Luck. Some of us have it and some of us don't. If you are like me, you will get a good run of luck, but the whole time you are dreading the inevitable turn of fortunes. A bad string of luck can involve losing giant fish, breaking fly rods, and even filling up your waders after an innocent slip on the rocks. Some people seem to have a knack for catching big fish, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they are seasoned pros or beginners.
Last week, I had a couple of people on the boat who said they were beginners. After a trip like we enjoyed it can be hard to believe something like that, but I'll take them at their word.
This was one of those trips that had been on the calendar for months. The goal was to help them learn how to successfully fish the Caney Fork River. As fairly new fly anglers, Jeff and Sandy wanted some instruction that they could then take and apply on their own to enjoy the sport of fly fishing. Upon booking the trip, we left the question of a wade or float trip to be decided later. As the trip drew closer, I received an email and discovered that the decision was to float. That was great with me since it meant I wouldn't have to walk around the river roasting in my waders in the 90+ degree heat we've been enjoying. Additionally, I prefer floating the river for guide trips as it allows us to access some spots that I know have big fish.
On the evening before the trip, after consulting the generation schedule, I contacted Jeff and Sandy to set up the meeting time and place. Then I hit the tying vise for a couple of hours of prep work. We would have plenty of the hot patterns for our trip.
We met the next day and were soon at the put-in ramp. Taking 20 minutes before the trip to go over the finer points of playing large trout was hot even though we found some shade, but it paid huge dividends before the day was over. After coaching first Sandy and then Jeff through the proper technique for fighting large fish on a fly rod (both were accomplished anglers using other tackle), we were ready to go. I dumped the boat and rowed out into the river before we anchored up to rig the rods. Soon both of them had the first fish of the day. These were monster brown trout in the 6-8 inch range. In other words, they were catching the future of the fishery but not the fish we had come to find.
I pulled the anchor and we were off. In the first section the fishing seemed a little slow, but Jeff was steadily catching some trout from the front of the boat. The largest early on was around 12 inches but most were smaller. Sandy, after her initial luck, had things slow down for a while.
By the time we were a good distance downstream, both anglers had settled into a routine. Cast, mend, drift...repeat. The water was just high enough from the generation to allow us to slide over a couple of gravel bars that are normally off limits. It was in one such place, as we approached a deep slot, that Jeff had a great drift interrupted by the indicator plunging down. As soon as he set the hook I knew it was serious. I instructed Sandy to get all of her line out of the water so we wouldn't have any distractions for Jeff to fight his Caney Fork trophy. Soon I was rowing up and down the river. Finally, the fish seemed like it was getting tired, and I dropped the anchor over a gravel bar and jumped out of the boat with the net. The big rainbow trout slid into the net and congratulations were passed around. Jeff had learned quickly and earned his picture with the beautiful fish.
Sandy got jealous when she saw how nice Jeff's big fish was. However, she would have to wait a little longer before her turn for a picture came around. A few hundred yards down the river, Jeff had a nearly repeat performance except that this fish was 19 inches instead of 22 inches. Either fish would be the catch of the day on most trips and Jeff had found two.
This brings up the importance of not only a good guide, but someone who knows the river. The 19 inch trout was in an area I've had my eye on. In fact, the other day during the epic bachelor party, we hooked a monster brown trout out of the same hole. If you want to catch some nice trout, a guided float trip is definitely the best way. If you are like me and enjoy learning on your own, then repeat trips down the river will, over many trips, teach you some of the tricks you will learn on a guide trip. A guided trip just shortens this learning curve.
By this time, Sandy made it clear that it was HER turn. Accordingly, I turned the boat so she had an equal shot at the fish since she was in the back. We were approaching another good spot that I like to hit and sure enough, her indicator dove and she was into a great brown trout. Again we had to row all over the river to chase this fish, but in the end it slid into the net just like the others and Sandy got her picture with a fantastic Caney Fork River brown trout.
Jeff followed up with a nice brown of his own before Sandy struck with a quality rainbow trout. Not long after these fish, it was time to start heading for the takeout ramp. Along the way, we stopped in one spot just long enough for them to get a nice double to end the day. Nothing better than a net full or brown and rainbow trout!
The Caney Fork River will continue to fish well on guided float trips. Weekends are NOT conducive to good fishing and I don't recommend float trips then. However, if you can get away during the week and have the right patterns, the right drift, and the right location, you too may catch a big Caney Fork River trout. I can't guarantee such incredible beginners' luck as Jeff and Sandy had, but we will always have fun and a day spent on the river is about the most fun you can have.
If you are interested in a guided float trip on this river, or a guided trip in the Smokies or anywhere else, don't hesitate to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.
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.