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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: Quality Fishing



The last year has been a great one for me on the fishing scene. There have been the usual highs and lows, but for the most part the fishing has been consistently good this year. From the Smokies to Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, this has been the year of firsts and exploration.

The early months of the year brought in exceptionally cold weather. January 2011 was probably one of the slowest months for me from a fishing standpoint in quite some time. While I did get out to float the Caney once and even made it to the Smokies late in the month, the general trend was minimal fishing.

Things improved quickly as February brought in better weather and opportunities for camping in the Smokies and tailwater floats on the Caney with David Perry of Southeastern Fly. The streamer bite was particularly hot on the Caney. As the month neared its end, the looming trip to the Grand Canyon had everyone excited.


The transition between February and March was spent in the Grand Canyon enjoying both relaxation as well as epic fishing opportunities. Bright Angel Creek was the highlight of the fishing part of the trip although the Grand Canyon itself was worth the trip. Returning to Tennessee, I found the spring hatches in full swing. Trips to the Smokies yielded nice browns up to 17 inches on dry flies! When fish were not rising, they were always more than willing to take our favorite caddis pupa droppers, Tellico nymphs, and other assorted patterns.


April brought lots of water to east Tennessee. Most area tailwaters were blown out so we focused our efforts on the Smoky Mountains when able to get out. Some of these trips were weekend trips while others were simply day trips. One of the more frightening moments of the year happened on a hike to Ramsey Cascade when one of my friends got knocked out by a falling limb. Thankfully, she seems to have recovered nicely at this point with no lasting ill effects. Back on the fishing scene, fish were definitely caught during April but the overall numbers were down as I struggled against high water seemingly the whole month.

Getting out in May was a little tricky. As a teacher, certain months are more difficult than others to find free time. Fortunately, everything calmed down by the end of the month as we graduated yet another class and sent all the young people home for the summer. The summer slowdown happened just in the nick of time as the periodic cicadas started hatching in late May, bringing about some of the most epic fishing one can experience in these parts.

June was one of the best fishing months I can remember, thanks largely due to the cicadas. Anyone that fished the Caney during this time will agree with me. From trout to carp, the cicada top water action was insane. Naturally, I didn't get out enough during this time but that was partly because I was beginning to think about Yellowstone.

 
July was another slow month for fishing. A few trips were made locally on the creeks for smallies and various panfish. For the most part though things were slow. The one exception and highlight of the month was an 18 inch brown caught in the Smokies. By the end of July, we were well into our trip out west.

Catherine McGrath Photograph

The high water year meant nice stream flows throughout Yellowstone during our time there. The wildflowers were in bloom and provided lots of nice sessions with the camera. Day hikes, long wildlife viewing drives, and plenty of relaxation were the highlights of our time in Yellowstone. As August wore on, we eventually had to head back home, but not before getting in a little fishing while in Yellowstone as well.


Back in Tennessee, the month of September was mostly slow for me with minimal fishing.  Disaster struck while canoing the Caney when we flipped and my DSLR got fried.  Thankfully my old point and shoot Pentax Optio W30 still worked well enough to get me by and proved to be the perfect camera on a Smokies backpacking expedition in search of brook trout.  This trip was one of my favorites of the year and the fishing was ridiculous with my first 100+ fish day ever. 

October usually means chasing brown trout and this year was no different.  Early in the month though I made it out for some bass and bluegill fun!  Teaching some guys to fly fish and catching a few fish for myself always makes for a great combination.  Fall on Little River was probably the highlight of the month for me although fishing on the Caney was fantastic as well. 

November included some camping in the Smokies with brown trout fishing.  One of my favorite things this past fall was the great striper fishing that I've been missing for the last couple of years.  Lots of nice fish were caught although that game has slowed down as of late.

 

One of the best months of the year also happened to be the last.  December brought the end of a journey I've been on in search of a 20"+ inch brown in the Smoky Mountains.  Ever since I was young I dreamed of catching one of these nice fish.  The tailwaters also treated me well this fall with fish up to 22 inches on Sow Bug patterns.  Another December high point was when we were out chasing musky and boated our very first fish


As the year draws to a close, I can't help but recognize how extremely blessed I am.  Lots of quality time was spent on the water this year which translated into some exciting fishing.  As we move into 2012, I hope to be able to have at least as good a year as this one was. 

Yellowstone: The Fishing

Better late than never right?  I realized that in the rush of teaching this last fall, I never finished posting about Yellowstone.  While I have enough pictures to last for several years of posting, I will keep the old trip reports to a minimum while still telling the rest of the story about Yellowstone.  The fishing was, well, let's just say a little unusual.  The great water last summer meant that my normal late July and early August expectations weren't met but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing! 

My fishing focused mainly on the Gibbon and Trout Lake.  The Gibbon because we camped at Norris and Trout Lake because we took a couple of hikes there for photography purposes.  Convenience was the name of the game.  On a trip where fishing was definitely not a primary goal, I was fortunate to still get out on the water a fair amount.  Early mornings and some late evenings were ideal times to sneak away and fish the upper Gibbon through the meadows by Norris Campground.  The setup was made even sweeter by the fact that we were just entering the prime terrestrial months and the Gibbon contains a healthy population of brown trout (at least for now).

 

Early mornings were spent probing cut banks, deep bend pools, log jams, and any other fishy looking structure for chunky browns.  The best brown of the trip required some effort to catch which is as it should be.  It first showed itself when it flashed out from under an undercut bank about 20 feet below a nice bend pool.  Just before annihilating my fly it must have got a glimpse of me lurking nearby, responding by slamming its mouth shut and vanishing back under the bank.  The next couple of days featured early morning visits back to "the spot," but I failed to get another glimpse of the fish. 

Finally, the time seemed right.  By this time my cousin, his wife, and another friend and his wife had joined us in the next campsite over.  As everyone else was just getting around to thinking about breakfast I announced that I was going to catch that fish.  Having laid it all on the line, I had to endure a gauntlet of good-natured jokes as I headed down to the water, "You mean like you went and caught it yesterday?  Or how about the day before?"  My response was to remind them that I never actually said I was going to catch the fish on those other days. 

With my fishing reputation at stake, I decided to do everything right.  This meant crawling along the stream at least 7-8 feet back from the bank and only raising the rod high enough to toss my offering out.  Finally, right in the deep bend cut 20 feet above the spot where the fish first was spotted, the fish struck.

My fly had just smacked the water when a golden brown flash engulfed the pattern.  On this particular morning breakfast bit back and the fish was soon in my net for the necessary picture so everyone would believe my fish story.  A friend had followed me down and did the honors with my camera. 



Not all fishing featured brown trout.  Even though I love browns, I enjoy catching other trout as well.  One of my favorite locations in Yellowstone is Trout Lake.  The resident rainbows, cutthroat, and cutbows can grow to ridiculous sizes.  Past trips to Trout Lake have resulted in rainbows up to 24 inches being landed.  This past summer that was not meant to happen.  I did see one gargantuan rainbow cruising on one of our forays to the lake, but it was spooky, and I never got a good cast over it. 

The cutthroat were another story.  The inlet was filled with spawning fish and plenty more were stacked up just below in the deep water.  This area is off limits to fishing and rightfully so.  The fish have enough stress to face with the lake's otter population.  There were just enough nice fish out and about cruising the shoreline to keep me interested without making things too easy.  As always, it was not easy to trick one of these fish but when I did it seemed like a bit of an accomplishment.  A float tube would be the best way to fish this lake, but I made do with what I had.


 

The fishing was fun, but the real fun on this trip was the wildlife viewing.  I caught browns, cutthroat, and brook trout which are always a treat but in the end, the trip will be remembered mostly because of the scenery and experience that is Yellowstone. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

This has been a fantastic year for me, and I hope that the same can be said for each of you.  Now it is time to spend time with family and other loved ones.   Enjoy the food and festivities, and maybe with a little luck everyone can get out on the water this next week.  Also I hope everyone takes time to remember the reason for the season and honor earth's King.  Merry Christmas to each of you!!! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fly Tying Material?

Need some feathers for the winter fly tying?  Maybe you should head to Utah where dead waterfowl were apparently laying all over the ground.  According to the story from CBS, the birds crash landed when they mistook a Walmart parking lot for a lake.  At least 1500 birds didn't survive, but close to 3000 were rescued and taken to area lakes.  The legality of taking the dead birds for their feathers is probably sketchy at best, but just think of all the flies you could be tying...

Streamside Tranquility

Somewhere in the Smokies...


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas To Me

Yesterday, a dream that began when I was a small boy was finally fulfilled.  Yet even in that fulfillment there is the desire for something better.  Despite all the big browns I have caught over the years, a fish twenty inches or better has eluded me in the Smokies...until now.  After countless hours pursuing big browns in the Park, I can finally say I landed a fish over twenty inches but naturally now want to catch one over 24 inches.  This 21 inch male hammered an olive sculpin pattern...Merry Christmas to me...


Monday, December 19, 2011

Two New Blogs

Finally, I have started catching up on some updates here at the Trout Zone.  The biggest I would like to point out to everyone is the addition of two more blogs to our list of "Great Blogs."  These are the blogs that I personally frequent the most although I check in with many others from time to time as well.  The newest additions to this list are the Backcountry Journal and the Gink and Gasoline Blog.  Both contain great writing as well as great pictures and stories on fly fishing, a sure promise of interesting reading.  Check them both out!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fall Browns

Here is a short collection of some of the better browns I encountered over the last few months.  Some photos have been altered slightly to protect my favorite fishing spots although if you're familiar with the rivers and streams represented you can probably still figure it out. Right now, I'm preparing to venture into the wilderness of east Tennessee in search of big rainbows and browns.  Hopefully I'll return with lots of good stories and maybe a few pictures as well...







Monday, December 12, 2011

Memories: Part 1

A thread started today on the Little River Outfitters Message Board started me thinking about fly fishing memories.  I'm going to start sharing some of my favorite fishing related memories.  For starters, here's one about a brown trout and a boy with a fly rod. 

Before I even understood how to go about catching any trout, I dreamed of catching big browns. Early in my fly fishing career, I was doing good to scare up a small rainbow or two, but that didn't stop me from hoping for something more special.

One day, my dad (who usually drove me to the park to fish) had taken me fishing. He never actually fished but was the first one to take me fishing when I was 4 or 5 and almost the only one who ever took me before I was able to drive myself. This particular day was a beautiful early June day. We had explored several areas, but I was not having particularly good luck with just a few small rainbows to hand (from Tremont if I remember correctly).

As sunset was approaching, we stopped at one last pullout, this time on Little River. My dad was tired and decided to stay in the car. When I started driving myself, I came to understand why people would be tired late in the day, but at this point I was blissfully unaware. I trekked down a dim but short path to the stream and began tossing a yellow Stimulator.

I worked my way to the head of the pool and was casting in the pocket immediately above the main hole when I first saw the flash of gold. A nice brown came out and circled furiously around my fly before disappearing back under the white froth. Two more casts produced similar results and then the brown seemed to have vanished for good. Desperate measures would be needed.

Recalling how I had enticed a big Abrams Creek rainbow by dancing the fly on the surface during a hatch, I contemplated a similar trick. The big Stimulator was soon skittering across the surface and almost immediately the brown reappeared, charging through the water towards my now tantalizing fly. One last mighty twitch brought the intended result. I was now attached to what I then viewed as a monster.

Carefully battling the fish down through the pool, I finally brought it close enough to land. The 14 inch brown was heavier than many similar sized fish I have since caught. I will always remember that first nice brown even though I now dream of fish measured in pounds and reaching well over twenty inches. That fish was a major accomplishment to me as I am mostly self-taught, and at this point in my fishing career wondered if I would ever catch anything over 10 inches.

I have many other amazing memories from the Park. In fact, that is one thing that I love so much about it. Every trip gives me a special memory, and that is the way it should be. As soon as it becomes common or everyday, then it will no longer be the magical place that it should. I still get excited the night before a fishing trip and hope that will never change...

Drive Through Fishing

While perusing random local news stories, I came across a new method for fishing Little River, drive through fishing.  The main benefit is in never having to go to the effort to get out of your vehicle.  This idea, of course, was quickly discarded as I read the rest of the article.  Apparently the benefits don't outweigh the costs...  The driver of the vehicle probably was not testing out this novice idea by the way as the crash apparently occurred around 11:00 p.m.

The Little River road is no joke and I'm always at least a little surprised that things like this don't happen more often.  I have carefully maneuvered my way around curves in the Park many times only to discover an oncoming vehicle whose driver apparently feels it is necessary to use part of both lanes.  This and the poor folk who apparently don't know what a curve is and thus are terrified to drive above 15 mph always leads me to suspect that more accidents of this type should be occurring but thankfully that impression is not founded on facts.
Regardless, be careful out there on the way to the stream and be even more careful while on the stream.  Just imagine if it had been daylight and a fisherman was working up that bank picking the pockets...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Musky!!!

I joined David from Southeastern Fly out on the river today along with Brent for a day chasing musky! Brent ended up having the magic touch and we all enjoyed getting to see one of these awesome fish up close.  For a little more on our trip, read David's report here...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Great Article on Winter Fishing

I just enjoyed an excellent article on one of my favorite subjects, winter fly fishing.  The Hopper Juan is one of the blogs I frequent the most and always has great information.  Check out the story and get inspired to head out in the cold months ahead.  Most people don't realize that with the proper flies and techniques, the fish will still respond well even in very cold water.  Those fish still have to eat!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Snow!!!

Today we had snow for the second time this year, although some people wouldn't condescend to label the dusting we got as snow.  Still, for this part of the country, the first snow of the year is a welcome sight as we never know how much will actually fall any given winter.  After the snow tapered off, I hurried out with the new camera to have a little fun.  Here are some of the results...



Another Good Water Year?

Next summer is shaping up as another great water year out west and in particular for the northern Rockies.  Obviously there is really no way of accurately predicting the amount of snow but all indications are pointing towards another good water year.  La Nina is back which was one of the main reasons for last year's great snowpack.  Current long range climate outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center are forecasting the likelihood of above average precipitation across large portions of the west.  Unfortunately, along with that is a good chance that the south central and southwestern states' drought will continue. 



In Yellowstone this past summer, there were still numerous snow banks on the higher north-facing slopes into August and the Tetons still had plenty of snow at that late date. 


A second consecutive year with better than normal water will mean lots of big healthy trout in the future and as a good fisherman, I'm hoping for another epic snowpack.  Start planning your trips west now but stay flexible as a heavy snowpack could again seriously delay the start of the best fishing...

 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Out Shooting Again

A new Canon 550D (Rebel T2i) found its way to my house this week, and I'm ready to start taking pictures again.  Naturally I plan on being very careful with the new toy and to not flip any canoes while it is on board.  Hopefully I will be out shooting in the next day or two, and with a bit of luck I'll be out fishing soon as well...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

First Striper!

I have been out chasing stripers several times this fall as you all have probably noticed.  In between catching a few for myself, I have also had the pleasure of putting some people on their first striper on the fly rod ever and have another trip or two lined up.  One of the best trips was with my buddy Joe and his brother Ethan.  Joe catches a lot of big fish, especially browns up in the Smokies but can hold his own on other species as well.  He wanted to put his brother Ethan on a striper so we agreed on a time and place.  Ethan is an excellent fisherman himself and tied into a nice striper after just a little coaching.  The big grin says it all...

Friday, December 02, 2011

Not So Big

Stripers still continue to feed heavily in anticipation of continued cold weather.  I made it to a favorite striper spot earlier this week and did ok, catching two stripers in the 10-15 pound range plus a walleye and a white bass.  These stripers are not as large as some of the 20+ pound fish I have tied into, but I think they are just about the perfect size.  They still pull hard but your arm doesn't feel like falling off when you land one.  Hopefully the fishing for stripers will continue good for another week or two...

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