The plan was to wake up and early and just go, somewhere, the location did not matter. Everyday life had caught up again and my homeostasis was way off balance. I knew the stream was the only remedy. There was a big problem though, drought. And heat.
The state had not seen rain in months and summer was coming in full steam ahead. Online data showed record lows in the majority of places I liked to fish. I either had to hit the James River for smallmouth or find some cold water... it hit me, I told myself "I know exactly where I am going!". I grabbed my 4wt and orvis sling pack and off I went to my secret spot.
I realized on my ride, that I had not targeted brook trout in small streams in a long while. I should have more water time under my belt. Having grown up spin fishing with my father in the Bedford and Amherst county area, I had a prior relationship with little creeks growing up and was accustomed to catching natives. For some reason or another, after years of being in the fly game, I had not pursued them a lot. Eric Harvey over at Virginia Trout Junkies would ask me to go and I would always say "ahhh, maybe". I just could not seem to get into the small stream stuff, I always wanted to target bigger water.
Today was different though, I had a new mindset. I was throwing dries and I was excited. As I cruised up North I planned my starting location and first fly. Finally I lost coverage. The air was pure, "ahhh" I sighed in relief. "I love the smell of the Virginia mountains". When I finally got to the creek, I was in awe as the tree canopy had grown over the water, providing the most angelic scene of shade and spots of light. Beaming sun rays kissed the moving water. Bugs were thick. I suited up and got in.
It was not long before I got into the action, but they were not trout. Other little species were bubbling my flies. I kept moving, finally, a bigger blowup, and a violent one at that. I knew it had to be a brookie. And here is where the new appreciation started. They were hard to catch at first. They would blowup on my drifts but in the end, they were snubbing my patterns.
I was changing flies like a mad scientist trying to find the best concoction. I knew this time of year was prime sulfur weather, and anything yellow will usually do the trick in early summer. However, that day I had only one sulphur pattern on me and I refused to tie it on. So, I observed, and I observed some more. I wanted to learn something. I kept seeing a particular bug I recently read about, a Cahill and I noticed they looked awfully similar to an elk hair caddis pattern.
Tip: Match Color and Size
You do not always have to match the hatch to a tee. I did not have Cahill patterns, but the elk hair was close enough in size, shape, and color to fool the picky brook trout.
After a quick change, I snuck up to the next fishy looking spot and let it rip. Suddenly, SLAP! The sound of a six inch brook aggressively taking my caddis sounded like that of a breaking twig. Finally, I had achieved the days goal and brought to hand my first native brook of the summer.
I was in a rhythm at this point, watching my bug fall graciously to the current, and then the suspense. These little fish are incredibly powerful for their size, each hit with its own ferocity that was truly special. They never seem to miss when they want to eat something and they have laser darting speed.
As the day heated up, the fishing slowed down, but my spiritual recharge was maxed out. After the notorious "last cast" episode was over with, I decided to headed home. On the ride back I reflected on what I had learned on my outing and wondered why I had not targeted these little guys more often. I think Eric might be on to something here...
Tip: slow down
I noticed throughout my day that I got more takes when I really tried to move as slow as possible. Both when getting into a new position and casting. It can seem painfully slow and silly, but the rewards are noticeable.