Shad in the Potomac!









Beau Beasley insists when the cherry blossoms are on the trees, shad are in the Rappahannock River. There haven’t been any internet reports of shad in the Rap, but there is empiric evidence that at least the hickory shad (select the first thread by Dan Davala for his picture) are in the Potomac River and are being caught from the shore. The tackle is as we described earlier; 9-10′ six to eight weight rods with a full sinking tip line. The fish are being caught along the edge of the current seams. Reportedly, Fletchers’ Boathouse is opened this weekend. This is a great location in DC to rent a rowboat and get out into the middle of the current to cast to some deep schools of shad.
As we know, the shad migrate up rivers as far south as the St. John’s River in Florida to as far north as the Bay of Fundy. Since they begin their spawning based on water temperatures, the spawning runs begin in the south and work their way up north. A newspaper from Georgia printed this article back on February 16th. By their reckoning the run was a whole thirty days earlier than usual. We can probably expect similar numbers.
The Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders have a Google chat forum where you can read about their adventures on the Potomac, they are very interested in spey casting and hold various free lessons.
The USGS Gage at the Little Falls Pump Station on the Potomac is one of the few gage’s in the area which provides a water temperature. You can make the assumption that the Rappahannock and the James will have similar temperatures.
Finally, we are anxiously awaiting the resumption of the Shad Cam at Bosher’s Dam. My prediction about March 15th was unfortunately, wrong.

Bosher's Dam and Fishway, courtesy of VDGIF

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Piper at the Gates of Dusk

Wissahickon Creek 2/26/12
Air Temp – 48 deg F
Water Temp – 43 deg F
Slightly overcast skies, minimal wind
Water Clarity- Clear, Tannic
Hatch Activity – #24 midges abundant, but no noticeable rises.

I happened upon a gift certificate to Orvis that that my girlfriend had given me for Christmas and decided to make the trek out to Marlton, NJ to see what might peak my interest. Upon arriving I was hit with an epiphany: “I live on the Schuylkill River on the cusp of West Philly, there are stripers in this river and I don’t have a sinking line worthy of running streamers accross this deep river to catch them”. I resolved to buy a sinking line and possibly an extra spool for my Orvis Battenkill II reel. Much to my chagrin I learned that my reel has been discontinued–damn–and that it is almost impossible to get extra spools for it anymore–double damn. So being the poor resident that I am, I decided to look into cheap options for purchasing a whole new reel. After a lenghthy discussion with the friendly Orvis rep I decided that I would settle on buying a Clearwater Large Arbor II. It was between this reel and the Access Mid Arbor. The main design difference (other than one being a mid arbor and the other a large arbor) is that the Access sports a completely sealed drag system. This would be very helpful in situations were the reel gets wet, especially if that wetness inculdes salt water. The sealed nature of the drag system wards off corrosion and extends the life of the real. I decided to go with the Clearwater however for three reasons:

  1. Large arbor reels rock–especially for lazy people like me. And they look freakin’ cool.
  2. It was cheap (at only $79 with extra spools running $39)
  3. The Access looks, feels, and behaves suspiciously indentically to my Battenkill reel (see image below) except for having a slightly re-designed shaft that is incompatible with my reel, making me have to purchase an entirely new reel instead of just a spool–which I’m sure was their goal in the first place. Thus making the the true number 3…SPITE.


To go with my brand new reel I bought a spool of Hydros 3D Depth Charge 250 flyline . With it’s 30 foot sinking head backed by a bright orange floating line I figure this one will get my flies down deep in the river to where the fish hide. It also has the benefit that it will allow me to shoot it like a rocket accross the river that is quite wide at my appartment building, approx 200 feet. Soon my new purchases were spooled up, packed in a bag and out the door.

Needless to say, with my new toys I was anxious to get home and wet my new line…

I got home With the intention of using my new reel to fish the Schuylkill just below my building off of the Schuylkill Banks recreation area. When I walked in the door however, my roommate Steve announced that he intended to go running on Forbidden Drive in Fairmount park that runs along beside the Wissahickon Creek which is stocked multiple times throughout the year with rainbows and browns. It also sports a rather healthy population of panfish which, though not as glamorous, are often fun to catch on small tackle like a three weight. My success on this stream is less than stellar and my tally up to this point here includes a dozen or so sunnies, a smallmouth bass (small being the operative word here), and what I believe was a yellow perch. We arrived some time just before 4:30pm and I geared up as Steve ran off down Forbidden Drive. I got to talking with a nice gentleman who gave me a tip about a place further down that he had pulled a few stockies out of a few days before (catch and release). Unfortunately this location would require me to drive there which would necessitate ditching Steve which was understandably not high on my to do list that evening. I resolved therefore to fish about a hundred yards or so up forbidden drive from the parking area just off of Lincoln Drive where I had seen some nice pocket water flanked by cliffs and riffles that should provide some nice habitat for my quarry.
As I waded out into the stream to wet my line for the first time, something magical happened… Somewhere up on the ridge above, within the tree line came the first strains of what quickly became an almost constant and surprisingly skillful bagpipe music. I looked up and to the East, and lo and behold there was a lone piper on the ridge above the stream where I was fishing. The air was full of stains of Scotland the Brave, Corriechilles, and Amazing Grace which added an air of mystical joy to the embarrassing lack of fishing success that was about to ensue.
Being the general idiot that I often prove to be I decided to rig up my new toy on my sage five weight. Now, this stream is about twenty feet wide on a good bend and no more than a couple of feet deep at the place where I was fishing, so casting a heavy sinking line on a rod that was too small for it was proof that the good district psychologist from the Norristown Area School District that all those years ago said I was “gifted” may have gotten my paperwork mixed up and instead of being placed in the gifted program, maybe I should have been delegated to the short bus… Well as you can guess it was an abject disaster. My cast looked like a spastic epileptic on cocaine was attempting to fish a midge hatch in a full gale. This was compounded by the fact that the aforementioned nice gentleman had doubled back to “show is wife fly fishing” as in his estimation “no one does it anymore” (welcome to Philly, Yo). It was embarrassing to say the least and now I am glad that March has provided a respite from trout fishing in PA so that I can lick my bruised ego and wait for opening day in April, and maybe even more, the awaited Shad run on the Delaware and hope against hope that the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s attempt to reseed the Schuylkill River with shad fry results in a run past my apartment…


Gratuitous pic of the Boryan brothers: Andy, Chris, and “Maxi-pad”…

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Video Advice on Poppers for Smallmouth and a Shad Prediction

While surfing the interwebs, I found this nice video (one of a series) which has some good footage displaying why you shouldn’t “pop” your popper too much.  The video is only four minutes long.  The top water season is fast approaching here in the Old Dominion with these record temps.

The Shad Cam is still not up and running yet, but I predict they will turn it on possibly as early as Wednesday. This prediction is based on a survey I read where they said the VDGIF begins netting the shad for research on the 15th of March. The temperature on the Chickahominy River, a tributary of the James, reached 58 degrees F on March 9 according to USGS Streamflow data. Unfortunately, the gauge on the James near Richmond doesn’t have a temperature recorder on it. For those interested, here is brief history of the fish ladder at Bosher’s Dam and a nice picture.

Clean up your eight weights and sinking lines. They’re coming!

American shad illustration by Duane Raver / USFWS (public domain)

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Record Bull Steelhead from Muskegon River

A couple weeks ago my friend Mark caught a very large steelhead. It was a Gray Drake Lodge record steelhead.
Every week Mark writes an outdoor column for our local newspaper. You can read his story here.

Living vicariously through Mark…

Photo courtesy of Matthew Supinski

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Some Saturday Humor

Fishing has been in short order the past few weeks. Tomorrow we have an exciting new post and an amazing picture to go with it. Stay tuned.





















Peterson and I were going to fish a bass pond behind my house this afternoon, but he is too busy licking his wounds from his brutal last minute loss at the shooting range last night where I shot better than him with his own gun! Patrick was present for the entire match. I’m reminded of this video. Emphasis on the skins beatdown. Lesson learned, invade Peterson’s house, not mine…

My spread

Peterson's shoddy attempt

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The Largemouth Spawn Begins…

Unnamed (secret) beaver dam pond, central Virginia
Air Temp – 57 deg F
Water Temp – 54.8 deg F!
Intermittent clouds with gusts of wind
Bountiful mosquitoes
tannin stained stillwater

Six Anesthesia residents, twelve + beers, some pipe tobacco, a pleasantly plump white lab, and a host of spinning rods and fly tackle set off on a long walk Saturday afternoon after our big test. Our bellies were recently stuffed with hamburgers, grilled chicken, mac and cheese, and taco salad. We were looking to return the favor to our bass friends a la poppers and fake worms.
Our destination will need to remain top secret, but it was a long hike in the woods to get there. Those are always the best fishing locations as most people aren’t willing to put forth the effort beyond driving the truck and parking. Matt discovered this place a year ago while out running with his aforementioned dog. (She was recently diagnosed with a thyroid condition) The dam on one end is clearly home to a happy beaver family. There are signs of neatly gnawed trees dotting the approach to the pond’s edge.
The weather was perfect. Even more exciting, the thermometer read 54.8 degrees in the water. Matt and I rigged up with fly rods while Lola splashed around the inflow stream and shallows. Two of us brought some spinning tackle, for more on Rob’s thoughts about spinning tackle see this.

Matt and I had a hard time finding casting lanes in the dense forest that went right up to the edge of the beaver pond. Matt’s first two casts resulted in immediate hookups with a low hanging oak branch. My first few casts resulted in a couple hook-ups

Harry Murray swears by the Carolina blue popper. Early season poppers require some patience. I had my success in the seconds long pause after each short strip. In a podcast on largemouth bass fishing, Tom Rosenbauer suggests that in the early spawning season you should pause for up to ten seconds after each strip to allow the bass to fully examine the fly. The strikes are not subtle and often come on the tail end of such a long pause. Both of my fish paled in comparison to Jared’s toad monster, but they were caught in the shallows around a submerged log. I think with the water temperatures being above 53, and the fact that I caught some largemouth in the shallows on surface bugs signals the beginning of the largemouth spawn. Check another sign of spring off our ever increasing list. First daffodils, crocuses, and cherry blossoms, now eager, angry, hungry bass lurking in the shallows.

Jared’s fish was the catch of the day. This pond’s edge was perfectly suited to spin casting. Jared tied on a heavily weighted hook and attached a “wiggly worm” imitation on the end. He cast it clear across the pond to an area undisturbed by Lola but clearly dotted with signs of underwater structure. His first few casts resulted in a couple missed strikes and a few snags, but soon he was screaming the familiar redneck cry…FISH ON!!!

Hey mom, look what I caught

I tried poorly to get some underwater pictures of this hoss. None of us had waders and I didn’t want to risk losing another “smartphone” in a tragic bass fishing accident. Kudos to Jared and a special shout-out to Kevin who fumbled around with one of the spinning rods for the better part of an hour before angrily tossing the tangled mess of monofilament to the ground in a string of curse words. Importantly, he didn’t spill his beer.

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No turtles were harmed during this post.

Rivanna River. US 29N 2/29/12
Air temp 53 def F
Water temp 49.8 deg F!
Light to heavy rains
Water clarity – turbid, muddy
Hatch activity – ample mosquitoes

The weather dot com said there was a chance the temperature would peak at mid sixties and the forecasts had a leading digit of seven. I decided it was worth the risk to drive to the Rivanna at the dam near 29 N to see if there were any crappie or if we were really lucky smallmouth fish around! The water temps were a little warmer than I expected, but they were probably still too low for good smallmouth fishing. Harry Murray emails a monthly report on trout and bass fishing which is always a good read. His most recent edition states that the smallmouth fishing may pick up when the water temps hit 54 degrees. I am anxiously awaiting those temperatures. In addition to the possibility of a bass on the line, 50-55 degrees in the coastal estuaries triggers the shad run.

There are a couple of pools at the base of the dam that consistently held spawning crappie last year. They are steep drop-off pools with moderately rocky bottoms directly adjacent to a large riffle. On a couple trips last year, I caught a fish on almost every other cast of a slowly stripped clouser minnow. No crappie on the line, but I managed to foul hook/entice this little gem.

Catch of the Day! returned unharmed

Tucker was very well behaved on this trip. He had a three mile run before we set out for the river. He also spend the entire time fixated on a pair of mallards about one hundred yards from us.

The mallard he is focused on is out of the frame

Can you imagine if one of those trees became dislodged!

The dam pictured here provides the final obstruction for migrating American shad. By my crude google map estimation, this is the terminus for their 120+mile migration from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Every time I pull one of these 2-5 pound wonders out of the river I’m humbled by their effort. Today the drive to Hampton Roads takes us a couple of hours. For thousands of years these fish have made that same journey with no help from internal combustion engines. It’s neat to think that just a short month or so prior to your flashy metal offering they were chasing baitfish in the Atlantic ocean. Helps to put life in perspective.
Speaking of history and the Hampton Roads area, the annual shad planking event will have some serious implications in this election year.

The waters are getting warmer. The peep toads are getting louder. March is finally here. Springtime fishing is coming!!!!!

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Freshly Stocked Rainbows!

Lower Moormans’ River 2/26/12
Air Temp – 49 deg F
Water Temp – 43 deg F
Bright, cloudless skies, minimal wind
Water Clarity- slightly more turbid than usual in the slow water stretches
Hatch activity – multiple size 20 hatches

Anders Halverson finishes his book An Entirely Synthetic Fish with a discussion about why he has decided to pick up fishing again. Years before he started the research for the book, he grew tired of catching the same stocked fish over and over again. He spends the majority of the book offering scientific evidence for why wide spread stocking of rainbows was harmful to not only the environment but also to the quality of the fishing itself. Why then does he say in the last chapter that he has started fly fishing again? You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out.

His logic inspired me to head towards the Lower Moormans’ River, which I had on good authority had recently been stocked. Unbelievably, on a somewhat warm Sunday in early spring, Tucker and I had the river to ourselves.

The slow stretch adjacent to the downstream parking lot

There were noticeably more fish in the slow, deep section pictured above. The new fishes’ behavior was somewhat erratic I watched them for as long Tucker would allow us to stand still before wetting a line. There were plenty of midges and even a few reasonably sized stoneflies on the surface but none of these fish seemed interested. I saw one rise in almost ten minutes.
I decided to try an attractor: size 14 beadhead copper john. Dead drifting did the trick.

More colorful than expected

Three out of five casts resulted in a hookup. Not bad numbers! Tucker and I headed upstream and I changed the rig for a black wooly bugger that I planned to strip. No dice. I tried downstream and upstream dead drifting as well as swinging and stripping. The water was too murky to see if I got any looks with the wooly bugger, but I sure didn’t get any hits.

All in all a great Sunday. A little church, a little mimosa action, some Homemade cheddar cheese soup and some fine stocked rainbows to hand.

Midge hatch in the sunlight above Tucker's head

Harbingers of Spring

Improperly handled post hooking or genetically predisposed?

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Rivanna River at Pen Park

Rivanna River: Pen Park 2/25/12
Air Temp: 47.5 deg F
Water Temp: 47.3 deg F
Sunny and windy
Water Clarity: very turbid, low visibility
Hatch Activity: none

By every measure today was a bad day for fly fishing. Winds gusting to 45mph, sunny skies and a recent temperature drop from the seventies to the forties. My initial plans were for some crappie fishing on these precious two days off. There were some rumors on the interweb that the crappie pre spawn may be happening a little sooner than mother nature usually intends. There were plenty of other signs that her hypothalamus is askew. On the drive to the park we noticed large clumps of daffodils and a flowering cherry had burst forth some dark pink blossoms. This is a spectacle seen most often in March ’round these parts.
But I digress. We met up with the enterprising authors of Brew Your Ownium for a walk in the park. I decided to leave the fly rod in the truck, but I did bring my camera and thermometer along for some quick measurements.

The Intrepid Partner faces North

Murky Waters!

Thick Biofilm

This time last year the flows were much higher than usual and remained that way for most of March-mid June. Dave and I think those constant high flows cleared a lot of the silt from previous years and polished the rocks clean. The rocks didn’t get that slick coating until early September last year. That slick coating makes for some dicey wading at times. The VDGIF puts out an Annual Smallmouth fishing report The report from 2012 isn’t available yet, but they stress that recent “good” spawning years were 2004 and 2007. The best predictor of a successful spawning season is average river flows. Very high or very low flows in spring negatively impact the success of the spawn. I think we’ll see that last years spawn wasn’t very successful if flows are that important, but it appears that this year’s spawn should be very good.

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In our lifetimes, fresh water will become an increasingly scarce commodity. Should we invade Canada?

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