Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 6/19/2017

Fishing is good to excellent across the area. The Caney Fork River continues to shine on both high and low water. In the Smokies, frequent rainfall have kept water in the streams so the fish are healthy and ready to eat!

Terrestrials are really coming on strong now. Ants and inchworms continue to get it done, and beetle fishing should be rapidly improving over the next two weeks. Isonychia mayfly nymphs are providing good fishing subsurface along with Golden and Little Yellow Stonefly nymphs. There is still a good variety of mayflies hatching in the higher elevations. Brook trout fishing is about as good as it gets now for those willing to walk. Even fishing roadside is good for now and will continue that way as long as we keep getting rain.

The Caney Fork River continues to fish anywhere from average to good 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. Midge hatches have been incredible on low or falling water and the fish are feeding. We have the right flies to catch the fish so book a guided trip now!

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!


Photo of the Month: Shad Eating Rainbow

Photo of the Month: Shad Eating Rainbow

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Best Fishing Trip

Some fishing trips are about catching fish, some are about scenery, but all fishing trips are good. My favorite trips are the ones that I get to enjoy with friends or family. Recently, I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Leah, a wonderful young lady who enjoys many of the same outdoor passions as I do (there might even be a correlation here about my lack of blog posts... :) ). The only thing we hadn't done yet was to go fishing. The good news is that she wasn't anti-fishing and in fact was a little bit excited about trying it out.

Fast forward to last week. Leah had some vacation time that she needed to use or lose. We decided to take my parents up to see Roan Mountain State Park. My mom has always wanted to go see the flame azalea and rhododendron blooming up there and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. After talking with Leah, I also packed some fishing equipment.

The flowers were just about perfect or even a little past their prime but still beautiful. We enjoyed a picnic and some hiking before my parents had to head back home a little earlier than we did.

View on Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain rhododendron`


The stream in Roan Mountain State Park was calling so we headed back down the hill. The Doe is a beautiful stream that is legendary for big brown trout. Those big fish are rumored to hang out in the Doe River Gorge for the most part. The section in the state park is smaller water where larger browns are certainly possible but not likely. Smaller brown trout as well as rainbow and brook trout call this water home.

We waited out a thunderstorm before suiting up and getting in the stream to fish. Leah picked up the casting required rather quickly. She also mastered the hook set. With these two keys to success in place, we were ready to catch fish!

The first fish of the day didn't take long. It was a mighty chub, not the hoped for trout. Still, it was the first fish on the fly rod for Leah so we took some pictures! Doesn't she look great in waders?

Leah's first fly rod catch

A bit further up the stream was a tricky section with overhanging trees requiring a longer cast so I took a few casts myself. A pretty brown trout nailed the dry fly and we took more pictures. By this time, thunder was starting to get close again so we decided to move to another spot where we could fish close to the car.

Nice brown trout on the Doe River

After moving upstream, I found a spot where we could get to the water easily. The weather was still decent although it appeared we were on borrowed time. A small plunge with an undercut boulder seemed like a good spot to try. Leah made a good cast and we saw a large shadow swirl. I got excited but the fish refused to come back out. A fly change seemed appropriate and with the rain that just happened, a green weenie seemed right.

After tying on the fly, I told Leah to try that same spot again. That big shadow of a fish was probably a hungry brown trout, and I hoped that we could hook it.

Sure enough, the dry fly dove and Leah set hard into a feisty brown trout. The fish surged hard downstream before changing directions and heading upstream in an attempt to burrow under the boulder. I quickly waded out with my net ready and pushed the tippet off of the rock so she could get a good angle again with the rod tip. Soon the fish came to the surface and I dipped the net under a hefty brown trout. Unbelievably, Leah's first trout on a fly rod was a big brown trout, my favorite! The next best part of the day was when she was interested in going fishing again the next day for day two of her vacation, but I'll save that for another post... Needless to say, I think I found a good one!

Roan Mountain State Park Doe River brown trout

Leah's first trout on the fly rod is a beautiful brown trout

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guides Guiding Guides

There are guide trips, and then there are guides guiding guides. Of course, it is possible for there to be some crossover between the two. Let me be clear from the start by saying that there was no money exchanging hands on this particular trip, just three friends getting together to have a good time.

The day began the week before when David Perry contacted me about getting out to fish streamers together on Sunday. When I told him that my calendar was clear, it was time to find a third person to join us. We talked about some possibilities and soon settled on another great Caney Fork River guide, Susan Thrasher. Amazingly, her calendar was also open and things were quickly finalized to meet Sunday morning. With the time change happening that Saturday night, we didn't start too early and targeted 9:00 AM as a good time to meet up.

Morning came too early with the time change, and I was glad we hadn't started any earlier. David Perry had brought his boat. It didn't take long to throw the necessary items into his truck and ride up to the dam. I stayed with the boat to get everything ready while he and Susan ran the shuttle. Before long they were back. Comfortably settled in at the rower's bench, I told them to jump in, and we were off for a few laps around the dam pool.

Fish started to come with some regularity and soon it was time to trade off on the rowing job. We ended up each taking a lap around the dam pool before starting off down the river. Both strikes and fish were coming with enough frequency that you had to stay on your toes. This was going to be one of those good days.

I had some experiments to try out. I've been working on deep water nymphing techniques for one and two generators. On several previous trips I had the one generator routine dialed in, but wanted to try some things for two generators. The ribbing from my guide friends started in earnest when I pulled out a pack of balloons. In the end, the amount of weight I was trying to float ended up being more of a hassle than it was worth, and I quickly ditched the balloon idea. Unfortunately, I didn't quit before Susan snapped a picture to preserve the evidence. To be fair, before my experiments came to an end, everyone wanted to try the lucky flies so it wasn't a complete failure. They just didn't want to fish them under a balloon!

Photo Courtesy of Susan Thrasher ©2017

Early in the float, David P. had the hot hand with plenty of fish coming to the net. Susan started to catch up and then we got into a pod of fish that was producing almost every cast. By the time we started down the river, everyone was on the board. The hunt continued and we tried some different techniques out. The key to any of the techniques was depth (isn't it always?), and when the depth and speed was correct the fish would respond.

White was a clear favorite as far as fly colors go. The fish are responding to shad imitations such as my PB&J even when there aren't any obvious signs of a shad kill which leads me to believe they have been coming through at times. A few weeks back, on a guided float, we saw some come down the river and the fish were going nuts for them. All of this bodes well for the fishing this upcoming year! Fish are healthy and growing well this winter and early spring.

The highlight of the day came shortly after I nailed a nice rainbow trout. We were having a conversation about how nice it was to fish with other guides. As much as we all love guiding, it is also nice to occasionally spend time on the water without being responsible for putting someone else on fish. Sharing ideas together allows each of us to become better anglers and guides.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Thrasher ©2017

About that time, David P. was back on the rower's bench and I was in the front of the boat. As we came into a nice bend in the river, I stuck a good brown off the right side and was followed shortly after with Susan putting a deep bend in her rod. David P. was left to ask which of us wanted our fish netted first. Both fish came to the net about the same time so we pulled over for the always enjoyable "Double" picture. Susan's was a gorgeous rainbow trout while mine was a buttery brown trout. David P. did the honors taking pictures for us and soon both fish were released to swim and be caught again another day.

Photo by David Perry ©2017 and provided courtesy of Susan Thrasher

There were more fish to be caught and still some distance left to float. As the shadows started to lengthen, we got the crazy idea to do it all again. Well, sort of. Things slowed down and we started thinking about the dam pool again. There were and are plenty of fish up there and we decided to run up there and make a few more laps. Accordingly, we hustled down to the takeout, loaded the boat, and were soon back up at the dam.

The final fish were caught and we were all starting to think about work the next day. All good things must come to an end or so it seems most of the time. This was no different. We loaded the boat and put up gear. Soon we were saying our goodbyes and promising to do another trip like this one as soon as possible. Thanks again David P. and Susan!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Finding Motivation


For someone who loves to fish, finding motivation is not normally a difficult task. This has been anything but a normal spring, though. In fact, while the weather outside says it is spring, we are still waiting for the calendar to catch up. I have been busy with some graduate coursework in Outdoor Education which means that my fishing time has suffered. Last week was busy with guide trips and so I intended to use a free day or two this week to catch up on school work.

My plans began to change on Monday. The predicted rain was no longer predicted, or at least not in the intensity and volume of earlier predictions. My morning responsibilities were cancelled, and then my buddy Pat Tully sent a text Monday afternoon that provided the last jolt of motivation. The message simply read, "Hey are you fishing the Park tomorrow I'm getting off work at 1030."

After yet another weather forecast consultation that went a little deeper than the usual glance at the reports, I made the decision to go for it. My excitement was quickly growing. The way things are shaping up, I may not have too many opportunities to fish a hatch this spring. I was hoping that everything would work out for bugs and rising trout.

The next morning, I woke up naturally at a ridiculously early hour and was immediately wide awake. Funny how hard it is to get up normally except when fishing is involved. Thankfully that extends to guiding which means that I've found the one career I can actually get up early to go to work for. I grabbed my gear, threw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and was soon on the road. Just enough time was available to stop at Little River Outfitters and pick up some streamer hooks.

My next stop was the famed Wye. Thankfully the swimmers and sunbathers were not out yet. Give it another month or two if you want to catch that hatch. I rigged up a streamer rod and wandered up and down the river searching for a big brown. Before long, Pat showed up and I decided to get more serious about things. Rigging a nymph rod and a dry fly rod, I was prepared for any eventuality.

We talked things over and agreed that mayflies and rising trout were at the top of the agenda for the day. With a plan in place, we headed up river to find the bugs and hopefully risers. We didn't have to look very hard.


The very first pool I wanted to look at had rising trout. Upon closer inspection we saw that the trout were rising to a bounty of Blue Quills that were drifting down before flying off. Despite my initial confidence, the trout were smarter than either of us. I missed one fish and between the two of us, the rest of the fish spooked or otherwise disappeared. Neither of us was too concerned since we had a lot of good pools still to explore.

Pat chose the next spot and it proved a good one with more bugs and rising trout. I had the first shot in our first pool so it was Pat's turn to take the first cast at the second stop. He snuck into position and started figuring out what turned out to be a tricky drift. Lots of mending and several casts later, he got the fly in front of a fish and had the first trout of the day hooked.


The excitement put down the rest of the trout. We wanted to check some other spots still, so instead of waiting for the fish to come back up, the decision was made to move on again. The next spot turned out to be the jackpot.

As we drove slowly by, Pat announced that trout were definitely rising. I quickly eased the car into a nearby pulloff and we grabbed our gear. Soon I was sneaking into position and started casting. With so many risers, I wanted to cast everywhere at once. Knowing better, I tried to cast at specific fish and soon that strategy paid off. My first trout was of the brown variety, and I was a happy angler.

We took turns for the next hour, catching trout after trout. The fish weren't really picky as long as you were throwing a small dark mayfly that roughly imitated the Blue Quills that were hatching steadily. The trout didn't seem as locked in on the occasional Quill Gordon for whatever reason, but we didn't care. Rising trout are only frustrating when you cannot figure out what to feed them. Happy to have rising trout feeding with abandon, I was having as much fun as you can have with a fly rod.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Tully 





Eventually, the weather turned nasty. We fished in the rain for a while and caught some nice fish. Hunger won when the hatch started to peter out and the fish were mostly done rising.

After an extended lunch break, we hit it again as the rain started to become more spotty. I started carrying both the dry fly rod and the streamer rod. A few more fish would fall for the dry fly, but the last highlight of the day belonged to the streamer rod.

I recently purchased an Orvis Recon 9' 6 weight with a sink tip line for streamer fishing. You can never have too many streamer rods. Anyway, I wanted to catch a fish on this new rod for myself Clients had already caught a few, so clearly the rod had some good mojo, but I wanted to catch one as well. Tied to the end of a short stout leader was an olive sculpin pattern that I like.

We were about done with the day when I decided to throw into one last pool. I had to climb down the large rock wall that lined the stream, and my back casts went over the road above. When Pat warned me of an approaching car, I quickly quit casting and my fly fell 15 feet in front of me. As I hurried to gain control by stripping line in, a hungry brown rocketed off the bottom and hammered the fly as it swam past. Laughing as I netted the fish, I knew when to accept a gift trout. The day was done. I was happy with one last fish and glad I had allowed myself to take a day off to fish.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Tully

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On a Roll

One of my favorite things about winter is time off from work. Not that I mind guiding, of course, but it is nice to get a little fishing in for myself on occasion. Lately I've been privileged to spend more time on the water than I deserve including trips on tailwaters like the Caney Fork and South Holston as well as fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The best thing about this streak of fishing trips is that they have all been successful. Now, success can be a difficult thing to understand. Defining success becomes even harder when multiple anglers all have their input, so let me explain my idea of success when I'm the one holding the fly rod. Success is, first and foremost, spending time out in nature. Catching a fish would be nice as well. After all, I'm out fishing for more than just the scenery. That said, I don't need huge numbers these days. I don't really even need big fish although those are always nice. Secretly, most anglers hope for big fish so they can wow their friends with stories of their fishing prowess. I don't know about wowing others, but I will say once again that big fish are nice to see.

The thing about big fish, though, is that they get kind of stressful. When you have a big fish on the end of the line, all of your nerves and muscles bunch up. In the end, it can take days to unwind from a particularly hefty specimen. Needless to say, catching too many wall hangers could take its toll.

The absolute best fish to catch are those that are larger than normal, but not so large as to cause you to completely lose your mind. Larger than normal because, let's admit, they look good in the picture if you are into that sort of thing. I take pictures to help me remember the fish later. I'm starting to realize that my good memory may not last forever, but hopefully those pictures will help jog my memories if it comes to that.

Over the last two or three weeks, I've been blessed to catch four of those memorable fish. On each fishing trip, only a handful of fish were caught. On at least one, I know for sure that the memorable fish was the only fish. Somehow that helps those memories become a little clearer. The hazy memories usually come from the days where I quit counting how many 18+ inch fish I caught oddly enough.

Anyway, so as I was saying, I've been on a bit of a roll lately, and I'll gladly take it. Any serious angler knows that luck can turn suddenly, so it is usually wise to ride a winning streak hard. The first good fish came from up in the Smokies, the next two from a couple of tailwaters, and the last one was back in the Smokies again. Let me tell you about that last one.

It happened this past Thursday. A weather system had moved through Wednesday night into Thursday morning dropping snow in the higher elevations. The morning after the storm was cloudy, and I hoped it would stay that way. Fishing for brown trout is always tough, but clouds do give an angler an edge even if it is a flimsy one at best. My usual early morning responsibilities evaporated and I was suddenly free to head for the mountains earlier than I anticipated.

I was not too far down Interstate 40 when I noticed the breaks in the clouds to my east; definitely not a good sign for chasing brown trout. The openings in the clouds became more defined as I got closer to Knoxville, but mercifully started to fill back in by the time I was passing the Knoxville airport.

My intended short stop at Little River Outfitters stretched longer than I wanted but that was my own fault. They have set up a tying table to tie flies for worthy causes. When Daniel told me I could tie the first fly, it was an opportunity I could not pass up. I quickly cranked out a bead head Pheasant Tail nymph, something I'll probably do each time I visit now. This is definitely a fun idea so check it out when you are in the shop next time!

Finally, after grabbing some white tying thread (there is a hint there about my streamers, but of course not about where that color is being fished), I finally said my good byes and headed into the Park. It was a cold blustery day. The white on the hills above town told me that snow had fallen in the higher elevations and probably still was in places. The clouds were just thick enough to give me some motivation, but the cold day was giving me second thoughts. Just getting out to see the mountains was enjoyable enough. Of course, I wouldn't be writing this story if I just drove around looking at the water. By now it should be obvious that I did indeed go fishing.

My streamer rod was still rigged up from my last tailwater float. While that combo probably would have worked, I decided to change flies. At the last second, inspiration struck and I tied on a sculpin pattern to the short leader at the end of my full sinking line. That is always a good idea if brown trout are around as long as the water you are fishing also contains sculpins. The second run I fished produced two really good hard tugs, but neither fish found the hook apparently. The first hit was particularly gratifying as I watched the fish come flying out of calm water to chase the streamer.

Moving slowly down the river, I fished another couple of runs without any hits. One of those was a particularly good spot where I had caught my first fish of 2017. When it didn't produce, I decided to go looking elsewhere. Still more or less uninspired as to where I wanted to fish, I decided to just explore. That is almost always a recipe for success in my experience.

Early in my exploration I found quite a few fish. In fact, I had more brown trout chasing streamers than I can recall on just about any other fishing trip. Still, the fish either wouldn't commit or couldn't find the hook. Both problems left me searching for that one fish. There is probably a good metaphor there as well, but I don't feel like unpacking it tonight.

Finally, I remembered where I caught the nice fish that had started this whole string of good luck a couple of weeks back. The beauty of catch and release is the chance to go and see if old friends are home so that is what I did.

Remember exactly where the last fish had come from helped a lot. I worked my way into the run very cautiously, knowing that it is far too easy to blow a nice fish. A couple of drive by flashes from smaller fish got me excited. When I finally threw to that one spot, I strongly suspected I would be seeing that nice golden flash again. Sure enough, the brown charged, swirled once, then twice before knocking the streamer silly. It was all I could do to not pull the fly out with a massive hook set. Instead, I started twitching the fly like I imagined a disoriented sculpin would be doing. Miraculously, it worked. Seriously.

When it all comes together, and I should point out that this is not the norm, I'm left wondering: why can't I get myself together and do everything right all the other times? When a nice fish is in the net however, I leave the wondering until after taking pictures and generally admiring the fish. They deserve my respect which looks like a very fast picture and quick release. The fish posed beautifully and then I was left to wonder about why everything worked this time. Somehow I couldn't quite make sense of everything, but was left to realize that I'm definitely on a roll and better enjoy it while it lasts. A streak like this won't last forever. In fact, the clouds broke just after catching this fish and the streamer bite went dead in a hurry. For now, I'll be watching the forecast waiting for another cloudy day.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fly Tying Demo at Little River Outfitters

If you are in the area this weekend, I will be tying at Little River Outfitters on this Sunday (January 29, 2017) from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. If you have time, stop by and say hello. I'm planning on tying tailwater midge patterns and also some nymphs that should be good both on tailwaters and in the mountains. If there is time, I may do a few terrestrials as well. I'll be discussing fishing on the tailwaters and sharing some of my tips and stories for success. If anyone wants to talk fishing in the mountains, I may do that as well. If you have any particular patterns you would like to see, please let me know by responding here or emailing me with your request.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Win a Guided Float Trip

If you have been wanting to take a guided float trip with me, here is the perfect opportunity. Trout Zone Anglers has partnered with Guide Turbo to offer a float trip on the Caney Fork River. Guide Turbo is running the contest through their Facebook page so you have to go there to learn the rules and enter. Just click the link above and scroll down until you see the "Win a Guide Trip" giveaway post!

Friday, January 06, 2017

New Year, New Fish

My goal for 2017 from a fishing perspective is to get out on the water a lot more. With 180 days on the water for 2016, that is a lofty goal. That is especially true because, as much as I love fishing, there are other things I truly enjoy that call for dedicated time as well. Things like hiking, climbing, and photography all compete to take up my time. So, with big goals for 2017, I knew I had to get an early jump. After fishing for the first four days of the new year, I would say I'm off to a good start.

The highlight of the young year happened no more than five minutes into my fishing for the year. I'm not sure whether that is a good sign or a bad one. Occurrences like that have been known to throw one's luck either way, so only time will tell if it is a good omen. The story of my first fish of 2017 actually goes back a ways.

There is a New Years Day gathering that I had been hoping to attend for a while. It is not an official group putting on the event, but that is probably part of the charm. Bigsur had been doing this for the last four years and the plan was bigger and better than ever for year five. While my plan involved a lot of fishing and less socializing, I still wanted to drop in on what is really a terrific event.

I made it up to the meeting place at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area right about the time that all the preparations were completed. Food was ready and the crowd was ready for fun and fellowship. I saw a lot of friends that I've made over the years. Still, the plan was to fish, and by the time my buddy Jayson showed up, I was throwing on waders and rigging rods.

One thing I had noticed while prowling around the gathering was a fancy award plaque made by the famous Duckypaddler. Imagining how it would look above my tying desk, I started dreaming of big brown trout on the end of my line.

As I was rigging up, I put together a normal nymphing setup on my five weight Orvis Helios rod and was debating what to do with the seven weight. I noticed some random tin boxes and decided to see what goodies they were holding. My smallmouth bass flies of course! A Tequeely jumped right out and asserted itself so I tied it on the streamer rod and was ready to go.

Down on the stream, I intended to fish one particular hole before driving further up river to search for more fish. I made a cast or two in the back of the hole before hurrying up to the head. My goal was a serious of textbook perfect ambush points on the far bank. In other words, I was hitting prime brown trout water. I wish I could say I was a genius who knew that these trout love Tequeely flies, or that I knew that this brown trout was sitting right behind the bedrock ledge, but in all honesty, I just got lucky. I waded in, slapped a few casts across the river, bounced the fly around a little, and a big brown blur hammered the fly.

On the seven weight rod with 2x fluorocarbon tippet, the fight wasn't much, but I was just as glad to get that fish in the net in a hurry. Nice brown trout don't come along every day in the Smokies, and I'm not sure my nerves would have been happy fighting the fish for an extended amount of time.



I quickly setup my cellphone for a self timer picture by leaning it against the base of a tree on the bank. The fish calmly finned in my big Brodin Coho Ghost Net in between the two shots I took to make certain of a good picture. Then I took one or two in my hand in the water and it was already time to say good bye. A new year and a new fish had only taken five or ten minutes. Either I used up a TON of dumb luck way too early in the year, or I was simply meant to wear the famous Herb's Welding Shop Hat. That link includes pictures of this famous trophy by the way among other things...

I got even more suspicious about the implications for my luck after I only caught one other fish the entire rest of the day, but perhaps I'm too suspicious. The good news is that I fished again in the Smokies on Tuesday and caught some trout, so clearly there is still some good luck left. In fact, if one can believe Bigsur, winning this award guarantees all kinds of good luck in the new year. I hope he is right because a fisherman can always use a little more good luck!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

2016 Guide Trip Highlights

As I am trying to keep this blog mainly about my own personal fishing excursions, please check out Trout Zone Anglers and the blog there for the Year in Review posts on guided fly fishing trips. Specifically, here is the Smoky Mountain guide trips in review. The tailwaters were fishing very well this past year. The Caney Fork was about as good as it gets last year, or at least it was if you were a regular on the river and knew the tricks. Here are the 2016 tailwater trips in review featuring more big trout than anyone deserves to see in one year. It was a glorious year indeed!


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I hope each of you has a great 2017 that includes plenty of time on the water. I'm excited to see what the year has in store. Thank you to everyone who has supported my fly fishing endeavors by reading this blog, taking a guide trip with me, or otherwise encouraging me along the way. I hope to meet many more of you in this new year!

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