Thursday, February 12, 2009

Technical(ly) Foul on the D

In one of his presentations at last month’s Charlotte Fly Fishing Show, Jim Casada, a noted North Carolina outdoorsman, referred to the Davidson as a “very technical stream”. He didn’t go into details, but I took him to mean that unless you were a skilled and savvy trout fisherman, you weren’t going to catch many fish. Well, I guess I’m not and I definitely didn’t. A day and a half on the D earlier this week confirmed his assessment. In fact, I came up an “m” short of “not many”. Not any.

And it wasn’t for lack of preparation or good advice. My friend Riparian directed me to the right places with good pattern advice, the guys at the local fly shop, Davidson River Outfitters, provided great input, and a few of the locals were good enough to share ideas and a couple of red midge larva nymphs with me on the stream. It all came down to technical execution, and I came up short.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I didn't hang in every overhanging branch, spend hours untangling casting knots, or stumble through the stream, spooking everything within a hundred yards. I was just seldom as clean as I wanted to be. My casts were not exactly where or how they needed to be, my drifts were sketchy, and I haven’t done enough nymph fishing to really feel like I have a handle on it, much less challenge the picky Davidson trout.

I blame my technical issues on largemouth bass. They have been my main prey recently and chasing them has made me sloppy and heavy handed. After a year of 6wts, 12lb leaders, and dear hair poppers, my technique with a 4wt, spiderweb tippet, and size 20+ flies is a shambles. Delicate presentation for bass? Forget about it. A hard splashdown is more likely to draw than spook them. Heck, you can drop a popper directly on a largemouth’s head and he’s more likely to hit it out of meanness than run away from it. When it comes to survival responses, bass are fight, trout are flight. (If largemouths routinely grew to be, say, 30 lbs, I’d have to seriously rethink wading in warm water.) And there ain’t no stinking drifts on farm ponds, reservoirs, or river shoals. Nymphs? I don’t think so. In truth, the only time I felt completely comfortable yesterday was when I changed things up, pulled out the 6wt, and slowly dragged a heavy streamer through a couple of the deep holes down near the 276 intersection, hoping a lunker brown might be hanging around and hungry. It wasn’t.

I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself because I wasn’t alone in my frustration. There were lots of fishermen and a boatload of fish but I saw the two share a line but once. The only real action I saw was when the hatchery leaked some food pellets and the trout along the next quarter mile had a feeding frenzy. I guess after gorging on a stream full of hamburgers, it would take a pretty damn fine, and perfectly presented, fillet mignon to entice another bite. My Spam efforts didn’t even make the menu.

But, in the end, fish or no fish, I had a fabulous time and look forward to getting back. It’s amazing to see the trout stacked up downstream of the hatchery and frustrating to drift everything in the box by them with only the occasional glance as a result. The locals say that right now the water is low and slow, giving the fish too long to look at the flies. I don’t know. I think I just need some more work.

P.S. This is probably the longest “fishless” fishing report you’ve ever read. I should simply have said, “Went to the Davidson. Caught no fish. I suck.” But what’s the fun in that?

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