UPDATE: 9/12/2016 Smokies Fly Fishing Report -- Current Hatches: Isonychias (aka Slate Drake or Mahogany Dun), Mahogany Duns (Paraleptophlebia), Little Yellow Stoneflies, Golden Stoneflies, Tan and Cinnamon Caddis, inch worms, beetles, and ants. Some cooler weather has been helping conditions in the Smokies. Nighttime lows are falling enough to keep the lower elevations close to fishable. Probably give them another week though and then it will be game on. Fish are eating fairly well. Yesterday's Little River Outfitters Day 2 School was successful with all of my students catching fish even with the low water conditions.
Caney Fork Fly Fishing Report: Our floats continue to churn out some really nice trout. See some of the recent blog entries below for more on that. I have some availability if you are looking for a guided trip so contact me about a float or wade trip if you want to enjoy this fishing at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.
Clinch River Fishing Report: Flows are mostly up so heavy deep nymphing or streamer fishing will be the way to go during periods of generation. Look for fish eating terrestrials along the banks and especially in areas of soft water. On low water, think midges and long fine leaders. Dark seems to be the color although both dark and silver beads are working on the midges. I recommend strike indicators with hooks in them on low water. Last week I caught my best fish on a #14 Yellow Stimulator that was serving as my strike indicator.
Holston River: Give this river a break on the trout sections until next winter. Water temperatures on most of the trout water are elevated and fishing now will stress these beautiful fish.
Cumberland Plateau Fishing Report: Smallmouth bass fishing is good but the water is low. We have another week or two of warmer temperatures before the final turn towards cooler weather begins. Both topwater bugs and subsurface offerings are getting it done. Before we know it, the cooler weather of fall will have us chasing muskie again as well!
Friday, March 04, 2016
Using the Extra Day
Starting a new personal challenge can be difficult, especially if you virtually quit before starting. Back in January, I announced my goal to catch a brook trout each month of the year. Then I proceeded to quit fishing for several weeks or at least something close to that.
My trip to California probably had something to do with that, but also there were extenuating circumstances. Here on the Cumberland Plateau, high water dominated through February. In the Smokies, frequent bouts of cold weather gave the trout a severe case of lock jaw. Not that I'm opposed to fishing in tough conditions, mind you, but I had gotten a little soft. Beyond that, I spent much more time hiking here close to home than I normally do. Hiking and exploring just for the joy of getting outside is a great way to stay in shape for the upcoming fishing season. Unfortunately it doesn't help me catch fish.
And so I woke up one morning and noticed the calendar barreling towards March at an alarming rate. My brook trout challenge was about to die, almost before starting. Thankfully, Fate had already intervened ahead of time by designating this as a leap year. When I saw that extra day on the calendar for February, I knew it meant I had to get out and catch a brook trout. That is how I found myself headed towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this past Monday. The goal was to catch brook trout on Monday and then look for spring hatches on Tuesday.
Responsibilities closer to home kept my in Crossville until 11:00 a.m. or so, but then I was heading towards the mountains. A new 2016 fishing license was in hand (yes, it is that time again). My usual quick stop by Little River Outfitters was nearly skipped because of the late hour and the fact that my brook trout challenge was facing failure. In the end, I decided to stop by to say hello to the guys working there. This quick stop helped me to relax a bit and not take the brook trout challenge too seriously, important stuff when you only have a handful of hours left to keep the streak alive. Fishing relaxed will always turn out better than fishing stressed.
Driving up the mountain, I intended to fish road side. Smokemont was the destination for the night's camping, and I knew where a few brookies were on my way there. Normally I'll head up high before starting, but on this day I didn't go quite as far as normal. Last December, on a guide trip, I had an angler miss what I was certain was a colorful brook trout from a plunge pool with a big back eddy. That fish was the one I was hoping for.
Before I knew it I had my waders on and looked at the rods I had brought with me. Which one to use? The tube containing my Orvis Superfine Glass rod (7'6" 4 weight) jumped out at me so I put it together and attached a Hydros reel loaded with 4 weight line. To this I added a black Elk Hair Caddis on the end of a 5x leader in size #16 and dropped a small bead head nymph off the bend of the dry fly hook using 6x tippet. With my fishing pack in tow along with a camera, I finally had everything together and headed to my spot. The sun was still on the water. This time of year that is generally a good thing.
I warmed up by fishing a couple of pools below the place I had pinned my hopes on. By the time I slid into position just across from the back eddy, my casts were going approximately where they should, and I felt as confident as one could when fishing against the clock. Two drifts around the back eddy resulted in absolutely nothing, but then the fish helped me by betraying its presence. Rising to some minuscule hatch just behind the large boulder that created the safe haven, it didn't eat fast enough to avoid detection. A glimpse of bright orange fins told me this was indeed the fish I was looking for. My next cast was perfect, about 10 inches above the fish. It turned and followed. I saw its mouth open and close and knew it had taken the dropper. All that was left was to not screw up and lose this pretty brook trout. Mission accomplished.
After enjoying the elation of keeping my streak intact, I went looking for a few more trout before heading over the ridge to camp. Over the next hour, I was surprised by another six or seven trout, about 50/50 rainbow to brook trout. My surprise was not because of the beautiful and unseasonably warm day, but because the water was frigid like snow melt. Turns out it was snow melt, but the fish were still ready to eat after a cold winter. Some of them even ate dry flies!
Most of the fish involved some form of spotting before catching and most were spotted because I saw them rise first. Spring is definitely coming, but as the afternoon wore on it was hard to remember that. The temperature started dropping as cold air came down from the snowpack just above, and I decided to head on to camp with enough daylight to fish some in the lower elevations.
Using the extra day helped keep my short brook trout streak alive. Going into the warm months should help extend the streak now. I have two of the toughest months out of the way and improving conditions ahead.