Thank You For Reading My Blog

This blog is about my life as a fly fisherman, guide, and fly fishing instructor in and around Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Its About Time We Got Some Rain

Forrest Gump: One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night... Fast Forward To 2:09

Its a rainy day here in NOVA. dr jones is rather upset at being wet from his morning walk around the neighborhood. THW wore my wellies when she walked him. She has not worn those in months. Basil seedlings have sprouted.

I have spent the morning trying to get a hold of this weekend's clients. Most are signed up to fish the Potomac and its tributaries. These sections will be flooded and unfishable. I don't mind fishing in the rain like today, however, the chance of lightening is not good. Who wants to walk around in a storm holding a nine foot lightening rod?

I am moving this weekends clients to Gravelly Point to fish out of the drift boat. I am hoping that the duck pond will drain faster and we will be able to fish some clear water as it drains into the main stem of the Potomac.

In other news, THW made me shave off the mustache. I kind of liked it. It was in honor of Thomas Magnum aka Magnum P.I. I think she is a Rick or TC fan and not a fan of Thomas.

I am now going to spend the rest of the afternoon tying flies and cleaning. I'm going to France for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shout Out To Joe Vivenzio | River Run Troutfitters

I can't say enough about how welcoming Joe has been to me over the past years. Here is our story.

Tom and I were fishing 8 or 9 years ago on the Salmon River. We watched a guide up river with a client and a huge dog. The client was hooking into steelhead left and right. It was insane. We could not believe how many fish this guy was putting on his client. We watched for several days. One day the guide walked past us and muttered "I'm going for cough-ee, don't take my f'ing spot." Wow, this guy was a curmudgeon. He was like the captain Quint from Jaws with out the saltwater. We called him the 'gnarled old fishing guide' and told stories about it until the next year.

The following fall we drive up to the Salmon River. We camp and get up at about 0400 to get to the river and get first dibs on the spot where the guide was last year. Tom and I were all geared up with rods in our hands. We were sitting in the parking lot and getting a few more minutes of sleep. Its around 0500 now and a truck pulls up. A big dog jumps out and I say to Tom "thats the dude from last year, we need to get out of here and down to the river to get the spot." He hears that and tells us to chill out, there is plenty of room down there for everyone. Tom and I took off for the river before they were in their waders.

As the sun rose and the day warmed we warmed to the guide. He was across the river from us and we started a conversation. We threw sticks to his dog, Sinbad. We started to fish a pattern called as sucker spawn and it was the hot fly.  He invited us back to his camp for beers and to hang out. That was the first sign of Joe's incredible hospitality. Joe and I stopped off at a store to get some cream colored yarn to tie up sucker spawns for the morning. Here is the tying set up in the 'kitchen.'

We all hiked down to the Black Hole together in the dark. Headlamps and lanterns to light the way. We had the section to ourselves. This stretch of river was beautiful. Like no other place I had fished before, not just on the Salmon. We set up our gear on the rock ledge and began to fish. Cream colored sucker spawn was the fly of choice. "This is steelhead water" he told me. Fast water with lots of riffles, turbulence, and deep holes. Egg patterns and sucker spawn flies were taken with ferocity by the steelhead. I had never experienced fishing like this in my life.

Joe laughed at me and Tom. We had all sorts of gear with us. We had stoves and tying kits, and toilet paper. We were running low on flies so used red strike indicators and some sweater yarn to turn out some more sucker spawn. We cooked hot chocolate and soup to warm up. You get the 3rd item. Joe taught us about tying leaders for steelhead, what flies to use up there, different colors-patterns-sizes. When to switch patterns, when to use this size split shot, when to use that size. It was priceless information that he shared with us. Information he has learned from fishing that river since the early 70's. 

Joe invited us to fish with the him and his clients and friends the next day down at the Black Hole. We were offered to crash at the camp but had all of our gear back near Trout Brook. We agreed to meet at first light at the Black Hole lot.

Tom was hooking some monster steelhead and fresh salmon. Joe asked why Tom would run down river to land a salmon "Because its a salmon!" Tom told him. Joe was amazed at Tom's enthusiasm and skill and he decided to take us under his wing. We all went out to dinner that night at the classy Ponderosa.

The next day was our last up on the Salmon and Joe met us at the lower fly stretch. He fished with his clients and kept his eye out for us. I was having issues landing some big fish and he stood next to me, spoke softly, and gave directions on how to fight a big fish in big water. I lost several fish. He stood with me all day until dusk. I finally landed a nice fish with his assistance. I had some major surgery a few months ago and was not sure if I was going to make it up to fish the fall run. I'm sure glad I made it up there and made some new friends while fishing.

We exchanged contact information and made plans to fish again the next year.  Joe gave us a call in early February of 2005 and asked if we wanted to come up and fish in March. We obliged and got on the road. I was a substitute teacher and tied my flies while showing films in class,  Tom took time off his job. Tom will always refer to this road trip as the one where the girls flashed us on 81 outside of Syracuse.

Joe had a client that was from Puerto Rico and on business. He was in Canada and made the drive down to New York to fish for spring steelies. It was cold. Tome and I had fished in the snow up there in fall but never in winter. This was brutal. The fish were lethargic and Joe taught us how to fish low and slow. Split shot or pencil lead, running line, nymphs or streamers. By now Joe was drinking less sugar with his cough-eee. Joe took us to the Altmar Hotel for lunch. What a warm meal on a cold day. Joe had to get back to his other job and we had no roof over our head. We drove to our regular campsite and set up. It was 33 and raining when we set up camp. It was -10 when we woke up and -35 with wind chill. Awesome.

By the fall Tom had moved to Denver and I was teaching full time. I did not make it up that fall. The next year I drove up during torrential rains and missed Joe. I had learned to get a substitute teacher and leave my students to go fishing. Most people had decided not to fish the river. It was strange not fishing with Tom or Joe. I didn't catch a fish. Blame it on the rain, blame it on not knowing how to fish the river in the rain. My campsite was under water and I slept in my car.

2007 found me up on the river during Columbus day weekend. The leaves were changing and the snaggers were out in full force. Joe hates snaggers. He has spoken of their abuse of the fishery for years. Their blatant killing of fish that could reproduce and further provide offspring for the fishery. How they snag salmon and drag them to shore, how undersized steelhead and brown are tossed into coolers and taken away before the law finds them. They leave a lot of litter too. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of unethical fly fisherman out on the water but the snaggers is like nothing you have ever seen. This section of river is now private due to the amount of litter left behind on the island in this section.

I arrived in the early morning and got a few hours of sleep before it was time to hit Timbers diner for breakfast. We got out in the Black Hole lot and geared up. Before long we were met by a stinking Sinbad. He had found a skunk and pissed it off. Joe slept in the same room with that dog that night. He loves that dog.

We fished all day and had one hell of a good time. Steelhead and browns with a few coho and chinook salmon. Egg sucking leeches, buggers, pheasant tails, spring wiggleres, etc. Joe's client Dave was destroying the steelhead. This guy was an animal. Joe had him in the lower black riffles. Tossing cream colored eggs with a blood dot. Dave started off as a steelhead novice and ended the day a veteran. Joe displays one of Dave's steelhead. Sinbad is always curious. Don't forget, if Sinbad can't find a stick or tree branch for you to toss for him, he will grab a rock out of the river and bring it to you.

I lost my job two week later and Joe invited me up to fish for a week to clear my head before I started looking for work again. He offered his sofa and I obliged. We drank pinot noir and told fishing stories at night. Discussed fishing techniques, the health of the river, and effectiveness of fly patterns.

I was out of work the following February and wanted to go fishing to get out of the house. Joe invited me up to the camp. He would meet me in a few days so I stayed at the School House Inn. It snowed the entire time. I had never seen snow like this before. Full on lake effect snow. I spent the first day and night fishing, warming up, walking dr jones in the snow, fishing, and loosing fish. I was hooking steelhed on pheasant tails left and right. Each time I turned around my gear bag was buried under the snow.


Joe calls and tells me he is on his way. He asks about the weather and I say it is snowing like I had never seen. He tells me he is 20 min away and that it is sunny. I think he is bullshitting me. He calls 10 min later and says he can't believe the snow. It turned out to be 49" of snowfall that day.

Joe meets me at his camp. There is about 4' of snow blocking the driveway. We find a guy with a bulldozer and he clears it. We then spend 3 hours trying to shovel and snow blow the path from the garage to the house. We get in the house, unpack, and head to dinner. We return and notice the house is cold. Getting colder. I put on dr jones' fleece.

We figure out that the heating oil was not refilled. We have no oil to heat the house until morning. We settle in for a cold night. We wake up and its freezing in the house, literally. I turn on the stove and oven and we wait for the oil guy. Once the oil is filled and we turn on  the heat, we are out the door with the drift boat.

We float the river and have a beautiful and fun day after the massive snow storm. The air temps were in the single digits.

Joe is very outspoken about the state of the river, the mismanagement of the fishery, and blatant disregard for the fish by several anglers. He catches a big steelhead on a chartruse bugger and I have to land it with my hands. That water was liquid ice. I would have shed a tear if not for fear of having his raspy voice call me a cupcake.

I return in October. I find Joe and Sinbad at the lower fly stretch. Sinbad takes a nap on the rocks. He is getting older and is slowing down a bit. 

 Joe helps a client to fight a fish. The client had a great few days on the river and we floated it with Joe. I learned to maneuver a drift boat from Joe. I now have my own. The client passed away a few months later.
 Guess what color the fish were taking?
 Dave drove up at first light. He is now an established steelhead angler. He drove up at 0300 and fished for a few hours and drove home.
 Some of Joe's flies.

 Drying the flies after a rainy day.

 Drying out gear.
 Sinbad with a tree.
 View from Joe's camp. The end of the street is Lake Ontario.

 Joe's boat.
 A guy in a superman cape fishing.
 Joe and client on drift.

Chris G. and I drove up last fall. Chris had never fished for salmon or steelhead before. Joe took him under his wing and showed him how to swing a streamer (Joe's favorite method). Chris got a full on steelhead 101 his first morning with Joe. There was a bit of highschool-esque drama going on with the other guys at the camp. Chris and I decided to camp at the normal spot. Joe welcomed us to stay at the camp but warned us of the other guys and their sudden animosity.

Chris stuck with the fly pattern Joe gave him. Joe also lent Chris an entire box of flies for his duration on the river. How cool is that? We ended up going to the shops to tie up a batch of the purple flies. It was one of the only flies Chris used the entire trip. Although Chris did not land a fish, he came close several times. That purple fly was on fire.
 Joe telling Chris some river stories.

I won't be able to make it up to fish with Joe this fall. I am too busy. I have been sending him some of my clients. Most people do not realize they can catch salmon, steelhed, and huge browns just a few hours drive from D.C. I recently spoke to Joe and he stated he has quit smoking. Good for him.

I hope to fish with Joe and Sinbad later in the fall or throughout the winter. I'm going to miss his stories, hospitality, generosity, and teachings. One less trip out with Joe is like missing an entire semester of college. I have learned so much from Joe that I can go on and on. He has helped me learn about fish,  how and where to catch them, why and when of steelhead fishing and more. This is the information I pass on to you. Go fish with him and experience him for yourself.

I just found out that Sinbad passed away this week via Joe's site. He was one of the best fishing companions I have ever had the pleasure to fish with. He will be missed. 

For more information or to book Joe, you can contact him via his website.
River Run Troutfitters
mobile: (518) 527-7104

Joe offers an exclusive "No Fish, No Pay" guarantee.
As always, he promote Catch-and-Release fishing. Contact us to schedule your trip.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Round Up | Something Bit Me

Saturday was HOT. I spent 12 hours out in D.C. with clients around the Tidal Basin. I drank 3-4 Nalgenes of dilute Gatorade. The fishing was just as hot.

We started off by the Jefferson Memorial. Schoolies were breaking the surface all over the place. Sunfish aggressively (I can spell that based on remembering the cheerleaders from high school) took nymphs with a smidgen of flash and some soft hackle. Largemouth took a look at the flies and were not motivated to strike.

My 4 clients and I hung out with some bait and spin anglers. We traded stories of what was in the basin and what they have caught. One had stories of 30lb stripers and 26" snakeheads. He had the pictures to prove it.

Three out of the four clients caught fish. The fourth had lots of bites and action but didn't land a fish. Harriet caught the most fish and was fishing an old Orvis Superfine rod. A rod that small and noodley makes the smallest of fish appear to be monsters.

The morning clients took off before the heat set in. They were headed to lunch at Bon Chon. I was super jealous. If you have not eaten this fried chicken you are missing out. It will change your whole perspective on fried chicken.

I took off to fish between clients. I spoke to every angler out there. Each had their own theory on snakeheads. Some said they walk on land, some stated they eat everything, some said they are super aggressive. Each had watched the River Monsters episode on Animal Planet.

I even spotted a European carp rig set up. A whole bunch of rods on a horizontal platform, held in place with lines out in the water. The lads asked how I was doing and sure enough, English accents.

I found one dead snakehead on my venture and snapped a pic with the camera phone.

I met a father and daughter for my mid-day lesson. We fished around the basin as the tide was dropping. They caught several fish and both improved their casting skills. We had a rare double hook up. Props to the Caps shirt!

We lost a few flies to the trees. This section has a lot of overhanging branches. No one became frustrated though and we kept fishing through the heat. The branches provided a welcomed shade.

The afternoon clients destroyed the fish. We lost count after a hundred yards of shore. The below smallie took a pheasant tail nymph! What a nice surprise. This was the first smallie pulled out all year.  The lack of a breeze brought on the mosquitoes. I hate those bugs. They serve no point. Why do they have to cause itching? I would be fine if they sucked a few drops of blood and left me alone after.

We fished till 6pm and had hoped for some big largemouth or a snakehead but no luck. Plenty of sunnies and that smallie made their first fly fishing experience enjoyable.

We found another dead snakehead on the shore. Proof that these fish do not in fact have the ability to walk on land. This one seemed in tact except for the maggots. It was most likely tossed up on the side alive and died from exposure after a few days.

Pictured next to the fish is a 9' 5wt rod for measurement. As the night was over it was time to get home, shower, and head to Deckers for some charred animal and a few cold beers. I enjoyed a few bottles of Becks and a cigar. First cigar since the Vineyard?

Sunday was about 30 degrees cooler and a drizzle met me and dr jones on our morning walk. I headed to Scotts Run for my first clients. They found me huddled in the back of my car in the chilly air. I'm glad the rain did not scare them off.

We set off down the trail to the river. The stream was swimming pool clear and appeared lifeless. Before long the sound of the waterfall and the light gap beyond the trees indicated the river was close. A few minutes of basic casting lessons and we were into fish. Several sunnies and a pumpkinseed were landed. A few spin guys were out there and swimming through deep holes. One looked like the swimming deer from the famous Winslow Homer painting. My second client canceled so I headed home to clean the house in preparation for THW's return.

I headed out to the Tidal Basin for the evening clients. This marked the 6th time I have worn socks since leaving corporate life. I wore my shit kickers since it was supposed to be rainy. As I often do, I fished prior to meeting the clients. I was working the section where the bait guys told me they have had the most luck with snakeheads. I had an 8wt rod and a big scorpion bug. I worked the walls and exposed trees and only had one fish take interest. It was a long and slender fish. It came up in an S shape as it went for the fly. It was not the size of a smallmouth or largemouth in their 3 year size. This fish was a bit in between the 3-4 year range if it was a bass and it was rather slender. I am trying to convince myself that it was a juvenile snakehead but will  not confirm. If so, I am getting closer to catching one on a fly.

The clients met me as I returned from my car with their rods. I normally fish 5 weight rods here but the wind was ruthless and I took a 9' 6wt and the 9' 8wt I had been fishing. We worked the shore in the opposite direction from the day before. I had planned on getting into stripers.

We made it to the basin entrance. My client was fishing a scorpion bug with a bead head squirrel hair dropper. His second cast into the tunnel got him a needlefish. I have seen these fish in the basin for quite some time and thought them to be gar. I did some research and found out that they are Strongylura marina, Genus Antheriniformes, family Belonidae - needlefishes. Strongylura marina (Atlantic Needlefish, tidal only). He fought the slender fish of about 16" and pulled it to dry land. In my attempt to secure the fish and take out the fly, the thing bit me.

I can now include needlefish as to the list of wild animals that have bitten me. Let me not forget to mention how stinky this fish was. I was going to dry heave at the stench. It was on my hands all night. After doing the dishes, after washing my hands several times, and using THW's lavender hand soap. Gross. I could still smell it when I picked her up at the airport at 10:30 (PM mind you).One of the reasons I thought it was a needlefish and not a gar is the smell. I can remember that stink from when Tom and I went fishing the flats in Key Largo before his wedding. We caught lots of needle fish and they all stunk.

We fished our way back to the FDR Memorial. I tossed the fly in to see how bad the wind was effecting their casting. It was bad. The water was choppy and dark and rarely did a fish bust the surface. They were busting it all day Saturday. I foul hooked this tiny fish. I have identified it as a Menidia beryllina, the inland silverside, and it looks like the organism that forms the mass schools in this man-mad estuary. I'll have to start tying some flies to look more like this one.

And that is about it for my weekend. It was very busy with clients and everyone had a fish bite their line. Almost everyone caught a fish. I spoke to lots of other anglers to find out about their methods and what they have been catching. I got to drink some beers and eat a solid meal.

I was up this morning in the rain to try out the boat and it is awesome. I was out at the airport and was able to row to the center channel and cast in 360 degrees and not worry about my back cast hitting a tree, didn't have to worry about waders, or my legs getting tired from standing.

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