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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ninja Fishing

Brook trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This time of year normally features low water and spooky fish regardless of whether you are on a Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass stream or on a brook trout stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fly fishing under these conditions can still be good to even excellent but different from those nice high flows of spring. In short, low water requires that you channel your inner ninja and utilize every piece of cover along the stream to avoid being seen by the fish.

Recently I had the privilege of taking a young man on a fly fishing trip. This excursion was a gift to Jordan from his parents for his high school graduation. Talk about a great graduation present! As the trip approached, rain was often in the forecast including for the day we were supposed to fish. Finally, the day of the trip had arrived without any noticeable rainfall.

We started off on some larger pocket water to get Jordan dialed in to the techniques and tactics required for success in the Smokies.

Then, after a good but quick lunch, we headed up higher to hunt some brook trout. The southern Appalachian brook trout are gorgeous, especially now as we are heading towards the fall spawn. We were hoping to find a few of these jewels.

Noticing another guide parked where I originally intended to start, we simply went for plan B and headed further up the mountain. By the time we hit the stream, I had completed my "We have to be stealthy" speech and Jordan was ready to catch some specs.

One of the more enjoyable things about having a younger angler on the water is their willingness to crawl or do whatever else it takes to get close to the fish without spooking them. Jordan was no exception, and as a hunter and all around sportsman, he was used to being out in the woods. We snuck down into the streambed and started slowly making our way upstream. Normally under these conditions, I'll take the lead on these small streams to spot trout. Once a fish or likely spot has been located, I'll ease off to the side and the angler will move into position after a whispered discussion on approach. This trip was about the same as usual. Soon we found a willing fish and Jordan caught his first brook trout! Several others soon followed.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park brook trout


Great Smoky Mountains National Park brook trout

After this first trout, we continued to move slowly up the stream and Jordan would at least get an eat out of most likely spots. Enough of these fish were getting hooked to keep us focused and enjoying ourselves. Finally, a larger pool was just above us. I hung back to avoid spooking anything and explained to Jordan how to crawl up to the stream and cast.


After a few well-placed casts, a very nice brook trout for the water attacked his fly and the fight was on. We soon corralled the beautiful fish and obtained the documentation to help him remember this trip.

A lucky angler with a Great Smoky Mountains National Park brook trout

And so our afternoon went. Moving slowly upstream, crawling, scrambling, kneeling, the fish were no match for these stealth skills Jordan was displaying. A few nice rainbow trout graced the end of his line in addition to the brook trout we had come to catch. Most of these fish were caught on beetle patterns. This is one of the most enjoyable ways to fish this time of year on the small brook trout streams.

Small stream rainbow trout from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beetle fishing for brook trout

Rainbow trout like beetles also

As we started to run low on time, we just happened to stumble onto the best catch of the day. Notice I did not say largest although it was a nice sized brook trout for the small water we were fishing. Sometimes the best fish is one of the smaller ones, it just depends on how you define best. This fish in particular was rather unusual both in where it was caught and how much prettier it was compared to the rest we were catching. The colors were amazing and more like something we'll see in late September. The best part about this fish was that neither of us actually saw it eat the fly at least not exactly. I just knew approximately where the fly was and saw the brilliant colors as the trout rolled on the surface. I yelled "Set!" and Jordan had good enough reflexes to get the hook set solidly on the fish. We had a good chuckle about that one.

Brilliantly colored brook trout from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Before we knew it the day was over, but not before Jordan gained a large arsenal of skills that will help him have success on just about any small stream he may encounter.

If you would like to book a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Caney Fork River, please contact me (David Knapp) via call/text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Time in the Woods at Cumberland Mountain State Park

Growing up in Crossville, Tennessee, trips to Cumberland Mountain State Park were frequent. We would often hike around the lake or even tackle some of the longer trails that the park offers. In fact, it was the very first place I ever went fishing at the age of maybe 5 or so. I've come a long ways in my career as a fisherman since the days of a red and white bobber and night crawlers but still enjoy heading over to Cumberland Mountain State Park to fish or even just to hike whenever I get the chance.

A couple of days ago, I made the short drive over and after rigging up a 4 weight, headed down the trail. These trips are not so much about fishing, but of course, as a good angler, I must carry a rod. On most trips, I make it a good distance down the trail before I start to slow down enough to notice my surroundings. This trip was no different. Trailside flowers eventually got my attention enough to stop and dig out the camera.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Moving on, I contemplated a favorite fishing spot, but seeing it grown up with weeds decided to skip it until colder weather when Mr. No Shoulders would hopefully not be around. Later, the trail dipped down close to the water and there were enough bass and panfish cruising to get me interested. A couple of fish as well as several rejections later, I moved on. Again, my camera was brought out. By this time I had slowed down enough to notice many things around me and enjoy them for what they are. Sadly, life moves along quickly enough that sometimes these small blessings go unnoticed. Time in the woods usually corrects that problem.

The hemlock and pine trees grow tall in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Along with a camera stop, I also observed the water enough to spot a good sized sunfish. Getting it to eat the fly was not difficult, and my camera was then employed in a quick shot of the nice redear sunfish.

Redear sunfish from Byrd Lake at Cumberland Mountain State Park

By now I had caught just about all of the fish I really wanted or needed to catch and my eye increasingly wandered across and through the forest. Where I had caught the fish looked just like a jungle although, to be fair and for full disclosure, I've never actually been to a jungle.

Far upper end of Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park


 The flowers are around all spring, summer, and fall if you know where to look.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Like all good times, this one had to end so I headed down the trail and back to my car. Living close to Cumberland Mountain State Park means I can go back again soon though.

Trail around Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Talk To Me About Yellowstone In September

So there is a chance, nothing definite mind you, that I will get to take a trip out to Yellowstone the last two weeks in September. Originally, I dreamed of a long trip covering the better part of three weeks or maybe even a month. Colorado, Wyoming, Yellowstone of course, Montana, maybe even the Green River in Utah, just me and the most wild places I could find, preferably places that were blessed with numbers of quality trout.

The more thought that I've given to this possible trip, the more I realize that I mostly want to just visit Yellowstone. I've never had the good fortune to fish it in the fall but have long wanted to. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I'm never always quite certain, there is nothing to take me to Colorado other than the fishing and those rivers will be there for a long time still. In Yellowstone, however, while my favorite stream will be there for a long time to come (unless the super volcano blows that is) the very thing that makes it my favorite Yellowstone National Park stream is in danger of being destroyed.

So far as I can tell, the Park has not yet implemented their ludicrous plan to remove the browns, brooks, and 'bows from the Gibbon River, but knowing how such things work, it is surely still in the works. While a good number of people seem to be in favor of the change, they clearly have little knowledge of both cutthroat and their habitat preferences (the meadows of the Gibbon get way too warm for cutts) and also very little knowledge of the gem of a stream that the Gibbon is as is. I'm okay with people not understanding this beautiful stream since it leaves the lunker browns for me and a few select others to hunt, hopefully in a few more weeks.

A trip across several states and nearly across the country just to fish one stream may sound a bit extreme, and that is where I was hoping for some advice. I'll spend an inordinate amount of time fishing the Gibbon but would like to do more while I'm in the area. I've already fished Yellowstone National Park several times so need more info on how various waters fish during the last two weeks in September than anything. Will the Firehole be back in play yet? How about the lake run fish out of Hebgen on the Madison, lower Gibbon, and lower Firehole? How does the Madison outside of the Park fish at that time of year? Northeast corner of the Park such as Slough, Soda Butte, and the Lamar? How about the Yellowstone in the Grand Canyon or the Black Canyon? Backpacking that time of year would be pretty sweet, but since I'll be solo I doubt I'll tempt the bears too much. Day trips are risky enough by myself I suppose. I've never fished the Gardner. Would it be worth hitting for runner browns in late September or would I need to be out there later in the fall?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. I prefer catching brown trout first, cutthroat second (I would be in Yellowstone after all), and any other trout are just nice bonuses. Since there seems to be a war on browns, and I know the cutts will be there in the future, I'm not as concerned with finding and catching cutthroat even though I'm sure I'll fish for them at least some. Finally, I fully recognize that fishing advice is rarely if ever best shared through the Interwebs for all to read. Feel free to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com if you prefer that to answering on here.

Thank you in advance for any and all advice!




Monday, August 17, 2015

Fishing Stays Steady but Conditions Are Improving

Over the last couple of weeks, I've spent time on both the Caney Fork tailwater and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fishing in the Park is anywhere from average to very good depending on where you are fishing. In fact, for those willing to put forth some effort to hike a ways, this time of year can produce some fantastic numbers of rainbow and brook trout on dry flies.

The roadside streams should be improving with the cool and cloudy weather this week. In fact, this weather is about the greatest thing we can get in the middle of August. Hopefully September will bring cooler temperatures and maybe even an early fall.

Last week, I had several trips. We had a good time on all trips but one had the added bonus of being on water that had brook trout. Here are a few shots from that trip with Charlie.

Brook Trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains
Prospecting a nice pocket with the dry/dropper rig.

Charlie with a nice rainbow trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Charlie with a nice rainbow trout.

Fall colors
Fall is coming!

Brook Trout from the Great Smoky Mountains
A Great Smoky Mountains brook trout.

A remote brook trout stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Remote brook trout water in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tomorrow it is back to work with a trip in the Park. Later in the week I have some days available as well as some time the following week. If you have been waiting for empty streams and willing trout, this is a great time to book a trip. Most of the summer vacationers are gone since school is back in session. If you want to have the water to yourself, this time of year is second only to the cold of winter for solitude if you go midweek.

If you would like to book a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Caney Fork River, please contact me (David Knapp) via call/text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Sunday, August 09, 2015

August 2015 Newsletter



Despite staying fairly busy, I finally found the time to finish the August 2015 Trout Zone Anglers Newsletter. Check it out, and even better pass it on to your friends. Thank you for reading.

If you wish to subscribe but have not yet done so, you can fill out the form below and you will be good to go. If you like what you see on the newsletter, then please sign up. I won't be using your email for any purpose other than for newsletters and occasional special guide trip offers and tips on great fishing when it is happening and will never sell your email to a third party.



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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Low Water

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Wading a likely looking run on the Caney Fork River.


Floating on low water is usually the preferred method for fly fishing the Caney Fork River. In addition to being much safer, the low water concentrates the fish and allows anglers opportunities to sight fish and also normally to catch good numbers. Last week, day two with Nathan and Frank was scheduled to be a low water float. We would have a hard time following up the big fish excitement of the previous day but hoped to find a few more trout. Then, in the afternoon, they had to take off, but I was going to do another section on high water again to see if the streamer bite was still on.

We met early and were soon at the river dumping the drift boat and getting the shuttle taken care of. With everything ready to go, we soon pushed off and were floating downstream. Early on, we experimented with some patterns and tried a few different spots. A couple of fish hit but came unbuttoned quickly and we moved on to look for more willing candidates.

Soon we were drifting over a favorite shoal that normally has a good number of trout. Sure enough, there were fish taking midges up and down the shallow gravel bar. I pulled the boat over and both Nathan and Frank jumped out to work the water more carefully. Caney Fork River fly fishing often entails sight fishing to steadily feeding trout and this day was no different.

I grabbed my camera to record the fun.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Frank working a good stretch right before hooking up with a feisty brown trout.

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork River
Nathan prepares to land a healthy rainbow trout caught on a midge pattern.

Frank had been wanting to find a fish willing to eat a dry fly. A friend of his had given him a handful of flies and he wanted to catch a fish on them and get a picture. That mission was soon accomplished.

Caney Fork brown trout on a dry fly
Caney Fork brown trout caught on a dry fly.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork brown trout
A happy angler with a Caney Fork brown trout.

After the excitement, we were back in the boat and floating again. Some more fish were missed and then the action slowed. It became apparent we were following another boat so we passed them and rowed well downstream to not encroach on their water. Our time was running low but there were still a couple of big moments during the float.

Nathan was the first to score. I had pointed to a spot and requested that the anglers drop their flies in a small section of moving water. Nathan used pinpoint accuracy to get the flies drifting exactly where they needed to be, threw a nice upstream mend, and then set the hook as the indicator dove under. Soon the healthy holdover rainbow trout was in the net and we took a couple of quick photographs.

Caney Fork rainbow trout
Caney Fork rainbow trout.

Downstream a bit further, we had our last big moment for the day and it was really the highpoint of the whole float. We were drifting down on another good spot, and I directed the anglers to place their flies right on the current seam. Almost immediately both indicators went down and the guys got good hooksets. Soon the net was filled with trout and we had two happy anglers on board the boat!

Two happy anglers with a Caney Fork brown trout and a rainbow trout
One rainbow trout, one brown trout, and two happy anglers!

Soon we arrived at the takeout and quickly hauled the boat out before the generation caught up with us. A good morning fly fishing the Caney Fork had been had by all. The guys had a long drive back to Georgia, and I needed a break to eat lunch and rest before the afternoon streamer float. More on that to come soon!

If I can help you with a guided fly fishing float trip on the Caney Fork River or a walk/wade trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams, please call or text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Change of Plans

Caney Fork River brown trout
Nathan's 16" Caney Fork brown trout. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

Life rarely turns out as we planned. Jobs come and go and so do friendships unfortunately. Family is a bit more of a constant although even then we have no guarantees unfortunately. Many surprising twists and turns have come along for me through the years, some of which have been great while others are best forgotten. Earlier this week, a rather unusual change of plans was forced upon me that I did not particularly like, at least not initially. I never dreamed that it would lead to a great Caney Fork brown trout.

This story, like most, needs some background information. My cousin Nathan, who is one of my oldest and best fishing buddies, had made plans to bring his father-in-law Frank up to fish the Caney Fork with me for a couple of days. The trip was all about relaxing and having fun. After last summer's fishing extravaganza that saw a fantastic Caney Fork brown trout caught on a hopper, Nathan was eager to get back out on the river. This time we wouldn't follow up the float with camping in the Smokies but would make the most of our time floating.

For day one, generation was scheduled to start early so we planned on a late day trip to catch the falling water. Originally, when we checked the generation forecast on Sunday, the plan was to run from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. That would be perfect to get out on the water and float down the river with just enough extra water in the river to keep us moving. We dumped the boat in around 2:30 p.m. to try and get downstream a bit before the water cut off and then leisurely drifted and messed around with some larger flies. By the time the generation was supposed to cut off, we were right where I wanted to be. The only problem was that the water just kept on coming.

We continued to float and I tried some streamers which brought one Caney Fork brown trout to the boat and showed me some much larger fish. A bit further downstream, I finally made the decision to head for a bank and anchor up. Surely they would cut off the water soon. A quick check of the generation schedule told us that the cutoff time was pushed back to 4:00 p.m. Okay, no problem, we could wait a bit. You guessed it, four o'clock came and went with the water still rushing downstream. Finally, I apologized to the guys and said that we really needed to keep moving unfortunately. Streamers were strung up on the 5 weight Orvis Helios we had brought for dry fly and nymph presentations and we started drifting.

At one point, we switched over to some nymphs and promptly caught a couple of trout but overall things were very slow. The forced change of plans was not looking particularly great and we were already anticipating the next day's trip on lower water. Finally, late in the float, I handed Nathan the streamer rod and instructed him on exactly where and how to fish it. That's when the madness started. Within just a short distance, he soon nailed two very nice trout on my PB&J streamer. The coolest thing about both is that he saw the streamer eats very clearly which is about as much fun as you can have with a fly rod. The 17 inch rainbow and 16 inch brown trout were Nathan's first ever streamer fish so you can imagine how happy he wa

Caney Fork rainbow trout
Nathan's 17 inch Caney Fork rainbow trout

Caney Fork brown trout
Nathan's 16 inch streamer eating Caney Fork brown trout

David Knapp's PB&J streamer
David Knapp's PB&J Streamer does a fantastic job of imitating a shad

After the second nice fish, a 16 inch brown trout, Nathan asked if I wanted to give it a shot. "Of course," was my answer. He had barely settled behind the oars when a large swirl appeared downstream and to our right. "Do you want me to row over there?" Again, I responded with "of course." On the very first cast, my fly had barely hit the water when a big chunk of golden brown was all over the fly and my 5 weight Helios was immediately being pushed harder than I had imagined would happen on this float.

Before the stress levels got too high on the boat, Nathan slipped the net under the big Caney Fork brown trout, and I let out an ecstatic whoop that probably could be heard all the way downstream to the Cumberland. The fish stretched to 21 inches on the tape on the side of the boat and is an early candidate for my personal "Fish of the Year 2015."

My big Caney Fork brown trout that ate a PB&J streamer
My big Caney Fork brown trout that ate a PB&J streamer. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

The fishing was so good, that I contacted my buddy David Perry about floating with me the next day after the morning low water trip with Nathan and Frank, but more on that next time. The change of plans ended up being the best thing that could have happened. This lesson is definitely more broadly applicable in life...

If I can help you with a guided Caney Fork float trip or a guided Smoky Mountain fly fishing trip, please contact me via call or text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com. I have some days open right now in the upcoming weeks so contact me soon about getting a chance at a big Caney Fork brown trout.


Releasing Nathan's fine Caney Fork brown trout
Releasing Nathan's fine Caney Fork brown trout. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Almost There

Are we there yet? If you've road tripped before you have either uttered these words or answered the query. In my case, as I mentioned a few weeks back, I'm getting antsy for autumn. Every time I see leaves with changing colors, I get a familiar surge of excitement.

Today, even with air temps in town pushing 90 degrees (shoot, even here at the house it got up to 84), there was something different. I'm sure the calendar turning the page helped at least on some vague psychological level, but the days are noticeably shorter. The sun is setting around 15 minutes earlier than the latest evenings in mid June but there are other indicators as well.

A dry frontal passage sometime this past Thursday ushered in slightly cooler temperatures, and much more importantly, at least in my book, drier air. In fact, one of the things that excites me about fall is the dry airs, crisp cool evenings, and yes, camping and fishing trips complete with cheerful campfires. And colored up trout.

It would be my favorite season even without the fishing, at least that is the story I'm sticking to. Fired up brookies and browns are hard to beat though. On some of my favorite drainages up in the Smokies, the fish are already starting to get that look and have been for the last 3-4 weeks. The signs will only grow stronger through this month and into September. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy sights like this that reminds me we are almost there.


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