Before the holiday, I took a day off and made the long pre-dawn drive into the mountains of eastern WV for small stream trout. I made one of my typical day trips, starting the day off looking for a streamer bite in larger water before switching over to small streams for the bulk of the day. On this day the streamer bite was non-existent. I moved no fish, had zero strikes, and spent most of the morning dealing with the effects of 22 degree air temperatures while fishing.
To be honest, I wasted too much time there dealing with ice and moving no fish. Two hours of misery was too long, and I made the move to a small stream that always treats me well. It did not take long to find fish, and the warming day had fish willing to come to the surface. A Klinkhamer-style version of Lance Egan's red dart was the only fly I needed all day long on the smaller water. Mostly rainbows came to hand, with a few small brook trout sprinkled in.
One stretch of water in particular on this stream has always haunted me. It's a long, slow pool that always holds trout, but there's always one fish that has to sit at the tail of the pool. It's tough under low water conditions to sneak close enough for a good cast and drift, and the casting quarter are tight. Sure enough, as I snuck into position, I spotted the brookie sitting in the tail of the pool. This photo was taken after the encounter, but the fish was not far from the base of the stick (the stick in the water) in this photo.
I carefully made a backhand cast in there, but my cast fell a little short of the fish...and I snagged on the stick before I could pick up the line. The fly popped off, but tangled in the tree behind me, prompting me to retie. I watched, and the fish still happily sat there. I watched it take a small bug off the surface while I tied my fly back on. The next cast was better, leading the fish by 2'. The brookie inspected and refused my fly. I waited a few seconds and made another cast, this one slightly more in line with the fish. It rose, inspected, and ate. Small victories can be sweet on the water, and this one was pure sugar.
After fishing that stream, I hiked into a new-to-me stretch of water on a creek I fish often. I quickly found willing fish here, as well. I located a long, deep run with a lot of overhead cover. It was a classic location for holding several fish, and the first fish out of that run was the biggest and prettiest wild rainbow of my day.
After Thanksgiving, a fishing friend called and asked about hitting our closest trout flow in Ohio for the morning. It's another small stream that has gorgeous scenery, but the creek only has trout through a stocking program. Small brown trout are stocked yearly in the fall, and the holdover rates are not good past summer. Fish run pretty small, but they are trout that can be caught when it's not a great time of year to target other species. As always, the scenery did not disappoint.
The morning started off very slow for me, only picking up a few oversized shiners on my tandem nymph rig. I switched out my bottom fly for Egan's red dart and it was like flipping the switch to On. That fly has some kind of voodoo mojo. I'm not sure what it is about it, but fish love to eat it. Most of the browns were in the 6-7" range, with a few slightly larger ones brought to hand.
One of the final fish I caught on the day was my best trout of the day. It was also my only trout caught all day on the guide's choice hare's ear, the other nymph in my tandem rig. This fish was sitting in a small side channel run under a log. I watched as the fish turned towards my flies and ate. Most of the browns caught in this creek are very dull or very pale in color, but this fish had some color.
These two trips reminded me why I love small stream fly fishing so much. Manageable wading, good numbers of fish willing to eat, and seeing very few other anglers. I saw no other anglers during my day in WV, and only one pair of gentlemen on the Ohio stream that we passed as they were leaving. It's a fun change of pace to cast small flies on light rods to fish like these. Hopefully I can sneak in one or two more days of trout fishing before the calendar flips to 2018.