Our first stop in Tennessee brought us to the Bristol area, home of one of the most famous NASCAR racetracks, and, home of two of the TU Greatest 100 Trout Streams, the Watauga and the South Holston.  Both rivers are tailwater fisheries with dams that generate power for the area.  The scheduling trick for the gang at the South Holston River Fly Shop / Champion Outfitters & Guides was which river would be generating, and hence, pumping water downstream, that would allow us to best float the river on which day.  Turned out, we hit the Watauga first.

We met our guide for the day, Matt “Scooter” Gwynn, at the fly shop on a foggy morning and headed for the river.  We put in at a spot where a couple of guys were trying to corral a bunch of leaves that had littered the boat launch.  We didn’t realize that sight was a harbinger of things to come.

We had a great morning fishing, catching several beautiful brown and rainbow trout.  As we broke for lunch, we noticed the weather changing as the wind picked up and the temperature cooled a bit.  The cooling was fine, but the wind began to blow even more leaves off the trees into the river.  As we set out after lunch, you could see leaves not just on the surface of the river, but, up and down the water column as well.  It was difficult casting and trying to keep our flies from  hooking leaves.  More importantly, it was equally difficult for the fish to even see our nymphs as they floated downstream  among the leaves.  Needless to say, fishing, or the “bite” as it’s called, turned off in the afternoon, but, we still hooked into a few fish.   The Watauga was a beautiful river with high cliffs and lots of fall colors (and did I mention…. leaves?).

We decided to try the GoPro in the truck “Guide Talk” with Scooter as we drove back after a great day on the Watauga.  We hope you enjoy his insights on the river, fishing and tips for a great day.

Oh Shenandoah

By TB

We had a dichotomy of water for much of this year, too much in the West and too little in the East.  We endured record runoff in California which produced record flows in the streams.  As we came to the East, the concerns changed to not enough water.  This was true as we went Creek Stompin’ in WV and again as we fished in Shenandoah National Park.

The one Virginia river on the TU list is the Rapidan River just outside Charlottesville, VA.  Normally, we fish with a guide the first day we’re in an area, but since we left West Virginia a day early, we made it to Cville a day early and decided to fish the Rapidan on our own before fishing it the next day with a guide.

We stopped into Albemarle Anglers to check in and get some intel and flies to fish the Rapidan.  There is actually a fly called the “Mr. Rapidan” which has bright yellow posts on top and a dark colored body.  After getting some dries and droppers, we setup the SaraLinda in our campground and plotted our first day on the Rapidan.

Before heading to the river, we took a drive up to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park hoping to catch some views of the area.  As it turned out, the mountains were shrouded in fog and mist.  We could barely see the road in front of us, let alone any views of the Shenandoah Valley and surroundings.  We thought about hiking a couple of miles to visit the Hoover Rapidan Camp in the park where Herbert Hoover would come to escape the heat in Washington DC and fish the Rapidan River.  After having lunch at the Big Meadows cafe, instead of hiking to Hoover Camp, we headed back down to fish the Rapidan from the valley upstream.

We drove out Graves Road to its end, parked the Subaru and began hiking upstream on the Rapidan trail.  The river was on our right as we hiked up the mountain in the most oppressing humidity we’d experienced in years.  We were soaking wet from me sweating and Barb perspiring.   The fly shop had indicated we should hike about a mile before fishing so we’d get to some less pressured water.  Because of the Hoover Rapidan Camp, more people come to fish the Rapidan for its historical significance.

We found a few good holes, caught a few small fish and decided to head back, knowing we’d be fishing the Rapidan again the next day with our guide, Carson Oldham, of Albemarle Anglers.   Little did we know at that time what was to come the next day.

Carson met us at our campground, which was on the way to the river and off we went.  He’d forewarned us that the drive was up and over a mountain on a fire road to get to the upper stretches of the Rapidan.  When we hit the gravel portion of the road, Carson noted how rutted the road was on the side.  As we continued up the steep, gravel road, the ruts became much more pronounced, turning into large crevices in the road.  We were having to travel about 3mph to avoid bottoming out the car but the road kept getting worse and worse.  Carson was committed to getting us to the Rapidan’s upper reaches but we kept telling him it wasn’t worth busting the undercarriage of his car.  He finally agreed with us, especially given we still had 10 more miles to go and at 3mph, well…. you can do the math on how long it would take us to just get to the river to fish…. and we knew we’d likely have to drive back out in a pouring rain.  We still don’t know why the road was so torn up.  Carson told us its normally a great road.

So… what to do.  Plan B took us to the Hazel River in Shenandoah NP and more creek stomping.  We had a great time fishing with Carson on the Hazel, hiking upstream over rocks and boulders, fishing small holes for beautiful brook trout.  It rained all day on us, but didn’t deter us from making it a full day fishing on the Hazel.

Carson told us there are even better brook trout streams in the area, so we’ll definitely be coming back to Virginia and Shenandoah National Park.

There are two streams in West Virginia that are on the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, the Cranberry River and Seneca Creek.  Last year we fished the Cranberry River, which proved challenging given we’d never fished the river and we had no guide.  As we approached fishing Seneca Creek, we found ourselves in the same position, never seen it and no guides around.  We started to wonder just why these two streams were on the list in the first place, but undaunted, we headed to Seneca Rocks, WV, to fish Seneca Creek.

When we arrived in the area around noon, we talked with some of the staff at the Smokehole Resort where we were staying. They indicated that the water levels in Seneca Creek weren’t too good.  In fact, the river running right behind the SaraLinda, the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, which Seneca Creek runs into, was incredibly low, a great indicator that Seneca Creek wouldn’t be any better.   We also learned that there was a large fire in the mountain above us, with around 50 firefighters deployed and another 50-100 more firefighters on their way and would be checking into the cabins next to us.

We hooked up the SaraLinda and decided to go checkout Seneca Creek, following the directions written in the TU book. When we reached Seneca Rocks, we turned onto Highway 33 and drove until we saw White’s Run Road.   We turned onto the road and headed up the mountain until we found the parking area next to the Seneca Creek trailhead.   We were the only car there.

We got out in a light drizzle, rigged up our 7′ rods and began hiking up the trail.  The book said to hike up a ways before beginning to fish, but as we checked out the stream as we hiked deeper into the woods, there was not a soul in sight.  After about 1.4 miles, we came to a spot where the trail crossed Seneca Creek.  We stopped, looked up and down the creek, not seeing much water to fish.  After walking another .3 mile further upstream, seeing no deep holes to fish, we came back to the crossing and waded in, deciding we’d find the deepest holes we could and drift a small stimulator through it.

After trying this in 3 or 4 small holes, a small brook trout took the stimulator… we had a fish on Seneca Creek.  We fished a bit more, but decided that the water was just too low to fish more so we headed back to the SaraLinda.  We talked that night and decided we’d give Seneca Creek a rest, not wanting to stress the small brookies that might be hiding in any water they could.

The next day, we went over the mountain on Smoke Hole Road to fish the South Branch of the Potomac, which we’d heard had some water in it.   We fished near Eagle Rocks in a beautiful fall setting.  We hooked into some creek chubs on dry flies, so, the fishing was fun.  As we headed back over the mountain to the SaraLinda, we came across a staging area full of firefighters.  The road was still open, but was now being used as a basecamp for fighting the fire.  Further along the road a light rain began to fall.  As we rounded a corner, this incredible double rainbow appeared out of nowhere.  It was so close we felt like we could touch it.

While we found the fishing in West Virginia very challenging, we found the natural beauty of the state amazing.

When we asked a few of our earlier guides who we might contact in Maine to fish, they all said we had to contact Bob Mallard…. so we did!  Bob is one of the true leaders in the fly fishing community having advocated for fish, clean water and better regulations for many years.  Additionally, Bob has written numerous books and articles in the fly fishing world and serves as Publisher of Fly Fish America Magazine.  His Stonefly Press books, “50 Best Places Fly Fishing the Northeast” and “25 Best Towns Fly Fishing for Trout” are among the best in the field.  His current project, the Native Fish Coalition, is “dedicated to the conservation, preservation and restoration of native fish.”

We had the pleasure of floating and wading the Kennebec River with Bob and had a blast chunking streamers to the banks, talking fishing, politics, conservation and history.  His “Guide Talk” is full of insights and thought-provoking ideas.  If you ever get to Maine, you must make sure to call Bob at Kennebec River Guides and prepare yourself for an incredible day.  We’ll be going back as soon as we can to fish the Kennebec again, but also the Rapid and several others spots Bob highlighted during our time with him.  His passion for native fish and the opportunity to fish with him for these special species is already pulling us to return.  In the meantime, please enjoy Bob’s “Guide Talk” with us on the Kennebec.

When we originally planned our trip and saw where Grand Lake Stream was located, we really weren’t sure what to expect because it’s in a fairly remote part of Maine with no campgrounds.  We booked a cabin along the “Canal” at Canal Side Cabins with John and Mary Arcaro.   John is a Master Maine Registered Guide, which is an official designation for Maine guides.  John is a “Master” because he holds guide certifications in fishing, hunting and recreation.  It turns out there are written tests, interviews and experience that factor into getting Maine guide certifications in each area.

When we told people we were headed to Grand Lake Stream to fish the river of the same name, we heard things like:  that’s really “out there”; there are 82 residents and over 50 are guides; and, make sure you go to the Pine Tree Store.  We turned off US 1 onto the one road that leads into Grand Lake Stream and drove about 10 miles to an intersection in town.  There are only 5 streets in Grand Lake Stream, all of which are dead ends.  In the middle of town sits the Pine Tree Store, which is part general store, part gas station and part diner.

When we booked the cabin with John and Mary, John told us he had a spot to park our RV while we stayed in the Spruce Cabin at Canal Side Cabins.  Our cabin was absolutely perfect for us as we settled in and got ready to fish the next day with John.

We met John around 8am and headed for a spot behind the fish hatchery in town and began our day on the Stream.  I was fishing a caddis pattern when I decided to mend my line and POW, a fish attacked my fly.  I set the hook, had a big, landlocked salmon on, and after a short battle, he broke me off.  I just shrugged as I looked over at John and Barb, who were looking out at the water and laughing.  What I didn’t realize was the fish thought it was still hooked because it still had my fly in his mouth, and was putting on an aerial display.  Barb and John had a good laugh since I never saw it.

We fished several different holes and spots along the Stream during the day, and for lunch, John took us to the counter at the Pine Tree Store.   After lunch, we landed some smaller landlocked salmon and had such an incredible time fishing, learning tips/techniques from John and listening to the most hilarious stories you can imagine.  John had us in stitches all day long.

The next night, we went to John and Mary’s home near our cabin, shared a beer or two and did our “Guide Talk” with John.  John and Mary are the most friendly, hospitable and fun people you could ever meet.  We get a lot of our guides saying “won’t you adopt us and take us with you on your ‘Ramble'”,  but for Barb and I, we wanted John and Mary to adopt us and let us hang out with them in Grand Lake Stream.

We will certainly be back to fish GLS again, and for sure, stay at Canal Side Cabins, fish with John, and share more time with John and Mary.  For now, we hope you enjoy a very funny and informative chat we had with John in the basement of their home.

 

We’ve been looking forward to fishing Maine during the fall since we first started planning our “River Ramble”.  We experienced New England, already fishing the Battenkill and White in Vermont as well as the Upper Connecticut in New Hampshire, but this was Maine.  Furthermore, our first stop in Maine was the West Branch of the Penobscot River, famed for its landlocked salmon.  But first, we had to get there.

The SaraLinda has taken us over 25,000 miles around the country almost twice now, but she’s never been on a road like the “Golden Road” from Millinocket (ME) to our campsite at the Big Eddy Campground.  You know you’re in for a ride when the address of the campsite is “Mile 28.5 of the Golden Road”.   We talked with Don at the campsite about the road and he alerted us to the fact it was somewhat potholed where it is paved and a washboard when it’s gravel.  The RV sites we’d read indicated that you’d better be ready for repairs after taking your rig on this road.  However, our guide, Greg “Boz” Bostater repeatedly told us we HAD to stay at the Big Eddy Campground.  So… we left Millinocket on a wild ride to our campsite… logging trucks beware, the SaraLinda was on the road.

When we arrived, the campsite was in the most spectacular area you can imagine.  Right on the West Branch, beautiful surrounding forests, the Big Eddy Rapid making itself known by the sounds of crashing waves and fishing right out our back door.  We were in fly fishing heaven for sure.

We met Greg, the owner and head guide for Maine River Guides right at the campground and proceeded to get in his drift boat right at the campground.  We fished the Big Eddy Pool until lunch, which was a great stream side lunch cooked by Greg himself.  Before heading downstream, we took the time to do our “Guide Talk” with Greg right in our campsite with the Big Eddy Pool in the background.

It was a great day of fishing with Greg who was not only an incredible guide, but also knew the history of the river, especially its rich history in logging.  We hope you enjoy our “Guide Talk” with Boz as much as we enjoyed our day on the river with him.  And yes, if you plan to go to this area, take the Golden Road to mile marker 28.5 and stay at the Big Eddy Campground.  Your teeth will eventually stop chattering from the bumpy road and you’ll have an incredible time.

There is only one river listed in the TU Guide to America’s Greatest 100 Trout Streams in the state of New Hampshire, the Upper Connecticut River.  However, the author of the book notes that when you come, plan to stay for at least a week to fish the varied sections of the river, as well as all of the tributaries, ponds and lakes in the area.

On our “River Ramble”, Barb and I are fishing not just the Top 100, but as many other streams as we can.   We did fish Indian Stream (and caught some beautiful small brookies) while we were in the Pittsburg, NH area, but really focused on the various sections of the Upper Connecticut.  We’d been forewarned that the area around Pittsburg was “Moose Alley” and we were to be on heightened alert for moose.

When we arrived in Pittsburg, NH, which is by geographic size, the largest town in NH, we parked the SaraLinda at our campground that overlooked the First Connecticut Lake.  Turns out the Upper Connecticut River actually has several dams and lakes including Lake Francis and the First, Second, Third and Fourth Connecticut Lakes.  Between these lakes are beautiful, often fast flowing streams with both landlocked salmon and brook trout in residence.  We were very excited to begin our “Ramble” in New Hampshire.

As always, we worked with a guide our first day in the area, Chuck Degray, owner/head guide, North Country Guide Shop and Fly Service.  We met Chuck at the campground and were off for the day.  We hiked into the woods a bit below the First Connecticut Dam and hooked into a few fish to start our day, catching them on nymphs.  A little before lunch, we switched to dry flies and we both caught another beautiful rainbow trout.

We sat down to lunch on the lawn of the Tall Timber Lodge, a beautiful spot on Back Lake.  Our view across the lake was spectacular as we plotted the afternoon’s fishing adventure.  Chuck had three options and we couldn’t decide which to choose.  Finally, the difference maker was a chance to catch landlocked salmon, so we headed off to a spot Chuck was excited to share with us.

As we hiked down a long trail to the water, we noted that if we were to come back on our own, we might want to leave a trail of bread crumbs to make sure we could find our way out at dusk.  When we arrived at the place to fish, we saw a few fish rising in the water but not many.  We tried to fool them with dry flies but to no avail.

Around 4:30pm, more fish started rising, and while they still weren’t interested in the dry flies or streamers we’d been trying to fool them with, Chuck recommended we try a wet fly.  I know what many of you reading this are thinking…. aren’t they ALL wet?  Well, of course they are all floating on or below the surface of the water, but wet flies float just beneath the surface and are typically “swung” with fish taking them on the swing, or more often than not, at the point the fly stops swinging and comes up to the surface.

Barb was in a spot with multiple rising fish and pretty quickly, BAM…. a fish hit her small wet fly and it was game on.  We didn’t know how big it was until it decided to jump, and when it did, all of our eyes went wide.  Barb and hooked into a 22” landlocked salmon and was fighting to coax it to Chuck’s waiting net.  As always when you hook a fish of this size, sometimes you win, but most often the fish wins.   This time, Barb won as you can see in the picture above.

It was hard to tell who was most excited,  Barb or Chuck.  It was a very large landlocked salmon for the river and Chuck indicated it was the largest he’d seen landed in well over a year.  We ended up hooking several more of these magnificent fish before we had our “walk off” fish and were ready to call it a day.

In the coming days, we fished a few other spots Chuck was going to show us, but, didn’t fool any fish until we decided to hike back to the spot where Barb landed the big one.  We actually decided to tie small strands of yellow rope to trees as we hiked down to make sure we’d find our way back.  When we arrived at “our” spot, there was a couple already there.  A guy was scouting spots to fish and his wife was on the bank reading and sunning.   We told him about the wet fly working so well as he was fishing a different hole than we were.   As they finally left the spot, we waited for the fish to start rising again.  Sure enough, around 5pm this time, a rise here… a sip there… and in not too long, we hooked into a few salmon.

As we walked out, untying the yellow rope from our marked trees, we were so grateful to have been able to fish these beautiful streams in New Hampshire and to have had Chuck show us the river.  We left New Hampshire knowing we’d come back to fish again, especially our newfound “honey hole” on the Upper Connecticut.

The White River in VT is, according to our guide, Matt Stedina, the only New England fishery with wild rainbow trout in it.  As we found out when we drove its length, it’s a very diverse fishery as well, from its beginnings until it flows into the Connecticut River in White River Junction, VT.

We met Matt near our campground and headed out to fish it on a foggy morning.  We parked our car near a long, tall bridge, shuttled Matt’s truck to a spot upstream, and after returning to that bridge, proceeded to bushwhack our way down the bank to the river.

When we arrived at the banks of the White, we could look up and see traffic crossing the bridge headed to Hartford, Lebanon, Hanover, and other points as people were starting their workday.  For us, we carefully waded out into the river and began fishing a riffle/run section of the river.  The White at this point had both wild and stocked rainbows and we were lucky enough to land a couple in our first hole.  We were fishing large dry flies and seeing fish rise to hit them was so much fun.  On one cast, as I was watching my fly drift downstream, I saw a fish rise behind it, and then, BAM, it hit it with such great force, not like the trout we’d experienced so far.  As it turned out, it wasn’t a trout at all, but a smallmouth bass.  It put up a really good fight, but, I landed it and released it gently back into the current.

As we waded our way upstream, never leaving the river, the sun was burning off the fog and the temperature started getting warmer.  We gave up on the dry flies and put on a nymph rig when we got to the big hole Matt was targeting.  We were both lucky enough to catch multiple fish out of this hole before the water temps were getting too warm and we decided to call it a day.  These trout will continue to feed as the water temps rise, but hooking, fighting and landing them puts them at more risk to perish.

We bushwhacked our way up another bank to get back to Matt’s truck and found a nice spot on the river for our “Guide Talk” with Matt.  Matt is the only guide who will float the White River from spot to spot, allowing anglers to fish the best of the White River.  The water was low at this time, so our trip was purely wading up the White River from spot to spot.  Matt indicated that if you came back in late May/June, you’d be in his boat and hitting more prime fishing holes on the river.  We’ll be back, but for now, we hope you enjoy our conversation with Matt Stedina, Trout Bum Guide Service, Stockbridge, VT.

The Battenkill River in Vermont is one of those “historic” places to fish.  You have a great, wild brown trout fishery located in one of the most beautiful areas in the country.  In addition, you have a rich history of fly fishing that is chronicled in the American Museum of Fly Fishing which houses numerous exhibits sure to wet the interest of fly fishermen.  And, any visit to this area would be incomplete without a visit to the Orvis mothership location in Manchester, VT.   Want to buy first run Orvis gear and clothing… head to the Orvis flagship store.  Looking for bargains, there is the Orvis Outlet store just down main street.  Interested in how that new Helios 3 rod is made, a trip to the Orvis Rod Factory is sure to enlighten you to the intricacies of rod making and the care taken in crafting these incredible tools.  Oh, and if you want to improve your own skills, there is the Orvis Fly Fishing School right across the street from the flagship store.  It that weren’t enough, right next to the flagship store is a large field and trout pond with giant rainbows waiting for students to ply their skills, catch and release these behemoths.

But we were here to fish the Battenkill, so we embarked on a day with Orvis-endorsed guide, Ray Berumen, the owner and head guide of Taconic Guide Service in Manchester Center, VT.  Ray prepared us for a “challenging” day on the river citing the fact that in a couple of previous days, clients had not landed fish.  Undaunted, we literally dropped into the river from a high bank, crossed over to the other side and headed upstream to a riffle/run/pool section.

As I headed upstream of Ray and Barb, I was alone in this beautiful river, searching for deep, slow runs where an unsuspecting brown trout might feed.  I was lucky and hooked into a 10″ brownie on a small nymph and got him to hand (I wasn’t carrying a net and Ray was really too far downstream to call).  After I released the gorgeous fish back into the Battenkill, I continued to fish the run with no luck.  After about 45 minutes, I headed back downstream where Barb had been working her run/pool section.  She was throwing dry flies at a few rising fish.  She’d not hooked anything yet so Ray took me downstream.  As soon as we got to a spot I was going to fish, we heard Barb “Fish On!”…. and it began.  The rest of our time on the Battenkill, Barb was the “hot stick” for sure.  She landed 5 brown trout over 16″, the largest right at 18″.  It seemed like every time I looked up, Barb’s rod was bent into that taco shape with a big, wild trout tugging and pulling on her line.  Very cool.

At the end of our time on the Battenkill, Ray told us of a spot we should do our “Guide Talk” with him.  We stopped at a covered bridge, but not just any bridge, the one Norman Rockwell painted in several of his iconic works.   We set up our camera and had a great time shooting Ray’s guide talk which we know you’ll enjoy.

Urban Oasis

By TB

Through the middle of coal country, right through downtown Scranton PA, flows the Lackawanna River.  As we read the section on the Lackawanna in the TU Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, we were a bit concerned given the description of the fishery.  However, when we arrived in the area and drove to A&G Outfitters, we parked in the lot and climbed a levee to see this beautiful stream flowing right through Dickson City, a ‘burb of Scranton.   We read the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail sign at the top of the levee and were impressed with the history, and more so with the conservation efforts of two organizations, the Lackawanna River Corridor Association and the Lackawanna River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The next day, in that same parking lot, we met our guide for the day, Adam Nidoh.  Adam and his father own and run A&G Outfitters with Adam doing the largest share of the guiding.  We got in our Crosstrek and followed Adam through downtown Dickson City, into Scranton, parking across from a pallet company warehouse.  As before, we climbed a levee and there was the Lackawanna.   We crossed the river on an old train bridge and walked on the levee downstream a bit before wading into the river.

At river level, with the levees framing both sides of the stream, tall trees swaying in the morning breeze, we were so far removed from the city, it was truly an urban oasis.  We tight line nymphed our way upstream, picking off fish at each riffle and deep hole.  Fishing inside a metropolitan area of well over 100,000 people, we caught beautiful, wild brown trout and never saw another person.  Amazing!

For our guide talk, we went back to the river, just over the levee from the A&G Outfitters parking lot.  Adam did a great job of explaining how this fishery came to be and how TU and the Lackawanna River Corridor Assoc. continues to improve the river.  Adam is President of the Lackawanna Valley TU Chapter and is passionate about protecting this urban stream.