Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Shad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shad. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

First Time Streamer Fishing

Fly fishing for trout with streamers is definitely an intermediate technique at minimum and perhaps even could be considered as advanced. One of the joys of owning a drift boat is being able to introduce people to good streamer technique. When everything comes together, and they catch that first trout on a streamer, the smiles rival catching that first trout ever. Last week I had an open day and called my buddy Tyler to see if he wanted to fish. Rarely do I have to ask him twice, and we made plans on when and where to meet.

The next day, we dumped the boat and immediately anchored up for a snack. I had a full morning of errands behind me and needed some fuel to row down under the 5,000 plus CFS that were coming through the sluice gate and generator. This proved to be a good opportunity to give Tyler the verbal crash course on what we were trying to accomplish.

Before long, I pulled the anchor and we were under way. Tyler was hitting the banks and current seams like a pro and before long the follows and flashes were coming. In fact, I soon saw perhaps the largest trout I've ever seen on the Caney flash on his streamer. I glanced up and his eyes were as big as saucers, and I was back rowing like mad to try and give another shot. On this day, it was not meant to be. The big fish never showed itself again, but I guarantee that I will be back to look for that big slab of buttery brown.

Once we switched for a short distance so I could throw a few casts myself. Tyler is slowly learning to do a good job at rowing. Eventually I'll have him trained in to row me down there river the whole way.  On this day, the student would out-fish the teacher. Before long, I switched back to the oars and this time I could tell that Tyler was dialed in. The streamer was landing within a foot of the bank and he was swimming the fly like a pro.

We were entering another big fish zone where I had recently seen a large brown. Directing Tyler to cast to specific spots soon brought results. A nice fish slammed the streamer and Tyler was happy and nervous all at once. Anyone who has had a nice fish on the line knows the stress that comes at such times. Handling it like a pro, he soon had the fish in the net and posed for a couple of pictures. Like other recent quality fish, this one ate a PB&J streamer. Congrats Tyler!

Caney Fork River brown trout

Caney Fork River brown trout head shot

After watching the fish swim off strongly, we continued downstream. I fished a bit more, but other than some small stockers chasing and one nice fish that missed the hook, I could tell it just wasn't my day. Tyler went back to the front casting brace and before long had his second brown on a streamer. Not bad for his first time ever streamer fishing.

Another Caney Fork River brown trout on a streamer

Soon the ramp slid into view and before we knew it the boat was loaded. The air conditioning felt great after the hot sun on the river. Funny how catching nice fish made us forget the heat until we got to the end of the float.


Monday, February 16, 2015

What Is a Shad Kill?

Since I keep talking about the shad kill, many of you have been wondering what I am referring to. Here is a little more information on the phenomena and why it should get you excited as a fly fisherman!


Many years ago, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) started building dams throughout the Tennessee valley and its tributary streams, numerous warm water reservoirs were formed. Each of these lakes boasts incredible diversity when it comes to fishing and a few even offer trout fishing.

The unintended by-product of these lakes was the cold water fisheries that prevailed below each dam. Within just a few years, many of the rivers were being stocked with trout. Not all of the TVA lakes have a trout fishery downstream because some are too shallow, but in the lakes that are deep enough for stratification to occur, cold water settles to the bottom of the lake. During the summer months, the bottom draw reservoirs are dumping cold water through the generators in their respective dams and create fantastic tailwater fisheries downstream. Rivers like my local tailwater, the Caney Fork River, as well as the Clinch, South Holston, Watauga, Holston, and Hiwassee are all known as great fishing destinations.

What most anglers do not realize is that these tailwaters fish great through the winter. Most anglers prefer to come fish during spring through fall when it is warmer outside. However, the winter can produce phenomenal midge hatches, and on a few rivers, blue-winged olives and winter stoneflies. The big event each year happens in late winter, if it is going to happen.

Each summer, in the reservoirs, the various species of shad (especially threadfin) proliferate in the nutrient rich waters. The shad in turn provide a great forage base for various fish including smallmouth and largemouth bass, stripers, white bass, and many other species. However, the shad need relatively warm water to thrive. In the winter, when the surface temperature on area reservoirs drops into the low 40s, shad start dying en masse. When this occurs, the current from the generators in the dams slowly draws the dead and dying fish. Eventually they get sucked through and come out below the dams into the tailwater fisheries.


That is when the real fun begins. When shad are coming through a given dam, the fish in the river below go on a feeding binge. In fact, this phenomena is one of the secrets of the fishing I do for large stripers. Generally, you can expect the best shad kills to happen in late winter during the months of February and March. It is during these times that the lake surface temperatures normally reach their lowest points of the whole year.

Even better for us fishermen, when a shad kill is on, fish will often hit just about anything white as they eat as much as they can and then some in an effort to pack on the pounds. Fish grow fat ridiculously fast on this high protein diet.


This year, I'm forecasting a good shad kill on the Caney Fork River. If it happens, it will be in the next 1-3 weeks. We have already seen some limited numbers of shad coming through the dam at Center Hill but so far the fish have not keyed in on the shad in a big way. If you are flexible with your schedule and want to experience some incredible fishing, call me as soon as I announce the shad kill has started to book a float trip to throw streamers. You may catch the fish of a lifetime...

There is a good chance that we will also see good shad kills on the Clinch and Holston Rivers. Additionally, even though it is a warm water fishery, I have had good luck fishing the shad kill on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga below Chickamauga Dam. The white bass and hybrids seem to like the shad as well as freshwater drum and of course the stripers when they are around. If you are interested in learning how to approach this fishery as a wade angler, please contact me for more information or to book a guided trip.


Over the years, I have developed 3 flies specifically for the shad kill. Two of them are ones you have seen or heard about before, the PB&J and my recent floating shad creation. The PB&J is best when you need to dead drift your patterns.


In addition to these patterns, white Wooly Buggers work as well as just about any other white streamer. I'm partial to Kelly Galloup's Stacked Blonde in all white.

Regardless of what flies you fish, make sure that you are using a strong rod and heavy tippet. I fish the shad kill with a 7 weight rod or heavier and fish no lighter than 10 lb. tippet but preferably 12 lb. The fish can be large at this time and the worst thing you could do is to hook the fish of a lifetime on too light of a tippet.

Stay tuned here for more on the shad kill. Once it is on it may last for days or it may be over within 48 hours. In rare years it may drag on for a few weeks but don't hold your breath for that one. However, as long as it stays unseasonably cold here in Tennessee, we have a pretty good chance of an awesome shad kill!

If you have any other questions about the shad kill or want to book a guided trip, please reply here and let me know or contact me

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Frigid Temperatures and the Shad Kill

This week it looks like we will actually get some good winter weather. The main question right now is how much snow will we get, but overall things are looking good for some extremely cold air. That means I'm thinking about the shad kill. David Perry over at Southeasternfly saw some coming through a week or two ago, but so far the fish have not seen enough to be keying on them real well.

Besides, when it is truly on, the fish look like little footballs and the largest fish in the river start feeding on the white morsels. With at least the possibility of low temperatures below zero but Wednesday night this week, I'm expecting a full blown shad kill by next weekend if we are going to get a good one this year. That is always a big if.

Depending on whether the temperatures continue to be unusually low or not, the shad kill could go on for a couple of weeks or even into early March. The best year I remember had a good shad kill into March so things could be awesome for a while now.

Even if the shad kill does not get particularly exciting, the nymph and midge fishing has been good recently. When we can get good flows to float (0 or 1 generator), then it is worth getting out on the water. Things should get even better in March so if you are looking for a tailwater float on the Caney Fork in the next couple of months, please contact me and I would be glad to help you get a trip set up.