Wading on 'Marbles'
Wading on ‘Marbles’
My sons brought me to the project area of the West Fork of the Pigeon River for the last day of fishing while I was visiting them in Asheville. It was a drizzly overcast morning. Being Monday we had the river to ourselves. Pulling off at the lower section we got our gear on and headed out. My two sons headed upstream a piece as I started just below where we parked. We were to meet at the bridge downstream a little later on.
Cold, gin clear mountain water tumbles over the outcropping of colorful granite rocks and boulders. Laurel and young bare trees lined the stream but were far enough from the water level not to cause much hazards.
From the bank I studied the terrain down creek. Due to the tumbling water and fast current I decided a Woolly Bugger was my best choice than trying to drag a nymph. With the weather being drizzly I doubted I’d see any hatches though I did bring a small fly box of dries along with me.
I had knotted on an olive Woolly Bugger and was soaking it, swirling it, in a small pool of water in front of me. From out of nowhere a trout darted and swiped at the bugger. Getting more prepared I looped cast the bugger into the pool from just upstream. We played cat and mouse before he finally got a good hold of the bugger and I set the hook. It was going to be a good day, drizzle or not!
I found wading the river was like trying to walk on marbles. Not only were the colorful granite rocks shiny and smooth but were rounded as well and moved slightly when I would try to place a foot. There wasn’t the slick slime about the rock bed like in a lot of the creeks in Pennsylvania but I had to constantly be aware when I felt the roundness of a rock below my wading boots. Due to the clarity of the water the depth was deceiving. Except for the few deepest pools the water level was no more than waist high with most of the water depth being only knee deep. With the steep gradient I found there wasn’t any debris such as broken branches or waterlogged logs below the surface. If the bugger did get caught up beneath, an overthrow cast, over the stuck point, and a quick lift of the rod dislodged it.
My cast was towards the left bank in maybe a foot or so of water as I stood just left of center of the river. As the bugger sank I gave some loose line out and let it swing with the current. I held the rod, near the water surface, towards where I dropped the bugger. Near the end of the quick drift I watched my fly line as the bugger arced downstream. I gave the tip of the rod a couple of twitches and slowly stripped it in. Whack, fish on! The small trout scurried about in the quick current as the tip section of the 7 ½ foot 4 weight rod flexed with the changing current and fish tugs.
I side armed a cast downstream to my right, beneath some high overhanging laurel. I had the rod extended out to my right level with the water surface, my left hand keeping a hold of the fly line between the reel and fist rod eye. Twitching the rod tip, to make my bugger livelier, I hoped to draw a trout out from hiding along the far bank. At the end of the drift I stripped the long length of line towards me with short stopping intervals. I felt the swiping take and set the hook as the trout continued to swim to my left. It surfaces a few times before I got the rainbow tame enough to net it in the fast current I was standing in.
That’s the way it was for the next hour or so. Casting out and drawing the hungrier trout out from hiding. I would guide the bugger into the seams along the stream of choppy faster current. Sometimes I would cast long into slow tail outs keeping my distance. Twitching the rod tip before stripping in the bugger or holding the rod tip high as the bugger ‘swam’ in a pocket of water behind a rocky current break was sure to tempt any curious trout.
I met the boys about 11:30 down at the bridge. With big smiles on their faces I knew they were having a good catching day also. We decided to drive upstream for the remainder of the day.
Up river was not much different than the lower section. Marbled shaped rocks covered the riverbed like the bottom of a colorful home aquarium. I looked downstream, lit up a dark wrapped cigar and proceeded on.
I found the slower deeper pools had plenty of fish but I was actually getting tired of catching 7”-9” trout on just about every 3rd cast or at least getting a swipe at it. I was in search of a big one and I felt it wasn’t going to come out of a deep slow pool. I did pull out a few bigger specks out of these pools but I had more fun risking the faster current with well placed casts and challenging the wildness of the trout that lied in these quicker currents.
I was just off the right bank, looking down creek, just about shin deep. I just got done fishing a stretch of a deeper run and caught a few more frisky trout. My hands were still cold and wet from my last catch and the half smoked stogy was firmly between my lips. The water narrowed towards the tail out hurrying the current in the shallower water but the water was still 2 ½ to a foot and a half deep. With the sun out now the shallower water across stream was moving at a slower pace and mirrored the bank side trees and big boulders along its banks before flowing into the length of the out cropping of surface rocks which tumbled the current uncontrollably. Downstream, nearer to my side of the river a couple of medium sized granite boulders peaked up from the water surface. These two boulders deflected the oncoming current making a nice wavy flow that sparkled under the sun before entering the more turbulent rocky shallows. I cast the bugger midstream, down and across. I let it drift almost to the end of the tail out before lifting my line to guide the bugger between the two granite boulders. I had the bugger right where I wanted it, in between the wavy tumbling current in the ‘soft’ water for an easy take. I gave the rod tip a couple of short twitches and let the marabou tail pulse a second or two beneath. I was about to strip the bugger in when I felt the tightness between my fingers and the rod tip section pulled downstream. I quickly pinched the line, set the hook, and the 4 weight flexed into the middle. Tensioned line slipped through my fingers as the trout started to make a run.
The trout took me behind the furthest boulder beneath the faster current. I knew I had to play him consciously and keep him from getting into the tumbling rocky waters just a few feet down from him. I coaxed him back into the ‘soft’ water where we hooked up but he quickly swam his way behind the nearest boulder. I lifted the rod high enough not to let the line or leader rub up against the roughness of the boulder.
I backed up closer to the bank in ankle deep water not wanting to try and net the trout in the heavy current if I didn’t have to. He decided enough playing around with me and started a real struggling match trying to free himself. I’ve tackled with big trout before so I was confident but it did get a little touchy when he’d get closer to the tumbling tail out. My knots held strong and I pulled him out of that danger twice. When I got him towards the bank, downstream, he didn’t want anything to do with it and scurried with force back into the main body of water. I waded out shin deep and was able to get him into deeper water before netting him. The ‘big one’ I was hoping for was now in my net safely.
I met the boys a couple of hours later back where I had started fishing. Their rods were bent and hooked fish were splashing about.
We had a grand ole day and headed back to Asheville with big smiles and a lot of excitement to talk about.