Skowhegan, ME: Winter Storm Warning continues through
Thursday Morning…Winter Advisory through Thursday night...
Heavy snow in the mountains with rain and snow in the
valleys this evening…changing to all snow by midnight.
...snow accumulation 6 to 10 inches with highs in the 30s.
I can't begin to tell you how difficult it is for me
to appreciate these weather conditions. Having lived
the better part of my life in Florida and recently in
Eastern North Carolina, it is hard to conceive of the
obvious brutal conditions of sub-freezing temperatures
let alone dealing with snow. It is no wonder the birds,
snow birds, go south in the winter.
I remember the last time I visited Maine. It was July of
2000. I thought it cold then, and was reminded by Bill
that the winters in Maine are white, as well. And, they
last a longer. I called Bill in February. North Carolina
was experiencing record lows and a dash of snow. Of course
the fishing was off. We were still catching specs in
38-degree water, but it wasn't a pleasant experience,
shivering in the boat or having your fly rod guides freeze.
I had my trapper hat and gloves outfit on most of the
winter. Yes, we all complained about how cold it was.
But nothing like what the population in Maine had to
Bill's trip was first scheduled for the end of February.
I called one morning to reschedule his trip for mid-March.
I was surprised when his wife answered the phone and said
he couldn't stand it any more. "He left for North Carolina
this morning," she said. I was mortified. "Hope he's
dressing warm. Is he heading to New Bern?" I asked.
"No, he is going to the Outer Banks and Nags Head for
surf fishing." I gulped. And, thought he must be one
hardy guy. I don't think I would have gone and I'm at
least 20 years his junior.
"Please have him call me after you talk with him next."
Later that night I got a call from Bill.
"You won't believe this but there is snow on the outer
banks and it is freezing here, but I had to get out of
Maine." I completely understood and thought immediately
of leaving North Carolina and heading back to Florida.
I actually had seven layers of clothing on one day I
was on the water. If I had fallen over board I could
have just rolled across the water to shore.
New Bern, NC: Expect record highs today in the mid 70s
with clear skies and a light breeze. NIRVANA! It is
the second week of March and fabulous weather.
Bill arrived in New Bern on a US Air flight from Charlotte,
early on a Thursday afternoon for 3 days of fishing.
Thursday was a reasonably mild day and Bill's adrenalin
started as he anticipated the activities of the coming
days. We had this well planned. We would target Striper
(Rock) on the first day around the Trent River Bridge.
Saturday was set for Specs and puppy drum in South River
and then Albies on Sunday in the Newport Turning Basin.
The weather was forecast for three days of beautiful
sunny weather in the low 70s and light winds 5 to 10.
On Thursday night everything changed. Winds blew hard
out of the southeast at 20 with gusts to 35. A band of
severe thunder and rainstorms moved up the coast from
I awoke at 4 am on Friday morning and could hear the wind
howling in the trees. The rain was coming in sheets and
I prayed that it would stop before everyone in North
Carolina became amphibious. At 5 am, I called the
Howard House where Bill was staying.
Kim, the innkeeper answered my call.
"Hello Kim, I'm calling for Bill Townsend. How's the weather
in New Bern?" I asked. "Not good," came her reply. I figured
as much, seeing the doppler radar and studying locations as
far south as Myrtle Beach and north to Albemarle Sound.
There was ground to sky lightning and thunder ripping
across the sky. Violent weather is no time to fool
with Mother Nature.
"Good Morning Bill," I started, "...Let's wait until 9:30 am
and see how the weather shapes up."
He agreed that it was better to play it safe. Plus if he
couldn't go fishing on Friday there was always Saturday
and Sunday, forecast for sunny weather.
I watched the front as it moved up the coast. Checking
several of the NOAA radar sites on the web, I could receive
live radar loops of the area. Every ten minutes I got a
loop update. At 9 am the weather starting clearing in
Grantsboro, 12 miles north of New Bern. I noticed a
break in the cloud and cell activity just south of New
Bern. It looked like a 4-hour window could open up before
the next batch of weather and I decided to call Bill and
see if he would go out for a couple of hours. He was
ready to go on my word and he met me at Lawson Creek.
We launched out of Lawson Creek, a beautiful public boat
launch area in downtown New Bern. I had never seen a
facility as nice as this in Florida. So it was a real
treat to launch in this historic city. The clouds abated
but there was sufficient overcast to block the sun. The
water was fairly flat and as my wife would say, "it is
just the calm before the storm". I was hoping this wouldn't
be the case. After all, Bill was suffering from severe
cabin fever and it was my obligation to get him out on
the water, fishing rod in hand.
I motored out of the creek into Trent River then east to
the railroad bridge and the old swing bridge near the
convention center and Sheraton Grand. We motored out
into the Neuse River and under the large concrete span
bridge, the most costly in the State of North Carolina.
Cabin fever finally dissolved as we sped on plane and
headed east towards Parker Creek. Six miles down we
past Fairfield Harbor and headed for a small creek near
The creek has a tricky entry to the south with large
shoals guarding the entrance. Once in, the beauty was
captivating. No noise, no fumes and no people, just
nature all around. Aromatic trees and shrubs line
the banks, along with pampas grass and crape myrtle.
I worked the boat to the far back of the creek, away
from houses, docks and the high pine trees. Around a
bend of the creek I shut down the engine and lowered
the Lenco Trolling Tabs into the water. Lencos are
quiet because they are off the transom and they won't
spook fish. We silently moved to a cut in the creek
where a feeder creek emptied into a small flat. Here
the water was about 2 to 3 feet deep. This was perfect
for Poling, and activity foreign to many guides in North
Carolina, but not this lad from Florida. Don't know what
I would do if I couldn't find a flat somewhere.
The water clarity was poor and it looked like someone
had poured chocolate milk into the creek. Murky water
was caused by the large amounts of silt carried by all
the rain that flushed the creeks. As a fly-fishing
guide you need to resort to some crafty tactics to find
and catch fish.
I carefully observed the grass line and the patterns on
the water. Looking for subtle changes in the patterns
of water texture can help you spot fish. I poled for
about 30 minutes and rounding the mouth of this feeder
creek, I noticed what looked like a small mullet
swimming near the surface. I watched as this bait
moved away from me in very deliberate side to side
motion. I thought this strange and really studied
the activity. Then came a lunging push by the bait,
which was not bait but a predator. I could tell by
the push that the fish was in shallow water and that
this was a big red - or so I thought. And, just as
quickly as I saw this fish it disappeared.
Soon it started to sprinkle and I looked up at the ominous
clouds. But the sprinkle stopped and the sun even poked
out of the clouds for a short period. I polled again
back to the spot where I had first seen the fish. This
time we sat and waited. I looked up and down the grass
line, waiting for this fish to return - because I knew
Suddenly I saw a small push.
"Bill I think he is on the grass line at about 2 O'clock".
Sure enough the predator started making a cruising run
along the hard, firm, grass flat about 100 yards away
from where my first sighting had been. Know that when
you chase redfish away from a hole they have been sitting
all day they will return. So we waited.
Then came a huge push and I said, " Bill cast at 11 and
wait for my signal. Sure enough here comes this monster
redfish. It occurred to me at this moment that maybe
Bill's rod was too light for the situation. The 7-weight,
4 piece Old Florida Rod would be a test to the demands
put on equipment by a strong running fish.
The strip was deliberate and timed perfectly. Bill kept
an undulating rhythm to the movement of the fly. This
action turned the redfish, which also surprised me.
No sooner had Bill turned to say something that the fly
was engulfed. The rod bent over in a radical arc and
pulsated with the run out of line as the fish barreled
down the creek. Bill did everything he could to brake
the fish. The 6SA non-slip drag helped to slow the fish
and get him moving back towards us. Two rolls and one
porpoise and I knew what had taken the fly.
"It's a trout," Bill yelled.
"No," I replied. "It's a huge Striper!"
When the striper saw the side of my boat he turned and
took another run down the creek. This time on his way
back, I asked Bill to just bring him along side the boat
where I could grab him, and flip him upside down. This
is a good trick for anyone who doesn't like using a net.
When you turn a fish over upside down he is paralyzed for
a brief moment making him easier to handle.
Bill played the striper for about 20 minutes before we
were able to get him to the boat, take the photo and
then release him. This fish was stuffed and had a
bulging tummy to prove it. It weighed 8-1/2 pounds
and was caught using WF7F line with a sinking shooting
head with 12# tippet. We helped ourselves to a
much-needed break, and enjoyed a hand-made lunch and
a nice Florida Orange prepared by Kimberly Wynn.
The day turned out really well considering how it started.
Please don't teach your trash to swim. ~ Doug Sinclair
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.