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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Low Water Surprises

Low Water Surprises

On Tuesday morning, August 1, 2017, my alarm rang at four o’clock. On my itinerary was a small mountain stream that I had been anxious to visit but had avoided because of perceived low water. With recent rains pounding the area, I was reasonably confident that I would find a good flowing stream full of wild trout.

It took about an hour and a half, including too many wrong turns, to reach my pull-off along the creek. After getting out of my SUV I was disappointed to not hear the roar of the water in the hollow below me. Hum…what was the water going to be like?

It took about ten minutes to walk down to the stream, and as the day brightened under the dense tree canopy, my suspicion was confirmed – the water was really low.

DSC_1713 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Before beginning I thought back to how well the month of July had gone for me, mostly due to great water levels.

In July I had caught 1,787 trout.

DSC_1503 (2) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

I spent 129.25 hours casting my homemade spinners and averaged 13.83 trout per hour.

DSC_1583 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

I fished 16 days and averaged 111.69 trout per day.

DSC_1609 (3) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

For the year through the end of July I had caught 7,311 trout in 570.50 hours spread over 71 days astream. This averages out to 12.82 trout per hour and 102.97 trout per day. I had fished 43 different streams and had tallied one hundred or more trout on 51 of the 71 days.

DSC_1497 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

But today I was concerned. I don’t like to start a month with a slow, work-for-every-trout-type day.

Obviously I would have preferred to find higher water, but low water presents unique challenges and can be fun too.

I began fishing at 6:25 a.m. The air temperature was 60-degrees and the water was 61.5-degrees based on eye-balling my stream thermometer. The sky was mostly clear.

After fishing a few small troutless spots, three minutes into the day I cranked out my first trout of the day.

DSC_1563 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Occasionally a skinny riffle would surrender a sublegal wild brown trout or native brookie, but there was no consistency to the action. Most casts brought no reaction from any trout.

A half hour into the morning a 12” wild brown charged out from under some tree roots to nail my spinner.

DSC_1447 (2) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Despite the low water, there were still some nice pools.

DSC_1711 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Just before the first hour ended I got my first surprise of the day. I made a long cast upstream into a refuge pool and hooked a nice trout just as I began to turn the reel handle. It boiled on the water’s surface but got off, much to my disappointment.

A follow-up cast yielded a strike from another heavy trout. When it jumped clear of the water I knew I had a big trout. Luckily he didn’t toss the treble hook during the fight and soon I was measuring the 16” brown trout against the grid of inch-markers I have on my rod.

DSC_1670 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

No more trout were fooled in this pool, but as I walked by I counted over fifty trout that had likely moved there as the flow of the stream got skinnier and skinnier. This is common in mountain streams when the water level drops and is not a good sign from a fishing point of view because it means those trout won’t be available as I fish upstream. Many spots will likely be vacant. I’ve even noticed this phenomenon on small limestone streams when the flow subsides even though if an equal-sized freestoner was flowing the same amount the trout would likely not have migrated to the deeper pools yet. I have no explanation for this but see it pretty much every year.

I closed the first hour with thirteen trout. Another dozen were landed in hour number two.

DSC_1543 (2) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Near the end of the third hour I got my second surprise of the morning. As my spinner passed a rock ledge in a deep pool another large wild brown trout stormed out and grabbed my White Bead Gold spinner.

DSC_1702 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

This one was also 16” but much prettier.

After releasing it I took another photo of it before it bolted up into its home.

DSC_1706 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Eleven trout were duped during this third hour but I started to get the sense that things were winding down.

I ended up fishing another 2.75 hours but caught only 25 more trout, giving me a total of 61 trout in 5.75 hours.

DSC_1536 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

It took a little over an hour to hike back to my vehicle. From there I drove downstream to another section of the same stream but fished just fifteen minutes and caught zero. The water temperature there was pushing 67-degrees.

Either a black rat snake or a black racer had shed its skin along this stretch.

DSC_1714 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

The skin was over six feet long.

A luna moth caterpillar was also spotted crossing the highway.

DSC_1621 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

At this point my options were quite limited for the remainder of the day. Any thought of catching one hundred trout for the day had vanished long ago. But I was pleased to have caught two hawg brown trout from a freestone stream, something that doesn’t happen all that often to me even for an entire year.

Next I chose a tiny mountain stream. The water was quite low as well, but there were some old jackdams on the stream built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s that were still functioning and creating some decent pools.

DSC_1726 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Right away I picked up this red-spotted wild brown trout.

DSC_1723 (3) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Some native brookies were also caught.

DSC_1659 by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Even some nice-sized trout were hooked.

DSC_1651 (2) by Frank Nale, on Flickr

Much to my surprise, the action was good enough that I stayed 3.00 hours and caught 40 trout, giving me 101 total trout in 9.00 hours for the day.

It’s too early to see what August will bring. Last year I fished just six days in August due to the lack of water and caught only 366 trout. But this day was certainly a surprisingly good start!

- Frank Nale -

I can be contacted at [email protected].

Last edited by FrankTroutAngler; 08-11-2017 at 10:03 AM.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 05:30 PM
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super post...absolutely love the pics
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 06:39 PM
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That is interesting with the wild fish stacking up. Like I said in another post, I've never seen that since I don't fish those little streams when the water is low. I'm not knocking you for fishing them, It's just that I live so close to a big tailwater fishery so I can always find abundant cold water. I find it interesting that you could get a good look at the streams population in one spot at one time.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10der222 View Post
super post...absolutely love the pics
Thanks. I appreciate the compliment.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 03:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by troutdoorsman View Post
That is interesting with the wild fish stacking up. Like I said in another post, I've never seen that since I don't fish those little streams when the water is low. I'm not knocking you for fishing them, It's just that I live so close to a big tailwater fishery so I can always find abundant cold water. I find it interesting that you could get a good look at the streams population in one spot at one time.
Back on June 21st I fished a small mountain stream that still had a decent flow but when I came to this one refuge pool where the trout usually congregate in low water it was already full of trout. I caught 16 wild brown trout out of the one pool and I'd guess there were at least fifty trout in that pool. I was very surprised that they kept hitting even after seeing their pool-mates taken. My guess is that they had just moved into the pool and hadn't seen spinners in quite a while.

As far as the trout in that one pool on August 1st, I saw nothing unethical about fishing for them. The water temperature was fine and the stream has an abundance of food. At the time it never even occurred to me that it might be unethical.

And yes, you can get a really good feel for how many trout are in a stream when fishing during low water. A fly fisherman once told me that spinner fishing is the closest thing there is to electro-shocking, to which I concur, so even during good flows you can still get a very good estimate of the trout population.

I can be contacted at [email protected].

Last edited by FrankTroutAngler; 08-14-2017 at 08:54 AM.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 05:12 PM
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There are some days on wild trout streams where I really feel the same way Frank. Every cast to a new spot has a trout in pursuit.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 07:29 PM
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Two more superb outings! Congrats on getting two hog browns from such a small stream. One big brown in a day from a mountain freestoner is excellent, two is amazing.

As always, the pictures are great. I particularly like the picture of the wild brown with the vivid red spots.

I agree that as long as the water temperature is good, there is nothing wrong with fishing for those trout that had congregated in that pool. What I object to is when people fish for trout that are bunched up at the mouth of a tributary when the water is warm. I understand that is not uncommon on some streams in the NC part of the state. I know you would never do that.

Many years ago when I was in college, my father and I were fishing a stocked trout stream in mid-summer. We did very well for a while, but then the action stopped. We suspected the water was too warm. I was about to stick my hand in the water to see if it felt warm when I saw at least 10-15 trout bunched up at the mouth of a tiny tributary. Dad and I promptly reeled up and left.

Back then I didn't have a stream thermometer, but I bought one shortly after that and have carried one in my vest ever since.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2017, 11:45 AM
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If you see that kind of wild trout congregation areas again, try and get a picture! I know its tough with reflections to get a picture of objects underwater but maybe...
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2017, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troutdoorsman View Post
If you see that kind of wild trout congregation areas again, try and get a picture! I know its tough with reflections to get a picture of objects underwater but maybe...
This is not from the stream Frank fished, but it is a spot that pretty consistently reaches a high density of fish as a summer goes by. It is just downstream from a small feeder stream and the cold water undoubtedly seeps through the freestone substrate. There are at least two to three dozen trout here.

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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2017, 05:52 PM
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Frank,

On the small wild stream you fished with what you describe as CCC improvements (I believe they are actually YCC [Youth Conservation Corp] structures, from the 70's, based on the available literature for the stream), does that happen to be a tributary to the other stream you fished? If so, I'm wondering how you even manage to move a spinner through the water at those flow rates? I fished it last July in low water when my family and I stayed nearby and had most of my success after dark, when the temperatures dropped a bit and I could target a few of the stream improvements and natural pools with a mouse or Moosehair Irresistible. There was sparse water to move a spinner through during the day.
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