It’s been a wet, rainy summer so far in the West Virginia mountains. The forecast for this week is calling for a drying period with the heat and humidity finally making an appearance. On the news the weatherman said that until now we had a three week stretch where there was measurable precipitation every day.
With the heavy rains resulting in muddy water we had to take a different approach if we wanted to fish.
I’ll admit that both Tara and I used to frown at the sight of muddy water but not anymore. When the water rises and turns off color, the big predatory fish come out to hunt.
The turbid water disorients the baitfish, making them easy prey. This creates ideal conditions for streamer fishing. I leave my normal 4-weight fly rod in the truck and switch to my streamer rod, which is a 7-weight with sinking line spooled on my reel.
The sinking line helps get the streamer down to where the big browns are lurking. A streamer is nothing more than a big fly tied on larger hooks to imitate baitfish. Sculpins, darters, crayfish and even small rainbow trout are on a big brown trout’s menu so the streamers are tied to imitate them.
Streamer fishing has a whole other approach and technique. As stated, rising, off-color water with overcast skies is perfect conditions just like the day Tara and I experienced last weekend. When throwing a streamer you cast straight across and retrieve at a 45-degree angle downstream while stripping line in.
The idea is to strip the streamer with the current or perpendicular to it. A wounded baitfish will go with the current or swim straight across it to get to the calmer waters. They will not fight the current and try to swim upstream. This makes a big difference, as the predatory browns know wounded fish characteristics.
It was a cool 66 degrees when we pulled up to the river. I’ll take those temperatures any day during the middle of July. The clouds made for overcast skies and the torrential downpour the night before left muddy water rolling down the river. We strung up our streamer rods and headed downstream admiring the beautiful wildflowers along the trail as we went.
In the first hole we fished, Tara rolled two small brown trout before connecting with a plump rainbow. I’ve been trying to get Tara hooked up with a big brown on the streamer rod as this is a new style of fishing for us. She’s caught a few rainbows but not the big brown.
Oh well, she didn’t mind getting the skunk off and fighting the first fish of the day. We continued up river to a stretch I haven’t fished in years. There was a deep trough and an undercut bank on the far side that had brown trout written all over it. I threw my streamer out and as I was stripping it back in, a wake followed and then a flash of yellow struck like a musky.
I set the hook and the fight was on. With the heavier 7-weight rod and thicker line, once the fish is hooked they usually don’t break off.
Tara grabbed the net as I worked the fish towards the bank. It was a nice 18-inch brown trout that made my day.
After that it was Tara’s turn. That’s how we fished that day, leapfrogging one another and taking turns. By covering as much river as you can you’re more likely to come across more fish. There’s no need to cast a bunch and spend time on one hole as the browns will eat it, miss it or just aren’t there. It doesn’t take long to find out.
At the next hole it also had an undercut bank under a big stump. “There’s got to be one in there,” I said to Tara as she cast out. Immediately her rod bent over as a heavy fish hammered her streamer. A short battle ensued before I slid the net under the brown. I was just as pumped as Tara was watching her catch that fish.
At the next spot I missed my opportunity as fish hit in the head of the hole, but I missed it. That’s another part of streamer fishing in that you will see more fish than you catch. Lots of time they’ll roll at your streamer and that’s it.
We worked our way upriver to a pocket where I caught a big brown earlier in the year. The rhododendron was in full bloom and lined the far creek bank. I happened to look up and there was a bear standing in the middle of the river. We watched it take a drink and then walk toward the bank. I barked like a hound to let it know we were there as we were heading right where it went. It worked, as the bear ran up the bank.
I showed Tara where I caught the big brown last time but he wasn’t in that particular spot this time. Tara found him in the head of the hole when he exploded on her streamer. He shot downriver and went airborne in the middle of the hole. “Don’t let him get under that stump,” I yelled to Tara as she continued to fight the fish.
She was able to put some heat on the fish with the heavier rod and line and turned him toward the bank. It came right in, and we beached it before taking a couple of quick pictures. It was a gorgeous brown that measured right at 19 inches.
The action didn’t stop there as we both managed to miss a couple more browns before the rain set in and it was time to call it a day. And what a day it was. I never get tired of spending time on the river in our beautiful mountains with the best fishing partner in the world. I know I’ll look at high, muddy water totally different now.
Take care until next time.