Today I faced a really tough dilemma. All along, I had been planning to fish and in the Smokies no less. When the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., the first thing I noticed was the flashes of light illuminating my bedroom. A crash of thunder followed the optical display. My first movement was to turn off the blasted alarm. The second was to reach for my iPad to check the radar. Rain everywhere with more on the way dampened my enthusiasm for crawling out of the comfortable bed.
The internal struggle was intense, and I almost succumbed to more sleep. Then visions of big brown trout chasing streamers started dancing in my head, and I knew it was time to get going.There was no way I could sleep knowing that this might be the best fishing day of the summer in the Smokies. Score one point for my theory that fishermen are some of the world's greatest optimists.
Rain was falling steadily as I loaded the few things that weren't already in my car. A cooler contained lunch and a couple of Gatorades. I also took along the waders with the assumption that it would be cool enough to wear them and they might help me stay dry.
After a quick stop at Little River Outfitters to pick up the new Tennessee Guide License and a couple of fly tying items, I headed on into the Park. Despite several follows at my first stop, I didn't manage to hook up and was soon headed on up the river. At the second spot, I did have at least one flash and the third produced a good solid tug. Somehow all the fish were missing the hook though. My curiosity had been simmering all this time and finally got the better of me. I headed over the ridge to the NC side to see how conditions were over there.
The rain had long since turned into a steady soaking rain, just the thing we've been waiting for here in the Great Smoky Mountains. My first stop produced a really nice rainbow. I would have kept fishing on further upstream but noticed the herd of elk before I stumbled dangerously close. I backed off from this first brush with danger and headed back to the Moose Magnet. Apparently it works on elk also. It was right about the time I got back to my car that I heard the first rumble.
At the next top, I heard another one, far away to the south or at least that's what it sounded like. Then it was quiet, and I assumed that meant I should go fishing. By this time, I had soaked one rain jacket, switched to another while the first one dried, and then switched back to the first again. In other words, the rain was much more than what qualifies as light but something short of tropical downpour status.
Scrambling along the thick stream-side vegetation, I paused to ponder poison ivy and was hit with the realization that it seemed to be a lot thicker this year. After trampling around through a lot of it today, I'll probably be fortunate if I don't end up with the miserable stuff.
Anyway, so here I am thinking about poison ivy, standing in the middle of a drenching rainstorm with one of my favorite pools just ahead of me. Jumping into the stream, I decided it was probably safer out in the water. At least the poison ivy couldn't get to me out there.
Working along the pool, I was almost to the top when it happened. Out of the hazy water, a dark shadow materialized under the hopper that was doubling as a strike indicator. I barely had time to think no way to myself before it inhaled the Chernobyl. Yeah!
Then came the shocker, if you will pardon the pun. Right as I leaned down to grab the fish, as my hand slipped under the beautiful rainbow trout's body, a bright flash flickered across the sky followed almost immediately by a thunderclap that would have caused me to levitate out of the river if I hadn't seen the flash first. The timing was absolutely crazy. It has to mean something, right? But what?
The fish gods weren't angry or else I wouldn't have caught that fish, or at least that's what I assume. Maybe it was just Mother Nature reminding me to not take anything for granted. Either way, I've never felt so relaxed after a close call with lightning. I actually just shrugged and decided to keep on fishing. After all, it was far enough back to the car that I was probably just as likely to get struck walking back as to keep on fishing.
In hind sight, it occurs to me that the lightning and thunder were the last for the day. It rained quite a bit longer, but no more lightning. In fact, by the time that I decided to leave soggy North Carolina behind, Tennessee had turned sunny. The low hanging clouds burned off and left a beautiful day in their wake.
Back on Little River, I managed another small rainbow, but somehow my heart wasn't in it. The day had already been amazing, and I decided to not push my luck. I know enough to quit while I'm ahead. The drive down Little River road was just about the slowest you will ever see me drive. The tranquility of the Park had worked her magic, and I was revived and rejuvenated again. Back out in the real world, the hurry didn't come back until I was well along on the Interstate. I guess I already need another lightning strike to put things back in perspective.
Do you have any other ideas for what the random lightning strike means? I want to hear them.
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.