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.