Featured Photo: Native Colors

Featured Photo: Native Colors

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Poll

There is yet another poll...I'm wondering how many purists are out there... Do you use "junk" flies or not? Or maybe you don't agree with my definition of junk flies...if not, let me know where I went wrong...or let me know about the evils of using these flies...

Too Cold

A front was pushing through the area today. This morning it actually felt quite warm out and I was hoping that it would turn out to be a nice day. By the middle of the afternoon, the front had passed and left us with a brisk northwest wind and mostly cloudy skies. I knew right away that no one else would be out fishing today so I headed over to my new fishin' hole to catch some more fish.

After an hour fishing, I'd had enough but not before catching two fish. The wind was a pain to cast in but even worse because it made it feel much colder than it really was. Earlier this winter I fished when it was in the 20's out and my guides were icing up. I actually felt warmer then than I did today. It was all the sweeter because I caught fish on a new pattern I dreamed up the other day. Basically it was a red tag off the back end, wrap orange egg yarn for the body, and then a sparse wing of brown over white bucktail. Of course, I also suspect that warmwater fish are a lot dumber than trout and will eat just about anything so it has yet to be seen if it is a good fish producer. Today could have been a coincidence.

Thankfully, I won't be heading back much more for a couple weeks. That's because I'll be out chasing TROUT which is really my favorite...ahhhhh, spring break!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back on the Water

My intentions have been good all along. I've been planning on going back to the Smokies to check for lake run fish and to just enjoy fishing for those wild trout. This weekend it finally happened. On Sunday I drove up to the park and hit a small stream and also checked a larger stream for lake run fish. I finished off the day with my first time on the Hiwassee this year.

The first stream I checked out was fairly slow but I still carefully worked the water, hitting every likely hole, pocket and run. Finally, as I was working upstream in full stealth mode, I saw the light gray color in the water ahead of me that looked like a feeding 'bow. As soon as it moved from side to side, I knew for sure it was a fish. Apparently it was hungry and I got more than one opportunity. My first try should have spooked the fish since I felt the strike and gave a solid hook set. The fish was set on continuing the feast though and soon I got another good drift and it ate. After a quick fight, I brought a beautiful rainbow to hand. I was struck by how skinny this fish was, maybe it was a post-spawn fish. After admiring it and snapping 2 quick pictures, I slipped the fish back into the water and watched it dart away.

So much better than a stocked trout...

My day would have been perfect with just that one fish. A stop at lower Abrams Creek was in order however. On the drive in, at least 5 Blount County Sheriff cars passed me. Later at the parking lot in the park, two more drove in in a hurry and after consulting, left again. I don't know what was going on but it was odd to say the least.

I didn't even end up fishing on Abrams. My rod came out of the car and I was thoroughly prepared but a slow walk along the banks of the stream yielded no fish sightings. This part of the stream won't have many if any trout except perhaps in the colder months when fish may move up from the lake. Also, it is a bit early for smallmouth. I was hoping to find lake run fish but it wasn't to be on this day.

It was only the middle of the afternoon when I left Abrams so I headed back down highway 411 on my way back to the Chattanooga area. The Hiwassee was conveniently located on the way back so I decided I should check it out. The first stop was at the powerhouse where one small rainbow was curious enough to check out my fly. Later on I moved down to the Big Bend area and picked up two more rainbows. I'm giving this river 2 more weeks before things bust loose. For superb spring dry fly action, this is the place to be if you want somewhere relatively close to Chattanooga and other points south.

As far as the bugs I saw, in the mountains there were midges of course along with a few stray stoneflies and maybe a couple caddis. On the HI, it was about the same but probably even fewer bugs (except for midges, there were good numbers of those). Like I said, this should all change very soon, no more than 3 weeks unless we enter an ice age. Once the hatches start, I'll try to keep you up to date on what is happening where.

I'm more excited for the spring hatches than I can ever remember being and I'll try to get to the Smokies as often as possible. Hopefully this will be the spring of a big brown for me. I've yet to break 20 inches in the Park so that is my goal. There may be a few big rainbows left as well. Most of those didn't do so well in the drought last year but the few that are left provide some nice surprises this spring. Last spring, I broke off on a rainbow that was at least 18 inches which is a monster for the park. I'm afraid it probably didn't survive the summer but I'll be back to find out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Full Moon, An Eclipse, and Good Fishing

Last night was the last lunar eclipse until 2010. Naturally I wondered if the fish would be at all affected by the phenomena but was too busy trying to take pictures of the eclipse to go fishing. Unfortunately I still don't have a good zoom lens for my DSLR but still had fun trying to get some pictures.

Today was supposed to be one of the top fishing days of the month based on the solunar fishing tables so at the last minute I decided to run down to my new fishing hole and try my luck. The fishing was solid, not great but definitely worth the trip. Here's a few pictures from the afternoon...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Coming Up...

I've been slacking off a little lately but there's plenty of good stuff coming. James Marsh from Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains sent me some DVDs to check out so expect a review on those coming up as I have time. I've already watched a large portion of the DVD on fishing dry flies in the Smokies. So far it has been great and has made me want to go hit up some trout streams. I might have to scratch that itch sometime soon...

In fact, this weekend or early next week should see me having enough time to make a Smokies trip, probably to look some more for lake run fish. When I find the fish, you'll be the first to find out so check back often for those reports...

Also, I'm hoping to do a review of an excellent article on the water problems out West. That one will take a bit longer probably although I might get it done this weekend. In between all these other things, I still have to at least pretend to study occasionally and also get in some fishing locally as well...

Finally, I want to apologize for any spelling problems in my recent and current posts. The spell-check feature is on the blink for Blogger and I've been too lazy to resort to other methods. I don't really have the time to do a thorough job proof reading so my apologies to everyone that hates reading something full of spelling and grammatical errors...

The Last Few Days

A tough weekend for fishing purposes meant that I didn't have any good updates for this week. My problem was a big exam I had on Monday that I needed to study for. I had been hoping to float the Caney and throw shad patterns for monster fish but that didn't happen (I have heard that the shad are coming through the turbines though so if you've got a boat, go float the Caney NOW!). Thankfully, I was able to get away Tuesday afternoon this week and again today to try out my skills on fish other than trout some more. Both trips had some great highlights...

On Tuesday, I caught one of the ugliest fish I've ever caught. It was my first Freshwater Drum which was definitely fun to catch at least once. Now that I've caught one, I don't really care to catch many more though. Both trips, I've also caught several Yellow Bass and Hybrids.

Tuesday's trip was interesting because the shad were coming through the dam in large numbers. The fish were absolutely gorging themselves and the first Hybrid I caught started coughing up shad (see picture below). Later in the day, I saw at least one very nice striper rolling down below me, and a guy with a Spey rod showed up and eventually caught what looked like a 6-7 pound fish from the same general area. Today I tried that area to no avail but did "catch" an interesting fish.

I had been casting downstream to where several fish appeared to be feeding when I looked off to my side in the slack water and saw a fish just sitting there. It appeared to be some type of gar or perhaps a pickerel. Carefully, I reached back and unfastened my net and slipped it into the water behind the fish. The fish appeared lethargic, maybe because the water was cold or maybe because it was sick. Regardless, I was able to net it and we got a quick picture of what appears to be a gar. Anyone here know much about these fish? I'd be interested in hearing exactly what type of gar you think this is...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Something New

Trout are easily my favorite fish to target on the fly. Unfortunately, the nearest trout water is around 50 miles away regardless of whether I'm at home or at school. This reality combined with high gas prices has me looking at alternative fishing trips. Today I checked out a new spot for cool- and warm-water species such as bass and panfish. The fishing turned out slow but it was fun to get out and try something new. I even caught my first white bass ever!!! Hopefully I'll be back to try again soon and maybe I'll find some smallies or largemouth or even some stripers. The best thing is, it is close enough that I can literally go any day I want to now. That means fishing in the morning before class and in the late afternoon after class is a distinct possibility. Of course, I'll have to keep a little time free to study, but who needs to do that when you could be fishing...???

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Exploring Gone Wrong, Very Very Wrong

First stream where I caught a few

My recent urge to explore finally got me into trouble. I've had my eye on a remote tributary stream somewhere in East Tennessee that is hard to get to and finally got around to looking for it. When I say "looking for it," that is because there is no trail to the stream making the job much harder (at least, not by the most direct route). There's a very good reason for that however. There are two options for a trail, up and over a towering mountain (that's what it seemed like anyway) or along a steep sidehill where falling means ending up in a lake. Yeah, that's the hint of the day by the way but trust me, you don't want to go to this stream even if you figure out where it is.

I wandered the backroads to where I was planning to start hiking and parked the car. Another stream had already been visited and I was still in my wading attire. That was mistake #1, and #2 followed closely behind as I didn't switch to hiking shoes. Then again, I had yet to learn what I was getting myself into. As most of you are undoubtedly aware of, steep hills and felt wading boots don't mix well, especially when those hills are covered in leaves and pine needles.

My cheerful hike was soon in progress and I was making good time for about 100 feet when I made mistake #3. It stands to reason that it would be easier to just follow the contours instead of hustling up and over the ridge right? Wrong...and boy did I pay for it. Things started out pretty well as I found myself walking gingerly along a game trail that angled down towards the water's edge but then it just faded out. Of course, I knew better than to trust a "trail" like that, but hey, hope springs eternal.

Things began deteriorating a bit more rapidly from this point on. The sidehill got worse and worse and I was reduced to falling on my butt every 5-10 steps or so, sometimes much more. This continued for about a half a mile as I more and more cautiously worked my way around the mountain looming above me, always towards the promised land of fish that have never seen a fly. "It can't get any worse," I kept telling myself. It should be obvious by now that this was mistake #4 and things did indeed get worse.

About this time I realized that the extreme exertion it was taking to make any headway at all had resulted in an extreme case of thirst. I just knew that death from a lack of water (which I should have brought with me) was now stalking me if I didn't fall off the side of the mountain into the lake and drown first. This was mistake #5 and almost #6. Yet another game trail had presented itself and I was creeping along a mere 10-15 feet above the water which was quite deep at this point. Falling in would have resulted in swimming and probably for a long ways. Wearing waders and my vest meant this would be a huge problem. The goal then was clearly to NOT fall in. Did I mention mistake #5? The game trail literally shrank down to about 1 inch wide for a few feet before regaining the 4-5 inches that allowed slow progress. I was pretty sure I could make it because the other side was so close. Just one step on dangerous sidehill and then my other foot would be across and gaining traction on solid ground. I made the lunge and my foot flew out from under me.

As I tossed my fly rod up the hill away from danger, I glanced down and was reminded that there was NOTHING below me to stop me from falling into the water ...just a nice drop into oblivion. I flung my hand towards my last remaining hope and found myself hanging over the precipice by one arm and wondering how in the world I got myself into this predicament. The tree I was hanging onto was only about 2 inches in diameter, and I was hoping that it wouldn't pull out of the hill. With my other hand, I reached up and pushed my fly rod farther up the hill to avoid having it fall in the lake. Next, I put my rock climbing skills to good use, slowly and painfully pulling myself back up to my starting point. And I kept going... I was done inching along over the lake with every step taken in danger of falling in. Onward, ever onward I climbed until I found the remains of an old trail part way up the hill and foolishly pressed on towards my goal. This was mistake #6. I was exhausted and every step seemed to take the last bit of energy I had left. Nevertheless I pressed on until I found myself staring down towards my goal far below me. When I saw that the deep water continued on back even further and to reach the actual stream, I would have to climb down (and of course back up) an extremely steep hill, I decided that enough is enough. Disillusioned, I turned away and faced the mountain that was now between me and my car.

Incredibly I began to climb up, higher and higher until I felt completely exhausted. My thirst had reached an all new high and I felt the beginnings of heat exhaustain setting in. I started to feel naseauted and realized that I had to take a rest. Sitting down never felt so good and then I just reclined against the side of the mountain, glad to have a moment of peace in this torturous journey. After about 20 minutes, I felt able to keep moving and began inching on up the side of the mountain. Never in my life has reaching the top of a mountain felt so good. While I wasn't back to my car, I knew the worst part of the ordeal was over. If you're going downhill, at least you can just enter a half-crouch and slide down when the going gets too steep. When I stumbled back onto the road where I had left my car, I used my little remaining energy to unlock my car and latch onto a Nalgene that was full of life-giving water. Several minutes and a liter of water later, things were looking up and already I was plotting how to return. That will most likely be mistake #7 but on the other hand, I could find a hidden jewel of a trout stream.

This trek into the untamed wilds of Tennessee was the worst part of the day but it literally added insult AND injury TO injury. While fishing the previous stream that I had actually made it to, I stepped on a large flat rock that looked solid. It was covered with leaves and was basically level leading me into the dangerously incorrect assumption that it was fine to walk on. What I didn't notice was the spring on the upper end of the rock which had soaked the whole rock under the leaves and several steps into crossing, the whole mass of leaves decided to slide at once and I took The Fall. The resulting crash probably registered as an earthquake on one of the USGS seismographs and left me sore all over.

Rock where I took "The Fall"

Closeup of the slide zone from The Fall. Where you now see bare rock used to be completely covered in a blanket of leaves before I took the tumble...

And then the journey of agony happened, first around the mountain and almost into the lake and then back over the mountain...

When I woke up today, I felt like I had been hit by a freight train which is probably what it feels like to be a professional football player. This was one thing I never expected from the quiet sport... Yet, I still plan on going back...hopefully it will be worth my time!!!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lake-run Rainbows

Today, I officially began my quest for lake-run rainbows. I've been hearing plenty of stories about the great fishing opportunities they present and while we may not have salmon and steelhead runs like the West Coast or the tributaries of the Great Lakes, there are still some decent possibilities to explore. Many of the streams take some effort to get to and I'm hoping to get in some backpacking trips soon to check those out. Even the ones that don't require an overnight trip take a bit of effort to get to. Today I drove for what seemed like eternity through the winding backroads of the Appalachians. The drive was nice though a bit too winding for it to be a quick trip...

The end result proved worth the wait. I found just a few large fish in the stream of choice but they were actively feeding making my job easier. Only one (of the big guys anyway) was gracious enough to let me land it but one of the ones I hooked was almost as memorable. I was drifting a copper john with a midge dropper through a run where I had spotted an actively feeding fish when my line stopped dead and shot upstream. My feeble attempts at putting on the breaks did absolutely nothing as the fish muscled its way on upstream before shortly throwing the tiny midge. The fish I did land was gorgeous but was missing a chunk of tail from some past brush with danger...

Hopefully there will be a lot more fish in this creek in the near future. There's only one way to find out though so I'll make the sacrifice and check back soon so everyone can know that someone is out there having fun...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Whirling Disease Conquered?

The Colorado DOW has been working on the problem of whirling disease for awhile now and may finally have a breakthrough. For the past few years, they've been developing and subsequently stocking a new strain of rainbow that appears resistant to the disease. Now they have announced the discovery of natural reproduction of the disease-resistant fish. The fish were found in the Gunnison River and also in ponds along the Frying Pan River while doing the annual electroshocking surveys.

"They were plump, colorful fish, they looked good," said Barry Nehring, an aquatic researcher for the DOW in Montrose who has been working on whirling disease since 1994. "This is indicative that we've had successful reproduction."

This is great news since I love fishing the Gunnison. The last time I was there, I caught lots of browns up to 18 or 19 inches which is fun and all, but the lone rainbow I caught was a reminder of the river's heyday when lots of big rainbows were the norm. Hopefully the good news will continue as they do more research...