Guided Trips


Fishing is good in the Smokies and other mountain streams if you can catch it on a day where the wind is minimal. Otherwise, expect lots of leaves in the water for the next few days. Delayed harvest streams are also being stocked and fishing well in east Tennessee and western North Carolina.

In the Smokies, fall bugs are in full swing. We have been seeing blue-winged olives almost daily although they will hatch best on foul weather days. They are small, typically running anywhere from #20-#24 although a few larger ones have also shown up. A few October Caddis are still around as well. Terrestrials are close to being done for the year although we are still seeing a few bees and hornets near the stream. Isonychia nymphs, caddis pupa, and BWO nymphs will get it done for your subsurface fishing. Have some October Caddis (#12) and parachute BWO patterns (#18-#22) for dry flies and you should be set. Not interested in matching the hatch? Then fish a Pheasant Tail nymph under a #14 Parachute Adams. That rig can catch fish year round in the Smokies.

Brook and brown trout are now moving into the open to spawn. During this time of year, please be extremely cautious about wading through gravel riffles and the tailouts of pools. If you step on the redd (nest), you will crush the eggs that comprise the next generation of fish. Please avoid fishing to actively spawning fish and let them do their thing in peace.

Our tailwaters are still cranking although the Caney is finally starting to come down. I'm still hoping to get a firsthand report on the Caney Fork soon although it might be sometime next week or the week after before that happens at the earliest. Stay tuned for more on that. Fishing will still be slow overall with limited numbers of fish in that particular river unfortunately.

The Clinch is featuring high water as they try to catch up on the fall draw down. All of the recent rainfall set them back in this process but flows are now going up to try and make up some of the time lost. It is still fishing reasonably well on high water although we prefer the low water of late fall and early winter as it is one of our favorite times to be on the river.

Smallmouth are about done for the year with the cooler weather we are now experiencing. I caught a few yesterday on the Tennessee River while fishing with guide Rob Fightmaster, but overall the best bite is all but over. Our thoughts will be turning to musky soon, however. Once we are done with guide trips for the year, we'll be spending more time chasing these monsters.

In the meantime, we still have a few open dates in November. Feel free to get in touch with me if you are interested in a guided trip. Thanks!

Photo of the Month: Fishing in Paradise

Photo of the Month: Fishing in Paradise

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Along with everyone else, I decided to get my 2014 Year in Review finished and published here at the Trout Zone.  First, thank you to everyone who stops by and reads and comments here.  Also, thank you to all the great people who have supported me in my new endeavor as a fly fishing guide.  That said, let's look at 2014.

This year has been a transitional year.  Leaving behind the teaching profession was difficult as was leaving a place and friends I really enjoyed.  In many ways that made the end of 2013 and 2014 the toughest time of my life.  However, the opportunity to dive headlong into the fly fishing business as a guide was a lifelong dream come true.  At this point, I'm not sure what the future holds.  At the very minimum I'll still be guiding some on the side as I'm not sure if I'll end up back in the classroom or not.  If guiding continues to be a full-time career, you won't hear any complaints from me.  On my first day as a guide in 2014, I looked around as soon as we hit the water and thought, this is my office now!

Here on my blog, the last trip of 2013 prompted my first post of 2014.  A cold weather Smokies trip resulted in a beautiful brown trout that ate a streamer, in other words, my kind of fish.  Later on in January, I had the pleasure of both reviewing Matt Supinski's book Selectivity as well as interviewing the author by phone.  What a pleasure to talk to someone who appreciates finicky fish as much and probably even more than I do!

By the end of January, Trout Zone Anglers was born.  In February, I made a last trip back to Colorado to visit friends who would soon be moving on out of my life.  The chance to return to South Boulder Creek was too good to pass up, and I enjoyed some great winter fishing without ever getting my feet wet.  Back in Tennessee, we were stuck in the polar vortex that delayed the spring hatches and generally wreaked havoc with the early season fishing.  There were fish to be caught, but it wasn't as easy as some years.  By late February, all the paperwork was completed with the National Park Service to officially guide in the Smokies, and I started taking bookings.

In March, the cool weather kept the fishing in the marginal category but we started to see bugs eventually.  Trips to Smokemont as well as some closer to home kept me busy until I started doing guide trips by late in the month.  April continued with much of the same.  High flows on the tailwaters early in the month finally started to give way to some windows of opportunity for both guide trips and personal fishing excursions.  Dogwood winter brought a return of the polar vortex, but by and large the month was a little better than the previous 2 months in terms of nice fishing weather. One of my favorite trips in April was a guide's day off trip down to the Caney.  I had always heard about the run of buffalo but never experienced it for myself.  That all changed when I hit the water with hundreds of huge fish everywhere.  What a trip!

May was one of the highlights of the year for me.  Tranquil evenings chasing farm pond bass, perfect flows in the mountains to catch trout, generally one of the best fishing months in Tennessee, it produced both good fishing as well as some opportunities to give back.  One of my favorite opportunities in May was to help with a Casting for Recovery Event.  It was a lot of fun and I hope to make it back again this year.  Another highlight of not only the month of May but of the whole year was the chance to camp for a couple of nights up in the Smokies with my buddy Joe McGroom.  We have fished all over together including Colorado, Yellowstone, and of course throughout east Tennessee.  One of my oldest and best fishing buddies, Joe is one of the best fishermen I know and always fun to share the water with.  Another great trip in May included a Caney trip where I found some carp.  By the end of the month, Trout Zone Anglers had added a new trip option, float trips! Yes, a drift boat was added to the arsenal.  An older boat, it nevertheless did everything that I needed a drift boat to do and was soon put to work taking anglers down the Caney Fork River.

June brought a lot more work in the form of guide trips but I also still found time to sneak away and fish.  Local smallmouth streams were really turning on, and I was out fishing hoppers as often as possible.  A 1/2 day guide trip in the Smokies helped me find one of the better browns when I decided to fish for myself after the completion of the guide trip.  June ended on a high note with a client getting a better than average brown on Little River.  I think I was even more excited than he was.  Oh, and I should mention again that this was his first fish ever in the Smokies. Some people have all the luck...

Lots of other great guide trips happened in July. One beginner trip was especially noteworthy when a first time fly fisher landed close to 30 trout in one day.  That is a good day regardless of your skill level and even more impressive with someone new to fly fishing.  He even caught a double at one point. Those are the days we live for both as anglers and guides.  Late in July, my cousin Nathan came to visit.  We have fished together for more than 20 years and always enjoy the chance to get out on the water.  Between a Caney Fork float where I hopperized a big brown and a couple of nights in the Smokies, we had one of those highlight trips that I'll remember for a long time.

In August I was still chasing smallmouth in between lots of guiding, but things were busy enough that I started to slack off a little here on the blog.  By September, jokes that I had been making about an early fall as far back as June were looking more serious.  Beautiful leaves were showing up with regularity on the streams.  Part of that had to do with the slightly drier than normal year we had in east Tennessee.

October saw the normal peak colors in the Smokies along with the usual excellent late season fishing.   I caught some of my largest Park rainbows in the fall burst of great fishing.  High water returned as the norm on the Cumberland Plateau which meant that the Caney Fork River would rarely be fishable for the rest of the year.  Striper fishing was spotty this year but I eventually got one in October.

November brought an early winter with snow and cold temperatures.  For my birthday I managed to find a big Smoky Mountain brown trout that would eat a streamer.

The highlight of December was getting my buddy Dan Muenger out after some musky and putting one in the boat on his first ever musky trip.  I can't take all the credit as he is an excellent angler and stuck with the game plan for a long day of tossing big flies.  Trips to delayed harvest streams kept me busy in between the events associated with the holidays.  One last guide trip at the end of the month allowed me one more chance to fish in the Smokies.  After putting all three new anglers on their first few trout, I headed back out and caught double digit numbers of fish in the last hour and a half of daylight and was reminded how important water temperature is this time of year.

So there you have it.  2014 has been quite a year but as much as I've enjoyed starting a guiding business, I am looking forward to a New Year and hope for a much happier 2015.  I plan on fishing as much as possible and continuing to build my still young guide business.  The west is still calling me and if gas prices stay low, I may head that way at some point this year to relax and enjoy the wild country.

I hope each of you has a great 2015 and that you can spend even more time out on the water! Thanks for being a loyal reader and supporter of the Trout Zone.


  1. Well done David. My best wishes for a great New Year and a trip to Clear Creek.

  2. Happy New Year Dave. Here's hoping the guiding business prospers in the new year and if it becomes a part time endeavor, I'm sure there are some kids out there that will gladly welcome you back into the classroom.



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