One of my favorite things about guiding is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. Amidst all those people, every now and then, I run across someone who is just born to fish. Their personality, natural inclinations and physical skills somehow draw them to it and make them good at it. I had the pleasure of spending the day with just such a fisherman (and his great mom) last Wednesday. He hiked miles, climbed rocks for hours, took his catches and his misses with equal joy and caught some beautiful Brook Trout in the process. Along with the fishing he took time to admire a fallen butterfly, catch a daddy long-legs and try to grab a salamander for a closer look. It was a day of fishing as it should be. Normally I spend a lot of the day giving instruction. On Wednesday I spent the day being reminded of why I fish and why I love it so much.
A while back I was volunteering on a Brook Trout restoration project over in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yesterday I got the chance to once again join their outstanding Fisheries crew to do a survey on those same streams to see how they were doing. It turns out, they are doing well. Two years ago we took great pains to remove introduced Rainbow Trout from what should be “Brookies Only” water and I’m happy to report that the “natives” were all we found during a detailed stream survey. Unwinding the effects of human meddling with nature can be difficult but, in the case of Brook Trout, essential. We don’t dislike Rainbow Trout, we just don’t want them crowding out our Brookies!
We have all been conditioned to measure angling success in terms of fish size and quantity. Trust me, we’ve been misled. The best fish is the one that leads to the best experience and that has nothing to do with fish size or numbers. Our native Brook Trout is absolute proof of that. Beautiful, elusive, spooky and always hidden deep in the beauty of the Appalachian forests, it provides, in my humble opinion, the best angling we have in our region. Yesterday we spent the day scrambling up the streams of the National Forest and were rewarded, but only when we did everything right, with the chance to catch, admire and release some of these rare jewels. Hike five miles to catch a six inch fish? Sign me up any time!
There are probably as many reasons to fish as there are anglers. In the end though, most of us fish for pleasure. That pleasure may take the form of mastering a new skill set, earning bragging rights with “the big one”, enjoying time outdoors on the water, eating a fresh caught fish or simply spending time with friends and family. Whatever the source of your fishing fun, it should be bounded only by your imagination, courtesy for others and care for the precious natural resources that make it all possible. Take a look at the picture above. You can guess why these guys like to fish…and it’s got nothing to do with the fish. Whatever your reason for fishing, embrace it, share it and treasure it.
I admit, trout aren’t really necessary for dads and their sons to enjoy time together, but if you’re tenkara fishing, they’re a nice addition! Trout were in plentiful supply yesterday when I had the pleasure of sharing an outing with this delightful father/son duo visiting our area. The day was cool and the fishing was hot. Throw in two tenkara aces and you’ve got the recipe for a lot of netting and photographing, which is what I was happy to do all morning. No matter how you spend it, here’s wishing all you dads out there have a happy Fathers’ Day!
I will always ask clients what they hope to get out of our fishing time together. Answers are as varied as people themselves. “Catch a fish” is probably the most common aspiration but many folks also have general goals related to learning stream tactics, finding new fishing waters, fly fishing in general or techniques related to tenkara. This smiling angler was more specific than most. He said, “I want to catch a big fish and I want to catch a Brown Trout.” I promised we’d do our best but ultimately, we’d have to see what the stream offered up. As fortune would have it, we managed to do both. The bruiser of a Brook Trout pictured above certainly ticked the first box and the handsome little Brown pictured below was one of a number of his species that we were fortunate enough to get to take a dry fly. Of course the ultimate goal is to have fun and enjoy time on the water. I’m happy to say, we met that goal too!
I really do. I love all the incredible creatures that occupy our streams but these guys are just cool. Properly known as a River Chub, this little fish plays a vital role in many of the same streams where we find trout. The “Hornyhead”, as it is affectionately known, builds a spawning nest by collecting and piling up pebbles. It lays its eggs in these pebble mounds where they gestate, protected from hungry predators. A number of other native fish take advantage of the Hornyhead’s hard work and use the same pebble mounds for the same purpose. If anything ever happened to the Hornyheads, it would decimate a number of species and mean the end of an entire tier of the aquatic food chain. They will take a fly, so if you are ever lucky enough to catch one, make sure to release it unharmed to continue its vital role in our beautiful Appalachian streams.