Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 10/17/2018

Fishing continues to be good to excellent in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee. Delayed harvest streams are also being stocked and fishing well in east Tennessee and western North Carolina.

In the Smokies, fall bugs are in full swing. We have been seeing blue-winged olives almost daily although they will hatch best on foul weather days. They are small, typically running anywhere from #20-#24 although a few larger ones have also shown up. A few Yellow Quills are still hanging on in the mid to high elevation brook trout water although not for long. October caddis (more properly, great autumn sedges) are hatching in good numbers now on the North Carolina side of the Park and just starting on the Tennessee side. Terrestrials still have a place in your fly box as well although they are definitely winding down for the year. Isonychia nymphs, caddis pupa, and BWO nymphs will get it done for your subsurface fishing. Have some October Caddis (#12) and parachute BWO patterns (#18-#22) for dry flies and you should be set. Brook trout are still eating smaller yellow dry flies as well. Not interested in matching the hatch? Then fish a Pheasant Tail nymph under a #14 Parachute Adams. That rig can catch fish year round in the Smokies.

Brook and brown trout are now moving into the open to spawn. During this time of year, please be extremely cautious about wading through gravel riffles and the tailouts of pools. If you step on the redd (nest), you will crush the eggs that comprise the next generation of fish. Please avoid fishing to actively spawning fish and let them do their thing in peace.

Our tailwaters are still cranking although the Caney is finally starting to come down. I'm hoping to get some type of a report for there soon. Stay tuned for more on that. Fishing will still be slow overall with limited numbers of fish in that particular river unfortunately.

The Clinch is featuring high water as they try to catch up on the fall draw down. All of the recent rainfall set them back in this process but flows are now going up to try and make up some of the time lost. It is still fishing reasonably well on high water although we are holding off for the low water of late fall and early winter as it is one of our favorite times to be on the river.

Smallmouth are about done for the year with the cooler weather we are now experiencing. Our thoughts will be turning to musky soon, however. Once we are done with guide trips for the year, we'll be spending more time chasing these monsters.

In the meantime, we still have a few open dates in November and one or two in October. Feel free to get in touch with me if you are interested in a guided trip. Thanks!

Photo of the Month: Fishing in Paradise

Photo of the Month: Fishing in Paradise

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just a Taste

We left the Bighorn Mountains and Medicine Wheel behind and pointed the car west into the Bighorn Basin. This huge basin requires an extremely steep descent on highway 14A so we took things slow. The runaway truck ramps suggested that not everyone made it happily down this mountain. Even while using low gear, I still had to brake a lot, and so we pulled over from time to time to enjoy the smoky views and let the car have a rest. As we approached the bottom, sunflowers were growing in profusion along the roadway. My final stop before the bottom was to get a quick picture of these.

annual sunflowers along highway 14A in the Bighorn Basin

Bighorn Basin to Cody

Once we got to the bottom, the next hour or two found us meandering across the bottom of the basin towards Cody. A true western tourist town, Cody has a rodeo every night during peak season. We were not there for those types of tourist activities and quickly continued on towards Yellowstone. Our final destination of the trip was within reach, and we were both excited to get there and tired of sitting for so long on the drive out. Little did I know about the gem we would find before ever making it into Yellowstone.

North Fork of the Shoshone River

As you leave Cody heading towards Yellowstone, a narrow canyon seemingly blocks all progress. As you drive west, the road finds a way threading along the side of the North Fork of the Shoshone River. The short canyon is dammed at the head by Buffalo Bill Dam. From here upstream, the river runs through a beautiful high valley ascending towards the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The east entrance to Yellowstone was the only entrance that I had never visited, until this trip. That means I also never drove up the North Fork of the Shoshone River. I can promise that I will now return just to fish this river! The river has an amazing mix of water types, but overall is perfect for fly fishing and promises large trout. I would love to mountain goat my way around the canyon below the reservoir as well someday. Sometimes it requires just a taste to get someone hooked, and that is what the North Fork did to me.

Devil's Elbow on the North Fork Shoshone River Wyoming
Devil's Elbow on the North Fork Shoshone River

Bear Stories

While stopped at a roadside picnic area for lunch, we spoke with a local angler who had quite the tail to tell. Apparently he had been fishing right behind the picnic area one day when an extremely large grizzly strolled down from the hills to the north of the river. The bear came down, walked east along the bank and then crossed just below him in about 3 strides. Mind you, we are talking about a good sized western river, but then these are some seriously big bears as well. He had his artillery out along with bear spray while retreating quickly to his truck. Thankfully the bear had other ideas and kept hustling on south, across the highway, and up into the hills.

After lunch we walked down the the famed gravel bar and imagined the grizzly charging across the river. Note to self, never go ANYWHERE without bear spray in grizzly country. Thankfully we always remembered it while hiking in Yellowstone, but the lesson from that story was always in the back of our minds.

Enter Yellowstone

The heavy smoke was still laying thick over the area as we finally entered the Park and made our way up Sylvan Pass. From this highpoint, we should have been able to see Yellowstone Lake, but instead a see of smoke lay before us. Wildflowers made up for the lack of big views.

As we descended, we noticed a handful of animals in the woods, but mostly we were just focused on getting to our campsite at Canyon for the night. We did stop along the shores of Yellowstone Lake briefly. I hoped that the air would clear in short order so Leah could enjoy the wide views that are usual in Yellowstone National Park.

Smoke enshrouds Yellowstone Lake

First Trip to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park

After setting up camp, we went for a short drive to look for animals. Leah got her first views of the huge bison herds of the Lamar Valley along with some closeups of pronghorn. The moon was coming up as we returned to camp and was quite spectacular through the haze of smoke enveloping the Park.

Lamar Valley Yellowstone Pronghorn

Lamar Valley Bison walks along Yellowstone's northeast entrance road

Yellowstone National Park Bison cross the Lamar River

Yellowstone National Park and Soda Butte Creek

Yellowstone National Park full moon

Yellowstone full moon moonrise

That night, we got to bed early after a quick supper so we would be prepared for our big first full day in Yellowstone. 

-To Be Continued...

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Journey West

For many people like me who happen to be avid trout anglers in the eastern United States, the holy grail of our sport is a pilgrimage west. For some, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to cast flies in streams where trout are large and plentiful and the bugs hatch like clockwork. For others, this is an annual or semi-annual tradition. While I have been blessed to travel and even live in the west more than I deserve, every trip still excites me as if it is my first and perhaps only trip.

Preparing for the Trip

As my good friend Byron Begley of Little River Outfitters once said, "preparation is a form of anticipation." While this quote comes from the excellent daily fishing report from his shop, it is actually referencing his own preparations for a big fly fishing trip. So much goes into getting ready for each and every trip. There are may flies to be tied of course. This is true even if one's fly boxes are already crammed full to overflowing. Most fly anglers take the Boy Scouts Motto to the extreme. Being prepared is good and all, but when you decide to take your wife's Toyota Corolla on the long awaited road trip to Yellowstone for the good gas mileage, space is at a premium and extra fly boxes start to look an awfully lot like clutter.

I slowly pulled together an increasingly mountainous pile of gear. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I ordered a new two person sleeping pad. When it didn't fit in my two man tent, I also had to buy a new tent. Such is life when you are getting ready for a big trip. Unforeseen dilemmas appear and must be dealt with, but the preparation marches steadily towards the climax when suddenly you find yourself loading the car carefully, fitting each piece in like a jigsaw puzzle. The thought is always tickling your brain that it might not be possible to get everything back in the car for the return trip, but you move forward and hope for the best.

Departing for the West

On the day of our departure, my wife Leah had to work before we actually left. The plan was for me to pack the car and do all of the last minute chores around the house. When she got home, we planned to head west for an all-night drive. We had reservations in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the next evening so it was essential to make good time that night. We hit I-40 west from Crossville Tennessee at around 6:00 pm Central time. The sun was sinking low in the sky as we approached Nashville. By the time we were in Kentucky, the reality of a long night ahead was setting in.

Other than quick stops for gas, we kept on moving through the night. Paducah and St. Louis came and went. Finally, as I approached Kansas City at 2:00 am, I was getting sleepy. Knowing that a bit of rest was crucial for the hard push west that day, we found a rest area and stopped for a quick snooze. Four hours later, Leah woke up and felt ready to drive. I felt like I had taken NyQuil and just could not bring myself out of the fog. I guess I'm getting too old for these late nights and long drives.

Enter South Dakota

As the sun came up, we were soon in Iowa and then South Dakota. Excited to finally be out on the plains, I was awake and took over driving duties for the rest of the day. Of course, it would be a long day. The plan was to stop briefly in the Badlands on our way to the Black Hills. We arrived there late in the day and made the quick drive through the Park. Wildlife abounded and we saw several interesting birds and animals including mule deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, a lone bison, and a burrowing owl.







The sun was setting as we merged back onto I-90 headed west towards Rapid City. There we would leave the interstate and head southwest into the heart of the Black Hills. It was well after dark as we pulled into Hill City and found our accommodations for the night. Both of us were extremely tired and fell asleep shortly after hitting the bed. The next morning I felt like a new person. A good night's rest and nice breakfast had me ready for another big day.

Big Day Two

The agenda for that day was optimistic: stop by Mt. Rushmore, drive through the scenic Spearfish Canyon, see Devils Tower in Wyoming, get groceries for the weekend ahead, and finally snag a campsite in the Bighorn Mountains near the Medicine Wheel for the night. Amazingly, we kept moving and made it all happen. As the sun sank low in the sky, we had our tent setup at the Bald Mountain Campground near the Medicine wheel just off of highway 14A high in the Bighorn Mountains. Nearby, cattle kept things interesting for motorists by wandering along the highway throughout the night. The occasionally honking reminded us that, while it might seem that we were in the middle of nowhere, civilization was still just a car ride away.




The Moose Magnet Legend Grows 

This day was a continual list of highlights. The prairie dogs highly entertained us at Devils Tower while a moose spotting added to a growing legend. My car, the Moose Magnet, was not with us on this trip. Leah's car gets better gas mileage and we decided that would be more important than marginally better comfort. The sun was getting low as we ascended the Bighorn Mountains. Driving up a high mountain valley complete with a meandering meadow lined with seemingly endless willows, I mentioned to Leah that she should keep her eye out for moose as it was excellent moose habitat. As I drove around a curve a quarter mile later, I saw it and added, "Like that moose over there..." Sure enough, a large bull moose was feeding below us in the waning light. Just up the road, we would spot a second moose, this time a cow. By the time our trip was over, more moose would be spotted prompting my wife to suggest that perhaps I was the moose magnet and not my car. I countered with the suggestion that maybe my awesome car had just rubbed off on her car. Regardless, in the meantime the legend continues to grow.



Medicine Wheel Wildlife

Waking up the next morning as the sun was rising, we decided to head over to the Medicine Wheel and let the sun warm things up before taking down our dew laden tent. I'm always in awe at the Medicine Wheel. The large stone "wheel" lying on the shoulder of a mountain in the northwest Bighorn Mountains is around tree line which makes for some incredible views. While we were there, heavy smoke from fires across the west made visibilities restricted. The Bighorn Basin was completely obscured. Views to the east across the Bighorns were marginally better but still not great. The marmots and pikas proved to be a highlight of our visit to the Medicine Wheel. Already some of my favorite creatures, Leah also fell in love with them, particularly the pikas.



Western Cattle Roundup

Upon returning to camp, we noticed several cowboys and cowgirls heading out. As it turns it, we were fortunate to witness a roundup. The free range cattle that had been startling drivers on the road the night before were pointed down the valley. Snow was not far away at this late point in the summer and the ranchers were apparently moving them towards lower elevations. This was perhaps one of Leah's favorite parts of the trip in no small part because of watching the herd dogs helping out. The dogs looked like they were having the time of their lives and so were we watching them work.

Repacking for Yellowstone

The sun finally dried things out. I am always amazed at how fast this process can happen in the dry climate of the American west. Taking down a tent and putting it back up is much better if that tent is dry. We were soon back on the road and making the harrowing descent into the Bighorn Basin. This was the day we would make it into Yellowstone and we were both excited!!!

-To be continued...

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