Thursday, October 17, 2019

Poor Man's Saltwater Quail Hunting

Rails.  Marsh hens.  Rail birds.  Marsh chickens. Whatever you wanna call 'em.



I'm by no means an experienced marsh hen hunter . . . I've only tried for the salt marsh fowl a handful of times.

There can be some work required for this briny mix of dove and quail hunting.  Especially trying to push the skiff through the spartina grass when the tide hasn't risen quite enough . . .  especially with a not-quite-long-enough push pole.  You, like me, may be huffing and puffing.

But when you spy a rail-bird through the grass, when you see that long distinctive bill, when you see that dark brown, slinking through the flooded grass, low, low like a nutria or a rat, those hunting instincts that lay dormant in many of us start to stir.

This really is hunting, though the shooting isn't all that difficult.  Your eyes straining, looking for the small bird, the bird just trying to evade your detection.  He, the bird, won't jump up and flush easily.  You've almost got to push right on top of him.

It's a team effort too, part of what makes this salt marsh venture so great.  One pushing, the other two, holding shotguns at the ready (though one may need to help push here and there), and all, with eyes sharp, inspecting every contrast in the flooded grass, every movement.

It's a tide game . . . and the clock's ticking.  Once that tide starts to drop out, you won't have long.



We poled my brother's old skiff through the grass, each push getting easier with every inch of water, aided by the northerly wind, near Rich Inlet and Nixon Channel. We managed to bag a few birds with the tide, but as the tide fell, and the pushing got tougher and tougher, it was time to head back to the ramp.







You don't need much.  Anyone can get out there, enjoy this public water, and take advantage of what seems to be an under appreciated hunt.  You don't need some fancy boat or fancy gun.

Just a handful of shells and an old, rusty over-and-under shotgun with a slightly loose stock.  A shallow draft boat, even if it's a going on forty year old Carolina Skiff and outboard.  A push-pole, preferably one long enough for the deeper creeks and channels and mud. Some good friends and a few iced down refreshments.  Might as well throw some fishing rods in there too . . .


P.S.---check out Eddie Nickens' great Field & Stream article on rail hunting, HERE.

Monday, October 14, 2019

April and September in the Mountains

I finally returned to the mountains.  While I'm a flatlander, I do love the mountains, and the solitude and peacefulness and, of course, the trout they provide.



When I drove up to Cashiers last April, it was the first time I'd made it to the North Carolina mountains in maybe three years.  Too long.  It'd been before I spent some time in Wyoming at A Bar A in 2016.  To make things worse, I hadn't even trout fished since I visited some friends back in Wyoming in 2017.

April

Both in April and September, I drove up with my girlfriend, Mary Ann, staying at her grandmother's cabin in Cashiers.  Of course, I dragged Mary Ann along fishing... driving to the "Tuck," and Panthertown.  The Tuck is heavily stocked but fished fairly hard as it winds along the road.  It's wide for a Carolina trout river, and its flows are affected by Duke Energy releases. The future calls for finding a friend with a drift boat or raft or hiring a guide to throw streamers and get after the big boys in the deep holes.  The creeks in Panthertown valley are a totally different experience---narrow and rhododendron-lined, though the pools below the falls give easy casting, holding eager wild brook trout.  You'll get your steps in at Panthertown, too.


Mary Ann managed to catch a few fish, even with me pestering her about casting and all the intricacies and overload of fly fishing that too often are swirling around my brain.

We ate well, enjoyed the views and smoky fires in the morning cool, and survived a strong spring storm that knocked out power... as I frantically scrambled to finish an assignment without Wifi.  Thankfully, no trees found their way onto the cabin or the truck...

















 September

We went back to Cashiers for Labor Day weekend.  We fished some more and hiked and explored.  Mary Ann even let me drag her along on a 12 mile truck ride on a dirt mountain road.




Soon, I hope, I'll be back.




Sunday, October 13, 2019

Chestnut Mountain Road


We drove from Cashiers, turning right onto NC-281 off of US-64. Shortly, we pulled into Gorges State Park.  The parking lot to Rainbow Falls was packed... two park rangers were working parking duty...

We kept driving, though, on the Chestnut Mountain Road.  And unlike the packed paved parking lot, the dirt mountain road was almost totally empty.  Besides one other car, we had the place to ourselves to explore.  


The drive isn't a fast one.  It's a sit back and enjoy it one.  It's about 6 miles, one way, from where the pavement ends to the Horsepasture River.  It's a soak in the mountains and the rocks and the trees and the leaves rustling in the wind and the small streams gurgling past.  

You'll need a vehicle with a little ground clearance, though you don't need anything too crazy.  You may want four wheel drive, though I don't think it's necessary, due to some loose rock and gravel.  



You'll drive down the Chestnut Mountain Road in Gorges State Park, and then will enter Toxaway Game Lands and turn right onto Auger Hole Road (marked Cow Trail Hike above).  




Unfortunately, the bridge over the Horsepasture River was closed.  But we got out and fished a bit in the river.  In early September, the Horsepasture seemed a bit warm for trout.  At the river were several campsites... I'll definitely try to come back and camp. 




Go get some dirt on the tires.  Go escape the crowds.