Guided Trips


Fishing is excellent in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park now. We have had a couple of shots of rain the last week and a half which has helped keep the streams flowing strong for this time of year. The cool overnight temperatures will get the brown and brook trout seriously thinking about spawning. Please be careful this time of year and avoid walking on fine sand and gravel in riffles and tailouts. Leave the spawning trout alone so they can do their thing. When you find brook or brown trout that aren't spawning, they are aggressive and looking to feed. Recent guide trips on brook trout waters have been anywhere from good to excellent. Streams with rainbows and browns have been excellent as well. There are good numbers of fish to be caught in the Park right now!

A variety of bugs have been hatching lately. On cloudy days, Blue-winged Olives have hatched along with some other small mayflies. Various caddis, including the Great Autumn Brown Sedges (often referred to as October Caddis by locals) are hatching and provide a nice bite for the trout. Little Black stoneflies are hatching as well. Fish are eating both dry fly and nymph imitations and even still hitting some terrestrials. Don't forget your beetle, ant, and inchworm fly box. A Parachute Adams or Yellow or Orange Stimulator should work well for a dry fly. Smaller bead head Pheasant Tail nymphs should work as a dropper. Caddis pupa are also catching a lot of fish as are stonefly nymphs.

On the Caney Fork, things have been tough lately. The river has been running warmer than is normal this time of year because of heavy generation earlier this year and also with a stain due to the sluice gate operations. Work has been underway to install vented turbines on the generators and they have been working to try and tweak them to improve dissolved oxygen. One day, we were floating and they were checking the DO and found it at 1.5 ppm. If I remember correctly, the minimum target is 6 ppm. Obviously 1.5 is way too low. Trout were sitting along the banks and in back eddies gasping for oxygen. Hopefully all of this won't have too much of a long term effect on the fishery, but needless to say, things are a bit difficult as of right now. Cooler weather should help. Once the lake turns over, oxygen and clarity will improve quickly.

The Clinch River has been fishing well if you can hit it on low water days. Small nymphs and midges will get the job done here.

Smallmouth bass are about done for the year, but we will be back out on the musky streams again soon looking for the toothy critters. This is tough fishing, but the rewards can be sizable.

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Monday, December 03, 2012

Still Hungry!!!

One of my favorite things about cold weather is that most people don't want to fish anymore.  That's just fine by me because the fish are still hungry.  My original plans to venture up to Estes Park this past Sunday were drastically altered when the Fern Lake Fire thundered out of Forest Canyon early Saturday morning, fanned by winds gusting up to 70 mph, spreading three miles in just over half an hour.  The fire was started almost 2 months ago, probably by some idiot uninformed person who should have stuck closer to their car instead of venturing into the backcountry.  Fast forward to this past Saturday, and the east side of Rocky Mountain NP is now closed because of the blowup.  Estes Park is threatened but safe thus far.

Not wanting to scratch my plans altogether, I look at option two.  After my first visit, I knew that Clear Creek would be a favorite.  Easily accessible and full of wild brown trout and even a few rainbows, it is just the type of stream to provide an enjoyable but short fishing trip close to home.  Some friends were planning on rock climbing at Golden so I decided to make it a day by climbing when the sun was high overhead and then fishing an hour late in the day.

The climbing was fantastic although a little crowded.  I'm still in a bit of shock at how crowded the crag was, but I guess that's the problem with accessible winter climbing options close to a major metro area.  In Tennessee I was blessed to have phenomenal climbing and fishing close by, and while the tailwaters could definitely get a little crowded on occasion, with just a bit of effort it was possible to find solitude if one wished to.

After enjoying some time on the sun-warmed rocks, we headed back down the hill and through the town of Golden.  If you have never been, I highly recommend stopping by if you are in the area.  There are tons of cool little shops and restaurants in the downtown area, and despite being close to Denver, the town somehow maintains a small town atmosphere.

Entering Clear Creek Canyon, the shadows suddenly seemed much longer as the hills wrapped in close to the road.  Not too far up the canyon, ice started appearing along the stream edges although it was apparent that the warm weather had been melting it away.  For a moment, I had the fleeting idea to do things "right" and tie on a couple of tiny midges with a little split shot and an indicator.  That thought was quickly chased by another: streamers.  Cold weather calls for extremes.  Either you go tiny and stand in one spot and freeze to death or go big and keep moving.  While the keeping moving definitely appealed, in the end it was just my soft spot for streamers that won out.

I tied on a small white streamer that doesn't have a name, just one of those things a tier throws together during the long winter nights when they get bored with the necessary patterns for the next year of fishing.  Nervously I pondered retying portions of my leader, but laziness won out.  This was one of those days were I would deal with a lost fish.  It was just nice to get out.

Creeping towards the first pool, I lobbed the streamer across the current and into a dark back eddy.  On the third cast, I almost fell in as the largest brown I have personally seen on Clear Creek came out to swipe at the streamer.  From what I have read, a 16 inch fish would be considered a nice fish on this particular water.  Unfortunately, the fish swirled and missed the hook altogether.  A few more casts produced two more follows, each more heart stopping than the last, but ultimately the fish finally faded into the blackness and was gone.

Moving down through the pool, I carefully worked each bit of cover until finding all the fish at the back of the deepest part where the current was soft and they had a good view of all the food drifting downstream.  A nice 12 incher flashed and then vanished.  Then an 8 incher attacked with gusto, and I hooked my first trout of the afternoon.  The barbless fly soon slipped out though, and I was left wondering if I would strike out on this day.

About then, I got the itch to explore and started working up the stream from pool to pool.  After one half-hearted follow in the next pool, and absolutely nothing in the next two after that, I returned to where the big guy lived.  Several casts with different patterns produced nothing more.  Contemplating stopping or trying a new spot, I finally decided that it was still too early to give up.  Heading up towards the car, the new plan was to drive back down the canyon and stop at each really good pool.  Half way up the slope, I noticed a small pool that I had ignored earlier just below the really good hole.  In a hurry to get in the car and drive downstream, I almost gave up.  Then my curiosity kicked in.

Moving towards the pool, I saw a small hole between several rocks above the heart of the main pool.

Carefully, I lobbed the little white streamer in.  Right on cue, a beautiful brown materialized from under one of the rocks and gently inhaled the fly.  I set the hook and hoped the fish wouldn't run too far or too fast.  Thankfully, the cold water had the fish almost lethargic and after a few half hearted attempts to gain the current, I quickly landed the brown and snapped a couple of pictures.  Smiling to myself, I eased the fish back into the frigid water.  Yes, the fish are there and they still have to eat.  Thankfully I was able to fish on what will probably turn out to be the warmest day of the month.

After a few more stream shots, I headed up to the car, glad to call it a day.  Funny how one fish can make you happy this time of year...


  1. Beautiful fish. I love those dark colors.

  2. Thanks Matthew! This fish had been living under a rock which is probably why it was so dark...

  3. Really enjoy your blog David! Will continue to visit often. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Quite the epic tale! I must say that whilst I know nothing about fishing, I found it quite easy to follow along and was able to follow along well and could tell that atleast the writer knew what he was talking about. This story intrigued me, even despite my general distaste for blogs, and so you receive the 4*s of enjoyment. The only thing holding off the 5th star is that I know fairly little or next to nothing about fishing and so I couldn't relate.


    1. James, thanks for stopping by. We will have to educate you about fishing so you can enjoy this more...

  5. Celine Weber8:28 AM

    Wow this fishing stuff is actually pretty cool Mr.Knapp. You should take us some time, i had no idea how beautiful it is. The fish look really colorful and fun to catch. I had no idea about fish under ice either that was pretty interesting. Looks slimy but fun :)- Celine

    1. Thanks Celine! I think it is pretty awesome. You and Jonathan should come and try it out...

  6. Jonathan Weber8:34 AM

    Do you keep the actual fish? Or do you just keep the pictures?

    1. Jonathan, I just take pictures and let the fish go. Good way to remember them without killing them. If they could, I'm sure they would thank me... :P



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