There are many things that get the focus or attention of fly anglers that get the attention owed to them….we all love hatches and the great dry fly action that comes with them. Some love the aggressive eats of a pre or post spawn trout , be it a brook trout, rainbow trout, or my personal favorite…brown trout. Some like low water terrestrial fishing in summer…others high water nymphing in early spring. But there are some things that have a profound effect on fishing, and are worthy of the same attention of the things I mentioned above. Yet few know about this one.
I’d say if you lined up 10 experienced anglers up in a line, almost no one would know anything about this. I’d say the same for flyfishing guides. Yes, fly fishing guides. There I said it. So what is this “thing” I’m talking about? It is called Behavioral drift.
Basically, it is when insects leave the substrate /bottom and enter the water column and drift with the current. This activity occurs daily, seasonally, annually, and so forth. But the fact that it occurs goes largely unnoticed by the angling community. There’s a reason our nymph fishing on trout waters is really good during our early season. One, the bottom is more densely populated with insect fauna right now than at any time of the year. Most if not all insects who hatched last year and successfully laid eggs those eggs are now fully developed or nearly mature insects. Those are ready or will be ready to hatch. And they drift in large numbers.
There are several categories of drift that entomologists are familiar with: Catastrophic drift, where high water or floods displace numbers of insects; Behavioral drift as a result of activity, be it feeding activity, moving from one spot to the next when food supply dwindles, avoiding predators (other animals and insects), and so forth. There’s also distributional drift, which is thought of as a method of dispersal. That is once eggs are laid in the riffle areas of a stream the eggs hatch and then the nymphs as they develop and feed they will enter the drift occasionally and move to other areas of the stream thereby preventing the depletion of a food supply in the place they came from. To sum it up, this is all drifting activity not associated with an insect emergence.
It has been my experience in the early spring to mid spring time frame that this drift activity, collectively, has a great effect on fishing. Fishing is excellent, and the fish are well attuned to this activity that most folks aren’t even aware is occuring. They just notice the nymph fishing is really good, but they don’t know why.
Drift occurs daily, and there are, from what entomologists often tell us, and the ones I know reiterate this, some definite times of day that this activity is more prevalent. Insects drift on and off throughout the day but a large part of this occurs during the low light hours and overnight. Often significant activity occurs very early in the day, waning a bit during the daylight hours, then picking up again nearing sunset, once again reaching significance in terms of impact. Light often retards some of the activity, and even moonlight can suppress some of it.
Fish do notice this, and will often feed heavily on the drifting nymphs, and often in areas in the shallows where you wouldn’t normally expect to find large fish, particularly gravel strewn edges with weed patches, shallow tailouts of large, flat , deep pools, and so forth. To the angler who knows this is occurring they can catch some tremendous fish in very shallow water, and often sight fish to large fish who are feeding in response to this. I have personally witnessed this phenomenon on the South Holston River in East Tennessee, where large fish gorged themselves on the drifting ephemerella invaria (sulphur) nymphs that were visible in huge numbers in the water column in the shallow tailout of a pool I was sight fishing to fish in. I had actually heard of drift from a friend, professor, fellow angler and gentleman I once worked for at the Fly Line Fly Shop, Dr Jim Sellers. Jim was a master angler, to this day the best I have ever known, and who I name as a mentor having more influence on my early fly fishing endeavors than anyone. Jim is still the only person to this day that I have ever heard mention it.
Certainly a fascinating thing drift is, and its probably the reason you have enjoyed great early season nymphing, and particularly early in the day. A lot of research has been done on drift. There’s a great paper or research piece that explains a bit more about it, and its an article called “Invertebrate Drift-A Review”, which was published in Hydrobiologia, January 1988 and revised by Dr JE Brittain in 2017, University of Oslo…a joint paper written by John E. Brittain and Tor Jan Eikeland, Zoological Museum, University of Oslo, Norway. This is now located at the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, Albury, NSW 2640 , Australia. If you desire to look into it further, you can find this article online. You can also download it for FREE.
Wednesday February 27,2019…Of course , that is what a fishing guide is always going to say , right? Well, its true. Things are shaping up, have cleared up, and we are back to fishing. The past two weeks, here has been the scoop….
We made a return to cooler (seasonable) weather…..that warm weather may feel nice but we do well in cold weather, and very little competition from other anglers! Small stream and tailwater fishing has been good, we had great days the past month in all kinds of weather and anyone who has ventured out with me has done well. We are catching numbers of fish, and some trophy sized fish as well. When you have been guiding for three decades you find ways to work in all kinds of weather, the bills gotta get paid. We catch fish in all weather. Stoneflies, early browns and blacks, continue to be active as well as Aminephura, sp. and Allocapnia, sp. stones, the little 18 and 20 sized flies that pour off all our small streams and DH waters in winter. Fish are munching them, one of our trips during the past week with Dr Pat Burney we put 50 fish in the net , mostly with these little flies. I custom tie them, and I sell them. They work…….
As far as tailwaters , they continue to fish great, we have put over 60 20 inch fish in the boat on our floats streamer fishing since early December. Its been phenomenal. When its not streamers, the nymph game has worked well, along with some small blue winged olives and dry fly fishing that are always a winter option here and there. And its not over. Tailwaters never freeze, and there’s hardly a time you can’t find some fishing on them. There we have fished in everything from teens and blowing blizzard of snow to 60F and sunny…..and caught fish in all of it. Lots of fish.
On the 15th, I guided David Carter, Greensboro, NC, on a float trip in Tennessee. David and I dropped the boat in around 845am and shoved off, didn’t take long to get into some fish, we had great nymph fishing the first half of the day. Caught fish on deep rigs, two nymph swivel rigs and bounce rigs, did well with both. First half of the day we caught a nice mix of rainbows and browns, probably 3 dozen or so before breaking for lunch.
There were olives beginning to hatch as well. No rising fish yet, but that would come. We pulled over and had a nice hot shore lunch, just before the anticipated 2 hours of low water we thought we’d get based on how TVA has been releasing past couple of days. We had lunch, and just as we finished the water began dropping as the flow dialed back to 285 then 366 giving us three solid hours of great fishing ahead. We caught more on nymph rigs, then switched to dries and caught some on dries, then moved our way down river and switched off to a light low water nymph rig that I love to use on intermediate flows /sluice flows.
David started hammering fish on that one too, and we caught a good many fish on that rig, eventually making it down to one of my favorite stretches where we caught more on the same rig. About 415/420pm the water came on again or had eventually made it down to where we were and it went back up to full flow. We put up the light rigs, got out the heavy nymph rig we started with, and went right back to hammering fish on that. It was excellent. Probably around 5 dozen or 60 fish on the day. No bigs, I think our best fish was 15 inches and that is a quality fish anywhere, especially being a wild fish. Great day….
These trips we cancelled because the particular location we were headed to was either high and muddy or blow out, and all were super extreme cases of that….because we go unless its an extreme situation with flooding, muddy water, or travel issues (snow and ice) getting to and from the river. Rain, heavy rain, all day rain, part of the day rain, snow, sleet, you name it we fish in all of it and don’t cancel trips based on that unless it is absolutely unworkable. Anything less, we’re fishing.
2-16-2019 FISHING REPORT – Guided Trip, Todd Collins, Madison , NC, Steve Sowden, Roanoke, Va, NC Mtns, ppd high muddy water where we were fishing….rescheduling to another date
2-18-2019 FISHING REPORT – Guided Trip, Ron Davis, Paul Briggs, Winston-Salem, NC, NC, ppd high muddy water where we were fishing, a shame though tailwater fishing is fine!
2-19-2019 FISHING REPORT – Guided Trip, Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, NC Mtns, ppd high muddy water where we were headed….continued rain, smaller waters are up and some are muddy but tailwaters are fine….ice/freezing rain not helping matters today
2-20-2019 FISHING REPORT – Guided Trip, Jeff Chalmers, Jim Bolling, Summerfield, NC, NC Mtns, high muddy water where we were supposed to fish, a shame though tailwaters are fine
Wet has been the theme though, and to beat a dead horse I’ll share all of this again. If this weather has you down you are gonna have to learn to fish in the rain if you want to fish, or at least learn to overlook it. 2018 was a year of record rain and record fishing. Yes, I said that, record fishing. We had great fishing with all the rain……this year will be no different. Those going anyway will find opportunity, that is , those willing to go to plan B or plan C when plan A doesn’t work out. What does this look like? Like planning to fish river A and fish one way but being willing to go to plan B or C and fish another way. Flexibility is key. We are in a wet period, I am not suggesting fishing in flood conditions or red muddy water. But what I am suggesting is fishing right up to that point. Fish still eat in those conditions. Some fishing is better in those conditions than on your ‘perfect’ day. What does this look like specifically? You wanted to wade a small stream but the only option is floating tailwaters…or vice versa. This is going to be another spring where if you don’t fish anyway you might not fish. We are in a wet period, 2018 was a record wet year…wettest on record. 2019 is already starting ahead of that.
While wishing for the perfect conditions day is always at the forefront with and for our clients, perfect rarely ever happens. If we waited on that we’d guide three days a year. Fishing is an outdoor sport in the elements. To reiterate from the above we are now only canceling due to these factors…….(1) those where the road conditions (ice , snow) make travel to or from fishing dangerous, and (2) flooding or muddy water to the point that catching fish is not possible…all others we will go anyway or fish in an alternate location or alternate type of trip. No cancels due to it just being a rainy day. We have always been super flexible in every case, and in most cases not requiring a deposit, but we are having to make some significant changes because when someone cancels its often last minute and no way we can fill the spot on such short notice. That’s hard to swallow when there were other people who don’t mind fishing in less desirable conditions and would have fished on that day or who we could have booked for that day.
On a different note we have been steadily working on the launch of our fly business with a site and social media pages . Actually I have tied and sold flies for decades but making it a larger and separate entity …. things are coming along nicely, lots of flies going out the door! Some new logos that I have been playing around with, as well as getting things up and running.
Fishing has been good also on the coast. Shad have shown up in some of our southernmost coastal rivers and the redfishing has been epic. My son Ben has been in the reds , catching a lot of them on fly. He and his best friend, Capt Jud Brock, who runs Muddy Fly Guide Service, and who he used to live with on Wrightsville Beach has been in both the reds and the shad. He and Ben had some good fishing day before yesterday. They have some openings also….folks interested can book with Capt Jud here . Here are some of them….
NC Delayed Harvest waters will receive their first spring stockings beginning Friday March 1, and stocking will continue through mid month until all waters have been stocked, these waters can be fished at all times and are never closed during any season. Hatchery Supported waters will close to fishing on end of day Feb 28,2019 and these waters will be stocked through the beginning of April and will reopen to fishing on Apr 6, 2019. Among the bugs that are active this month, there are…..Baetis (BWO) size 18, Blue Quill Size 16, Quill Gordon size 12-14, Hendrickson size 12 -14 (only lowest elevation waters front slope), Early Black Stones size 14 -16, Early Brown Stones size 12-14, Dun Caddis size 18, and Midges in sizes 20-24 and darker shades. Click here for a FREE printable March Hatch Chart for our Appalachian Waters. This applies to NC waters, tailwaters will differ slightly.
Its going to be a good week and upcoming month. Our March calendar is almost full, as are April and May, and they soon all will be. Our dates are going fast, as always 12 months of calendar of availability is always listed here on our website. Going to be another great spring.
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Wednesday February 13, 2019 ….Keep on keeping on….that’s what we’ve been doing. Have had a busy week continuing to churn out some huge fly tying orders……going blind in the process! Been getting a lot of request for streamers and tailwater flies we’ve been hammering the browns on, and never sold so many large flies. Its been great. Folks are finally figuring out that for larger fish you are better off sometimes throwing the big stuff. Not your ordinary size 6 , 8, and 10 wooly buggers or stuff like it….4 to 6 inch meat flies. Something that says to a predator that its worth taking a chance on.
Had some great days small stream fishing with Dr Pat Burney , Greensboro, NC, NC mtn wade fishing and we had ,great weather. It was warm, water was up a little but we had great conditions, we caught a ton of fish, probably 50 or so, and fished two different waters. Water levels are up but clear and the fishing has been, and was, and will continue to be good.
Good is an understatement, it was great. We caught our fish on a variety of double rigs, small dark nymphs (my BnB nymph, SDs, small dark CJs with a bead, Skinny Nelsons, etc, all worked). We landed several quality browns, some wild fish, and a few big rainbows, including one that was a tank….that ate a tiny fly also. Majority of fish ate the little stuff….normal stuff for January. Rainbow spawn is in progress on wild waters and lower elev waters that have a mix of hatchery and wild fish. Great day though….
After the warm few days we had a mild cool down, cool front and some light drizzle push through the mountains and a change back to more seasonable temperatures and with our excellent water conditions we’ll have great fishing right through it very likely without skipping a beat. A great winter fishing season continues, and no sign of being any different. Lots of great winter fishing left, spring isn’t here yet even though a lot of the trees in the mtns are already heavy with developing buds. Things are thawing, the ground has been frozen for a while and lots of water locked up in the ground, the thawing ground releases in a ‘slow drain’ fashion fresh, green water into the river. Its great for the river and everything in it.
Had some good end of the week streamer fishing with client Dr Jim Kramer, and we did a full day float on the lower South Holston and had a great day, in high dirty flows as the river was in full generation level plus still high and dingy from the nearly 3.5″ of rain that fell Thursday evening. The area wide had some significant flooding as well. We had lots of debris in the river on Saturday but we still did well.
That didn’t stop us from pounding out a good day. It was cold, in the 20sF to start, and we had ice in the guides until well after lunch time, but the fishing was good. We caught less numbers but some big fish, one truly large buck brown that is one of the best of 2019 thus far.
We fished sinking lines, the real heavy tips (300 -350gr plus) and some big meat patterns. Probably landed 15 or so but half of them were large fish. We pulled into the ramp at sunset…. today was yet again proof why we don’t cancel when the conditions are less than ideal. Jim put his PB (personal best) brown in the boat , along with several others…..
Return to cooler (seasonable) weather…..that warm weather may feel nice but we do well in cold weather, and very little competition from other anglers! Small stream and tailwater fishing is good, we had great days the past month in all kinds of weather and anyone who has ventured out with me has done well. We are catching numbers of fish, and some trophy sized fish as well. When you have been guiding for three decades you find ways to work in all kinds of weather, the bills gotta get paid. We catch fish in all weather. This week should be another good one, dry few days to start, some rain late week, but nothing major. Stoneflies, early browns and blacks, continue to be active as well as Aminephura, sp. and Allocapnia, sp. stones, the little 18 and 20 sized flies that pour off all our small streams and DH waters in winter. Fish are munching them, one of our trips during the past week with Dr Pat Burney we put 50 fish in the net , mostly with these little flies. I custom tie them, and I sell them. They work……. As far as tailwaters , they continue to fish great, we have put over 60 20 inch fish in the boat on our floats streamer fishing since early October. Its been phenomenal. When its not streamers, the nymph game has worked well, along with some small blue winged olives that are always a winter option. And its not over. Tailwaters never freeze, and there’s hardly a time you can’t find some fishing on them. There we have fished in everything from teens and blowing blizzard of snow to 60F and sunny…..and caught fish in all of it. Lots of fish. Pics don’t lie. But don’t take my word, make me prove it. Let’s go flyfishing!
Cold wet few days the past few days but things have settled down and cooled down a notch further. Have a bunch of trips coming up, should be a great few days….we’ll certainly be shooting for that.
Monday, February 4, 2019 That would be the theme of the winter so far. Fishing right through. Those who know me know I fish in anything in terms of weather, and fortunately some clients will also. Interesting too that fish don’t do what they do when we want, they do what they do when they want. Their world is one of eat or be eaten, and basically they do those two things …..eat and avoid being eaten, or eat and be eaten, a third, and that is spawn, and finally a fourth, rest when they are not doing those things. So outside of that they don’t do anything else. But the point is they feed when we aren’t willing to be out…..thus, we catch fish in all kinds of weather. Because for them, eating is life or death….and getting enough.
Have had some up and down flows but great fishing the past two weeks. The brown trout spawn is done, and rainbows are beginning that right now. Fishing has been superb on many of our trips. We have caught some huge browns. Eight weight rods, heavy lines, bigger flies, and that has been getting the job done. It has been fun and anyone who has been out with me has been rewarded with a stellar outing.
Had a good Friday/Saturday two day float trip , guided Trip, Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, TN float trip, Ted has booked a ton of days to throw the big stuff and has been rewarded with some great fish and fishing. The streamer fishing bug continues, flows permitting.
Ted had planned to fish Friday and when Saturday was also open he stayed for that as well. Two days of floating, just short of 23 miles of river. Two totally different days weather wise, Friday was 30s and snowing all day….Saturday was pleasant, cloudy then party sunny and 60F. Couldn’t have had two more opposite days. Spawning areas that have been closed since Nov 1 reopened as well.
We streamer fished a lot on Friday, and had a brief spell of 2hrs when the water was off that we nymph fished a bit and caught some fish doing that, and also tossed some dry flies to rising fish too. Then the water came back on and we picked up where we left off with the streamer game.
We ended up with about 35-40 fish by the end of the day including several large fish on streamers . Saturday we put in mid river and committed to all day streamer fishing, and took advantage of higher flows especially on the lower river, and did very well putting probably 40 to 45 fish in the boat including some bigs….. it was great. Also, several pics of a bald eagle I have seen for weeks on the stretch of the river we were on Saturday…A great two days…… Some of these fish were real eye candy…
We are having a significant mild up the next five days, and the temps all the way through Friday are going to reach 60sF in the mountains and low 70s over in East Tennessee. Great time to get out and do some fishing, we have openings all week also…..Right now Tuesday 2/5, Wednesday 2/6, Thursday 2/7, and Friday 2/8 are all open/available. Don’t miss out, some great fishing is available and not many folks out….fish aren’t getting a ton of pressure so its a great time to fish.
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