Monthly Archives: November 2007

birth of a troutstream

Spring 2006 – Summersville, WV

The WVAngler.com campout is under a deluge of rain. Huddled under a tarp canopy a group of about 30 anglers between 18 and 60 years old consume copious amounts of alcohol and discuss women, angling plans for the following morning, beer and women. Off to one corner, Eric Ohlmstead, Cory Booth and myself discuss political issues, world economy, Watts vs. Joules…and potential new trout streams. Cory is a rafting guide and a damn good one. In addition to being an elementary school teacher he spends a freakish amount of time floating on rubber rafts down the New and Gauley Rivers. So Cory casually mentions, “Have you checked out Bucket Creek?”

What I found on this creek was fantastic pool quality within an isolated canyon. Typical pollution tolerant bug life (blue winged olives, midges, black fly larvae) but lots of it. I petitioned Ernie Nester to go check it out as Ernie has as good a handle as anyone on trout stream parameters. He checked it out and made a recommendation to KVCTU to get some fingerlings. We’ve now had two loads of fingerlings placed in the creek thanks to the help of guys like Ernie, Joe Crowder, Marcus Patrick and many other volunteers who’ve helped backpack the fish in.

Then we discovered a problem. There is a wastewater treatment plant on the creek. This isn’t normally a problem, there are several fantastic brown trout streams in southern WV that have treatment plants on them. But this one is particularly bad. Gray water belches out of the effluent. No benthic life or fish below the outfall. Then a few months ago I found a dead trout laying just below the outfall. I thought that maybe the stream was a bust. I contacted the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection and their claim was that the treatment plant was the worst around, that there were many violations, but if they forced them to pay fines then the plant would have no money at all to function at even it’s best (worst) conditions. Which I think is complete bull.

But I didn’t give up hope. Yesterday afternoon I made a quick trip over to the lower end and was greeted by lots of hungry 8″ brown trout. That’s a big burden lifted. They say the solution to pollution is dilution. Hopefully we can work together with the Whitewater Rafting Associations to push for major improvements to this treatment plant, and ultimately the cleaner water of this tributary and that of the New River National River.

Coal (a.k.a. trout-be-gone)

I visited Logan County, WV trout water yesterday. Or at least what used to be Logan trout water. Logan County lies in the heart of the southern coalfields in WV. The deeper you get into the southern coalfields, the poverty and garbage is striking. I just can never get my arms around it. Everytime I visit I am still  amazed at the ubiquitous amount of garbage and litter. I submit that there is no place in America, even on depressed reservations, where garbage is more ubiquitous. I suppose when you spend your work days destroying the environment by filling streams with toxic overburden, pumping gray water into streams from prep plants and planting invasive species such as autumn olive in the name of surface reclamation, then chucking the McLunchbag out the window or chucking the old washing machine in the creek don’t seem relevant. I’m a proud West Virginian and these folks that dirty up my state get no pass from me.

The DNR in WV has been stocking fingerling trout into streams where year round production is sufficient to grow the fish, but where reproduction is not sufficient for self substanance. They do a lot of this themselves in addition to doling out these fingerling loads to Trout Unlimited chapters, Izaak Walton League chapters, watershed groups and other conservation organizations, so long as the fish remain in waters accessible to the public. The DNR has been doing fingerling stockings in about five different streams in Logan County for several years. Lee Orr found a healthy population in Elk Creek near the town of Man about four years ago and we’ve returned there at least a half dozen times over that span, typically catching between 3 and 8 fish per visit. Not a lot, but considering the low gradiency of this stream and lack of pool structure, it really isn’t that bad. Normally you can cover the upper reaches of this stream in less than 2 hours.

Yesterday I fished Buffalo Creek and Elk Creek and did not move a single trout. I covered a lot of water. A couple of months ago I fished Rum Creek and Dingess Run and did not move any fish there either. Massey Coal and it’s subsidiaries operate mines in the headwaters of most of these streams. Massey has accumulated over 69,000 days of Clean Water Act violations and $2.4 billion in fines, the vast majority are unpaid or settled for pennies. The WV government and Choir of Engineers give them and other companies a pass in the name of economics while the WV Coal Association and Friends of Coal spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on PR campaigns to show how environmentally friendly they are. The education and literacy levels plummet the further you get into the coalfields (much like you’ll find in extraction mining communities worldwide). McDowell County has a staggering literacy percentage, 38% of McDowell County adults cannot read above a 4th grade level. I believe that this works perfectly for these companies as folks are easy to convince via these untruthful PR campaigns.

But there have been a few nuggets of beauty come from the coalfields in my eye…wild trout. Elkhorn Creek is one of a couple of dozen wild trout streams that have been created from deep mine seeps that run across limestone geology. Cold groundwater that has been buffered by this limestone (or in some cases active treatment via settling ponds) and believe it or not, juiced up by raw sewage run to the stream from residences dotting the streams (the raw sewage adds organic phosphates to the stream and jacks up the pollution tolerant benthic life…it’s a monoculture of blue winged olives and midges, but the trout grow fat on them). The scenery is the most depressing imaginable for the greatness of America, but the fishing is second to none.

Logan County didn’t get the memo. Lee and I have taken water chemistry on many of these streams and found incredible alkalinity levels of close to 200 ppm in many of them. Coupled with cool water they are custom made for big brown trout…if the dozers would stay out of the creeks (for counterproductive dredging purposes) and coal companies would cut into their enormous profit margins to become better stewards that is. Oh, and if the locals would stop chucking garbage into the streams. I’m still amazed that I didn’t move a single fish. Overfishing doesn’t seem to be a component. Given, low water this past summer would’ve hammered the populations in the lower gradient streams, but I still should’ve moved some fish. I’m not giving up hope, I still think there is much to be gained from a more extensive fingerling stocking effort in southern WV, but there is certainly more of un uphill battle for salmonid conservation in southern WV than in about any other state in the US.

Video Link to photo slideshow.

deerhunt

Thanksgiving week in WV means turkey, deer hunting and Alice’s Restaurant on Rock 105. I wallowed in all three. Did some ritual worn deer hunts on Monday and Tuesday…same tired discussions, everyone hunts the same spots, sees the same (lack of) deer, goes home to eat the same Thanksgiving spreads on Wednesday/Thursday. I have to say it is awesome. Some things shouldn’t change.

I’m a trophy buck hunter, I see no value in shooting an inferior buck that the hunter will not immortalize the rack. If you want meat, take a doe, if you want antlers, let them go so they can grow. I’ve gotten to the point that I have a hard time congratulating folks on shooting inferior bucks. Particularly those who I know will either give the deer away because they never wanted the meat to begin with (my uncle) or those who will cut the rack off and throw it in a bucket in the corner of a shed somewhere.

“I want to see blood, gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat. Dead. Burnt Bodies. I mean kill. kill. KILLLL.”

I memorized the entire 20 plus minutes of Alice’s Restaurant sometime around the bored, confused age of 10. Since I was old enough to remember they’ve played it all day Thanksgiving day on a Charleston rock station and for years it was a tradition for our family to tune it in at some point on Thanksgiving day. Then we bought the cd so we could listen to it at our lesiure. I once even conned a local movie rental store into securing a copy of “Alice’s Restaurant” the movie so I could watch it. Not a bad flick considering the budget.

I’ll be glad when all these leftovers are gone and I can resume poverty level grub. Honestly, gonna be a tough deal running these pounds off.

Not sure how much more I’ll get to hunt this year. May go out for a day or two in blackpowder season. This past winter my wife won a brand new CVA in-line muzzleloader during a presentation at my church by the editor of Blackpowder Guns & Hunting. It’s a pretty slick rifle. I really don’t want any meat this year though, not a big fan of deer meat personally. I prefer beef. But if I get a chance to go somewhere that I feel I’ve got a shot at a taxidermist worthy creature I’ll consider it.

friday toons

There’s something I like about Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups. Apart from the hotness. I don’t know, maybe that’s it. Anyway, wonder if she’s the one Dave Grohl sings about in Darling Nikki? I can see it.

Back on last week’s theme of Swedish Indy Rock. The Concretes have a few tunes I like. I got a copy of the mp3 of their Rolling Stones cover Miss You that was really good. I’m iffy on this song, but the video concept is neat

Montana Orr Bust

I finally unlocked the secrets to my system and figured out why my DVD recordings were going foul. Now I can finally release the film “Montana Orr Bust”. Basically, this video is about 35 minutes of stuff from my trip to Montana in August 2007 with the Orr family. Better than your average 30 minute tv show, trust me, but it isn’t my best work. So I’ll tag this with a materials price of $10.00 + shipping (+ 6% tax for WV residents). I’ll try to get something up on my website in the next couple of days with more detail on ordering and possibly a PayPal button for you indebted servants of credit.

The video is in a quazi-diary format, with small details of each day in chronological order. The “Such Great Heights” short video came from some of the footage as well as some of the digital camera shots (not included in the film). Anyway, if interested in ordering a copy, email me at psmith@vandaliarodworks.com

flyfish rags

Placebo Article for Open My Fly Magazine

 

Destination Rio S’wettiarmpit – Tibet

 

If you go, you’ll definetely need these fly patterns that you will not have the materials to tie, as nothing you currently have will work on this stream:

 

Co-ed Trout Getter

Hook: TMC 5262 (because Tiemco pays us to make sure we don’t give props to Mustad or those lowbrow inferior hook companies…you can only use TMC 5262 dammit)

Thread: Yellowish Brown 6/0 (because, you know, the color of the effin’ thread is so important)

Tail: Right rear leg flank fibers from a Spanish Flecked Egret

Rib: 0.788 mm Aluminum 6032 alloy wire

Abdomen: tan Australian Possum (incredibly important here, you know, the fish will discern the distinct Melbourne strain of Australian Possum from the Sidney strain)

Thorax: Rabbit, color to match naturals (I love this one. Rabbit. C’mere Bugs, let me wrap you to this hook)

 

Okay, next up, the “average fish” pic. Have to show the photo of the largest fish the author caught on his “work” vacation and then deem it “an average Rio S’wettiarmpit brown trout”. That way, not only does the destination look extremely impressive due to the sheer enormity of fish, but when the duped reader actually goes there and doesn’t catch any to match the size of the photo’d fish then the author looks like a god. This quirk is not exclusive to magazines as messageboard posters sometimes pull this one off too.

 

Last but not least – the “If you want to become a true master baiter, er, angler, follow these 10 rules” (because rules always come in groups divisible by 5.) The rules will be incredibly vague and, well, stupid.  

 

Dumb gear reviews? I’ve yet to read a gear review that makes me salivate over a product. They generally compare the new stuff to new stuff. It’s typically always the arbitrary opinion of a self annointed expert. Price? Well, the company sent it to me free, what do I care? Then there’s always the suspicion factor. These companies provide advertising dollars, can the magazine truly be honest about the product?

 

I’ve let several subscriptions expire in the past year due to crap like this. I no longer need to feel validated as a fly fisherman in having my mailbox full of fly angling related materials. If it doesn’t impress me, it gets round filed. American Angler, Fly Rod & Reel, Fly Fisherman, etc. Not doing it for me anymore. I lack the coin to subscribe to Gray’s, but I like the format when I do get to thumb through one. Thisisfly is probably my favorite, albeit an online pub. Think I’m going to subscribe to The Drake too. I love the messageboard. I recently subscribed to Fish & Fly because the Okuma metal flybox offer was too sweet to pass up ($13 subscription and get a free 16 compartment/foam fly box…awesome). My first issue of Fish & Fly is actually pretty good. Some good photography and a few decent articles. However, the ‘best 3 weight’ gear review is dumb (see above). They used WF line in testing 3 weights (dumb, why would you use WF on a 3 wt? I wouldn’t consider a 3 wt a go to rod for long distance casting). The author says something about ‘how if you used DT line, it would probably be great close in’ showing how ignorant he is concerning the difference between DT and WF lines…there is no difference in the first 30′ of line. Then, like all other gear reviews, they take into consideration the ‘look and finish’ of the rod. Hey expert, let me decide what I like in finish and look of a rod…you give me stats and stress curves.

 

All these rags have pro’s and con’s. Ted Williams and John Gierach offset the ‘top 5 places to catch big trout’ garbage. Just thought I’d throw down the psmith gauntlet on publication critique. The journalists sucking on the teet of these mags would not like me as their editor.

champion filmmaker

No, I haven’t yet won the wviscalling.com contest. Folks have been asking me about that. I still don’t know if the judging is completed. There are some pretty good videos on there though, so I’m not as confident in my chances as I once was. However, I just got the email version of the hook.tv newsletter and I’m one of the three featured users AND one of my videos is one of the three featured videos (the back the brookie video). Check out the online version of the newsletter and the hook.tv website. ‘Tis pretty cool to get props. Last year I won 3rd place in the Winston Rod Company’s – Flyfishingmovies.com website preliminary film festival. My reward was a pat on the back, but it is pretty awesome to get recognized amongst guys who actually have the coin to buy expensive equipment and sell their films through markets worldwide. I have the ability, just lack the fundage. Hopefully, I can figure out a way to pull down some money for doing this stuff and be able to upgrade equipment, software and justify getting out more to my wife. If I can show some monetary validation to my video obsession, I get a yard pass.

So for God’s sakes give me a sponsorship! I’ll give your product mad props. Even if it is a gay fly line holder thing.

progress? we don’t need no steenking progress

For those of you who’ve placed rod orders with me, I don’ t know how else to put this…put it on ice. I’ll get to it. Geez things have been slow this past summer/fall. I would’ve thought with my two kids getting older (now 2 and 3 years) that I’d actually get a little more done. Ha. It’s worse now.

I’ve been on one rod now for I think more than 8 weeks. That’s ridiculous. Sad thing is that the blank is just now nearing completion so I haven’t even started the finish work yet. Good gawd. Maybe it’ll speed up this winter. You hope.

the limby oak

Farmers sometimes do it, but I think hunters do it more. That is, name specific areas on a tract of property in order to relate to other hunters where they are talking about. The Low Swag, the Locust Grove, the Gas Well Hollow, the White Rocks. I had the day off Monday and was able to <finally> get to bowhunt with my dad for an evening. We’d heard of a massive buck running a neighboring farm to the farm we like to bowhunt, so we set off in pursuit, knowing a likely place where this dude might come chasing does…the Jimmy Marshall Point…which is the point off the end of the Limby Oak Cove…near the Powerline Right-Of-Way. I’ve witnessed some great rutting activity in the Limby Oak Cove in the past and was coming out of my skin when we rolled our ATV’s to a stop and were setting out to scout a place to hunt. I did grab a few photos during the early afternoon hours. The Limby Oak used to have a permanant stand in it, probably 17 years ago when I was a kid first starting to hunt this farm.

The Limby Oak

Dad in full gear

Might as well make yourself comfortable…we’re gonna be here a while

Alright, alright. But you know, I hold still in the treestand a lot better when I channel my nervous energy. Madden football keeps me still and is quiet. If I hear something move through the leaves, I tuck the game into my pocket.

Well, I wish I could elaborate further on the success of this hunt, but success is in the eye of the beholder. I saw 6 deer, all does, and heard some serious buck chasing going on across the holler just out of sight. The neighbors working the farm down below where I was hunting were noisy as heck all evening, thumping and banging around, starting up tractors and trucks, turning them off, starting them again. I could barely hear myself think. But we’ve all been there. The deer didn’t seem to mind too much, but were a little edgy. That could’ve just been the rut though. At any rate, getting out in the woods with my dad is something I spent my whole youth doing ad nauseum. Now, it is an incredibly luxury that can’t be priced. I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to get out with my dad.

 

lustworthy gear

Humans want stuff. Specifically, American humans. American flyfishers want even more stuff. God this sport has gotten bogged down with stuff. The catalogs are full of stuff. I ranted about the new Orvis catalog on wvangler.com recently. The uber expensive novelties are growing like a cancer throughout that catalog. Orvis is in a heated race with Sage and Winston to see who can put out the most ridiculously expensive graphite rod. Pushing  the market. I stopped in at Angler’s Xtreme in Parkersburg yesterday and talked to Rich & Dave.

P: So how much are the regular edition Helios rods going to cost?

R: (thumbing through price guide) Under $800. I can’t afford one.

P: Too much for production graphite, but don’t we all own graphite that we couldn’t afford? What about all that extra fluff?

R: Nothing stays in that catalog unless it sells. The greatest selling items from Orvis now are the women’s clothing line.

P: Hmmm, sounds like Abercrombie and Fitch all over again.

So I feel for these guys. They are kickass individuals running a business that is a difficult market sell in Georgetown, let alone Parkersburg (for those of you in Rio Linda, about a 4 day’s jog from a wild trout stream – 2 hour drive). I hope they keep plugging on, but I don’t like where Orvis is taking their market strategy. At least Sage doesn’t sell $400 flyswatters and cardigans. The growing niche in fly angling is the cyber generation. Not the pretentious a-holes with sweater vests who only fish 1 week of the year on private club-stockie water.

So that brings me to the gear that sets right with me. The stuff with good karma.

Calviello & Trucco Rods – Holy integrated bamboo ferrule Batman, these are awesome. The price is not bad either. I’ll own one of Marcelo’s rods someday. You just watch. The integrated bamboo ferrule is really unique. Some others may be doing it now (Marcelo makes no bones about how to do it…but it ain’t easy), but Marcelo pretty much perfected the technique. No dead spot on these blanks. He also uses native Argentinian bamboo…sweet. I dig innovators. Marcelo is a good guy too. Check out his blog.