Monday, January 21, 2013

Urban Lines - Fish Where You Are

Saw the following movie trailer at Vimeo via the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  This movie follows four DC fly fisherman and their passion for the Potomac River watershed.  Take a look at the trailer - these guys are catching everything from stripped bass to shad.  Some scenes show some great spots - literally in the heart of Washington DC.

This is something very dear to my heart.  Get out and find local waters, fish them hard, take the time to protect the resource, and teach others the wonders of fishing!  I can't wait to see this movie.

To view the trailer go here.  For more information on Two Fisted Heart Productions check out their website here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Late Summer Hike, The Appalachian Trail and Maryland Heights Trail

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

In late August I had a day of leave to burn and with most of my "honey do's" done I thought I would sneak out to Harpers Ferry for a few hours worth of hiking.  A historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, it sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.  It also happens to be the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Harpers Ferry, WVA.  Here is where the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers meet.

This area is a great location for day hikers and families as there are several trails including the AT and they all boast some challenging hikes with incredible views.  The only draw back is that because of the rich history of Harper's Ferry and its close proximity to Washington DC and its surrounding suburbs there are a lot of crowds.  If your looking for solitude then you may want to go elsewhere.

Harper's Ferry is very close to Washington DC and Baltimore which makes it a popular spot to visit, especially in the Fall when the leaves change colors (photo courtesy of Google maps).
For today's hike I started at the AT Conservancy, making my way past Storer College, past Jefferson Rock, down the AT trail that leads through the heart of the historic town, across the Potomac up into Maryland Heights and back.    I stopped at the scenic overlook which lies off the Overlook Scenic Trail to have lunch and snap some pics.  All-in-all a great day and a good workout.

The AT Conservancy which is located on Washington Street.  There is free parking in the back for day hikers.
Path leading from AT Conservancy to the AT trail.  Notice the blue trail marker (blaze).

The path crosses the campus of Storer College.  The college was one of the Nation's first back universities.  Now it is used as a National Park Service training center.
Path leads to Storer's campus boundary and down the hill to the AT.  This is where the fun begins.
The famous Appalachian trail.  To the right is Georgia.  Go left and you'll eventually reach Maine.  Hmmm... which way to go?
After 10 minutes of walking on a very narrow trail you reach a paved foot path leading to Jefferson Rock.  In the background is the Shenandoah River.
Jefferson Rock directly off the AT.
Making your way from Jefferson Rock to downtown.  It gets pretty steep with a large part of the path cut into natural rock formations.
At the bottom of Harper's Ferry near the levy.  The armory that John Brown attached prior to the civil war is on the left outside of the camera shot.
Harper's Ferry armory.

AT sign in front of the armory.
This way to the AT!  Very cool old bridge spanning the Potomac River.  Even more fun when a train crosses.
Train tunnel bored into Maryland Heights.
Canal path along the Potomac leading from bridge to Maryland Heights trail.
My 'Lord of the Rings' shot.  Welcome to Maryland Heights - at this point in August humidity I was starting to get winded. Thankful for the shade and a full Camel Back!
An hour later - lunch with a view.
Looking up stream of the Potomac River from my lunch perch.
Some fellow hikers enjoying the view.  
Below is a map of the Maryland Heights trail as well as links to more information regarding the trail and its historical significance.  Have fun and enjoy the views.

Hiking Up Ward - Maryland Heights Trail Info

NPS - Hiking Trail & Historical Info

Maryland Heights Trail (photo courtesy of NPS)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jose Wejebe - 'Spanish Fly' Final Season

Like many outdoorsmen, I have a bucket list of activities I want to participate in before my number is called and I venture forth to the pearly gates.  On the top of that list was fishing with Florida Keys guide and TV fishing icon Jose Wejebe.

I grew up watching Jose on TV as a kid well into my adulthood.  An amazing guide and captain, Jose had a wealth of knowledge on marine ecosystems and their relationship with salt water fishing.  Whether it was chasing behemoth Pelagic species in exotic blue waters or going after Red Fish and Tarpon in local tidal basins, Jose stood out as an authority on fishing always ready to teach or mentor.  He was a colorful man with a cool demeanor and a hearty laugh.

The world lost Jose on April 06, 2012, when a small plan he was piloting crashed shortly after take off from Everglade Airpark in Central Florida.  Starting in January, 2013, The Outdoor Channel will be presenting the last season of Jose's show 'Spanish Fly, A Celebration."  The show will focus on Jose's life as well as his greatest moments on TV... all narrated by close friends and colleagues.  We lost a great person when Jose passed but looking at his life, achievements and friendships he had a life well lived.  As a fan and fellow saltwater fisherman with a passion for the outdoors... I'll be watching!

For more information on Jose or to see some of the best episodes of Spanish Fly check out Jose's channel on You Tube (here).  You can also visit the memorial website for Jose (here).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red Drum in the Potomac River... IN WASHINGTON DC!

The redfish, also known as a puppy drum or red drum, is silvery in color with a dot on the back fin. They've been turning up in the waters near the Wilson Bridge. (Courtesy of Auburn University)
Original Story Found Here:

Unusual fish lurks near Wilson Bridge

by Michelle Basch, (

Wednesday - 9/12/2012


WASHINGTON - Don't look now, but there's something unusual lurking underwater near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

"I was in Pohick Bay with a buddy last week, and we were all of a sudden surrounded by these fish. Big waves of fish (were) coming toward us and we were looking and it was kind of diminished light, we couldn't see really well," says Potomac River bass fishing guide Steve Chaconas.

"But when we got a good look, we said 'those look like redfish.' And then we started asking around, and we found that yeah, people are catching redfish here in the Potomac River."

The redfish, also known as red drum or puppy drum, is a popular sport fish living in both saltwater and brackish water. They're silvery colored with a spot near the tail.

"When you do mention redfish in the Potomac River to any angler, they get excited. That's a species that fights really hard, fights much harder than any of the native species that we have here in the Potomac. It adds excitement to the guys who will travel to try to catch these fish. Where they would normally have to go to the Chesapeake Bay or go somewhere around saltwater, now they can just come right here in their backyard," says Chaconas.

Chaconas, who's out fishing on the Potomac almost every day, was really surprised by the newcomers, as are scientists.

"I've talked to biologists who have been tracking the river for many years and they've never, even though we've experienced high salinity levels in the Potomac River, they've never seen these puppy drum or red fish come this far up the Potomac, and up this far is up to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge," he says.

There's another sign that a lack of rain has made the river water particularly salty.

"Commercial fisherman (are) starting to crab, commercially crab further and further up the river, where we're actually seeing crab pots as far north as Pohick Bay," says Chaconas.

Chaconas says he hasn't personally caught any redfish, but he says fishing for largemouth bass and Northern snakehead has been very good lately.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission limits the catch of redfish to five per person, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a maximum size of 25 inches.

Maryland's Department of Natural Resources offers a look at what and where anglers are catching around the state.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Springtime Shad

Fletcher's Cove
Washington DC

Springtime in the DC area means cherry blossoms, flash rain storms, and the beginning of tourist season.  For the outdoorsy it also means shad spawning in the Potomac.  Probably one of the best kept local secrets is the AMAZING shad fishing that hits the Potomac River every spring.  There are three types of shad that spawn in the Potomac river; Amercian shad, gizzard shad and hickory shad.  They are a protected species in the Potomac watershed with tight restrictions on creel limits but they are awesome to catch.  On a fly rod they are nicknamed 'freshwater tarpon' for their ability to fight and leap out of the water.

Hickory shad caught on a 9 wt fly rod using a chartreuse Clouser minnow and shad fly trailer.
One of the best spots on the Potomac to target these fish is near Fletcher's Cove Boathouse.  Aside from the fleet of rowboats that are for rent there are plenty of spots on the shore that allow anglers access to this norrow portion of the Potomac to target the spawning shad.  The challenge with shad fishing is many.  Water flow, sunlight and water clarity all play major factors.  Ideally you want overcast skies and low water so you can access the running shad who hold bottom of the river.  The payoff, aside from the great fight is that there are a variety of other fish attracted to the spawn that are just as fun to catch; namely stripped bass, catfish and snakeheads.

Fletcher's Cove Boathouse: right off the Potomac River, 1 mile from work and a 10 minute drive from the White House.  (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
The shad run lasts about 3-4 weeks.  If the weather is right it can last a bit longer.  One of the issues of the Potomac is that right around the time of the year of the spawn this are receives a lot of rain which can put the kibosh on fishing.  The area around Fletchers is greatly affected as the rather large Potomac river passes through a very narrow gorge (some areas around 150 feet wide) so the water flow at times can be massive.  Add flotsam from upstream and the rough uneven bottom makes trying to hold anchor in a boat or fly fish the depths from shore all but impossible.
View of Abner Cloud House off of Canal Road which marks the entrance to Fletcher's Cove.  The upper parking lot is to the left of the house.  In the foreground is the C&O Canal and bike path.
Downstream view of the C&O Canal.  If you follow this it will take you to Georgetown and Washington DC.  To my left is the Abner House and upper parking lot.  To my right is the lower parking lot, Fletcher's Boat House and the Potomac River.
The Boat Rental, tackle shop and Bike rental buildings.  You can purchase a DC fishing license here for $13.00
View of the cove and boat launch.  During dry spells and low tide that area is one giant mud pit.
For fly fishing, just about any weight fly rod will do.  Shad flies are typically small with lots of color.  Gold hooks and eyes work well.  The challenge is that you need a sinking tip line and some extra weight as you need to get bottom quickly where most of the fish are at.  I typically use two rods.  I use a 5 wt rod with sinking, weight forward line with a variety of shad flies.  I also carry the big gun 9wt salt rod that I rig with a Clouser minnow and shad fly trailer.   What's interesting about shad is that their hankering for flies changes daily.  Once day they'll only hit pink flies, other days its white.  It varies literally from day to day.  When they hit a fly its not out of a desire to eat - you are just triggering their aggression and curiosity so you're really not trying to imitate anything natural or 'matching the hatch.'
Variety of shad flies I use.  Most of the local fly shops in the area carry all of the above; others you can purchase on site at Fletcher's Boat House.
As for casting from the shore - its tough.  There is a lot of vegetation and overhanging trees. This is why low water levels are best as you can scramble onto boulders along the shoreline and get farther out to the river.  If you can manage a good roll cast you'll have an advantage.  Usually I cast out and let the fly sink and float down-stream.  Right when it can't go any further in the swing I retrieve using quick and erratic motions.  No need for indicators because when a Shad hits fly you'll absolutely know it.
Trail that tracks upstream, north of the boathouse.  This will take you to several great spots along the Eastern bank where you can cast from shore.
Hard to believe you're in the city.
Lots of wild flowers along the river and path.
Here you can see the low water levels and exposed rocks.  Gives you a little more room for back casts.
Downstream view from one of my secret spots.  Notice the cloud cover - this is ideal for good fishing as bright sunlight slows down the bite.
Caught this guy on the 9wt using a double rig.  Notice the Clouser above the shad.  I use this when I see snakeheads tearing up the water.  You never know!
Bring a hand towel as these guys are slimy and smelly.
This fishery is amazing and lots of fun.  There is a boat launch if you bring your own canoe or kayak or you can rent a row boat from Fletcher's.  Make sure to snag a few small rocks to use as make-shift anchors as holding bottom is key to successfully fishing this area of swift water.  Do not use store-bought anchors as they will be guaranteed to get wedged in the rough bottom causing you to cut off and loose $$$.  Be careful and DO NOT wade this area of the river as the current is very swift.  I would also not bring children here to fish from the shore (boats are OK).  The current is super strong and there is a lot of underwater structure that can trap people who fall into the river.  If you use a boat, absolutely wear a life preserver.

Directions can be found here.  Make sure to read carefully about Canal Road as it turns into a one way street for the morning and evening commutes.  GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Passage Creek Expedition

Its been two years since I wet a fly line... crazy work schedule + wife and two little kids will do that to an avid outdoorsman.  One of my New Year's resolutions was to go out and fish new water, both fresh and salt.  Hence my first outing to Passage Creek on a very warm January day.
Sign greeting anglers at the Mountain Road (State Route 619) bridge that bisects the special regulation area of Passage Creek.
Where to begin with this.  First... the facts.  Passage Creek, the 1-mile stretch known as the Special Regulation area, is a slate rock bottom creek stocked and managed by the VDGIF in cooperation with Trout Unlimited.  In total Passage Creek runs 38 miles and is a tributary of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.  The special regulation area I fished is a mile long strech located parallel to the Front Royal Fish Cultural Station.
A short hour-long drive from the Washington, DC metro region.
(Map provided by Google Maps)
The Front Royal Fish Cultural Station is classified as a state run warm water hatchery used primarily for walleye and bass.  It is also utilized as a distribution point for a number of fish fingerlings deposited throughout Northern Virginia.

A map reference of the special regulation area near the Front Royal Fish Cultural Station.
 (Maps provided by Google Maps)

Fingerling channels on the north east side of the property.  You can see the station house in the background.

In short this creek sucks for fly fishing.  Its pretty with very accessible water and lots of runs and small pools but it is poached big time.   The VDGIF stocks this water five times a year, usually before three-day holiday weekends.  This brings out everyone with a cooler of Busch light and tackle boxes full of power bait and trout magnets.  I have nothing against these anglers as we are all brothers in the outdoors.  I just get pissed when said fisherman venture over to the managed fly fishing side and poach that water too.  I've heard rumors that VDGIF rangers are indifferent to the poaching as it is too much trouble to police a location so close to civilization.  I guess its also true that all politics are local.

View south (upstream) from bridge parking and put-in point.  Its pretty with good water flow but its poached over.
View north (downstream) from bridge and put-in point.  I am told that next to that hatchery overflow pipe is a favorite spot of the Busch light crowd as it has nice ledge-seating overlooking one of the deepest pools that the trout hid.... I mean hang out at.
What makes matters worse is that this is the first "natural" trout water in VA for suburban commandos like me.  Every lover with a TU membership and fly rod swings by this creek to wet a line while driving along Route 66.  This means that it is often crowded and over-fished. If you are serious fly fisher-person its better to keep on trucking and drive another 40 minutes into the Shenandoah valley where you can find 20+ trout hotspots.

The start of the special regulation area (upstream).  Its a pretty spot with promising runs but due to the overfishing if you do anything other than birdwatching its a waste of effort.
This stream has good water flow with little to no submerged vegetation.  The stream banks make an easy wade but around the bridge (on both side) are thorn bushes that can make casting tough.  A good roll cast is needed for this water but its not too wide so it should be manageable - even in the warmer months.

Shallows just past the falls (down stream).  As you can see the water clarity is very clear.

I am not sure if this is slate or shale but its all over this creek and can make spotting fish even more difficult.  Its also slippery as hell so make sure you have your ninja wading boots on or you'll be on your ass in no time.

Some of the flies I used.  I mostly tried bead head nymphs in the pools and then tried the CK Kreelex on the right in some of the runs. 
The Kreelex is a bad mofo as far as streamers go.  It was designed by the fly tying guru Chuck Kraft.  I first used them fishing the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, NC a few years back.  If you are interested in learning how to tie check out the Mossy Creek You Tube channel.

There is posted land at the end of the special regulation area (North end) so be careful not to trespass as it is patrolled heavily.  VA is going through some serious court battles regarding fishing and trespassing so its better to leave well enough alone when you see signs like this.  Plus...I think this guy is serious as there were 8 other trees posted like this along his property!
Getting there: the directions to the special regulation are very easy.  From Northern VA take Route 66 West towards Front Royal.  Exit onto Route 340 South headed towards Front Royal.  Turn right onto Route 55 West towards Strasburg.  Less than a mile after crossing Passage Creek on Route 55 (there will be a sign) turn left onto Route 678 (Fort Valley Road).  Turn left onto Route 619 (Mountain Road) - easy to spot as you'll see a sign for the fish cultural station.  Park on either side of the bridge that crosses the Passage Creek special regulation area.  you can fish either side of the bridge (both banks) for about a half mile in both directions.