Featured Photo: Native Colors

Featured Photo: Native Colors

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Yellowstone Site!!!

From James and Angie Marsh comes another great website just in time for our last minute trip preparation. You may know of them from their fine site on fishing in the Smokies (previously highlighted here at the Trout Zone). In particular, I really have appreciated some of the stream shots. As I've prepared for the trip, there have been several small streams I am interested in trying but didn't really know what to expect. The detailed description of the streams along with the pictures helped tremendously in giving me a better idea of what to expect.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Headed West

The time of departure is fast approaching. The Trout Zone officially kicks off the Tour of the West in 32 or so hours. We'll be out of the gate here in Crossville en route to Gunnison Colorado where we'll start things off with some small streams, perhaps some hogs from the Taylor, and one of my favorites, the Gunnison in the Black Canyon. After that we're off to the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork. Our schedule is packed for the first week or so and then we'll start playing it by ear depending on where the fishing is currently hot. While Yellowstone looks like it will be borderline for the fishing, I'm still looking forward to getting back there. I'll probably spend a lot more time on small streams than during my previous time there and I do enjoy fishing smaller water.

While we're on the road, we may or may not have good Internet access so I can't guarantee continuous coverage. However, if we get into any truly memorable fish I'll do my best to keep you informed so check back often!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Fishing Continues

I have not fished in far too long and its beginning to seriously wear on me. Of course, THE TRIP is almost here and should give me an excellent fix in the fishing department. Things aren't looking good for Yellowstone although there are still plenty of fishing options. I'm becoming more and more thankful that Colorado was added to the itinerary however as the water situation there is much better with most streams running around or at least near seasonal averages. Also, plenty of rain has been falling in Colorado albeit somewhat scattered from day to day. The fishing should be good and I'm looking forward to catching some fine fish.

While not fishing, I've been working hard until this past week when I joined my family for an abbreviated vacation to Florida. No fishing involved which was difficult since everyone on the coast seemed to be catching fish after fish. If I wasn't so partial to trout it would have been maddening. Instead of fishing, I was able to devote at least a bit of time to getting some pictures. So, to escape the risk of becoming wordy, here are a few pictures both from Florida and also from recent hikes here in Tennessee.

A more random collection of photos you're not likely to find anywhere...

Sunrise, Florida Style

The Required Beach Shot

Just Having Fun

The Leap Back to the Woods of Tennessee

The Vivid Colors Found Trailside

What Is It?

With each new crimson discovery, we're reminded that fall and consequently some of the best fishing of the year is just around the corner...

Sunset in Tennessee

You Did Come To Read About Fishing After all...

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Lately I've had exploration on my mind. As I prepare to head west in search of fly fishing nirvana, I've thought of past trips both close to home and far away. The terminology is relative of course. To me, close to home means I can go there often which means a 2-3 hour drive. This is a doable day trip and a nice weekend getaway.

Over the years, some of my favorite streams have been discovered on weekend trips where I go with little or no expectations simply hoping to see the world and maybe catch a fish or two in the process. From roaming the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains or Cherokee National Forest to trying new tailwaters throughout Eastern and Middle Tennessee, I've had many great trips. The memories these days have provided come not always just from the fish I catch although those are often memorable in themselves. Instead, I have enjoyed the overall experience...a deer wading deep across the Tellico River. A bear wandering a backroad in Georgia. The large copperhead near dark along the Hiwassee. Even fish occasionally, such as some of the epic days I've had high in the Smokies on new water. All of these combine to produce an experience that will not soon be forgotten.

Lately I've been thinking about the past years when we had more water and I didn't feel guilty fishing in the heat of the summer. My first trip to the Tellico area brought me face to face with Bald River Falls as it plunged over the cliff and down to mingle its waters with those of the larger Tellico River. The falls is an icon in my mind, representing the whole Tellico area which have given me plenty of pleasant surprises. It is a place to escape from the heat, to get out into nature and away from crowds if you know where to go.

Some of my favorite trips of exploration have been "out west." Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, all these states have a special place in my memory and not always because of the fishing. From hiking slot canyons in Utah to descending deep into the gaping Black Canyon of the Gunnison, my time has been well spent seeking those treasures only accessible to those willing to put forth some effort. It is always worth it and I look forward to my next discovery, the next hidden gem that I know I'll find, I just know it....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rain East, Low Flows and Heat West

We predict rain, you get rain. Enough rain fell in the Smokies yesterday to produce a small spike in the flows in Little River. Today's forecast continues to call for rain from today into tomorrow. Currently, NWS radar indicates a broad area of precipitation skirting the boarding of southern Tennessee into Alabama. Let's hope it holds together long enough to reach the mountains. If this verifies and enough rain falls, it might produce at least a temporary reprieve for the trout that have been battling low flows and warm temperatures.

In other news, the rumors I've heard about Yellowstone National Park have been officially confirmed. The National Park Service is asking anglers to help protect Yellowstone’s native and wild trout fisheries by halting fishing in lower elevation waters between noon and 6:00 pm.
It seems that at least some of this is premature as area fly shops are indicating that some of the streams listed on the official press release are still running plenty cool, albeit quite low.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Improving Conditions?

As the water levels continue to be low in the mountains, the need for measurable rain increases dramatically with each passing week. Thankfully, it looks like our rain chances are getting a significant boost from a series of fronts and upper level disturbances forecast to move through Tennessee over the next several days. Now its time to just wait and see what happens. Enough rain over the course of several days could boost stream levels away from the dangerously low ones we've been seeing lately. I don't know if I'll have time to fish the mountains again before I head west but it would be great to know that the fish are not in such danger anymore before I leave.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Done Fishin'...

Low water, warm water, both equally dangerous for trout and there is an abundance of both in the Smokies right now. My summer fishing has been great but I really haven't had enough trips to the mountains to suit me. However conscience dictates that I won't be heading that way anytime soon unless we get some rain, a lot of it.

With rainfall totals running 12-14 inches below normal and even more in some locations, the area streams are dangerously low and to fish under these conditions will adversely affect any fish caught. That is why I'm done fishing the mountains until fall at the earliest.

I won't be doing much of any fishing now for a few weeks as I work hard for another couple of weeks before the fun starts. Work should come first but after that I'm going to have a great time. The approach of my trip West has me tying flies like crazy. Between my preparation and work, fishing time will be in short supply. Yes, its a tough life and it will only get harder when I have to fish for a month throughout Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Long Live the Bead Head

Bead heads, the stuff of controversy between the purist element of our sport and those that just like to catch fish. I like to view myself as someone that is working towards being a complete fly fisherman and to me that means being able to use any technique and matching that technique strictly to the situation. This can be extended to a broader idea of using whatever is most likely to be effective. Depending on the situation, effective may mean catching lots of fish, or perhaps catching a large fish, or maybe a specific difficult fish. Often this means fishing nymphs and while they may not necessarily be more effective, bead head nymphs do make things easier.

For example, if I'm feeling a bit lazy I tie on a strike indicator (gasp!) and a bead head. This is only for fishing that is farther than 10 feet or if I'm expecting very light takes where a visual is helpful beyond simply the end of my line or leader. Of course, strike indicators can be very helpful in the right situation or to get a beginner into fish quickly. For example, last fall I got my cousin into his first trout on the long rod within just a few short minutes with a bead head Tellico nymph under an indicator. He went on to catch several more on his own, quickly picking up the basics of reading water. In fact, he kept me busy enough with the camera that my own fishing started to suffer. Of course, that's a good problem...a beginner can never catch too many fish. Even guides turn to bead head nymphs when a novice fly angler shows up wanting to catch some easy fish. Its just easier that way.

And why is it so easy? Its really quite simple and the answer is found throughout fly fishing literature. A couple main factors combine to make the bead head nymph so deadly. First, the bead head provides weight. One of the biggest challenges facing a first-time nymph fisherman is getting the fly down where the fish are. Even more experienced fisherman find themselves adding split shot to get their fly down. My recent Watauga trip comes to mind to demonstrate this point. The nice rainbow I caught came to a Tellico that was heavily weighted already but I added another 2 #6 split shot to get my fly down. Using a bead head is extremely beneficial in getting the fly to quickly penetrate the water column and sink to the bottom. One of my favorite Smokies flies is a bead head Tellico that is also tied with a generous amount of lead wire creating one of the heaviest flies you can tie in the smaller sizes. When combined with an indicator, it becomes deadly even in the hands of a relative novice. In the hands of an expert, an indicator isn't necessary on the small mountain streams and that same expert will catch lots of fish the beginner will miss. As much as weight may be the main factor in the success of the bead head, I believe another factor is important as well.

Flash, sparkle, an attention getter, the bead head is all of the above and this could well be argued to be the most important aspect of a bead head nymph. Sometimes the fish just want to see a bit of glitter and while it may not be pure, it sure catches fish. While some people prefer to stick strictly to natural materials for fly tying, they are once again limiting themselves. Sure, it may take more creativity but as much as I enjoy exploring my artistic abilities, when I sit down at the fly tying bench I want to crank out the most efficient fish producing flies possible. Often this means taking a very popular nymph and simply adding a bead head.

To a lesser extent (or perhaps greater, who knows), the bead head also adds a different element to the profile of the fly. When I see so many extremely flat little critters in the water, I'm sometimes tempted to wonder why the bead head actually catches fish. The large round bulb at the front end of the fly certainly doesn't look exactly like something in nature, but that is part of the game. Often instead of a perfect match, something that is more suggestive works wonders and the bead head is the perfect example. I'm still looking for my first bead head pheasant tail hatch and if I find it, I'll probably make history. In the meantime, this little fly will continue to catch many gullible trout around the world.

Often I am asked onstream about what I've been having success with. More and more lately my reply involves some type of bead head. Some of the best fish catching machines have a bead head. On tailwaters, you'll often find me fishing a bead head under a dry fly for an indicator. Only when a hatch occurs and fish start rising will you find me changing tactics. In the mountains, I usually start with a nymph as well until the fish tell me otherwise. The water and fish are always talking to you, telling you what to do to be successful. The key is careful observation and learning each lesson thoroughly.

A quick rundown of favorite bead head nymphs include the Pheasant Tail, Tellico, Zebra Midge, and Copper John. The first three can be tied either with or without a bead head and the last was designed specifically for use with a bead head. All are fish catching machines that should be in any fly box. While the purists are sitting on the bank waiting for signs of hatching bugs and rising trout, you'll be standing knee-deep in the trout stream landing fish after fish...I'll see you there!!!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fishing With My Uncle

The last couple of days have been spent with relatives visiting from out of state. My uncle has spent a bunch of time telling me stories from his younger days when he fished a lot. Big browns in Montana are generally the topic of my favorite stories but he has good stories to tell from throughout the west. He can't get out in the river well anymore himself but thought it would be fun to come watch me catch a few. I assured him it was a good time to go as the fishing has been great lately so we headed down to the Caney Fork for a couple of hours. He made himself comfortable in a chair on the shore and I proceeded to catch a few fish to show him. Another big fish ate my fly but this time I didn't even get the hookset so he is still out there to be caught. Fortunately, some other nice fish decided to play.

My appreciation of fluorocarbon tippet is increasing by leaps and bounds. I can't remember the last time I fished 5x so successfully on the Caney and it is nice to be able to pressure fish a little. Midges are still working well...

My uncle got a kick out of watching me catch fish and a good afternoon was had by all!