Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gearing Up For Spring

Chuck Head got in a bit of fishing this week and he's fired up about the spring:

This egg heavy female smashed a large crawfish
pattern drifted deep through a prime looking run.
As surely everyone has noticed, we have actually had a winter in southern Appalachia this year. Unlike the last couple of dry and relatively warm winters, this year gave us more than a couple of good snows, and a few pretty incredible floods. This is often seen as an inconvenience, with favorite rivers swollen and unfishable for over a week at a time, leaving anglers with few options within a reasonable drive from home. However, there is a longer term payoff to the angler in exchange for a few more weekends spent at the tying desk or watching a favorite fishing DVD for the fifteenth time.

All of that high, cold water has done an incredible job of making our water look better than it has looked in a decade. Years worth of silt deposits have been flushed away, leaving the water to run clear and cold over rock instead of sand. This is a very good thing for the insects that populate the stream bottom, which, in turn, benefits the trout. The fish have eaten well all winter, have fought hard when hooked, and look bright and well fed when held and released. Standing high on a bank on the Hooch or at Dukes, watching the big boys feed, sliding actively back and forth, they look, for lack of a better word, happy. Plenty of food to eat and plenty of water over their heads: about as much as a trout could ask for.

 So what does all of this mean to the angler getting ready to head to the stream after being washed out this winter? I would say the key to consistent angling success this Spring is to adapt to conditions on your "new" home waters. If you haven't gotten a chance to get to your favorite stream this Spring, I'll go ahead and tell you - it looks different than it did last Spring, and better. Something some anglers don't realize is that high water events can change the way a stream looks and fishes completely. It doesn't matter if a favorite pool produced well last Spring, there may only be one or two fish calling it home this year, if that spot is even there at all. Floods change streams. I always tell people to fish where there should be fish, not where success was had in the past. Fish have no emotional ties to a spot in a stream, and as soon as it stops producing what a fish needs in terms of food and shelter, it will leave without as much as a kiss goodbye.

Another large part of success this Spring will lie in the angler's ability to get the flies in front of the fish. More water means more weight. Last Spring, I remember fishing one of my favorite spots with a single #1 split shot, while currently it takes four BB shot to get down to the fish. Having flies in front of the fish is more important than the flies themselves; they can't eat what they never see. Once down, flies with movement, color, and/or flash are a good way to get the fish's attention in the higher water. That fly is moving past the fish much faster than it was last Spring, so something needs to jump out at them. Using a Rubberlegs, San Juan, or a Lightning Bug type fly in front of a more natural trailing fly (Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail) is a good way to get a fish in line with your drift and then give the fish a choice of which fly he wants.

1 comment:

  1. Great info! I'm curious how my favorite spots on Dukes Creek look now, I'll know on Saturday morning!