Guided Trips


Current fishing conditions in the mountains have been tough although rain overnight has bumped up the levels on Park streams, especially on the Tennessee side. Be careful as lots of leaves are going to be coming down now with brisk northwest winds behind the cold front. That can make fishing challenging. If you do fish, I would suggest fishing dry/dropper with a #14 Orange Stimulator or Orange Elk Hair Caddis up top and a bead head Green Weenie, Isonychia Nymph, or Blue-winged Olive Nymph (#18-#20 bead head Pheasant Tail will suffice here) underneath. Focus on stealth and accurate casts.

If you are flexible in where you fish, I recommend heading for your favorite tailwater to trout fish. Most tailwaters are offering good flows for wade fishermen right now and the fish are hungry. The Hiwassee River has been recently stocked for the delayed harvest and the Caney Fork continues to fish very well on our guide trips. The Watauga, South Holston, and Clinch Rivers should be great as well.

If musky are on your mind like they are for me, then be patient and hope for more rain. The musky streams and rivers are very low right now and we need some water before safely navigating those streams in the larger boats that are preferred.

This is the time of year that brown and brook trout as well as some strains of rainbow trout spawn. On rivers like the Caney Fork, many anglers choose to target these spawning trout. This is unfortunate, especially this year. There are plenty of pre- and post-spawn trout to target if you want to catch big fish. With low water the norm, the Caney Fork actually has a chance at producing some natural recruitment this year barring any unforeseen high water. The same thing applies in the Smokies. Spawning brown and brook trout are extra vulnerable because of the low water and should be allowed to do their thing in peace. The future of these fisheries depends upon conscientious anglers doing the right thing. If you must fish to spawning trout, please use very heavy tippets and quickly land and release all fish caught. If you want to learn how to be successful this time of year without chasing active spawners, please consider booking a guided trip, and I would be glad to teach you how to hunt these large fish.

Photo of the Month: The Colors of a Rainbow

Photo of the Month: The Colors of a Rainbow

Monday, December 01, 2008

Caney Crowds

The Caney Fork has become one of the top tailwaters in Tennessee but unfortunately everyone seems to know about it. The crowds are only getting worse so if you decide to fish it consider yourself fairly warned.

Despite the crowds the river still fishes well, that is if you don't mind constantly being crowded. Last Friday I headed down to the river to fish and was the first one on a particular run. I started out with a new pattern that I have thanks to James Marsh from over at The Perfect Fly Store and Fly Fishing the Smoky Mountains. The fly was a Cream Midge Pupa and the Caney trout were taking the pattern well. There were lots of midges hatching when I first arrived at the river and the occasional rise looked more like the fish were taking bugs just under the surface. In this situation a midge pupa is deadly (another favorite is the Zebra Midge) and the fish responded well to the new pattern.

I had probably 20 minutes of fishing in when some more people showed up and proceeded to box me in on the extreme upper end of wadeable water at that access point. Things slowed down but I knew it was a good spot. Deciding to hang in there, I spent the next hour or more changing flies and tinkering with my rig. Finally I got things dialed in again and started catching fish again. The guys below me decided it was the best spot on the river after I caught several fish and as soon as I left, they headed right up.
None of the fish I caught were monsters this trip but there were several decent fish to around 17 inches including to gorgeous rainbows that fought like tigers. I honestly thought I had tied into a big brown both times I hooked a good rainbow but was pleasantly surprised to find one of the Caney's better 'bows attached. The browns should be off the spawning shoals soon if they aren't already and the best fishing is yet to come. Those cold days when most people are smart enough to stay home will provide some of the best fishing of the year.

Of course, remember that each person's definition of great fishing varies greatly. For me, solitude (or at least a few manners from fellow fisherman) rate right up there with catching tons of large fish. For this reason, I'll be heading back to the park for as much of my fishing as possible in the upcoming weeks. It probably won't be as often as I would like but I'll enjoy each opportunity. Those cold days where the line is icing will find me back on the Caney though... I still have more flies to try from James Marsh and I'm looking forward to ripping a few streamers soon on the Caney as well...


  1. Green Weenie6:56 AM

    Dude, I feel ya' on being crowded. A month or so ago, I took some friends of mine who were visiting from NC to the SoHo. We were fishing the grates and, as usual, the black fly was the ticket. Every time I would catch a fish, this guy who was at least twice my age would get closer. When he got close enough that I could have touched him with the end of the rod (and I thought about it), I finally just moved down to another spot. I caught a few there and as I was unhooking a particularly nice fish, I looked up and there he was again, close enough to poke.
    I looked at my friends, threw up my hands, and we all just laughed. What else could I do? We finally left and told him to have a nice day.

  2. Crowding grows in direct proportion to the number of fish you catch, and I've often wondered if people thought we didn't notice when they stationed themselves a half-cast away.

  3. I hear ya brother. It seems that the tailwaters around here attract people who know nothing about fishing etiquette. Just imagine how bad it would be if we only had one tailwater here instead of half a dozen to spread out the crazies. Next time that happens I am tempted to put on a big old size 6 bugger and start flingin' it. If somebody gets hit, then they are too close...

  4. It always cracks me up that people actually believe that the best spot to fish must be where you are at. On our tailwaters, it is generally easy to go where the person crowding you was just fishing at and then continue catching fish...of course, you might get some dirty looks if you catch too many...

  5. Times have changed on the Caney. The crowds usually abate as cold weather takes over, but that hasn't seemed to happen this least not yet. Even with the Gheenoe on the lower section, it's been difficult finding space. I'm hoping for some downright nasty, frigid weekends this winter.

  6. Dog, I'm with you on wanting some really BAD weather...can't wait until its 15 degrees out...that will keep a few people away!

  7. 15 degrees? that'll keep me away!

  8. Anonymous1:50 PM

    Way to crush that brown's stomach. If you must take your one handed hero shot at least keep the fish in the water.

  9. Anonymous, you obviously need to go fishing if you have nothing better to do than worry about other people's catch and release skills. I have handled plenty of trout over the years and am confident in my ability to do so gently, always releasing the fish in good condition. If you are so bothered, you are more than welcome to join me on the river and observe in person how I handle fish. Fish that have a full belly (be it food, eggs, etc) will always look like you're squeezing harder than you really are. I have caught fish that were so full of dead shad that they were spitting them out without me even touching them, much less when I cradled their stomach. If you fish, you've killed plenty of trout in your life even if you think they all swam away so don't stress too much. Again, I say, go fishing...

  10. Green Weenie7:01 AM

    Me thinks someone is a little jealous...

  11. Anonymous8:23 PM

    I agree with everyone on the crowding.... I went to the Caney for the first time a couple months ago. I got on the water with my friend at 6:00 a.m. sharp. and was blown away that there were six people on the water already! And way more friend and I caught plenty. I was born and raised in Wyoming, and catching a brookie again was awesome! My friend and I had the same problem. We were catching fish like crazy and the next thing we knew we were surrounded by 3 guy even came up and asked us what we were using...
    All in all the crowds don't make a difference whether you catch fish or not...its very annoying nonetheless.....
    Great pics look like a true dedicated trout bum!....Gotta love it!

    Keep up the good work and nice site btw....



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