Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nantahala Play Day

It had been far too long since Nathanial, Asher and I had spent a full day together trout fishing, so our recent day of work and play on North Carolina's Nantahala River was extra fun. We left home dark and early, got to the river just about the time daylight was finding the gorge, and spent the day hopping from spot to spot to catch fish and take photos. Photos were the work objective, so we each kept a camera handy all the time.

We caught a bunch, and all three of us got a slam of rainbows, browns and brook trout during the day. Beyond the catching, it was just a fun day spent together by the river.

The catch-and-release season on North Carolina's delayed-harvest streams just opened a couple of weeks ago. What that means is that these stream sections are well stocked and the trout haven't gotten too educated. Fooling fish isn't an amazing accomplishment, but it's a barrel of fun. We like the Nantahala a lot because it's a beautiful stretch of river with a lot of variety in types of water, and it's just big enough that at any given pull-off, it is practical for two or three people to spread out a bit or even to fish side-by-side. It's also nice because a road parallels the river, so you can fish an area for a while and then move to another pull-off.

We're far from alone in liking the Nantahala, and it can get kind of crowded. However, the many pull-offs and the configuration of the river make it pretty easy to find a spot where you aren't fishing in a crowd. Arriving early also helps. We had the river to ourselves when we arrived, and we got to hit a few spots first. Fishing on a weekday helps a little. Maybe the best thing that can happen for the sake of less company is to have horrible weather (not the case last week), and in truth, wet, nasty days sometimes offer the best fishing action.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Most Memorable Bass Strike

Do you have favorite fish strikes etched in your mind - ones you remember as if they occurred 10 minutes ago? One of my favorites recently came into my mind, although I'm not sure what triggered the memory of a fish I caught 25 years ago.

The setting was a small lake in Barnwell State Park in the South Carolina Lowcountry. I suppose I had found a bit of free time while traveling somewhere by car and had stopped by the park, which I'd never been to before, to rent a johnboat for a couple of hours and try fishing the lake. I'm pretty sure I only had one bite, but that's no complaint. The bass was a good one, but not a giant (maybe 6 pounds). The strike itself was the memorable part.

I cast a weightless worm through a gap between two clusters of reeds and line draped over a strong strand of spider web between reeds. As I started reeling, the web strand held strong, keeping the worm high so it was skimming the top. Suddenly the surface bulged, like a folded piece of paper, about 6 feet from the worm. The bulge surged toward the worm, and the worm disappeared in an eruption. I set the hook solidly and connected.

Since I was alone and this was long before the era of cameras that shoot good selfies, when I released the fish, only a memory. It was (and is) a good memory, though!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Species 30, I Think

I've been somewhat slack in recording species as I've caught them this year (and even slacker about recording interesting catches), but if my 2016 tally is complete, the fallfish pictured above is species No. 30 for the year. As I understand it fallfish, which are basically giant minnows, are fairly commonly caught by stream fishermen seeking other species in the Northeast. However, I think they much more commonly grab fly-fishing nymphs drifted close to the bottom than crankbaits. This one came from the Penobscot River in Maine while Asher and I were smallmouth fishing with Doug Teel of Northridge Outfitters.

Looking down the list my "firsts" of any give species for the year, which are the only fish I record, they have come from eight states. Arkansas has added the most species, with seven that all came from a single trip during April. Georgia and Florida are close, though, so with one third of the year remaining, one of those two could take the lead. Looking down the list, my favorite inclusions would have to be the Guadalupe bass from Texas and the Suwannee bass from Florida, both of which were all-time first catches for me.

I'm fishing in Georgia and Alabama next week. I wonder whether the list will grow.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thinks it's a Truck

I really debated taking my Expedition on my most recent trek with Asher because I was a bit concerned about clearance with my Fiesta on some logging roads in Maine. I was told that I "should be OK," though, and decided to hope for the best.

Just as it did last summer, carrying us 8008 miles and conquering mountain roads all over the West during the Rebel Trout Trek, and just as it has on so many Southern Appalachian back roads, the little car performed nicely as we added another 3000+ miles to its odometer. It got seriously dirty, threw a few rocks and bumped bottom once on a New Hampshire logging road, but it kept trucking along and never flirted with getting stuck anywhere.

What I like most about my little car, not surprisingly, is its fuel efficiency. At 40 mpg, it's mighty practical for long drives. What impresses me, along with surprising toughness, is how much junk fits in such a small car with a good hatchback design. Much larger sedans and even some small SUVs would carry less or make gear much harder to access.

Asher and I have learned how to pack the Fiesta so the stuff we need the most stays pretty handy. Not that we don't sometimes lose that order in two weeks on the road with too much junk. We do. But it doesn't take long to get it back in place.

There may be a 4WD or AWD need somewhere in the future, but for now we'll let the little car keep pretending it's a truck!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


One of my favorite ways to fish from late spring through fall is to rig a Rebel Micro Pop-R or Crickhopper with a fly a couple of feet beneath it on a dropper. It provides a double appeal, and I'll catch some fish on the surface lure and some on the fly. Often when a fish hits and misses my popper or hopper, a moment later the lure will dart under like a bobber, and I think it's often the same fish that spotted a simple meal hanging in front of it after having been drawn in by the surface lure. The technique works well for bass, panfish and trout.

With such things in mind, I spent a little early-hours time today tying a few bugs to take with me to New England. None are specific patterns (at least not intentionally). The main common denominators, I suppose, are that they are at least a little ugly and crudely tied. With a few, I'm hopping to suggest grass shrimp or tiny light-colored minnows. The others are generalists, simply meant to look like some kinds of aquatic insect, tiny fish or critter of some other sort. Most are streamer sorts because I move the top bait a fair amount, but I'm kind of wishing now that I'd tied a few that looked a bit nymphier.

It's hard to say if I'll even break out the bug box, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have a few dropper flies handy, and if I'm going to use a fly, I'd certainly prefer to use one I tied.

#CatchFishAnywhere #NortheastAdventure

Monday, July 18, 2016

Whole Lot of Packing Going On

Asher and I are in full packing mode because tomorrow we leave on this summer's biggest adventure. We're pointing the car north this year, instead of west, and headed for New England. I suppose the primary targets would have to be the beautiful brook trout that live in the ponds of northern New England, but we'll be hitting a variety of waters in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine for brook, rainbow and brown trout, along with smallmouth bass, pike and whatever else wants to cooperate, and we'll even spend a day or two saltwater fishing on the Connecticut coast. If you followed last year's Rebel Trout Trek, this one won't be quite that grand. We were gone nearly a month and traveled all the way to Olympic National Park just outside of Seattle on that trip. I think we'll end up being on the road a little less than two weeks on this summer's trip.

At one point I thought we'd fly and get a rental car, but the more I thought about all the junk I wanted to tote and the scheduling freedom that comes with driving, the more I became convinced that the hours behind the wheel would be well invested. Now I just have to decide which wheel. My Ford Fiesta has been a mighty fine "trout car" and handled last year's cross-country trek, and it is the most likely choice. I need to check logging road conditions in one area of Maine, though, to make sure ground clearance won't present a problem. If that's too iffy we'll spread out more in the Expedition, and I'll just have to spend a little more time squeezing gas pump triggers.

I'll be sharing stories and photos from the trip on the Rebel Lures website and Facebook page beginning Aug. 1, which is around the time we'll likely be returning home. In the meantime, I'm sure I'll post a few travel updates here, on my Facebook fishing page and on Instagram and Twitter (@jeffsamsel on either).

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Seasons Shift so Quickly

It seems so terribly recent to me that Asher and I were trudging along snowy creek banks and contending with high water. Yet last week we fished from float tubes without waders, and the water felt really good. I leave today to fish in Texas, and there isn't even a sweatshirt in my bag. Before I know it, though, colorful leaves will be falling and soon after we'll all be complaining about the cold, instead of the heat.