Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 8/13/2017

Fishing is good to excellent across the area. Caney Fork floats are happening either early or late, and in the Smokies we are fishing the high elevations to beat the heat.

Terrestrials are now a strong producer no matter where you fish. Beetle fishing has been good this summer. There are still fish ready to slam a beetle or hopper. In the mountains I prefer a beetle or ant while on the tailwaters I lean towards a hopper or beetle although ants work well there also. Hike in fishing on the brook trout streams is still good right now although flows are low enough that you need to focus on stealth.

On the Caney Fork, the great sight fishing opportunities of summer are in full gear. Daily midge fishing to big trout is a possibility. Night times can produce some exciting fishing on streamers or even mouse patterns. Just be careful out there when its dark. The river is unforgiving even in the daylight.

Smallmouth bass fishing has been good to great. Fish are looking up as usual for this time of year. When they don't want to hit flies on top, crawdad or baitfish patterns will work.

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Photo of the Month: Night Time Hog

Monday, September 12, 2016

Smallmouth Bass and Tenkara Adventures

One of the crazier fishing trips I've taken this summer happened just a short week or so ago. Now, I know I've already taken some crazy trips this summer. The thing about this trip is that it was not intended as a fishing trip, but like a good angler, I decided to carry a rod. One of my Tenkara rods seemed like a good idea.

This trip came together quickly at the last minute when my brother-in-law was visiting. We wanted to visit a local river system that has large sections that go dry in late summer. The upper Caney Fork River is somewhere I've never been in the summer to see it dry but have seen it flowing full in the cooler months. This would be one of those rare once in a lifetime trips, but we didn't really know that going into the trip.

That Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast that included breakfast burritos, we threw some food and water into our daypacks and hit the road for the drive to the trailhead. I was also carrying my good camera, a water filter, and some other odds and ends just in case of an emergency. The first mile or so of the trail led through a nice wooded section with a good clear trail. By the time we were getting to the two mile mark and beyond, the grass and weeds were taller than was ideal. Both of us started watching carefully for snakes while thinking nervously about ticks and chiggers.

Surprisingly, we didn't notice any of those critters until our first stop. I say surprisingly because it was such good habitat for all of those.

The first stop was at Screw Cliff Overlook of the river gorge that I had stopped to eat lunch when I last did this hike last winter. I was starting to think about food and definitely needed a water break after walking two and a half miles in the late summer heat. My pack slid to the ground and I quickly went to the edge of the overlook to check the rock overhang below for snakes.

Sure enough. My first thought was that they were copperheads, but I didn't linger long enough for a positive identification. Tim, my brother-in-law, came over and looked and decided quickly that they were something else. About the time he started thinking that they might be juvenile rattlesnakes, I noticed some previously unnoticed snakes laying in the grass a couple of feet from Tim's pack. Thankfully, we had already discussed how I would deal with bees and snakes respectively if we ran into problems, so when I told Tim "Don't move," he had a good inkling as to what was going on.

I moved back closer with my camera to get some pictures while Tim moved away from the snake den. The worrisome thing was that we didn't see mom. Apparently young timber rattlesnakes hang out with mom for a while so lurking somewhere nearby was a much larger snake. My guess is that the rock we were on was actually a snake den. It was obviously hollowed out underneath and there is no telling how many more were down there hiding.

Timber Rattlesnake Juveniles

By this time, we had both forgotten entirely about food. I did happen to take a few swallows of water, but then we were quickly on our way, hoping none of the small snakes had snuck into our packs when we weren't watching. Walking away, it occurred to me how the overlook got its name. Probably someone got bit by a snake here one time and announced to everyone, "I'm screwed," after which it was always called Screw Cliff. Of course, there are other possible explanations as well...

Moving on out, we were soon tromping through grass on the trail where it followed the tree line at the back of several large fields. A time or two, we could hear deer blowing and snorting a warning as the invaders passed, but otherwise there was nothing too exciting. The one exception was a butterfly that paused on top of a thistle flower just long enough for me to slip the phone out and take a picture.


Thankfully, we were back in the woods before long. The temperature seemed to drop several degrees just getting out of the sun. Our next goal was where a tributary called Clifty Creek hit the main river. Here I hoped to find some of the last water for several miles as you head downstream. We finally broke out of the woods and into the streambed. Sure enough, a trickle of water cascading over the rocks fell into a large pool that obviously harbored a good fish population. Casting about for snakes, we soon settled on a good lunch spot on top of a large flat rock where we could watch for danger approaching before it got too close. Those rattlesnakes were still on our minds but other troubles were brewing.

Pool on the Caney Fork at the Clifty Creek Junction

I had just sat down and started digging out food. Tim also sat down but was intently looking at his legs and ankles. I took a quick glance at mine before starting to eat. Finally, I turned to Tim and asked what he was up to. "Oh, I have a lot of ticks," was the reply. When I told him I didn't have any, he told me how small they were and showed me an example. That was when I got nervous. Sure enough, I had quite a few, but nothing compared to the well over 100 that Tim pulled off of his pants and ankles. They were everywhere, including walking up our arms. I hated to think about the chiggers that had also probably found me. After battling the ticks for a while, I was ready for some food.

I finished my meal about the time Tim was starting his and quickly threw together the Tenkara rod and added a hopper. The smallmouth bass were waiting practically at our feet, obviously hungry, and I knew it wouldn't take much. Sure enough, I quickly picked up a small fish. The exciting part was the larger fish trying to eat the little guy I had hooked!

Smallmouth Bass on the upper Caney Fork River

Letting the little guy go, I moved slowly down the pool. Soon another fish hit and this time some much larger fish tried to eat it! The pool was too low and calm, however, for this commotion to not bring about some caution in the rest of the smallmouth bass population. I tried some other flies, but the shadows were already growing and we had several miles to go.

Caney Fork River smallmouth bass on the fly

We packed everything, picked off a few more ticks, and hit the trail again. Somewhere along the way, we lost it and had to bushwhack along the side of the hill overlooking the river bottom. It was a dry and rocky streambed we saw. Further down, we finally made our way down to look at what will probably be a raging torrent in a couple of months. These Cumberland Plateau streams and rivers are waterways of extremes. From nothing to perhaps 10,000 cubic feet per second or more in the wet winter months, these streams feature hardy fish populations that are primarily smallmouth bass but sometimes even muskie show up on these streams. They do for sure in the lower reaches off of the Plateau...



The rest of our hike was more or less non-eventful other than the brutal climb back out of the gorge. I was glad to get a hike in though as the cooler months are hiking season for me. Before long I'll be prowling the trails of the Cumberland Plateau and Great Smoky Mountains again, enjoying both the hike and maybe even some fishing...

Monday, September 05, 2016

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Alexander

One of the most epic days I've had the privilege of enjoying on the water happened earlier this summer when my buddy Jayson was about to get married. Another friend and fellow groomsman, Pat  Tully, along with myself and Jayson took a day to float the Caney Fork River to celebrate his upcoming wedding. The day turned out better than I could have imagined with the groom-to-be catching two 20"+ fish, and Pat and I caught some great fish as well.

Fast forward a little and you will find me looking forward to hosting Jayson and his bride Hailey on the drifter again for another trip down the Caney Fork River. When discussing the trip, Jayson made it clear that he wanted Hailey to catch a big fish. True to his word, upon arriving at the river to start our float, he quickly jumped in the back of the boat and Hailey was in the front casting brace ready to hunt some large trout.

The water cut off right on schedule which was a pleasant change. Lately the Corps has been inconsistent with the water shutoff time. That can make for some frustrated waiting at the beginning of a float trip. Thankfully we weren't waiting at all on this day. Both rods were already rigged and ready so after parking the truck, I was back down to the water and settled in at the rower's bench in no time at all. I handed Hailey and Jayson their respective rods and we pushed off into the current. Before long, we were bringing some nice trout to the net including an early double. We had to take a picture of the double for the newlyweds. I think they were having fun!


Moving on down the river, both Jayson and Hailey were casting right where I told them and getting some great drifts. The wind was up a little which meant that both anglers and the guy rowing had to work a little harder, but the fish didn't seem to mind. If anything, I think they were feeding even better than normal.

Moving on down the river, we were approaching a spot where I had recently spotted a large brown trout. Directing both of them to get their drifts started early, I moved the oars at the right time and the boat was perfectly positioned as it came over the shoal. Suddenly, Hailey's strike indicator shot under and the battle was joined. I was already going crazy with the possibility that we had found the big brown trout. The big flash when the fished rocketed towards the surface told us that, instead of the big brown, she had found one of the great rainbow trout that are in the river right now.

The fish was hot and for a while it was touch and go if we would land it on the #20 fly and 6x tippet. Hailey did everything perfectly though and before long got her picture taken with the big trout she had come to the Caney Fork River to catch.


We made another pass over the shoal but then kept on moving down the river. As we were drifting, we started to notice a roaring sound down the river. Lately the river has been inundated with various power boats and this jet boat was no exception. A lot of these guys are polite, but several have been roaring by with no thought for the large waves they throw as well as the discord in an otherwise quiet day. Thankfully, these will not be on the river for ever. A certain element within our sport seems to show up only shortly prior to and during the spawn. I would rather catch my big fish under normal conditions but a few people seem to only show up when fish are at their most vulnerable. If you are interested in catching these fish under fair conditions, consider a float in my drift boat as I know where these fish are as well as what they are feeding on year round. If you must fish for spawners, please respect the fish and keep them in the water. Above all, do not keep any trout caught during the spawning season.

With the shoal we had been going to catch our next big fish on shot by the jet boat that took a couple of passes over it, we had to adjust our plans a little. It was getting late so I decided to do lunch and give the water a little time to rest. Loud motors have a way of spooking the better fish in the river.

We enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches, chips, and my famous Greek pasta salad. Jayson was extra excited about the chocolate chip cookies to chase everything down with, and I discovered that it was his favorite sweet. I was glad that he was happy and content because Hailey was well on her way to owning the day from a fishing perspective. Jayson was still catching fish, but Hailey was finding all of the quality fish.

After lunch, we pulled back out in the current and started drifting again. Almost immediately Hailey tied into a really great fish. I chased the fish up and down the river and she did everything correctly. Before long, we had a really nice brown trout in the net. Meanwhile, Jayson was in the back of the boat still working on catching the little guys.


We continued to enjoy our float, with the jet boat passing us at least twice, throwing a big wake and not slowing appreciably either time. Both times we continued catching fish but not the big guys. Those fish were well under cover by this time.


Late in the float, I offered Jayson the chance to enjoy a treat. The dry/dropper fishing with midges has been phenomenal in one particular stretch and I handed him the four weight ready to do business with those trout. Late in the day without the pressure of wanting Hailey to catch large trout since she had already cleaned up from the front of the boat, Jayson put on a clinic. He caught several really nice fish until it was determined that the hour was late and we needed to leave.



Thanks again for an enjoyable day Jayson and Hailey, and I hope it is the first of many fun times for you in the drifter together!

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