different theory.  They have no problem with the elbow leaving "the shelf" and even leading the fly cast.  Both also disagree with point number 4, advocating a "drift" after the powerstroke instead of just a longer cast.  You can read a spirited critique of Lefty's principles here.

To be honest, I have seen casters be effective with both styles.  Several years ago, I took a class with the famous Bob Clouser.  Clouser enthusiastically endorses the Kreh method and can boom 75 foot fasts with ease and tight loops.  Nick Teynor of western rivers seems to adopt to Wulff and Borger method and can cast a country mile.   What I would like to see is a more in-depth comparisons of these different methods and styles.

Tight lines,



A Couple Hours on the James

This weekend, I came to the realization that while I am a fairly competent trout angler--feeling confident that I will catch some fish no matter the conditions--the same is not true for bass.  For some reason, the smallmouth here in Virginia seem to resist my best efforts to catch them.  Sure, I do well on farm ponds with largemouths and the annoying bluegills, but I just have not yet figured out the smallmouth rivers.

On Sunday, I spent about three hours fishing the James near the public boat put-in in Scottsville.  The water was unusually high, restricting wading to a small stretch of water up to the route 20 bridge.  I was fishing my Winston 6 wt with a sinking line and Galloup streamers.   Casting to the banks and stripping back secured one exciting follow by a 13-inch smallmouth and a sore rotator cuff, but that was about it.   Next time, I will try to rent a canoe to fish the James.  The water is just too deep to cover by wading. 


Myths and Mossy Creek

Mossy Creek is one of the most written-about trout streams in the Central Virginia era.  Fed by cold springs and winding through beautiful farm land, the creek is home to a healthy population of large brown and rainbow trout.  It is one of the few Virginia trout streams fishable all year round.  Right now, during successive ninety-degree days without rain, almost all of the mountain streams have slowed to a trickle, while Mossy is still fishing nicely.

Mossy Creek is also one of the most talked-about streams in Virginia.  I have heard more myths and frankly nonsense about it than any other place.  In a reputable angling magazine, one author exclaimed that an angler could score a "triple crown" on the river--catching brown, rainbow, and brook trout.  Simply put, there are NO brook trout in Mossy Creek.   The state does stalk some rainbows and there are chubs in Mossy, but the main attraction is its large brown trout.  Another myth is that only big meaty woolly buggers will draw attention from these large browns.  I have found the opposite to be true.  The trout have seen so many presentations of large woolly buggers that they shy away from them.  If you are going to fish a streamer, try one of the Galloup patterns or a unusual sculpin imitation.  Contrary to popular perception, the big trout do feed on terrestrials and nymphs.  A Murray's Flying Beetle in sizes 14 and 16 in just the ticket during the spring and summer.  I caught a nice 17-inch brown on one this past spring.  Local Thomas Jefferson Trout Unlimited members have had luck on scud nymphs and small hoppers.  The key is to match the insects the trout are feeding on--which are often smaller than the patterns anglers are throwing. 


Minimalism and Fly Fishing

How much stuff does one really need on the water?  If someone was to buy all the gizmos and gadgets sold on the market today, that person could be carrying close to 15 pounds on the water with countless  appendages tangling in the bushes.  Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, argues that the mark of the master angler is simplicity--carrying only one fly box, a pair of nippers, and hemostats. 

I appreciate this sentiment, but have to disagree with the one fly box.  A lot of anglers simply like flies and even if one does not need to carry an armada of flies to river, it is fun to tie and fish different patterns.  Plus, it is rewarding to precisely imitate the natural insect that the trout are feeding on.  I also believe in carrying some survival gear.  Water, a means of purification, a knife, matches, a rain jacket, and a whistle can help you a lot if you get stranded in the backcountry.  Drinking water is also critical for avoiding dehydration, which can lead to injuries and create an unpleasant trip.   Besides survival gear, I carry a multitool, floatant, a net, split shot, and a few strike indicators in case I go nymphing.  A net is a big help for catch and release fishing. 

What are your thoughts? What is truly "necessary" on the water?  What do you carry?