Remember to Catch, Photo and Release (CPR) your fish. Howard’s Creek is Fly Fishing Only and Catch & Release.
Here are some helpful tips to reduce stress on the fish:
1. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. Use a net with a rubber bag. If you must take the fish out of the water for a photo, keep the time short, about as long as you can hold your breath.
2. Use a barbless hook.
3. Use strong enough tippet. Fish the heaviest tippet you can get away with; you’ll land the fish faster.
4. Put the screws to the fish. Use your entire rod when fighting the fish, keep the whole rod bent and get them into the net fast. The longer the fight, the greater your chances of losing the fish.
5. Keep your fingers away from its gills. Don’t touch the gills; they are super delicate and easily damaged.
6. Keep the fish over water at least knee deep. When you drop the fish (and we all do), it won’t hit the rocks.
7. Take off your gloves and get your hands wet. Do not hold the fish with gloves on or use a towel to handle the fish. This removes the slime coat and makes them susceptible to an infection by the aquatic mold Saprolengia.
8. Don’t put the fish on dry land to take a picture.
9. Don’t squeeze them like a tube of toothpaste. Hold the fish with one hand around its tail and one hand cradling the belly and head. Never hold a fish vertically by its gills or mouth.
10. Don’t dig out a deeply taken fly. If the hook is anywhere near the gills or tongue, leave it there. Flies are cheap; cut the leader and hope for the best. Trying to remove the hook causes more damage.
When March finally rolls around, we can be sure that winter is behind us. (Regardless of what the calendar says, spring is here.) The days are longer and it is warmer outside. Now we can really start to take advantage of spring in our mountains.
This year the fishing continues to be great; we had perfect water conditions through most of the winter. The mild temperatures have kept the fish and bugs active and all of our streams have been fishing well. Look for most spring hatches to begin soon. (The little winter stoneflies and baetis have already hatched.) The larger bugs should be out soon and, most likely, the March Browns will actually be out in March this year. They will be followed by the first caddis of the year.
To many of us, spring means trout fishing. Expect to find fish in most areas of the stream this time of year, especially those areas with moderate current and gravel substrates. The rainbows congregate in likely spawning areas and the trout congregate immediately downstream of riffles to pick off bugs as they drift. Keep an eye out in the tails of pools for spawning fish or areas of clean gravel. We need to keep away from fish that are actively spawning. Howard’s Creek is not a great stream for natural reproduction, but we see some stream-born fish each year and want to give those that are spawning the best chance at success. If there are fish spawning in the tail-outs, look at the head of the pool and chances are good you’ll find a few that have finished spawning and are strapping on the feed bag. When you find some fish that are feeding, try to determine what they are feeding on. Our fish are generally not too picky, but if you can match their natural food source, you’ll do a lot better.
Next month is our annual fly-fishing school. We still have a few spaces available. You will spend the weekend learning all the basic and not-so-basic skills needed to catch fish on a fly in our local waters. Our instructors are experts at casting, rigging, finding fish and presenting the fly. The best part is they are expert teachers too, so all of our students come away from the school with the skills they need to get out there.
Just because the fishing is great this time of year, don’t put up the shooting gear. When the weather gets nice, it’s easy to spend some time on the range. We have some great options this year, everything from The Club’s .22 range on Greenbrier Mountain to the challenging clays shooting at The Greenbrier Gun Club and Powder Ridge Sporting Clays, plus the Friday night matches at L&S Indoor Pistol Range. Many of our members are taking advantage of the new ranges. If you want to check them out, give us a call and we will go burn some powder.
March is a fantastic month to be outside. If you’re going to be around The Club, give us a call or stop by The Hunt Cabin and we can make arrangements for all your outdoor activities.