Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 01/22/2020

High flows continue across the area but trends are definitely down. A recent cold snap broke the ongoing heatwave so fishing in the mountains has slowed dramatically. Right on schedule, some of our tailwaters should begin returning to more normal flows for this time of year meaning float trips are certainly possible.

For the Smokies, a warming trend should commence as we go into next week. By mid week the fishing should be decent before the next cold front returns us back to winter again. On warmer days, look for midges and possibly winter stoneflies hatching. Some blue-winged olives will be possible on foul weather days as we head towards February. The best fishing is still a few weeks out, but no longer feels like an eternity. Expect good spring hatches to start in late February or early March with blue quills and quill gordons along with little black caddis and early brown and black stones. By April, things will be settling down with the pinnacle of spring fishing usually happening from mid April through the month of May.

On our area tailwaters, high water continues to be the story. The Caney Fork still has at least a couple of weeks of high flows and that is assuming we don't get any more heavy rainfall. This time of year, that is asking a lot. The high water is good for one thing, however. Shad. Yes, the cold months are prime time to try and hit the famed shad kill and catch a monster brown trout. Same thing goes for the Clinch.

Speaking of the Clinch, the good news is that flows are scheduled to begin dropping tomorrow. A steady two generators will feel like low water after the recent period of two generators plus sluicing. Two generators opens up some nymphing possibilities in addition to our favorite winter pastime, stripping streamers for monsters.

The musky streams are settling into fine shape and will be an option moving forward as well. Remember that bouts of high water will get them stained or even muddy for a few days, but as flows come down the fishing should pick back up.

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Boulder Garden

Smallmouth on the Cumberland Plateau are coming on strong now. Our weather is always a bit cooler than down in the lowlands so the local fish are not as far along as fish down around Knoxville and Chattanooga. However, with the recent hot dry weather, fishing has improved rapidly and it is time to get out and enjoy the remote creeks and rivers.

This past Sunday, after cooking a Mothers' Day breakfast for my mom, I took off for an afternoon of visiting a local favorite. This stream is remote and flows through some of the most rugged terrain in Cumberland County. The plan was to explore a stretch I fish a fair amount and have even guided on occasionally.

Driving through the country side, I noticed that we are transitioning rapidly to late spring/early summer flowers.

Photograph or painting?

Later, along the stream, I saw that spring favorites like the Pinkster Azalea were just about finished although a few held on in shady spots.

The last few blooms on the Pinkster Azalea were beautiful.

When I started fishing, it became apparent that the rock bass were hungry since I caught several right away. In the past, I would usually take this as a sign that the smallmouth were not feeding very well, but I persevered and kept progressing upstream. 


Supposedly some musky have been stocked on this local creek so I carried two rods: a four weight rigged with a small Clouser for the smallmouth and a seven weight with a wire bite guard and much larger fly for the possibility of a musky. Most of the water in this stretch is too shallow to be considered prime musky water but I did probe the depths of a few seriously deep pools but to no avail. Either the musky were stocked in a different section or they weren't showing themselves on this day.

The insect life along the river was intriguing on this particular trip. I did not find any golden stonefly shucks yet but the Isonychias (Slate Drakes) are hatching in good numbers based on the shucks. A dun sitting on a rock stuck around to have its picture taken so I shot a few before moving along.


The smallmouth started to get active though. As I moved farther away from the access point, the action improved rapidly but of course no surprise there. Towards the top end of the section I like to fish is what I can best describe as a huge boulder garden. Just below the boulder garden lies two fantastic pools where I have seen nice smallmouth in the past. Happy to have already caught a few smallmouth, I was surprised to see a big fish (for this stream) race over to crush my Clouser shortly after it hit the water. Last summer I spooked this fish a few times but never could seal the deal. On this day, things just worked out. The four weight rod got a serious and unexpected workout, but soon I was admiring a gorgeous fish.


Not long after, another nice fish came out of the same hole.


Those two fish ensured that this would be a memorable trip, but I decided to push my luck a little. The Boulder Garden is a section of river that flows under a high cliff face that drops huge chunks or rock into the river. Looking towards it from either up or downstream, it appears that the creek just vanishes into the rocks.


One other time, I had scouted a line across the boulders part way through, but since I was feeling lucky, I decided to brave the snakes and other dangers to maneuver through this whole section. Nervously hoping I wouldn't come across a rattler or copperhead, I moved painstakingly through and across the rocks, looking over, under, and around all obstacles before stepping or reaching out with my hand. Finally, I was through! A whole new stretch of water opened before me, flowing away into the depths of wilderness. 

Few people ever see this stretch, and I guarantee that the fish are some of the most unpressured in the area. The fishing was accordingly very easy. I spotted a nice bass holding near the head of a pool. One cast, three quick strips, and it was fish on. This must be what it was like to fish these streams 200 years ago. In addition to the fishing, I had to document my progress. The camera was employed in taking some shots of the beautiful scenery. Looking upstream, the water beckoned to further exploration, but that would have to wait for another day.

The shadows were growing longer, and I don't like pushing my luck on these remote waters. If you head out too late, I guarantee you will find more snakes and other critters. Lots of fresh hog tracks lined the stream, and I didn't care to spook a herd of those either.

Back at the car, I got the usual strange looks from the locals at the swimming hole as I wandered out of the woods in camo carrying two fly rods. This time, however, I was spared the usual question of "Are there trout in here?"

My Boulder Garden adventure is hopefully the first of many. I'm excited to see what other adventures are in store for me there!


4 comments:

  1. Nice! Smallies are just the greatest, aren't they?

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    Replies
    1. They are definitely hard to beat!

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  2. The lack of smallies is Montana's only real shortcoming..... I would love to beam myself to that creek for an overnight trip!

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  3. Bryan, if you are ever down this way give me a holler and I'll show you some local favorites. You would definitely enjoy them!

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