Sunday, August 30, 2009

Floatin' the New

Po’ Boy says it’s like fly fishing from your living room easy chair. I’d agree, providing you insert the phrase “demonically possessed” between the words “your” and “living room easy chair”. Oh, and you stay soaked to the waist, not normal for my living room.

Kidding aside, there are few better ways to spend a pleasant summer afternoon than floating lazily down a foothills river with a fly rod in your hand.

(Note: Po’ Boy is really my fishing buddy Mike, to whom I’m tired of referring as “my fishing buddy Mike”, hence the assumption of a nickname. I had several nicknames in mind, but Po’ Boy is the only one that seemed fit for publication so he's stuck with it. I hope he doesn’t mind.)

Anyway, Po’ Boy got me started on this whole float thing last year when he invited me up to his cabin on the south fork of the New River, between Boone and Jefferson City, to chase some smallmouth bass. We waded a few stretches that weekend but he showed me his float tube and suggested that, if I had one as well, we could cover a LOT of good smallie water. Intrigued, I came home and, by the end of the week, found an entry-level float on clearance and purchased it.

My float is a blue-green Togiak, light enough to cart around comfortably, but reasonably sturdy in the water. I’m not completely certain, but I believe that “togiak”, in some Native American tongue, means “Oh shit!”. If it doesn’t, it should, as that is a commonly used float fishing term. “Togiak!!! My fly line is caught on a strap” or “Togiak! I can’t turn this bloody thing around” or “Togiak! Those sure are some mean looking rapids coming up”. You get the idea.

This all comes to mind because I was lucky enough to get the float wet again this week, revisiting the cabin and spending a day-and-a-half on the New with Po’ Boy. Friday was a sweet fishing day, overcast, with a nice water level and moderate clarity; fishy kind of conditions. I’d heard that smallmouth are fun to fish with surface poppers and I tried for a while, but while the fishing was fun, the catching was not so good. Po’ Boy landed a trio of nice 12-13” smallies before I gave up on the poppers and went subsurface with a Dying Dace and bottom bouncing with a Murray’s Maruder, with much better success.

Over the next few hours, on a couple of different stretches of river, we caught a variety of New River species; smallmouth, redeyed rock bass (pictured above), sunfish, and grunting river chubs. We didn’t scare up any of the hoped for big smallmouth, but enjoyed the float none the less. And, on the New, there are always surprises around every bend.

There was an anxious moment as the chunk of beef in the river was the herd's bull and he didn't seem very happy at our appearance. But, after a warning snort, he slowly wandered to shore, much to our relief. I don't think my 6wt would have been much of a defense.

We tried again the next morning, but a steady rain the evening before had raised and muddied the river significantly. A stretch that normally takes a couple of hours to float took less than one, such was the pace of the flow. If you didn’t hit your target the first time, you were by it and, in the rapid flow, you were hesitant to drop your feet to stop the tube. I somehow managed to catch a couple fingerling smallmouth and a couple of redeye; shear luck as you had no idea what the riverbed you were casting to was like. Po’ Boy was not so lucky and ended the morning smelling of skunk.

But, he was a great host and got the best fish of the weekend so deserves the acknowledgement.

Now, about those knees…. Togiak!!!!



Aren't those float tubes fun? I have a question though. What type of locomotion do you use? My only tubing experience has been on lakes and ponds and as a result I use the biggest, baddest snorkling fins availabe. My only contact with the ground is upon entering and exiting the water, so the length of them isn't that much of a problem. But...I'm considering using the tube on the Flint River down in Georgia, where there will be good amount of wading between holes and those long fins would be problem. Do you use those shorter fins that strap on to your shoes, and if so, do you like them? I know it'll be impossible to pull a wake boarder like I can now, but the wading ability might offset that deficiency.

Mike Sepelak said...

Alan, so far the only water I have used the tube on has had a decent flow rate so locomotion has not been an issue. They have also been fairly shallow so most of the time I could simply drop my feet and stop or navigate with a push on the bottom. There certainly have been times I wished I had some better turning power, though, and those shorter, strap on fins seem like decent solution, but I have not tried them. Like you, I wonder....

If you need some company on the Flint, let me know!!! The downside is that you might end up in a with a new nickname and disparaging remarks made about your knees.

Parker said...

Looks like you had some fun Mike! I've never seen those type of rock bass before. Very interesting and cool looking. Good luck next time out.

Po'Boy said...

I've got a pair of fins but the only time I use them is in still water. They are far more trouble than they are worth in rivers with any kind of flow rate. Like Sep said, on the New, you can almost always touch bottom, at least in Ashe County, if not immediately, then in a few feet downriver. If you can't touch on the New in Ashe County, then you're too short or the river's too high to be floating it safely - go for a canoe instead.