What do you do when your wife’s out of town for the week? Go fishing, of course! This weekend I ventured down to the Elk River WV, near Elk Springs Resort, for a weekend of fly fishing. Without giving you every boring detail of my trip, I wanted to write about a few things I learned. First off, this part of the state gets much more snow than we get in Morgantown, and although it was in the 50s this weekend, snowmelt is still swelling the river and makes for fast moving water. To put things into perspective, one of the guides at the Elk Springs Fly Shop told me they had 15 inches of snow last week, which is mostly gone now.
I was down here fishing in the fall so I had a general idea of where a few good pools were. However, the water was much slower and lower in September than it is this time of year, so I had to rethink my strategy. I still hit up a couple places I had been to before, but the fishing was a lot faster than last time. I looked up a hatch chart for West Virginia and talked to a friend and a guide at the fly shop, which all recommended black stone flies were probably a good dry fly to try. I started off the day using a little black stone, but was having trouble following it on the choppy water, so I changed gears, or flies rather.
In place of using a strike indicator for nymphs, I often use a bigger dry fly (like a stimulator) as my indicator with a dropper fly underneath. This helps me see possible hits, while doubling my chances of catching a fish. It’s a bit tricky to cast in windy conditions, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t wrapped them around my pole in a tangled mess on multiple occasions, but it seems to work pretty well!
Anyway, I was fishing a big pool in somewhat fast water, and kept seeing 2 rainbows swim past. If I can see fish, I am usually determined to try one of every fly in my box until I get a reaction. I started off with a chartreuse copper john to no avail, and then a colorful emerger I tied a couple weeks ago. Neither produced any interest, so I switched to one of my signature “Henrietta hare’s ears” (named after our tuxedo cat that contributes the black hair for the tail of these!).
I figured black would be a good color since I saw a few black stone flies in the air, so there were probably some still in the water too. I cast a few times behind the fish to gauge distance and the cast upstream from where they were lying. The first couple tries weren’t quite were they needed to be, but the third try I drifted it right past and one went for it!
After a not-so-aggressive play I netted a nice rainbow trout, snapped a couple pictures and released it to hopefully be enjoyed by many other anglers. After that, the fish moved on and the rest of the day was rather uneventful. I tried another spot that my father in-law and I had fished last fall with some success but it was harder to fish in fast water as well. I went back the next morning and the same 2 fish were still in at the edge of the pool and after one missed hit I hooked up with the other one!
This was one of the first times I’ve been fishing when insects are actively coming off the water, which was pretty exciting. Although I didn’t see any rises, it was a good exercise in identifying insects coming off the water and what flies are meant to simulate those insects. On this particular trip, I saw both black stoneflies and blue wing olives crawling along the banks and flying through the air. I’m still looking forward to fishing a good dry fly hatch though.
Overall I had a great weekend and was happy I at least caught a fish, but I need to do some reading on how to fish faster water and where fish tend to hold in situations like that. Does anyone have any pointers to get me started?