Featured Photo: Football Brown

Featured Photo: Football Brown

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Spring break was the last time I fished for trout and that was almost a month ago now. This was a problem that needed to be corrected so I finally made it up to the Hiwassee. The river should be turning on really well with big hatches of Hendricksons and a few BWOs along with the usual caddis and I wanted to see how things were coming. The desire to fish dry flies was strong, so strong in fact that when I arrived and only saw a few stray bugs, I tied on a Neversink Caddis in dark brown with a caddis-olive softhackle as a dropper.

The first few casts gave me a rise to the softhackle, but after several more I knew that the fish wouldn't be tearing up the dry. Accordingly, I tied on my early season go-to fly on the Hiwassee, a #16 beadhead black simi seal leech pattern which apparently does a good job imitating all the small dark stonefly nymphs that are active this time of year. This proved to be the ticket and I started hooking fish. Not tearing them up mind you but catching one here and one there at a decent pace.

As the day progressed, I saw a few stray mayflies that looked like they might have been Hendricksons but no large hatch yet. The highlight of the day was catching a fish on the dry. A good hatch of tiny (think #34-#40) yellowish midges was in progress and the fish were taking pupa just under the surface. A small midge dropped under a dry seemed like a good option so I tied on the caddis again for the dry. After completing the new rig, I started working the current tongues just above a hole that usually produces a few rainbows. Suddenly, a shadow floated up off the bottom. I fully expected it to reject my fly but it just kept coming. Suddenly it broke the surface as it inhaled the dry fly. A nice smooth hookset later I had a fish on. It wasn't a monster but it sure was fun...

The river is fishing okay right now but that's it. I caught 14 or 15 fish over the course of the day but it could have been much better if the bugs were hatching. One big guy bumped my fly but couldn't find the hook apparently. The fly of the day was the black simi seal pattern and the water was right around 50 degrees. I'm willing to bet that in another 1-2 weeks, the river will be on fire as far as the hatches are concerned. Rainy or at least cloudy days will be best... Be there...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Big Fish

Since I don't have any great stories to tell, I'm going to send you over to Hugh Hartsell's page. Hugh is an excellent East Tennessee guide and recently posted a report about catching a very nice brown trout over on the South Holston...pictures included... Check it out!

Nothin' Much

That's basically what's been going on with me in the realm of fishing. I've been swamped with school-related stuff for the last several days and it looks like things aren't going to get any better until late Wednesday (big test that afternoon). Thursday looks to be a good day to fish though so I'll probably be heading out to either the HI or maybe the Tennessee River again. The next couple of weekends WILL include some type of fishing and most likely trout unless it rains a lot and the rivers/streams are all blown out.

I've been so busy that I haven't even taken the time to tie any flies for awhile. This warm weather has me thinking about fishing dry flies, and I need to tie a lot of those before I fish anymore. Hopefully that will start happening soon...

Anyway, check back soon in the next few days as spring has arrived in East Tennessee, and I'll be out there trying to make the most of it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keeping Fish

While fishing on Thursday, I was able to enlighten a kid that stopped by to watch my buddy and me fish. When he first came up, he asked if I had caught any fish. I replied in the affirmative and added that I had caught several.

What happened next cracked me up but also showed me the general mentality that people have about fishing. The poor kid looked all over for those fish and then asked, "Where are they?" If you can imagine the confusion on his face when he didn't see any fish laying around, then double that confusion to imagine his face when I said, "I let them all go."

I wanted to have a good chuckle, but since this was a good teaching opportunity I resisted. Three or four minutes later, I hooked up on one of my better fish of the day. He watched me fight the fish and then land it and quickly asked if he could have it. I reminded him that I let all my fish go and he seemed fine with that but wanted to hold the fish. Of course this was okay and so he spent a little while admiring the fish and my buddy snapped a quick picture for me and we let it go.

Hopefully that kid will remember that you don't have to keep 'em all.

Heating Up

Things have been heating up here in the Tennessee Valley, both the weather and the fishing. This past Thursday brought on the best fishing I've head yet on the Tennessee River for the bass (white, hybrid, yellow). Right now, large schools of baitfish are finally showing up and the fish are having a heyday feasting on them.

Most fish seem to have a preference for smaller flies right now. I've been fishing a tandem rig with a larger streamer (#4-#6) trailed by a smaller #8 (anything white is good). On Thursday, all but one fish hit the #8. A few stripers are being caught but haven't I hung into one myself, YET... A few larger flies will probably need to be added to my arsenal to try and trick one of these fish so tomorrow, instead of fishing, I'll probably do homework and tie a few flies. This week should see the fishing continue to improve. Hopefully next weekend will allow me to return to the trout streams in the Smokies but until then, I'll continue my quest for a big striper...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Junk and Shame

In fly fishing, there is the purist approach where you fish upstream and with dries only. Often you don't wade but instead walk the stream banks looking for that rising fish to cast to. Then there's that other approach, the one where you use flies that are gaudy and often quite ugly. Of course, there is a lot of middle ground here that one can comfortably negotiate without going all out one way or the other. I fall somewhere between the two extremes but occasionally resort to somewhat questionable methods that always leave me feeling a little guilty.

Most if not all of the "junk" flies actually imitate something the fish might be able to eat. Then why the guilty conscience? As do many fly fisherman, I prefer to fish dry flies but when they aren't rising enough to keep me happy, I'll tie on something else in a heartbeat. In fact, I sometimes get annoyed fishing dries because if the fishing is too good, then I must constantly(or so it seems) be drying the fly or tying on another.

The recent poll suggested that many of you would not want to fish an egg pattern or a SJ worm. I'm guessing that those are probably the ones that are much closer to mastering the art of fly fishing than I am. It is easy and enlightening to view junk flies as a crutch and in my opinion they are (and yet I still use them). That is probably why I feel guilty using them.

The majority are in the same boat as I am and admitted to using these flies on occasion. A few of you disagreed with my assessment of what is and what isn't a junk fly. I'm curious which ones and why if you care to respond. Just hit the comment button and let me know what you think....

Finally, much thanks to the purist out there!!! I was beginning to think that no one that fit that category was going to vote...I applaud you for maintaining the purity of tradition in this fine sport... Hopefully I'll be coming closer to your side of the debate by weaning myself from the use of junk flies although I doubt you'll see me giving up wet flies any time soon...

New poll is up by the way...check it out!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trouble for TWRA

For those that fish in Tennessee, you know that your license comes from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). It has been brought to my attention via the Little River Outfitter Message Board that Rep. Sherry Jones (D - Nashville) is sponsoring a bill (House Bill 2856) that would abolish TWRA and also would deposit all funds from license sales into the general fund instead of directly back towards enhancing and protecting our waterways and wild areas. Additionally, the state would lose millions of dollars in federal funding that are currently going to TWRA.

This plan is a disaster and I would strongly encourage you to email or call your representative and let them know that you are against it. You can find your representative here. This bill is currently nowhere near a general vote and probably won't get that far as it must go through committees first. Regardless, this is an important issue so let your voice be heard.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Links

Once again, I have added some links so check them out when you get a chance. The two most recent are the Key West Tarpon Fishing Guide and the Fly Fishing Community.

Good Water Year

The most recent water supply forecasts are out from the National Water and Climate Center and across the west, snowfall has been generally near to well-above average. This year should be great for fishing throughout the Rockies. I'm starting to work on figuring out how to have another trip to Colorado this year...wish me luck!

Tough Days

Days where you seem to catch fish every cast are a lot of fun albeit unrealistic. Yes, it usually takes at least some type of skill to have great days even when the fish are "on." However, it is the slow days that really show you where you are at. March has started out tough for me. On Monday, the 3rd, I took a quick trip to the Smokies.

I had a tough time bringing a couple of fish to hand on nymphs. One of my problems seems to have been that I fished Abrams creek for awhile in the afternoon. It probably would have been better to stick to Little River. The water I covered on Abrams apparently had already been fished through earlier in the day (which I naturally didn't find out until after the fact) which made things very tough. Then again, it just seemed like one of those days where things aren't working well for me.

It happened again yesterday. A buddy and I went up to Upper East Tennessee to fish the South Holston and Watauga. Unfortunately, both rivers were still suffering the effects of the recent heavy rains and where anywhere from stained to muddy depending on where you were fishing in relation to the dams. On the South Holston, the fish were feeding heavily but it didn't seem to make any difference. I only managed a couple fish over the course of the day, a small 'bow and a small brown.

Knowledge and observation is the key to succeeding on the water. Both of my recent fishing trips I was lacking in both categories. Unfortunately, it was more in the knowledge than the observation. If I had brought the appropriate fly patterns, I believe that I could have been catching plenty of fish on the SoHo. Blackflies were hatching in large numbers and at least one riffle had good numbers of rusty spinners hovering over it but not many fish were in that particular water. The blackflies were my main trouble. I had some good larva patterns and they produced several takes throughout the afternoon but I was having trouble hooking up. Late in the day, I believe the fish switched mainly to taking the adults and this is where my troubles began. No patterns equals no fish. It was fairly obvious what was hatching and what the fish wanted but I didn't have anything even close to a good match. That won't happen again. Next time I'll have some appropriate patterns ready and the fish will be more willing. Until then, I'll be at the vise getting ready...

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Well, it was so cold yesterday that I lost a fish...a really nice fish as in a big 18-20 inch trout. Mother nature tricked me though, making me think it was nice out. Seriously, it wasn't all that cold when I started fishing. To celebrate the start of spring break (should be called winter break), I went down to check out the Caney Fork river for a couple of hours. I started out up near the dam with a shad pattern. Despite the dead and dying shad floating lazily along, the fish didn't really seem interested. Oh, and did I mention that it wasn't that cold? In fact, it felt much nicer than I expected.

Finally I decided to head downriver and make the switch to smaller flies. The midge hatch seemed to be an all day event. That probably had to do with the cool (not cold, YET) air temps and clouds not to mention that occasional rain and drizzle. The fish were feeding heavily on the small bugs which seemed odd with all the giant meals floating along.

Anyway, I made the transition on down the river. After tying on a new leader more suited to fishing midges, I soon made my way down to the water and was soon caught up in the business of landing fish. The fish acted like they were starving. Oh, and it was starting to feel cold out.

Then IT happened, the worst thing when your hands start getting cold. My tippet, fly and indicator became horribly tangled. There's only one solution for this disaster and I bravely began the long and tedious process of retying. My left hand was so cold at this point that I couldn't use my thumb and index finger to grasp things much at all. Knot tying became an incredible adventure taking closer to 20 minutes instead of the usual 20 seconds it takes to tie on new tippet AND a fly.

My effort was not in vain though. I soon was catching even more fish than before. I worked my way slowly upriver and then back down. Then I saw the fish. It was feeding in 3-4 feet of water and the flashing side gave it away as a really nice one. I made the cast upstream of this fish a bit farther than I normally would because I knew these big fish tend to cruise instead of staying in one spot. Indeed, my indicator sunk almost immediately and the fight was on. My poor numb hands just couldn't compete with the muscle and grace of the nice fish. It was pulling a lot of line and I was having a hard time operating the fly reel. With these larger fish, the smallest bit of slack means the end of the fight and my quick fight was no different. I was left only with a memory and slight irritation. A perfectly good chemical handwarmer was sitting up in the car but I had been too lazy to go retrieve it. There were gloves in the trunk but, yeah, too lazy....

Too add insult to injury, I worked back upstream and on the return trip down, I hooked either the same fish or one very similar again! This battle was even more brief...I finally realized that it wasn't healthy for my hands to get that cold and I called it a day around sunset...

Despite my losses, I still caught plenty of nice fish. Also, over the course of the afternoon, I did see one huge brown crashing the dead/dying shad on the surface. I guess I'll just have to get back soon to try again. This next week is going to provide some unsettled weather. This time, I'll be better prepared to stay warm. Just because it doesn't feel to cold at first doesn't mean it won't get colder...