Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 11/21/2017

Fishing is good on the Clinch River right now and that is where I'm doing most of my guiding and fishing. The Smokies have been good as well. The Caney Fork is just now starting to offer some decent windows again so that is great news!

In the Smokies, the brown trout are wrapping up the spawn. Over the next few weeks, the opportunity to catch larger than average brown trout is definitely elevated. I like to throw nymphs or streamers right now and through the winter. Next spring should be good with hatches starting by the first of March and peaking by late April or early May. Spring is one of the best times to fish in the Smokies so start planning that trip now!

The Caney Fork is starting to offer some wade opportunities as well as some good schedules for half day floats. If you would like to get in a late season float or wade trip here, let me know as I have a few openings over the next few weeks.

This winter is looking like a good bet on the musky streams. We'll be out hunting the toothy critters in the near future so stay tuned for more on that!

Photo of the Month: Evening in the North Woods

Photo of the Month: Evening in the North Woods

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Encore

After last weekend's striper mania, the only fitting encore was to return for more. I had a few hours free Saturday night and decided to head back for more punishment. Joining me in pursuit of the large stripers would be my buddy Joe Mcgroom who finally agreed to come see what all the hoopla was all about.

I made it down to my fishing hole ahead of him and as it is a bit remote, he had a hard time figuring out how to get there. Hoping to catch a couple before he arrived, I strung up the rod and went to work chucking big nasty flies. Shortly after starting, I hooked a monster that would easily have been the largest I've landed yet. Unfortunately it somehow managed to throw the hook after a blistering run that had the drag on my Lamson screaming. Where there's one there must be more so I started working the water again. Soon another fish was on. After a hard-fought battle, the fish finally agreed to be corralled and I got a quick picture.


Finally Joe showed up and I demonstrated to him the proper technique and showed him where a fish should be. Then something incredible happened. On his first fishing trip for stripers, he hooked into a really nice fish. Neither of us saw the fish but the bend in his rod and the screaming reel were evidence enough. Several hard runs later, the fish finally began to tire. Joe did an excellent job of not forcing the issue and finally the fish was close enough for me to grab. Putting your hand in the mouth of one of these fish is a bit intimidating. If they happen to clamp down with their jaws it can also be a bit uncomfortable.

After lifting the fish out of the water, I passed it off to Joe, and he hoisted his first ever striper for a couple of pictures. I was thrilled to see him hook such an awesome striper on his first trip and amazed at how fast he did it. Joe had been fishing no more than 15 minutes when he hooked the fish.


We fished for another hour or two and I landed one more that weighed around 20 pounds, but overall the evening slowed down considerably. This seems to be the normal pattern. You catch or at least hook 4-6 fish in this spot and then it gets quiet for the rest of the time. I won't complain though. The trip is worth it to land just one of these beautiful fish, and I got two.


Next weekend I am planning a trip for trout in the mountains of east Tennessee. The weather may be a bit uncooperative, but I am going no matter what. Stripers are a lot of fun, but nothing can beat trout for me at least. In the meantime, I'm still working on a few other things that I hope to be able to share this week. In addition, I am working on an article for the Little River Journal from Little River Outfitters (you have to sign up to receive it by email). Of course, in between all this I need to actually teach some classes as well so I'll be busy this week for sure!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day of Dreams


All good fly fishermen spend an inordinate amount of time dreaming about their sport. Perhaps it is mindlessly gazing out the window on the first nice day of spring while you are at work, or maybe it is getting the shakes on a cloudy, drizzly day in the fall because you aren’t out chasing the big browns that you know are on the move. Regardless, time on the water is normally somewhat difficult to come by for most fishermen. Unless you are a guide or independently wealthy, most people just can’t afford to fish all the time.

In between fishing trips I normally pull out maps, look at pictures form past trips, and tie plenty of flies in hopes that maybe one of them will be the magic fly to entice a monster brown or chunky rainbow. Rarely does my time on the water reach the point of ridiculousness that causes me to just stand and laugh as large fish line up for the opportunity to be caught. Naturally, many of my day dreams about fly fishing involve large fish, and occasionally nightmares as well. There is always the big one that got away to think about.

A few months ago, I started dreaming about my fall break. Every year I try to do a camping trip to chase trout somewhere or another. Traditionally this trip has been to the nearest mountains that have trout. Several of these trips were to the Smokies over the last few years, and I always love going to the place where my fly fishing career started and my skills developed. This year I wanted to do something a little bit different. I started planning a trip to the Cumberland River in Kentucky well in advance, making reservations to camp there, and inviting others to join my buddy Trevor and me.

Unfortunately, as the time of departure approached, unseasonal heavy rain began pounding the region. All the area tailwaters with the exception of those in extremely upper east Tennessee were running large quantities of water. Since we didn’t have a boat, plan B started to sound good. I cancelled the reservation at the campground and started thinking about returning to the Smokies after all. The rains continued though and instead of camping in the wet weather with unusually high streams to fish, I decided to just stay home and do day trips wherever the best conditions were each day.

My first couple of days went well, but I felt that I should have much better fishing. Day three is when things took an abrupt turn for the extraordinary. Trevor and I had decided to make the drive over to Cherokee to fish the tribal catch and release water where we hoped to tangle with some monster rainbows.



The trip turned out well but we really didn’t catch as many big fish as we had hoped for. The water was really high for that area and we did best on up the Raven Fork. As daylight started fading, we decided to call it a day. The drive over the ridge is better if done while it is still light out. Since it wasn’t too far out of the way, I decided to check on a couple of striper spots as I headed back to Crossville. When I arrived at the first one, I was amazed to see big fish stacked up near the bank. Since I had only caught 3-8 pound fish up until this point, I probably should mention that big fish doesn’t mean 50-60 pound fish.

I ran back to the car and feverishly started putting my 7 weight together, calling Trevor at the same time. He could hear the seriousness in my voice as I told him about the monster fish there. “I’m on my way” he said and I returned to fish. There was no one else out on the water, no one at all to see the big fish rolling on the surface and darting around like shadows just under. In no time at all I was hooked up with the biggest fish of my life and learned what it is like to worry about your backing knot. When I hooked the fish, I had maybe 20 feet of fly line out. It took no more than 3 seconds to see my backing racing through the guides and probably another second before my heart started pounding.

The rest of that night is a bit hazy, kind of like a good dream where you wake up and everything seems so real and yet so distant. I do remember that the first fish threw my fly while the next broke my off. Eventually I started landing fish. Trevor showed up and both of us caught stripers over 20 pounds according to the boga. Both of us got cleaned out a few times as well. These fish are insane when hooked and head for the far reaches of the earth in their efforts to throw the fly. Occasionally I would just burst out laughing at how ridiculous the whole situation was. We were there alone with more monster stripers than we could possibly hook in a night, and the fish were just so big.


While it is possible that a night of monster fish could ruin me for life, I believe I’ll still enjoy chasing trout at least as much if not more than big stripers. When I think about fishing now, I still am taken to a trout stream in my dreams. Not to mention that I would need a heavier outfit if I was going to chase stripers that were any larger than the 15-25 pound fish we were catching. My 7 weight was pitifully inadequate but somehow managed to get the job done. I felt quite helpless every time one of these fish started running. Of course, if they just rolled over and beached themselves, then it probably wouldn’t have been a day to dream about…

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chasing Big Browns


Each fall, I spend as much time as possible in the Smokies. On Friday I started the annual tradition with a day trip that included several hours of fishing. More specifically, I spent several hours looking for fish and a few hours actually fishing. The big brown trout are getting more aggressive and starting to move in preparation for the spawn. This is one of the better times to catch one. Finding them is always the hard part though...

After making my usual stop at Little River Outfitters, I headed on up Little River Road, stopping often to check favorite holes. Finally, I got tired of looking for fish and just decided to cover some water. Catching large fish usually works best when you find them first but you can catch them by just fishing the water blind as well.
As I moved up the stream, I had several small rainbows attack my flies. Then, as I started into a run that has held big fish in the past, my line stopped abruptly. I set the hook and was attached to a nice brown, at least for the park. If I was fishing a tailwater the fish would only be average, but in the park, anything over twelve inches is a decent fish. Best of all, the fish was brilliantly colored. These fish are so beautiful, I am always thankful that I get to see them up close for just a few moments.

Later in the day I caught a fairly nice rainbow and missed another good fish. This trip was just a warmup, and I fully intend to spend several days in the upcoming weeks in search of the elusive big brown trout of the Smoky Mountains.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Strange Fall

Normal fall low water in the Smokies

My official "Favorite Time of the Year" is back but in a strange way. The past two years have produced near perfect conditions on the tailwaters for fall fishing. Largely due to the drought, the low flows were idea for wade fishing and produced many good sight fishing opportunities for large browns feeding in the shallows. This year has been the exact opposite. We have recovered from the drought but payed for it with difficult conditions on the tailwaters.


A nice Cumberland brown


Originally I planned to do a multi-day camping trip on the Cumberland River this October. After the success I had last year, I couldn't wait to get back and chase some more big browns. Unfortunately, it appears that I will have to cancel my camping reservations and the trip. The flows are up and look to stay that way for at least another couple of weeks. The same thing goes for the Caney Fork and Clinch Rivers. The only tailwaters in the area with a shot at good wading conditions are the upper east Tennessee rivers.

Despite the tough tailwater conditions, the mountain freestone streams are all in peak condition. Recent high water cleaned out the streams and knocked down the rock dams thrown up by the tourist tubers. Water levels are high for this time of the year making for interesting fishing conditions. The fish are also healthier than they have been in some time. There is plenty of food in the streams and the fish have been eating well all summer.

Smoky Mountains fall rainbow


There are also some sleeper streams that no one knows about. They are definitely hit or miss, but if things turn out well, the hit will go for a home run.

As much as I enjoy fishing the mountains, I love fishing the tailwaters as well. Hopefully we won't get too much more rain. Right now I would say we are looking at about two weeks until the lakes drop enough to provide some fishable windows on the tailwaters. Any significant rain event will push that back further. In the meantime, I'll be putting in a lot of time at the vise, tying flies for the cold months.

Monday, October 05, 2009

New Poll

Months have passed since the last poll here at the Trout Zone. Yesterday I had the opportunity to float with my buddy Joe Mcgroom. At one point, I asked him what he would do if he caught a possible record brown. Without even having to think, he immediately replied that he would release the fish after a quick picture. How many people would be able to do that?

I have often wondered what I would do if I caught a huge fish. I hope that I'll be able to let the fish go without having second thoughts. Personally I would hate to kill such a magnificent fish. If I have a memory then I'm happy, and if I have a picture, it is even better. So, what would each of you do with a possible record? Vote in the poll on the right hand side of the page and let me know!

Went Fishing Yesterday...

...and caught a few fish. Here is the best fish of the day. Thanks to Joe Mcgroom for taking the picture!


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