Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Little Help

I'm currently thinking about heading down to Florida for spring break to camp and fish in the Everglades. I know absolutely nothing about that area. Thus, I'm shamelessly begging for a little information to help me decide whether it is a trip I want to do. The spring hatches should be starting here in the Smokies, and I'm having a hard time being convinced that it is worth the trip to FL. Currently I don't own any saltwater gear so I only need information on the freshwater portion of the Everglades...no ocean fishing for me... If you are willing to offer advice, feel free to reply here or you can email me. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Almost Spring?

Traditionally, the first week of March also brings the first quality hatches in the Smokies. This year has brought colder than normal temperatures meaning that many people here in east Tennessee have a severe case of cabin fever. The cold weather is hanging on strong, bringing snow across the area today. The high elevations in the Park have a lot of snow with Mt. Leconte probably well over 4 feet by now due to this latest storm.

Even the low elevation streams will be running cool for awhile due to the effects of snowmelt. The Quill Gordons and Blue Quills should be hatching any day now, but the cool water temperatures will probably keep the hatch from getting heavy anytime soon. In addition to the first mayflies of the year, we should also be seeing brown and black stoneflies and also little black caddis.

I've been tying hard the last several days trying to prepare for the new season. This weekend I intend to put all those flies to good use and will likely fish the Caney and also hopefully the Smokies. The following week I'll be off for a few days for spring break and will spend as much time on the water as possible. It is about time as I have only averaged 3 days on the water a month so far this year. Those that know me realize that I normally fish a lot more than that. I'm looking forward to the spring fishing for various warmwater species as well. Bluegill are always fun, and it should be time for white bass and stripers soon as well... Hopefully all of you will be getting out a lot over the next few weeks as fishing heats up with the weather!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Caney Finally!!!


The Caney was finally fishable to wade fisherman after weeks of high flows. I arrived at the dam around 1:30 Sunday afternoon hoping for a good hatch and some active fish. After gearing up, I walked down the trail to the wooden steps and made my way into the water. There were already several other fisherman working the off-color water so I moved further downstream to get some distance.

Finally, a couple of splashy rises got my attention so I paused to rig up. After being away from the river for so long, I decided to go back to my favorite rig, a dry and dropper. My starting dropper on the Caney is normally a Zebra midge, and I wanted to try a new color combination. The stained water made things a bit difficult, but I quickly developed a routine. For the rest of the day, if I found a consistently rising fish, then I could generally get it to eat the midge. Here's an example of the water where I was finding fish.

A sparse hatch of blackflies was in progress when I arrived on the river, and it appeared that the fish were keying on the insects as they fluttered across the surface. My dry fly was a little too large to get their interest. However, once the water clears and the fish start keying on adults, I will be casting tiny dries to Caney Fork fish sipping adults or emergers in the film.

The river is still very off-color, and I'm a little concerned about the health of the fishery. However, over the course of the 3 or so hours I fished, I managed to catch several and also saw a few larger fish. I'm guessing the turbidity of the water is at least partially due to the continuing efforts to reinforce Center Hill Dam. If we continue to see some low flows on the river, the fishing should improve. In general, the first few days of lower flows provide slower fishing as the fish get accustomed to the change. Once the flows stabilize, the fishing should turn on. Hopefully the water will clear up as well which should help tremendously.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Good Pictures and Slow Fishing

As planned, I was able to get out and both hike and fish this weekend. The hiking was good and provided me some good opportunities to do some photography. On the other hand the fishing was slow to say the least. In fact, this was my first trip without a fish landed in quite a long while. Not that I didn't have my chances. Over the course of the day yesterday, I had several follows and at least one fish that ate. I just couldn't finish the deal with a good hookset.

On Saturday I hiked to Virgin Falls on the Cumberland Plateau. I have been there a few other times and always enjoy seeing it again. The waterfalls in this area are all very unique in that they fall into caves or just vanish underground. Virgin Falls itself had a greater volume of water than any other time I have visited it. Also, the spray off of the falls had collected into beautiful ice deposits on the trees and bushes, giving the forest the appearance of a large ice storm. The other area falls were nice as well. On the way back up the trail I spent some time photographing one of the area streams. The pocket water and plunge pools would constitute an amazing trout stream, but unfortunately the water temperatures and flow are too inconsistent to support trout.

Here are some of the pictures from the hike this past weekend. I should have spent some time photographing the Smokies streams in the snow but was too concentrated on the fishing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deep Freeze

Winter continues relentlessly here in Tennessee. I'm going to try to get out this weekend to cure the cabin fever. Between hiking and fishing I might actually be cured...for a few days anyway. The fishing will include a lot of hunting for big fish so wish me luck! One of these days I'll get a big one in the Smokies...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rising Water

High water has been the theme lately, both on tailwaters and on the freestone streams of East Tennessee. I had been planning to fish the Smokies this past weekend for awhile now. High water just meant a better chance for large fish.

Friday was perfect for throwing big stuff on Little River. After stopping at Little River Outfitters, I drove on up the river. The water was up to around 1800 cfs when I started and continued to rise throughout the day. Eventually it peaked at somewhere around 2500 cfs.

Finally I found the pool that I wanted to start on. After rigging up, I thoroughly fished the first pool without glimpsing any fish. That is never a good way to start, but I moved on to the next pool with high hopes.

Things improved but not immediately. I worked the pool slowly and methodically and finally had a brown come out and slam my offering. Thankfully the fish found the hook, and I was soon admiring my first fish of the day. The brown was pretty but not very large. Still, a fish is a fish, and I wasn't about to complain.


The rest of the day brought a lot of hope but each time I was disappointed. Several fish came out to play but each one just couldn't seem to find the hook. Visiting the Park is probably just about my favorite thing to do though so I had an enjoyable day. Fishing in high water is always sketchy. Catching one fish is always better than catching no fish. Next time I hope to fish during normal flows. Sight fishing is the way to go but almost impossible during high water. Of course, in a month or so we'll be fishing the spring hatches.

Those of you that are looking forward to the hatches just remember that there are bugs hatching now. Everyone is excited to fish the "big" hatches in the spring but there are plenty of bugs hatching now. You just have to spend a little more time finding the hatch. Midges, various dark stoneflies, and even a few blue quills and blue-winged olives are hatching.

Don't let bad weather or high water keep you from fishing. The fish are still there and still hungry...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Winter in Tennessee


Finally some snow!!! Here in Tennessee, we don't get as much snow as when I was a kid. A snowfall is always an exciting event. Starting January 29, we got more than the usual snow.

The first several inces fell just like normal but around 11:00 p.m. on the 29th, warm air above the surface started changing the snow to freezing rain. The flakes were melting before hitting the ground but the surface temperatures were still below freezing. The result was quite unusual for this area. We had a layer of snow with a layer of ice on top. Usually when we get both, the order is reversed.

The trees were covered with a sparkling glaze of ice, and the result was extremely beautiful...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Force Feeding


Sometimes you have to hit a fish in the nose to get it to eat....literally. A couple of weekends ago I was fishing in the Smokies with a couple of fishing buddies, Joe and Caleb. Joe was fishing a nice flat run while I spotted from on top of the bank. In the back, a brown aggressively chased his offering but wouldn't quite eat. After a couple of repeat performances, the fish finally saw him and moved into the middle of the stream where it sat motionless on the bottom.

Not wanting to bother with a fish that was only eleven or twelve inches, Joe worked on upstream. I continued to watch the fish. Finally it occurred to me that the fish would probably eat if I could just force feed it. I grabbed my fly rod which had a weighted wooly bugger and crept into position. The first several casts drifted close but there was little interest from the fish. Once it gave a half-hearted glance at the fly drifting by but that was it.

I couldn't shake the feeling that the fish would eat and decided to try and drift the fly directly into the fish. A couple of casts later, the fly was drifting perfectly and a well-timed mend set up the final drift. Suddenly the fly seemed to disappear into the fish, and I set the hook hard. I can't say that I actually saw the fish open its mouth, but I did notice the fly just seemed to vanish with the fish being the only likely culprit. After a brief but lively battle, I brought the fish to hand and Joe came back downstream to snap a couple of pictures for me. It definitely wasn't the largest fish I've ever landed but it was one of the more satisfying. I believe it was the first time I ever force fed a fish intentionally without having it ever move to take the fly...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Still Around

Nope, I didn't just disappear although I'm sure it has appeared that way. I had to send my computer in to HP for some repair work so despite being out on the water a couple of times, I haven't been able to get up a report. I hope to get caught up on a lot of stuff over the next few days including a good story from a Smokies trip. It is time to be submitting an article for the Little River Journal so that will keep me busy as well...

A couple of weeks ago I hit the Caney Fork with David Perry from Southeastern Fly to float in search of big browns. The day was a bit slower than we were hoping for and the frigid temps kept ice forming in our guides all day but it was still a good trip. We both caught fish including a couple of nice 18 inch fish. For more on that trip, check out the report over on the Southeastern Fly Blog.

Check back soon for more!!!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Christmas in the Smokies


My Christmas trip to the Smokies was a great experience with lots of good food, time with the family, and even a little fishing thrown in. The extended family rents a cabin every other year around Christmas so we can all spend a few days together without anyone having the pressure of playing host.

In years past, I took a day on each end of the trip to go to the South Holston since the tailwaters generally fish much better in the cold months than the freestone streams. Unfortunately, 2009 was the year that the drought finally broke and did it in a big way. All of our area reservoirs have been generating round the clock for weeks now and so I decided to just fish in the Park.

Christmas Eve day was our arrival day. The plan was to arrive early and have a few hours to fish before meeting up with the family. I got up there early but not as early as I intended. Still, I had plenty of time to hit the stream before I headed for the cabin and a hot supper.

I’ve been on a streamer kick lately. This is a type of fishing that I’ve only recently started to thoroughly learn. For many years I more or less ignored the potential productivity of streamer fishing, but lately I’ve been running low on new techniques to try. Most of the area waters are perfect for streamer fishing and especially the tailwaters. The mountain streams are a bit trickier though. The small size of the streams along with spooky fish makes it difficult to cast and then manipulate the fly properly to induce the hard strikes that make streamer fishing so much fun. My goal for the next few months is to work out a good system for fishing streamers on freestone streams known to hold larger fish.

The first two places I stopped and fished were disappointing to say the least. I never saw so much as a flash but wasn’t ready to give up without a bit more effort. Finally, at the third spot I tried I was rewarded with some active fish. I was working the far side of a nice pool when a fish came out and struck hard but failed to hook itself. A couple more casts to the same spot convinced me that the fish wasn’t going to show itself again so I moved down a bit further. The next likely piece of cover produced the same response as a fish darted out to attack my streamer. This time everything came together perfectly and I soon had a nice 10 inch brown in the net. Not the monster that I always hope for when fishing streamers but at least it was a fish. After a couple more brief stops, I realized that the hour was getting late. I wanted to get in before it got too late and headed towards the cabin.

The rest of my stay in the mountains was a blast but lacked much in the way of meaningful fishing. I fished for a little while each day I was up there but never had enough time to get off the beaten path. The biggest problem was high water that was comprised largely of snowmelt from the highest elevations. The fish were still feeding but I quickly realized that I needed heavier streamers to get down in the fast current. Next time I’ll be better prepared.

Even though the fishing was slow, I still managed to take a lot of pictures of the streams which are looking good with lots of water. The following are some of my favorites from the trip.