Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A conversation with Theaux Le Gardeur

Theaux Le Gardeur owns Backwater Angler, just down the road from the Gunpowder River. If you have never fished the Gunpowder, carve out some this year. It is truly a beautiful place.

Theaux, where was home originally? And how did you end up in Monkton, Maryland?

I grew up in St. Tammany Parish and Orleans Parish, Louisiana. I used to spend summers in Western North Carolina fishing. I lived in St. Petersburg, FL, Mobile, AL and on Dauphin Island, AL where I studied Marine Biology and taught fly casting and tied flies for six shops along the Gulf Coast.

After school, I moved to Western North Carolina where I worked in a retail shop and guided for a few years. Then I signed on with Winston Rod Company as their Eastern Sales representative and covered 28 states for them for a few years. I also worked a short stint for Powell Rod Co, Islander Reels, and Umpqua Feather Merchants.

2010 will be the 9th year I've had the shop!

Tell me about the river, what makes the Gunpowder so special?

The tail water character of the Gunpowder creates great coldwater habitat for trout. Gunpowder State Park provides a buffer from development along the upper stretches of the river.

We've had over the past eight years up to 5,036 (trout) per mile in the upper stretch 1,100 per mile in the middle and closer to 850 per mile in the lower river.

I know you get out and check on the river almost every day - do you have a favorite time of year?

March and April are my favorite months along the river-everything is waking up during that time of year.

Some advice, how should anglers approach the Gunpowder?

One's best approach to the river would be taking some time to stop in the shop for up to date info and a few locally tied flies-conditions and hatches change rather quickly so it's tough for anglers to guess what might work-sharing stories with folks that are closely tied to the resource also creates a better overall fishing experience.

What are some of the mistakes you most often see?

Mistakes typically are related to length of leader-way too short, size of tippet-way too heavy and wading on top of fish- instead of wading along the edges.

In terms on leaders and tippet, what do you usually recommend?

Long leaders in the 9ft to 12 ft range in 5,6 and 7x work a little better than the short heavy stuff.

From spring through early fall, what are some of the flies and sizes that someone should always have?

Caddis dries and emergers, various mayflies including a pile of sulphurs and lots of terrestrials.

Do you have a favorite way to fly fish?

I like to fish tiny dries and small traditional steamers.

I know that you’ve worked real hard on Backwater Angler over the years, what have you tried to create?

I haven't created the shop --the customers have. Ideally, I'd like people to view the shop as a friendly, great gear-filled place that is service oriented.

If you could fish only one dry and one nymph, what would you go with?

One dry- bivisible, one nymph- breadcrust .

Theaux, thanks again and we will see you out there.

Grip check

In her book “Fly Casting Techniques,” Joan Wulff writes:

“A good grip can enhance a cast; a poor grip can kill it. Your hand is the connecting link in the power sequence that starts in your muscles, is magnified by the rod’s action and is transferred, in the form of energy, to the fly line. The link must be secure.”

Take a second, the next time you are practicing and check your hand position before you make that cast. Is the rod where you want it to be in your hand? Did you start with your thumb “behind the cork,” and has it now shifted just a bit to one side or the other?

Most instructors generally teach people to use a thumb-on-top grip, but whichever grip you use – thumb on top, forefinger on top, or a thumb and forefinger extended grip, the key here is to be consistent on each cast.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that some anglers impact their cast because their grip will shift or move around from cast to cast, or sometimes even while false casting.

Can it hurt your cast? Yes. But with a little attention to detail, this is a casting problem that you can easily prevent.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Put the slack where it counts

George Harvey in “Techniques of Trout Fishing and Fly Tying”

“My experience has taught me that you can have all the “S” curves you can cast in the line but if the leader is straight you will have drag almost immediately. The slack must be in the leader.”

February snows, March melt hampers trout stocking

Michael A. Sawyers Cumberland Times-News

Cumberland — CUMBERLAND — Although the snows of February and the rain and melt of March have hampered trout stocking in West Virginia, the streams and rivers of the Potomac Highlands have been the least affected.

“East of the Alleghenies we are actually in pretty good shape,” said Mike Shingleton who directs trout stocking for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “We missed a couple of stockings in the South Branch (of the Potomac) when the snows were bad, but we’ll make those up by adding fish to upcoming stocking runs.”

Shingleton said Tuesday that other parts of West Virginia have had more stocking delays.

“In fact, I was just talking with a manager in the southern part of the state this morning and he still couldn’t get to a stream in Raleigh County because of the high snows.

“We may not get into waters like Cranberry or Williams until the middle of April. Some of our people made a run up there and the snow is too high to drive through on the unplowed Forest Service roads.”

The Blackwater River near Davis has yet to be stocked, according to Shingleton.

“I ran up there recently and the Camp 70 road that leaves Davis and goes along the river had a snow pile of five feet across it. The only tracks were cross country ski tracks. It’s not melting very fast up there.”

Shingleton, stationed in Elkins, said he has never seen such high river flows based solely on snow melt in some streams. He said all missed stocking will be made up.

“If a water was to get 600 pounds of trout, we may not have the space in a truck to double it, but we can put 900 pounds during the next two trips to make it up,” he said.

Shingleton said rivers and streams in the Potomac Highland counties are mostly along main roads. “We could get the trucks to them even during the snows. The hard part was lugging 30 or 40 pounds of trout in a net on foot over the plowed snow to the river.”

Rivers are still high. The U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at Franklin measured a peak flow in the South Branch of 5,000 cubic feet per second Saturday. Since then, the flow had declined steadily and was at 729 cfs Tuesday morning, still substantially higher than the usual flow of 250 cfs for this time of year.

Shingleton said that trout stocked in high water easily find holding areas near the bottom or along the sides of streams where rocks and other obstacles break up the flow.

Maryland trout stocking has been affected as well.

Tuesday morning, Wills Creek at Cumberland was still flowing at more than 2,000 cfs. The normal flow for this time of year is about 500 cfs.

There is currently a fishing closure in effect on some streams such as Wills and Evitts creeks in Allegany County and Bear Creek in Garrett County. The closure is a time for stocking, with angling resuming at 5:30 a.m. March 27.

Most trout coming from Maryland hatcheries are approximately 1 year old and average slightly over one-half pound. Additionally 4 percent of the trout are larger fish called holdovers that are raised at Albert Powell Hatchery in Washington County.

The majority of the holdover trout are 2 to 3 years old and weigh up to two pounds.

Statewide, about 325,000 trout will be stocked this spring.

Maryland Fisheries Biologist Al Klotz said high water kept the agency from stocking the North Branch of the Potomac River near Kitzmiller.

“And we just couldn’t get a truck down to Barnum (W.Va.) to stock the North Branch there,” he said.

“Another problem is that the lakes that would be stocked now are still frozen,” Klotz said. “We were going to stock Broadford Lake this week, but there isn’t any place to put the fish in the water.”

Not to worry, according to Klotz. All the fish that were scheduled to be stocked will be, just later.

“We’ll either put more trout in the stock truck or make extra trips from Albert Powell,” he said.

Both biologists agree on one thing, that being that the bad weather that kept fish from being stocked also kept people from fishing. Thus, with weather improving, the anglers and the trout will be getting to the rivers at the same time.

Things are improving, according to Klotz.

“I was down on the North Branch at Barnum this morning,” Klotz said Tuesday. “The West Virginia DNR brought in a nice load of trout and stocked them.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The River near Georgtown

Water levels are still very high and cloudy, but not as much debris as in the last couple of days. Lots of gulls out this morning. Nobody will probably be on the river until at least Friday.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Back cast loop

So when was the last time you looked at the loop in your back cast? Any idea if it is the same size as the loop of your forward cast?

Or is that forward loop nice and narrow and that back loop, a little-bit wider, or maybe a whole lot wider.

This is real casting challenge for a lot of us. I know a caster that will get nice even loops and then, space out a bit, and maybe start using a bit more force or power than necessary as he picks up the back cast. Before long he will have an 20-inch front loop that and a 40-inch loop in the back. Not good.

So why do some casters blow out their back cast this way? Well in this case, the caster was just applying too much power, too early, and overpowering the back cast.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Potomac water levels in Georgetown

Some high water photos along the Georgetown waterfront about mid day. You see tons of debris in the water, entire trees are floating downstream.

The Canoe Club and Jack's Kayak under Key Bridge looks like they got hit pretty hard. The boardwalk is flooded and closed. And down at Thompsons Boat house, we pulled launches yesterday and they were reinforcing the docks.

In short, the river is a mess.

A conversation with PJ Daley

PJ Daley is the head guide and manager of the Orvis store at the Wisp Resort up in Western Maryland.

PJ, tell me about how you came to run the Orvis shop at Wisp?

I actually fell into the position. At the time, I had just moved back to Garrett County and was looking for permanent work. As luck would have it, I have been friends with a few of the guys that are managers at Wisp for a long time. They knew that I'd had a fly rod in my hands since I was five or six years old, so when Wisp decided they were going to start a fly fishing program, they recruited me for the position.

We both guide up in Garrett County, what do you think makes this area so special?

It's hard for me to nail down just one thing that makes the area so special. I think that first, you have to give credit to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the way our trout fisheries are managed. There are opportunities for all types of angling, but they put a heavy emphasis on managing streams and rivers for very high quality fishing for both wild and holdover trout.

What this means is that on most of our best streams, catch and release, trophy, and delayed harvest regulations are in effect. There are also some areas that are open to fly fishing only. MD DNR also recognizes the need for put and take angling, so many streams are stocked regularly with trout so that people can catch a few for dinner.

One other thing that really stands out to me are two of what I consider to be world class tail water fisheries in the North Branch of the Potomac and the Savage River.

The lower Savage is managed under Trophy regulations and has fantastic hatches all summer long. The North Branch is known primarily for one thing - Big trout.

Do you have a favorite time of year to fish?

My favorite time of the year to fish is mid April through mid June. I have different rivers I like to fish at slightly different times in spring. I like the Yough and upper Savage in April for the caddis hatch and again in late May for the green drakes.

My favorite time though, would have to be mid-summer on the lower Savage fishing terrestrials, sulphurs, and yellow sallies to wild browns and brookies.

Break some of the water in this area down for me, how should an angler approach the Yough, the Savage, the North Branch of the Potomac, or the Castleman?

I fish the Yough mostly in mid April through about June 1st. It gets a tremendous caddis hatch (aka mother’s day caddis) mid April. You'll also see many of the major mayfly hatches you expect on trout water like quill gordons, hendricksons and march browns.

The action climaxes with the green drake hatch sometime in the last ten days or so of May. You can expect much of the same for the upper Savage and Casselman.

When there aren't any hatches present, your standard bead head nymphs and wooly buggers will produce. One note, I would definitely recommend not fishing the Casselman on a weekend. The easy access from the interstate brings in crowds.

On the lower Savage, come with a box of blue and red quills in April. I usually don't fish it to much until the April and May crowds have thinned out and the water levels have dropped and warmed up slightly in early June. This is when it gets fun. Caddis and pmd's start it off.

By July you're going to start seeing lots of yellow sallies, blue wing olives’, brown stoneflies, midges, and terrestrials. Unless you are a diehard nympher, there is no need to throw anything but a parachute adams, yellow sally, or black ant. The fish in the lower Savage are gluttens for a dry.

Fishing the river correctly and getting a dead drift is another thing altogether and is where a good guide is invaluable. Presentation is everything here. I love guiding on the lower Savage mid-summer.

The North Branch is more of a nymphers paradise than the lower Savage. It's not blessed with the great hatches that a lot of our other waters have, but I still fish a lot of dries because that's what I like to fish best.

There is the upper North Branch which falls under delayed harvest reg's and the lower North Branch which has both catch and release as well as put and take reg's. Sporadic hatches of midges, caddis, stoneflies, and various mayflies will still keep the dry fly guys busy, but the biggest fish usually fall to nymphs. I run lots of float trips on it because of the very difficult wading.

Unless you are an extremely agile wader, a wading staff is a must on the Yough, lower Savage and lower North Branch.

What are some of the must have flies for this area?

Parachute adams in various sizes, stimulators, elk hair caddis, yellow sally (lower Savage), wooly buggers, and assortment of b.h. nymphs. Don't forget black ants and beetles mid-summer.

Are there some smaller streams you also like to fish?

We are fortunate to have great brook trout fishing in the area. Bear creek, Big Run, Poplar Lick, and Monroe Run are all good, and with the exception of Bear creek, they are catch and release for brook trout, artificial only regs.

For Bear Creek I always wait until the put and take anglers have long gone. Usually by late May you will have it all to yourself. There are quite a few other streams in the county that offer tremendous brook trout angling and a few that even have wild rainbow and brown trout populations. You'll have to do a little map homework and exploration to find these. Where would all the fun be if I told you everything?

You have guided for years, what are some of the ways you think anglers can improve their success on the water?

I don't tie up until I get to the stream. I take a seat on a rock, and try to figure out what's happening before I start casting. Master the art of fishing pocket water. This goes hand in hand with what I call K.I.S.S., or keep it short stupid.

On our more technical streams like the lower Savage which has a very steep gradient, unless you're fishing a pool, there aren't a whole lot of situations where you need to lay out long casts. Get close to where the fish are and keep your line off the water by high sticking. This way you can control your fly and achieve a dead drift. You'll be amazed at how quickly you start catching fish on the lower Savage if you can do this. I can tell people this all day long in the shop, but until they have me take them out and see it for themselves, they don't usually have great results.

Relax! Most people miss fish because they set the hook to aggressively. Relax and pick the rod tip up almost lazily. Just lift and stay firmly connected to the fish.

BUY A HOOK SHARPENER!!!!! C'mon guys. You've spent hundreds on your fly fishing gear. Buy a $10 hook sharpener.

If you are just pricking fish and not getting solid hookups, your hook is dull. Check it on your thumbnail. If it doesn't stick with very light pressure, it's not sharp enough.

People that fish with me will vouch that I am anal about hook sharpness. If your fly touches a rock, check it. It takes a couple of seconds and might cost you the fish of a lifetime.

When you get a day off from either the shop or the river, where do you like to fish?

I either take a float trip on the North Branch or wade the lower Savage. If you ever have any questions you can email me at pdaley@wispresort.com . I also have a fly fishing report for the North Branch and Savage rivers on the Orvis website, www.orvis.com and a report as well as pictures on the Casselman, Savage, Yough, and North Branch on www.wispresort.com .

Thanks PJ, see you on the river.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Potomac scouting

I've been out on the Potomac most mornings this week watching the river take shape. It's in the low 40s and running pretty clear.

I've noticed more birds working in just the past few days. I would say we are still a few weeks away from the shad run.

While the river looks pretty good, there are tons of downed trees along the banks, and occasionally drifting past.

I have found some new pretty cool places to TH between Georgetown and Fletchers, it's going to be good when the fish come in.

See you on the river.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Eventually we will get back on the river

Dacha Dreams in early March.

A conversation with Capt. Chris Asaro

After 14 years of successfully exploring and fishing the Everglades National Park and Florida Keys, Capt. Chris Asaro has relocated to Oahu.

Tell me about the bonefish in Hawaii?

Where do I start? First of all, I had no intentions of bonefishing let alone guiding. I didn't even bring a speck of tackle from Florida! I heard rumors about massive fish but figured it was deepwater fishing with no flats, typical of most mountainous islands in the Caribbean.

After being top guide in the 2004 IGFA Rolex Inshore World Champion
ship, basically due to my bonefish specialty, and placing in the top three, the first three years of the Key Largo ghost hunt [which was one of the only money bonefish tournaments in the Florida Keys], I figured it had to be all downhill. I also had a back issue and wanted very little to do with poling another skiff for a living.

Enter Capt. Terry Duffield! I saw his very professional website – www.hawaiibonefishing.com and accomplishments. Needless to say, I was more than curious, so I called him. We got chatting and he knew many people I knew, even guided legendary anglers from Florida that I had guided.

So we hit it off very well and he took me out to show me the ropes. I was floored how amazing the fishery was. Red mangroves, rock hard flats with seagrass, every crustacean imaginable crawling and shooting all over the place. I never got to see this in Florida because nearly every flat I fished was super-soft, muddy, turtle grass. But the really kicker was the amount of giant bonefish tailing and finning as you can now attest!

The bonus was the spectacular mountainous scenery and lack of humidity even on the warmer calm days. I must remember to drink water even though I rarely broke a sweat. At night in the summer it gets so cool that our Florida butts close every window in our house! In the winter, the water doesn't go below 75 degrees so there is no lull in the action typical of Florida.

So Coach [Capt. Duffield] took me under his wing and the rest is history. I do his 'wading only' trips out of a brand new cat boat and he does the heavy poling from the only custom Kevlar flats boat on the island [Andros skiff]. I think we really complement each other and am forever in his debt!

One of the first times we fished together for fun, he nailed an 11lb + beauty on his own 'plate lunch special' crab pattern.

I know you were a guide in the Florida Keys before you moved to Oahu, are there similarities or differences between both fisheries?

Well first of all, big bone are big bones where ever you go, not the easiest for even the seasoned bonefisherman. Similarly, to the upper Keys, it is difficult to find tiny fish. They are all beasts, weight fish as they call them in tournaments [over 8lbs]. Sure there are some 3-7 lb fish and they are much easier than the biggies.

The fish here are very much creatures of habit just like the Keys. But Hawaiian bonefish are an entirely different species, much longer and sleeker. This gives the potential for a much heavier fish. One thing that is very nice is the lack of anglers in general here in Hawaii.

Many days you can go all day without seeing another boat yet alone angler reminding me of the exploration trips I took to the Abacos. One nice difference that I already mentioned was the lack of dead time in the winter. In Florida, late December through the end of February the water temperature dips below 70 degrees and for the most part bonefish stay in deeper warmer gulfstream waters making it a waste to even target them. This doesn't happen in Hawaii sure we get fronts but the water never gets cold enough to drive them away.

What do anglers need to know about targeting these bonefish?

Typical of any island, it gets windy, so be prepared. The nice thing is the fish become less spooky when there is a chop and long casts are not needed. But you must be prepared to back cast and stay positive.

I suggest to all my anglers even the really good casters to practice casting on very windy days. And use one of your biggest flies [with the hook point cut off for safety of course] as a 'batting doughnut'. This will keep you from getting flustered when it's blowing 20-30 and tails are everywhere.

Other than that, bring a very positive attitude because no matter how many fish you spook the next one has no idea and could be 'the fish of a lifetime' you always dreamed of!

The Hawaiian bonefish are what I call 'inshore marlin' and you just aren't gonna get one everytime out. But the hunt and experience is incredible! Landing you first 10 lb + trophy is the icing on the cake!

What is the best time of year to go fish in Hawaii?

That’s simple! Whenever you can, but seriously, summer is when we see the most fish. The trick is watching the weather and coming last minute when we get Kona winds [lighter winds from the southwest]. Wind patterns can get locked in for weeks at a time. But as I said, the fish are far less spooky when there is some kind of wind.

The key is just being prepared for it. Most people come here for a wedding or family vacation and want to sneak away for a day or two of fishing. We will move clients around if possible to ensure the best weather and tides.

You've been a saltwater fly fishing guide for a number of years, what separates successful anglers from the unsuccessful?

That’s an easy one! Experience and preparation! Some of the best Hawaiian bonefisherman are steelheaders.
They fish big water with wind all day long only to get skunked the majority of the time and love every minute of it. This is the attitude that works best anywhere you go. There are some legendary anglers in Florida. Most either have their own skiffs or have logged countless hours on the water with legendary guides or both!
But the one common thing is they are prepared and love days when they get skunked just as much as days they catch! They treat every shot the same. With a maximum effort and the confidence that always has them in 'the game'.
An open minded positive attitude, willingness to listen, learn and try new and innovative things are mandatory. Bonefishing is actually quite basic for the most part like most all sight fishing. You keep the food on the plate making it look as real as possible at the most crucial times. On super calm days they can almost be impossible. On those days have clients take the cast out of the equation and guess where they will be next leading them a ton. With the fly sitting on the bottom, we wait for the fish to swim over it. Then, one very hard sharp strip as if he spooked it up, and then he pounds it as it tries to get back to the bottom and hide. It’s that simple!

Can’t wait to see you next time!

Chris Asaro is reachable at casaro3@gmail.com

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Deep Creek Lake spring melt warning

It's been a record year up at the cabin,at Dacha Dreams, we had more than six feet of snow on the ground. I would say most of it will be around through March. Enjoy it... but be aware of the following as the thaw begins -

Record Snow Fall at Deep Creek Lake May Result in Unprecedented Spring Melt.
The following was released from Brookfield Renewable Power and the Maryland Department of Energy this week:

Deep Creek Hydroelectric Station to Lower Lake Levels; Lake Users Encouraged to Take Extra Safety Precautions

Sooner or later the record snow fall at Deep Creek Lake must melt and that could cause a record spring runoff. To a limited extent, Deep Creek Lake levels can be controlled by the Deep Creek Hydroelectric Station which operates under a Water Appropriation and Use permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Under the permit conditions, the Station, which is owned by Brookfield Renewable Power, uses water to generate hydropower, but keeps Lake levels within a defined “rule band” with upper and lower limits. This year’s unprecedented snow fall will likely result in an unprecedented snow melt, particularly if temperatures rise quickly.

To avoid serious and potentially damaging high water conditions at the dam and on the Lake, the Maryland Department of the Environment has approved Brookfield’s request to draw the Lake level down two feet below its permitted March lower limit. The draw down, which began on March 1, will take place gradually, with a maximum of 0.5 feet reduction per day. David Barnhart, General Manager for Brookfield’s Mid-America Operations said, “Together with MDE, we are doing what we can to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of the spring thaw. As this winter proves, you never know what Mother Nature will throw you and an early, sustained thaw may result in higher than usual water levels.”

The lowered water levels beneath the ice cover, combined with warming temperatures, pose unpredictable risks to recreational users of Deep Creek Lake. Carolyn Mathews, Manager of the Deep Creek Lake Recreation Area advises, “People should remember that there are always hazards to recreating on naturally-formed ice. Lowering the Lake to make additional storage space for the anticipated above-normal spring runoff may destabilize the Lake’s ice and we urge everyone to take special care to stay safe.”

Because many people are potentially affected by this action, MDE is requiring that public notice be provided to the local media. The MDE, Brookfield, and the Department of Natural Resources continue to monitor the Lake’s level and weather conditions to determine whether additional actions for safety of recreational users may be required. For more information on the Lake’s level, please visit www.deepcreekhydro.com.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Targeting the back cast

When we fly fish or even when we practice, we talk a lot about aiming the cast on the delivery. And that is important, but we don’t spend nearly enough time practicing aiming that back cast.

Simply thinking, “I hope it’s heading upwards or backwards or behind me,” isn’t really good enough.

Just like you need a target on that forward cast, a target is generally a good idea on your back cast. The other issue is that most folks have grown up with some experience throwing some object – forward. That backwards throwing motion is not nearly as developed.

Isolating your back cast and concentrating on where that cast is actually heading, should be a part of any anglers regular practice routine.

Start with short casts and increase distances gradually. Look at how your fly line lands. Is the line straight or curved? Exactly where did that rod tip go, and what kind of stop did you make?

There are a couple ways you can practice. A very simple way is open up your casting stance and occasionally watch as you make a horizontal or off-vertical back cast. Watch the rod load and unload and remember the cast goes where the tip finishes.

When I practice, I try to pick an object in-line with my back cast and aim toward it, it can be a bush, a tree, a hula-hoop, almost anything can make a good target. The next time you are out working on your casting, give it a try.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The conversation

“The longer I fish and the more I read the older writers and study the sport’s history, the more I see fly fishing as a huge, multigenerational conversation.”

From Paul Schullery in his book “The Rise.”