Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 10/17/2017

Fishing is excellent in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park now. We have had a couple of shots of rain the last week and a half which has helped keep the streams flowing strong for this time of year. The cool overnight temperatures will get the brown and brook trout seriously thinking about spawning. Please be careful this time of year and avoid walking on fine sand and gravel in riffles and tailouts. Leave the spawning trout alone so they can do their thing. When you find brook or brown trout that aren't spawning, they are aggressive and looking to feed. Recent guide trips on brook trout waters have been anywhere from good to excellent. Streams with rainbows and browns have been excellent as well. There are good numbers of fish to be caught in the Park right now!

A variety of bugs have been hatching lately. On cloudy days, Blue-winged Olives have hatched along with some other small mayflies. Various caddis, including the Great Autumn Brown Sedges (often referred to as October Caddis by locals) are hatching and provide a nice bite for the trout. Little Black stoneflies are hatching as well. Fish are eating both dry fly and nymph imitations and even still hitting some terrestrials. Don't forget your beetle, ant, and inchworm fly box. A Parachute Adams or Yellow or Orange Stimulator should work well for a dry fly. Smaller bead head Pheasant Tail nymphs should work as a dropper. Caddis pupa are also catching a lot of fish as are stonefly nymphs.

On the Caney Fork, things have been tough lately. The river has been running warmer than is normal this time of year because of heavy generation earlier this year and also with a stain due to the sluice gate operations. Work has been underway to install vented turbines on the generators and they have been working to try and tweak them to improve dissolved oxygen. One day, we were floating and they were checking the DO and found it at 1.5 ppm. If I remember correctly, the minimum target is 6 ppm. Obviously 1.5 is way too low. Trout were sitting along the banks and in back eddies gasping for oxygen. Hopefully all of this won't have too much of a long term effect on the fishery, but needless to say, things are a bit difficult as of right now. Cooler weather should help. Once the lake turns over, oxygen and clarity will improve quickly.

The Clinch River has been fishing well if you can hit it on low water days. Small nymphs and midges will get the job done here.

Smallmouth bass are about done for the year, but we will be back out on the musky streams again soon looking for the toothy critters. This is tough fishing, but the rewards can be sizable.

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Saturday, October 29, 2016

New Big Fish of the Year

So far this year, I have seen numerous 20"+ fish come to the net on guided float and wade trips. Lots of happy smiling anglers have had their pictures taken with that fish of a lifetime or at least their fish of the year. The Double of the Year will probably not be surpassed, but the brown trout caught then has now been surpassed as guide trip fish of the year.

The story goes back a little while when my aunt contacted me about gifting her coworker with a guided float trip. We discussed the details and set up a trip for Sherian who used to fly fish a lot and has not had the time for the last few years. Eventually the day of the trip came around and Sherian and I had a great float down the river. She hooked two big rainbows and landed one of them along with all of the other usual fish between 10 and 17 inches. We finished the day discussions a possible return the following week. Thankfully I still had the following Wednesday free on the calendar and more plans were made.

Fast forward a week and she was back for another afternoon on the river. That morning, before heading out, inspiration struck, and a new pattern came out of the vise. I was wondering how it would fish. Turns out it was quite a fly. Fished tandem with a Zebra Midge, the better trout were showing a preference for the new pattern while the small to medium sized fish wanted the usual midge.

We were drifting the better sections looking for big trout. Lately the big fish have been coming higher up in the float, but when we didn't hit the jackpot early, we kept looking. Finally we were approaching a section where I've seen two big rainbows lately. I directed Sherian to cast to the left of the boat and set up her drift. Sure enough, right as the flies hit the drop-off at the back of the shoal the indicator shot under. When she set the hook I knew we had a good one.

I got the anchor down quickly while the boat was still in semi-shallow water. Then I grabbed the net and jumped overboard to make sure we got the fish in the net. Turns out the semi-shallow water was close to waist deep and shockingly refreshing for someone wearing sandals instead of waders. The effort was worth it though. When the big rainbow trout hit the net, my first estimate of 20" had to be revised upward. When the fish hit the tape, it was 23" almost on the nose and the largest fish caught on a guide trip this year so far. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing whether the angler or guide was happier, but the consensus was definitely that we were all thrilled with such a great fish.


Having an angler in the front of the boat who could cast with great accuracy certainly helped nail this trout, but I've had even first time anglers break 20" this year on float trips. This has truly been a year to remember and it looks like that will continue for the foreseeable future.

The good news for everyone else? There are still two months left in the year and as well as the fishing has been, there is still time to get your guided float trip lined up. I have some openings throughout November and December so contact me to get your spot on the boat guaranteed before it is too late. Who knows, you may even get the new largest "Big Fish of the Year."

Oh, and that new fly? I'm going to have to come up with a name for it now...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Solo Mission

Despite having the boat for going on three years, I had never been on a solo journey until last week. For me, floating is as much a good time with friends as it is a fishing trip, so I had not dealt with the hassle of unloading and loading a boat by myself yet. Finally, with the river fishing so well, that moment arrived when I could not find any friends to float at the last minute, and I was faced with either floating solo or not going. Solo it was...

Everything was already rigged and ready to go from the previous day's guide trip which had been epic enough to motivate me to float on my own. I was about to continue a current trend I've been experiencing: banner days with clients and slow days on my own.

To be fair, I usually experiment at least half of the time when I'm fishing on my own. After all, that is how I dial in new patterns and continue the endless innovation required to keep putting people on big tailwater trout. There is no substitute for testing flies on real live trout. In other words, I have to go fishing so I can be successful at my job. I know, life is tough.

This trip began smoothly and before long I was cruising down the river, being tossed to and fro with the strong winds. That wasn't in the bargain. The weather reports lately have been terribly optimistic when it comes to wind. A standard forecast has been "partly cloudy with calm winds." When it claims  that winds will be light up to 5 miles per hour, I know I'll be fighting the wind all day long. Either forecast usually results in variable winds with gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Go figure. Variable meaning they vary in intensity and direction. The winds come from all points of the compass. So, fishing by myself was possible if the calm winds forecasted materialized. As it turned out, I had to anchor up to fish some parts of the river. There was simply no way to track straight without constantly working the oars which made it difficult to also work the fly rod.

Thankfully, in some sections the wind would magically die down for anywhere from 30 seconds to sometimes 15 or 20 minutes. Those were the easy times, were my drifts were perfect and long, and the indicator dipped just often enough to keep me interested.

One section gets hit by every boat coming down the river, so I realized I needed to fish it differently. That meant choosing a line that was not the same as other boats. This was one of the calm sections so I could managed to fish effectively without fighting the boat. A long drift was in the process of becoming longer when the indicator shot down. The fight literally took me all over the river, and I almost lost the fish due to some submerged structure, but eventually a beautiful holdover rainbow graced my net. I was all set up to take pictures quickly without stressing the fish and tried it out for the first time on this fish. Turned out well I think!


The float would continue about the same. Lots of wind, a few fish, lots of relaxation. Late in the day, I hit a shoal that has been fishing well and anchored up for some of the best action of the trip. Back to back to back to...well, you get the point. Several casts in a row produced fish, and although none were large, I was happy to enjoy these beautiful rainbow and brown trout. This was the first truly good consistent action of the day so I probably stayed out longer than I should have.


I never did find any of the big fish I was hoping to catch. That is the funny thing. I've had a lot of great days lately with clients still catching several big fish, but more often than not I'm only catching normal fish whatever that means. The big brown trout have eluded me since that bruiser back in August. I've been having a great time though regardless of whether I've been catching big trout. My clients have and that is the important part. I enjoy watching others catch big fish at least as much as I enjoy catching them myself. Want to see some of these big fish? Check out my Instagram and Facebook Accounts (search for Trout Zone Anglers).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Don't Touch the Fly Rod

When I started guiding, I was under no illusion that my life would now consist of fishing all of the time. There is a common misconception that guides get paid to go fishing. While that is true in a sense, they are not the one holding the rod. Fishing through another person is an even greater challenge than just doing it yourself, but one thing seems to be consistent with fly fishing guides: they don't fish while with paying customers on a guided trip.

Some people are surprised when we begin a trip and I only rig up a rod for them. Of course the temptation to fish is strong, particularly when they announce that they "don't mind" if I fish, however I try to stay strong. The rare occasions I pick up a fly rod are to try and demonstrate something, or occasionally if we are on a lunch or water break.

Earlier this summer, I was reminded why I don't fish with clients during a water break high up Little River above Elkmont. We had been fishing hard and catching a few here and there, but not as many as I knew we should be. When we stopped for a quick break for water and a "trip to the woods," I grabbed the rod (my own rod we were using) and tossed it into a nearby pocket. I quickly hooked and landed the largest brown of the day at around 11 inches and was thoroughly reminded why I don't fish with customers along.

Fast forward to last week, and I am out on the boat with my friend Gary on a guide trip. Gary is a very good fisherman and is always a joy to have on the boat. He can cast efficiently and generally catches plenty of fish and also provides good conversation. We were having a good day already with a nice rainbow already landed in addition to the smaller usual fish.


Nearing lunch time, I was about ready to pull for the shade near shore but since we were drifting towards some good structure, decided to let things go a little longer. Sure enough, the indicator shot down and the battle was on. Gary did a great job fighting this big trout and before long, we were admiring a big brown trout in its finest fall colors that just happened to be Gary's largest brown ever. Feeling good about how the day was going, we moved into the shade and enjoyed lunch.



After lunch, we started drifting again and quickly picked up a couple of trout and that is how the day would continue. Drift a little to find good structure and moving water, toss out the flies, catch a few fish. By the time we approached the main point in time that this story is about, it was getting late and we only had an hour or so left.

I had pulled in close to shore and dropped anchor. Just below the boat and over a shoal some fish were rising steadily and at least one looked like a good fish. I watched Gary cast a while and realized that a good pile cast would allow the extra drift needed to get an eat by one of those fish. Offering to show him the cast, I grabbed the rod (again, my rod we were using) and made a couple of casts while talking about the benefits and technicalities of the cast. On the third cast, I pulled the line out of the water hard for one more cast towards the middle of the river to demonstrate one last point but ran into what felt like a concrete anchor on the bottom of the river. Somehow, even though I was not "fishing" or watching my flies, a fish had taken the midge and was determined to keep it.

Going through the whole fight routine, I just kept thinking to myself, why did I ever pick up the fly rod? This soon was followed by telling myself just don't touch the fly rod anymore on guided trips. Seriously, how do you catch a big trout without even trying? If it hadn't of been for leaving flies in the poor trout's mouth I probably would have just broken the fish off at that point. The rest of the trip down the river, Gary didn't forget to rib me about my catch, and I know it is definitely one I will not live down.


So, for those of you who have fished with guides, do you appreciate having a guide demonstrate (not truly fish, just demonstrate) techniques or prefer to leave that for non-fishing times? Perhaps I should carry a rod strung up without any flies or maybe a dry fly with the hook point cut off. I still need to figure this thing out because I believe there are times that a demonstration is the best way to teach, but I can't keep catching fish that should have been the customer's even if it is all accidental.

The rest of our trip was successful despite the much-deserved teasing I was getting from Gary. We found a brook trout to complete his first ever slam or Caney Fork Hat Trick as I like to call it. The day ended with an amazing sunset.




If you are interested in a guided trip, feel free to call/text me at (931) 261-1884 or check out my guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, for more information.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Perfect Day in Solitude

This summer has been a bit of an anomaly for me for several reasons. You may have noticed that I've been light on the blogging for several months now. The problem is one of inspiration or the lack thereof. As a fly fishing guide, I help a lot of people catch fish but have not been fishing as much for myself. When I started guiding, the one thing I wanted to avoid was to turn this into strictly a fishing report for my guide trips. Yes, a few trips have been featured on here, and to be quite honest, I've been excited about so many of them that a lot could make their way on here, but I'm not blogging to drum up business (as easy as that might be as well as the Caney Fork has been fishing). If you want to see my exploits on the guide front, check out my Trout Zone Anglers Instagram or Facebook accounts and you will find lots of pictures of happy anglers holding big trout.

All of this guiding has been good, but I've not spent as much time on the water for myself, and on the occasions that I do find myself out fishing, I just haven't taken many fish pictures save for a few occasional beasts that just begged for a photo. When I get to the bottom of the problem, it really just comes down to pure laziness on my part along with the shortage of suitable blog post stories and material. So, when I headed for the river this past Thursday afternoon for 2-3 hours of fishing, I was excited to be getting away on my own.

The conditions were unusual compared to what was normal over the summer. Cool and cloudy weather made spotting fish a little tough, but I was happy to not be roasting on the stream for a change. The clouds were even threatening a little rain but more on that later.

I was intent on fishing with a dry fly but considered that hanging a midge underneath would probably be a good idea. The 9' 4 weight Sage Accel seemed appropriate for the task, and I was soon rigged and ready. Days on the water are as much time for research and development as they are times for pure fishing fun. Such is the life of a guide and one I wouldn't want to trade with anyone. For this particular day, the midge of choice was a new color combination on an old classic, the Zebra Midge. The previous day had seen a 20" holdover rainbow fall to this new color scheme on a guided float trip, so I was looking to see if that had been a fluke or if I was on to something good.

Once I got in the water, I had to rub my eyes to see if I was dreaming: there were no other anglers and no boats passing by. In other words, I had the river to myself. That wouldn't last long, but the four boats that went by hardly constituted a crowd, and three were rowed by friends of mine. Seeing friends on the river is about as pleasant an interaction as one will find anywhere and thus these encounters enhanced an already good day. In between getting distracted, I was catching trout. Lots and lots of trout. There are times when I think that cloudy days are very difficult on the Caney Fork, but this was definitely not one of them. Fish after fish fell for my midge pattern. The true monsters eluded me on this trip, but every fish I caught was healthy and sporting some of the best colors you will find on a trout anywhere.

Brown trout caught on a midge on the Caney Fork River

I put a couple of the fish in the net so I could get some pictures without risking harm to the trout. The colors were so vivid that, with each successive fish, I thought that perhaps I had just caught the prettiest trout of the year. Eventually I realized the utter futility of comparing one fish with another. Each trout is a blessing to be treasured and enjoyed for a brief moment of connection before releasing them back to grow some more.

Closeup of a Caney Fork River rainbow trout

A couple of times I turned around and eventually noticed the clouds lowering and growing darker. Shortly after taking this picture, I thought that perhaps it might be a good idea to head back to the car and prepare for rain.

Rainstorm approaching on the Caney Fork River

On my way up, I looked around again and realized that I wasn't alone after all. I had a great blue heron for company on this day.

Caney Fork River blue heron

Back near the car, I raced the last few yards as the rain began in earnest. Thankfully my raincoat was easy to grab out of the trunk as I debated whether to continue my day or just call it now. The thought of fired up brown trout won out, and I grabbed a 5 weight and quickly rigged up for streamer fishing.

Heading back down to the river, I wondered whether I was crazy but never stopped moving long enough to get serious about it. On literally my first cast, a fish blew up on the streamer, so I knew the possibilities were there.

Working slowly downstream, I covered water carefully. Eventually I had gone about as far as I wanted to go and was ready to reel in and move back up when I had the thought to take one more cast. Sure enough, a fired up brown pounded the fly. Somehow this good day really was able to get better. Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy fishing streamers and this really was the perfect end to a perfect day. By this point I had some renewed enthusiasm, so I carefully fished the streamer back upstream and caught one or two more fish before reaching my path out.

Some days just happen to work out perfectly, but those are rare indeed. My definition involves more solitude and fewer trout than most anglers, but then I've come to realize that catching is only a small part of the equation for me at this point. Finding solitude on such a popular and amazing river is rare indeed. Most likely the next time I find solitude will be in the dead of winter when I'm the only idiot crazy enough to be out fishing. And out fishing you will find me, looking for yet another perfect day in solitude.

The drive home included an unexpected surprise as the sun peaked through the only hole in the clouds. I swung to the side of the road just east of Center Hill Dam for one last picture to remember my day by...

Caney Fork River sunset


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