I've been very busy this summer with lots of guide trips. Naturally that is a good thing, or at least that is what my bank account would say. The only downside so far as I can tell is that I haven't done much of the kind of fishing where I'm the one holding the rod. It would be fair to say I have been fishing a lot, just not in the traditional sense, and I was ready for a day of throwing the fly rod.
When my friend Bill Bolinger from Little River Outfitters had to cancel our fishing trip together at the last second, I almost decided to just wade fish for the day instead. After considering my options, I decided to check with some other friends and eventually found someone who was able to go. Don Hazel heads up the Fly Fishing Club here locally at Fairfield Glade. After having an epic experience on a guide trip with me the week before, I knew he was already dialed in and ready to catch some fish.
He came prepared with all the correct flies and his rod was rigged and ready to go so we quickly dumped the boat in the river, ran the shuttle, and started floating. It did not take long to start seeing a few fish flash on the streamers we started with, but something unusual happened. The generators were scheduled to shut off at 11:00 AM but we passed right by the cutoff point with no reduction in flows. Realizing that something was up, I headed for a calm backwater behind an island to anchor the boat for a while. We relaxed and took our time messing with the streamers until the water took on that glassy appearance that signals the end of generation. That was our cue to pull the anchor up and start drifting.
Moving down the river, we took our time getting dialed in with the right depth, but the patterns were the same ones that I've been having success on all summer. Follow me on Instagram (troutzoneanglers) to see more of these big fish that we've been catching. Aren't on Instagram? You can also find me on Facebook to see some of those pictures of big fish. Sorry but I don't post pictures of the flies that are working. If you really want a look inside my fly box, stop and say hi on the river or take a guided trip with me. If it helps any, I will say that fish have been caught on dry flies, nymphs, midges, and streamers lately (as in within the last week). Hopefully that will help narrow it down for you...
Anyway, back to my day on the water, Don was the first to strike with a nice rainbow trout and from then on, we were catching fish one after another on down the river. There was only one other drift boat out on the river along with 5-10 kayaks but that was it. Boat traffic has slowed down with the beginning of school and that is a good thing. The river is still very busy on weekends. If you are going to fish it right now, please release all of your quality trout. The river is seeing a LOT of pressure right now and it only takes a few people keeping those big trout before the fishing quality goes seriously down hill. The number of people not abiding by the regulations never ceases to amaze me. If you witness anyone keeping fish in the slot (catch and release on rainbows and brook trout from 14"-20" and only one brown trout may be kept a day with a 24" minimum length requirement), please call the TWRA Poaching hotline (https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/poaching-hotlines) and please notice that the Caney is partially in both regions two and three.
As Don and I continued down the river catching fish here and there, we began to wonder if we would find any of the good fish that have been regularly showing up on every float. I had a good idea where to look but for the first couple of miles, those larger fish proved to be elusive. Eventually that would change however.
We were drifting through one long pool that sometimes has produced nice fish for me (don't they all?) and were fishing both sides of the boat. Don's indicator dove and I glanced over to see what was going on. When I looked back, my indicator seemed to have disappeared as well so I set the hook just in case. Turns out that was the right move. I immediately felt resistance and we were into a nice double.
I scooped his fish into the net with one hand while playing my trout with the other. Handing off the net, I told him to keep his fish wet and continued to battle the nice trout on the end of my own line. Eventually, my fish tired and came to the net. Talk about a great double! Two gorgeous brown trout in the net at one time and they were quality fish to boot.
|Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel|
We took some pictures and then calmed down enough to keep moving on down the river. Eventually we even started fishing again!
|Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel|
The day drifted slowly by in about the same way. Fish were caught here and there and eventually we were nearing the time to call it quits. I wanted one more fish and turned to a rod rigged with a dry fly and dropper midge to accomplish that goal. Sure enough, along a calm edge with scattered risers, I found a willing brown trout that took the midge very softly. The ensuing fight was anything but soft though as the strong brown trout ran all over the river. Before long, another great fish was in the net, and I had my picture taken with yet another beautiful trout.
|Photo Courtesy of Don Hazel|
Not to be outdone, Don pulled a really nice rainbow trout out just as we started pulling up to the takeout. The fish were still feeding and I was not entirely excited about leaving feeding trout, but I knew that morning and another guide trip would come early. More flies needed to be tied, especially after finding success on a new pattern I've been working on. The small number of samples I tied wouldn't necessarily last through a guide trip the next day.
As it turns out, our trip was just the warm-up to a truly amazing day, but that is a story for another time...