Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 2/11/2017
Fishing has been good lately, both in the Smokies and on the tailwaters. I have been privileged to spend time on both tailwaters and in the Smokies recently. Up in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a few bugs are showing up with the warm weather we've been experiencing. With temperatures supposed to be cooling again this week, I don't expect huge hatches. That said, blue quills, early brown stoneflies, little black stoneflies, and probably some little black caddis should be trickling off. This will be especially true when we get a string of warm days. Quill gordon mayflies are not far behind now with the warm winter we've had.

On the tailwaters, the fishing has been mostly good. The Caney Fork is fishing well on streamer floats. Some high water nymphing is picking up a few fish as well. Several people have taken advantage of my special February tailwater trip to book streamer floats. If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, sign up for my newsletter so you can stay informed about specials on guide trips and other things.

Now is the time to start thinking about spring fishing. The bookings are rolling in for float trips on the Caney Fork. Spring hatch trips in the Smokies will book quickly as well so contact me soon if you want to get out in 2017!

Photo of the Month: First Trout of 2017

Photo of the Month: First Trout of 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On a Roll

One of my favorite things about winter is time off from work. Not that I mind guiding, of course, but it is nice to get a little fishing in for myself on occasion. Lately I've been privileged to spend more time on the water than I deserve including trips on tailwaters like the Caney Fork and South Holston as well as fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The best thing about this streak of fishing trips is that they have all been successful. Now, success can be a difficult thing to understand. Defining success becomes even harder when multiple anglers all have their input, so let me explain my idea of success when I'm the one holding the fly rod. Success is, first and foremost, spending time out in nature. Catching a fish would be nice as well. After all, I'm out fishing for more than just the scenery. That said, I don't need huge numbers these days. I don't really even need big fish although those are always nice. Secretly, most anglers hope for big fish so they can wow their friends with stories of their fishing prowess. I don't know about wowing others, but I will say once again that big fish are nice to see.

The thing about big fish, though, is that they get kind of stressful. When you have a big fish on the end of the line, all of your nerves and muscles bunch up. In the end, it can take days to unwind from a particularly hefty specimen. Needless to say, catching too many wall hangers could take its toll.

The absolute best fish to catch are those that are larger than normal, but not so large as to cause you to completely lose your mind. Larger than normal because, let's admit, they look good in the picture if you are into that sort of thing. I take pictures to help me remember the fish later. I'm starting to realize that my good memory may not last forever, but hopefully those pictures will help jog my memories if it comes to that.

Over the last two or three weeks, I've been blessed to catch four of those memorable fish. On each fishing trip, only a handful of fish were caught. On at least one, I know for sure that the memorable fish was the only fish. Somehow that helps those memories become a little clearer. The hazy memories usually come from the days where I quit counting how many 18+ inch fish I caught oddly enough.

Anyway, so as I was saying, I've been on a bit of a roll lately, and I'll gladly take it. Any serious angler knows that luck can turn suddenly, so it is usually wise to ride a winning streak hard. The first good fish came from up in the Smokies, the next two from a couple of tailwaters, and the last one was back in the Smokies again. Let me tell you about that last one.

It happened this past Thursday. A weather system had moved through Wednesday night into Thursday morning dropping snow in the higher elevations. The morning after the storm was cloudy, and I hoped it would stay that way. Fishing for brown trout is always tough, but clouds do give an angler an edge even if it is a flimsy one at best. My usual early morning responsibilities evaporated and I was suddenly free to head for the mountains earlier than I anticipated.

I was not too far down Interstate 40 when I noticed the breaks in the clouds to my east; definitely not a good sign for chasing brown trout. The openings in the clouds became more defined as I got closer to Knoxville, but mercifully started to fill back in by the time I was passing the Knoxville airport.

My intended short stop at Little River Outfitters stretched longer than I wanted but that was my own fault. They have set up a tying table to tie flies for worthy causes. When Daniel told me I could tie the first fly, it was an opportunity I could not pass up. I quickly cranked out a bead head Pheasant Tail nymph, something I'll probably do each time I visit now. This is definitely a fun idea so check it out when you are in the shop next time!

Finally, after grabbing some white tying thread (there is a hint there about my streamers, but of course not about where that color is being fished), I finally said my good byes and headed into the Park. It was a cold blustery day. The white on the hills above town told me that snow had fallen in the higher elevations and probably still was in places. The clouds were just thick enough to give me some motivation, but the cold day was giving me second thoughts. Just getting out to see the mountains was enjoyable enough. Of course, I wouldn't be writing this story if I just drove around looking at the water. By now it should be obvious that I did indeed go fishing.

My streamer rod was still rigged up from my last tailwater float. While that combo probably would have worked, I decided to change flies. At the last second, inspiration struck and I tied on a sculpin pattern to the short leader at the end of my full sinking line. That is always a good idea if brown trout are around as long as the water you are fishing also contains sculpins. The second run I fished produced two really good hard tugs, but neither fish found the hook apparently. The first hit was particularly gratifying as I watched the fish come flying out of calm water to chase the streamer.

Moving slowly down the river, I fished another couple of runs without any hits. One of those was a particularly good spot where I had caught my first fish of 2017. When it didn't produce, I decided to go looking elsewhere. Still more or less uninspired as to where I wanted to fish, I decided to just explore. That is almost always a recipe for success in my experience.

Early in my exploration I found quite a few fish. In fact, I had more brown trout chasing streamers than I can recall on just about any other fishing trip. Still, the fish either wouldn't commit or couldn't find the hook. Both problems left me searching for that one fish. There is probably a good metaphor there as well, but I don't feel like unpacking it tonight.

Finally, I remembered where I caught the nice fish that had started this whole string of good luck a couple of weeks back. The beauty of catch and release is the chance to go and see if old friends are home so that is what I did.

Remember exactly where the last fish had come from helped a lot. I worked my way into the run very cautiously, knowing that it is far too easy to blow a nice fish. A couple of drive by flashes from smaller fish got me excited. When I finally threw to that one spot, I strongly suspected I would be seeing that nice golden flash again. Sure enough, the brown charged, swirled once, then twice before knocking the streamer silly. It was all I could do to not pull the fly out with a massive hook set. Instead, I started twitching the fly like I imagined a disoriented sculpin would be doing. Miraculously, it worked. Seriously.

When it all comes together, and I should point out that this is not the norm, I'm left wondering: why can't I get myself together and do everything right all the other times? When a nice fish is in the net however, I leave the wondering until after taking pictures and generally admiring the fish. They deserve my respect which looks like a very fast picture and quick release. The fish posed beautifully and then I was left to wonder about why everything worked this time. Somehow I couldn't quite make sense of everything, but was left to realize that I'm definitely on a roll and better enjoy it while it lasts. A streak like this won't last forever. In fact, the clouds broke just after catching this fish and the streamer bite went dead in a hurry. For now, I'll be watching the forecast waiting for another cloudy day.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fly Tying Demo at Little River Outfitters

If you are in the area this weekend, I will be tying at Little River Outfitters on this Sunday (January 29, 2017) from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. If you have time, stop by and say hello. I'm planning on tying tailwater midge patterns and also some nymphs that should be good both on tailwaters and in the mountains. If there is time, I may do a few terrestrials as well. I'll be discussing fishing on the tailwaters and sharing some of my tips and stories for success. If anyone wants to talk fishing in the mountains, I may do that as well. If you have any particular patterns you would like to see, please let me know by responding here or emailing me with your request.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Win a Guided Float Trip

If you have been wanting to take a guided float trip with me, here is the perfect opportunity. Trout Zone Anglers has partnered with Guide Turbo to offer a float trip on the Caney Fork River. Guide Turbo is running the contest through their Facebook page so you have to go there to learn the rules and enter. Just click the link above and scroll down until you see the "Win a Guide Trip" giveaway post!

Friday, January 06, 2017

New Year, New Fish

My goal for 2017 from a fishing perspective is to get out on the water a lot more. With 180 days on the water for 2016, that is a lofty goal. That is especially true because, as much as I love fishing, there are other things I truly enjoy that call for dedicated time as well. Things like hiking, climbing, and photography all compete to take up my time. So, with big goals for 2017, I knew I had to get an early jump. After fishing for the first four days of the new year, I would say I'm off to a good start.

The highlight of the young year happened no more than five minutes into my fishing for the year. I'm not sure whether that is a good sign or a bad one. Occurrences like that have been known to throw one's luck either way, so only time will tell if it is a good omen. The story of my first fish of 2017 actually goes back a ways.

There is a New Years Day gathering that I had been hoping to attend for a while. It is not an official group putting on the event, but that is probably part of the charm. Bigsur had been doing this for the last four years and the plan was bigger and better than ever for year five. While my plan involved a lot of fishing and less socializing, I still wanted to drop in on what is really a terrific event.

I made it up to the meeting place at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area right about the time that all the preparations were completed. Food was ready and the crowd was ready for fun and fellowship. I saw a lot of friends that I've made over the years. Still, the plan was to fish, and by the time my buddy Jayson showed up, I was throwing on waders and rigging rods.

One thing I had noticed while prowling around the gathering was a fancy award plaque made by the famous Duckypaddler. Imagining how it would look above my tying desk, I started dreaming of big brown trout on the end of my line.

As I was rigging up, I put together a normal nymphing setup on my five weight Orvis Helios rod and was debating what to do with the seven weight. I noticed some random tin boxes and decided to see what goodies they were holding. My smallmouth bass flies of course! A Tequeely jumped right out and asserted itself so I tied it on the streamer rod and was ready to go.

Down on the stream, I intended to fish one particular hole before driving further up river to search for more fish. I made a cast or two in the back of the hole before hurrying up to the head. My goal was a serious of textbook perfect ambush points on the far bank. In other words, I was hitting prime brown trout water. I wish I could say I was a genius who knew that these trout love Tequeely flies, or that I knew that this brown trout was sitting right behind the bedrock ledge, but in all honesty, I just got lucky. I waded in, slapped a few casts across the river, bounced the fly around a little, and a big brown blur hammered the fly.

On the seven weight rod with 2x fluorocarbon tippet, the fight wasn't much, but I was just as glad to get that fish in the net in a hurry. Nice brown trout don't come along every day in the Smokies, and I'm not sure my nerves would have been happy fighting the fish for an extended amount of time.



I quickly setup my cellphone for a self timer picture by leaning it against the base of a tree on the bank. The fish calmly finned in my big Brodin Coho Ghost Net in between the two shots I took to make certain of a good picture. Then I took one or two in my hand in the water and it was already time to say good bye. A new year and a new fish had only taken five or ten minutes. Either I used up a TON of dumb luck way too early in the year, or I was simply meant to wear the famous Herb's Welding Shop Hat. That link includes pictures of this famous trophy by the way among other things...

I got even more suspicious about the implications for my luck after I only caught one other fish the entire rest of the day, but perhaps I'm too suspicious. The good news is that I fished again in the Smokies on Tuesday and caught some trout, so clearly there is still some good luck left. In fact, if one can believe Bigsur, winning this award guarantees all kinds of good luck in the new year. I hope he is right because a fisherman can always use a little more good luck!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

2016 Guide Trip Highlights

As I am trying to keep this blog mainly about my own personal fishing excursions, please check out Trout Zone Anglers and the blog there for the Year in Review posts on guided fly fishing trips. Specifically, here is the Smoky Mountain guide trips in review. The tailwaters were fishing very well this past year. The Caney Fork was about as good as it gets last year, or at least it was if you were a regular on the river and knew the tricks. Here are the 2016 tailwater trips in review featuring more big trout than anyone deserves to see in one year. It was a glorious year indeed!


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I hope each of you has a great 2017 that includes plenty of time on the water. I'm excited to see what the year has in store. Thank you to everyone who has supported my fly fishing endeavors by reading this blog, taking a guide trip with me, or otherwise encouraging me along the way. I hope to meet many more of you in this new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Busy Is Good: Looking Back on 2016

In any normal year, a low number of posts would be a bad sign for my time on the water. For 2016, the lack of posts has actually been the result of more time on the water. Busy is good if you ask me. Busy is better when it involves setting a new personal record for days on the water in one year. My goal for next year is to pass 200 days on the water. That includes fishing and guiding just to be clear.

While 2016 was a phenomenal year for me as far as guiding goes, the focus of this post is on my own fishing adventures. While I'll throw in a tease or two from my work, check out Trout Zone Anglers and the blog there for a complete year end summary of the guiding for the year. That post should be up in a day or two.

My own fishing for the year started off in early January. One of my favorite days on the water that month was spent in the Smokies. No big surprise there I know. The day was particularly memorable because of the nice brown trout I found. Late in the month, I would spend some time fishing for brook trout with the idea of trying to catch one each month of the year. That worthy goal would sadly not be met, but hopefully I'll have plenty more years to try it.


February was an unusually slow month for me. I didn't get out much although the local farm ponds did keep me from going crazy, and the chance to solve an interesting fishing riddle was as much fun as anything. Being a leap year, we had an extra day available and I made the most of it to keep my brook trout streak going. Ironically, I kept the streak going for the two toughest months of the year before it fell by the wayside.


March was more or less a normal month and included the beginning of my spring trips down to the Hiwassee that I try to squeeze in every year. The change of pace this year included my increasing trips down to the Clinch River. Some nice fish were caught and I began to appreciate this unique tailwater more and more.



April saw the fishing action pick up significantly. In addition to trout, smallmouth bass were becoming quite active. A new favorite trip was born that featured stocked trout in the upper reaches (that we never actually caught) and smallmouth and musky throughout the rest of the trip. I was fishing with my buddy David Perry. With both of us spending so much time guiding, trips together have been fewer as of late, but this is a spring trip that I hope to do again many times.


I hit the jackpot in May when I was able to fish one of those cloudy days that threatens rain. The bugs poured off. The trout rose. The angler was happy. In prior years, I tended to hit these great days when I was guiding, and that is a good time to guide. I'm always super happy when I can show someone a legitimate hatch in the Smokies, but I like to fish it myself as well on occasion.


Somewhere in late spring or early summer, I found myself the owner of a smartphone due to the generosity of a friend. If that hadn't of happened, I'm sure I would still be enjoying my old flip phone. however, since I did have a smartphone finally, I decided to embrace everything about it and started using Instagram. If you haven't been there yet, there are a lot more pictures there then you will find here including a lot from my guide trips as well as my own fishing excursions. Be sure to follow me there as well as on Facebook!

June found me chasing smallmouth harder than ever. In between guiding a lot, I also found some time to float the Caney Fork River with friends Jayson and Pat for Jayson's bachelor party. That turned into one of the best trips of the whole year. We caught and landed both good numbers and some really nice fish in terms of size. I got my first big brown trout of the year on that float. Here is the groom Jayson with one of his twenty inchers and net man Pat...


July was hot, but the river continued to fish very well. In fact, it just kept getting better as the summer wore on. Smallmouth bass were also active and I made a trip I've been thinking about for years. My friend Mark Brown from Chota and I met up for a truly epic adventure. I saw my first live rattlesnake on the Cumberland Plateau ever on that trip and was so surprised I forgot to get a picture. In between bee stings, rattlesnakes, and copperheads, we did manage to find some great smallmouth.


In August, I started things out with more big backcountry smallmouth bass. By this point, the Caney Fork was fishing so obviously well that it was hard to keep me away. I was spending more time on the river than anyone really deserves to spend fishing. It began to pay off finally with some great brown trout, culminating in my personal best brown trout from the Caney Fork River. I caught the fish while sight fishing with a midge and after locating it a couple of days prior on a guide trip. There are some perks to guiding other than just spending time outside every day and one of those is locating great fish!


In September, I did another summer trip I've been considering for a few years. It turns out that it was as scary as I had anticipated and then some, but it was nice to do it once in my life at least. From now on, that will be a winter only trip.


October and November were both great months, but the high points of the year had already passed from a fishing perspective. The one exception to that was a trip with my cousins to camp in the Smokies that was one of the best of the year. We fished all over, caught some nice brook trout, and relaxed. I still caught plenty of big fish and that continued into December with a special brown trout on the Clinch River.




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Before the Big Burn

The wildfire that affected portions of the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg is already receding into memory for most people. Unfortunately, for those more directly affected, it will take a lot longer for things to be normal again. While the people who tragically lost homes and businesses and even loved ones have suffered the most, the landscape also suffered in the short term.

Portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park above Gatlinburg will probably be quite different for some time to come. These are the areas where the fire burned the hottest on exposed ridge tops where the wind conspired to do the most damage. Thankfully, portions of the streams that we all know and love, while affected, are mostly not as damaged. There is damage, and the hardest part will simply be in waiting to see when we'll be allowed to fish these waters again, but overall it appears that the streams were spared the brunt of this fire. Until then, we can only remember the good times that once were.

One of the more popular brook trout streams in the Park is near the fire's origin. This is a stream that I had the good fortune of fishing with my cousins back in early November. The air was already hazy from the burns over in North Carolina, but we still enjoyed the opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy the late season warmth. Some of the most beautiful fish you will ever find are brook trout in their fall dress. Here are a few photos from our day on the water. Hopefully these jewels survived and will continue to do so as they have for many years. For more on this trip, check out this full trip report I did over on the Little River Outfitters message board.











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