SCOF History: MILK SANDWICH MAYHEM

 

 

 

 

Another oldie but a goodie to start your SCOF week off. With winter, hopefully, in our rearview mirror we figured one last irreverent look at winter would be an appropriate way to lay it to rest. Thanks again JEB for all you’ve done for SCOF and milk sandwich awareness.

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MILK SANDWICH MAYHEM
By Jeb Hall
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Jeb Hall
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 2: Winter 2012

When it snows in the mountains of North Carolina, things shut down. All the way down. As soon as there are reports of flakes falling from the sky, people leave work, schools close and milk sandwiches suddenly dominate the menu of every mountain household. Yes, milk sandwiches.

To the rest of America, the milk sandwich is a virtually unknown dish, but to the hearty souls who endure the harsh winters of Western North Carolina, it is the food of survival. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, it will be the milk sandwich that keeps the last of humanity bravely fighting the undead. The need of WNC residents to procure the makings of the milk sandwich can be witnessed at any grocery store as soon as snow is forecast. Old cat ladies can be seen with a gallon of milk in each hand rushing for the express lane. The bread aisles become scenes from The Day After as distraught shoppers squabble over the last loaves of Wonderbread. Shopping carts are left to roll into the icy streets as store patrons quickly rush back in the door to stand in line for the Red Box, only to find that all the copies of The Best of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour have been rented. It is during this time, The Milk Sandwich Time, that true locals venture out to explore the Davidson River.

The Davidson River is listed as one of North America’s top 100 trout streams by Trout Unlimited. It is this prestigious designation that causes the river to be crowded, fickle and undesirable to most local anglers. Summer’s warmth brings with it an onslaught of tourists escaping the sweltering hell found in the states to the south. By Memorial Day, luxury SUVs fill every possible pullout along the river and sunlight is virtually blocked from reaching the water’s surface by a canopy of Tilley hats, fedoras and straw gardening bonnets. As long as the air temperature remains over 50 degrees, anglers stand shoulder to shoulder in the low, clear water trying to convince themselves that they enjoy fishing as much as playing a round of golf. Winter, however, is a different story. As the flakes fly and the milk sandwich cry goes out across the land, the Davidson becomes an empty playground. The tourists have long since left the comfort of their 25,000 square foot luxury cabins and returned to the land of the box people. The opinionated gentlemen who can be observed fishing the same 20 feet of water all summer long, are caught up in the aforementioned bread aisles trying to fill the pantry before inches of snow pile up on the roads. Even the elite anglers of the Davidson River Social Club disappear from the hatchery parking lot, possibly fearing the icy weather could damage the official wooden license plates attached to their front bumpers.

Winter fishing on the Davidson is not for the faint of heart. The water is typically high, cold and clear, making deep presentations a necessity. Leaders of 12 feet in length ending in 6x fluoro are standard, and fishing a rod shorter than 8’6” is asking for an impossible day. Winter flies should match hatches found on the Davidson. The most commonly fished hatch is the pellet hatch that occurs near the fish hatchery. On a normal day, anglers typically post up in lawn chairs until the hatchery tanks are flushed and the hatch be- gins to make its way down the river. On a snowy day, the doctor’s office style waiting is non-existent, and the hatch can be enjoyed by a single group of anglers from the time it leaves the pipes until it disappears into Horse Cove. Other hatches, such as the tube hatch, don’t occur in winter months allowing anglers to carry a more basic selection of flies.

The harsh conditions faced while fishing the Davidson during winter storms create a need for careful planning and specialized gear to make the day comfortable. The river can be fished in winter with a standard fishing kit, but being unprepared can spell disaster when nature unleashes her chilly wrath. When preparing for a trip to the “D”, remember these four words: transportation, acclimatization, floatation and libation. Transportation means that you don’t drive a two-wheel drive SUV or a rear wheel drive truck into the Pisgah National Forest in a snowstorm. While all the “look at me” girls outside the sports bar might think you drive a burly vehicle, a trip up Highway 276 in a driving snowstorm will soon prove that looking cool doesn’t get you very far outside the Charlotte Metro area. Acclimatization is something that most fly anglers should do regardless of whether or not they are going to fish in winter. The concept here is that it sucks to fish with lots of clothes on and that the less you can wear, the better. To properly prepare your body for winter fishing, wait for a cold night and proceed as follows. First, put on cotton underwear and a t-shirt. Then, take a cold shower. Without fully drying off, grab a Rubik’s cube and head out on the deck and find a chair. Sit on the deck and attempt the to solve the cube until you are shaking too badly to hold it. Finally, come on back inside and take a warm shower.

After several weeks of this routine you will have both readied your body for cold weather fishing and hopefully solved a Rubik’s cube. Floatation refers to the need for good indicators to handle the massive amounts of split shot
you will be fishing in front of your egg patterns. Last, but not least, libation is the need for warming beverages on the river. Hot coffee or tea in a Thermos never tastes as good as it does when you can’t feel your digits. Adult beverages are also a good call. Just make sure you aren’t behind the wheel on the drive home.

This winter, when you see that the upcoming weather forecast is sponsored by the local grocery store, don’t panic and rush to the dairy case. Grab your rod, layer up and head on over to the Davidson for a frosty adventure. Even if the fish aren’t cooperating, you will find more to sustain your soul by watching the snow falling softly on the water than you will between two slices of enriched white bread taking a lactose bath.

Essential Gear for Davidson River winter fishing:

4×4 or All Wheel Drive Vehicle
Warm Hat
Gloves
Hand Warmers
Beer
Polarized Glasses with yellow lenses
Thermos
Pellet Flies
Egg Patterns
Crazy Streamers
Flask
Carrot (for impromptu snowman building)

Achieving a Splendiferous Autumn

Anther oldie but a goodie. J.E.B. Hall used to write for us…and it was good. Then the angry hamster started traveling the world in support of sports. Here’s one of J.E.B’s first SCOF essays from issue no. 1 – FALL 2011. In this little ditty, J.E.B takes on the task of informing us all how to achieve bliss during the delayed harvest season. Where art thou J.E.B…we miss you.

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Achieving a Splendiferous Autumn
By JEB Hall
Photos: JEB Hall and Steve Seinberg
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 1: Fall 2011


Delayed Harvest season has come to the Southeast once again. This is a magical time of year when the rivers are low, the water is clear, and state wildlife agencies pour writhing buckets of “mountain trout” into pools thought deep enough to sustain life. The month of October can make for some hectic moments throughout Southern Appalachia and anglers wanting to get the most out of Delayed Harvest should definitely have a solid game plan.

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Location

Choosing the right spot is key to mastering Delayed Harvest. There are several indicators that mark a particular stretch of river as good holding water for mountain trout and the best way to access this water is by parking in the right gravel pull- out. The most obvious pullouts are near bridges. Bridges seem to have a magnetic attraction for trout and fishing the pools directly under them will almost always end in success. Another key feature to look for is easy access. Choosing water within a 20-yard walk from the car will ensure that anglers get the maxi- mum amount of fishing time and allow those driving along the road to see them in action. Finally, the most assured sign of good fishing are other vehicles parked in a pullout. Parking near prime water can be complicated, but anglers shouldn’t let a full parking area discourage them. Delayed Harvest parking should be approached like a game of Tetris and with some flipping, flopping and 12-point turns, everyone can enjoy access to the best pools.

Presentation

It has been said that in fly fishing, presentation is everything. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to fishing Delayed Harvest. One of the most common techniques is referred to as the “mid-stream down stream.” The concept here is to wade into the the exact middle of the river, face directly downstream, and rhythmically strip Wooly Buggers through the run until they come to rest at the tip of the fly rod. At one time, this style of fishing was so popular that Wooly Buggers became scarce in the fly bins of local shops and any shop guy with a bobbin and vise could double their salary by tying custom “boogers”.

As effective as the “M.S.D.S.” technique is, today’s Delayed Harvest anglers need to have a few more arrows in their quiver when faced with adverse conditions. One of those arrows should be the ability to water haul. Water hauling is important for some of the extreme distances anglers face while casting to mountain trout. To throw the long bomb, the line should be allowed to make contact with the water on each casting stroke and then violently ripped back into the air again. When properly executed the fly will make a distinct “bloop” with each stroke. There is no better way to get a fly out into those magical 30’s than water hauling.

For more the more advanced angler, studying some of the cutting edge tactics that local experts have developed to entice fish will certainly enhance their game. The most radical of these is the “dance of death”. This downstream presentation involves adding yards of slack to the line and waving the rod side to side to make the fly dance enticingly as it drops down to the fish. Hook sets in this situation can seem impossible, but leaving hooks armed with a barb helps to seal the deal. The “dance” should only be attempted by experts as it requires a Jedi-like sense of awareness to be effective.

Appearance

Let’s be honest, the reason most of us fish is to be seen doing so. That being said, an angler’s appearance needs to be spot on from the clothes on their back to the stickers on their bumper. First off, one shouldn’t set foot out of the house without a wide brimmed hat. A circumference of 38″ is a minimum and there is no maximum. Style is up to the individual and groups of anglers look best when all hats correspond. Another essential piece of attire is a vest. Nothing screams “I’m a trout fisherman” to the civilian populace more than wearing a vest. Vests come in a variety of styles and colors that can suit the tastes of almost any fly angler. For maximum show, vests should have the appearance of a well-decorated Christmas tree. A fly patch full of flies, an assortment of trinkets that belong in a physics lab, and plenty of patches to show one’s loyalty to organizations, manufacturers and favorite destinations are great ways to make a vest look even more “fishy”. More rebellious anglers forgo vests all together, and

instead, choose to wear chest packs and gear bags. Like potato chips, one gear bag is never enough. A combination of a backpack, a chest pack and a waist pack is sure to get heads turning and fellow anglers wondering if they should ask for an autograph. All of these bags should be color coordinated and stuffed full for more stunning visual effect.

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As mentioned above, choosing the right parking spot is important, and in doing so, anglers inadvertently leave their vehicle as a roadside billboard to the world. A collage of fishing stickers on the back glass of a luxury SUV is akin to the tattoos one displays while in prison. Each one has its own story and the collective narrative tells other anglers who’s truly a bad ass. The amount of surface area on a vehicle that can be covered in stickers is seemingly endless, but there are five rules to follow to make sure a vehicle is legit:

  1. You must display a TU sticker. Preferably one that spells out the words “Trout Unlimited”. Membership is optional.
  2. Stickers from manufacturers may only be displayed if there are more than three separate companies represented. Anglers are not required to own any of these brands of gear.
  3. There must be sufficient sticker coverage as to render the vehicle’s rear view mirror useless.
  4. Some stickers must be placed on areas forward of the taillights.
  5. Vehicle must always be parked to allow maximum sticker visibility.

Etiquette

Fly fishing is, and always has been, considered a “gentleman’s sport.” Proper etiquette is the dignified bond that ties all fly anglers together. Delayed Harvest streams often come with their own set of behavioral guidelines based on location and the local fishing population. There are some common themes among all DH anglers that should be referred to when on the water. The first thing to remember is there is no such thing as too crowded. The more people in a stretch, the better the water is being covered. More than five anglers fishing in a run establishes what is known as a “Wall of Pain.” Establishing a “Wall” creates a great opportunity for anglers to watch other anglers catch fish, and at the same time, deftly blocks boat traffic from making its way downstream. Anglers should also keep in mind that “fishing through” is their God given right, and they should never let some bogged down duffer stop them from reaching their desired water. Most important rule in DH etiquette addresses the issue of guides. Fishing guides should always be regarded as second class citizens. Anyone who refers to going fish- ing all day as “work” is clearly a noncontributing citizen and has not earned the same rights to use the water as someone who is fishing to feed their soul. Actions such as blocking guides’ access to boat ramps or casting into their sports’ runs is not only acceptable, but should be encouraged. The fewer the guides, the better the fishing.

Delayed Harvest fishing is tough, but the dedicated Southern fly angler is tougher. Following the advice given above is a good baseline to having a successful season on the water. Those looking to take their fishing even further should follow this article up with fly angling research basics such as fly shop employee interrogation, Internet chat board discussions and intensive magazine studies.

Hook em’ in the guts,

The Hamster

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