Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Appalachian Tenkara Jam 2015 in Maryland

Last weekend I attended the (2nd?) Annual Appalachian Tenkara Jam in Monkton, Maryland. It was great to meet many new people in person, as well as to fish the Gunpowder river.

Maryland was a beautiful state. Rolling hills like upstate New York, but less run down, and with a different kind of charm. Farmland was all around, and the smell of clean air, grass and the country made me smile.

After a reasonable drive, I arrived at the venue and helped a little bit with setting up the Tenkarabum stand. Soon after, we set up camp at Rob L's farm.

We joined up with John-Paul and Katie, and then headed out to fish the Gunpowder. This river was COLD!

You can tell from the rising mist in the early evening just how cold this water is. Looks like a 5AM warm up, doesn't it?

The river had some wider and flatter sections below that reminded me a bit of the Willowemoc in the Catskills. But farther up, there were sections of nice boulder pools. 

This was perfect Tenkara water, but the fishing was not easy in the evening. Seemed like the fish weren't that active. We had likely missed the action earlier in the afternoon.

Rob L, who guides Tenkara (and western fly fishing trips) through Great Feathers was my host for the weekend. He was a skilled Tenkara Angler and I learned some new things from watching his technique.

I was too immersed in the surroundings to really focus on fishing these pools.

Even though the fish didn't seem to be biting, we didn't leave empty handed. These smooth Chanterelles were delicious.

Saturday was mostly about presentations, without much fishing during the day. I got out for an hour on the lower section we hadn't fished the night before, but again, didn't catch any fish. Every time I found a nice pool, a canoe came through and blew it out. 

That evening, after presentations were over, we headed out to a small stream to find some wild brown trout with John-Paul, Rob, Tenkarabum, and another fisherman who's name eludes me at the moment. D'oh. 

The water wasn't deep, and given the temps I knew the fish would be willing to move for a meal... I stashed the usual bead heads and returned to fishing Kebari. It felt like seeing an old friend again after a long break.

I felt at home again on a small stream and knew where to put my fly. After a few misses and a creek chub, I landed a pretty little wild brown in a deep hole near a fallen tree.

That fish put a decent bend in my little Suntech rod. It was great. The stream was also a beautiful place. Between dodging poison ivy, avoiding the little hidden mini-crevasses, and being stung and entwined constantly by thorny little vines, we were given gifts such as these trout, and wild flowers.

We returned to camp and laid out all of our rods on the table. I had brought quite a few for different circumstances, but Rob and John-Paul had even more. I knew I was in good company before, but now I felt even more at home...

We cooked up some wild Chanterelles from our previous find, and then hit the sack for a few hours. Waking up early the next morning, we headed to a local creek searching for a few more wild trout.

We found raspberries and fallfish, probably the largest one I've caught. It was so large that I originally thought it was another little trout.

We went to see a few more presentations, and then the whole group headed out to the Gunpowder. I can't imagine there have been many situations where this many Tenkara Anglers were on the water together on one river. Nobody crowded each other out, and everyone found water to fish.

We returned to the spot from the previous day to hunt out a few more Chanterelles, which we found by looking carefully where we hadn't looked the other evening. We split up and claimed some pools, with John-Paul catching the first nice Rainbow of the trip.

As I fished up the river, a great blue heron swooped in above me and landed remarkably close, almost as if to say "get off my river!"

He crossed the water looking for fish, likely scaring the pool. Was he doing this as revenge for all the anglers in his way? For some reason, I found that I liked to think so.

After a few pictures, the heron took off down the river to bother some other people and I continued up stream. At that point, I came upon the most epic trout feeding frenzy I've ever seen. After failing to catch a fish I decided to film some of it instead. 


The video ended up being too large to upload into this page, so in the meanwhile, you can find it on Vimeo, at the link above.

Overall it was a great weekend, and I can't wait for the Summit out in Colorado in September.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Triumphant Return - one last local trip before the Appalachian Tenkara Jam.

July 4th weekend is heaven in NYC. Everyone leaves, and you have the place practically to yourself. Driving up Park Avenue there wasn't a car on the road. What I wouldn't do for this on a daily basis...

Of course, with the weather being pretty perfect, I couldn't sit still and figured it would be worth taking advantage of the clear roads to escape for a day trip of fishing in the Catskills.

There had been a good bit of rain during the week, especially the day before my trip. That became evident as soon as I arrived. The first crossing, often a trickle, was a full blown small stream. Interesting.

The previously water-starved region was now healthy and green, emitting a buzzing energy - manifesting itself as perfect bunches of flowers, thick patches of moss and and magic mushrooms, too.

Upon reaching my chosen tributary via a mile or maybe more of trail, I was pleasantly surprised to see it running strong but not blown out. 

I had never fished all the way up the stream and chose not to walk down to the bottom, but to work my way all the way up the stream. I was immediately into some absolutely stunningly colored fish!

The casting was hard. The laurels were now fully grown in with all their new leaves to make it a real challenge. There was not much back casting room, and the bow and arrow cast was paramount on this day.

Putting the fly in the right place the first time one casts to each new pool brings larger fish to hand.

The water had some color to it from the recent rain, but the temperature was absolutely ideal, as was the flow. The fish were feeding full-on.

I sat on a rock here and fished two pools above and below the mini "falls" in the next photo.

I both lost and landed nice fish in each one.

The scenery only got more interesting as I worked my way up. It was even more beautiful than the area that I had previously fished a few times down lower.

Here's where things got interesting. The brookie that I netted below had a salamander lodged in its throat when I went to take the hook out! After thrashing around the salamander came out of its mouth and I left it as it was for this photo. 

You learn more about the food these fish eat every time you look in their mouths.

Sometimes people balk at the size of the flies I'm using... they are big, ugly, and I usually tie them with some kind of "tail."

 I found fish in pretty much every spot I would have wanted to find them.

Sometimes I landed them, other times I did not.

One brookie was so large that it took my fly and snapped my tippet. Doesn't happen very often... but the average size of the wild trout in this stream is larger than many others that I fish.

The colors are more pronounced here as well... deeper oranges, darker redds, and whiter whites.

The blue halos around the bright pink dots are certainly evidence of art in nature.

I heard loud water rushing and knew there must be a larger falls ahead. Rounding a bend the falls came into view.

There was no deep pool to fish below, but I stayed a while and enjoyed the fine mist and cool air.

On my way back down I spotted a nice hole I had missed earlier.

It held the day's first wild brown.

 But it was getting later and I was ready to head back.

One more brookie for the road? Errr... never mind that doesn't really apply here.

There's not much more to say other than that this was a triumphant return to a tributary that I have since fallen in love with. I will be back, but saving it for a "special occasion." Happy Independence Day to all. Hope to see some of you at the Appalachian Tenkara Jam this coming weekend.