Wednesday, April 29, 2009
My River is Back!!!
I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever see it again. For what seems like forever, the Haw has been a raging, muddy monster, nothing like the charming, manageable stream I have come to know. You can see by the water level chart, measured just upstream near the Bynum mill, how unruly the river has been over the past 60 days.
Personally, I prefer the Haw to be measured between 3 and 4 feet at Bynum as those levels translate to easy wading and good fishing on my favorite stretches. You can see how I have been teased time and time again this year and some of those spikes have been downright deadly. Like the little girl on the salt box says, when it’s rained, it’s poured. In addition, a few days of consistent levels mean clearer, settled water; something we’ve not seen in a while.
Mary and I spent the better part of a week visiting family in Chicago and Indiana (including the cutest grand-daughter in the known universe) and our departure from North Carolina, of course, coincided with a long awaited settling of the river and arrival of this area’s first stretch of 80-degree temperatures. I watched from afar, with interest, the settling water levels and I read with a degree of envy the reports of fishing success near the Robeson canoe launch where I have been trying for weeks to coax out the white bass. I did consider the overlap of gorgeous weather and the weekend, a combination sure to bring hordes of fisherman of all ilk out to the river, so I felt equally large measures of I wish I were and I’m glad I’m not there. We returned on Monday, arriving home late last evening, and by 7:30 this morning I was knee deep in the river.
It was a glorious morning to be there. During our absence, early spring budding accelerated to full-fledged foliage, transforming the riverbanks from a drab brown visage to a riot of green. The river mirrored that transformation as the recently murky, unsettled water now ran clear, showing equally its rocky bottom and reflection of sky and trees.
And it wasn’t just me reveling in the changes. Baitfish ran the riffles, turtles sunned themselves on surfaces everywhere, and herons successfully prowled the edges. Mallard pairs floated through the rapids, looking like carnival contest ducks floating around in circles, spinning crazily in the currents, seemingly waiting to be picked up to see if they had the winning number on their bottoms. As I stood in one pool, a pair of Canadian geese dropped in, treating the smooth surface as their runway, skidding onto the water on their broad webbed landing gear, one on each side of me. As the pair pulled a noisy touch-and-go around me, I realized that this was why I was out here. Fishing is a fine excuse, but it’s everything else that makes the day special.
And yes, I did fish. Hoping, again, to catch the elusive white bass, I fished deep in the slow pools below rapids and slowly flowing river sections. The report was that crawfish patterns were hot, but neither they nor multiple clauser colors proved successful for me this morning. About 8:30, a mayfly hatch began and the surface below the final rock line came alive with rising fish, mostly bluegill, but with the occasional heavy flop of largemouths. It is truly impossible, at least for me, to slowly bounce a heavy lump across the bottom of the river with so much activity on top, so I switched to a small yellow, rubber-legged popper and amused myself catching bluegill on every other cast for a while. They are feisty little rascals, bending, but not testing my favorite whippy 6wt and providing a simple, pleasurable tussle and quick release. I often forget how catching bluegill makes time fly in such a delightful, simple, hazy way and really should do it more often.
By noon my fishing day was done and I spent the last hour throwing everything in my box by a decent sized largemouth cruising around my egress point. I went over, under, around and darn near through him with every popper/bugger/clauser/streamer I had, but he just wasn’t interested. I ended up actually herding him out of his pool (after being sure she was not bedding) just to see how committed he was to it. Until nearly stepped on, he wasn’t budging from that lazy, Haw River spot.
And now that I think about it, who could blame him?