Just got back from my trip down to Botetourt. I was invited on a fraternity brother’s annual fishing trip his dad as been doing since he was 5. The guys said the water was pretty low this year maybe two feet lower than usual. North and Middle were stocked the week before, and Jennings was stocked the day we arrived. The low water and the heavy fishing pressure made for some tough fishing. I struck out Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. I got some good advice from TPFR, but the few fish I did find were very spooky (they could see me through 6-12 inches of crystal clear water with clear blue skies and I wasn’t particularly stealthy), and when I did approach without scaring them away, they just watched whatever I cast their way float on by. I had a few presentations I was proud of but no fish to show for it. Meanwhile the bait and spin casters were pounding the few deep holes out there and pulling some pretty decent fish out. Thursday I saw one trout. Friday I saw four after fishing almost 12 hours. I stayed busy and challenged though learning to tie the orvis knot faster, and definitely getting experience setting up tandem rigs and adjusting depth. I was also getting to know the area, and finding the fishier looking spots. I took solace in the fact that some of the other guys in the group were striking out as well, and that my hammock setup had handled the 25-30 degree lows no problem. The camping and camaraderie was great, but fishing needed to pick up.
Saturday I drove back down the mountain toward the bend in Jennings where I had seen the four trout the previous day. I was surprised to see no cars parked along that bend despite it being about 9am when I got down there. I walked over to a rock overlooking the stream and saw fifteen trout holding water between two rocks where I had a seen a trout take cover the day before. I went back to the car and got my rod and threw on a san juan worm and a caddis nymph. Then later a black and a blue quill nymph, but nothing. Then I tried some egg patters below a dry fly. I took out a box with some classic trout nymphs and tried a bunch of common stuff, princes and copper johns, etc, but nothing. The only good news at this point is that most of the trout had not spooked off, despite my nymphs flowing right by them. I had been very careful with my casts up to this point. I thought a streamer would scare the fish off, but I was out of ideas. I had a worm egg combo fly I’d had some success with previously, so I tied that on as a last resort before the streamers. I drifted it past/through the group about three times before I finally got a strike. I landed the fish, took a quick picture, and before I could grab my hemostat, the fish flopped out of the net, broke the line, and swam off. I was shocked to see about ten of the trout still near the same rock. Somehow they had not spooked. I switched to a snowhite damsel, and landed two more. A wooly landed my fourth and final fish. By this time, the spin guys had shown up and were waiting on my hot spot. I’d been fishing it about four hours and had missed breakfast, so I conceded the spot, wished the spin guys luck, and left for some lunch. I returned after lunch to find a couple trout left. But they were much more spooky and savvy, and I didn’t land any more. As tough as the fishing was, I would have been happy to land one. I was ecstatic with four.
I fished a little more, but to no avail. The last day, I fished my fiberglass 3wt some, and it was a lot more enjoyable on the small tight pocket water. I also really enjoyed my new Korkers Hatchback wading boots. Still needed some shopping bags to slip in easily, but they were very comfortable. Even though I struggled some, it was some of the most beautiful fishing I’ve ever enjoyed. The boulders, canyons, and waterfalls made for an amazing setting. Saturday evening, I enjoyed some celebratory bourbon with the guys and then made great time getting home the next morning. Can’t wait for next year.by rsiv with
LeBeef did not want to be in-country for the inauguration, so we booked a trip to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. This was EF’s second trip abroad. The island was very family friendly, had amazing dining both casual and upscale, and a beautiful golf course and expansive and gorgeous flats to hunt bonefish. The girls’ snorkling trip got canceled due to weather, so we can’t speak to that, but this island really has it all. The surf was calm most days, and never as rough as the Outer Banks. It was also probably the most beautiful beach we’ve visited. If you’re looking to go to the Caribbean, I’d highly recommend TCI. If you’re just here for the fly fishing write up, please scroll down.
I did a lot of research about the bonefishing options before our trip. There are two main outfitters down there, and both have decent reviews. The American-born/non-local guides seem preferred based on tripadvisor reviews, but when you book with a larger company they don’t guarantee you a specific guide. The reviews were pretty hit and miss overall depending on guide. I read about an independent guide/one man operation down in Provo named Darin Bain. A quick googling of his name provided several articles (found here (written by a fellow Virginian), here, and here) from fly fishing publications that spoke to his skills, qualifications, and reliability. He even guided for Jimmy Buffett. I decided to take a chance on a local entrepreneur, and emailed Darin Bain. He quickly responded with his availability, and I put down a deposit. I only recently got into fly fishing (last couple years), and definitely did not have the casting skills to guarantee bonefishing success. Before heading down, I watch hours and hours of casting videos. Read about bonefishing, and practiced. When I still didn’t feel confident, I booked a casting lesson with Rob Snowhite. After the lesson, I’d learned a lot, but still wasn’t quite there. I watched a Lefty Kreh casting video in which he said to haul (double haul) harder, and not try to cast harder to increase distance. Armed with this information, I took my cast (in moderate wind) from 40 feet max out to 60. Now that I could cast plenty far enough, I focused my practice on accuracy and speed. I finally started feeling like I might be good enough to land a fish. I let Darin know about my experience and casting ability when I contacted him, but he said he had yet to be skunked on a full day trip. My dad and I woke up early to meet Darin in our lobby, and were cautiously optimistic…
As you can see, we both caught fish. I was ecstatic. We motored out to a few atolls/small islands and were put on bones pretty quickly. I fished first and managed a scare a bunch away. I also quickly realized that my biggest weakness was speed. Bonefish are predators and constantly on the move. When Darin called out, “11 o’clock, 30 feet”, it would take me too long to get my fly out there. By the time I did, the fish had moved, and Darin would be yelling, “more left!”, but it was often too late. When I did cast in the right direction, my cast would often be too short to be noticed by the fish, or so long that the floating line hit the water above the fish and spooked them. Finally Darin saw some bones near the shore and for once I was able to see them as well. I cast about 3 feet short of them, and started stripping immediately. Darin yelled, “strip faster!”, I picked up the pace and felt a strike. I strip set just by franticly stripping and was on. The bone took a second to figure out he was hooked, and then he was off like a bullet. After a run or two I got him close to the boat, and Darin showed me how to land and safely handle a bonefish. After a quick picture, I put the fish back in the water and watched him swim away. I was euphoric, but I knew FJ still needed to land a fish for the day to be a success. FJ had taken the casting lesson with me, and practiced some, but was still having trouble with the double haul and distance. He fished a few times before lunch to no reward. At lunch I could tell he was feeling a little down and frustrated despite the interesting political discussion with Darin. After lunch, he protested when Darin and I said it was his turn to fish, but quickly capitulated and picked up his Orvis 8wt. At this point in the day we were about 20 miles from Provo in Middle Caicos. It was a beautiful spot, and things looked fishy. Darin called a fish about 30 feet off the port side. FJ casted out, stripped, and was on. This fish made the reel sound like a circular saw. It was immediately clear it was a monster. I was excited, but also apprehensive as I’d lost three hooked fish earlier. One to a mangrove which snapped the line, and another to my inexperience when I reeled while the fish was still making a run and snapped the line. The last lost fish was when I had a tangle in the line at my feet. Darin ran forward to try to clear it as the fish ran, but it was sucked up into the reel and the line popped before the tangled could be fixed. A comedy of errors, but a great lesson in what not to do… FJ let the bonefish take off, reeled it in, and repeated as the fish made run after run. I started videoing halfway through it was so epic (videos below). FJ brought it in close, I grabbed the leader, and he grabbed the fish. WE BOTH LANDED BONEFISH ON OUR FIRST TRIP!!! FJ’s was a monster, probably twice the weight of the 2-3 pounders I caught. FJ doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but I could tell he was elated. I think Darin expected us to be more excited to land such a monster for FJ’s first fish ever, but to be honest, neither of us knew how big this thing was until I got home and saw that there were only a couple pictures of bigger fish on Darin’s website. Our success had a lot to do with our preparation, and certainly some luck, but there is no way we could have done it without Darin’s expert guiding. I can’t thank or recommend him enough. If we caught fish with Darin, you can too. As inexperienced as we were, it was definitely a risk to pay so much for a day of fishing. I had tried to prepare myself for a nice sunrise cruise, and a learning experience without fish, before I booked the trip. My dad and I both landing bones our first time out was definitely the highlight of the trip and an experience I’ll never forget. I’m definitely hooked on bonefishing. Next time I’m in TCI, I’m calling Darin Bain for sure.
There was something special about the TCI. I’ve been to a lot of islands, and this one stands out. I really think we’ll be back soon.
by rsiv with
I got my first fly rod for Christmas a year and a half ago. HB and I also had a new baby, so my rod sat in its tube until mid April of last year. I went into Urban Angler to get set up, and the guy working the store kept talking about how sad he was that I missed the shad run that year. I caught plenty of fish my first year on that rod, but the shop keeper at UA waxing poetic about shad stuck in my mind. I kept hearing about shad fishing. I heard shad called poor man’s tarpon. I heard they fight and jump like crazy. This year, I was going to be ready.
I did a lot of googling: fishing reports, washingtonpost articles, blog posts, fletcher’s fishing report, and forums. I talked to a buddy (Chris) who said my 8 and 9 weight rods (which I’ve only used in salt) would be fine, but I needed sinking line (Orvis depth charge) and shad darts or bonefish flies. I had a few bonefish flies, but I thought if I really wanted to be prepared (the eagle scout in me), I should get flies made by the only local guide who is a shad expert, Rob Snowhite. I contact him via his website, and a few days later I had 12 shad flies, specific to, and proved in, my area. My buddy RP and I watched the blogs and the river temp to estimate when the shad would be spawning, and then picked a day we were both free. The weather had been colder than ideal, but we were cautiously optimistic…
We had an unforgettable time. It was really just a ton of fun. We had shad jump 4 feet out of the water. We had shad jump into the boat. The ran so hard catching them in the net was challenging. The struck down low, the stuck at the end of the strip. They ran and pulled line. They fought the drag on my orvis mirage reel. Shad are incredibly fun to fish. We literally lost count of how many shad we pulled in. The first time I tried to count based on pictures I got to 31. The second time while writing this blog I got 35. I figure something around there is about right. If you time your trip right, use sinking line, let the fly get all the way down (wait 30 seconds), and then strip it back in pretty quick, you can catch shad. RP had only fished bluegills in his parents lake with my 5 wt before this trip. I have more experience, but only one season of fishing under my belt. We were both beginners, but we definitely hauled in the most shad of any boat out there Friday. I attribute this to preparation, persistence, and Rob Snowhite’s flies. We’ll definitely catch the run next season, and we hope to see y’all out there.by rsiv with
As you can see from my first post this year about Holmes run, and my recent catchup post, I’ve had some trouble landing my first trout in this stream. On Tuesday, the conditions seemed perfect. I watched the rain hit my office window, and remembered that I had my rod, bag, and waders in the truck downstairs. I left work about 2:30 and was on the water by 3.
I saw that Holmes Run had been stocked on 10/14, so I woke up early Monday and headed over after scraping the frost off my truck.
Above the first stream crossing, I didn’t see any fish but cast a little anyway. Below the first crossing I saw my first fish: a dead trout. At least I knew Holmes Run had actually been stocked. I cast twice to a hole that’s been productive in the past, only to catch a little bluegill on a beadless nymph. I was using a drab nymph based on some reading I did about October fishing at HR before heading out.
Further down the stream I finally saw some trout. I managed to get snagged, step in a hole trying to get free, and flood my hip waders. It was a comedy of errors, which I didn’t find funny as it was in the 30s this morning… I was wearing wool socks and longjohns, so I wrung them out and got back to fishing. Fortunately, it warmed up some as I fished.
I cast the nymph (until I lost it to a tree), then an egg, and a tandem with a woolybugger trailing the egg. I brought the fly inches from the nose of those fish, but best I could do was scare them away. Maybe they aren’t acclimated yet, but more likely I just don’t know what I’m doing. I had to be at the office for a 1pm meeting, so I headed back. I saw a few trout this time at the first crossing and cast a handful of times. I got some light bites (or just dragged bottom) but failed to set the hook. I felt like I just needed a few more casts, but I was already running late. I wanted to try an ant or a dry, bit didn’t have time. I didn’t catch any trout and I came home cold and wet, but I did learn a few things. Not least of which was to be careful out there during deer season. Maybe I’ll bring a blaze hat next time I’m out early.
I’ll confer with some real/experienced fly fishermen and get back out there as soon as I can.
UPDATE: I’m finally warming up by the fire. Got some great advice from twitter. Check it out at @bonvivantva. When I picked my daughter up tonight, FJ had some Marvin on and a fire roaring.
by rsiv with
We had a family reunion and grounds (not a typo) breaking ceremony to attend in WV. Since that’s a fairly long trip for LB, we decided to break it up a little. On the way down, we’d stop at The Greenbrier. On the way back, we’d see Lemuel in Hinton.
On a misty Friday, we loaded up the truck and rode down to Pemdenwall to set up EF’s stuff early so I could make my tee time.
No one in our foursome played well, but there were beers, brown, cigars, and loaded fries. A good time was had by all.
You can take the man out of the landscaping game….
After an interesting evening, I went out for some early morning fishing. It was beautiful and peaceful on the lake, and I managed to land a fish. It was a great, and American way, to kick-off the 4th.
Winn-Dixie’s breakfast, as always, was delicious and filling.
As the rest of the guests arrived, it was pool time.
Did LB or Harvey win the staring contest?
Chad and Brammer held court down on the pong side of the pool, but Bolt and I never got a chance to challenge them…
I think this was the most food, and the most guests we’ve ever had. I’d bet 40-50 people rolled through. It was really cool to see the old group all together (with all the new little ones) and having a great time. It was really awesome of Pam-ela and Winn-Dixie to host everyone (and do all the shopping, planning, set-up, cooking, cleaning, and etc.).
The force is strong with this one…
Instead of Bourbon, I decided to mix it up brown sauce wise. The Bernheim was good, but a little hotter than I expected. Still, it was nice to try something new.
The first leader I’ve ever used. It landed me several fish. It was sad to see it go.
The Captain and I took a paddleboat out for a romantic fishing expedition. Unfortunately, we forgot to check our vessel to make sure it was ship-shape, and ran into rudder problems on the water. Several wide arcs later, we made it back to land.
That evening I lit up a fine cigar, and The Captain invented a new beer pong game when Bolt demanded a triangle despite having four cups left, and Pam-ela named it Niagara. Kinky Koleen and I also cemented our names in Niagara history by participating in the first game and determining the rules.
The next morning WinnDixie made my favorite breakfast, and I got to enjoy the rare luxury of the first spoonful of a fresh jelly.
After some more time on the water, I fixed some Palomas and lit a cigar.
WinnDixie boiled some gizzards for a couple hours, and then panko breaded them and fried them. OMG delicious and tender. After that he also made wings. It was decadent.
Another great 4th is in the books, and I’m already looking forward to Labor Day.by rsiv with
We got back from our WV trip on Friday. I still had the fishing bug, and HB and LB wanted some exercise, so the family headed over to Holmes Run. A buddy had told me that he’d seen browns at Holmes Run about 10 days previous to our visit, so I thought there might be a few trout left in the warming water.
I walked down to the creek at the first access point and saw plenty of lines stuck in the trees, so I figured I must be in the right place. I did get a bite, but I wasn’t quick to set the hook. I spent about 20 minutes here before moving on down the creek.
I tied on a fly from my Big Y Fly Company 10 best trout flies selection. It wasn’t getting down far enough on my floating line, so I added a small split shot to my line about a foot over the fly. I also was using a thingamabobber strike indicator from orvis. I could see the fly in the good sunlight, but in the shade I had to rely on the indicator. At about the third creek crossing on the trail, I cast out to a dark hole a few times (on HB’s suggestion), and after a few casts and nibbles by smaller fish, I hooked up. HB yelled, “Fish on!” I reeled in a small, non-trout but unknown, fish. We didn’t manage to get a good picture of it, as I was trying to get it back in the water as fast as possible, but you can tell from the color and shape that its no trout.
A few minutes later, I hooked up again near the same hole. This time the fish looked much more like a trout, though it was only about 4 or 5 inches long. I’m not confident it was a trout, and again I didn’t get a great picture.
I hooked one more fish, but it threw the hook before I could reel it all the way in. Then I saw a monster. A 12 inch (minimum) brown trout, cruising upstream. In my excitement, I slipped off the rock I was standing on and got snagged in a tree. By the time I got the line free, he was gone. Unfortunately, its just about the very tail end of the stocked trouts’ lives in Holmes Run since the water is getting so warm. I doubt I’ll have another chance at him.
Since its been so warm, I was prepared to call this a scouting trip and expected to catch no fish at all. As it turns out, I finally caught some fish on a wet fly, and even successfully used weight and a strike indicator. I’m not sure I’m ready to call myself a fly fishermen yet, but I’ve got caught the fever, and I’m getting closer.
After our fishing excursion, we stopped in at Public House No. 7 to catch Barca play Juventus.
EF and I were on pins and needles, but Barca pulled off a definitive win.
That evening LeBeef made some fancy cocktails and we had salmon on the grill. We almost didn’t go out because the forecast wasn’t great, but that just goes to show you that without risk there is no reward.by rsiv with
Lil Biscuit was looking to get out of dodge, so we headed out to Hinton, WV. Its a fairly long drive, EF’s longest to date, so we stopped at a cracker barrel to break up the trip.
After a huge meal, a few more hours on the road, and a quick stop to change a dipe, we arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s place. I pulled some scallops and steak out of the cooler and got started on dinner.
The next morning EF and LeBeef enjoyed the view while I whipped up some breakfast.
The forecast for the days we were there all looked iffy, but it was warm and dry, so we went down the mountain to rent a pontoon.
EF wanted to go fast, so I let her drive.
After the boat ride, which was a great success, we grabbed a couple pizzas and headed home to enjoy the view.
The next morning we had some breakfast, but HB wouldn’t let EF have any bacon.
When the local police response time is over an hour (estimated), you have to be prepared with triple aught magnum buck. Fortunately, we didn’t have any visitors.
We enjoyed the short drive over to Pipestem State Park for a quick 9 on their par 3. I was thinking we should go to Pipestem with the Lambs as its a really cool place, and only a short drive from Rainelle.
It was a really fun and challenging course; the perfect way to spend a couple hours.
Even though it was a little late in the afternoon when we got back from golf, we headed over to Sandstone Falls. It was beautiful, and we got there at prime fishing time.
I managed to hook up pretty quick, and got a small largemouth on a popper. Then I switched to a some streamers and wet flies, but struck out. It was an amazingly beautiful place to fish.
FJ made some delicious burgers, and we watched the sunset.
We were having so much fun we decided to stay an extra day (LeBeef was outvoted).
After breakfast, we headed into Lewisburg for lunch.
My Aunt and Uncle like Stella’s, and I can see why. The coalminer’s daughter tried a miner’s daughter.
While trout eluded me at Sandstone, it did not disappoint at Stella’s.
After a really good lunch, we drove over to Smooth Ambler distillery.
We were greeted by Admiral Pickles, and given a tour by Val. EF ponied up to the bar to learn about Smooth Ambler.
Smooth Ambler is a pretty young distillery. The source a lot of the bourbon (as it takes four years to age minimum, but in the meantime, they’ve put out a lot of interesting products. I really like their aged gin. Their wheated whiskey also tastes promising. Val gave a great tour, and we’ll definitely try out their future products.
On the way home, we stopped at the Big Wheel in Alderson for an ice cream cone. Errbody but HB got butter pecan. HB got birthday cake.
When we got home, we decided to really enjoy our last evening on the porch. I spread creme fraiche on some blinis, and realized I had no mother of pearl spoon. I grabbed EF’s spoon in a pinch, and added the caviar. Then it was time to pop some champagne.
For dinner, we had heavy canapes. It was quite a spread.
After dinner I opened a bottle from Smooth Ambler, and lit one of my favorite cigars.
The next morning it was time to head home.
We cleaned and packed up, and headed down the mountain to have lunch at Kirk’s. HB ordered a hot dog with sauce, onions, and mustard, and I ordered the same. Shes an honorary West Virginian now.
It was a great trip. We all had a great time, and I really think EF got a lot out of it. We look forward to bringing her back. Next time we’ll have to visit when my relatives are in town. Thanks again to Uncle L and Aunt C for letting us stay at their amazing home!by rsiv with
Friday I loaded a literal truckload of baby stuff and we headed to Fredrock. My pictures from the weekend got a little out of order, and I used a lot of HB’s pictures, so my bad. We played a round at Gauntlet.
C-Note had a couple of amazing drives.
I ended up breaking 100 again! And Gauntlet is no easy course. Special thanks to my caddie, WinnDixie.
EF loved the water. She kicked like crazy under her float and loved splashing around.
This diamond crown (figurado no. 6 maduro) was insanely good.
Every meal we had was delicious, as always.
Savanna had a photoshoot. Cameras on cameras.
There were bebes everywhere this year. The times have changed.
Thom and Marteen enjoyed a romantic twilight paddleboat ride.
The sky was beautiful. Marteen pulled out his long lens (pun intended) so we could see the planets.
This was the first time I had my new fly rod out. I managed to catch four fish. I got a couple large mouth bass, a blue gill, and either another blue gill or a crappie (I couldn’t tell which).
EF had her first lil taste of homemade biscuit.
Thom boated out to where I was fishing to bring me a refreshment.
Daddys don’t let your babies grow up to be cowgirls.
EF LOVED Bentley. She was giggling and so excited when he came around.
Everybody was able to catch a fish. After Thom snagged one, I commented that I was in the wrong line of work, and should have been an adventure guide. I’ve helped/taught my buddies to fly fish, squirrel hunt, upland hunt, etc. The guys on the shore said they’d just been talking about how I’ll make a good scoutmaster. Thats probably the best compliment I’ve ever received.
As always, HB and I had a great time. Pam-ela and WinnDixie were amazing hosts as always. Our hosts, RyRy, and all our friends really made it possible for EF to have a great time too. HB did a really amazing job, and EF took like a fish to the water. I can’t wait to take EF to the beach, and then back to the pool.by rsiv with