Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 5/22/2017

Fishing is good to excellent across the area. The Caney Fork River continues to shine on both high and low water. In the Smokies, strong hatches have been keeping fish looking up.

Yesterday, Blue-winged Olives hatched for hours during the light rain and drizzle. Fish were looking up but also took nymphs well. Streamers were moving some quality fish as well. The summer hatches are well under way now. Expect Golden and Little Yellow stoneflies and Isonychia (Slate Drake) mayflies. Light Cahills and Sulfurs have been around as well.

The Caney Fork River continues to fish anywhere from good to great on high water streamer floats. Anyone who wants to target trout with streamers will find this to be exciting fishing. Low water is becoming more and more likely, and if that trend continues we will see some great low water floats. The fish are hungry and we are going into some of the best fishing months on this fine tailwater.

Cumberland Plateau smallmouth streams are rounding into fine shape now. Rain will bump flows up again, but in between the fish are hungry and willing to hammer a fly! Musky floats are about over for the year unless we get more rain.


Photo of the Month: Shad Eating Rainbow

Photo of the Month: Shad Eating Rainbow

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

To Be Detailed and Descriptive or Not?

Brookie from Stream X. Yeah, I'm not talking.

A recent local trend has been disconcerting to say the least: publicly outing small streams, particularly brook trout streams, on the Internet for the masses to read about. Sometimes referred to as HOTSPOTTING, the results can be horrendous.

Now before someone calls me out (aw, shoot, go ahead and call me out because it should make for some good entertainment), I recognize that I have often given trip reports that are detailed enough as to leave little to the imagination, sometimes even naming small streams myself. In fact, anyone who has followed my blog for more than a few months has probably noticed that the details associated with my fishing reports have dwindled to the point that some people probably don't even bother to read them anymore, and that is fine with me. In all honesty, I started writing this blog for myself and if others enjoy it so be it. Most of my trip reports are from fairly obvious Park waters, but I'm still not interested in having company next time I fish there.

Having seen what exposure can do to streams has definitely shifted my views over the years. When I first started exploring some of the high elevation brook trout waters in the Smokies, it was not unusual to be able to fish roadside for days and not see another angler. Back then, my favorite sections were probably fished no more than once every couple of weeks and the fishing was accordingly amazing to the point of being stupid easy.

Now, with fishing reports filling the Internet (including from yours truly) and anglers seeking out the water in ever increasing droves (or so it seems), it can be rare to find a piece of water to yourself anywhere close to a road. Add to that an increased acceptance of catch and keep and it becomes obvious why certain sections that used to produce 50+ fish days with several pushing the 10-12" range are now good for maybe 10-20 fish with none over 8 inches.

Sure, people have been keeping fish for a long time, but when did it become acceptable to proudly herald the fact, an act that just encourages more and more people to do the same? The fisheries biologists say that anglers have little to no impact on the trout populations in the Great Smoky Mountains, but that is assuming the status quo from the past few years. If just the anglers I have guided had all kept a limit on each guide trip, I would personally be responsible for the removal of triple digit numbers of trout in the last couple of months. Spread over the whole Park that is a really small number, but concentrated into a few sections I like to return to over and over again that suddenly becomes very significant.

Even more importantly, when anglers remove the largest trout from a section of stream, they are removing the dominant genetics from the gene pool and leaving the little guys that just weren't quite good enough to to make it to "head honcho" status. Spread that trend out over several generations of fish and the result is disturbingly obvious. Catch and keep has its place in our streams, but seriously, please release the largest alpha fish. Those are the genes I want to see being passed down on these wild streams.

So what is the main problem? I could be wrong, but it would appear to be a lack of education. A lot of newer anglers, like myself many years ago, are stoked about the sport and finding such good places to fish. Without quality mentors to teach them the near sacredness of the pursuit of trout and other fish on the fly, it can be a tough trial by fire. Unfortunately, at least a few of these people will have to learn by arriving at their favorite stream to find a plethora of anglers fishing their hidden gem.

Some hints I've seen online recently are obvious to anyone with a map and brains, but still probably shouldn't be announced to the masses. For example, the fact that Stream X has a decent flow and cold water is obvious to anyone with a map and vague concept of geography, but that doesn't mean that 500 anglers from the region should immediately descend on it just because they read about it online. Believe me, there are those anglers out there. "I read about it on the Internet so it must be true/awesome/epic/you name it, and I'm going to fish it this weekend."

A recently outed, previously hidden gem.

As a guide, I have been extremely selective about where I will take anglers. For some of the lesser known remote waters, I will not take clients there unless they specifically request a trip there. That means they have done their homework and already have some info on fishing there. Good for them.

While many of us view the exploration of new waters as part of the charm of fly fishing, there are some less than scrupulous or even just purely lazy anglers who read trip reports simply to glean knowledge about a hot spot that is not often fished. Some of those are fairly harmless and probably won't catch many trout anyway. Others are looking for an easy place to poach. I've talked to those people and have heard the stories such as anglers who used to take "brookies by the bushel" out of some remote headwater streams. Having heard the stories from credible first hand sources, I don't want to be the one responsible for making it easy on others to do the same.

Finally, most of all I'm admittedly selfish. Having worked very hard for 20+ years to discover most of the Park secrets for myself, it is tough seeing them outed by a careless word to the whole world. As someone who actively searches the Internet and keeps a detailed log of possible "secret" waters across the country to someday fish, I know that I'm not alone in my quest for that secret fishing hole. In an age of more and more transparency and fewer secrets, I just hope that at least one of my secret brookie streams will still be untouched next time I fish it.

Is there some contradiction with my complaints and the fact that I guide? Am I part of the problem?Quite possibly (and definitely in terms of creating new anglers or introducing people to fishing in the Smokies), but at least I am in a position to help educate others on protecting the resource. For example, I am always amazed at how many people (including long time fly fishermen with plenty of experience) seem to have no clue that you should NEVER dry hand a fish. Yes folks, please get your hands WET before touching a trout (assuming you even need to touch it). I have no problem with a quick picture of your catch, but dip those hands in the stream first.

The crazy part of this whole thing is that it is not even limited to small waters in the Smokies. Even tailwaters are susceptible to this. I've seen a fair amount of increased traffic on my local tailwater just from a few generically good reports on how it is fishing this year. With large numbers of quality fish leaving the river on stringers, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the pressure is bad. Our tailwaters could be full of fish averaging a legitimate 15-18" if we could just get people to release the majority of their catch and follow the regulations. Unfortunately, a lack of education and a stocking truck chasing mentality permeates the local fishing culture. People are living in a time of instant gratification and are not willing to see how letting a few go now could lead to unbelievable fishing down the road. This weak-minded approach is leaving our tailwaters in a sad state compared to the national treasures they could be.

The best pictures do not show any landmarks.

If that is not enough tangents for one post, then I don't know what is. I'll wrap this up as I don't have much else to say. I guess the recent hot water and low water leaves me without much else to do than dream up complaints. Maybe I should move back out west. I hear they have more water there than they know what to do with.

Oh, if I don't share much information with you, that is probably because I'm watching to see if you are a good steward with what you do know. Want to learn some secrets? Find a map and start hiking to search them out for yourself. Once you pour out your sweat in search of a great fishing location, you probably won't want to share either.

20 comments:

  1. I have always admired the free access to rivers in the USA but as we have found over here in our smaller country people dont tend to respect what they dont have to pay for. The rivers that have free access are very depleted,

    Andy

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    1. It varies widely across the USA. Unfortunately, here in my home state of Tennessee, there is a considerable catch and kill mentality that is not always the best for the fishery. On the other hand, in Montana, they do not stock trout in streams capable of supporting wild populations. That is what I call good management as long as proper deterrents are in place. Hopefully our wildlife and fisheries management here in TN will someday be as enlightened as it is in some other states.

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  2. I, for one, won't be fishing your streams anytime soon since I live in Oregon. Don't worry about me! ;)

    The river that I fished out here in Oregon just last weekend was probably fished out. When I fished it in the 90's, when it was a catch and release only river, the fishing was outstanding. The last few years, they've opened it to retaining adipose fin clipped fish, but there aren't any LEOs there checking fish fins. As a result, working hard for several hours, I only caught two small fish. They went right back in.

    I feel your pain. All of the fisheries close to where I live see a lot of pressure. Since I have little ones, I can't just go and explore mountain streams. However, I look forward to the day that I can take my kids out to the mountains and teach them about being responsible.

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    1. That is really unfortunate Jarm. I always hate to see something like that happen, especially when it can be prevented. Hopefully your kids will become great fishing buddies and allow you to head higher in the mountains as they grow older!

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    1. It is tough when people give out a lot of hints and landmarks. Most streams are not too hard to figure out with just a little research these days. It wasn't too long ago that most people didn't even know a lot of streams existed.

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    2. I agree with you completely David. Hints and landmarks offer no benefit to the report other than to let others in on the secret. You probably don't remember but we used to fish in the same areas when we were both in school at UTK...day or 2 ago.

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    3. Hopper, I did not attend UTK but we likely have still fished the same areas since I consider the streams of the Smokies my home waters. Have we fished together before?

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    4. Have not fished together before. I believe it was you...drove a white Toyota Avalon?

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    5. Yep, that would have been me most likely.

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    6. Hopper
      So nice of you to post on the internet call me a dick while remaining anyomous and say that I'm part of the hot spotting problem without following that up with any empirical data. While years ago when I first started fishing I didn't know better and posted detailed data and plenty of pictures of nice Brookies, I haven't in quite a few years, and only name streams such as Bulldie, Upper Left Fork of Deep Creek, which are far from where most will ever venture and I'm sure are only fished by a handful of people in a year if that. I never name easy to access Brookie streams, and out of the 20 or so people I have fished with on the LRO forum, have never had even one of them out a easy to access Brookie stream. I also regularly fish tailwaters but due to the easy to access issue typically don't even post about my trips there. While I have been upset as many others are with the naming of streams lately, I don't think I'm the problem. In fact, I believe David's post may have been somewhat prompted by an e-mail I sent him about this exact subject the week before. I guess you've got me on the fact that I do post landmarks, but whenever I had an epic day, keep the landmarks to the minimum. So if a post about lousy fishing and lots of other fisherman out in a section of backcountry fishing is hot spotting, then I guess I'm guilty (http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18091). Did the naming of a stocked stream in this recent post offend you (http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18170) cause that's the only naming I've done lately? I don't feel like the post was "Hot with fishing", but YMMV. OK, but lets looks at a good fishing post of mine recently (http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18083). I had tons of great pictures that never made it into the post because they would be easy to identify. What am I doing wrong here? Plus once you are down to landmarks you are now only dealing with a smaller group of people who are already familiar with that stretch to begin with. Even if one could recognize where I was on a banner day, I don't see why one would be apt to run that way. I would say the awesome fishing I had was dirctly related to lack of pressure, and not because it was stream A or stream B. The perfect example of this would be a post David made a few years ago at a easy to identify backcountry location that only had one possibility of where he was fishing based on photos, etc. He had an epic day! My mentor and fishing buddy Freddie and his buddy George passed David on his way out the next day. They were just coincidently hiking into that same remote stream for a day trip the next day. The fishing was awful. I take my fishing ethics seriously and take offense to what you are claiming. I do post on the internet and try to do so responsibly. While you may wish there wasn't an internet to spread your secrets I will continue to post. I like to post to go back through my trip in my mind and to help process all that I saw and experienced. It's also nice for me to have a log of my fishing trips to remember. I also get a ton of positive feedback from others who are now too old to rock hop up remote streams which brings the streams back in thier minds. I guess I did also post a report naming Lynn Camp when it fist opened, so if the 6 fish I caught in 36 degree water is the reason for all the pressure on Lynn Camp and not the fact that the countless press releases, maybe I am indeed guilty. I also wonder if people aren't thinking I'm one place, when I'm really another. For example (http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18195) There are several drainages that look like this and are this size. If this post offends you you might be getting a little picky.
      Thanks,
      James Locke - Duckypaddler

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  4. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say David. That being said, I most normally fish waters that are so well known that I don't mind naming them. Even though they are well known and fished by many, I've never found it impossible to find a lot of places to get lost and plenty of fish. Of course I'm not above lying to cover the identity of some gems. ;)

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    1. Howard, I can't believe you would go and hotspot Clear Creek! That is terrible... Seriously though, all joking aside, there are definitely some benefits to fishing very well known water. I had some epic days on Clear Creek and I'm guessing that a lot of people overlook it just because it is so accessible and well known. Maybe I'll make it out to fish it with you in September unless you want to journey farther afield to hit some other water with me.

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  5. This is why I hate the internet. It's great for sharing experiences but your sharing can't be quarantined to only those you know will use your info for good and not evil. I've had a bunch of places spot burned because of forum and blog posts. I'm even guilty for some of it. I've stopped giving details of my fishing locations a long time ago. It was mainly after I posted something about a local fishing run and had 3 times the normal people on the river. I know my blog isn't that popular so all of those people couldn't have been just from that. But I'm sure it didn't help. Plus the use of cell phones now days. Used to be you go fish a place and then have to wait until you got back to tell your buddies how good the fishing was. The next day the situation could have been totally different. Now you can not only call your buddy but just send them a text with a pic of a brook trout saying "come now!" The fish don't have a chance really.

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    1. Kevin, the Internet has done a lot of good for our sport in terms of getting like-minded people together to share techniques and ideas and even for meeting new fishing buddies. On the other hand, I have seen the same thing you have. The huge crowds that can be generated by just one or two trip reports is ridiculous, sadly I might add.

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  6. David
    This post is right on point; exactly what I encounter every time I fish our local tailrace here on the Sipsey. Recently we have encountered van loads of individuals who come to fish the tailrace with the intentions of loading up on the limit of trout, which in this case are 5 per day. The problem here is when you have 5 to 6 individuals who all come together to fish you have as many as 30 or more trout leaving the tailrace each day. These individuals are not fly fishing they are using Power Bait and have taken trout in the 14 to 15” size. That is a killer for the tailrace, especially for those of us who use the fly rod. Our local chapter has complained to the game warrens, and have convinced them that this is really hurting the trout population here. They have stepped up patrol of the area, which has helped; but we still face a tremendous problem with trout being taken. I am thankful we at least have a stocking program that replenish those trout taken, but just think what the trout population would be if we could convince the public to abide by a few simple rules.
    I leaned a long time ago, giving information freely to individuals about the flies you are using and exact locations of where trout is being taken can certainly lesson one’s chances of landing trout on any trip. This is especially true here on the Sipsey and of course a couple of tailraces I frequent in Tennessee. I have a couple of patterns I use a lot on the Sipsey here and have tremendous success with both flies. I know this sounds selfish, but when one works hard to decipher what the trout are taking in certain areas on a piece of water, then it would be foolish for me or you, being a guide, to let that information pass on. Sorry for the long comment but you struck a cord that parallels both of us.

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    1. Bill, that is one thing I've appreciated about your reports. You don't tell more than is really necessary to create a good story. I wish more people would follow this policy in sharing fishing information online.

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  7. I dont think you need to even explain..X mark the spot reports have ruined many areas with increased pressure, lame poachers and lazy anglers. Hole jumping based on a report is friggin lazy. Plain and simple. The folks that follow reports usually tend to struggle since they do not put forth much effort and lack confidence. I never give exact locations and dont report on every fishing trip. I get emails often asking :where and I usually do not respond. I'm with you, if you want to read my blog and ask me how and when I am more than happy to share. If that doesnt work for you then you don't have to read it.

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    1. It amazes me how much people expect to be given in terms of knowledge. I guess most people have never put in the hard work and don't realize how much it costs us to have these trip reports to begin with. I'm with you in that I normally don't tell people about my more secret fishing spots. A few places are obvious and the rest should stay secret. Good to see I'm not the only one that thinks that way!

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  8. Detail? Never! I'll name drop only the larger, famous waters that are hit constantly anyway. Only in the most confidential of face to face conversations with select inner circle will I mention a stream by name. I keep my blog a mystery, as I think it should be.
    I recently saw that a favorite creek of mine was featured by name on a Trout TV show. Seems awfully irresponsible to be so open. It's the kind of stream that (used to) get no attention, overshadowed by too many other famous Montana waters.

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