Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Slow Days

One of the benefits (and probably curses too) of writing about fly fishing is that you choose what to share. Have a bad day on the water? No problem. Just don't tell the masses. Just share those good days. However, anglers of all skill levels still have slow days, and being a writer doesn't magically make you immune to bad luck, poor conditions, and the least discussed but probably most prevalent operator error.

Once you have been fishing for over 25 years and fly fishing for 20+, there are also self-inflicted slow days. Take my recent musky floats for example. I have now spent two full and long fishless days, happily casting a heavy rod with gigantic flies all in the hopes of catching a fish larger than any of the trout I have ever caught and with far more teeth. Simply removing the fly can be a dangerous game where losing fingers is a distinct possibility. When I say self-inflicted, I mostly mean that I chose to go on those musky floats, but of course there is also the angle where throwing flies at these monsters is not the easiest way to go about catching them. Then again, that is at least 77.7% the point.

Same thing with fly fishing in the Smokies. I've been around these creeks and small rivers long enough to have a good idea on how to scare up a few fish when necessary. So on those days where I hit the water and stubbornly stick to my streamers, you could say the slow fishing is self-inflicted. Some days are just the result of the fact that I don't know it all yet. Those are the days that keep me coming back again and again.

Have you ever noticed how slow days do one of two things? Either they make you feel like you are slowly losing your sanity as you beat the water into a froth trying to drum up a trout or two, or else they cause you to slow down and appreciate some of the additional benefits to getting outside.

Two weeks ago or thereabouts, I took a full day off to take myself fishing. Even as a guide who spends a lot of time on the water, I'm still excited to go fishing for my own enjoyment. This day was no different. The spawn was mostly wrapped up with a straggling pair here and there. The brown trout were definitely hungry and aggressive, a combination I would take every day if possible.

Rain the night before had bumped up the water levels to something just short of perfect for streamer fishing, but higher than I would prefer for good nymph or dry fly presentations. In other words, I had an excuse ready to go in case I didn't catch many fish.

A super secret streamer came out along with a large nymph, both ending up in tandem on the end of my leader. I hit the water full of anticipation. Several large fish had been located over the last few weeks, and I just knew that it was the right day to catch them. The first spot got me thoroughly warmed up with several aggressively chasing fish. One in particular even graced the end of my line and paused just long enough for a picture. Always document that first fish, assuming you want photographs. You never know when you'll catch another. 

Brown Trout on Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Moving up to an area where I had spotted a large fish two weeks prior, I was disappointed without even getting so much as a follow. Same thing with the next spot. Finally, the third spot produced follow, after follow, after follow...I think you get the point. Some good eats too, but I missed every single one of them. Yep, bloggers and guides have bad days also.

On my way back to the car after this third stop, I noticed something. Fall had not quite passed by. One little maple tree was still valiantly holding on. This was just the soothing distraction I needed as my expectations were taking a thorough beating. 

Fall colors provided by a maple tree in the Great Smoky Mountains

The next spot or two produced some more heart stopping hits, but sadly with the same results. This was just not my day. And so, as has happened many times before and I'm sure will happen again, I approached the end of the day thankful for one fish. 

With the light fading fast and the fish somehow missing my hook, I took a drive down Little River and over to Tremont (Middle Prong of Little River). The scenery was perfect, the roads were nearly empty, and I made an interesting discovery: Middle Prong was flowing much higher than Little River. Unsure of the significance of such a discovery, I nevertheless drove as far as I could up this popular little stream until the light simply grew too dim. My last stop required a final picture. If you have fished here, then you know how high the water really was.

Tremont and the Middle Prong of Little River

The funny thing about slow days is that you learn something about yourself as an angler on these days. Some of my friends will pack it in after a couple of slow hours, while others will go to what they know will catch fish. For me, slow days are my time to experiment, constantly tinkering and looking for that edge. Guide trips are different, of course, with success for many people measured in the number of fish caught. Under those circumstances, I always have a game plan ready that will maximize the odds of catching fish. Some days, when I can only take the lack of catching for so long, I'll kick into gear and ask myself how I would get a client into fish. That usually gets me catching again if I'm not too stubborn to listen...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First Fish of 2014

What a great way to start the year! Even though I still have boxes and stuff scattered all around from my move back to TN, I knew that I couldn't wait on visiting the Smokies any longer.  After an early morning, I made it to Townsend and stopped for a while at Little River Outfitters to chat with Byron and Daniel.  As always we had a great time talking about a little of everything.  Eventually the pull of the streams was too strong, and I headed out of town and into the Park.

Driving slowly up Little River, I stopped at several likely pools.  At one stop, I spotted a nice 18" brown sitting right by the bank.  After several casts to judge the drift, I got a good one in there and the fish came over for a look.  Thinking it had taken the fly, I set the hook.  The fish moved back the other direction casually and would not be fooled into a second look.  Oh well!

Several times, fish came charging out to inspect my large offerings, but each time refused at the last second.  I was beginning to think that my day would be done without catching anything, and of course sometimes that does happen this time of year when you are chasing big fish.

I was running low on water by this time with both Nalgene bottles almost empty.  A quick run up to a good spring seemed like the logical solution and would enable me to check out Middle Prong.  The very first hole I hit had a great surprise.  As I was slowly working the pool, a fish came up and ate.  I just barely felt the soft hit but set the hook and was soon staring in surprise at a very nice rainbow of about 14 inches.  Probably it had swam up from the stocked water in Townsend, but it looked healthy and even wild so I'm not entirely certain.

Later, after filling up on water, I was working my way back downstream and stopped at a very nice pool that I know holds good fish on occasion.  The rain was falling by this time and it was getting close to sunset.  The low light conditions were perfect for brown trout to be out hunting.  I worked the top half of the pool thoroughly and then moved down to the back.  Pitching a careful cast out between two trees, I started my retrieve when I saw the golden flash.  Feeling nothing, I continued the retrieve.  On the second pass, the fish made a solid grab.  After a solid battle, I was holding my first Smokies brown trout of 2014, a beautiful 17 inch fish.  Because of the rain, my camera was staying dry in the car, but I still have my memories which sometimes are better.

That fish was another first for me as well: it was the first brown trout I've caught on Middle Prong.  I've seen plenty of them but never actually caught one until this trip.  Not a bad way to start the year and not a bad first brown for me on Middle Prong!