Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 7/9/2017

Fishing is good to excellent across the area. Recent rains have kept flows up in the Smokies, although it has also dumped too much water into the Caney Fork system.

Terrestrials are really coming on strong now. Ants and inchworms continue to get it done, and beetle fishing is very good now. Backcountry trips are excellent now and probably are the best way to enjoy a day of fishing during the hot months. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout are all available to those willing to walk.

The Caney Fork River continues to fish anywhere from average to good on high water streamer floats. Anyone who wants to target trout with streamers will find this to be exciting fishing. Stripers are now a distinct possibility as well. High water will stick around for at least a couple of weeks it appears due to the recent rains.

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! See the recent blog post for more on that!

The calendar is full until the last week of July. If you want to get in on a guided trip, contact me soon as I've had to turn away a lot of trips from people who waited too long to book.


Photo of the Month: Pig Brown on the Caney

Photo of the Month: Pig Brown on the Caney

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fly Fishing Stream Etiquette in the Great Smoky Mountains

Do you ever fall into the trap of assuming that the average person is smarter than they really are? I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but today I had an encounter that removed all doubt unfortunately. Fly fishing stream etiquette in the Great Smoky Mountains seems straightforward, but today I learned that apparently it is not or else there are some very rude people in the world (quite likely that both of those are true).

My two clients were fishing a favorite roadside stretch on Little River. So far as I saw, we were the only ones fishing in several miles of good water. We were literally still on the first hole catching the first trout of the day when a guy came walking down the bank rigged up with his fly rod and dressed to look like he knew what he was doing. 

Seriously, if you dress like a model for an Orvis catalogue, you better know what you are doing, at least in terms of stream etiquette. My optimistic side still wants to think that this guy was just clueless, but I'm also really losing faith in humanity so at this point I'll say it is a tossup. Either way, jumping directly in front of us and starting to fish upstream was beyond rude. If it was just me, I would ignore you and go find other water, but jumping in front of people who just paid a lot of money to fish with a guide for the day is unreal.

Oh yeah, that hand gesture, the lifting of my arms and hands in the universal what in the world gesture, the one that you returned? That meant get the h3!! out of the stream, and I was being polite about it.

Luckily for both of us, I decided it wasn't worth a confrontation and used it as an opportunity to teach my clients some fly fishing stream etiquette. We headed upstream and caught a lot of nice trout. Driving up river, we noticed his buddy a bit further upstream. I'm still not sure if they were really that clueless or just dumb. I took some pictures of their vehicle with the original intent of posting it widely online until I could figure out who it was. After a bit of time to cool off along with experiencing the joy brought by watching my clients catch some beautiful trout, I realize there is no need to throw someone under the bus. Well maybe there is good reason, but I'm not going to stoop to that level. Instead, I'm using this as motivation to, hopefully briefly and succinctly, summarize fly fishing stream etiquette in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fly fishing stream etiquette in the Great Smoky Mountains can vary a bit from stream to stream. The general rule of thumb is that, on larger roadside water like Little River, you should at minimum stay out of sight of other anglers but don't use that rule to cheat if the stream makes some tight turns. A fourth of a mile of water at minimum should be left for whoever is fishing below you and sometimes more if pressure is light. In other words, if you only see one other angler on the whole river, leave him a mile or better of water.

On small streams, stream etiquette is even more important. My rule of thumb is give other anglers at least a half mile of water. More is always better and preferred when possible. If pressure is light, bump that up to at least a mile. I can easily fish a mile or more of water in a day and nothing is more frustrating than having someone jump in a short distance above you when they know you are fishing up.

Of course, some situations may vary. For example, this morning, the guy walked by on the bank and asked how we were doing. I probably should have told him at that point that we were fishing the section of water upstream. My assumption that he would understand stream etiquette was clearly off base and some friendly education might have helped everyone involved. When possible, stop and ask how far someone is planning on fishing. For example, I've had conversations that go something like this: 

"Hey! Great day to be out fishing isn't it?" 

"You bet!" 

"I was planning on getting in upstream a ways but wanted to know how far you were going to fish?"

"Well, my plan was to fish up to the next bridge and end there for the day." 

"Okay, I'll go another 1/4 mile upstream from that bridge just in case you feel like going a bit further."

"Thanks, I really appreciate that."

"No problem. Have a great day and catch a bunch!" 

"You too! Just so you know I've been wearing them out on a Fire Tiger Cactus Fly."

"Thanks for the tip. I have a couple of those in my box and will give them a try."

Exchanges like this actually really help to improve the overall mood of the day, much the opposite of our encounter this morning. When in doubt, always check with other anglers about their plans if they were the first ones on the water or trail. I'm a fast hiker and often overtake other anglers hiking upstream. When I do, I generally point out that they were there ahead of me and ask where they wanted to fish so I leave that water for them. It is usually much appreciated and sometimes you even make new friends in the process.

The strangest thing about this whole thing is that I had an issue with stream etiquette last week as well and by a guide no less. I should also add that it is not any guide I know personally or whose websites I link to on this blog so you can draw your own conclusions. The "guide" had a giant Thingamabobber tied on so I really pitied them and their client. And, to be fair, they didn't jump right in front of us although they looked at us and then walked down to the stream and acted like they were going to. At minimum they spooked some fish at our next hole. In the end, they walked on upstream a bit although if we hadn't of been about to break for lunch it wouldn't have been far enough. The thing about these situations that amazes me is why someone would want to jump in front of another angler when there are hundreds of miles of untouched water available for you to choose from.

So, next time you head for the Smokies, remember your proper fly fishing stream etiquette for a freestone mountain stream is NOT the same as it might be for a large tailwater and give other anglers a wide berth.

Monday, September 14, 2015

High Fish Concentrations

Little River rainbow trout in the Great Smoky Mountains

While most people are bemoaning the low flows in the Great Smoky Mountains, I'm enjoying some of the best fishing I can remember in a while. To be clear, I did not say catching, but if you enjoy stalking trout and sight casting, this is as good a time as any. Fall is my favorite time of year as I have often said on this blog. Low water is at least a contributing factor in that for me.

You see, the mostly unmentioned benefit of low water is that it helps to concentrate the fish. Whereas in the spring the fish are spread throughout the entire river, there are now only a few places for them to hide. Finding those places, approaching them without being seen, and getting a good cast on the trout can be challenging, but who isn't up for a good challenge?

Times like this is where you push your skills to the utmost, either becoming a better angler for it or quitting until conditions get better or using whatever other excuse you can to avoid the poor conditions. Fishing and the quality thereof varies, like most things in life, in the eye of the beholder.

Not too long ago, I had purchased a Rio Euro Nymph line with the eventual goal of purchasing a longer fly rod (say 10'-11'). Just the other day I finally put it on a reel and had to try it out before leaving for Yellowstone. After finishing with the Little River Outfitters Day 2 Beginner Fly Fishing School, I headed back to the Park and soon found a convenient pull off.

Feeling pressed for time with the sun quickly descending in the western sky, I had the rod rigged in record time. With low water, I wasn't sure what to expect from the fishing. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Fish were still hungry and willing to eat my nymphs. Overall, I really liked the new line but did find that it had a learning curve. After fishing weight forward lines exclusively for a long time, it was a LOT different throwing the lightweight Euro nymph line. It offers some great benefits though and in the long run will be well worth the investment. More on that in a later post once I've spent more time getting to know the line.

Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The fish seemed willing to eat my Isonychia soft hackle although I didn't catch large numbers of trout. Slow and steady seemed to be the rule. Lots of nymphal shucks were to be found on the rocks along with Golden stoneflies. Yellow quills or some other yellow mayfly made an appearance as well as some tiny Blue-winged Olives. With cooler temperatures, we should continue to see more hatches moving into the fall. A little water wouldn't hurt, but the fish are still there and hungry as always. The main benefit of this low water is that we should have some extra good dry fly possibilities this fall.

Little River rainbow trout

Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For now, this will be one of my last fishing reports for a while. I'll hopefully roll a couple more out, but I'm leaving for Yellowstone National Park this Thursday and will be gone until early October. I'm booked until mid October but have some availability starting October 14, 2015. If you have been wanting to book a guided fly fishing trip this fall, don't wait too long as the calendar is filling very quickly. Both float trips on the Caney Fork River and walk/wade trips in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be fantastic this fall. Call/text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com to book today.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Black Mountain

Today was drawing to a close before inspiration struck, and I decided to head for Black Mountain. Many happy hours have been spent here wandering through the woods with a camera. On occasion I've also been known to take rock shoes and a crash pad to do some bouldering but not on this day. Here are a few of my favorites from today's trip taking a short hike on Black Mountain.

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Here Comes Fall

Fall colors in Tennessee


Just like that, summer is over. Earlier this week, I saw a graph of the streamflow on Little River that went back several years. I noticed that, basically every year, we end up with the lowest water of the year in September. That is normal. Thankfully it looks like we are just about out of the woods.

Some rain fell across the Park yesterday and more should fall both today through Saturday. Amounts are not overly impressive, at least not yet. As low as the streams were getting though anything will help. Best of all we will see highs in the 60s and 70s and lows down well into the 50s for this next week. An early cool snap to kick off the fall season will get both fish and fishermen in the mood for the great fishing coming up over the next two months.

In the meantime, after guide trips through next Wednesday, I'm off for the land of Yellowstone. I have always dreamed of a trip taken in the autumn, and while I would love to stay all the way to the closing weekend for fishing in early November, I'll instead be heading back to Tennessee to take people fishing through our own fantastic fall fishing season. Don't worry, I'll be getting out to fish for myself a lot as well.

If you haven't booked your guide trip for fall, don't wait too much longer. Prime dates are filling fast and I'm booked solid until October 14. Call/text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com to book. The fishing should be good through at least the end of October and quite possibly well into November depending on how soon we get the first major cold snap.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

September Trout Zone Anglers Newsletter

Fall in the Smokies


If you have not received yours via email (or forgot to open it up), never fear. You can click here to see the most recent Trout Zone Anglers newsletter. There is an article with some photography tips that you won't see anywhere else, at least not right now. In the future I may tweak it some and publish it here. You can get an idea for how I go about taking pictures and hopefully gain something useful to improve your photography skills. Also, there is information on fall hatches in the Smokies as well as tailwater fishing across middle and east Tennessee with an emphasis on the Caney Fork River.

Haven't signed up for the newsletter yet? You can do so below to make sure you don't miss out on any great content, tips, or secret fishing spots!


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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

First Time Streamer Fishing

Fly fishing for trout with streamers is definitely an intermediate technique at minimum and perhaps even could be considered as advanced. One of the joys of owning a drift boat is being able to introduce people to good streamer technique. When everything comes together, and they catch that first trout on a streamer, the smiles rival catching that first trout ever. Last week I had an open day and called my buddy Tyler to see if he wanted to fish. Rarely do I have to ask him twice, and we made plans on when and where to meet.

The next day, we dumped the boat and immediately anchored up for a snack. I had a full morning of errands behind me and needed some fuel to row down under the 5,000 plus CFS that were coming through the sluice gate and generator. This proved to be a good opportunity to give Tyler the verbal crash course on what we were trying to accomplish.

Before long, I pulled the anchor and we were under way. Tyler was hitting the banks and current seams like a pro and before long the follows and flashes were coming. In fact, I soon saw perhaps the largest trout I've ever seen on the Caney flash on his streamer. I glanced up and his eyes were as big as saucers, and I was back rowing like mad to try and give another shot. On this day, it was not meant to be. The big fish never showed itself again, but I guarantee that I will be back to look for that big slab of buttery brown.

Once we switched for a short distance so I could throw a few casts myself. Tyler is slowly learning to do a good job at rowing. Eventually I'll have him trained in to row me down there river the whole way.  On this day, the student would out-fish the teacher. Before long, I switched back to the oars and this time I could tell that Tyler was dialed in. The streamer was landing within a foot of the bank and he was swimming the fly like a pro.

We were entering another big fish zone where I had recently seen a large brown. Directing Tyler to cast to specific spots soon brought results. A nice fish slammed the streamer and Tyler was happy and nervous all at once. Anyone who has had a nice fish on the line knows the stress that comes at such times. Handling it like a pro, he soon had the fish in the net and posed for a couple of pictures. Like other recent quality fish, this one ate a PB&J streamer. Congrats Tyler!

Caney Fork River brown trout

Caney Fork River brown trout head shot

After watching the fish swim off strongly, we continued downstream. I fished a bit more, but other than some small stockers chasing and one nice fish that missed the hook, I could tell it just wasn't my day. Tyler went back to the front casting brace and before long had his second brown on a streamer. Not bad for his first time ever streamer fishing.

Another Caney Fork River brown trout on a streamer

Soon the ramp slid into view and before we knew it the boat was loaded. The air conditioning felt great after the hot sun on the river. Funny how catching nice fish made us forget the heat until we got to the end of the float.


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