Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Big Fish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big Fish. Show all posts

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Solstice Bachelor Party

The best day I've ever had on the Caney Fork happened just this week. In fact, as close as possible, I had a repeat again yesterday, but the first was probably the most memorable because it was a trip that almost didn't happen. To put everything in perspective, let me go back a few months to last November.

My buddy Jayson gave me the honor of asking me to be a groomsman in his wedding, scheduled for this June. Over the past several months, us groomsmen discussed options for a bachelor party, but for various reasons, none of the plans ever worked out. With so many schedules to try and coordinate, the main problem came down to not having free time together. That and the fact that we wanted to do a trip outdoors. Jayson is another diehard angler as is Pat who is another groomsman. We discussed camping trips, backpacking trips, and of course all revolved around fishing. Eventually, we began to wonder if the bachelor party would even happen. We were all just too busy.

Then, the perfect storm of events occurred. What set off the chain of events was a cancelation/postponement that I had. A float trip on the Caney Fork had been on the calendar until about two weeks ago when the clients requested a postponement until the cooler months of fall. They were concerned about the extreme heat we have been experiencing. Naturally, I decided that I should spend the day on the water somewhere fishing for myself. It was then that I remembered the bachelor party. 

At this point, we were mere days away from the wedding day so time was short to get a trip together. I quickly called Jayson and Pat the other groomsman. Both were able to clear their schedules. Plans were discussed ranging from fishing in the Smokies, the Davidson in N.C., and the Clinch. Eventually we came back to the Caney Fork River and set up a time to meet.

Monday June 20 arrived with a couple of x-factors that were going to make the day go from good to epic. Any day on the water with friends is good. It should go without saying, but catching fish is always a bonus in a situation like this. However, we also had perfect flows with the generators pulsing from 8-9 a.m. The summer solstice happened to be on June 20. Oh, and we had a full moon. 

That last one was a little sketchy. I've had some fantastic fishing during a full moon, and I've also had some really horrible fishing during a full moon. Fantastic and horrible measured purely from a fish catching success perspective I should add. When I saw pictures from my buddy and guide Bryan Allison featuring his success this past weekend, I knew that this might be one of those good full moons. Nevertheless, I warned Jayson and Pat that the fishing could be epic or it could be horrible. Both were in on taking the trip regardless which turned out to be the right decision.

Jayson and Pat arrived at my house on Monday morning and we quickly transferred their gear over into my truck and boat and we were off. A short trip to the river had a small detour to get some air in one of my tires. That small detour almost became a long detour when the valve stem jammed, but eventually I got some air in the tire and the valve stem quit leaking. Back on the road, we finally made it to the river and got the boat launched. Rowing out into the river, I dropped the anchor for the usual time spent setting up all the rods.

Both of the guys were intrigued by the setup I use to fish the Caney Fork, but after just a few minutes of floating they had caught some trout and were believers in my fishing methods. The fish were keying on midges and that proved to be the situation for most of our trip. The night before I had stayed up late tying lots of extras and it was a good thing as we went through our fair share of flies.

A short distance down the river, we finally got a taste of what the day would be like. Appropriately, the groom was the first to strike on a good fish. Jayson set the hook and when the rod nearly doubled over, I quickly instructed Pat to get his line out of the water and clear the area for Jayson to fight the trout. When it rocketed to the surface, we saw that were were dealing with a large rainbow trout. Trying all of its tricks, the trout eventually yielded to Jayson's skill at fighting fish and slid into the net. Pictures were taken, high fives and hand shakes were passed around, and we got back down to the very serious business of catching trout.


Not too much further down the river, we pulled over and got out to wet our feet in the cool water. With air temperatures over 90 degrees, the usually frigid water actually felt good. Jayson and Pat were well ahead of me since I still needed to rig a rod for myself. Deciding on a hopper for my strike indicator, I dropped a nymph and midge underneath and started working downstream along a shaded bank. The overhanging branches seemed like a good spot for a terrestrial to fall in. That assumption was rewarded with a solid 16 inch brown trout, my first hopperized brown trout of the year. After releasing the fish, I noticed that Jayson was hooked up and stopped to take a few pictures.


Jumping back in the boat, I offered the hopper rod to Pat and pointed out a fish that exhibited a terrestrial rise. He cast once and the fish did everything but eat the fly. Throwing back a second time triggered that reactionary bite we were looking for, and soon he was enjoying his own nice brown trout caught on a hopper.


Continuing down the river, we caught fish here and there and broke off some true monsters. Pat seemed to have the corner on the "losing big fish" market unfortunately, but Jayson still had another moment of glory waiting.

We had stopped again to wade a second time. This was a stretch of river that I've been watching some large brown trout in and hoped to get the guys on one of those nice fish. Pat found one way up above where we stopped and lost it to a log. I fished slowly and eventually nailed a nice fish on the hopper.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Tully

Then Jayson struck again. He had been working a nice trout when it finally ate. His yelling got our attention and soon we had the net out and ran down to help. The tippet and knots held, the hook was strong enough, and soon we had more great memories captured with our cameras. Jayson's second 20"+ trout was a brown trout and featured some amazing colors.


Even though he was the groom and thus assumedly being treated extra nice for the day, I informed Jayson that two 20 inchers qualified him for the rowers bench. My moment of glory was literally just around the corner. After rowing around the corner, I turned the oars over to Jayson and jumped into the front of the boat for a few minutes.

Almost as soon as Jayson touched the oars, Pat's luck turned and he nailed a great brown trout right off some rocks along the bank. The fish had taken the midge, but the 6x tippet held and the hook was strong. After the obligatory pictures, Jayson slid the boat back out into the middle and we kept drifting.


Not too far down the river, I saw a large brown slide out of a deep hole and settle into a narrow slot between two rocks in shallow water. Hey guys, you see that big brown? When they asked where, I pointed and cast. Right under my hopper. My flies drifted through and as I pulled them out for another cast, Pat asked if he could take a shot. My cast was already on the way as I said sure. He started his cast and while his flies were literally hovering over the spot, I saw the fish turn sideways and set the hook. Sure enough, the fish was on my flies.

Notice I didn't say that it ate my flies. That is because I initially thought that I had somehow snagged the fish. A lot of side pressure failed to turn the fish at all. In such situations I usually assume that the fish is snagged. I was so convinced of this that I nearly broke the fish off on purpose. I'm not interested in killing a fish for a photo op and a snagged fish is usually going to be too exhausted by the time you land it, if it is big that is. Something in my brain doubted the snagged theory just enough to not break the fish off. On the next turn, I saw my tippet all the way to the large brown trout's mouth and realized that instead of being snagged, this was just a really heavy and strong fish.

I've lost a lot of nice trout through the years. Even a few of them recently. Big fish, not mediocre fish. Things had gotten bad enough that I almost assumed that this fish would eventually come unbuttoned. Somehow everything worked out though, and Pat Tully did a phenomenal job on the net. Thanks should also be mentioned for Jayson's great work on the oars. This fish, as were the other large trout on this day, was truly a team effort.

Photo Courtesy of Jayson Alexander

That fish proved to be the final high point of the day. Yes, we still caught more fish, but somewhere shortly after this fish the action slowed considerably. That may just be because we weren't trying very hard. Everyone on the boat was satisfied, but also tired and hungry. We rowed through the last stretch to get done at a reasonable time. A stop in Cookeville for some great Mexican food finished the day in style.

Three fish 20 inches or better in one day and at least two others broken off. I would like to think that I'm just getting that much better at this whole "guiding" thing. Maybe I am. After all, yesterday's guide trip was nearly as epic with several large rainbows and some nice browns caught. Then again, maybe it was just one of those unexplainably awesome days. The full moon, the summer solstice, good weather, a good barometer whatever that means. You know all the excuses we fly anglers give when the fishing is bad. For one day, at least, we didn't need any of them.

I anticipate the fishing on our tailwaters to continue to be fantastic through the summer. I'm getting some great reports from the Watauga and South Holston as well as the Hiwassee. The Clinch and Holston Rivers continue to fish well. Today I netted a 21.5 inch rainbow on the Holston and later caught some nice trout for myself. The Caney Fork will fish well on less crowded days. The right patterns and techniques are essential now with the water cleared up from the murky days of spring. 

If you want to get in on this great fishing, contact me about a guided wade or float trip on the Caney Fork River. You can reach me via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. I'm booking trips well into July now with no availability until the second week of July. The fishing should stay good on this river through the summer and fall if we continue to experience low water.



Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Trout Zone's 2015 Year in Review

With the end of the year comes the usual "Year in Review" posts proliferating on your favorite fly fishing blogs. Mine is no exception. This is a long running tradition that I try* to accomplish every year, not for my readers but for myself. Not everyone is able to enjoy the adventures that I experience on a yearly basis, and reliving those moments reminds me of how blessed I truly am.

If you are interested in catching up on some previous years' posts, here are a couple of my favorites.

2014 Year in Review

2011: Quality Fishing


Just looking over those two posts reminded me of the great times I've had. I'm also reminded of the tough times. Checking the archives reminded me that I did not do a year in review for 2013. That probably has something to do with a transition back to TN from Colorado and career change. Regardless of how exciting that can be, it also comes with a lot of stress and difficulty. Thankfully, 2015 has been a very good year, both for the second year of my new venture as a fly fishing guide, and also for my own fly fishing and exploring opportunities.

Early in the year, I had one of those memorable days of streamer fishing that every streamer junkie dreams about. As it turns out, that would be a precursor of things to come.

As the winter continued, the early pleasant weather of December and January gave way to some of the nastiest winter weather. Not one but two ice storms pounded the Cumberland Plateau. In between the crazy weather, I did manage to enjoy some time on the Hiwassee and experienced first-hand how successful the delayed harvest has become.


Once the ice hit, we were knocked out of business for a while. With electricity (and Internet) out for 10 days, I returned to the days of the pioneers. Turns out that is not necessarily a bad thing! I got to bed early every night (what else was I going to do?), building up strength that was then spent cleaning up from the general devastation. We're still seeing and hearing limbs coming down from the ice storm.


As we rolled into March, some of the biggest news of the year happened, at least if you were a Smoky Mountain fisherman: Lynn Camp Prong was opened after a multi-year closure to restore the native southern Appalachia brook trout. There are still way too many people fishing that stream for my taste, but another year or so should fix that as people get it out of their systems and move back to trying other equally good (or arguably better) waters.

Also in March, I added a new state to my list of places fished. A pleasant trip down to South Carolina to see my cousin gave us time to catch up and get some much needed spring fishing in. Tennessee was still trying to catch up from the cold weather and our spring hatches were a bit delayed. In South Carolina, I found both bugs and rising trout although most fish were caught subsurface.

Shortly thereafter, I managed to sneak away for a day of brook trout fishing in the Smokies. This turned out to be one of my favorite days of fishing for the year. Admittedly, I do have a few of those. Another was soon to come in fact.


Squeezing a fishing and camping trip around a guide trip, I managed to fish more new water (I did that a LOT in 2015!). This time it was a trip over to the North Carolina side of the Park. Not only did I get in some streamer fishing (there's that theme again!), but I hiked up a stream that I had wanted to fish hard for a while and had a banner day.


Guide trips were in full swing by the end of April and we were seeing hatches complete with rising trout nearly every day. Not just a few bugs here and there, but lots of bugs across all of the streams fished. Important lessons were learned in the process as the fish become just selective enough that you actually needed to have more or less the right bug on the end of your line.

May continued with more of the same great fishing and catching. Two highlights in particular stand out for that month. The first was a float trip with my dad down the Caney Fork. We spent a considerable amount of time teaching him to both cast and to set the hook, but once that was accomplished things went quite well. Late in the month, around guide trips and other things that kept me busy overall, I had a banner day fishing for smallmouth on a Cumberland Plateau stream that yielded my largest small stream smallie to date.


June was busy enough with my guiding that it tied for the month with the second fewest blog posts. The guiding went quite well, however, with a Father's Day guided float trip seeing a big trout landed on the Caney Fork.

In July, we received a much needed shot in the arm with rain finally falling after an extended period of low flows in the mountains. This cool deluge brought down stream temperatures, boosted flows, and got the fish interested in feeding heavily again. One of the highlights of the year guiding was having a return client nail a big brown trout on a terrestrial in the Smokies. We were both really happy about that!

The streamer theme for the year really took off in early August. A change of plans had my cousin and his father-in-law throwing streamers on high water on the Caney. We found some willing trout and some big ones at that! This fish tied for my largest of the year although I think my Yellowstone trout took the top honors for several reasons.


Speaking of Yellowstone, the last two weeks of September were dedicated to a long anticipated fly fishing trip to Yellowstone. I camped and fished until I was tired and ready to go home. In fact, I still owe you some posts on my trip there! The best day of the whole trip from a catching standpoint happened early, on the second day in fact. It began with epic fishing for cutthroat trout and finished with the big brown trout that I had travelled all that way to catch.


I returned from Yellowstone to a busy guide schedule in the peak of the fall fishing season. This was a great October for fishing across middle and east Tennessee. Float trips on the Caney saw some of the lowest numbers of the season but we still saw quality trout including this big rainbow. Fly fishing in the mountains was excellent. Fish were rising to dry flies well but also taking patterns like my Isonychia Soft Hackle like there was no tomorrow. The fall colors were as good as I can ever remember.


This good fishing continued into November and then December, almost like fall had never ended. The leaves were off the trees but the fish kept eating like it was October. In fact, the largest fish caught on a guide trip this year came in early December in the Smokies. This is actually a very good time to target large brown trout in the Smokies, but we admittedly got lucky since we were not sight fishing to this bad boy. What a great big brown trout!

With the holiday season came rain. Lots and lots of rain. In fact, I unfortunately had to cancel guide trips this week with high water dominating in the mountains. Better to cancel a trip though then to take someone's money and spend the whole day looking for fishable water or at least that's my opinion.

In between guide trips, I still found a few fish for myself to catch as well!


As we move into the near year of 2016, I'm excited to see what is in store for me, Trout Zone Anglers, and fishing across middle and east Tennessee. I'm currently taking bookings well into spring 2016 so if you are hoping to spend a day on the water with me in 2016, book the trip soon. I can tailor a day on the water to suit your goals. If the adventures I had in 2015 look like something you would like to experience, then email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884 to book your day on the water.


*Note that try only corresponds with actual achievement some of the time.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Day of Days Continues With a Large Brown Trout on the Gibbon: Yellowstone Day Two

Gibbon River brown trout in Yellowstone

As with most fishing trips, my journey to Yellowstone was the result of months of pre-planning. Unlike those last minute decisions to hit local water for a couple of hours, driving 30 or more hours across the country is something that must be deliberated on, planned for, and researched. Oh and do not forget those hours and hours pouring over satellite views on Google maps. Ultimately, this trip was the result of one wish in particular: to fish the upper Gibbon River where large brown trout dwell in some of the most perfect meadow water you will find anywhere. The Park's plan to eradicate these amazing fish convinced me that it was now or never.

Fast forward to my second full day in Yellowstone and you'll find me completely content after several hours the previous day on the Gibbon and an already full day fishing the iconic Lamar River in Yellowstone's northeast corner. Native cutthroat trout had rose all afternoon to my hopper offerings. Now, with the sun sinking towards the horizon, I was nearing my camp alongside the Gibbon River at Norris. Approximately one hour remained to me before legal fishing hours were over and the chill of night would send me looking for a fleece jacket. My gear was ready to go from the previous day's fishing, so there was nothing left but to walk down to the meadow and get started.

Gibbon River at Norris

The evening got off to a quick start with a couple of nice browns. The moon was already in the eastern sky, rising before sundown since the full moon was still a few days away. A large male bison grazed nearby. I suspected that the traffic stopping and all the cameras clicking along the road nearby were probably more because of him but still did my best to put on a show. Of course, I needed a good fish to cooperate for that to happen.

Working slowly through one of the prettiest bend pools you can imagine, I was surprised to not get any strikes. The deep heart of the pool, larger than most on this stretch, seemed devoid of fish. So did the undercut bank that seemed to go on forever as it curved towards the slot at the head where the shallow riffle poured in. Reaching the riffle without any strikes, I figured it wouldn't hurt and tossed my fly into what looked to be inches deep water. Almost immediately, the line stopped.

When I reared back, I was positive I had snagged a stick or log that had somehow gone undetected because there was no give at all. That only lasted for a fraction of a second though, mostly because the "log" started swimming downstream in the most convincing manner. Onlookers were probably amused to watch me running backwards as I tried to keep everything tight between me and that fish. As it rounded the bend into the deep still water of the main pool, I breathed a sigh of relief before remembering that the hook was barbless. The barbless hook requirement is one of those well-intentioned rules that I applaud for providing some measure of protection for the trout of Yellowstone; however, I'm fairly sure it was actually made to give fisher people like me heart attacks while fighting trout.

Through a series of minor miracles, not the least of which was the fact that I didn't screw things up, the fish somehow came to my net. The fly slipped out of its mouth before it even hit the bottom of the net, but it was in there so I breathed a sigh of relief before taking a moment to just stare at the gorgeous fish now my net. I got a couple of pictures (see top of post) and a fellow angler stopped by and snapped a couple more for me.

Gibbon River monster brown trout
Thanks to Tom Stout for taking this picture for me!

With this fish, both my day and trip were complete. My favorite meadow stream had produced a fish to remember. Everything after this point was just a bonus because this was the fish I had come to catch.

I definitely hope that I get another opportunity to fish this water with brown trout inhabiting the undercuts, and perhaps the fisheries department in Yellowstone National Park will even change their mind on eliminating these amazing fish. The habitat in this stream is definitely more supportive of wild brown trout than it is of wild cutthroat trout. Even more importantly, I hope some of the local misguided support for this project will be reevaluated. The cutthroat were not native to this section of stream so why trade one invasive for another?



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Need a Good Luck Charm?

Most people could use a little extra good luck while they are out fishing, but how about a good luck charm that simultaneously calls in the big fish and also carries you down the river?  My buddy David Perry over at Southeastern Fly has a Hyde drifter for sale.  I've floated in this boat and can attest to both the good mojo that is in this boat as well as its good handling.  Need to catch a big trout?  This boat has all kinds of big fish attracting abilities...

For more information, please visit David Perry's page and check out the boat!  This would be a perfect first drift boat for someone wanting to get into the float game.  From trout to smallmouth and musky, this boat can do it all.

Want to catch fish like this?






Want to enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the river catching fish?


Then check out this boat!!!