Photo of the Month: Moonrise on the River

Photo of the Month: Moonrise on the River

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Walk

The holiday weekend has been good to me so far.  On Friday, it was off to a local creek to swim and even do a little fishing.  The swimming was great, but the fishing was a little slow.  The recent thunderstorms still had the stream high and stained, but the fishing should improve soon.  

Yesterday was spent with my family.  In the afternoon we went to a favorite destination: Black Mountain.  A segment of the Cumberland Trail runs from there to highway 68 above Grassy Cove.  We normally just spend a little time walking out to the overlook where the view extends from Grassy Cove to the Smoky Mountains when the air is clear.  Knoxville was its usual hotbed of pollution so the distant views were lacking.

When I'm out with my camera, the natural limiting factors often cause me to approach photography from a different perspective.  Anyone can walk to the edge of an overlook in awe and snap a few pictures.  Few people take the time to look at the smaller scenes constantly playing out around them.  With the air too hazy, I started to look more closely at my immediate surroundings.  The first thing that jumped out at me was a wild blueberry bush growing along the cliff edge.  As I was shooting, a fly unexpectedly entered the scene and added that little something extra.


Not far away, but back in the woods and shade, the Mountain Laurel was mostly done blooming.  Here and there, a few bushes still had enough flowers left to be worth a quick picture.
  

The new spring growth was obvious all around.  In particular, I was drawn to several trees and shrubs that had seemingly large quantities of red for this time of year.  Expected in fall, it was nice to have something other than the shades of green so common in the spring.


Along the road by the parking lot, some vines were trailing along but again looking more like fall than spring.  The contrast between the fresh spring green and bright red was much more vivid than anything in October.  


Flowers were growing here and there, and right in front of our vehicles was a nice patch of daisies.  Experimenting with different angles and exposures, I found myself wishing for my tripod.  In the end, I was more or less satisfied with the result although nothing ever turns out exactly perfect. 
 

The treat of the day was found on the road back down the mountain.  On the way up I had noticed a few bursts of colors on the hill above the road.  The shady north side of the mountain is the perfect area for Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron and we hit the jackpot with the Flame Azalea.  I would have my dad stop the car, jump and and run straight up the hill to the flowers.  After several pictures, it would be back in the car to find more.  The thing that amazed me was the variety in color from a brilliant red to bright orange and even a few muted shades of orange.




  


Monday, May 21, 2012

School Is Out

Finally!!!!  School is out, and I want to go fishing.  My time on the water will be somewhat limited, but I'll be out at least a little.  I'm planning on making at least a couple of trips for trout in the Smokies as well as possibly the Caney Fork a time or two.  However, most of my fishing will be done locally for smallmouth and panfish.  Hopefully I'll have a better update soon and possibly a good fishing story.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thanks Mark!!!

Several months ago, Trout Zone reader Mark (Shoreman) asked if I had ever tried a Thinmint on the Caney.  In the ensuing discussion, he graciously offered to send me some to try out.  Since then, I have rarely been on the Caney, and always during very low water when dry flies or midges where the way to go.  However, I kept telling myself that it would be killer in the Smokies. 

Fast forward to yesterday and you find me rigging up along Little River and thinking about big browns.  I saw the Thinmint in my box and decided to tie one on.  On probably the third cast something blasted the fly and I thought, "wow, that's an easy way to catch big browns."  The fish ran all over the river and I kept thinking it was a big one. 

As I got the fish close, I saw instead a healthy rainbow.  Several rainbows later and the fly was falling apart.  I missed at least two very nice browns during this time as well.  When I'm looking for big fish in the Smokies, you can be sure that this fly will always be in my box from now on.  What a great pattern to add to the lineup!!!  Thanks again Mark...

 Nice Park rainbow on a well-chewed Thinmint

Partial Trip

Getting out in the Smokies is an opportunity that is not to be missed.  This past weekend's trip was special, a trip into the backcountry.  As much as I love backpacking, I don't do it often enough.  However, there is one aspect of backpacking that I really don't enjoy: going in the rain.

With the forecast practically guaranteeing a downpour, I opted to stay away from the overnight portion of my trip.  The messy forecast actually had me excited about the fishing though.  Hatching insects and nasty weather tend to go hand in hand.  I was supposed to fish with a new fishing buddy and he was not afraid of the forecast so the trip was still a go for Sunday.

The anticipation was building to the point where it was hard for me to go to sleep.  When it is after 11:00 p.m. and the alarm is set for 4:00 a.m., the logical side of my brain insists that I fall asleep.  As soon as your brain insists, the body rebels and the vicious cycle spirals out of control.  Sometime close to midnight I finally drifted off.  The alarm woke me up rudely.  As I moved around the house, my brain began to clear and the excitement returned. 

Arriving in the Park, we opted to head up Little River trail.  Our original plan was to hike a ways up but with the bad weather we knew that the stream would probably be ours for the day.  Accordingly we started fishing without going too far.
 
Somewhere on Little River...

Breck wanted to try some new techniques, especially fishing nymphs using the "high stick" style so common in the southern Appalachians.  I rigged up with a double nymph rig and set him up with a single bead head Tellico.  During my quick demonstration of the technique I landed two nice rainbows and we were off and running.  He quickly hooked and landed his first rainbow with the new technique and then we worked up the stream, taking turns at likely spots.
 
Breck fishing a nice pocket

As the rain continued to come and go, the insects became more and more active.  Finally we couldn't stand it any longer and tied on the dry flies.  After a couple of fish, it was obvious that while we could catch a few on top, the primary method for the day was nymph fishing. 

Later, after Breck had to leave in the early afternoon, I tried some new spots out.  The plan worked out perfectly.  Numerous mayflies and stoneflies were hatching and after picking up some really nice rainbows and missing a couple of larger browns on nymphs, I switched over to dries.
 
Rainbow caught nymphing a deep run 

Brown trout and dry flies!!!

This was the perfect way to end the day.  I caught a couple of browns on top and finally the previous late night and early morning caught up to me.  With daylight still left I opted to head on home before I fell asleep on my feet.  Thankfully, I managed to stay awake long enough to stop and spend a little time with my mom for Mother's Day.  When I finally fell asleep it was the sleep of exhaustion from a day well spent.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Backcountry

This weekend, I'm hoping to head for the backcountry of the Smoky Mountains.  Unfortunately I can only get away for one night, but of course that is better than none.  I've been tying a little, but not enough. Then again, I don't remember any trip I've ever been on where I had tied "enough" flies before leaving.  There is always the feeling that I should have tied more or maybe tied with more variety.

There is just one fly in the ointment.  My throat is a little scratchy, nothing serious mind you, but just enough to cause mild concern.  Must...not....get....sick.  Opportunities to backpack don't come often enough by any means so I'm really hoping I get to go.

Only time will tell, but in the meantime I'll be hitting the vise.  For this trip, I'm thinking of light colored flies.  Little Yellow Stones, Golden Stones, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, and maybe even some terrestrials.  It has been warm long enough now that ants and inch worms will start to be important.  In fact, I think I just convinced myself that it is time to tie...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Super Moon

Out for a walk Saturday evening, I watched as a beautiful sunset gave way to a beautiful moonrise.







Monday, April 30, 2012

Tailwater Diversity

One benefit of the Tennessee tailwaters is that they normally contain more than just trout and char species.  In fact, many Tennessee tailwaters are not trout streams but that is not my point.  On any given day, you can fish a river in Tennessee and have a good shot at catching rainbow, brown, and brook trout, as well chances at smallmouth, largemouth, bluegill and other sunfish, carp, walleye, stripers, white bass, hybrids, yellow bass, musky.....I hope you begin to see my point.  There are many possibilities when it comes to fishing here in Tennessee.  On a recent float with David Perry, we came across a lot of nice fish that included but was not limited to trout.
 

A recent stocking of small brown trout got us in the game early.  The fish were already aggressive and willing to chase flies nearly as large as themselves.  Our main goal was to catch larger fish though.  As the weather warms, we are thinking more and more of carp.  Sure enough, as we drifted down the river we started to find them stacked up in the pools with little or no current.  With a long float ahead, we didn't play with them for long.  Next time we'll hook one though... 

The white bass were another story.  We found them stacked up in similar water as the carp, just a little closer to the current.  White bass are nice when the fishing is slow, but can get frustrating when they are running because they are almost too easy to catch.
 


Later, we got onto some more trout.  Both of us caught some nice rainbows and we started noticing a little hatch coming off.  Light colored bugs were flying around.  It appeared that both Light Cahill's and Sulphurs were hatching and the fish were pretty excited.
 


Photograph by David Perry

We are early enough in the hatch that nymphs will still produce more strikes than the dries will.  After David P. had caught more than his share of rainbows, I moved to the front of the boat.  Not far down the river, I cast to a favorite log.  Sure enough, the indicator dove under.  I lifted the rod tip expecting another 14" rainbow.  A swirl of golden brown on the other end hinted at my favorite, an elusive brown trout.  As I fought the fish, I thought it was about 14".  However, as the fight continued, that estimate kept going up.  When we landed the fish, it was definitely larger than 14"!  After the necessary pictures, the beautiful male swam away, hopefully to grow a few more inches before I catch him again.
 
Photograph by David Perry 

Photograph by David Perry 

Photograph by David Perry

As I turned to look around me and enjoy the moment, the sun broke through the clouds and lit up my surroundings with that rich evening light.  Out came the camera.  The bugs were still hatching and I took pictures of them as well.
 



Catching big fish usually lands the angler at the rower's bench.  I climbed into the boat and started guiding David P. down the river again.  The bluegill got active and we added another species to the list for the day. 


The sun was casting its rays across the sky, and I let the boat slowly spin in circles as I clicked away with the camera.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Smokies Getaway

Last week some friends, my sister, and I all headed for the Smokies for a couple of nights camping in Cades Cove.  The main goal was some rest and relaxation from our hectic schedules, but of course I hoped for at least a little time on the water. 

Light showers were scattered across the mountains and adjacent areas when I drove through Maryville.  The light rain let up as we approached Cades Cove and we quickly chose a site and set up the tent in case it rained again later.  That task accomplished, we headed out on our first of several trips around the Cove.  In fact, we were in for a real treat.

Most of the time, I avoid Cades Cove like the plague.  While it is probably my favorite place in the Park just to visit and relax, I can't stand the number of tourists that normally crowd the roads around the and throughout the Cove.  The evening of our arrival was perfect.  Since it was during the week, most weekend crowds had not arrived yet.  The inclement weather kept most locals away as well.  That's just fine by me because the wildlife was awesome! 

The first evening featured good numbers of wild turkeys with many gobblers strutting around trying to impress the hens.  Deer were out in profusion as well.  The only thing that eluded us was a black bear.  Rumors swirled that plenty of sightings had been taking place but apparently we just did not happen to drive through at the right moment.  We even saw several Pileated Woodpeckers.





After a delicious pasta dinner we all went to sleep, excited about finding more wildlife the next day.  Waking up the next morning, we took time to make pancakes before planning the day's activities.  First on our list was to check out the Cove again in an effort to see a bear. 

Upon entering the one-way road, we found turkeys again.  The deer were a little more scarce though.  Because of our lazy morning, it was approaching noon and most wildlife was probably catching a midday nap.  In fact, we found several nice bucks (minus their antlers) bedded down not far from the road.  In another location we found a group of bucks feeding in the shade of the woods along Abrams Creek. 




On sudden inspiration, we decided to take Rich Mountain Road out to Townsend to pick up a couple of grocery items forgotten in our initial shopping.  This one-way road winds steadily out of the cove and is a great drive in the fall when the colors are at their peak.  Spring turned out to be a beautiful time to drive it as well although the trip was relatively uneventful. 

After the stop in Townsend, we decided to head up the gravel road at Tremont to explore and photograph the Cascades on Lynn Camp Prong.  The stream was beautiful although I found the cascades to be challenging to photograph with the sun casting contrasting shadows on the scene.  The area immediately upstream provided some nice photo opportunities though.


The spring flowers were a highlight of the trip to Tremont.  Another treat was seeing all the butterflies although it can be a little disturbing to see what they like to gather on.



 
After our adventure over on Middle Prong and Lynn Camp, we headed back to Cades Cove.  Along the way, a bear was finally spotted shortly before we actually arrived in the cove.  We took a few pictures but the lack of a tripod meant the pictures were all at least a little fuzzy.


A short rest at camp provided me the opportunity to sneak over to Anthony Creek and catch a couple of small rainbows.  As the sun sank lower in the west, we headed out for yet another adventure around the Cove.  This would be the best yet as we saw another 3 bears as well as more turkeys than ever and the usual deer.  The afternoon light was filling the Cove and I had my camera out even more than normal trying to capture the changing moods of the mountains.






Our last day in the mountains started out with an epic breakfast that included one of my favorites, breakfast burritoes!!!  After that we packed everything and decided to make one last drive around Cades Cove. 

We experienced several treats that included iris blooming near an old home site, and a still quiet pond in the woods, but the trip took an interesting turn as we returned to our car from the pond. 




As we climbed the gentle slope back to the car, a highway patrol SUV came into view.  We stood there staring as car after car then rolled by, all TN highway patrol.  Finally, what seemed like an eternity later, the last car was followed by an SUV and we got in our own car wondering what was going on.  I'm still not really positive, but I think they just went on a big joy ride together.  We drove out of the Cove immediately behind them and I was impressed with how fast they made the trip back to the Wye!


Leaving the Cove behind us, we headed towards Sugarlands and then the West Prong of the Little Pigeon.  I wanted to see how the pocket water of that particular stream was fishing in the name of science and research of course.  We drove up to the Chimneys Picnic area where I spent some time prospecting with a dry before finally biting the bullet and tying on a Tellico.  A few rainbows quickly ate the tantalizing offering and I started seeing fish sitting very deep in the water column.  A strong breeze was keeping the gorge quite cool.  I did find some cool bugs flying around though!






Another stop lower on the West Prong produced no additional fish but did provide some good material for my camera.



The last treat of the day was photographing a flame azalea along Little River Road.  It appeared to already be in decline with most flowers drooping.  A few were still looking decent though and we appreciated the opportunity to take some pictures.
 

Until my next trip I'll be looking forward to the opportunity to return to the mountains.  The high price of gas will keep me closer to home this summer.  This has benefits as well as drawbacks.  I'll be glad to learn more about my local streams but will miss the opportunity to fish for trout in the mountains and other great locations.  In the meantime, I'll still make occasional trips to the Park and perhaps some tailwaters as well...