Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 7/9/2017

Fishing is good to excellent across the area. Recent rains have kept flows up in the Smokies, although it has also dumped too much water into the Caney Fork system.

Terrestrials are really coming on strong now. Ants and inchworms continue to get it done, and beetle fishing is very good now. Backcountry trips are excellent now and probably are the best way to enjoy a day of fishing during the hot months. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout are all available to those willing to walk.

The Caney Fork River continues to fish anywhere from average to good on high water streamer floats. Anyone who wants to target trout with streamers will find this to be exciting fishing. Stripers are now a distinct possibility as well. High water will stick around for at least a couple of weeks it appears due to the recent rains.

Cumberland Plateau smallmouth streams are rounding into fine shape now. Rain will bump flows up again, but in between the fish are hungry and willing to hammer a fly! See the recent blog post for more on that!

The calendar is full until the last week of July. If you want to get in on a guided trip, contact me soon as I've had to turn away a lot of trips from people who waited too long to book.


Photo of the Month: Pig Brown on the Caney

Photo of the Month: Pig Brown on the Caney

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Almost Over

Incredibly the summer is almost over. I’ve had a blast working at Little River Outfitters this summer. The staff here is top notch and great to work with. Getting to fish every day (or almost) was not a bad way to spend a summer. Wapsi Hell was a recurring theme that is simply part of keeping all you fly tiers in materials (me too come to think about it). Speaking of the customers, that has been one of the greatest parts of the summer. Thanks to everyone that has stopped by to see me and to those that I was able to meet for the first time. I’ve met some great people from across the country including folks from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, and California (and others that I’m forgetting). I want to thank all the great people I’ve met who invited me to join them on their home waters in the future. If you’re one of those people be careful, very, very careful…I might actually take you up on the invitation sometime. Most of all I want to thank the great people at Little River Outfitters for giving me one of the best summers I could ask for. The opportunity to work for one of the top fly shops in the country was an honor and much appreciated.

Despite the fact that my time at Little River Outfitters is drawing to a close, the summer is not quite over yet. Yes, that’s right, West Trip 2008 has been in the works for awhile, and soon I’ll be touring the finest water that Colorado has to offer. Sadly this year’s trip will be a fast trip (fast as in one week instead of the epic trip that I took last year). I’ll literally be driving west, stopping at home just long enough to drop off all my stuff I’ve had in Townsend this summer and then continuing to Colorado. Just over one week later we’ll be back, and I will nearly drive straight to Chattanooga to begin school. At that point I should have some exciting stories and pictures to share. Until then, take a day off and go fishing instead of checking here for updates that you won‘t find. I’m taking the next week off…

Getting More Dangerous


At the rate things are going, my cabin would probably become a den for the numerous dangerous snakes in the area if I stayed much longer. Nearly every evening following a good rainstorm has produced a copperhead sighting. The entire summer I’ve been hoping to see something a little more rare and was down to the last strike in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mother nature conspired to provide the opportunity I’ve been hoping for. On the drive home last evening I rounded a bend on the road and came face to face with what had only become a shadow of a dream at this point.

In the end, I came up with not one but two rattlesnakes to wrap up the past two weeks of snake sightings. In that short time I’ve seen 5 or 6 copperheads and of course the two rattlers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Last Weekend



This summer has flown by and I can’t believe it is almost over. For my last weekend here in Townsend, my cousin and his girlfriend came up to visit. They spent Friday night backpacking above Elkmont and got pounded by the storm that came through early Saturday morning. We had agreed to meet at the trailhead to go sightseeing and/or hiking on Saturday so at the appointed time I drove up to find them soaked but in good spirits. The drenching the park received did wonders for the streams. First on the agenda for the day was a drive up to Clingman's Dome.



We stopped off at Sugarlands and left one of the vehicles there before heading on up the hill. On the way it became apparent just how much rain had fallen. The West Prong of the Little Pigeon River was rolling and the water was stained. Fog still enveloped the highest peaks providing a perfect example of how the park got its name. Shortly after passing the Chimney Tops trailhead I stopped the car and we piled out for a brief photo session.


As you can see, the stream had plenty of water to go around. All the little tributaries pouring off of Mt. Leconte were near bankfull. The clouds had been lifting steadily all morning as the atmosphere slowly warmed but the higher elevations were still socked in. At Clingman's Dome we were treated to something different than what we had come for but still provided some interesting photo opportunities.



The clouds were rolling up over the mountain sometimes cutting visibility to 100 feet or less. On the walk up we found some wildflowers that were just now reaching their peak at this high elevation. At the summit we enjoyed the cool moist air that felt more like fall than summer. After walking back down to the car we decided to drive over to Cataloochee and check out the elk.



Since I have never been through the Cosby and Big Creek area of the park we decided to take the scenic route through that corner of the park. A couple of hours later we rolled into the magnificent Cataloochee Valley and quickly found the animals we were looking for. I even caught a couple of fish and the late afternoon light provided for some interesting pictures.


Nathan Stanaway Photo




By the time we reached Cataloochee we had made half of a loop so the day would not be complete without finishing. We drove around to Maggie Valley and then towards Cherokee. When we reached the top of the ridge between the two towns we caught the Blue Ridge Parkway which took us back into the Park near the Oconaluftee visitor center.



Nathan Stanaway Photo


The drive over the ridge completed the loop and after picking up the second vehicle we headed to my cabin for the night.


Sunday morning was great, mainly because I slept in for awhile and then we had a big breakfast. After my visitors left I went fishing for what will probably be the last time in the Smokies for awhile. I just had to fish a favorite section of Lynn Camp that I still had not fished yet this summer. The fishing was appropriately spectacular with plenty of fish coming to hand in the 2 or so hours I spent on the water, a perfect end to a summer of fishing in the Park.







Thursday, July 24, 2008

Favorite Fly Line Results

Apparently everyone is fishing Scientific Anglers fly lines. I have to admit that I've fished them myself for several years. This summer I made the switch to a Rio Gold line for my 5 wt rod and so far I love it. My upcoming trip west should give me more opportunities to really give the line a workout so we'll wait and reserve judgement until the line has accounted for some monster trout. The results were split fairly evenly between the other line makers except I was surprised that there was only one vote for the Wulff lines. I've heard a lot of good things about there lines but haven't fished them myself. Anyone want to let us know why they particularly like the Wulff fly lines?

Bonus Shot


This isn't exactly about fishing but still interesting. As I drove back to my cabin after the Deep Creek trip I saw the second copperhead I have seen on the road not too far from the cabin within the last week. Hopefully they will all stay away from my place since stepping on one after an evening of fishing would a great way to ruin a good evening on the water. I have spotted some other suspicious looking snakes this summer on the roads after dark but this was the first one that stayed long enough for a decent picture.

The one I spotted last week crawled off the gravel road and up the bank. If you look close enough you can see it blending into the surrounding vegetation. As long as I do not see them on the water I don’t care much...I think. Last night I spotted the third on the road within the last week, and once again it was within a couple of miles of where I live. The lesson must be not to go walking on the roads after dark around here...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Deep Creek Extravaganza


With my summer in the Smokies drawing to a close, my chance for a weekend backcountry trip was quickly vanishing. I decided to take advantage of the last weekend that I had free to hike into Deep Creek. After work last Friday, I drove over the hill and hit the trail around 6:30. Two hours later I was far down the trail at campsite #54. After setting up the tent I crawled in and fell asleep, tired from the fast trip down from the ridge.




The next morning was perfect and I had a leisurely breakfast in camp before wandering down the trail to see what was in the creek. I was surprised by the condition the trail was in. Apparently it doesn’t get much traffic because the upper 6-7 miles of the Deep Creek Trail had places where it was overgrown by the surrounding vegetation. Sometimes the trail almost disappeared but if you pressed on it would always open back up. After walking downstream awhile I finally hit the water with no idea what to expect.


Things started out okay but not great with several small rainbows and browns coming to hand. One pool in particular was puzzling. The best water seemed devoid of fish. It was one of those spots where I expected a better than average fish but instead got nothing. Things made more sense as soon as I hit the pocket water above the pool. Apparently the best fish had moved up into the faster water to feed. I hooked 3-4 fish and landed a couple before reaching a nice plunge pocket a good hundred feet upstream from the pool. My first couple of casts didn’t produce anything so I maneuvered across the creek to get into a better casting position. My first cast from this new spot produced a hard hit and clean hookup. My heart leaped into my throat as what appeared to be a decent fish torpedoed past back down towards the pool.



The next few minutes were undoubtedly the toughest battle I’ve ever had with a fish. At first glance I figured it was probably a 15 inch or so fish but it seemed awfully heavy. First it ran behind a rock as I stumbled along in pursuit. I soon brought it out before it ran downstream again with my reel singing. Soon it took up residence under another rock and this time I was sure I had lost it. The occasional shake on the end of my line assured me I still had a chance and after some serious prodding in which I almost jumped in and reached under the rock, the fish bolted again. This time it ran all the way down into the deeper water of the pool where I was sure it would break me off on some of the ledges. It must have been my day though and my equipment and nerves stood up to every challenge the fish offered up. Soon I had it corralled in the shallows for a couple quick pictures before I watched it swim back into the pool. This was most likely the fish of the summer in the Smokies for me. I estimated it at quite close to 20 inches and later found it was between 19” and 20” based on the pictures. Still not a legitimate 20 incher but still one of the best fish I’ve caught in the Smokies and definitely a high point of the summer.


Further fishing provided steady action on more average fish but no more monsters. This trip was definitely a blast and allowed me to make another visit to one of my favorite streams in the park. I hope to head back again sometime in the upcoming months, but school has a way of ruining the best of intentions so I can only keep my fingers crossed.

Besides the nice fish, this trip was worth the effort because of the great scenery. I found a lot of beautiful flowers streamside including rhododendron among other things. The stream itself was in great shape. That particular drainage doesn’t seem to be suffering as much from the drought as compared to the Tennessee side of the park. The one surprise was the lack of insect activity. There were lots of midges and other tiny bugs on the water but not much else. The fish didn’t seem to care though and were feeding well. Softhackles dropped behind a Tellico produced the best action although fish were eating dries willingly as well.


This trip was the perfect last blast of my summer in the Smokies. Next weekend will be my last one here and I have visitors coming that will curtail most fishing. I’ll still be fishing in the evenings at least some this week though so check back for more. Also, did I mention Colorado? Stay tuned for more on that as well…


Book Review: “The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World”

I finished reading it quite some time ago and finally made the time to write this short review on “The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World,” by Randy Kadish. Originally I intended to read a little each night and finish this book sometime near the end of my time here in the Smokies. The idea behind this being that it would provide some entertainment each night as I enjoy reading nearly as much as I like to fish. In the end the idea proved to be a bad one, mainly because this book held my attention more and more the farther I got. I ended up finishing it in about three evenings of staying up much later than I should have. It was just impossible to set down.

The thing that really struck me about this book was how familiar it all seemed. The leading character, Ian Mac Bride, becomes a fly fisherman because of the beauty of fly casting. I can still remember when I was very young. My family was vacationing in the Smokies and as we drove up through Townsend towards the park, I looked out the window and saw to fly fisherman making picture-perfect casts in the middle of Little River. Young as I was, I knew that someday I would fly fish

The title sums up the theme of the book. Ian uses fly fishing as an escape from the ugliness of the world around him. It was his way of getting away from everything else and enjoying the beauty of nature which soothes the soul. Fly fishing is my way of relaxing. Even when I’m at school and have an important paper or project, a few hours on the water allows me to leave it all behind and forget the stresses of everyday life.

This book is not only about one single character however. Randy Kadish intertwines the lives and stories of some of the leading pioneers in American fly fishing to produce a thoughtful and entertaining story. The title informs the reader of the struggle going on in the leading character with the sometimes ugly world that we all see. However it is often as much a struggle with the world as it is within himself. Fly fishing seems to be as much an escape from himself as from the world around. Ian desires to be the greatest distance fly caster. The book revolves around his journey from beginner to expert caster. Life brings sadness and suffering but also joy. In the end, Ian faces all his disappointment and hurt from the past and enters one last fly casting tournament. This moment is not just a chance to be the best fly caster but almost seems to be the chance to prove himself. Sometimes in life there are things we feel like we have to do even if we don’t know why. Ian Mac Bride had basically given up distance fly casting but in the end felt the need to try one last time to win a distance tournament.

This book was a great read. The only complaint I have was something that bothered me early on but not as much later on in the book. The storyline seemed to jump between two distinctly different plots. The main plot of course was about Ian Mac Bride and the other doesn’t really seem necessary to the book. However, when all was said and done it didn’t really detract from the book.

As I already mentioned, this book is very easy to relate to. The leading character goes through many of the same struggles and experiences many of the same heartaches as the rest of us. Despite the story being set in the early age of American fly fishing many years ago, it still speaks to the reader. If you enjoy a theme of fly fishing woven into fiction then this book is worth checking out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Park Perspectives

Everyone that visits the Smokies has a different experience in the park. Some drive hesitantly to the visitor center at Sugarlands before retreating back to the comforts of Gatlinburg. Others drive to Cades Cove and take in the views via the 11 mile loop road. A few get off the pavement and into the real park. Those that do are rewarded with an ever-changing landscape that always impresses.


Along with family, I recently took in the view from Clingman’s Dome (not exactly a wilderness walk by the way) and followed it up with a quiet stroll in the woods where we found the peace and quiet that was somewhat lacking at the Park high point. Here are a few views you might find in the Great Smoky Mountains with just a little effort…

Which Watershed is this?


Skeletons Meet the Future


It’s a Jungle Out There


Towering Giants


Morning Rays


The Namesake From Picture #1



Monday, July 14, 2008

Nasty Weather


This weekend brought more much needed rain to the Great Smoky Mountains. Yesterday I awoke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and knew it would be a good day to go fishing. After a leisurely morning I finally made it out onto the stream by early afternoon expecting to find the water stained from all the rain. Instead the streams were in great shape with very little color in the water. Unfortunately the sun had come out by the time I started fishing so I didn’t expect too much out of the day. Surprisingly, the first place I stopped at provided some consistent fishing, much better than I thought it was going to be in fact. The best fish at this first location was a 10 inch rainbow that put a good bend in the 4 wt. The top producer early on was a soft hackle Isonychia pattern I tie although a Prince or similar nymph would have worked well also.


After fishing all the way through the section I was on, I decided to head farther upriver to see what was happening. I eventually ended up hiking up Little River above Elkmont and found some more good fish including a 13 inch brown that I caught as a storm was pounding the Little River watershed. Despite the rain coming down and occasional flash of lightning, I still managed a quick picture before watching the fish swim away.


With the storm continuing it seemed like a good time to turn around and head for the car. Soon the rain increased to the point where the trail was as much a stream as the one it followed. There were several nice runs in the trail that almost appeared to be fishable. I avoided the temptation to try and catch a trail trout, and kept hustling back to the dry car. Soon I emerged from the dripping woods bearing a strong resemblance to a drowned rat. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone around the trailhead to laugh at my bedraggled appearance.

As I head into another week, its time to start deciding what to do next weekend. I’ve been wanting to do a backcountry trip before the summer is over and this would seem to be the best weekend. On the other hand it would be nice to try the Caney again. Anyone have any suggestions?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rain = Better Fishing

The last few days have finally provided some relief from the drought in the form of showers of thunderstorms. The rain has been widespread for a change bringing the streams up a bit. It is not nearly enough but it helps for a few days anyway. The forecast calls for more rain over the next few days so things should continue to improve.

As far as the fishing goes, the better water levels have produced some decent fishing. The rain washes all kinds of terrestrial insects into the water and the aquatic insects usually start hatching a little better as well. The water has been a bit stained which makes for easier fishing since you don’t have to be as sneaky.

I’ve been targeting the larger browns but have yet to catch a monster. I spent Wednesday evening ripping streamers through some of the larger pools and got some good fish to roll on my fly. Unfortunately I didn’t hook any. Things went better yesterday evening. At the first place I stopped I stuck a decent brown but couldn’t keep it on. Later on I tried another spot and finally got a decent brown of around 14 inches. Not a bad fish but still not the 20 inch plus fish I’m hoping for. Maybe I’ll have to wait until I go out West for the monsters…


Speaking of monsters, it looks like a trip out West might actually happen. My fishing buddy and I are looking at doing a fast trip to Colorado before school starts which means a trip to the Taylor, Gunnison, Frying Pan, and also the South Platte or at least that’s the tentative plan. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to make another trip…hopefully it will work out as planned…


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Observe, Analyze, Plan, Execute

Some of my most memorable fish have come when I’ve had to work for them. Size doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with making a fish memorable. One of my more memorable fish this summer was just a small brown trout. I remember that fish well for a reason. I caught the fish by formulating and following a careful yet simple game plan.


Often a fish is memorable because of a great cast. Several years ago I was fishing a stream “somewhere out west” that also happens to be one of my favorites all time. The stream had trees lining the banks so the casting conditions were very similar to my home waters here in the Smokies. I had spotted a nice 14 inch brown rising just upstream, but the fish was in a very tough spot to cast into. A branch was hanging low over the stream directly above the rising fish making the presentation difficult, at least to me at that stage in my fly fishing career. The cast would obviously need to be punched up under the limb if I wanted any chance to catch the fish. My first cast was perfect with the fly landing far up under the tree and miraculously not snagging on the foliage. The fish did its part by casually eating the fly and soon thereafter I briefly admired a beautiful wild brown. I’ve caught many browns since then and will no doubt catch more but I’ll always remember that fish with a sense of accomplishment.


Catching a memorable fish generally comes down to the ability to carefully observe and then analyze the situation, planning the presentation, and executing the game plan. Another brown was memorable more recently. Once again it was not for anything particularly great, just a feeling of accomplishment when everything came together exactly as I had planned.

A small deep pocket caught my eye as I moved up the stream while fishing near Elkmont. I knew there had to be a fish lurking because of the depth of the pocket and the quality of water around it. There was just one problem. A branch was lodged between the rocks in the pocket leaving a decent piece of water to present a dry on but no room for error once a fish was hooked. Only one solution would work. If a fish hit, I knew my only chance would be to pull it all the way out of the water and into the main channel where there was room to maneuver without the fish snagging on something in the stream. My first cast produced an explosive strike from a 7 inch brown. The hookset was perfect with just enough extra power to lift the fish away from the potential hazard. If I had let the fish run back into its home it would no doubt have snagged the fly on a branch and escaped. Instead I had a picture and a memory…



Friday, July 04, 2008

Don’t Take My Picture!!!

When I go fishing, I almost always carry a camera. One never knows when the perfect photo op will present itself, and of course there is always the possibility of catching a truly memorable fish. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about photographing fish however, it is that you can never expect a fish to just roll over and pose.

This presents a problem for the conscientious angler: how do you achieve the balance between getting the perfect shot and yet not compromising the life of the fish in the process?

There have been times where I’ve caught a nice fish but because of a variety of factors decided the shot was just not worth it. Perhaps the fish was acting severely stressed or the water temperature was quite high. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t play the fish fast enough and it just needs to be returned to its natural state as soon as possible. Often though I manage to come up with a decent picture.

There are a few things I try to keep in mind with respect to the health of the fish. First I always wet my hands before touching the fish. Too many times I’ve seen first hand the ugly result of improper handling. The fish will soon have nasty white spots where the mucous membrane has been damaged or removed if you are not careful. Second, I try to keep my fish in the water as much as possible. Many of my shots are taken with the fish laying on its side near shore, and these shots are always done either with the fish still lying in shallow water or on a wet bed of moss or grass. Fish should never be placed on dry dirt, rocks, or anything else streamside. Finally, I try to keep fish off of rocks that are not either in the water or more than a couple of inches from the water. If the fish starts flopping it can hurt itself if it doesn’t reach water immediately. Once again, the great shot is just not worth killing the fish.

Of course, sometimes in the excitement of the moment you still place fish in a less than ideal position for the photograph. I’ve done it plenty of times myself but by trying to remember the fish, you can usually get a good shot and keep the fish in shape for the next contest.

Fish are not always cooperative for pictures. Often they remind me of a young kid that is camera shy. I’ve got some hilarious pictures over the years when a picture was taken just as the fish bolted for freedom. This summer I’ve already had some pretty good ones. Maybe these are the best pictures of all. I’m left with a funny memory, because after all, it is supposed to be all about having fun…

A fish makes a bolt for freedom...


The fish leaps just as the picture is taken...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Favorite Fly Line

Our new poll is about fly lines. I'm wondering which brand everyone prefers to use. Personally I've been using the SA Mastery Trout lines for awhile but decided to try out the Rio Gold on my 5 weight. So far it has only seen action on the water once, but it seems like a good line. So, what brand are you using the most?

Getting Bigger

Fishing is all about having fun which should mean just getting out and enjoying the time on the water. Sometimes I just want to catch some big fish though. This summer I've been hoping to find a good brown out feeding. So far it hasn't happened but the fish I'm catching keep getting larger, slowly but surely. I've been consistently catching rainbows up to around 10 inches with some slightly larger, and last night I caught a better than average brown.

It was around sunset and I was on the last pool of the day. I leisurely fished my way up through the pool, catching a couple smaller rainbows before getting up to the head of the pool. An overhanging tree limb was in my way but I decided to force the issue. There was a rock with a deep slot up against the far bank which just looked fishy. Carefully I checked behind me for trees before picking up my line. The forward cast was perfect as I punched it far up under the branches to the upper end of the good lie. Suddenly there was a swirl as something took the dry and it was game on. The brown gave my 3 weight rod a good workout running up and down the pool but in the end I prevailed. Carefully I snapped a quick picture as the 11 inch brown came to hand, then I gently picked him up and held him facing the soft current. Apparently the fish still had some energy and after a couple seconds, he bolted back to the shadowy depths of the pool called home.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Poll

Well, the latest poll resulted in a tie between "Elkmont Evening" and "Caught!" so I decided to put both of them up. "Caught!" went in the normal "Photo of the Month" spot and "Elkmont Evening" is to its right. Thanks to everyone who voted and please watch for our next poll!

Ending the Month Right


A Caney brook trout swims away

The month of June ended with two days of fishing for me. Sunday I fished the Caney Fork along with everyone else in the state of Tennessee and also those that are flocking here from other states to partake of our excellent fishing. That river is a total madhouse on weekends, and I suspect it is staying fairly busy on weekdays as well. With the odd generation schedule lately, wadeable water is hard to come by making the few places where you can effectively wade excessively crowded. I probably won’t fish it much more until the weather cools and some of the crowds start to diminish.

Releasing a nice Caney 'bow


Despite the crowds the river is still fishing extremely well. I broke off two large fish and am starting to think that I’ve somehow been cursed when it comes to catching big fish. I’ve either stung or hooked and lost some very nice fish each of the past several times I’ve been on that river but have yet to actually land one. Hopefully all the missed fish will add up to some good luck in the future.


The interesting side note to the day occurred while fishing up near the dam when I heard a noise off behind me. I turned around to see an animal ambling along up the shore in my general direction. After doing a double take I verified that, yes indeed, it was a raccoon. Seeing these things out wandering around in broad daylight always makes me a little nervous about their health and well-being but this one acted basically normal I suppose.


Monday evening again saw me on a stream, this time Little River here in the Smokies. After I got off of work at LRO, I grabbed a snack and headed up into the park to see what was going on. Driving slowly up the river, I took the time to stop and sample several spots above Metcalf Bottoms and finally ended up above Elkmont for the evening finale. The fishing is still holding up and should actually be excellent for the next several days as we go into the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Most trips are yielding some better than average rainbows up to 10 inches and even slightly larger.



The weather forecast holds some good news as well. Starting this weekend we should have a chance for showers and thunderstorms for several days. Every little bit helps and will keep the fishing good.


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