Lately I’ve found myself drawn more and more to out of the way backwater places that no one else pays much attention to, and less and less to the big world famous reservoir practically out the back door. I guess there just seem to be too many people, and I’d like to get away from them, even if it means catching tiny fish of questionable genetic heritage out of pot holes and ditches.
I finally got around to trying out a stream (this is a charitable label) near my in-laws’ home in the northeast corner of Alabama. This thing is practically a ditch. It drains a small cove branching north off from the main Tennessee Valley before petering out just south of the Tennessee line. But it does manage to flow year round, and I’d heard of someone at some point in the murky past actually fishing it, but, and this is important, I’d never heard of anyone actually catching anything out of it. So, I didn’t have very high expectations.
I showed up with a beat up old spinning rod and a pack of what I thought were 6″ plastic curly tail worms. Turns out they were actually 10″ versions. This lowered my expectations even further, figuring such a large lure would send any fish present scurrying for cover, certain they were about to be swallowed by a big cottonmouth.
The water was low and clear, highly unusual for April. Which reminds me, what the heck is up with the weather?! We’ve been consistently in the 80s since the beginning of March, and rain has been scarce. I had grown accustomed to below freezing weather well into April the last several years. I’ve never seen anything like this Spring. It’s not unusual for Alabama to experience some warm weather as early as February, but it never holds on consistently until late April or March, and there’s always plenty of rain. Not this year. I sincerely hope this isn’t a sign of what Summer will be like.
Redeye bass with a mouthfull of plastic worm.
Anyway, I tossed the huge plastic worm around the 10′ wide creek for awhile and was surprised, nay, shocked when I felt a telltale bump and the line took off sideways. I set the hook and brought a hefty redeye bass to hand (at least that’s what I think it was – actually looked like the hapless offspring of a mass orgy of various basses and sunfishes, but I’m no biologist). The thing was fat as a pig and put up a pretty good battle. I missed several more fish afterward, and figured the size of the lure was to blame for the poor hookup ratio. Couldn’t have been rusty hook setting skills…
This episode set me to thinking. This little creek runs for several miles in either direction from where I was standing, eventually petering out to nothing upstream and dumping into the main Tennessee River downstream. It even looked somewhat wadeable (a rarity in this part of Alabama), and I could certainly float it in my kayak (dragging it over the occasional obstructions). I’m convinced almost no one else would consider “wasting” their time on it. Heck, I’m a small stream guy, and I took years to drag myself down there and try it out. I think portions of it would make pretty good fly fishing water, which is a huge bonus. Just thinking about it made me supremely happy. I think that maybe so long as there are unloved little backwaters like this to explore, then things might actually still be okay with the world. Not perfect, for sure, but just maybe not as bad as watching cable news would have you believe.
Another shot of the fish. Looks similar to a smallmouth in this photo, but not so much in real-time.
Wow, it’s been quite an eventful few weeks. Unfortunately, none of said eventfulness was due to incredible achievements of a fishing-related nature. For starters, my truck was stolen. Yes, the venerable old Dodge 4×4 which I had owned for what seemed like my entire adult life was taken from me. Jacqulyn and I had used it to haul our bicycles to a popular local trail (which is located in the middle of town, by the way, not in a remote location). When we came back less than an hour later, it was gone. The BMW I had parked behind and the spanking new Dodge Durango I had parked in front of were both still there, so obviously the criminals had good taste. The Huntsville Police Department is hot on their trail, so I expect it to be returned any day now (if you didn’t note the sarcasm, you should have).
Had to travel to Arizona for work after that. Just before leaving I began to feel ill and assumed I was coming down with a cold. On my first day in Phoenix, it became clear I had something worse, probably the flu. By the second day, I was suddenly feeling much better, good enough, in fact, to climb the Cholla Trail up Camelback Mountain. Bad idea. I began to feel light-headed near the top, so I came back down and took it easy. By the next day it was clear that I didn’t have the flu. Instead I had the fire-breathing hell bug. Very common this time of year.
That bug lasted long enough and with such severity as to cause me to cancel the first backpacking trip of the year that was supposed to occur over last weekend. The weather on Friday and Saturday also provided a convenient excuse. The plan is to make that trip up as soon as possible, although some new disaster (admittedly minor in the scheme of things, but annoying nonetheless) is fully expected by all.
Also in the last few weeks, I procured a decent commuter bicycle, which I hope to possibly ride to work if I can ever work up the courage. The roads to my workplace are not the safest for bicyclers; however, there are signs they may four-lane the main road, which would definitely improve my courage quotient. Also got myself one of those small, rugged, waterproof digital cameras. I chose the Panasonic TS3. Certainly doesn’t provide the quality I’m used to, but I can be much harder on it than my fancier camera gear. I nearly killed my main camera last year during a major downpour on a backpacking trip. I came so close to killing it that I’ve been hesitant to take it on long trips ever since. I figured some sort of camera was better than no camera at all. Plus, I can play around with some underwater shots.
The last month hasn’t been completely devoid of fishing. I fished for bass and crappie a couple times. On one of those trips, my father and I located the grand mother load of 8″ crappie. We must have caught 50, of which only 5 stretched the minimum 9″ for keeping, and keep them we did. There’s only one reason to crappie fish in Alabama, and that’s to catch a mess for frying.
I did quite a bit of fishing last year, but I didn’t write about it much. It was somehow refreshing. But now I’m beginning to feel the urge to write again, so maybe I just needed a good break.
I fished several times with my good friend Eric last year, even convinced him to give fly fishing a go, and I think he’s hooked. Eric just became a proud father, so his fishing will no doubt be curtailed a bit this year, but I think he’ll still get out there a few times. We took three trips to different spots in East Tennessee over the summer. First was a spot Eric had been on me to try for awhile. It basically amounts to a private stream across his dad’s property. I call it Eric’s Stream. Under normal conditions, it would be purely a warm water proposition. But, thanks to spill-over from a trout hatchery and a few cold springs, it contains a fairly healthy population of escaped rainbow trout, some of them reaching hefty sizes. We didn’t have incredible luck the day we fished it, but did manage to catch a handful of 13-17″ trout.
One of the trout we caught from Eric's trout stream.
Eric learning the cast a fly. I had just caught a nice trout on a wooly bugger just below where he's standing.
A group of us did a quick backpacking trip on National Forest land along a secluded stream a bit later in the summer. The fishing wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but we caught a few. Eric got his first fly-caught trout. This particular stream had more hornet nests along it than I’ve ever seen in such a small area. In less than 2 miles of stream, we counted around a half dozen. You can see a real dandy in a shot with Eric below. This trip also included the apparently-necessary torrential downpour. It must have rained 3″. The creek nearly rose up to our tents. Typical TVangler fishing trip.
Note the hornet's nest in the lower right. Talk about being careful on your backcast!
Eric climbing through a tough stretch on a mountain stream.
Eric's first fly-caught mountain trout.
Eric fly fishing a pretty stretch of a mountain stream.
Finally, we visited the Hiwassee River for a couple days. Our first afternoon there, we received a good tip from Hiwassee.net founder Don Denney. We met him along the train tracks smoking his patented corncob pipe. Between us, Eric and I caught better than a dozen trout in a short time, all on dry flies! The next day began with the water very low with only slight current. The fish were very skittish in the low water, but we managed to catch a few. Then the generators came on, and we spent the remainder of the time exploring down in the trophy section, which I’ve never fished much. The catching down there was slow. Nonexistent in fact.
The Hiwassee River at low flow.
That’s about it for last year’s coverage. Itching to get out there and start a new year of memories. If it’ll ever stop raining. Take care,
I recently began building rods again, although this time I’m just doing it for myself rather than making any sort of foray into a side business. Over the holidays I finished a Lamiglas 7′ 3wt fiberglass rod. I’ve had the blank for quite some time, but it had been gathering dust rather than serving any useful purpose. I took the rod out in the yard a couple weeks ago for a test drive, and it cast surprisingly well. In fact, I think it’s one of the finer light-weight rods I’ve thrown. This rod will be strapped to my pack for the first backcountry trip come Spring.
Agate stripping guide framed with silk thread in orange with black trim.
Fairly basic handle and grip. The downlocking reel seat is nickel silver with maple insert.
The rod didn’t emerge perfect from the finish application process. I’ve never had this happen, but the wrap finish bulged on one side of the rod, as you can see in the photo below. I believe this happened because the rod either wasn’t perfectly level while it rotated or it sagged between the supports. The latter is more likely due to how flexible this rod is. It’s definitely a slow action rod that rewards patience during the casting stroke. The imperfection doesn’t seem to adversely affect the casting performance to any perceptible degree, but it’s obviously something I’d like to avoid in the future.
Imperfection in the finish applied to thread wraps.
All I’m waiting for now are the first hatches of Spring and some time off work to head into the mountains. Take care,
That is if anyone out there is still awaiting anything from TVangler…
I came within seconds of letting TVangler die a quiet death. The bill for renewing my hosting services appeared in my gmail inbox, and I was just about to delete it. But I couldn’t. I’m not sure why. I haven’t done a thing with the site in quite awhile. But I just couldn’t let it die for some reason. So, I’ve resolved to begin posting again. We’ll see how it goes, but I’ve got to do something to justify the costs. First order of business, the Yellowstone write-up I promised 5 months ago…
Like many trips this one began with a minor disaster: the airline lost the bag containing our camping gear including tent, sleeping bags, camp chairs, etc. We scrambled to find replacements in Billings and found what we needed at Cabela’s and Walmart. If all had gone well, we would have arrived in Yellowstone around 4 PM, but instead we arrived around midnight.
The remainder of the trip went well, relatively speaking. We (meaning myself, wife Jacqulyn, sister-in-law Gina, brother Jonathan, and his wife Trish) spent a couple days as typical tourists, visiting the sites, hiking in the Tetons and even doing the Cowboy Cookout out of Roosevelt Lodge (which I thought would be unbearable, but which ended up being – and for some reason I’m ashamed to say this – pretty fun).
We experienced all the typical hardships like rain, cold (even a freak storm that brought a bit of everything including lightening, rain, hail and snow), hordes of biting bugs, heat, traffic jams and tough-to-catch fish. But we also experienced all the really great stuff like incredibly beautiful scenery, rewarding hikes, a few big fish, Moose Drool beer, big Western skies, and all that wonderful unpredictableness that comes with vacations. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.
My brother Jonathan and I spent the first morning on the Yellowstone River. There didn’t appear to be that many fish in the river, but we found a few risers. And did I mention that I managed to catch a nice one?
Jon stretches out some line on the Yellowstone River.
Yes, had to include another shot of my big trout from the Yellowstone River.
This was a common sight: buffalo jam. The two bison casually lead a 3 mile line of cars.
Grabbed this shot while driving up toward Dunraven Pass on the way back to camp after a day of fishing.
Moonrise from Mt. Washburn
We found tougher fishing on the Lamar River than we did in ’08, but we still found a few willing fish. The river was getting hammered by fishermen, and our normal spot was ground zero. Jacqulyn captured me fighting a decent fish.
That's me fighting a nice Lamar River cutt.
A Lamar River cutthroat.
We spent the majority of a day down in the Tetons sight-seeing and hiking. The scenery in the Tetons is spectacular. The trail to Hidden Falls is highly recommended. Insider tip: hike on up past the falls and into the mountain pass beyond. That’s where we saw the moose.
Jacqulyn looking across Jenny Lake toward the Tetons.
We walked right up on this big bull moose while hiking in the Tetons. Luckily he ignored us.
One day we stopped to fish a stream (which shall remain anonymous) that was supposedly good fishing for small cutthroats, but we found it to hold much larger fish. There were no other fisherman in sight, although we did see a few hikers, a few of which were carrying rods.
Jon fighting a good fish.
Jon landed this nice cutt from a stream where we didn't expect to catch much.
I happened upon this little family on a hike to Cascade Lake.
A family of ducks near Cascade Lake.
After the Cowboy Cookout we headed back to Canyon Campground over Dunraven Pass, and a storm began to gather off to the right. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees within 15 minutes. It began lightening, then raining, then hailing and finally it began to snow. Never thought I’d see a snowstorm in August, but that’s just what happened. Pretty cool.
This is the beginnings of a storm that would slam us as we crossed Dunraven Pass. It would include wind, lightening, rain, hail and snow!
Huge wet flakes of snow smash into our windshield as we try to make our way across Dunraven Pass.
On our last day of fishing, Jonathan landed a nice trout from one of the many lakes in Yellowstone Country. Lucky dog…
Jon's nice fish from one of Yellowstone's many lakes.
And that’s about it. Can’t wait to get back out there.