Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Nice Day

The sky was heavy with dark clouds that flew from horizon to horizon. A gentle rain had been falling all morning and I was hoping that some good browns would be on the move. The river was low and clear and things were looking up. I decided to head up higher to water that was all wild fish and see what happened.
A Tellico tributary was my goal and I flew along, over and around the ridges. As I approached the bridge where I would first see the river, I noticed that the water looked awfully swift. Sure enough, the stream was high and off color. After a brief stop to make sure it wasn’t worth my time, I decided to head towards the upper Tellico and maybe some more tribs. High water seemed to be the theme of the day until I saw a stream entering the main river that looked semi normal. It was up and stained but not chocolate milk. “The fish should be feeding….” I thought to myself.
I was soon in the water with a fish on and things were looking up. However, I couldn’t keep any more on long enough to get a good look at them. Finally, the thought came to me to do some exploring so I headed to higher elevations in search of a brookie. The normally small trickles that originate high on the mountains were a lot higher but not too dirty. I had a few hits before I landed my first monster brookie! A solid 2 inches!!!
Happy that I caught one, I almost quit for the day but decided to try a couple more holes. I found a nice spot where a tiny feeder creek entered. My nymph was lobbed up into the small pool and the line came alive. “That’s a nice rainbow for this little stream” I mused. When I saw the fish, I had a pleasant surprise. It was another brookie and this one was a fat 8 1/2 inches. The day suddenly seemed brighter as I slipped out the hook and watched the fish fade back into the pool…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Convert


The Smokies are beautiful this time of year. The leaves are changing and it seems like everyone within a days drive of the park is here to look at the colors. The fishin' ain't bad either! Since it was fall break, a camping trip seemed in order with a healthy dose of fishing planned as well. My cousin wanted to come up for the weekend and I finally convinced him to try out fly fishing also. He was a natural from the start due in part to lots of previous spin fishing experience. After a quick demonstration to show him the method we would be using, he started fishing. Within 5 minutes, he had his first fish on!
He caught a few more fish and is now thoroughly hooked. Being his first time trying to catch trout on the fly rod, he did exceptionally well. Many people find the Smokies fish to be a bit challenging at first but he was fishing like a pro in no time. Of course, I had to catch a few fish myself as well but none were particularly noteworthy this trip. I'll have to go again in a couple of weeks to try and catch some more large browns so stay tuned for more!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Memories of Summer


As always, this summer was very memorable for me. I was fortunate enough to land a job in Colorado in the Gunnison vicinity close to hundreds of miles of trout streams and numerous still waters. Every fly fisherman dreams of taking trips to the locations described in the glossy pages of fly fishing magazines and I was going to work within a couple of hours of several such famous streams.

Of course I had to fish the Gunnison and its famous tributary, the Taylor River. Other lesser known streams would also provide some spectacular moments in the wilds of Colorado. I could tell story after story of various fish caught and almost caught. There was a 20+ inch rainbow I fought on the Taylor for several minutes before the tiny midge popped out. Wild brown and brook trout taken from pristine trickles high in the Rockies and then returned to the ribbon of liquid silver they called home. Then there was the 20 inch brown that sipped a CDC BWO emerger pattern when I did not have a camera with me.

Three excursions in particular stand out as high points to my summer fishing. One was the large brown. The next was a day trip into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I finally convinced some friends that they would enjoy the killer hike 2000 feet straight down into the Black Canyon in the National Park. We arrived streamside and I rigged up while they searched for a good place to swim. I had a couple of bumps on a softhackle and finally landed a small brown but I know it should be a lot better. I finally tied on a Copper John and that turned out to be the ticket. I lost count of how many fish I landed, all browns (above-left) except for one beautiful rainbow (left). The fish were all very strong and full of fight.

My final weekend provided the last great memory. Native Cutts!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Back to the Caney

I was fortunate enough to get out and fish again this last weekend. The Caney Fork had been on my mind for awhile so I drove down Sunday for a few hours of fishing. When I arrived, the water was still falling from the morning generation so I started in the large hole directly below the dam. Things were fairly slow even though I saw some fish working from time to time. I finally moved on downstream and was into fish quickly. The zebra midge came through again, but I never could really get in the zone with one color combination. I would catch a couple and then things would slow down. As soon as I tied another color on, I would usually be into fish again for a few minutes. This continued for most of the afternoon. All in all it was a slower day with probably 10-15 fish to hand. The weather couldn't have been better though so I'm glad I went.

A highlight of the day was seeing some huge browns up in the shallows. There isn't any natural reproduction in the Caney but apparently the fish are still trying to go through the motions. They were exceptionally spooky and I couldn't get any of them to eat my flies. Maybe I'll just have to go back soon...

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Smokies Rock!

I returned last afternoon from an epic weekend of fishing in the Smokies. I skipped my last class on Friday afternoon to make it up to Elkmont with plenty of time for some evening fishing. I set up camp and drove back down Little River and started fishing a hole that has always been kind to me. I caught caught a couple rainbows that were decent. I then cast to the other side of the main current, threw a quick mend to set up my drift and the rod almost got jerked out of my hands. I soon had a gorgeous 13 inch brown to hand that I quickly admired and then slipped back into the waters that he called home. "That was the high point of my weekend" I thought, which was too bad since I had only just arrived. I fished on upstream and finished with around 15 trout caught for an hour and a half of fishing. I started suspecting that since I did not have a camera, the whole weekend would be amazing as far numbers and maybe even size. Little did I know what the next day would bring!

Saturday I woke up and decided to try some new water. I drove over to Greenbriar and parked at the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead. I started fishing upstream from the bridge at the trailhead and fished between a mile and a mile and a half of water. It seemed I could do no wrong. I caught 40+ fish, mostly on a beadhead Tellico nymph but several also came on dry flies. I caught probably half rainbows and brookies with lots of nice sized fish mixed in. I had several rainbows in the 9-11 inch range and a couple of 8-9 inch brookies. I finally decided I was done battling the stream, which was probably the most difficult to traverse that I have ever personally fished. There were tons of huge boulders blocking upstream progress and several times I almost thought I would have to go back all the way downstream to the bridge to get out.

After returning to my car, I headed back over to Little River. Maybe, just maybe I would catch another nice brown. I started fishing a Tellico deep through I large hole when my line just stopped. I quickly set the hook on what I was hoping wasn't a snag. Sure enough, I felt a good-sized head shaking and soon had a 16 inch brown just long enough to slip out the fly. Shaking with excitement, I moved lower down in the pool and caught a small rainbow before moving back up to the head of the pool. I tried the same spot and had the same result, except this time when I set the hook, I didn't feel anything moving. "Oh no, here we go" I thought. I jerked again hoping to set the fly free when something started moving. "There is no way" I mused, but the fish seemed very real as it started surging toward an overhanging ledge underwater. I stressed the 4x tippet as much as I dared and eventually worked up another good brown, this one going 18 inches!!! I originally thought it was 17 inches as I measured it against my rod. I used to have marks on my rod so I could quickly measure a fish but they have worn off. After measuring my rod again, I realized that I caught my first 18 inch brown this weekend!!!

I think the solution to catching big fish must really be to go without a camera. It worked great for me this weekend, and I think it might be foolproof. I will have to test my theory by always taking a camera from now on and seeing if I ever catch good fish again. I will be back soon to fish the fall hatches. This is my favorite time of year and I will be on my home waters as much as my classes allow me to!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fall



Fall may be my favorite time of the year to fish, perhaps in part because I catch so many fish then, or maybe because the weather is cooler. Regardless of the exact reason, fall is a special time of year when I roam the streams in search of trophy fish.

Sometime, hopefully soon, I will find that one large fish in the Smokies that is willing to eat my fly. Having often spotted but never hooked the large browns that prowl Little River, I have never experienced the rush of adrenaline from hooking one of those monsters. This summer I hooked my second legitimate 20 inch plus brown, but not on my home waters. So now, as the weather cools, I am preparing to once again attempt a shot at the large fish in the Smokies. Maybe this will be the year I hook my first large brown. If not, I will still enjoy fishing my favorite water at my favorite time!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Too busy to fish?

As a student in college, I often find myself making very difficult decisions. One of the really tough ones is going fishing. Now, I love fishing and would fish 24/7 if I did not have responsibilities. However, fishing causes all kinds of problems with accomplishing the supposedly more important things such as homework. For example, last weekend I was home for the weekend and decided to fish the Caney on Sunday. I arrived at the river and began battling the crowds, picking up a fish here and there. I moved up by the dam and finally started slaying them. It was definitely almost too easy, but I was having a blast. When I finally looked at my watch, I discovered to my dismay that I had fished much longer than I intended. Oh well, who needs to do homework. Unfortunately, I spent the whole week trying to play catch-up. I decided that this weekend would not contain any fishing so that I could focus on "important" things. Oddly enough, I probably have spent enough time sitting around wishing I was fishing, or at least wishing I didn't have any homework, that I could have gone fishing for a few hours. Now, I have to wait until next weekend before I will have sufficient time to pursue trout again, but when I do, I will fish with a vengeance because I have to catch enough fish to make up for not fishing this weekend. Or not...just getting out on the water should be reward enough for a week of studying! Now where to fish next weekend.......decisions, decisions.....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Exploring Small Streams

The longing for pristine wilderness and an untouched trout stream is probably common to many fly fisherman. I have hiked up and down mountains for miles in a day searching for the perfect stream. I read whatever fly fishing literature I can get my hands on in hopes of some subtle clue. Pouring over topo maps will scratch the itch to explore, but only enough to make it worse. A small stream in Southeast Tennessee has been begging me to try it out for awhile now. I have been in the vicinity several times and just hadn't stopped to fish it yet. This weekend I decided I was going to check it out. I arrived at the stream in the early afternoon and was very concerned at first. As I drove along the creek, the streambed was bone dry. However, it became apparent after I arrived at the trailhead that the stream must flow underground because I could hear water. Sure enough, the creek had enough water to keep the fish happy and healthy. So I grabbed my flyrod and started walking upstream. I had not gone very far before my curiosity got the best of me and I tied on a parachute Adams and started casting. The stream was really small so bow and arrow and roll casts were generally the method of operation. I worked upstream and began getting hits. The fish were really spooky and the water was pretty low so I had to go into stealth mode before I actually hooked up. After a couple of small fish, I started to think that maybe the fly was a bit too large so I tied on a small cream softhackle and it was just the ticket. The rainbows would hit it just about anywhere in the stream but I had to be paying very close attention to notice the takes. I was fishing the softhackle upstream and without any kind of weight so the takes were very subtle most of the time. While the day was overall a lot of fun, I probably won't be making trips just to fish this stream. I caught somewhere around 10 fish and worked for each one. The largest fish I saw all day was probably 8 inches and they were all rainbows. Exploring is hard to beat though and I don't consider my day on the water a waste. Someday, somewhere, I WILL find that water that gets fished by only a few people every year where the fish are practically begging me to catch them. However, until I find that stream, the challenge of finding it will keep me checking out these small streams. Eventually, I will find a hidden gem!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stalking Smallmouth


With the dog days of summer upon us, the area streams are getting low and clear. This creates a great opportunity to combine hunting and fishing. The ability to stalk your prey (the fish) and properly present a fly is of utmost importance at this time of year. I made the 20 minute drive to Daddys Creek, a stream that contains plenty of smallies in addition to redeye bass and other sunfish. I have never done particularly well in my attempts to catch smallmouth, although I'm always able to interest a small one or two in my meager offerings. This day was not much different as far as the smallies were concerned. I managed a couple with the largest pictured here. I also caught some redeye and a pumpkinseed sunfish. The fish were earned the hard way however, as I had to stay out of the water as much as possible and make long casts that landed like a whisper on the still water. Further adding to the difficulty was the streamside vegetation which necessitated an inordinate amount of roll casting. The trip was worth it though when the little 8 inch smallmouth (above) appeared like a ghost underneath my fly before sipping it as gullibly as a 20 inch rainbow on the Firehole River of Yellowstone taking a PMD Sparkle Dun. I gently raised the rod-tip and after a brief battle, I admired the beautiful specimen briefly, snapped a quick picture, and then watched the fish rocket back to whatever midstream lair I had just lured it away from.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Caney Fork Trip

This report is a bit late, but I thought that I would post anyway. I made it down to the Caney Fork Sunday August 13 and Monday August 14. Sunday I fished the whole time at Happy Hollow, arriving at around 3 in the afternoon. The water was still dropping from the morning generation but was at a good wadeable level. I decided to try wet wading for a change as it was very warm. I fished hard for 3 or 4 hours and managed a few fish including this gorgeous 15 inch rainbow (at left). I also caught a nice brown that went about 16 inches. I had just switched to 7x tippet because I knew that the fish should be biting a little better. I spotted the fish working just below me so I made a slack-line cast downstream and the fish ate immediately. Because of the size of the fish, I was very careful to not put too much pressure on the tippet. I took a little longer landing the fish than I would have liked, hence no picture. The fish had enough stress for one day as it was.
On monday, a friend and I decided to try a more out of the way access that he knew about. We arrived at around 8:00 in the morning and started working our way downstream. Just as it was the day before, the fish were not as cooperative as I thought they should be and we worked hard to coax in a few fish. Later in the morning, we moved upstream to Betty's Island and got into a few more fish, mainly recent stocker browns that weren't very large.
Both days I stuck to my tried and true zebra midges and perhaps that is why things seemed slow. I probably should have tried experimenting a little bit more. At Betty's Island, the fish were rising to our dries fairly well which was rather interesting. My friend had a very nice brown of probably 16-18 inches eat his midge dropper at Betty's but could not connect with the fish. This last picture is a typical small brown my friend caught, the first of several for him.