Oh the changing of the seasons, I cannot explain to you how eager I have been for summer weather. To hell with Fall, Winter, and Spring! This past trout season has been one of my worst; from very crowded streams, to piss poor stocking by the VDGIF, and snapping the tip off of my Recon rod, I am very ready for warm water fishing. I haven’t given up on trout altogether, but there is some remarkable feeling about being out on a kayak in the middle of the river, fishing for various fish, that I have been missing since last Fall.
Luckily here in the Roanoke Valley the capability for kayak fishing and warm water fishing is outstanding. Not only do we have the Roanoke River right in our back yard, but we also have the New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake, Carvins Cove, and several large streams within a reasonable driving range, that hold a large variety of warm water fish. I am stoked to say the least.
This summer I am dedicating my time to knocking out as many warm water “Trophy-sized fish” as I can in order to get my Master Angler award from the state of Virginia. If you have never checked out this program that the state of Virginia is offering you should, it seems like an exceptional way to get Virginian’s fishermen, which are in a set selection of fish, to fish for other species around the state. The only rule that I am imposing on myself for this goal is that I can only achieve this award by using fly fishing gear only. Sorry spin fishermen I will never go back to the dark side of fishing again.
After studying the criteria for Virginia’s “Trophy-sized fish” I came to the realization that several levels of the Master Angler Award can definitely be achieved by a fisherman here in the Roanoke Valley with very little travel involved. The only exception will probably be trout; more than likely a person will have to travel to a spring creek or a mountain river (Jackson River or North River) in order to find a large trout during the summer months.
So here are my ideas (feel free to correct me if I am wrong or if I am missing anything):
Smallmouth Bass: New River or the James River
Largemouth Bass: Local Ponds, Claytor Lake, and Smith Mountain Lake
Striped Bass: Smith Mountain Lake and Roanoke River
Hybrid Striped Bass: Claytor Lake
Rock Bass: New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, and Claytor Lake
White Bass: Smith Mountain Lake
Chain Pickerel: Pandapas Pond and maybe Carvins Cove (I will need to research Carvins Cove more)
Crappie: the New River and the James River
Musky: New River or the James River (this I will have to watch because of water temps, I don’t want to kill them)
Sunfish: Any stream or river around Roanoke
Carp: Any river or lake around Roanoke
Walleye: the New River, the James River, the Staunton River (the Staunton River is 1 hour 40 mins away from Roanoke)
Brook Trout: holed up, big brookies stocked in the Roanoke River. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)
Brown Trout: Mossy Creek and the North River in Harrisburg. Any river that might have hold overs in it, and also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)
Rainbow Trout: Mossy Creek and any stream/river that might have hold overs. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek).
Hopefully by the end of the Summer I will have achieved at least one level, maybe even two. Even if I do not achieve any levels this summer, I am going to fun, challenge myself, and better my current knowledge as a fisherman here in Virginia and I implore each of my readers to do the same this summer. If you do not currently live here in Virginia check your current state’s programs, hopefully they will have something similar to this program.
Six months ago I almost ruined my entire ’16-’17 trout season. On a late summer day last year I asked one of my buddies to go fishing with me on one of our off days, both of us were looking for a nice end of the summer trophy fish. He mentioned Mossy Creek and the New River, while I suggested the Jackson River and the James River. All four of these places have citation fish caught each year out of them, however the problem that we were both stumbling over was that the odds of us both catching a trophy sized fish, on the same day, out of the same body of water was just damn near impossible unless we travelled outside the state of Virginia.
Over the past four years I attribute catching a lot of my citation trout on being vigilant to watching the stocking reports and putting myself in the right situation to catch a citation, but realistically I attribute my citations to being lucky. Hell I know my citation smallmouth bass was without doubt luck because it was the only fish I caught that whole day. So trying to figure out a place that both my buddy and I could be in the right situation, to have the right conditions, and to have luck smile on us at the same time was definitely a quandary. Luckily I had heard of one place that would provide us with such a chance; Cedar Springs Fish Farm.
I had heard about Cedar Springs from several different people I work with and from several fishing guides that I knew in the area. There general consensus was that Cedar Springs was just an amazing place to fish. I know a lot of people frown upon fishing farm fisheries, but sometimes as a fisherman you just need to have that one day to be able to catch a monster fish and farm fisheries provide you with that chance. Also some days you just want it to be more about the trip, to enjoy the surroundings and just relax without being crowded. Simply put Cedar Springs Fish Farm provides all of this.
Cedar Springs Fish Farm, which is nestled just outside of the small town of Rural Retreat, VA (near Wytheville) is a wonderfully large farm, running through the farm’s interior is Cripple Creek; a medium sized freestone creek with large, deep holes. Although the State of Virginia feels that the minimum stocking size of a trout should be 7 inches, Cedar Springs doesn’t feel this is adequate, they do not stock anything below 15 inches. Add in the fact that Cedar Springs only allows 6 anglers on the farm per day, you end up having all of the right conditions to potentially have a perfect day.
What I found to be truly special about Cedar Springs is that you still have to fish it like any other creek. It is not easy fishing, you have to work for every fish you put to net; from targeting a big fish, to casting your line so it doesn’t spook the fish, to proper drift management. You will have to use all of your skills to catch a fish at Cedar Springs.
Not only did my buddy and I catch several trophy trout that day, but also my buddy’s dad, who was a late addition to our party, also caught several trophy rainbow trout. In the end it was one of those days that all three of us will remember and be able to look back and smile on. However like I said at the very beginning, that day almost ruined my trout season for this year. The very last rainbow trout I caught that day was a monster; just looking at this fish a person will realize it truly was a fish of a life time. Unfortunately no one in our party had enough sense to bring a measuring tape on our trip. I had to wait until I got back to Roanoke to measure it. Honestly that drive back from Cedar Springs to Roanoke was euphoria mixed with gut wrenching dread. I could not get over the fact of how huge that rainbow was, I dreaded learning how big it actually was, knowing that catching a fish like it again in any of Virginia’s streams was going to be hard accomplishment. My personal best for a rainbow trout is 24 inches, I caught that fish during the ’15-’16 season out of Big Stony Creek in Giles County. Fortunately after I measured the Cedar Springs monster rainbow I was completely euphoric, it only measured in at the minimum citation limit of 22 inches – my trout season was safe, and with a little luck, there was still hope of finding a fish in Virginia’s streams that could equal it without it coming from a fishery.
I just wanted to relay something that I only became aware of over the past week. I knew that the state of Virginia awards certificates for each citation an angler catches, what I did not know is that the State of Virginia also keeps up with every citation and upon catching 5 citations of different species of fish (ex. rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and musky) the state will award that angler a Master Angler award (which is a certificate and badge). There are four different levels, each with its separate requirements. Personally I think this is a very cool thing that the state of Virginia does, because it forces anglers to get out after other species that normally they wouldn’t even consider fishing for.
Have you ever clicked with something to the very being of your soul, something that you do not have share with anyone else? For some people it is hunting, some it is collecting comic books, others it is building or gardening. For me it has, and will continue to be, fly fishing. Without it, nothing in the world truly makes sense to me; it is my life.
When I first moved to the Roanoke Valley I was a bit concerned. If you looked at a map of the different places I fished when I was living in Blacksburg, you would notice a trend; they are all within a 30 minute drive of Blacksburg. However now that I live in Roanoke every one of those favorite streams are easily over an hour away.
Once I moved I decided that I would need new streams to fish close by, not knowing of any I began my research on Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocking map. I had already been to Roaring Run (Roanoke’s alternative to Little Stoney Creek) several times when I lived in Blacksburg, I was certain there had to be good trout streams in the Roanoke Valley area. After my researching I noticed that Roanoke was a “geographical oddity,” exactly one hour away from even one stocked streamed, with the exception of Glade, Tinker, and of course the Roanoke River. Those three in particular I wanted nothing to do with. Now I am not trying to sound like a fishing snob, but the last thing I wanted to do was fish in an urban setting. Anytime I even considered urban fishing the hobbit in my head would start screaming, “I need mountains, Gandalf, Mountains….” Unfortunately without packing up my Jeep and being prepared for an hour drive, accessible mountain trout fishing like I loved in Blacksburg was not feasible.
Realistically though, the Roanoke Valley (Roanoke/Salem) is one of the most enjoyable areas I have lived in; it has this vibe that the local government is trying its best to contend with places like Asheville and Richmond for the best land back area. The Roanoke Valley Government, along with several local businesses, is also making the Roanoke Valley into an Outdoors person’s mecca. I mean really, it is hard to beat the hiking, biking, and kayaking that you can do within a 30 minute radius of Roanoke. However hiking, biking, and kayaking just do not cut it for me; I need to feel more involved with nature, a feeling that only comes to me when I am able to fly fish deep in the mountains. Needless to say, during the summer months I was seriously bummed out living in Roanoke and took a lot of day trips out of town.
In my defense, the people that I had spoken with about fly fishing on the Roanoke River had not impressed me with the Roanoke’s ability to be a good trout stream. Add in the fact I felt that the Roanoke, Tinker, and Glade are a bit trashy and in an urban area, yeah there was no way I wanted to fish in the Roanoke Valley. Yes you can fish for carp, bass, and stripers (below Explorer Park going to Smith Mountain lake), but none of these fish was what I wanted to fish for during summer, I wanted trout. Again in my defense, I decided to fish for carp, bass, or pretty much anything else I would just go to the New River or to the James, essentially giving me an excuse to get out onto big water. To my surprise, after a late summer evening at the Salem Delayed Harvest Section, I found a love for the Roanoke River.
Since this past summer was such a dry summer for the Roanoke Valley, the Roanoke River was extremely low. I was under the assumption that the Roanoke River would not have many hold over trout, much less wild trout because of the water levels and water temperatures. Man, I was wrong! My bad! There are a lot of nice places in Roanoke that the river will hold stocked rainbow and brook trout year round, and even though the State of Virginia no longer stocks brown trout, they can still be found year round throughout the river as well.
By no means am I an expert of the Roanoke River, and it will take me at least another year before I am confident to do a full “Stream” post for it. However I am very pleased with the trout fishing so far. I now love the idea of being able to drive to place before work, not far from the road, being able to fish it, and then go to work that afternoon. Although this doesn’t completely replace my urge to fish in the mountains, it does help the matter.
Other than the Roanoke has heavy foot pressure (the Greenway Park runs right next to it) and it being quite dirty in spots (the City is fighting this through local cleanups), the only issue I have is the fishing pressure in the Put and Take sections, which seems to fish out quickly. Currently there two Delayed Harvest sections and two Put and Take sections in Roanoke/Salem, this is not counting Tinker and Glade which is both Put and Take. I feel like these Put and Take sections are hurting Roanoke Valley’s broad plan to make the area more of an outdoors person destination when people go there to fish and there are no fish.
Not that I do not want every fisherman to get their monies worth out of their trout fishing stamp, I think the benefits of Roanoke becoming a very strong fishery to compete with those in Western North Carolina and Tennessee out weights losing the Put and Take sections. Instead I would suggest two sections of Delayed Harvest and two sections of Catch and Release only, leave Tinker and Glade as Put and Take though. Roanoke Valley fishermen would still be able to take fish from the area within regulation, but it would also help the area grow its wild trout population and inspire tourism. This also prompts me to say, I would love to see Southwestern Virginia come up with its own trout trail like Western North Carolina has, with the Roanoke Valley serving as its heart.
I will always remember the first time I went to the South Holston River in Bristol, Tn, it was awe inspiring to see wild brown and rainbow trout by the hundreds hitting little sulfurs all around me, all I could think was that if I lived at the South Holston I would never go anywhere else. Now imagine that being the Roanoke River. Although I think that the Roanoke River cannot ever be as great as the South Holston, because of South Holston’s dam and rich/clean water supply, I do think the Roanoke has a lot of promise and has the potential of becoming a top notch fishery in Virginia.
Virginia, especially Southwestern Virginia (I am a tad biased), is one of the most beautiful states on the east coast. We have everything from skiing, to breweries, plus beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Literally everyone should want to come to Virginia to vacation. Although our larger species fish (smallmouth, bass, and musky) do bring in fishermen, our lack of trout streams just make it easier for trout fishermen to bypass Virginia altogether. So how do we go about changing this attitude? Well I think transforming the Roanoke River and other streams into excellent fisheries is a good initial start. I also think that the State of Virginia should work with current landowners to open up streams that have been closed to the public before, also providing help through the use of fingerlings to beef up wild trout populations. Finally I think Virginia needs to have at least one Delayed Harvest Stream, one Catch and Release Stream, and one Put and Take Stream in each county that trout stockings occur. It is the only way to be fair to every fisherman, in state and out of state, and to make sure that the monies spent on Virginia Trout fishing are being well used and preserving fishing in the State of Virginia.
Whether you are a newbie or an old head to fly fishing there is one thing that will always be a constant; fly fishing costs money. Unless you really pay a lot of attention to finances, fly fishing will not seem altogether to be an expensive sport at first glance. Besides the initial purchase of a quality fly line, rod, reel and a few other necessities, most of your common purchases that you will have to incur will be flies, leaders, and tippets.
While these items don’t look to be that expensive at the point of purchase, they will in fact cost you a pretty penny over a course of a year. Fortunately, this cost will only happen if you let it happen. In my previous post Flies! Flies! Flies! I went over how you can save a tremendous amount of money by not purchasing flies you will never use and the benefits of tying your own flies. In this post I will help you contend with the rising cost of leaders and tippets.
For the sake of this argument, let us say on average you fish every weekend during the year. You are using a loop to loop connection for your fly line to your leader and a blood knot for your leader to tippet connection. On average you will go through at least one leader per month using a blood knot connection ($5.00 per leader) and you will go through a roll of tippet line every month and a half ($10.00 per roll). This adds up to an average of $140 that you will spend, per year, fly fishing. However these numbers can go up and down depending on the type of leaders and tippets you use. Unfortunately there is no way of getting around the fact that you will need both a leader and a tippet in order to fly fish.
So, if you absolutely have to have a leader and tippet to fly fish; what can you do save money? Putting it simply, you need to forget using traditional knots (i.e. blood knots) to connect your leader to your tippet. First: if you get snagged or hook a fish and it breaks you off, using traditional knots you have a chance that your leader will be what breaks when it happens. Second: every time you have to replace your whole tippet using traditional knots you will also be losing a portion of leader, eventually this leads to the diameter of the leader being too large and making it unusable.
Instead of using traditional knots, try using tippet rings or loop to loop connections to connect the leader to the tippet. Tippet rings attach right to the end of your leader, then you attach your tippet straight to them. The down side is that they normally break off on the leader side when you get snagged, and they are very hard to get tied on to both your leader and your tippet. Personally I do not recommend tippet rings. My solution is to use a loop to loop connection with your leader and tippet, like you would use with your fly line and leader. By doing this you will save the life of your leader from constant shortening when changing out tippets. Also it is a very strong knot; when you do get snagged or avfish snaps your line, the break usually happens right at the connection or somewhere on the tippet. Over the past year of using this type of connection I have only had to change out my leaders twice, which using my average cost of leaders has saved me $50.
Now that we have cut a big portion out the leader budget for the year; where can we save money on tippets? This question was very hard for me, I always use a dual nymph rig when fly fishing. Before I was putting each fly 10-12 inches apart from each other, so if I got snagged I would lose the first fly altogether and enough tippet between flies that I was forced to only use the single nymph. My solution was spacing of the fly; I use at least 16 inches in between nymphs so that if I do get snagged I will still have enough tippet to run the second nymph. Also I force myself to read the waters I am fishing to see if I am justified in running a dual nymph rig. The final thing that will save you money on tippets is a strike indicator. Yes I know, a lot of people do not like this method, but hear me out. When you’re using a strike indicator you are able to adjust the depth of your fly in the water. If you are constantly snagging, adjust your strike indicator down a couple of inches until it is no longer snagging. The nymph will still be on the bottom of the river/creek where trout tend to feed the most, but it will no longer be snagging, which will save you on tippet material. Honestly, for me, doing small changes like these have brought me down to an average of 3 rolls of tippet per year, which is $50 savings in my budget.
My only other piece of advice is concerning strike indicators; if you haven’t tried out the New Zealand Strike Indicator system then you should. They are simply a joy to work with, they don’t ruin your leader, they don’t feel bulky while casting, they float like a cork, and one bag of their wool has lasted me over two years now. I will never go back to previous strike indicators because of how well the New Zealand Strike Indicator has worked.
Ending as I have said in my previous posts, ultimately it is up to you. If you are diehard when it comes to your style of fly fishing then stick with it, but if you want to try a way to save money on fly fishing try out these ideas and see if they work for you.
“Ah… This is the why I love fishing,” you say to yourself, looking up at the trees and the clouds. Everything just seems perfect; from that IPA, to the thick cut bologna and cheese sandwich, and the hammock … oh the hammock, you feel you could stay in it forever.
It is late October and you decided this morning you would drive out to one of your favorite native brook trout streams, it’s not a stream that receives heavy fishing or hiking pressure. You know you will be alone up there all day. It’s just the remedy you’ve needed after the hellish week you have had at work. The only thing you had to plan out this morning was a stream side lunch. Other than that you knew for the past week each morning has been rather cool, however, by afternoon the temps are reaching 80F. Before heading out with your lunch you put on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, a pair of sandals and grab a sweat shirt.
Once there at the stream you put your lunch in your fishing bag (which is a small back pack containing a couple fly boxes, a roll of tippet, floatant, and your portable hammock) and grabbed your fly rod. After a two mile hike up the stream just to get to the native brook’s water, you hiked another ½ mile to reach the one big hole you love to fish; it always produces some monster natives. All in all it was the perfect morning fishing even if you haven’t caught anything decent in size. But hell that’s not why we fish for native brooks, we fish for them because of their color and because they are always located far away from civilization.
Now laying here in your hammock full and content, all of the stress you’ve been bottling up all week is draining out of you fast.
-jingle, thump, jingle.
“What the hell was that,” you think to yourself, trying to listen for it again.
“Well I guess I better get out of this hammock and start fishing again,” you think to yourself. Even though you hate the idea of getting out of the hammock, because you were so damn comfortable.
-jingle, thump, jingle, splash, jingle, splash.
“Shit…,” you say to yourself now knowing what that sound was that you heard earlier.
Looking downstream you see the guy you just heard, he is wading right through the hole you just caught your last brook trout out of. The guy looks miserable. His face is blood red and drenched in sweat. What little hair he has, that is not underneath his soaked ball cap, is fluffed out like he had been running his hands through it repeatedly. He is wearing neoprene waders and probably the heaviest pair of wading boots you have ever seen. To top it all, he is wearing a thick winter fleece; over it he has on a monster chest vest that looks like it is completely full of only god knows what. Tangling from the vest you see what has been making all of the jingling sounds you’ve been hearing; nippers, forceps, scissors, a line straightener, a bottle of floatant, what looks to be a bass net, and five rolls of tippet.
“Hello Mr. Jingles,” is all you can morosely think.
After a five minute talk with Mr. Jingles, progressively seeing his discomfort increase as you tell him that he is just now getting to part of the stream that holds trout, you part ways. While you’re feeling refreshed, deciding that you will fish another mile up to a big waterfall before calling it a day, he looks absolutely defeated as he heads back down the trail to his vehicle.
Hah, stop laughing. Though this story is fictitious it is based off of true events, I was Mr. Jingles when I first started fly fishing. I am the guy that over prepares for everything; because of that fact and having zero idea what I actually needed in order to fly fish I was fooled into purchasing a lot of gear I didn’t need. Now that I am older and wiser I became the other fly fisherman in this story and I feel it is time to help prevent other people from becoming Mr. Jingles.
Let me say first off: you should always feel comfortable out on the water. If you are not comfortable, whether too hot or too cold, this will directly affect your day out fishing. Check your local weather forecast for the day and be prepared. Just remember everything you take out to the river has to come back with you. During late Spring, Summer, and early Fall I will usually wear shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt (if the weather looks like it could be bad I take a rain jacket or a fleece). Late Fall, Winter, and early Spring I wear just enough layerable clothing to keep warm on a cold day, also I usually keep another bag of extra clothing packed in the car just in case I need it.
Now that we got that out of the way, yes, my first pair of waders were neoprene. However because I wasn’t informed enough to know to get the pair that had the separate wading boots, I purchased the pair with the boots attached. To my defense at the time I hate getting cold when I am outside, I thought that neoprene would solve that problem. As for the wading boots: honestly I thought wading boots were a scam made by fly fishing companies, I just could not see any sense buying separate boots for wading when they could already be attached to the waders. Boy that was an education I paid for. After a year of sweating to death and falling down a lot (because the attached boots provided little support), I broke down and bought a pair of high quality waders and wading boots. I cuss myself daily for not doing this in the beginning. In the end the benefits of buying a pair of quality waders and boots separately outweighs the cost of buying cheap waders with boots attached. The chief reasons being: attached wading boots will never fit like an actual wading boot would (to tight or way to loose), they are way too bulky, they provide zero ankle support, and if anything happens to your waders (a rip or a hole) or to boot (sole coming off or a crack in side) you will have to replace both the waders and boots
As I mentioned in my last blog post there was a time when I carried “way” to much equipment. Luckily I never fell in the river when I had all that gear on; if I had I probably would have drowned. Yes it was that bad. I felt that every pocket in my vest had to be put to use. If a pocket wasn’t stuff with something then I would need that something and not having it would ruin my day. God help me, I must have spent several hundred dollars on stupid things like new strike indicators, longer forceps, decorative nippers, tool retractors, and a tippet carrier. All of which never helped me to catch fish, I should have saved that money to put towards a higher quality rod, reel, or even fly line.
Lastly I wanted to talk about nets even though they are a difficult subject to talk about. Because there are so many styles and sizes you really cannot come up with a happy medium in terms of usage. However there is one style of net that I feel that I should steer people away from; the mesh nets. These things are no bueno. Have you ever tried to remove a hook from a piece of cloth? It makes you want to cuss. Well now imagine having to remove a hook from a piece of cloth every time you land a fish, this is what you will have to deal with if you have a mesh net. God forbid you run a tandem nymph rig. Instead of a mesh net, look to purchase a rubber landing net. While the rubber nets are bit heavier than a mesh net, I have yet to get fly stuck in my rubber net like I would in a mesh net (once I lost 15 minutes getting hook out only to end up ripping the net).
I’m not going to lie to you and state that fly fishing is not an expensive hobby to pick up. Even if you pick up the bare gear and minimal flies needed to start fishing it’s going to be expensive. When I first started fly fishing I didn’t have a mentor; I learned from watching videos on the internet and reading books/magazines. I would always see ads for new tools and new gear; in the ad someone would always be holding a monster steelhead or brown trout. Like I said, I didn’t have someone to mentor me, someone to tell me to not buy these things, so I bought them. Yep my education in fly fishing was very expensive; I don’t blame anyone but myself for how much I sunk into learning how to fly fish. But guess what, I am not going to tell you what gear to buy and what gear not buy (with the exception of booted waders and mesh nets). All I want to do is advise you to reevaluate every purchase you make. Ask yourself, “Do I really need/want this?” If the answer is yes then buy it, if it’s a maybe/no then put it down and don’t buy it. Also try trimming down on the things you take out to stream. The lists below are what I normally take out every time I go fishing.
Cargo shorts (I never wear waders during the summer unless wear I’m wading is going to be above my knees)
Lite backpack (optional )
Extra strike indicator wool ( I use the New Zealand Strike Indicator rig) (optional)
1 spool of tippet
Floatant (Loon Aquel)
Rain Jacket (optional)
Extra strict indicator wool
1 pool of tippet
Also if you take your phone out on the stream make sure it is in a water proof case. I made this mistake once and will never do it again.
Flies, Flies, Flies! Have you ever walked into a fly shop to be amazed by all of the flies local shops have? Well as an avid fly fisherman and fly tyer I love just visiting fly shops just to see the local fly artistry. On average, I will spend at least thirty minutes in a shop perusing the fly boxes and shooting the shit with people running the shop about the flies they have on hand. I love the feeling of finding a fly and being perplexed on how someone has tied it. Hours of my life have gone to deconstructing flies in my head until I would get that euphoric feeling of “Oh that’s how they did that.”
To be fair the local fly shop that I visited when I first started fly fishing and fly tying had a limited variety of flies on hand, so when I would visit a new shop to me I would geek out at all of the new flies I would see. But I think seeing new flies has helped me over the years to better understand the essential techniques of fly tying and with fly fishing. Also I now understand why my local fly shop only carried the variety that they did.
“Wait. Where the hell are you going with this?” is probably what you are thinking right now.
As a person that spends a lot of time out on the water and behind the vise; I can tell you with confidence that a majority of the flies you probably have in your fly boxes can be thrown in a coffee can to collect dust. Let’s be honest right now, there are probably four or five flies that you have right now in your box that have never touched water. Am I right? You rather bought them from fly shop, made them after seeing a fly tying tutorial, or randomly created them out of your head. But they still have not made it to the end of your tippet. Why?
This dilemma goes down to the very root of why we fish. We want to catch fish! That’s it, that’s the answer to why you have flies in your box that go unused season after season. You have zero faith them; they will fail you (at least in your head) every time you use them. So they never even get the chance to test themselves out against a fish. I am not saying there are flies out there that will absolutely catch fish and those that will absolutely not catch fish, what I am saying is that every fly fisherman probably needs to clean out their fly boxes of unused flies and stop purchasing flies that they will never use.
“Whoa!!” or “Blasphemer!” is now what you are probably saying.
Well before you bring out the pitchforks and the torches let’s see if you have ever had a scenario like this happen to you:
You are currently fishing your favorite trout stream in the middle of winter. There is snow on the ground, ice all along the banks of the stream. You know that the trout are not hitting any dry flies, so you produce a nymph (small pheasant tail or zebra midge). After a few minutes of seeing trout ignore your first fly you switch to your second fly. However it too doesn’t reward you with a fish. By now you are freezing your ass off, you’re frustrated, and probably wondering “why the hell am I out here?” So you start scanning your fly box for anything that will work. There it is your lucky fly, the one you save for such an emergency. Within minutes you are catching fish or you are packing up your gear so you can go home to warmth and a beer.
Am I right? Come on you know I am. No matter what the season is or what fish you are targeting, eventually a scenario like this always happens. It is a part of the game every fisherman plays every time we put that rod in hand. What we all want is to catch fish; if not then we stop fishing and do something else.
One day, very similar to this scenario, I noticed I had several flies that I never once used and zero of one specific fly that was my “go to” fly that season. By several flies I mean several fly boxes of “test flies.” It ruined my day because I had zero faith in those test flies, even though several resembled the fly I wanted, nothing seemed to work. I was so mad when I got home that I spent that afternoon gutting those fly boxes and tying multiple flies of the go to fly I wanted that day. Ultimately that one day ended up changing my out lookout on everything in regards to fly fishing and fly tying.
Over the past two years I went from having five fly boxes to two. One is just a fly box dedicated to nymphing because that is my preferred method of fly fishing. While the other is a seasonal/test fly box (dry flies, nymphs, and streamers) that I change out from month to month. I still love trying to tie new flies, but I try to limit these test flies to one or two max so that I am not wasting materials on flies that I will never use.
Only one fly over the past two years has made it way from the seasonal/test fly box to the nymph box. Unfortunately that fly is the Squirmy Wormy invented by David Hise, I say unfortunately because that fly takes little skill to tie and the material is just plastic. Really there is no art to the Squirmy, which I hate as a fly tyer, but it is damn efficient fly when your goal is to catch fish. Before the Squirmy I would have suggested that the best fly to use was the Zebra Midge, it is one of the easiest and fastest flies to tie and it catches fish regardless of season. Now though, the Squirmy is moving up to being the Zebra’s equal.
When I stated earlier that I now understand why my local fly shop only carried a limited variety of flies it is because its owner had already figured this out years before me. Because the owner would fish each fly; he only carried the flies that he knew would catch a higher percentage of fish. He wouldn’t carry any fly that he would think would let a customer down out on a stream. He also knew when and where to fish each of the flies he carried. But in contrast the same owner had one hell of a fly tying section, and actively supported learning fly tying and making new flies. I still take a lot of pride in bringing him a couple of flies I have made to hear him say, “That will fish,” or to have him say he wanted to sell those at his shop.
Believe when I say I understand the concept of a smaller variety of flies is a hard thing to grasp, especially when social media, the internet, and major fly companies are constantly trying to tell you the opposite. Look at any major fly company catalogue and you will see hundreds of flies out there that they claim will catch fish. I’m not saying that they won’t, but if you don’t believe they will then don’t buy or try to make them. Be intelligent about what you buy and what you tie. Unless you are looking for artistic pieces that you are going to keep, research what you are buying and make sure your new fly is something that you believe will catch a fish. If you are just starting to learn how to fly fish or fly tie, talk to your local shops about what they think are some of the best flies for your area. Not only will you get a lot of useful information out of them, they should also save you a lot of money. As a fly tyer; don’t make or keep a fly that you are unhappy with. Hooks and beads are the most expensive material of any fly; if your fly starts to go wrong stop and try to correct it, if it goes terribly wrong take a razor to it and start from scratch.
One of my fondest memories of my life is my first trout on a fly I had tied myself; it was a hare’s ear nymph. Even though it was a simple fly to tie, the pure joy of knowing that I had tied a fly that would catch a fish is impossible for me to describe to you. It is the reason why I keep pounding the streams year after year. Seriously I want everyone that has taking up fly fishing to have those same feelings. But I do not want you to fall into the same scenario as I have over the years; wasting time and hard earned money on flies that will never be used. End the end go with your gut feeling on a fly is what I am telling you to do. If you believe without a doubt that a certain fly will catch a fish then buy it or make it, if not consider why you don’t believe it will and go from there. It’s your choice.
Let me first thank each and every one of you that takes the time to visit this site and for also following the website on social media. Second, let me thank those people that have randomly stopped to talk to me about the website while I’m out in public (whether on the banks of stream or out and about in the New River Valley and Roanoke area). I am very proud to know that this website is succeeding to help people who are looking for more information on fly fishing here in Southwestern Virginia.
As I posted before the website is going to be going through a few changes. A lot of these changes are due to my lack of available free time outside of my real job and the fact I have relocated to Roanoke, Va. I want to provide quality information to every person that visits the website but in order to do this I need to maximize my time spent on the website.
The Stream Reports I feel were becoming inadequate for the website. I will be honest this decision is mainly account of reports being very boring and tedious to type out each week, that and this information is already posted on VDGF and the USGS. This in turn made me lax in putting them out. So they are out of here.
Instead of Stream Reports I will be replacing them with a blog on this website. The blog will be a mixed bag of information and topics; where I have been fishing, what flies I am using, and any knowledge that I think might be relevant and useful to know. My hope is to post these bi-weekly but as of right now I have not set any definite time frame.
I am also playing around with the Fly Tying Tutorials. When I first started to fly tie I always wondered why it would take a fly fishing website so long to put out a fly tutorial, well now I know why. Fly tying is an art that changes with every fly you create, you might be tying the exact same pattern over and over again but each fly will be different in some minute way. Now throw in filming yourself tying and you get painstaking endeavor to say the least. Honestly I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent on a single fly tying tutorial (setting up filming, filming, and editing the film) only to realize during the editing stage that the video is unusable. My goal for the site is quality instead of quantity. Right now I am trying to figure out a way to maximize my time spent on doing a fly tutorial and give the website viewers the best quality. One idea is to do photo fly tying tutorials instead of fly tying videos. Once I get feedback on these I will see which avenue I will need to take.
Finally I am going to continue to add more and more posts detailing streams throughout Southwestern Virginia. However, and I am sorry to those that have asked for these, I will not be adding any detailed posts regarding rivers or lakes. Realistically there is no feasible way to do these wonderful bodies of water (especially the New and the James River) justice in a post like I am providing on this website. I feel this is where local fly shops and guides become invaluable tools for fly fishermen. They are the ones constantly on these waters day to day, and their personal knowledge is not something you will be able to find on a website that is not updated daily with hands on information.
Again I wanted to thank everyone for your continued support of this website; it is because of you that I keep it running. I am also opening to any ideas that you have, so fire away. Next up will be a triple part blog talking about my choice to simplify everything over the past year in regards to fly fishing; from flies, to gear, and even knots.
Over the course of the next few months there will be on going changes being made to the website. One of the first few changes you will notice is that there will no longer be a Stream Report for the upcoming 2016-2017 trout season. The new VDGF website (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/trout/) and the USGS website (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) already provide this information more accurately. Instead of reproducing this information I will be doing a weekly update on what flies I am using and some of the creeks/rivers I have been to. This will be listed in a blog section that will be coming to website in the weeks to come.