Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Year in Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Year in Review. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Busy Is Good: Looking Back on 2016

In any normal year, a low number of posts would be a bad sign for my time on the water. For 2016, the lack of posts has actually been the result of more time on the water. Busy is good if you ask me. Busy is better when it involves setting a new personal record for days on the water in one year. My goal for next year is to pass 200 days on the water. That includes fishing and guiding just to be clear.

While 2016 was a phenomenal year for me as far as guiding goes, the focus of this post is on my own fishing adventures. While I'll throw in a tease or two from my work, check out Trout Zone Anglers and the blog there for a complete year end summary of the guiding for the year. That post should be up in a day or two.

My own fishing for the year started off in early January. One of my favorite days on the water that month was spent in the Smokies. No big surprise there I know. The day was particularly memorable because of the nice brown trout I found. Late in the month, I would spend some time fishing for brook trout with the idea of trying to catch one each month of the year. That worthy goal would sadly not be met, but hopefully I'll have plenty more years to try it.


February was an unusually slow month for me. I didn't get out much although the local farm ponds did keep me from going crazy, and the chance to solve an interesting fishing riddle was as much fun as anything. Being a leap year, we had an extra day available and I made the most of it to keep my brook trout streak going. Ironically, I kept the streak going for the two toughest months of the year before it fell by the wayside.


March was more or less a normal month and included the beginning of my spring trips down to the Hiwassee that I try to squeeze in every year. The change of pace this year included my increasing trips down to the Clinch River. Some nice fish were caught and I began to appreciate this unique tailwater more and more.



April saw the fishing action pick up significantly. In addition to trout, smallmouth bass were becoming quite active. A new favorite trip was born that featured stocked trout in the upper reaches (that we never actually caught) and smallmouth and musky throughout the rest of the trip. I was fishing with my buddy David Perry. With both of us spending so much time guiding, trips together have been fewer as of late, but this is a spring trip that I hope to do again many times.


I hit the jackpot in May when I was able to fish one of those cloudy days that threatens rain. The bugs poured off. The trout rose. The angler was happy. In prior years, I tended to hit these great days when I was guiding, and that is a good time to guide. I'm always super happy when I can show someone a legitimate hatch in the Smokies, but I like to fish it myself as well on occasion.


Somewhere in late spring or early summer, I found myself the owner of a smartphone due to the generosity of a friend. If that hadn't of happened, I'm sure I would still be enjoying my old flip phone. however, since I did have a smartphone finally, I decided to embrace everything about it and started using Instagram. If you haven't been there yet, there are a lot more pictures there then you will find here including a lot from my guide trips as well as my own fishing excursions. Be sure to follow me there as well as on Facebook!

June found me chasing smallmouth harder than ever. In between guiding a lot, I also found some time to float the Caney Fork River with friends Jayson and Pat for Jayson's bachelor party. That turned into one of the best trips of the whole year. We caught and landed both good numbers and some really nice fish in terms of size. I got my first big brown trout of the year on that float. Here is the groom Jayson with one of his twenty inchers and net man Pat...


July was hot, but the river continued to fish very well. In fact, it just kept getting better as the summer wore on. Smallmouth bass were also active and I made a trip I've been thinking about for years. My friend Mark Brown from Chota and I met up for a truly epic adventure. I saw my first live rattlesnake on the Cumberland Plateau ever on that trip and was so surprised I forgot to get a picture. In between bee stings, rattlesnakes, and copperheads, we did manage to find some great smallmouth.


In August, I started things out with more big backcountry smallmouth bass. By this point, the Caney Fork was fishing so obviously well that it was hard to keep me away. I was spending more time on the river than anyone really deserves to spend fishing. It began to pay off finally with some great brown trout, culminating in my personal best brown trout from the Caney Fork River. I caught the fish while sight fishing with a midge and after locating it a couple of days prior on a guide trip. There are some perks to guiding other than just spending time outside every day and one of those is locating great fish!


In September, I did another summer trip I've been considering for a few years. It turns out that it was as scary as I had anticipated and then some, but it was nice to do it once in my life at least. From now on, that will be a winter only trip.


October and November were both great months, but the high points of the year had already passed from a fishing perspective. The one exception to that was a trip with my cousins to camp in the Smokies that was one of the best of the year. We fished all over, caught some nice brook trout, and relaxed. I still caught plenty of big fish and that continued into December with a special brown trout on the Clinch River.




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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Along with everyone else, I decided to get my 2014 Year in Review finished and published here at the Trout Zone.  First, thank you to everyone who stops by and reads and comments here.  Also, thank you to all the great people who have supported me in my new endeavor as a fly fishing guide.  That said, let's look at 2014.

This year has been a transitional year.  Leaving behind the teaching profession was difficult as was leaving a place and friends I really enjoyed.  In many ways that made the end of 2013 and 2014 the toughest time of my life.  However, the opportunity to dive headlong into the fly fishing business as a guide was a lifelong dream come true.  At this point, I'm not sure what the future holds.  At the very minimum I'll still be guiding some on the side as I'm not sure if I'll end up back in the classroom or not.  If guiding continues to be a full-time career, you won't hear any complaints from me.  On my first day as a guide in 2014, I looked around as soon as we hit the water and thought, this is my office now!


Here on my blog, the last trip of 2013 prompted my first post of 2014.  A cold weather Smokies trip resulted in a beautiful brown trout that ate a streamer, in other words, my kind of fish.  Later on in January, I had the pleasure of both reviewing Matt Supinski's book Selectivity as well as interviewing the author by phone.  What a pleasure to talk to someone who appreciates finicky fish as much and probably even more than I do!

By the end of January, Trout Zone Anglers was born.  In February, I made a last trip back to Colorado to visit friends who would soon be moving on out of my life.  The chance to return to South Boulder Creek was too good to pass up, and I enjoyed some great winter fishing without ever getting my feet wet.  Back in Tennessee, we were stuck in the polar vortex that delayed the spring hatches and generally wreaked havoc with the early season fishing.  There were fish to be caught, but it wasn't as easy as some years.  By late February, all the paperwork was completed with the National Park Service to officially guide in the Smokies, and I started taking bookings.

In March, the cool weather kept the fishing in the marginal category but we started to see bugs eventually.  Trips to Smokemont as well as some closer to home kept me busy until I started doing guide trips by late in the month.  April continued with much of the same.  High flows on the tailwaters early in the month finally started to give way to some windows of opportunity for both guide trips and personal fishing excursions.  Dogwood winter brought a return of the polar vortex, but by and large the month was a little better than the previous 2 months in terms of nice fishing weather. One of my favorite trips in April was a guide's day off trip down to the Caney.  I had always heard about the run of buffalo but never experienced it for myself.  That all changed when I hit the water with hundreds of huge fish everywhere.  What a trip!



May was one of the highlights of the year for me.  Tranquil evenings chasing farm pond bass, perfect flows in the mountains to catch trout, generally one of the best fishing months in Tennessee, it produced both good fishing as well as some opportunities to give back.  One of my favorite opportunities in May was to help with a Casting for Recovery Event.  It was a lot of fun and I hope to make it back again this year.  Another highlight of not only the month of May but of the whole year was the chance to camp for a couple of nights up in the Smokies with my buddy Joe McGroom.  We have fished all over together including Colorado, Yellowstone, and of course throughout east Tennessee.  One of my oldest and best fishing buddies, Joe is one of the best fishermen I know and always fun to share the water with.  Another great trip in May included a Caney trip where I found some carp.  By the end of the month, Trout Zone Anglers had added a new trip option, float trips! Yes, a drift boat was added to the arsenal.  An older boat, it nevertheless did everything that I needed a drift boat to do and was soon put to work taking anglers down the Caney Fork River.


June brought a lot more work in the form of guide trips but I also still found time to sneak away and fish.  Local smallmouth streams were really turning on, and I was out fishing hoppers as often as possible.  A 1/2 day guide trip in the Smokies helped me find one of the better browns when I decided to fish for myself after the completion of the guide trip.  June ended on a high note with a client getting a better than average brown on Little River.  I think I was even more excited than he was.  Oh, and I should mention again that this was his first fish ever in the Smokies. Some people have all the luck...



Lots of other great guide trips happened in July. One beginner trip was especially noteworthy when a first time fly fisher landed close to 30 trout in one day.  That is a good day regardless of your skill level and even more impressive with someone new to fly fishing.  He even caught a double at one point. Those are the days we live for both as anglers and guides.  Late in July, my cousin Nathan came to visit.  We have fished together for more than 20 years and always enjoy the chance to get out on the water.  Between a Caney Fork float where I hopperized a big brown and a couple of nights in the Smokies, we had one of those highlight trips that I'll remember for a long time.


In August I was still chasing smallmouth in between lots of guiding, but things were busy enough that I started to slack off a little here on the blog.  By September, jokes that I had been making about an early fall as far back as June were looking more serious.  Beautiful leaves were showing up with regularity on the streams.  Part of that had to do with the slightly drier than normal year we had in east Tennessee.


October saw the normal peak colors in the Smokies along with the usual excellent late season fishing.   I caught some of my largest Park rainbows in the fall burst of great fishing.  High water returned as the norm on the Cumberland Plateau which meant that the Caney Fork River would rarely be fishable for the rest of the year.  Striper fishing was spotty this year but I eventually got one in October.







November brought an early winter with snow and cold temperatures.  For my birthday I managed to find a big Smoky Mountain brown trout that would eat a streamer.


The highlight of December was getting my buddy Dan Muenger out after some musky and putting one in the boat on his first ever musky trip.  I can't take all the credit as he is an excellent angler and stuck with the game plan for a long day of tossing big flies.  Trips to delayed harvest streams kept me busy in between the events associated with the holidays.  One last guide trip at the end of the month allowed me one more chance to fish in the Smokies.  After putting all three new anglers on their first few trout, I headed back out and caught double digit numbers of fish in the last hour and a half of daylight and was reminded how important water temperature is this time of year.



So there you have it.  2014 has been quite a year but as much as I've enjoyed starting a guiding business, I am looking forward to a New Year and hope for a much happier 2015.  I plan on fishing as much as possible and continuing to build my still young guide business.  The west is still calling me and if gas prices stay low, I may head that way at some point this year to relax and enjoy the wild country.

I hope each of you has a great 2015 and that you can spend even more time out on the water! Thanks for being a loyal reader and supporter of the Trout Zone.