Florida Trip: Day 4-6 06/07-09/2014

With two great days of fishing, exploring, and excitement behind us, we woke on the final day of our trip.  George and I originally planned to head out before the sun rose so we could get the first bites of the morning.  However, with the sunrise not taking place until 6:30 AM or so, Corey and Wes decided to join us as well.  With the company of the entire group we headed north to fish some areas with 1 to 3 feet of water.  While the other locations proved shallow as well, this area contained very low levels, and relatively clear water.  You could easily spot little minnows and other aquatic creates of interest while sitting on the yaks. With such great water and the entire morning ahead, we thought that we were in for a treat.  However, two things created problems.  The islands we needed to reach for fishing looked much closer than they were.  Also, with so much open water and no breeze, the sun zapped our energy quite fast.

Little Snook on the shrimp line.  One of the only fish of the day. 

However, once we reached the islands, we found the bites few and far between.  I hooked into another cat fish and a small snook. I found great joy in the snook because, again this was my first time catching this species.  I hooked another snook (or so I thought) on the super spook junior. Sadly, this fish wrangled free. We seemed to be on the water forever and most of our time we spent paddling. By the time noon came around we decided to head back to our put in location and call it a day on the water.  With only a minimum amount of bites and even fewer fish the decision was unanimous.

After about an hour of straight paddling we reached to put in location.  Now, in the mid day heat and relentless sun we needed to break down the gear and load up the vehicles.  Certainly, high levels of irritability entered our minds and the loading process could not go quick enough.  We literally, poured sweat from every surface area of our bodies.

Once loaded up with the AC on full blast we decided to stop for some food and a rest at a local dive bar. The BBQ and Burgers were on special. For $6.99 you received either sandwich and a bud.  What a deal! We all enjoyed to break from the sun, the AC, and a solid meal (Other than Wes, he wasn’t hungry) we headed back to the condo to shower, nap, and prepare for the USA versus Nigeria friendly.

We watched the match at a dive bar called, Grumpy’s.  This quite possibly is the only dive bar in Naples. Although, they sold a large selection of nice craft beers. The atmosphere lacked passion for the beautiful game.  The crowd showed way more interest in the final race of the Triple Crown.  After a couple rounds and a USA victory, we went back to the condo to pack up, have some rum cream (a creation George invented; simply add rum to the top of your ice cream. I wouldn’t recommend it). The day could have been better, but we had a could of great ones before hand.  We also explored some new waters which I found pretty cool, even if we spent most of our time paddling.

Once again, exhausted from the morning on the water, sleep soon overtook us.

The following morning we headed out.  After a thorough cleaning of the condo and vehicles we headed to the Fort Myers’ Air Port to drop Wes off.  He needed to get back early  in order to receive plenty of rest.  After dropping him off, we headed over the the Bass Pro Shops located a short distance from the air port. The reason for stopping dealt with our desire to fish some mountain trout streams upon our return to Virginia.  However, and we should have known, the Bass Pro in Fort Myers carried nothing smaller than a 5 weight rod.  We needed something along the lines of a 2 or 3 weight in order to make the proper casts on the small tree covered streams.  We ate at a burger joint whose name escapes me.  The burgers tasted great.  Lots of bad for you toppings created additional flavors on the burgers.  Every once in a while you have to treat yourself.

We started the drive from Fort Myers around noon or so.  We made great time and pulled into my place in Fredericksburg some time around 2 AM.  I desire not to say we sped, however, if we were in a race with the traffic, we certainly won.  George fits the mold for what some might call a speed demon.

The following morning we woke, quite groggy, and headed above the fall line on the Rappahannock. He all had our 5 weight rods and since we found no smaller rods decided to stay and fish for smallies in Fredericksburg rather than drive a couple hours to the mountain streams with only two 3 weight rods for 3 fly fishermen.  After a decent little walk on the river path, maintained by the Friends of the Rappahannock, that leads to an old quarry underneath the I-95 Bridge we entered the water.  Snakes, we saw quite a few.  Some copper heads, some black snakes, and some brown snakes.  The brown snakes and copper heads look very similar.  My brother told me that an easy way to tell the difference while they are in the water.  He said, they both can swim, but the copper head will not fully submerge itself in the water because of the venom in their mouth.  Therefore, if the snake puts its head underwater then there is a strong chance it is not poisonous.

The fishing proved slow.  I found a nice run where the water looked about 10 feet deep and it flowed with a nice bit of speed compared to the rest of  the river.  I thought with the amount of food running through the current here, something must sit on the edge waiting for a tasty little meal.  I cast a BH Goldilox  and within a few strips saw a nice smally take the fly.  When I attempted to set the hook the line came loose.  I reeled in a little and notice that the fly came off.  At first I thought this could have been a snakehead with teeth which could bit through my 4x leader.  However, upon examination, I realized the fault for the loss of fly rested on my shoulders, or I should say, on my hands.  I tied an improved cinch not incorrect and therefore as soon as the tension increase with the fish bite it slipped. I felt quite ashamed.  Sometimes this happens.  One must simply learn from their mistakes.  I know that for a good while, I will pay much more attention to how I tie a knot.  There is little more irritating to know you did everything right, except the easy part.  George caught a little smally and we called it a day.

Corey headed back to Charlottesville and George and I grabbed a bite to eat before he made his way to New Jersey.  All in all, we experienced a great trip.  We went to new places, eat great food, bonded, kayaked cool waters, caught lots of fishies, and quarreled minimally.

Florida Trip: Day 3 06/06/2014

We woke way too early after such a fun filled first day on the water.  I believe the clock read somewhere around 6 AM.  We quickly ate breakfast and rushed for the door.  George booked a boat with a guide he knew since childhood to take us out on the Gulf for some bottom fishing.  Mike, our guide seemed like a real nice dude.  He lived in the area all his life, fished it as well, and therefore knew some great locations on the Gulf to catch fishies.  After a pleasant 4o minute boat ride to some deeper water, we started bottom fishing for snapper, grouper, and whatever else happened to take our bait.

We knew not how the fishing would turn out. However, our uncertain thoughts soon turned to certainty. The second the bait hit the bottom of the ocean and we tightened the line, the fish started feeding.  We landed lane snapper, yellow snapper, mangrove snapper, red snapper, grouper, and other little fishies similar to snappers.  We caught a 6 inch bait fish, mike threw it on a larger setup, cast that sucker to the bottom, and let it sit.  Luckily I stood closest to the pole when something slammed the bait.  Mike showed me how to reel in the beast, which, I messed up.  However, Mike’s skill allowed for the fish to come out of its hiding place and into the open water and the fight resumed.  Thanks to Mike I pulled in a rather large grouper.  Wes managed to pull in a nice size mangrove snapper on the smaller spin casting pole. Corey caught a small shark and George caught a little bit of everything, but nothing of great significance.

Photo: Going to make a great supper! #grouper #naples @cormander88

Grouper sandwiches are all the rage in Florida. If you failed to notice, this really excited me.  That’s Mike posting up in the back of the boat.

After bottom fishing for a couple hours and catching more fish than our feeble minds could count, we headed in closer to the shore to take a stab at trolling for Spanish mackerel.  This turned out to end with no success.  Yet, none of us minded.  We caught so many snappers, groupers, and others our hearts felt quite content.

After this we headed back in to shore and Mike cut up the few fishies we kept.  We planned on making fish tacos with the snapper and large streaks with the big grouper. Corey, Wes, and I tipped Mike — because George funded the outing — and made our way back to the condo to eat, nap, and figure out the plan for the afternoon.

George decided on taking us south of Naples to some area with a nice put in he knew about from a previous trip.  It took about an hour to drive to the location.  We stopped along the way and picked up some more shrimpies and a couple more lures (super spook juniors in bone white). While driving through the wildlife management area which held out put in location, we spotted a few tortoises and a wild bore. Although the bore ran across the road a good distance ahead of us, I found this experience very entertaining.  This proved to be my first sighting of a wild bore. Awesome!

After arriving at our destination we unloaded the yaks, put in the water, and started paddling out.  George lead the pack, followed my Corey, then Wes, then myself. Soon after we left the little put in lagoon, George’s kayak took a knock from something with a large amount of force.  His yak abruptly moved several feet sideways.  He made a slight noise and we all asked, what just happened? Before he could get any coherent words out, we saw something breach the surface and make a strange noise which I never previously heard.  A manatee stuck his kayak with its tail.  We all laughed at the incident, and you could tell George felt quite flustered by the experience.  Maybe these gentle giants were in mating season? Maybe we came across a rouge manatee seeking revenge for all the propeller blades which stuck his family down? Whatever the case, we all thought with a little more caution after the experience.  I landed the first fish of the day on my trolling shrimp line.  Low and behold, another catfish.  I started to hate this normal aquatic species due to the prevalence with which we hooked them.

We kept paddling out towards  the open water and every now and then heard the cries of a manatee, making us all remember the recent attack. Corey started fishing off an exposed oyster bed and pulled in a few little snooks. However, having previously never caught a snook, he mistook them for lady fish and therefore, showed no great appreciation for the fish.  George explained to us that lady fish are like the chubs of this area.  They fight hard, and prevalent, and possess too little meat to make a meal out of them.

We kept paddling until we reached the last islands before the open ocean.  The tide pushed in we started fishing off the sides of the islands where the water flowed in like a river.  I threw out a line with the shrimp and popping bobber.  I immediately started getting hits.  Soon I found myself going head to head with what I thought to be a decent sized fish.  However, his strength soon surprised me.  Once whatever species of fish that I fought came in sight of the kayak it took off towards the mangrove island for cover 20 or so feet away.  I used a medium heavy rod with 20 lb braided line and a 25 lb fluorocarbon leader.  The fish literally bent the rod over til the tip touched the water.  Whatever beast I hooked wanted free and he had the power to do so. With the recent manatee attack in mind, my heart started pounding.  I would either pull in a really nice fish, or pull in a shark, dolphin, manatee or some monster.  At least these ideas flashed through my mind during this brief moment.  The fish took the line underneath the anchor and I asked Wes to come pick up my anchor as to not break off the fish.  However not soon after he arrived to do so, my line broke.  I felt quite excited, a little nervous, and very let down that I fell short of even catching a glimpse of the fish.

Photo: Sheepshead! #kayakfishing #naples #missedhisteeth @cormander88 #chompchomp

-Sheepshead. I wish the photo showed his teeth.  The name of the fish comes from the sheep-like chompers they possess.  

After I pulled in a nice little snapper and a jail-like attired sheepshead, the rest of the guys started fishing this section as well.  With great amusement, we heard another yelp from George, who against all odds, managed to achieve another run in with a manatee.  We could tell he started to get a little annoyed.  After I told him about my unseen monster he said it probably was a large snook if it took off towards the mangroves.  I felt a little better than he responded so quickly and gave no thought the illogical hooking of a dolphin or manatee.

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Another view of the sheepshead.  We came through the area in the background.  The put in lagoon was somewhere around the two tall trees in the back right corner of the photo. I wanted to snap a shot of the snapper as well, but the fish slipped out of my hand before I could do so. 

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These are mainly the grouper steaks.  They measured about 1.5 inches in thickness. The couple fillets in the top right are the snapper.  The rest of the snappers already made their way to the stove top for frying. 

With daylight running out and a storm moving in from the coast we all agreed to head back. We loaded up the yaks in a much more efficient manner than the previous day. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.  Then, we drove back to the condo.  Took on the responsibility of chief and made the fish tacos.  They tasted wonderful.  By the time we finished them our stomached reached capacity.  He still made the grouper streaks, but sadly, we only took a few bites.  They tasted great as well.  We just possessed no more room within our bodies for food. We played a little FIFA and watched to tube for a while before sleep soon overcame us.

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The snapper tacos with El Presidente; the best pilsner I’ve ever tasted from the Dominican Republic. Wes did a great job preparing the meal.  

In a recap, we woke early, fished to open water, caught some great new-to-the-group fish, ate lunch, napped, kayaked to another beautiful back bay, view some wildlife species for the first time, caught some more awesome new-to-us fishies, and ate a great dinner. Well, George probably came across most of the species before, but the rest of the group experienced them for the first time. Again, it goes without saying, we all slept well.

Florida Trip: Day 2 06/05/2014

On the drive down we decided as a group to sleep for a few hours after we arrived. Then, we would wake around 8 or 9 AM, get our gear together, head off to rent kayaks and fish the entire afternoon.  However, sleep consumed more time than we anticipated and no one woke till noon.  In a groggy haze due to lack of sleep, we began getting our fishing rods, reels, bait, flies, and gear together.  This took a little longer than expected and made our way to the kayak rental location around 1:30 PM.  We rented the kayaks from Naples Outfitters.  The guys working were nice and helpful. They mentioned a few places we should try. Next we took to the challenge of installing the kayak racks on the vehicles.  We figured it better to wait till we arrived in Florida to install them so not to lower our gas mileage.  They proved to be more of a challenge than one might think.  I contribute this more to sleep deprivation than lack of know how.  George’s kayak rack excited me because it had “four yak capacity”.  However, we decided on spreading the weight between two vehicles. 2:30 PM arrived by the time we installed the racks and strapped the kayaks down somewhere securely. Then, covered in sweat, we eagerly headed off to get a bite to eat before we hit the water.

Photo: Wes, at the Taco Mix.

Wes at the Taco Mix.  The table reads “Taco Caliente” or “hot taco” in English. For the price and authenticity, this place is pure gold.

While driving to our put in location, George and I thought it best to purchase subs from Publix (grocery store) to cut down on time and money spent.  However, Corey and Wes (the usual cheaper individuals) wished to stop in somewhere along they way.  So, George and I gave in.  I spotted a wings, burgers, and bbq joint, but the guys wanted to try the Taco Mix. The Taco Mix appeared a little skeptical in my opinion, as a small, hole in the wall location just off the road. However when we entered I realized the authenticity of the place. The lady working the register spoke little to no English and the cook fell in the same boat.  So, ordering proved a little challenging. However, everything came out how we ordered and it tasted delicious.  I curiously purchased the fried green plantains, two seasoned pork tacos, and a vitamin water for a grand total of less than 10 bucks.  I found it impossible to finish all of the plantains as well.  Although, they went down smooth, I shared a couple with the guys.  George, however, took the winning ticket with his meal selection.  We went with the deal of the day; 6 chicken tacos for $6.99.  The smell, the appearance, and the taste all ranked high in quality.  I know if I ever journey back down to Naples, a visit Taco Mix will be a must.

With our stomach’s stuffed and our heads spinning with excitement we made the short trip up to Lovers Key State Park. We stopped in to the visitor’s center and grabbed a live bait holder and 50 little shrimpies.  After driving in circles around the park for a few minutes, we found a place to put the kayaks in, parked, unloaded, and continued to gain more energy and eagerness about setting paddle into water and casting our first lines.

Photo: Gafftopsail Catfish; thought it a mutant.

Gafftopsail Catfish.  

We put in, threw some shrimp on our trolling poles, and started casting.  Along the banks, which always remained covered by mangroves, lady fish leaped into the air constantly. George, Corey, and I threw the fly rods for a bit, while Wes stuck to the spin casting.  Speaking of stuck, Wes soon found him lure hung up in a mangrove.  We thought little of it until we heard a blood curdling scream (okay, maybe just a large shout). The lure came out and flew straight into his hand.  However, we previously bent down the barbs and therefore, very little harm was done.  Within 15 minutes of launching the yaks Corey landed the first fish on the trolling shrimp line. George and I fished the other bank and eagerly awaited the shout across to discover what type of fishy he pulled in.  I thought I misunderstood him at first, but upon several more shouts we heard loud and clear.  A catfish took the first fish for the group in Florida prize.  I surprisingly and naively thought catfish lived only in freshwater and also lacked the knowledge about their presents in Florida.

Photo: JB with a puppy drum right at 18"

George with a nice red fish.  When you put your hand underneath their red tail it turns blue; pretty cool.

We continued to fish the beautiful water all afternoon and into the evening.  We pulled in quite a few different kinds of fish.  The first I landed as well turned out to be a catfish. However, this catfish looked a little different than the ones I usually view.  The whiskers astonishingly stretched to half the length of this fish.  George pulled up beside me and informed me they called these strange creatures Gafftopsail Catfish. I caught the exotic catfish on the shrimp line as well. Corey also pulled in the first fish on the fly rod.  unexpectedly he pulled in a flounder on a size 4 chartreuse Clouser Minnow.  We also received the pleasure of landing a few lady fish, lots more catfish (which I would not called pleasurable, due to the fact that they almost always swallow the hook), almost a sheepshead, a nice red fish, and viewed quite a few dolphins swim right past our yaks.  I saw the sheepshead through the water, but it came off before I could get my hands on him.  This felt like a little bit up a letdown because I really wanted to catch one of these beauties; hopefully I get another shot before the trip ends.  George received the honor of catching the red fish.  Wes, landed a few ladies and a couple cats. While out on the water, I fell behind the pack a little in order to tie on a new hook and shrimp.  I looked up and knew I needed to snap a photo of the view. At that moment in time I felt happy and at peace.  I felt like no other place in the world mattered, like time stood still.  I felt great.

Photo: Doesn't get much more relaxing #friends #flyfishing #loverskeystatepark #kayakfishing @cormander88

I could not have been happier.

We reluctantly started back to the put in area around 8 PM. After getting all the gear rinsed and started putting the yaks back on the vehicles the park had already closed.  We just tied them on lightly and headed for the exit so the park rangers could lock the games.  Then, in the dark we finished strapping down the kayaks while bugs bit the hell out of us all.  On the water a slight breeze kept the insects away.  However, once on dry land and sheltered from the wind, they thrived on the succulent taste of our flesh.

We drove back to the condo, showered, and George and I went to grab some food and supplies for the week from the grocery store.  We ate some pizzas, played a little FIFA, watched the Spurs battle the Heat for the MBA Finals and soon slept sound.  I believe I can safely say, we all slept well dreaming of our first day on the water and about what we would encounter at the end of our lines over the few that followed.

-Bram

 

Florida Trip: Day 1 06/04/2014

Before I get into the details let me say planning for this trip started back in January or possibly earlier.  George Franklin (alias), my brother Corey, and I wanted to go somewhere cool and catch some fishies.  We always do a winter snowboarding trip and we figured that since we salivate for the water these days we should take a summer fishing trip to balance out the year.  We decided on Naples, Florida for a couple of reasons.  Many different kinds of fish reside in the area. The water is salty enough that alligators generally stay away. The water flows into many back bays and areas where kayaks are king. The main reason however, deals with the fact that George’s parents own a condo in Naples.  Therefore, we slept in a nice place for the entire trip for free. Free sounds nice when sandwiched in between undergrad and graduate school payments. We originally planned on our friend, Josh attending this trip. However, he recently dropped to bomb that he plans on moving to Dallas, Texas. Therefore, he backed out of the trip. These things happen sometimes. No hard feelings, Josh. So, we added Wes at the last minute.  He jumped in with about one week’s notice. I find last minute additions to trips quite awesome. With background information out of the way, let us dive in.

After my usual long Tuesday of working a 12 hour shift at the Physical Therapy Clinic followed by reffing soccer for another 4-5 hours, George Franklin and Wes arrived in Fredericksburg. The clock read somewhere close to midnight and they brought lots of beer.  George and Wes said they needed to eat so we wondered across the street to Capital Ale House and ate a few appetizers and drank a few rounds.   I had a hard cider that tasted exactly like apple cider.  Most hard ciders resemble more of an apple juice taste than apple cider.  I like it. The name of the cider is The Saint, by Crispin Cider.

Photo: Pre-fishing trip ciders and reds. I expect y'all will be much redder on your return 󾟿☀️

Grabbing some grub and a round at Capital Alehouse before we called it a night.

We then headed back to my place to get some rest before packing the vehicle and heading out on our trip. By now, the clock read somewhere around 2 AM. I think we stay up too late.  Oh well, George is an insomniac and Wes may be one as well. We woke the next morning, packed up the vehicle, and made our way to Bass Pro Shops near Richmond.  We purchased the essentials, then headed over to the restaurant, Islamorada Fish Company which, connects to Bass Pro Shops. One of the physical therapy patients recommended we try the fried alligator and fried crayfish.  We tried both. I liked them both.  The alligator had a gamey taste. For my entree I order the mahi mahi fish tacos.  They tasted wonderful.  I like fish tacos, a lot. While at Bass Pro I also purchased a small trout net. I knew I would not use it for this trip. However, I lose a lot of small brookies due to the fact that the holes in my net allow for the fish to slip through.  Now, I will no longer come across this issue. It cost 5 bucks as well. So, purchasing it seemed liked a no-brainer.

We headed south and met my brother, Corey ten miles outside of Richmond.  We arrived early so, we waited at a Wawa and George set up our FIFA 2014 season with Tottenham Hotspur on his laptop. We sold Bale to Real Madrid and brought in Luke Shaw, Cavanda, Dzeko, and Dumbia. Corey arrived and we began our long trip as a group of four.  After a lot of driving we stopped for dinner in Savannah, Georgia. I previously stopped here a couple of years back with my girlfriend on our way to Tampa, Florida. I really like the city. It possesses history, a cool nightlife, and lots of young individuals due to the many colleges located in and around the city.  All this and it’s proximity to I95 make it a perfect stop along the way.  We pulled in around 10 PM and went to Wet Willies for dinner. We did not realize when we sat down, but this restaurant is all about Daiquiris.  Since Wes and I drove from Virginia to Savannah, we each partook in drinking one with dinner. Since their driving shifts followed dinner, Corey and JB reluctantly abstained.  The drinks were strong, the burgers were delicious and Wes and I soon fell asleep for a good portion of the remaining drive.  We arrived in Naples around 5 AM. Since George drives really fast and we hit no traffic, we made great time. Inevitably, sleep soon followed for all.

The next day our fishing adventures began.

Upper Rapidan River 06/02/2014

Since my last post, I went to Florida for a major kayak fishing trip.  Therefore, I have much difficulty remembering my activities exactly.  I will do my best in the following.  Friday: I got nothin’.  Saturday, I partook in something during the day and went to an 80’s themed luau party for one of Kasey’s coworkers in the evening.  I wore a speedo and a tank-top to the party and therefore, drank heavily to compensate for my feelings of doubt over my choice of attire.  For reasons I feel I cannot discuss, I will remember that night for the rest of my life.

Photo: #80s #luau #party #saturdaynight #speedo #bighair

 

Now do you understand why I drank heavily?

Since I drank heavily Saturday night, sleep consumed Sunday morning. I eventually gathered a few belongings and my dignity and made my way back to Culpeper.  I believe I helped Kasey around her house. I borrowed my mom’s Subaru Forester, because I needed more ground clearance and 4-wheel drive in order to access the upper section of the Rapidan River.  I headed there early Monday morning. Although, I appreciate my Civic for the great gas mileage, I often wish for something with 4-wheel drive.  Not a big truck or anything else too redneck, but something a little more than a Civic.

I woke early Monday morning to head out for another My Mondays adventure.  Since the road to the Upper Rapidan raps around some mountains and contains many rough areas – honestly, it shouldn’t be called a road; more like a fire road at best – it took me about 45 minutes to arrive at my desired location.  As a crow flies, it would take less than half that time.  Oh well, mountains are cool, pretty, and isolated. So, I’m okay with it.

I came across a small parking area on the left side of the road.  Since this parking area appeared to be the first, I felt slightly hesitant to park and fish here.  Most people fish at first sight, which generally leads to more traffic than I desired. However, no one appeared present and being a Monday morning, I doubt anyone came through before me.  The parking area rested less than 50 feet from the river. So I began fishing immediately, which, came as a change from my previous mountain stream outings. Yet, is this a welcome change? I enjoy the hikes. So, maybe not.

Right from the first section of the river I understood why the Rapidan possesses the top brookie stream in the state title.  The river runs narrow with a few deep runs then suddenly, a large fall with a deep, wide pool. This pattern repeats over and over. I used a size 16 Sulfur Dry Fly in orange. With the water level quite nice, the weather perfect, and the amount of yellow and orange flies I view floating around, I thought more fish would take my fly.  Maybe I just suck at reading the water and presenting the fly? Maybe I parked and fished in an area that receives too much pressure?  Maybe I should have used something with yellow instead of orange? Whatever the cause, my luck soon changed. I didn’t exactly start slaying them, but I caught a few.  Just hiking up this stream seems worth the trip to the Rapidan. I could bring a camera and take a unique and beautiful snap every 50 feet. Also, I found a tube of Orvis Dry Fly Floatant Gel. I liked this because I never used the gel before.  Usually, I use a shaking powder.  I applied the gel and found it to work quite well.  Things started to look up..

I fished up the river a little farther, came to an exist trail which lead to the road, hiked back to the parking area, pit stopped at the vehicle for some water and headed downstream. I needed to be in Fredericksburg by 3:30 PM. Being it still before noon I figured  fishing up to the parking area the most logical thing to do.  I know not if this section of the river holds more fish, but on that day, I found many more.  Almost by chance I hooked and landed my biggest brookie.  After fishing the sides of the white water, the deep holes, and smooth run before the next ledge, I lazily left my fly in next to the ledge. I saw a large brookie come after it.  It took another serious cast before I landed him. I found it amusing because one of the first places to fish should be these ledges because that’s where the big fish hold.  Harry Murray told me this.  Strange how things can slip the mind at the times they should be front and center.  Hopefully I remember this on my next outing.

Photo: Gotta love the colors. #brooktrout #snp #rapidan #flyfishing

Nice brookie on the size 16 Sulfur Dry Fly. Sometimes we get lucky.

I fished back up to the car and found another fellow fly fisherman parked next to me.  He recently finished for the day and I chatted with him while he packed away his Orvis Superfine Touch. He said he landed quite a few fish on the day using a size 16 Yellow Sally.  Next time I head out I will go with the Yellow Sally, the Mr. Rapidan, and the Yellow Stimulator. Hopefully I can lay into quite a few nice fishies. Being my first time on the Rapidan and catching a very nice brookie, I considered the weekend quite the success.

As a side note, one might want to head over to the Rapidan River just to visit President Hoover’s camp at the headwaters of the river. In the warmer months the National Park Service gives tours of the camp site, cabins and surrounding areas.  I highly recommend it.

The Picture Chimney at President Hoover’s Camp back in December. Mind the facial expression.

-Bram

Too Much Fly Fishing? 05/23/2014 – 05/26/2014

The title says it all: I fished a lot this past weekend.  While I enjoyed every minute, – the hiking, the views, the art of casting, losing flies in the brush, catching fish – I thought maybe I fished more than my utility allocated for the activity.  Looking back, I feel a substitution for a hike or some worthwhile reading – on fishing, of course – may have created more happiness.  However, I desire not to change the past for fear of the butterfly effect. Therefore, I look back on the weekend with no regrets. Although, I fished a lot, I enjoyed it; all of it, I think.

After the ever-typical 7 to 3:30 Friday shift, I made my way back to the apartment where a large gray Great Dane waited. My brother’s dog, Gigi decided to come spend the weekend with me.  Although, Gigi is a nice dog, she never visited my apartment before.  Therefore, her eight hour stay in a strange place without human contact probably lacked calm tranquility.  Once I arrive, she happily wagged her tail, whined out of joy to see a face, and then plopped down on my bed.  She look so comfortable that I decided to join her.  We napped for an hour or so. Then, we went for a run. She handles very well on the leash. For the most part, I jogged beside her brisk walk and let the leash lay at her side.  I like dogs. Their companionship to humans appears to be second to none. However, I need not a dog.  My siblings and parents have them.  Therefore, I get my fill of canine comradery.  After showering and leaving Gigi at my place, I made my way to an event my girlfriend organized for her boss.  I helped set up, ate, and spoke with a few people I don’t know.  I then picked up Gigi and heading for the parent’s.  As stated earlier, she never stayed at my apartment before and she knows my parent’s well. I thought she would be more comfortable there.

Once I dropped Gigi off at the parent’s, I headed back into the metropolis of Culpeper to listen to The Dry Run Band. One of my girlfriend’s cousins plays in the band.  They play a blend of country, southern rock, rock, and blues.  Although, I hate country, I mind not their other numbers. We drank more than we should, then returned to my parent’s for the night. Although Gigi stays at my parent’s from time to time, she lacked peaceful sleep and woke me multiple times.  If I remember correct, my first words when I woke that morning resembled something along the lines of, I hate dogs.

I dropped Gigi off at my girlfriend’s because she lives on several acres. Gigi would have plenty of room to roam.  My girlfriend’s cat, Bougie, also seemed to be quite entertained with Gigi. Bougie bossed Gigi around.  It was cute. One of my friends, Johann, who I recently convinced to purchase the essentials for fly fishing joined me.  He purchased his outfit about a month ago and due to the high river level of the Rappahannock had yet to give it a try.

I took him to a couple locations: the first was my cousin, Brian’s place on the Thorton River.  I showed him how to set up his rod, tie a fly on, and the basic approach to cast.  Although we saw a few nice trout, we only caught  a few chubs and a sunfish. We lost a few flies as well, which proved quite frustrating.  With the recent rains, the lush green colors of nature overwhelmed me.  The beautiful and ever-changing display of the earth rarely disappoints me.  We used Murray’s Marauders size 12 in black as well as in white. They worked well. However, at $3.50 a pop, they’re not cheap, especially when you lose several.

DSC_0926

Murray’s Marauders in black and white as well as a Besty Streamer. Photo courtesy of Murray’s Fly Shop’s Website 

After a few hours here we headed to the Robinson River. Again, the clear river water, thick green tree cover, and the sun shining on both humbled me.  I showed Johann how to roll cast and we fished.  He caught nothing here and I managed only a small rock bass. When we left I felt a little upset because I wanted my friend to catch a nice trout or two.  However, he shared no similar feeling.  He enjoyed getting out in nature and learning some new fly fishing techniques.  Therefore, I quickly discarded my trout-less thoughts.

Rock Bass on the Robinson River. He took a Murray’s Marauder in black size 12.

I spent the afternoon playing FIFA 2014 of Xbox 360.  Even though QPR sacked me in my sophomore season at the club, I enjoyed playing the game.  With school, work, and outdoor activities, my recent FIFA binges have been few and far between.  Hopefully they stay that way.  However, like I said, I enjoyed playing for a couple hours. I spent Saturday night at my girlfriend’s. We watched an episode, or two of Once Upon a Time. Gigi stayed with the parent’s that night, which I liked. It allowed me to get a little more rest. I will add however, that Bougie likes to waken humans from their slumber as well. So, I slept better, but far from perfect.

Sunday morning, I woke and headed to the Rose River for a couple hours.  At 2 PM I needed to report to AT&T in Fredericksburg to switch phone carriers.  Sadly, I woke late so my time on the Rose lacked longevity.  I left my rod outfit intact from the day before. So, I quickly dressed and started hiking up the Rose River Fire Trail.  I walked briskly for about 15 minutes.  I found what I thought looked like a nice area to start.  I climbed down some boulders, as the river ran about 50 yards off to my right.  Once I arrived, I noticed a fellow fly fisherman coming up the stream towards me.  I arrived too late.  He started on the river first and therefore, I felt obliged to move on. We exchanged a few words.  He fished nymphs with a strike indicator, I fished drys. Specifically, I used the normal Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly. I believe I used a size 16. I hiked up another 10 minutes.  Time being tight combined with my tardiness allowed for the introduction of fear.  Maybe I just showed up too late? Maybe all the locations on this popular stream were spoken for?   While walking, I came upon a section of the river which runs right beside the fire road. I thought, why not? I’m limited on time and need to get in the water.  I started fishing and within a few minutes had my first bite.

Photo: Good morning Mr. Brook Trout #snp #brooktrout

Brook Trout from the Rose River. Seems like the smaller ones have less coloration. 

A soon found out the reason for this river’s popularity.  I fished for roughly an hour in some really nice long runs.  I landed three or four trout and many more escaped either when taking the fly or while I pulled them in.  I even pulled multiple fish out of the same hole.  This excited me. I never landed multiple trout from the same stretch before. Although I wished to stay longer, I needed to head back.  However, I will be back on this stream sooner rather than later, for sure.

Corey and I met my oldest brother, Patrick, and sister-in-law, Avelyn, in Fredericksburg. We switched phone service providers (lower monthly rates) and gave Gigi back. Then, we headed back to the parent’s in Culpeper.  Although I felt a little tired from the driving, I still possessed the itch. I tried to convince Corey to come fish a mountain stream with me. However, he declined. I think the power of FIFA overcame him.

Since I fished it last weekend and knew a nice hole where a large trout held, I decided to head back to Brokenback Run. I knew people said to fish dry flies in the afternoon/evening due to the high amount of hatches, but I found it hard to believe the number of insects.  They surrounded everything, including my face. I honestly found it more difficult to fish with the dry in the afternoon due to three things.  The high number of insects hatching provided fierce competition. Why should that trout take my imitator over the real one? Secondly, I found it difficult to focus with all the bugs flying around my face.  I put on insect repellent but it hardly kept anything away.  The aspect I found most difficult was the eastward flow of the stream.  With the sun setting in the west, this created a strong glare. I could hardly read the water, let alone spot a trout or my fly. I caught a couple little guys (four inchers). However, the larger trout who I specifically came to catch evaded me.  I saw him jump for my fly but I reacted too slow. Hopefully next time I’ll land him.

I will say I enjoyed this trip. Even though it proved challenging, I experienced evening fly fishing in the mountains.  Just watching the hatch, with the sun glazing through the tree provided a very relaxing experience.  Little yellow and white flies flew about with a fairy-like presence. I hiked back and spent the night at my girlfriend’s.

With Monday being Memorial Day and my girlfriend working for a politician, she naturally attended an event to celebrate and remember the many people who serve(d) this country.  I however, looked at her work commitment as just another reason to go fly fishing. Corey, my cousin Stevie, Stevie’s girlfriend, and I made our way back over to the Thorton River where I took my friend, Johann on Saturday.  With losing so many flies here the other day I caste with more care.  Instead of just fishing the hole near the parking area, we decided to wade up the stream for a while.  We made our way about 200 yards upstream catching rock bass, sunfish, and some rather large chubs along the way.  When we reached the bridge Corey caste under it first.  A nice deep run flows under the bridge which provides great artificial cover for the fishies. Corey laid into a nice size rainbow trout.  His 5 weight rod tip bent over almost to the water.  This rainbow had fight in it. I happily watched him reel in the beauty and netted the fish in my rubber lined net (it does not remove the slime layer or scratch the fish).  Since Corey’s recent fishing endeavors were less than ideal – i.e. he’s been on a dry spell -he showed great excitement for the catch. He used a black and brown bead head wooly bugger with some crystal pattern throughout (although, not enough to be considered a crystal bugger) in size 10, I believe.

After our nice little fish landing adventure, we waded up a little farther.  We certainly gained excitement and desire to catch another rainbow.  We fished upstream for another hour or so, walked back, and decided to fish the original hole near the parking area before we called it a day.  Yet again, Corey hooked a nice rainbow. Yet again, I happily netted the Oncorhynchus mykissWhile other trout showed interest in our flies, Stevie and I landed none. The brother received top fly fisherman award for the day. When he posted the picture I took on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter he used a hashtag I liked. He created the hashtag #rainbros. 

Photo: Nice troutski. #rainbros #flyfishing #trout

The brother’s second hard fought rainbow of the day.  Netted by yours truly.

After this we headed back to the parents, cleaned up, ate food – Corey ate one of the rainbows; it’s okay they’re stocked and die off in the heat of the summer, so I think a quick death is better. However I am certainly not God – and played a little FIFA.  I went to my girlfriend’s for some burgers and brats, watched another episode of Once Upon a Time and called it a night.  This episode of Once Upon a Time caught us up with current broadcasting. So, we will take a break from watching the program for a while.

All in all, the weekend proved quite busy. I enjoyed it and certainly enjoyed the fishing, time spent with my girlfriend, Gigi, FIFA, and the delicious food. When Tuesday morning came around, I felt a little worn out. Probably a combination of sun exposure and the multitude of activities. Corey’s rainbows were definitely the highlight.

-Bram

 

Brokenback Run 05/19/2014

Recently I came up with what very well may be my best idea ever. I generally try to fill my schedule to the max.  However, this summer I decided to try something different.  Instead of picking up shifts on both Monday and Wednesday, the two days I generally have classes during the school year, I chose to take off on Mondays.  I justified this crazy notion with the following: I take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in August and need one day designated to specifically to studying. Now, I know studying one day a week will not lead to GRE success, but setting aside one day a week to really dig in seems smart. Even though I will study for several hours on Monday, it also allows me a day to myself. Everyone I know works on Monday and therefore, I can get some great alone time in the mountains as well.  I look to the coming Mondays with delight.  I will call them My Mondays.

So, today was the first of those My Mondays. I slept in with my girlfriend until roughly 8:00 AM. I generally wake up earlier, but when she sleeps with me I tend to stay in bed longer.  I eat a quick bowl of cereal, grabbed by fishing gear, kissed the girlfriend good day, and made my way to the mountains.  Mr. Murray suggested I head for skyline drive, hike down and fish up a stream.  However, I foolishly left my map at the home place and therefore, decided to make for a stream I knew from the bottom of the park.  I picked Brokenback Run for two reasons; its proximity to my house, and the fact that my fishing trip there last weekend ended far too soon for my liking.  Due to the heavy rains we received last week, the water level rose a little from my previous weekend trip. However, this is a small stream and the water level increased only a slight amount. I told my mom I would be back before 3:00 PM. So, I started on the stream around 10:00 AM after a mile hike up the road from the parking area. I needed an hour to walk back. Therefore, I had roughly 4 hours to fish this stunning little stream.

I began fishing the same section my brother and I covered last week. It surprised me that I hook two fish in the same locations as last week.  I suppose each fishy has his niche.  I used a size 14 Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly with a 2 foot tippet connecting a size 14 Bead Head Squirrel Nymph.  Although, I lacked clear vision on all the bites I believe they all hit the dry fly.  I guess having the second fly in the water increase the chance of a bite. However, I wonder if the line hanging down from the top fly ever spooks this fish. If I gave my opinion, I would argue that it does get in the way.  So, I took it off in hopes of actually hooking a fish.  I switch flies as well.  I switched right where we left the stream last week. I guess I changed flies because Mr. Murray recommended a size 16 Murray’s Flying Beetle. I left the dropper/tippet with the nymph off as well.  I only casted this Beetle a few times before I realized how much I appreciated the Mr. Rapidan fly.  I found, or rather, could not find the Beetle on the surface when I casted.  So, I felt I would fare far worse off without seeing my fly and switched to a yellow stimulator.  I received a couple of bites, but not as many as I thought I should with such nice conditions.  So, again, I switched back to the Mr. Rapidan.  Sometimes you have to go through a few to realize how well the first one worked.  Without the dropper, it worked even better.

The last of the perfect pools.

I started getting more bites.  I also started fishing some really nice water.  After a few more casts I stopped for a bit to eat a snack and drink some water.  I felt quite alone and happy with what I thought to be a remote location.  Upon fishing up a little farther I released hikers walked not too far off to the right of the stream.  I held mixed feelings about this.  One, knew a way back without walking back down the overgrown stream sides. But I also knew I was not as remote as first thought.

After catching a nice little brookie (4 inches) next to a downed tree across the water, I came to one of the most beautiful holes I have ever laid eyes on.  Three wide, smooth running pools separated by small waterfalls were directly in front of me.  I thought I died and went to heaven.  I knew a nice fish or ten lived in this area.  To my surprise I fished the first two without a bite.  When I caught sight of the third and final whole I felt strongly about my chances of getting a quality brookie out of it.  I started near the waterfall and received a bite almost immediately.  After a few more casts and working my way up the water I threw my line nicely beside a large boulder. Then it happened. A gorgeous brookie came right out from behind the rock and grabbed the fly. I viewed the take with perfect clarity. I hope I never forget that image. At this moment in time, I felt like a true fly fisherman.  I pulled the beaut in and, like with all the other fish that day, it slipped right between my fingers before I gripped it.  Therefore, I have only a story with no picture of this perfect fish.  He was a nice size as well.  Roughly 8 inches I would say.

I even spotted a pretty doe on the hike back.

I long to make it back to that same whole and fish it as soon as possible.  I feel like the experience of the last hole and last fish is something that only takes place in dreams.  I will dream about it often.  Even though the fish gods allowed me to take zero pictures, I caught a few nice brookies.  Even in heaven, some days are better than others.

-Bram

 

 

 

 

Dark Hollow Falls 05/18/2014

Trees across rivers make nice photo ops.

I made the mistake of sending my girlfriend an article recently which described the adventures of a hiking cat named Millie. I thought the article read nicely and the idea seemed cool. However, my girlfriend took it a little too serious and felt we could train her cat, Bougie, to be a mountain master.  So, we tried Bougie out around my girlfriend’s place Sunday morning. To my surprise, she actually followed well. Though, she soon tired. I knew she would not last for an entire hike in the Shenandoah National Park. However, my girlfriend still dreams of it.  She truly is a dreamer and does not always think of all the possibilities.  This is probably both a good and bad trait. However, let’s not go there right now. The main thing I feared with taking the little kitty to the SNP is the number of dogs which people bring into the park.  She could be a quick snack. Although, I conceded that Bougie followed us well, my girlfriend decided that Bougie’s hiking adventures would not officially begin that day.

Always make sure to have your balance.

We however, planned on hiking somewhere in the park. After making our way to my parent’s, we looked over a few maps to pick a trail.  We picked out two and decided to let the Park Ranger at the entrance to Skyline Drive give us his opinion on either Dark Hollow Falls or Lewis Falls.  The distance between the two falls’ parking areas measures less than a mile.  The Ranger provided little to no insight on which hike he preferred.  Probably a veteran who needed a job and knows nothing about the park.  Sorry, I digress.

View from below the falls.  They went a little farther down as well. But, A full photo proved difficult to capture.

We chose Dark Hollow Falls because the trail covered more ground. We could hike longer and this would probably eliminate most of the tourists as well.  The actual falls rest pretty close to the parking area. Therefore, lots of people gathered on the trail near them.  However, after the falls the trail cleared out as we suspected. We hiked along the fire road for a while.   The fire roads in the park are nice for connecting trails. Yet, they seem boring compared to actual trails. We came across an old cemetery along the fire road which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  We looked around at the old head stones. To our wonder some of them died in the 1990s.  So, I guess if you possess the family lineage you can still gain admission into this scenic graveyard.

Sign at the entrance to the cemetery.

After the cemetery we crosses Skyline Drive near Fisher’s Gap to finish off the hike on a small stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I always enjoy hiking on the Appalachian Trail due to the history and longevity of the famous path.  We worked our way up to the Big Meadows Camping Area and stopped for a few slices of cheese and crackers at one of the pick nick tables.  I washed my Swedish Fire Knife in a small spring rising from below a tree trunk.   I thought it very pretty and natural. We finished the hike with a visit to the Big Meadows convenience store for a couple Moon Pies and a Gatorade.  Interestingly, we found out the reason behind creating Big Meadows.  The workers who built Skyline Drive needed a place to stay within a close distance to their work site.  So, they cleared a large area and created Big Meadows.  It resembled many civil war battlefields and provided quite the nice view in my opinion.

So, out of the six waterfalls within the SNP, I now visited four. I still need to see Lewis Falls, and…one other.  I went to The South River Falls about a month ago with my brother and father.  I frequently visited White Oak Falls in my high school and undergraduate days.  I viewed the Cider Run Falls last Summer with my brother. He slide down the slide from the top. I lacked the desire and only attempted it from half way. Therefore, I need to tackle the next two in the coming months.  Although, I’m a little anxious about the number of snakes I’ll soon see on my trips.

Overall, I enjoyed the hike.  It was nice to see the falls and nice to spend some alone time with my girlfriend (something that doesn’t happen enough, in my opinion).

-Bram

 

 

 

 

A Visit to Murray’s 05/17/2014

The spring semester finished up last week and therefore, I decided to pick up an extra day at the physical therapy clinic. This new schedule meant that after my normal 7 to 3:30 Friday shift, I needed a nap.  I woke around 5:30 and began packing for the weekend spent in Culpeper. This just happened to be one of the rare weekends where I planned nothing.  Sometimes, the best weekends occur as a result of spontaneous decisions. I hoped for this outcome.  I spent Friday night at my girlfriends.  We went to town for some ice cream and returned to watch Once Upon a Time. I F****** love that show! I rarely watch television, I don’t own one, and if I watch anything, it usually involves soccer on a Saturday morning.  Exception: Once Upon a Time. After a little tube viewing we soon drifted off to sleep.

Mr. Rapidan Dry: One of the flies I picked up at the shop

I rose Saturday morning around 8 AM (its nice to sleep in on the weekends). I fed the chickens and made breakfast. Eggs and bacon with some O.J. create energy for the entire day.  The night before, I brought up the idea to my girlfriend of traveling to Edinburg, VA.  Now, only one reason exist for someone to travel to Edinburg. A town with hardly more than a post office, a restaurant, a pharmacy, and yes, a fly fishing shop. In case you missed it, the latter location is why anyone in their in their right mind would visit this place.  This fly shop is special, because of the owner. Harry Murray owns and operates Murray’s Fly Shop which, opened in 1962. If you believe you love fly fishing in mountain streams, you must visit this fishing haven. Mr. Murray’s fishing knowledge on the surrounding waters truly seems second to none. Honestly, I lack the ability to explain how awesome this guy is.

Anyhow, she agreed and after breakfast we began our roughly ninety minute journey. We arrived and I refrained from screaming in excitement. I felt like a little girl at a Backstreet Boys’ concert in the nineties.  I walked around the shop – which shares space with the pharmacy – with my girlfriend. I wanted to get some sort of a sovereign; a shirt, a hat, something I could wear all the time.  The shop appear empty other than a lady behind the counter asking if we needed any help.  I thought to myself, with a little wind taken out of the sails, that we missed Mr. Murray. He probably traveled to some place to give lessons, or a speech.  Then my girlfriend asked to lady a question to which the lady replied, “I’m not sure, let me get Mr. Murray”. I immediately became existed again.  I don’t think I showed it, but man, my inner smile shined bright.  The old man (no, really, he’s like 80) came out and spoke to my girlfriend. I gained his attention, asked about what flies to use, and he started spitting off information and giving suggestions so fast that I struggled to keep up.  After listing ten or so patterns to use for different locations, he stepped back into his office, out of sight.  While I gave my full attention to Mr. Murray, my girlfriend told the lady I possessed a man-crush for Mr. Murray.  The lady replied with something along the lines of, “Yeah, people come from all around to talk to him, get his autograph, or even paint his picture. But to me, he’s just Mr. Murray”.  Awesome! this guy knows so much and so many people respect him, yet he treats everyone the same. I get the feeling that if the Jesus himself walked in and asked about flies, Mr. Murray would give the same response to the Son of God that he gave to me. He came back out of the office asking the lady about some email he received from an individual in the Netherlands who wanted some fishing advice.  A guy from all the way across the pond wants advice from a guy who lives in Edinburg, VA. I wonder how many emails Mr. Murray gets a day? I bet he answers all of them, even the simple ignorant ones. When we left, he simply said, “Thanks for stopping in” and walked back into his office.

Little Yellow Sally: another one

I left without a shirt or hat, because I spent too much on flies. However, I purchased a sticker, which reads MFS in black letters with a white background similar to the OBX stickers everyone slaps on their vehicles. If I see one of the MFS stickers in the future, I know I found a friend.

We drove a short distance North of Edinburg to the town of Woodstock where antique stores abound.  Now, I hate antique stores with as much passions as I love fly fishing. However, my girlfriend really likes them.  Huh! I spent the next two ours trying to enjoy myself and think happy thoughts about the wonderful experience at Murray’s Fly Shop. This lasted longer than usual, but by the third antique shop I felt like giving up and pulling the trigger.

We finished up the dreaded shopping and made our way to Joe’s Steakhouse.  One lady in the last antique store we visited recommended Joe’s.  I thought of heading to the Tavern, the name of which escapes me. However, the antique lady insisted, “it was nothing more than a redneck bar”. I thought that sounded nice.  Oh well; next time. Joe’s turned out fine.  The weather stayed warm enough to sit outside, the wine quenched out thirst, and the food actually tasted great.

We traveled back, picked up some cider and called it a night.  Although antiquing took place, I considered it a success. I really enjoyed meeting speaking with Mr. Murray as well.

The Two Runs: Brokenback Run 05/09/2014 and Mountain Run Lake 05/10/2014

This proved to be quite a busy weekend.  I planned to partake in quite a few activities and knew that by the time I reached Monday I would need to rest.  However, I’m young and enjoy a full schedule. So, I happily jumped in and enjoyed every bit of it.  Tennis, waterholes, fly fishing, spin casting, canoe fishing, family time, and school work all made their way into my schedule (pronounced: shed-dual)

After the typical 7 to 3:30 shift on Friday, I made my way to Culpeper and played tennis with the girlfriend, brother, and cousin. We all enjoyed it and I started hitting the ball better.  Tennis generally comes and goes in phases. I play a lot for a month or so and then it dies off for the next several. So, playing well is nice, but we’ll see how long it lasts. After tennis, we made our way to one of the not so many watering holes in Culpeper to have a round in celebration of my cousin’s new job.  While there, we grabbed a bite to eat as well. then, we returned to the padres’ with a 12 pack of ciders and what my cousin and brother thought to be a fantastic buy of a video game, Lego The Lord of the Rings. It took less than two ciders before I fell asleep on the love seat. I eventually made my way up stairs and slept well for the rest of the night.

Saturday morning came and I woke to the excitement of fly fishing a mountain stream.  Since my last weekend lacked any sort of fishing, I carried extra excitement.  This time my journey included a partner.  My brother, the one closest in age, accompanied me.  He and I have more of a current love for fly fishing and the overall outdoor lifestyle than our old brother.  Well, that or my older brother enjoys making more money than either of us combined. While he dressed himself and I anxiously waited to leave, I read to him some of the streams listed in Harry Murray’s Trout Fishing in the Shenandoah National ParkWe still needed to decide on a location.  Due to the nice description Mr. Murray gave, its proximity to our parent’s house, and the fact that we never fished it before, we picked Brokenback Run.  This stream runs beside the Old Rag Fire Road and, like river it flows into, receives little fishing pressure. It is small, but swift with nice deep holes. We had the entire day to fish this beauty of a stream and nothing but a little rain in the forecast to get in our way, or so I thought.

Although I thought this trip would take at least several hours, two things set us back.  After I noticed by brother taking an extra long time to get ready, both at home and at the parking area I asked, what’s the deal? He responded with sweat beading down his forehead, “my head is pounding”. I knew this wasn’t from the night before, because we only consumed  a couple ciders. The cause of this headache seemed to be allergies. Secondly, my brother has yet to purchase a smaller 3 weight rod, so even with a clear head he would have had a hard time keeping his line out of the trees. He seemed excited to try out his new Simms Guard Socks and attempted to push through the visible pain of his headache but alas, we called it a day about an hour into our adventure.  I hooked a couple nice little brookies,but lost them both in the process of their landing. They literally slipped through my fingers.  My bro, had no such luck and spent most of his time becoming quite familiar with the local Oak population. We sat on a log for a time while a quick shower past.  I felt happy. I hiked to a peaceful place in the middle of the forest, fished a nice stream with a couple yellow stimulator flies (buy ’em from a local fly shop), and sat on a log next to my brother.  He felt no happiness. So, we walked back. He threw up on the way to the parking area, I drove home, and he slept the rest of the day.

Due to my frustration with calling it an early day on the stream, I decided to head over to one of my other cousin’s property on the Thorton River.  This river is stocked with trout near his house for the Wounded Warriors. So, I have permission to fish as long as I catch and release. After the group comes in and fishes the river for one weekend in the spring, I can keep and eat those suckers. I possess no guilt with the consumption of these stocked trout because, they generally die off before the end of the summer. I needed to be back and cleaned up by 7 PM in order to make Mother’s Day dinner in town.  So, instead of putting my fly rod outfit back together, I used the spin rod for about thirty minutes. The beauty of this stretch of river always amazes me. It makes me relax and feel happiness. I hooked into a strong 14 inch rainbow which created a nice fight on my 4’6” ultra lite setup (it fits in just about any vehicle and works great for the canoe and river trips when fishing the banks under tree cover). I fished a while longer, witnessed a few nice jumps by rather large rainbows, and caught a 4 inch chub. This one scared me because of the horns on its head. I never saw this before. I immediately thought, mutant fish! The rainbows will soon disappear due to this carnivorous beast and the world’s doomed! I quickly and ignorantly kicked it back into the stream without the consideration of snapping a photo. This event unsettled me, for sure. I later researched and found out about the hornyhead chub. So, no mutant takeover, hopefully.

Dinner in Culpeper took place at the Hazel River Inn. Mom liked it, I thought less of it than expected. However, it turned out okay because of the time spent with family, and my oldest brother picking up the tab.  Ice cream followed and then back to the home place for some more conversation and sleep.  I enjoyed dinner because its rare my two brothers, my parents, and I all get to hang out together.  The sister lives and Florida and therefore, decided not to attend.

Sunday morning came with a list of activities for the day. While eating breakfast I tried to finalize this list to create maximum efficiency. Once finished with the meal I found the shovel and wheel barrel. My Mother’s Day present consisted of K-9 fecies. While I cleaned the yard of their wastes my brother gave them baths. I believe my mother enjoyed this present and it only took an hour or two.

My parents’ perros are large. Therefore, cleanup stinks.

Following the doggy duties we loaded up the canoes and made way to Mountain Run Lake for a little fun in the sun. My girlfriend, brother, and two cousins attended.  I caught zero fish, a feat no other member of our group accomplished.  Little large mouth bass proved to be the only thing biting. One more thing about the lake; everyone but myself neglected to wear sunblock on the first hot sunny day of the spring. Needless to say, we all fried. Although I covered my anterior side with lotion, I lacked the flexibility to cover my back and therefore, burned my posterior.

The lady friend’s monster large mouth bass.

We loaded up the canoes, dropped them off at the home place, quickly showered, the made our way to Warrenton for dinner at our Aunt’s. My girlfriend parted ways at the lake in order to spend time with her mother. The afternoon weather seemed perfect for relaxing on the back deck with a couple cold ones and family. We even played a little volleyball against the younger generation. It surprised me that we lost. However, like I said, we had a few cold ones.

After a nice bit of time relaxing with the family, my brother and I headed back to the home place. Once home, I began writing a paper and studying for my biology final set for the following morning. Needless to say, when my head hit the pillow, I fell asleep immediately.

This proved to be another action packed weekend.  I knew this going in, but it really took a lot out of me. After my biology final I slept for about five hours. Guess I needed it.

UMW Sports Interview

I partook in this interview while attending UMW.  Randomly found it today and thought I would throw it up on the blog.  Why not?

In case the page disappears, I pasted it below.  I know, goofy smile. I think Andrew Jackson to be foolish for his treatment of the Native American Indian tribes.  His late attack at the end of the War of 1812 looks bad as well. I think I like mountains and fly fishing more than music right now.

October 28, 2011

INTRODUCING … Mary Washington Senior Men’s Soccer Midfielder Bram Sims

Studying plays develop, just like studying history and people, is a trait that has helped Mary Washington senior Bram Sims become a two-year starter and four-year letter winner as a defensive midfielder.   Sims, who helped the Eagles secure second place in the 2011 CAC men’s soccer standings, is this week’s INTRODUCING … featured student-athlete.

Briefly, what is your background in the sport you play?  I’ve played soccer for as long as I can remember.  Both my older brothers played and I picked it up at a very early age along with baseball.

What is your favorite spot on campus?  I don’t really have a favorite.  I suppose anywhere outside; the campus is really nice.  Any of the benches along Campus Walk are great for sitting, watching, studying, etc.

Outside of your home and campus, where is your favorite place visit?  I enjoy visiting the mountains during the winter.  My closest friends and I always go snowboarding.  There isn’t a particular mountain I enjoy more than another.  It’s more of an atmosphere thing.

Other than your team, what organization (s) do you participate in (on campus or off campus)?  I work as an official for Campus Recreation (refereeing and supervising intramural games).  I’m also a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Briefly describe the most memorable experience during your collegiate athletic career.  Playing against Salisbury on Homecoming Weekend of my freshman year.  The game was cold, wet, and windy.  However, I don’t think any of the players cared about the conditions because we had so many fans at the game cheering us on.  It was a really fun, adrenaline-packed experience.

If you could change any one item in the world (in your personal life, school, community, amateur or professional sports, national/international issue, etc.), what would it be, why, and how would you do it?   I don’t feel that I have spent enough time thinking about this question to put forward an actual good answer.  That’s something you could spend your life thinking about and still it might not be the best change.  I guess I would end world hunger.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to be starving.

What is your major in college, and what is the most important thing you learned in that discipline?  I’m majoring in History and Economics.  For history, it would have to be how to do research. Not just historical research but, research in general on any subject. I feel it’s a very important and often overlooked skill. For economics, the ability to think critically and differently towards questions.  Often times you can’t simply look up the answer in a textbook.  You have to take a unique approach to find the (possible) answers.

Other than your family members, who was the most influential person in your life?   My best friend growing up. He never puts his wants in front of the cause.  I think a lot of people could learn from that.

What is your favorite form of entertainment?  I enjoy live musical entertainment.  There is something about a live band that captivates me.  I can listen to the entire band or pick out a certain instrument while the rest are still playing and study that one musician.  It makes me smile and I rarely tire of it.

What is your favorite source of information (TV, book, magazine, website, friends in dining hall, etc.)?      My favorite source of information is a book.  If I am able to focus only on the book, the information really seems to stick.

If you could give one piece of advice to elementary school children, what would that advice be?   I don’t know. Everyone is different; therefore, different advice is needed…Follow your dreams!

Outside of the Capital Athletic Conference, who or what is your favorite sports person or team?   My favorite sports person is Paul Scholes.  He’s a retired English and Manchester United socccer player.   We play the same position and his ability to distribute the ball is amazing.

Name three (3) people, real or fictional, living or dead, that you’d like to have dinner with?

Muddy Waters.  He’s an incredible blues guitarist and I like music.

J.R.R. Tolkien.  Anyone who can create that crazy of a story with its own language would have to be an interesting dinner date.

Former U.S. President Andrew Jackson.  Because I would like to see if he is as much of a fool as I think him to be.

 

Montpelier Wine Festival 05/03/2014 and Corbin Cabin Hike 05/04/2014

Finals for the spring semester took place last week.  This however, by no means, meant I skipped out on having fun over the weekend. It just meant I took a little longer to write about my endeavors.  I…can’t remember what I did on Friday, the  2nd of May. So, let’s conclude, I did something related to tennis, drinking, hiking, or fishing. On second thought, fishing evaded me that weekend, because, and only because, my girlfriend said I do it too much and our relationship suffers due to said activity. I’m not really arguing; I really like fishing. We’ll leave it at that.

Saturday my girlfriend and I attended the Montpelier Wine Festival at the Estate of James Madison.  The weather remained nice, a little on the hot side, but after the long, cold, snowy winter I doubt anyone complained.  I only wish I wore and outfit a little more comfortable.  Yet, the wine tasted nice, as did the fat cigar between my lips.  After a few hours of tasting, which took place in the large field in the front of President Madison’s property, we decided to take a closer look at the living quarters and their surroundings.  With my wine buzz still intact and my shoes in my hand, we walked around.  I found myself thinking, “This is nice. Nothing specials, but nice”.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like history and historical sites. I really want to visit Monticello, the home of the great, Thomas Jefferson, but currently I’m in fishing mode. After being told several times to shut up about fishing and enjoy the event, I found myself desiring the rod in hand, the water at foot, and the fish around the bend. Then I found it; I found the view. From the front steps of Montpelier I beheld the breathtaking and utterly refreshing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. I asked the few individuals who accompanied my girlfriend and me if they could imagine waking up to this every morning? I could; the day immediately went from one which lacked fishing to one not wasted. I located happiness or at least tranquility for a few moments. That’s a special feeling and one that I seldom get from anything other than nature.

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‘Twas a nice view

Sunday began late due to sleeping in, which I enjoyed. I probably studied for a bit before we (my girlfriend and I) headed out the door to hike somewhere in the Shenandoah National Park. Looking back on it I wonder if my view from Montpelier captured the park at all. I convinced my brother to join us on the hike and in turn, he convinced the dogs to tag along.  Jubal, my parents’ 150 lb. Great Dane and Widget, my brother’s Harrier hopped in the back of the Subaru and we headed for the Old Rag Parking Area.  We hiked the Nicholson Hollow Trail.  I enjoyed having the dogs with us, but the trail followed the river.  It killed me not to fish. Again, don’t get me wrong, I like hiking and I like my girlfriend, but I have fly fishing fever!

Jubal had a rough time getting the hang of crossing the streams.  Large builders placed across it just seemed like objects of hindrance to him rather than a way to stay dry.  I feared he would cut his legs while slipping and sliding through the streams.  Thankfully he learned by observation (classical conditioning?) and crossed with ease on the way back.  He also likes to walk himself by holding the leash in his mouth.  Because he possesses great strength, we found it easier to just throw his leash around his neck. He stays close and technically he stays on a leash. So we break no rule, which is nice.

I hiked this same trail last spring with my brother and it always takes longer than we anticipate.  When we reached the cabin we ate lunch on a rock which sat in the stream and relaxed for a few minutes.  After getting back from the hike, I studied some more.

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Jubal, checking out the surroundings while we ate

Overall, the weekend received a B+ in my book.  It could have been worse; it could have been raining. The view from Montpelier excited me.

-Bram

Slow Weekend on the Rappahannock Fall Line 04/26/2014

Planning for last weekend started back in January. I purchased Fly Fishing Virginia by Beau Beasley with some money I received as a Christmas.  Over the next several weeks it became my bed time reading. Now, one must understand, reading before I go to sleep is sort of a foreign concept to me. I generally only do so, if I feel it necessary for school. I get through a couple of pages — if that — and soon my eyes are so heavy, closing them seems an immediate inevitability.  However, a stray from the norm took place with this book.  I found myself getting excited and, dare I say, becoming lost in simple yet interesting details about streams, rivers, and ponds located throughout the Old Dominion.

While the mountain streams captured my attention more so than most other locations, one stood out amongst the rest, the mighty Rappahannock, as I like to call it — with a voice intended to sound like Clay Jenkinson’s of the Thomas Jefferson Hour.  For some reason the way he says, “the mighty Potomac” sticks in my mind and I often enjoy substituting the Rappahannock for its larger northern neighbor.  Yes, the Rappahannock at the fall line in Fredericksburg.  I currently call this little historic city my place of residence and have so since attending the University of Mary Washington for my undergrad.  Therefore, reading about the excellent fishing literally, right in my backyard created quite a stir in my brain. I found myself thinking, how could I have lived here for so many years and never known about the pole-fun located so close? Well, honestly, playing soccer every day, attending college full time as a double major, and working a significant amount kept me quite occupied.  I only really found my love for the outdoors, when both soccer and school slowed down, a little.

Let’s get back to the point: After reading about the fall line fishing on the Rappahannock I knew where I would be for at least one weekend during the Spring of 2014.  It is true I caught the end of the Striper run last year, but I knew little about it then.  This year however, I invited a number of friends the stay the weekend and hit the water Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, after the typical 7 to 3:30 shift on Friday I drove straight the river to meet up with the crew. The water level looked perfect, the fish jumped hungrily, and the weather soon took a turn for the worst.  Sadly, we only casted for about an hour before thunder began rolling.  In that time, I caught a nice little Herring and my good childhood friend, George Franklin (name change, because he wished to remain anonymous) hooked into a nice striper which lead to a five to ten minute battle, ending in yours truly skillfully grabbing the gracious monster from behind.  We, used sinking line, with Clouser Minnows for the Striper and Tommy’s Flash Torpedoes for the Shad and Herring.  Side note: When I list flies, I would recommend either purchasing them from the original maker, or a local fly shop. Help those people out, because they’re awesome!

Photo: Jb with a hard fought striper on the rapp

With the onset of the storm we quickly decided to hit the local watering holes and enjoy our time together. Two good friends, one great friend, myself, and a brother had a night on the town.  The next morning, we woke a little later than intended and made our way back to the water by 8 AM. It was already starting to rise and get muddy. We tried our best and quit not for several hours. Yet, we fished in vain. So, we watched an English Premier League game, napped, showered, and made our way to this Nation’s great capital.  D.C. United kicked off at 7 PM. We planned on riding the Metro in from a friend’s house, but the HOV lane lacked efficiency and an hour drive turned into a two hour affair.  So, instead, we drove straight to the game. In the end we made it on time, watched the home club take all three points and made our way to another group of watering holes after the match.  We sang, we danced, and we were marry.

Sunday morning came with the excitement of a Liverpool versus Chelsea title clash.  Sadly, Liverpool could not breakdown the very organized defense of Chelsea and the Blues took all three points.  Hopefully Manchester City trips up in the following weeks to give Liverpool their first title in twenty-one (?) years. After a long search for the car keys — which I smartly placed in my toiletry bag the night before, so I would not lose them, of course — we drove back to Fredericksburg in search of a clear river. We found none. We napped, everyone left, and I began studying for a biology test.

The weekend fishing lacked the fun and excitement which I imagined for the past few months.  Still, I dare not say it lacked adventure. Although, we caught very a low number of fish and Liverpool failed to conquer Chelsea, it was time well spent. We fished, we cheered, we enjoyed ourselves.

-Bram

Native Brook Trout on the Dry Fly – 04/22/2014

Easter weekend happened. It came and went with a lot of small activities packed into two and a half days. I met my brother and cousin for some afternoon tennis in Culpeper after working the seven to three-thirty shift in Fredericksburg. We of course, found our way to a well respected watering hole post tennis which most people refer to as “b-dubs” where we drank, caught up and snacked before heading home.  I call my parents’ house home.  Forest Gump followed on TV with an eventual bedtime somewhere around midnight.  I woke around eight for another round of tennis with the same group before we headed to Easter dinner with my dad’s side of the family.  After stuffing my face with far too much food, and feeling a little sleep deprived, we headed home before taking the short trip over to my Cousins’ parents for another night of drinking and cat fishing down at the pond house.  Between myself, my two brothers, and two cousins I believe we wrangled in five to seven cat fish in the range of one to two feet in length (possible exaggeration; makes stories better).  Again, bedtime came far too late in the evening.

The following morning was Easter Sunday and that meant ‘Sunrise Service”.  Luckily, or by the wrath or satin — however you want to look at it — the church my parents attend is in the process of building a mega-church on the property just a short walk through the woods from home.  This is where the service took place, which at the very least made for a little more convenience. I made a deal with my mother a day earlier that if I attended Sunrise service I could skip out on the rest of the religious meetings and fish until Easter dinner, which took place at two in the afternoon. This was a deal I could not refuse as I recently gained new knowledge about the magical world of dry fly fishing from the legend himself, Harry Murray of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg, Va.  A few weeks back I attended a demonstration he gave at the Heritage Festival at Graves Mountain Lodge. The festival leaned more towards kids, but I wasn’t going to miss Old Harry spread the gospel of fly fishing in the mountain streams of the Shenandoah National Park. The deal had to be struck with my mother because all the brothers missed Easter last year in favor of visiting a friend in Philadelphia and attending a Flyers versus Caps game. The brothers and I lack religious conviction.

Anyhow, let’s get back on track.  After a very groggy service with a quite pretty sunrise I found myself parked at the base of Old Rag ready to hike up the Nicholson Hollow Trail and fish for some beautiful mountain brook trout.  I caught one the previous fall on a fishing trip to the South Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine (this would have been another great journal entry), but that catch was more dumb luck than skill.  This time I came prepared with knowledge, a nice day, a new rod, and a craving for taming the wild beast that some call the brook trout!

After about a one mile hike through private property I began my fishing. I tried to keep in mind all the things Mr. Murray told me. However, I’m new to fly fishing and therefore, not very good at it, and two, I was way too eager.  I fished a number of holes without any action.  Finally, I slowed down and approached the river with a little more focus. I wasn’t quite in the zone or one with the river because, like I said, I’m new to this stuff. But, I was focused. I came across a couple of nice holes that allowed me some great cover while I presented my Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly #14 designed by none other than, Harry Murray. I told you this guy was a legend! I saw the fish take the fly off the top of the water. The battle followed.

I was so excited that a fish took the fly that at first I neglected to realize that my position made it almost impossible to land the fish. A large tree that fell across the stream, a three foot waterfall, and a deep pool which I could not wade through all stood between me and my tiny little friend at the end of my line.  How? How am I going to get this fish? I frantically went over what I thought to be every possible scenario in my mind. Before I knew it, the fish came down the waterfall and into the pool I stood in. Only one problem: my line ran over the down tree and I couldn’t get close enough to the fish in the deep pool.  I had only one option, or so I thought. I had to reel the fish back up the waterfall, over the tree, and back into the pool where I stood.  I knew the little bugger would come off, but I had to try.  Who would have thought, it worked. I had him, or her. Gender didn’t matter. I had the most beautiful fish in my own two wet hands (always wet your hands before handling a trout, or most fish for that matter). I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos all the while making sure I kept him in the water for as long as possible (trout die quick when taken out of water, like less than 30 seconds quick). He was perfect. I’m going to go ahead and say it was a male.  I released him and sat in a complete state of euphoria. I read about these fish all winter, caught stocked trout, and tried to gain enough knowledge about the “real trout” before I took the plunge.  In my heightened state of happiness I forget to release him back into the pool I caught him in. You should always try to do this in case it is spawning.  A rookie mistake.  Yet, the day was mine. I caught a brook trout on a dry fly. All my reading and hard work paid off.

Photo: First native virginia mountain brookie of the Spring #jointhemaddness #livesimplelivebold #catchandrelease #flyfishing #dryfly #brooktrout

I fished a few more holes and had a few more good hits, but didn’t land any more fish.  It didn’t matter. I caught one and one seemed enough for the day.  Sleep deprived, hungry, a little sick, dehydrated, and happier than if I had sense.  It turned out to be a day I’ll never forget; a good day.

-Bram

Journal? Why?

The desire became prevalent a little over one year ago, in February or March of 2013.  At that time I spent almost every weekend doing something that I either found to be exciting, interesting, or at least new.  I went on a lot of first time fishing trips, backpacked with a good friend around Germany for two weeks, went horseback riding (digression: I know, riding a horse is not that cool, but I have a strong respect/borderline fear for animals that can easily kill me and therefore, I found horseback riding to be quite entertaining), and… did a lot of other things I struggle recalling.  The idea to write my experiences down comes and goes yet, something always gets in the way of beginning the process.

However, something changed recently. While sitting in my Developmental Psychology class discussing goals we would like to accomplish within the next year one student nervously put forth their opinion. I honestly forget what they said, but it jogged my memory. I remembered.  I need to journal.  I’m sure health benefits exist and why not write down what I do? It’s a great way to preserve the good memories.  Hell, maybe I’ll even become a better writer, which certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Okay, where were we.  Yes, journaling, or writing, or blogging, or whatever you want to call it. It shall be one of my goals and I shall begin now.  I hope to write all about the experiences I have and maybe some other person will one day read them and find something either on, or between the lines that gives them something.  Some kind of feeling.  A good feeling I hope, but a feeling none the less.  I hope my writing educates and creates happiness to whoever reads it. Maybe, this will become a fishing journal, or an outdoor journal.  I lack certainty with respect to that. It will however, be a journal and that excites me!

-Bram