For the right to Brag!
One of the more positive aspects of March is that if youíre not comfortable with the present weather condition just hang out a couple of minutes, itís likely to change. Today proved to be no exception. Predominately overcast skies, broken at times with brief warming sunshine yielding back to darkening skies with occasional squalls of snow and ice riding on winterís last breath.
The Gunpowder can be a challenging river anytime, and on a cold day in March with low water conditions the odds donít improve. Immediately confronted with making our fly selection, we prospected our boxes for likely patterns while wandering down to the stream to peer into the cold water hoping for some clue, while little bits of ice and snow bounced off our hats.
Tim Bowers was first to settle, jotting down a Copper John in #14, followed by Bob Dietz,ís #14 Grouse & Herl. Nick Weber, our defending champ, also chose the soft hackle in the same size as Bobís but with the variation of partridge hackle. Ken Bowyer tied on a #14 Bead Head Brassie in Green, and Mike Shydlimse a #14 Hareís Ear soft hackle, Steve Graves a Beadhead Soft hackles in #14, myself a beadhead caddis with a lime dyed goose biot body in #16.
After a quick huddle concerning the afternoonís rainy forecast we decided to stop fishing an hour early and meet back at Masemore at 2:30 pm instead of the previously planned 3:30, then taking good advantage of the rivers length, we spread out from up near the Dam to below Bluemont road.
Walking through the woods near the stream it was evident that spring just hasnít sprung much up on the Gunpowder. Leafless trees with only slightly opened buds silhouette the houses perched high on the ridge tops above the stream. The only abundant new growth along the stream bank are the spears of Skunk cabbage pushing up through the leaf litter, their thick spears multicolored in deep reds heavily flecked with yellow and light green, and only accompanied by the few skinny stalks of daffodils here and there that havenít bloomed yet. Water level was low but adequate, someone saying 37 cfs.
But the fish are there, and I lost my first one, a 4 inch brown that jerked my indicator toward the tangle of brush I was working and was off before I could even react, the leader popping back fly intact so I was still in the game.
Two brush piles later I hooked a good fish of almost twelve inches, and despite taking me deep into the snag he failed to make good on the opportunity and I finally got my net wet. An hour later I ran into Ken who said he hadnít had a hit, thus raising the possibility I was scoring pretty good; clueless that miles below me Mr. Dietz was on his way to racking up an amazing 90 inches of trout on that Grouse & Herl. The first he said taken during one of the several snow squalls we enjoyed. Nick had partnered up with Bob and said every time he looked up Bob was into a fish, thirteen in all. Later in the parking lot Nick demonstrated Bobís rod holding technique which he said he stopped fishing to study, then used to hook and land two fish for 19 inches on his own soft hackle, good enough for third place.
MeanwhileÖ up stream and just below the Dam, Tim & Steve were watching a demonstration on the effectiveness of the midge pupae from a couple of anglers who were pulling trout out of a slot with some regularity. After they moved on Tim and Steve moved in and found a few trout willing to bite their offerings. Tim, getting a ten incher on his copper john and Steve nailing two for a total of 21 inches and grabbing second place. They said they later were talking with the anglers who were doing well on the pupae and pulled up some rocks to reveal small black fly larva which they attributed to the success of the midge pupae pattern, and some caddis larva with bright green bodies.
There were a few bugs out, the occasional stonefly, and midges seemed to appear every time the sun shone for more than a few minutes. It was nice just to be out and enjoy the last bit of winter, and fantasize about what the place will look like in a month with hatching bugs, rising fish, and comfortable temperatures.
Heading back to the parking lot Ken and I came across Mike watching some fish rising in the flat water just below the bridge. Mike saying he had taken 6 inches of trout upstream on his hareís ear and losing another. As the tallies came in it was soon obvious that no one was even close to Bobís astounding and new record of 90 inches!
So hear Ye! Hear Ye! We proclaim Bob Dietz winner of the 3rd annual one fly contest with full rights to brag for the entire coming year!