Guided Trips

UPDATE: 8/21/2016 Smokies Fly Fishing Report -- Current Hatches: Isonychias (Slate Drake), Little Yellow Stoneflies, Golden Stoneflies, Tan and Cinnamon Caddis, inch worms, beetles, and ants. Fishing should improve for at least the next couple of days. With a strong cold front moving through this afternoon, we'll see cool overnight temperatures that will bring water temps down. Rain has also brought a welcome bump in flows. Think terrestrials for the most part but don't hesitate to experiment a little. If you need to learn how to fish these streams and where to go, a guided trip with me can help you accomplish that!

Caney Fork Fly Fishing Report: This river continues to shine. This is one of the better summers I've had the privilege to enjoy on this river and things should continue to be good as we head into the fall. Boat traffic is starting to slow down a little on weekdays so this is a good time to get out. I have some availability if you are looking for a guided trip so contact me about a float or wade trip if you want to enjoy this fishing at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.

Clinch River Fishing Report: Flows are mostly up so heavy deep nymphing or streamer fishing will be the way to go during periods of generation. Look for fish eating terrestrials along the banks and especially in areas of soft water.

Holston River: Give this river a break on the trout sections until next winter. Water temperatures on most of the trout water are elevated and fishing now will stress these beautiful fish.

Cumberland Plateau Fishing Report: Smallmouth bass fishing is very good as of late. Both topwater bugs and subsurface offerings are getting it done. Before we know it, the cooler weather of fall will have us chasing muskie again as well!


Photo of the Month: Catch and Release

Photo of the Month: Catch and Release

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Different Float

Before you start thinking I started floating another river, let's clear that up now. This is the same river I've been having some great guide trips on lately. The difference on this particular float is because I got to do some fishing as well. Shocking, right?

I've been very busy this summer with lots of guide trips. Naturally that is a good thing, or at least that is what my bank account would say. The only downside so far as I can tell is that I haven't done much of the kind of fishing where I'm the one holding the rod. It would be fair to say I have been fishing a lot, just not in the traditional sense, and I was ready for a day of throwing the fly rod.

When my friend Bill Bolinger from Little River Outfitters had to cancel our fishing trip together at the last second, I almost decided to just wade fish for the day instead. After considering my options, I decided to check with some other friends and eventually found someone who was able to go. Don Hazel heads up the Fly Fishing Club here locally at Fairfield Glade. After having an epic experience on a guide trip with me the week before, I knew he was already dialed in and ready to catch some fish.

He came prepared with all the correct flies and his rod was rigged and ready to go so we quickly dumped the boat in the river, ran the shuttle, and started floating. It did not take long to start seeing a few fish flash on the streamers we started with, but something unusual happened. The generators were scheduled to shut off at 11:00 AM but we passed right by the cutoff point with no reduction in flows. Realizing that something was up, I headed for a calm backwater behind an island to anchor the boat for a while. We relaxed and took our time messing with the streamers until the water took on that glassy appearance that signals the end of generation. That was our cue to pull the anchor up and start drifting.

Moving down the river, we took our time getting dialed in with the right depth, but the patterns were the same ones that I've been having success on all summer. Follow me on Instagram (troutzoneanglers) to see more of these big fish that we've been catching. Aren't on Instagram? You can also find me on Facebook to see some of those pictures of big fish. Sorry but I don't post pictures of the flies that are working. If you really want a look inside my fly box, stop and say hi on the river or take a guided trip with me. If it helps any, I will say that fish have been caught on dry flies, nymphs, midges, and streamers lately (as in within the last week). Hopefully that will help narrow it down for you...

Anyway, back to my day on the water, Don was the first to strike with a nice rainbow trout and from then on, we were catching fish one after another on down the river. There was only one other drift boat out on the river along with 5-10 kayaks but that was it. Boat traffic has slowed down with the beginning of school and that is a good thing. The river is still very busy on weekends. If you are going to fish it right now, please release all of your quality trout. The river is seeing a LOT of pressure right now and it only takes a few people keeping those big trout before the fishing quality goes seriously down hill. The number of people not abiding by the regulations never ceases to amaze me. If you witness anyone keeping fish in the slot (catch and release on rainbows and brook trout from 14"-20" and only one brown trout may be kept a day with a 24" minimum length requirement), please call the TWRA Poaching hotline (https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/poaching-hotlines) and please notice that the Caney is partially in both regions two and three.

As Don and I continued down the river catching fish here and there, we began to wonder if we would find any of the good fish that have been regularly showing up on every float. I had a good idea where to look but for the first couple of miles, those larger fish proved to be elusive. Eventually that would change however.

We were drifting through one long pool that sometimes has produced nice fish for me (don't they all?) and were fishing both sides of the boat. Don's indicator dove and I glanced over to see what was going on. When I looked back, my indicator seemed to have disappeared as well so I set the hook just in case. Turns out that was the right move. I immediately felt resistance and we were into a nice double.

I scooped his fish into the net with one hand while playing my trout with the other. Handing off the net, I told him to keep his fish wet and continued to battle the nice trout on the end of my own line. Eventually, my fish tired and came to the net. Talk about a great double! Two gorgeous brown trout in the net at one time and they were quality fish to boot.

Brown Trout double in the net from the Caney Fork River
Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel

We took some pictures and then calmed down enough to keep moving on down the river. Eventually we even started fishing again!

A large Caney Fork Brown trout caught by author David Knapp
Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel

The day drifted slowly by in about the same way. Fish were caught here and there and eventually we were nearing the time to call it quits. I wanted one more fish and turned to a rod rigged with a dry fly and dropper midge to accomplish that goal. Sure enough, along a calm edge with scattered risers, I found a willing brown trout that took the midge very softly. The ensuing fight was anything but soft though as the strong brown trout ran all over the river. Before long, another great fish was in the net, and I had my picture taken with yet another beautiful trout.

David Knapp with another midge eating brown trout on the Caney Fork
Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel

Not to be outdone, Don pulled a really nice rainbow trout out just as we started pulling up to the takeout. The fish were still feeding and I was not entirely excited about leaving feeding trout, but I knew that morning and another guide trip would come early. More flies needed to be tied, especially after finding success on a new pattern I've been working on. The small number of samples I tied wouldn't necessarily last through a guide trip the next day.

A colorful rainbow trout on the Caney Fork caught by Don Hazel

As it turns out, our trip was just the warm-up to a truly amazing day, but that is a story for another time...

Monday, August 08, 2016

Smallmouth Bass Again



This summer I have been on my usual warm weather smallmouth bass kick and have enjoyed exploring both new waters and old. After my last epic adventure, you would think that staying away from the smallmouth streams for a while would have been the best choice. Despite all of the dangers, I couldn't get the memory out of my mind of the big wild smallmouth fighting on the end of my line. Thus it was, just a couple of days after my last trip, that I found myself heading towards one of my favorite smallmouth streams.

Now, I have to explain the favorite part just a little. Favorite can mean a lot of things. For me, a large portion of what determines "favorite status" is familiarity. This particular stream I'm very familiar with, or at least I'm familiar with the portion that is a reasonable half day trip from the access area. The bass are not the largest or most numerous, but they are there and with a little work are willing to come to the fly.

I grabbed all of my equipment and was soon headed to a section that I enjoy. This is an area I call the Narrows, although I'm sure the white water paddlers have another name for what must be some very serious rapids when the water is up. The cliffs come in tight to the stream and huge chunks of rock all but block the flow of the stream. Getting around this area can be very tricky, but I have, over time, pioneered several rather sketchy routes up on the bank and around the worst of the deep pools and massive boulders. I say sketchy because it looks like snake heaven, and I'm sure it is. I just haven't found them yet.


Anyway, I tied on the same black Chernobyl Hopper that had done well for me on previous trips. A few bass came to hand that way and I stubbornly stuck with it all the way up to the Narrows. After climbing up and over the huge piles of debris that are deposited during high water, I came to a deep but narrow pool that always has some nice fish swimming around in it.

The topwater fly was presented to all the likely areas, and I managed one decent little smallie. Based on the shadows lurking in the depths, I knew that I should be doing much better. Remember a fly that I had done well on during my last smallmouth trip just days before, I pulled out the weighted fly and quickly changed strategies. On just the second or third cast, it happened. A large shadow inhaled my fly at least 5 or 6 feet under the surface. I could see just well enough to know it was time to set the hook.

When I did, it was nearly a repeat of the big bass I had caught a couple of days prior. The fish ran under as many rocks as possible, and I held my breath as the tippet sawed back and forth over the rough edges. You would think that my lesson would have been learned on the last trip, but instead of bringing a heavier rod, I had the same 5 weight as before, and the wily smallmouth bass took full advantage of my lack of leverage.

Finally, the fish slid back out from under the rock it had been trying to make home and I slipped my thumb inside its mouth for a grasp of the jaw. Another great Cumberland Plateau backcountry smallmouth bass to remember!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Smelling Beetles

Some guide trips are routine, while others are definitely a little out of the ordinary. This past Monday, I had a half day guided wade trip on the Caney Fork River. We had moved around trying to stay ahead of the generation that has been a challenge lately.

We found several willing fish on midges and nymphs (mostly midges) early in the day as well as a few that ate the hopper but didn't find the hook. When the water started rising, it was time to move and move we did. We found another good section with more favorable water conditions and started fishing again, knowing that we had limited time before the rising water found us. I had mentioned wanting to try a certain section and Terry who was fishing with me was all for it. Moving down the river, we were approaching our target spot when I froze.

My nose detected the definite smell of Japanese beetle. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the pungent and unmistakeable smell of beetles made me look up. Sure enough, the tree that was hanging out over the river nearby had lots of beetles eating away on the leaves. Knowing at least a little about such things, I quickly deduced that instead of a midge behind the hopper, it was time for my favorite, a black beetle.

Terry was soon maneuvering into position and made a great cast to a brown trout I had spotted. Immediately the fish nailed the fly. This scene replayed itself again and again over the next hour.  Most of the fish were brown trout, but at least one or two were rainbows.

Terry Butrum with a quality Caney Fork brown trout

Catching fish on dry flies on the Caney Fork River is always a treat and this day was no different. Before long, we had to make a beeline for the bank because the water was catching up, but we had already caught several fine trout. Next time you are out on the river during the summer, make sure to stop and smell for beetles. You might just luck into some great fishing!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

High Adventure


This was supposed to be a fishing trip deep into the backcountry of Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau in search of smallmouth bass fishing nirvana. My friend Mark Brown of Chota Outdoor Gear and I had been planning on fishing together for a while. Somehow things had never worked out, until this trip that is. We both had been hitting the smallmouth streams regularly this summer and were looking to get a little farther away from the access points and the hordes of swimmers and other fishermen that can usually be found in easily accessible water. There were a couple of options under consideration, but ultimately the choice was made for a slightly longer walk but one that would leave our vehicles in a safer location.

The forecast for our day on the water called for hot and dry, in other words about the same as the rest of this summer has been. We hit the trailhead by around 8:30 a.m. and started trekking deep into the still-cool woods. The trail was familiar to me but not to Mark so I took the lead. As I started sweeping spider webs out of the way with my face, I started thinking that maybe being in front wasn't such a good idea. For some reason Mark was still happy to stay in the back so I forged ahead.

By the time we hit the trail down through a crack in the cliff, we were both ready to see the river below. Just as we got to the narrowest portion where the trail was hemmed in by steep bluffs on both sides, I happened to look down in time to see a timber rattler relaxing on the trail. I was in such shock that I forgot to snap a picture. This didn't help my nerves. There are more snakes here on the Cumberland Plateau than anywhere else I've ever hiked and fished, and I was already jumpy. Things didn't improve when we looked down the steep and brushy hillside that had to be descended before our goal was attained. I imagined all of the snakes and bees that were probably waiting to eat me. In the end, visions of huge smallmouth slamming our flies propelled me on down the hill.

We emerged stream-side to stare in awe at the incredible water both up and downstream of where we now stood. Towering sandstone bluffs showed near the top of the gorge. If only these streams were more accessible, but of course in that case we probably wouldn't be the only ones enjoying the view.


After a brief pause to enjoy the scenery and snap a few pictures, we both started casting. Smallmouth bass were cruising the deep pool at our feet just waiting for the flies we had ready. Within the first two or three casts, I had landed my first bass and Mark was not far behind. After catching three bass in 10 or 15 casts, my expectations for the day, as if they weren't already high enough, shot through the roof. Becoming greedy, I started thinking about catching larger fish.

We had emerged from the woods towards the back of a large pool, and I imagined that there were probably large bass stacked like cordwood at the head of the pool. The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome was in full effect. The water was too deep to wade, so I moved around behind a large boulder to search for a route to the head of the pool. Looking over, I noticed a copperhead coiled up on top of a large rock and my big fish dreams quickly came back down to earth. Our first pool was now dubbed the Copperhead Hole. Knowing that there was plenty of water downstream, I decided to abandon my efforts and head down to the next pool.


Fishing quickly through some pocket water, I soon found myself overlooking a long pool. Because of a huge deep pot in the back that required getting deeper than I intended, this pool was named the Swimming Pool. Thankfully I didn't have to completely swim, but we did find some quality smallmouth cruising this pool. While I wasn't rigged for it, the pool sure looked like a good muskie hole as well. One of these days I'll be back to explore that possibility.


We continued downstream into a section that looked like giants had tossed huge boulders all over the river. Some of these are as large as a house. Here is a view looking downstream and another looking across to where Mark was fishing to give perspective on how large these rocks were. Can you find the angler in the second picture?



It was here, in the narrows, that I started to find some larger bass. I had switched from a large black Chernobyl style fly to a subsurface offering. Despite hearing cicadas buzzing in the trees along the stream, the bright sun was winning out and the fish were shy about coming to the surface. After covering the entire whole alongside the huge boulder pictured above, I switched to a fly with a lot of weight. Returning to the head of the pool, I started working my way downstream again. As one of my drifts swung in front of the smaller boulder at the bottom left in the picture above, I felt a hard thump and the fight was on. I had brought my 5 weight Helios and for a moment I thought that such a light rod would prove to be my undoing. This bass worked through its bag of tricks, but ultimately I landed it in the shallows.


After a quick shot, I let it go and continued working down the stream. Not far below, another quality fish came to hand and I got another picture.


About this time, Mark and I realized that we should start thinking about the hike out. We were considering a different route back out, but since neither of us had done the whole route we would need extra time in case something went wrong. After a consultation, we decided on a few more fish, a short lunch break, and then starting on our way out.

As it turns out, we were both glad that we fished a little longer. Mark had the first nice fish. He had been fishing in a deep hole. Both of us had switched to the same pattern that was catching fish for me. He had thrown at a deep slot along side some undercut boulders and a nice fish shot out to nail the fly. After watching the battle, I told him we needed at least one good fish picture and so he held up the bass for a moment. 


I had decided to finish my day hunting fish on top again and had pulled out the well-chewed black Chernobyl Hopper and tied it back on. When Mark caught this fish, I was nearly confined to change back. I headed up to the next pool, intent on sitting down to tie on a different fly. As I walked over the boulder that I meant to sit on, I saw one dark slot just above. Deciding it wouldn't hurt to throw the hopper for one last cast, I tossed it in and almost immediately saw the largest explosion of the day. Things got serious for a few moments as the fish repeatedly ran under rocks, sawing my leader and tippet along the rough edges. Somehow, the Rio tippet held as well as the hook. The heavy tension evaporated as I slipped my thump into its mouth. Mark kindly came over and snapped a couple of pictures for me. This is the largest smallmouth bass that I have caught yet on our Cumberland Plateau streams, and best of all it came on a surface fly.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Brown

By this time, we were starting to realize that we should probably begin our climb out. Scrambling up the steep slope was difficult in the afternoon heat, but the good news was that the brush was not as thick as before. I didn't feel in immediate danger from death by snakes, but before long a new danger showed up.

We had been following a trail for a while, knowing approximately but not exactly where to go. A brief pause to discuss which way at a fork proved to be problematic. Almost immediately, as I started moving again, Mark yelled. A stinging sensation on my arm told me what the problem was and I yelled out, "Run!!!" We both found some long since forgotten energy for a brief sprint almost straight uphill before pausing to make sure that the yellow jackets were not following us. Mark had lost a water bottle in the excitement, but neither of us wanted to go back down and recover it. The good news was that we were out on familiar trails again. The car was still quite a trek away but now we knew exactly how far.

My nerves were back on alert. This high adventure was almost more than they could handle. When a sticked cracked, I may or may not have jumped a few feet high. Mark, chuckling behind me, asked quite innocently, "Did you know you just jumped?"

It had been an incredible day. I'm not sure if Mark will be willing to fish with me again after this adventure proved harder than anticipated, but I I'm guessing we'll both recover eventually and be ready to hit the smallmouth streams again.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beginners' Luck

Luck. Some of us have it and some of us don't. If you are like me, you will get a good run of luck, but the whole time you are dreading the inevitable turn of fortunes. A bad string of luck can involve losing giant fish, breaking fly rods, and even filling up your waders after an innocent slip on the rocks. Some people seem to have a knack for catching big fish, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they are seasoned pros or beginners.

Last week, I had a couple of people on the boat who said they were beginners. After a trip like we enjoyed it can be hard to believe something like that, but I'll take them at their word.

This was one of those trips that had been on the calendar for months. The goal was to help them learn how to successfully fish the Caney Fork River. As fairly new fly anglers, Jeff and Sandy wanted some instruction that they could then take and apply on their own to enjoy the sport of fly fishing. Upon booking the trip, we left the question of a wade or float trip to be decided later. As the trip drew closer, I received an email and discovered that the decision was to float. That was great with me since it meant I wouldn't have to walk around the river roasting in my waders in the 90+ degree heat we've been enjoying. Additionally, I prefer floating the river for guide trips as it allows us to access some spots that I know have big fish.

On the evening before the trip, after consulting the generation schedule, I contacted Jeff and Sandy to set up the meeting time and place. Then I hit the tying vise for a couple of hours of prep work. We would have plenty of the hot patterns for our trip.

We met the next day and were soon at the put-in ramp. Taking 20 minutes before the trip to go over the finer points of playing large trout was hot even though we found some shade, but it paid huge dividends before the day was over. After coaching first Sandy and then Jeff through the proper technique for fighting large fish on a fly rod (both were accomplished anglers using other tackle), we were ready to go. I dumped the boat and rowed out into the river before we anchored up to rig the rods. Soon both of them had the first fish of the day. These were monster brown trout in the 6-8 inch range. In other words, they were catching the future of the fishery but not the fish we had come to find.

I pulled the anchor and we were off. In the first section the fishing seemed a little slow, but Jeff was steadily catching some trout from the front of the boat. The largest early on was around 12 inches but most were smaller. Sandy, after her initial luck, had things slow down for a while.

By the time we were a good distance downstream, both anglers had settled into a routine. Cast, mend, drift...repeat. The water was just high enough from the generation to allow us to slide over a couple of gravel bars that are normally off limits. It was in one such place, as we approached a deep slot, that Jeff had a great drift interrupted by the indicator plunging down. As soon as he set the hook I knew it was serious. I instructed Sandy to get all of her line out of the water so we wouldn't have any distractions for Jeff to fight his Caney Fork trophy. Soon I was rowing up and down the river. Finally, the fish seemed like it was getting tired, and I dropped the anchor over a gravel bar and jumped out of the boat with the net. The big rainbow trout slid into the net and congratulations were passed around. Jeff had learned quickly and earned his picture with the beautiful fish.


Sandy got jealous when she saw how nice Jeff's big fish was. However, she would have to wait a little longer before her turn for a picture came around. A few hundred yards down the river, Jeff had a nearly repeat performance except that this fish was 19 inches instead of 22 inches. Either fish would be the catch of the day on most trips and Jeff had found two.


This brings up the importance of not only a good guide, but someone who knows the river. The 19 inch trout was in an area I've had my eye on. In fact, the other day during the epic bachelor party, we hooked a monster brown trout out of the same hole. If you want to catch some nice trout, a guided float trip is definitely the best way. If you are like me and enjoy learning on your own, then repeat trips down the river will, over many trips, teach you some of the tricks you will learn on a guide trip. A guided trip just shortens this learning curve.

By this time, Sandy made it clear that it was HER turn. Accordingly, I turned the boat so she had an equal shot at the fish since she was in the back. We were approaching another good spot that I like to hit and sure enough, her indicator dove and she was into a great brown trout. Again we had to row all over the river to chase this fish, but in the end it slid into the net just like the others and Sandy got her picture with a fantastic Caney Fork River brown trout.


Jeff followed up with a nice brown of his own before Sandy struck with a quality rainbow trout. Not long after these fish, it was time to start heading for the takeout ramp. Along the way, we stopped in one spot just long enough for them to get a nice double to end the day. Nothing better than a net full or brown and rainbow trout!





The Caney Fork River will continue to fish well on guided float trips. Weekends are NOT conducive to good fishing and I don't recommend float trips then. However, if you can get away during the week and have the right patterns, the right drift, and the right location, you too may catch a big Caney Fork River trout. I can't guarantee such incredible beginners' luck as Jeff and Sandy had, but we will always have fun and a day spent on the river is about the most fun you can have.

If you are interested in a guided float trip on this river, or a guided trip in the Smokies or anywhere else, don't hesitate to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Solstice Bachelor Party

The best day I've ever had on the Caney Fork happened just this week. In fact, as close as possible, I had a repeat again yesterday, but the first was probably the most memorable because it was a trip that almost didn't happen. To put everything in perspective, let me go back a few months to last November.

My buddy Jayson gave me the honor of asking me to be a groomsman in his wedding, scheduled for this June. Over the past several months, us groomsmen discussed options for a bachelor party, but for various reasons, none of the plans ever worked out. With so many schedules to try and coordinate, the main problem came down to not having free time together. That and the fact that we wanted to do a trip outdoors. Jayson is another diehard angler as is Pat who is another groomsman. We discussed camping trips, backpacking trips, and of course all revolved around fishing. Eventually, we began to wonder if the bachelor party would even happen. We were all just too busy.

Then, the perfect storm of events occurred. What set off the chain of events was a cancelation/postponement that I had. A float trip on the Caney Fork had been on the calendar until about two weeks ago when the clients requested a postponement until the cooler months of fall. They were concerned about the extreme heat we have been experiencing. Naturally, I decided that I should spend the day on the water somewhere fishing for myself. It was then that I remembered the bachelor party. 

At this point, we were mere days away from the wedding day so time was short to get a trip together. I quickly called Jayson and Pat the other groomsman. Both were able to clear their schedules. Plans were discussed ranging from fishing in the Smokies, the Davidson in N.C., and the Clinch. Eventually we came back to the Caney Fork River and set up a time to meet.

Monday June 20 arrived with a couple of x-factors that were going to make the day go from good to epic. Any day on the water with friends is good. It should go without saying, but catching fish is always a bonus in a situation like this. However, we also had perfect flows with the generators pulsing from 8-9 a.m. The summer solstice happened to be on June 20. Oh, and we had a full moon. 

That last one was a little sketchy. I've had some fantastic fishing during a full moon, and I've also had some really horrible fishing during a full moon. Fantastic and horrible measured purely from a fish catching success perspective I should add. When I saw pictures from my buddy and guide Bryan Allison featuring his success this past weekend, I knew that this might be one of those good full moons. Nevertheless, I warned Jayson and Pat that the fishing could be epic or it could be horrible. Both were in on taking the trip regardless which turned out to be the right decision.

Jayson and Pat arrived at my house on Monday morning and we quickly transferred their gear over into my truck and boat and we were off. A short trip to the river had a small detour to get some air in one of my tires. That small detour almost became a long detour when the valve stem jammed, but eventually I got some air in the tire and the valve stem quit leaking. Back on the road, we finally made it to the river and got the boat launched. Rowing out into the river, I dropped the anchor for the usual time spent setting up all the rods.

Both of the guys were intrigued by the setup I use to fish the Caney Fork, but after just a few minutes of floating they had caught some trout and were believers in my fishing methods. The fish were keying on midges and that proved to be the situation for most of our trip. The night before I had stayed up late tying lots of extras and it was a good thing as we went through our fair share of flies.

A short distance down the river, we finally got a taste of what the day would be like. Appropriately, the groom was the first to strike on a good fish. Jayson set the hook and when the rod nearly doubled over, I quickly instructed Pat to get his line out of the water and clear the area for Jayson to fight the trout. When it rocketed to the surface, we saw that were were dealing with a large rainbow trout. Trying all of its tricks, the trout eventually yielded to Jayson's skill at fighting fish and slid into the net. Pictures were taken, high fives and hand shakes were passed around, and we got back down to the very serious business of catching trout.


Not too much further down the river, we pulled over and got out to wet our feet in the cool water. With air temperatures over 90 degrees, the usually frigid water actually felt good. Jayson and Pat were well ahead of me since I still needed to rig a rod for myself. Deciding on a hopper for my strike indicator, I dropped a nymph and midge underneath and started working downstream along a shaded bank. The overhanging branches seemed like a good spot for a terrestrial to fall in. That assumption was rewarded with a solid 16 inch brown trout, my first hopperized brown trout of the year. After releasing the fish, I noticed that Jayson was hooked up and stopped to take a few pictures.


Jumping back in the boat, I offered the hopper rod to Pat and pointed out a fish that exhibited a terrestrial rise. He cast once and the fish did everything but eat the fly. Throwing back a second time triggered that reactionary bite we were looking for, and soon he was enjoying his own nice brown trout caught on a hopper.


Continuing down the river, we caught fish here and there and broke off some true monsters. Pat seemed to have the corner on the "losing big fish" market unfortunately, but Jayson still had another moment of glory waiting.

We had stopped again to wade a second time. This was a stretch of river that I've been watching some large brown trout in and hoped to get the guys on one of those nice fish. Pat found one way up above where we stopped and lost it to a log. I fished slowly and eventually nailed a nice fish on the hopper.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Tully

Then Jayson struck again. He had been working a nice trout when it finally ate. His yelling got our attention and soon we had the net out and ran down to help. The tippet and knots held, the hook was strong enough, and soon we had more great memories captured with our cameras. Jayson's second 20"+ trout was a brown trout and featured some amazing colors.


Even though he was the groom and thus assumedly being treated extra nice for the day, I informed Jayson that two 20 inchers qualified him for the rowers bench. My moment of glory was literally just around the corner. After rowing around the corner, I turned the oars over to Jayson and jumped into the front of the boat for a few minutes.

Almost as soon as Jayson touched the oars, Pat's luck turned and he nailed a great brown trout right off some rocks along the bank. The fish had taken the midge, but the 6x tippet held and the hook was strong. After the obligatory pictures, Jayson slid the boat back out into the middle and we kept drifting.


Not too far down the river, I saw a large brown slide out of a deep hole and settle into a narrow slot between two rocks in shallow water. Hey guys, you see that big brown? When they asked where, I pointed and cast. Right under my hopper. My flies drifted through and as I pulled them out for another cast, Pat asked if he could take a shot. My cast was already on the way as I said sure. He started his cast and while his flies were literally hovering over the spot, I saw the fish turn sideways and set the hook. Sure enough, the fish was on my flies.

Notice I didn't say that it ate my flies. That is because I initially thought that I had somehow snagged the fish. A lot of side pressure failed to turn the fish at all. In such situations I usually assume that the fish is snagged. I was so convinced of this that I nearly broke the fish off on purpose. I'm not interested in killing a fish for a photo op and a snagged fish is usually going to be too exhausted by the time you land it, if it is big that is. Something in my brain doubted the snagged theory just enough to not break the fish off. On the next turn, I saw my tippet all the way to the large brown trout's mouth and realized that instead of being snagged, this was just a really heavy and strong fish.

I've lost a lot of nice trout through the years. Even a few of them recently. Big fish, not mediocre fish. Things had gotten bad enough that I almost assumed that this fish would eventually come unbuttoned. Somehow everything worked out though, and Pat Tully did a phenomenal job on the net. Thanks should also be mentioned for Jayson's great work on the oars. This fish, as were the other large trout on this day, was truly a team effort.

Photo Courtesy of Jayson Alexander

That fish proved to be the final high point of the day. Yes, we still caught more fish, but somewhere shortly after this fish the action slowed considerably. That may just be because we weren't trying very hard. Everyone on the boat was satisfied, but also tired and hungry. We rowed through the last stretch to get done at a reasonable time. A stop in Cookeville for some great Mexican food finished the day in style.

Three fish 20 inches or better in one day and at least two others broken off. I would like to think that I'm just getting that much better at this whole "guiding" thing. Maybe I am. After all, yesterday's guide trip was nearly as epic with several large rainbows and some nice browns caught. Then again, maybe it was just one of those unexplainably awesome days. The full moon, the summer solstice, good weather, a good barometer whatever that means. You know all the excuses we fly anglers give when the fishing is bad. For one day, at least, we didn't need any of them.

I anticipate the fishing on our tailwaters to continue to be fantastic through the summer. I'm getting some great reports from the Watauga and South Holston as well as the Hiwassee. The Clinch and Holston Rivers continue to fish well. Today I netted a 21.5 inch rainbow on the Holston and later caught some nice trout for myself. The Caney Fork will fish well on less crowded days. The right patterns and techniques are essential now with the water cleared up from the murky days of spring. 

If you want to get in on this great fishing, contact me about a guided wade or float trip on the Caney Fork River. You can reach me via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. I'm booking trips well into July now with no availability until the second week of July. The fishing should stay good on this river through the summer and fall if we continue to experience low water.



Monday, June 13, 2016

June Openings for Guided Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

Due to a cancellation and a couple of dates still open, my calendar has some options if you are looking for a guided trip in the Smokies this month. Currently, I have Friday morning June 17, all day on Monday June 20, and June 26 and 30. This is one of the busiest months of the year for good reason. Everyone is in town on summer break or heading to the mountains for a day or two to beat the heat. The fishing has been good although water levels are dropping. If you need help learning how to fish in the Great Smoky Mountains, please don't hesitate to email me (TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com) or call. July has a few more possibilities so just let me know if you are looking to get something booked then for either the tailwaters or mountains or even smallmouth bass streams.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Found Fly Box

While guiding on Little River yesterday, I came across a rather nice and well-stocked fly box that some unlucky angler had lost. If you have lost a fly box recently, please contact me via email and describe both the box and its contents, and I'll be glad to get it back to you!

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