Well, it was Saturday, March 21, when we had a chapter outing at the Hellhole of the Chauga River. Didn’t take any pictures, which was a shame as it was a beautiful day. I left the house in time to make it down the stream by 9:00, but the others didn’t show until around 10:00. Don’t know what took them so long.
At any rate. I wasn’t having much luck although I did manage an LDR, but nothing much after that. After the others piled in, we spread out a bit to make the most of the morning. Other folks seemed to be having a decent day and I just had to wonder what I was doing wrong. Jan (one of ours) was working a pool above me and after a while I moseyed up to say hello. She was so intent on getting in the water that she didn’t see me standing there, but she did graciously take a minute to chat once I snuck up and got her attention :-).
After a few minutes, she decided to scoot down to where I had left to speak to some of the others, and I changed my rig a little and drifted my nymph in there. And lo, and behold. A considerate little brookie kept me from getting totally skunked.
Right after that, I was hailed from downstream by Jim to come quick, they needed help. Mike was being held up by Jim and Bob and they said he had passed out. Turns out he had overdressed for the outing and was sweating a bit. We helped him up to the car and Jim and Bob took him to the closest hospital emergency room to make sure there was nothing more serious going on with him. I held onto his car keys until his passenger, also named Mike, came up and I gave him an update and the car keys. I fished a little longer, but my heart was not in it at that point.
Found out later that Mike turned out to be ok and it was nothing serious or life-threatening, so it looks like we have a few more fishing trips to look forward to down the road.
I don’t really know why it has taken me so long to throw something together, other than the fact that it just didn’t seem that there was a whole worth writing about. But, in truth, I have had some fun on my old favorite, the Chattooga’s Delayed Harvest section. Back in November I joined a mentoring outing with some members of our MBTU chapter. Had some fun hooking up with Mike Harvell as we worked up the river from the crossing above the Highway 28 bridge. This is a perfect time of year to be out on the river with fall in full bloom (so to speak), leaves still falling and some color still hanging around just before everything turns brown for a few months and the temps drop down into the uncomfortable range. We had some decent success with the stockers put in just before our visit and the odd hold-over now and then. As is my usual custom I stuck with my usual partridge nymph pattern that I have so much faith in, only with a slightly different twist. I had put together a few examples using some olive-colored partridge hackle that I had picked up not so long ago. Happened to be the only color I could find at the time, though later on I came up on some natural at the Chattooga River Fly Shop. At any rate, that day the olive version seemed to find favor in a few spots, just enough to keep things interesting. Interesting enough that I forgot I was supposed to hit the road at 3:00 to make it home as I had promised my long-suffering wife, Rhee. Didn’t get home till after dark. Ooops!
Then, later in March, we got together again in the same place and once more, Mike and I ended up retracing our steps from the fall excursion. This time, however, Mike had a good deal more success than I. Guess I didn’t hold my mouth right, or something. But it just wasn’t my day. I did manage to stick a couple, and that was the only thing keeping me out of the skunk column. But it was still a great day, as is any day that I get to spend on my favorite stretch. We still made a pretty long day of it, so that was good.
And finally, I had been wanting to check out the stretch of the South Saluda in the rock vane section along Highway 11/276. That turned out pretty nice, actually. Rhee and I packed the van for an overnight stay up on the Whitewater river (more on that later). But we stopped and I suited up to check things out. On my 3rd or 4th cast, I was very pleasantly surprised with a very nice brown, maybe 12 or 13 inches, but nicely colored and quite spunky. Took my little partridge nymph, restoring my faith in that little concoction. This was followed by 4 rainbow cousins, though not nearly in the same size class, so the brownie must be the master of that stretch. All were picked up within about 100 feet of that section. I spend roughly 30 minutes in that little adventure, but it was pretty satisfying. I believe there is some more exploring to be done there. Added bonus: you can practically step out of the car and be wading. Works for me… . Oh, yeah, they are still there unless some bait fisherman manages to snatch them up.
As for the overnight sleep-over, well, that got cut short. The air mattress mysteriously leaked and left me trying to unsuccessfully find a way to get comfortable. Rhee managed to find a way to sit up and actually managed to grab a few winks before, out of frustration, I decided to pack it up and head back home. Found out later that a certain little cat living in our home had placed multiple claw holes. I am still trying to seal all the leaks… .
Two Saturdays ago, we decided to try our luck at the Walhalla Fish Hatchery. No, not the hatchery itself, that’s a big no-no and you’ll get busted in a heartbeat. The East Fork of the Chattooga had received a write-up in my recent TU calendar and I thought it would be fun to take my little Redington 6’6″ and see how the stockers liked it. Had to share the spillway pool with a couple of bait fishermen, but I got below them into the tail of the pool and just began trying flies at random. So, the upshot of that was connecting with 3 trout before I got bored with it. Plus my foot was hurting – that’s why I really didn’t want to do any more than was necessary.
Another reason for going there was to see how bad the hemlocks were doing. It’s not looking good. Those little critters are just killing magnificent trees left and right. The Forest Service is going in there and dropping them before they have a chance to do harm. They are adding some woody debris into the East Fork, which benefit the fish in the long run. It will probably have the effect of discouraging all but the most determined corn users. One can only hope…
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Last Wednesday, Rhee and I decided to spend a day up on the Chattooga. It was an absolutely beautiful day, though a little breezy at times. As usual, she wanted to get some fresh pictures, and I just wanted to tangle with some willing trout. Both of us got our wishes.
The water was up with a pretty good flow, but not so bad that it kept the trout from feeding. There was even a smattering of a few mayflies periodically coming off the water. I managed to stick a gray nymph pattern in the first rainbow and then a brown nymph in the second. The second trout was bleeding from its gills and I hope it survived when I released it. I tried to be quick and careful, but I’d be willing to bet that it would get picked up by one of the several bait fishermen sharing the water.
That was at the Burrels Ford bridge. I decided to take a look farther up the river with Rhee and Angus, our Scottie, so I climbed out, crossed the bridge and we went on up the South Carolina side. Found a likely spot where the river was a little broader and decided to wade upstream and out in the middle to reach some slightly quieter water. That was not one of the best ideas I ever had. The current was much stronger than I would have liked, but I persevered and finally got there. Thank God for that wading staff! At any rate, I received a few taps on the fly but was unable to make a connection. Decided that was enough for the day, and came out of the river much tireder than when I came in. Very strong currents, whew.