Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ten Thousand and One...

Today me and Lilly Goldsmith decided we would hit the water after doing the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.  Our initial plan was to hit the New River on our kayaks upstream from the whitethorne area, but with the wind blowing good when we arrived at the house, we thought better.  Instead Doug decided he would take us out for the day and be our personal guide.

We hit the water in the afternoon and immediately headed upstream from the boat launch.  We went past the islands and then past the first set of "rapids" before we decided to start.  I haven't been up this far in a while, but it looked fishy.  I started off the day throwing a chartreuse spinnerbait with chartreuse blades, but had no luck; then I quickly switched over to the "School of fish," as Doug calls the Alabama Rig with berkeley ripple shad.  The water was gin clear, and I could see the rig swimming way off in the distance.  It seemed to good to be true, but I wasn't having any luck on the A-rig.

We anchored up just above the rapids, and Doug immediately hooked a rock bass on one of his first casts.  A couple casts later he had another one that came off boatside; they were nothing huge, but the first bass of the season for me on the river.  That would be all we would pull out of that stretch, and we moved down to just below the rapids.  Down below the rapids we had no luck, the shallow water was not holding any fish, despite the water being upper 50's.

Once we got out into the current and started floating downstream at a little quicker pace, I started heaving my A-rig across the river.  It wasn't long before I would have what I have been wanting all year!  Since last summer I have been saying I want a musky, and for the past couple months I have been focusing every trip on landing one.  The previous trip I had two follows, but no takers; today proved to be the lucky day though.

As I was ripping the A-rig across the current I felt a thump, but it wasn't a normal bump.  Instead, it felt like I bounced the rig off a rock.  I didn't think anything of it and jerked the rod to try and free it, but I felt the same thing, another bump.  I was a bit baffled, and then I felt a nice thrust of a fish.  It was without question a musky.  My first musky was on the line and 60ft from the boat.  I reeled the fish to the boat without much of a fight, but at the boat he started to give me a little trouble.  It made a couple runs and took line, and all I could do was hold on.  Doug grabbed the net and managed to get the entire fish into the net on the second try.

We threw it onto the middle seat to get a quick measure.  After measuring it I started to get the hook out, but he decided to do a death roll.  She rolled and got 3hooks into her (1 in the mouth, one on his gill, and one in his back); I guess that's the big downside to the A-rig.  Once we got all the hooks out, she started squirming and squirmed into the bottom of the boat by Lilly's feet!  She freaked, but we were able to quickly get the fish up and snap a few pictures of my first musky, 34in!  We resuscitated her, and after making sure she was good, we let her swim off back for someone else to catch.

I felt accomplished, my day was pretty awesome.  I continued to try and catch another musky, but only managed to get 100 more casts out of the 10,000 I need before hooking into another one.  The end of the day I had my musky, Lilly had a couple nice smallies on her Bitsy Minnow, and Doug had a couple nice bass on his Cotton Cordell; none were monsters, but we had a great day on the river.

St. Croix MH Mojo and Abu Garcia C3 spooled with 65lb Power Pro for the Alabama Rig
Falcon BuCoo M and Abu Garcia Revo S spooled with 30lb Power Pro with 20lb Seagur Flurocarbon for spinnerbaits and cranks.

34in of pure muscle and teeth

Observing the cool colors of the fish
Reviving the fish for another day

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shad Run, or maybe White Perch Run...

Last weekend I found myself en route to Richmond for a busy Easter Weekend.  I left good ol' Blacksburg on Thursday evening and got in late at night; Friday morning I woke up ate a little brunch and headed off to the 14th St. Whitewater Takeout.  At the ramp I was going to be meeting up with Eric (BigEhokie) and James (Lonestar).  Upon pulling in I was slight surprised at the small volume of cars in the lot.  When the shad fishing is hot there is no where to park and you often have to go to the other side of the river and park at Ancarrows Landing.

Eric was already at the launch when I arrived, and I quickly found myself playing catch-up with him.  He has helped me a lot with places to trout fish along with patterns that work well out at Tech.  After the two of us had gotten his yak down the steps Mr. Solar Powered himself showed up.  James sneaks in casually late, but I was in no hurry, so I waited for him to rig up before hitting the water.  Since Eric had been landlocked for the past couple months or wading trout streams, he decided that he would get his sea legs before me and James joined him out on the water.

After helping James rig up, he realized he didn't have an anchor.  He sifted through his car, but found no anchor nor rope.  I went back to my truck and found an old anchor rope I had, but I too didn't have an extra anchor (my brick was already being used by me).  When he heard this he found himself a decent 15-20lb rock and wrapped the rope a couple times around it and called it good to go!  Must be the Texas blood, because the rock was way bigger than it needed to be :D.

The two of us launched and joined Eric out above the railroad bridge before we all paddled out to the fishing grounds.  We made the long three hundred yard paddle down around the island to the fishing grounds.  James and I both decided we would beach our yaks and try fly fishing from an exposed cluster of rocks, but Eric opted to anchor and throw his spoon and dart into deeper water.  When he went to set his anchor, he felt a pop then no weight on his line; his anchor pin had fallen out and he lost his anchor.  So he too was landlocked on one of the other rocks.

After having no luck on the rocks, I decided that I would make the paddle to the 14th Street Bridge and fall line area and try for some stripers.  Anchoring was out of the question in the swift water, and I struggled to stay in the area and fish effectively.  I decided to float down and anchor up, followed by James.  The two of us sat there tossing our fly rods with no luck.  We then saw one of the nearby boats hook up into something big.  A kid, who was about 12, found himself fighting a 30in striper.  He was very excited when he landed it and me and James yelled in excitement for him.

Being impatient, I decided I would float down some, and told Eric and James my game plan.  I anchored up and started fishing, but was still having no luck.  James made his way down to me and anchored about 15ft above me, followed by Eric 15ft above him.
The three of us watched as every boat around us was hooking up, but we couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong.  As a boat moved in next to us and anchored up I watched the guy fly fishing off the bow.  He kept having hook up after hook up, so I paid even closer attention to how he was presenting his fly.  I learned to throw upstream and let it sink for 10-15seconds and then strip it quickly back to the yak.  First cast doing this I hooked up, and then it was game on.  I caught fish after fish.  I had probably about 80 fish, but only 6 were shad (2americans and 4hickory); all the rest were white perch ranging in size from 8-14in.  Nothing huge, but they made for a fight on the 5wt.

Eric left after catching a couple, and James was starting to smell awful.  He had that skunky smell, and I could smell it all the way down in my yak!  I told him to try tying on one of the chartreuse flies I had tied up.  I won't say what he tied it on, but I will tell you it wasn't a fly rod :D.  He knocked the skunk off by catching close to a dozen back to back to back.  I started to get hungry and decided that we had a good day on the water.  We packed up and headed for the ramp; at the ramp we discussed about possible plans for coming out the following day to experience the circus show.  However spreading mulch and fishing with Dad was more important than heading back out to the craziness of the James River shad run.

3wt TFO with floating line (didn't use much at all though)
5wt Orvis Clearwater with class VI sinking line
Flies were cone headed calf tail flies in chartreuse

And we launch!

No anchor, no problem!

Eric perched on a slowly disappearing rock

Is that a spinning rod...?
All lined up

Is that a shad?

Found the shad

No more skunk!

Lady Luck was on my side!