Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Links and Other News

Those of you that pay close attention to the links list on the right side of this page might have noticed some updates lately. For the majority of you that probably don't bother, I've added some new links in the last few days. The first pair of links are to TroutU and the TroutU Blog which are both about trout fishing with an emphasis on fishing in the southeastern United States. The other link I added is to a fairly new blog called Jubal Mountain. The author lives in North Carolina and the blog is all about his hunting and fishing adventures. One of the recent posts is about a trip on a blueline for feisty wild rainbows and makes for some good reading.

I spent some time this evening checking some of my favorite websites and found some great stuff that I want to pass along. First, James Marsh has been posting updates on current or upcoming hatches in the Smokies, and today he posted an excellent article that explains some of the common mistakes people make when they fish in the Park.

Next, it appears that I'm not the only one starting to think about bass and other warm water species. Nathan over at the Tennessee Valley Angler recently posted about a fishing trip that resulted in the first bass of the year. I also noticed that he has finally been convinced to try out a lanyard which is great. Probably lanyards are not for everyone but they do make a great organizer for all those things that you always want at your fingertips.

Coming soon I'll have a fishing report from my buddy Joe Mcgroom who went to Florida for spring break. While there, he and some friends fished quite a bit and caught plenty of fish. Since I don't have plans to be there anytime soon, he is going to share some pictures with me and I'll pass those along once I get them.

Finally, I have to brag a little about my newest reel. Elkhorn Fly Rods recently asked anglers to fill out a survey for marketing purposes and as incentive, they offered some great prizes including rods and reels. I filled out one of the surveys and nearly forgot about it when I received an email informing me that I was one of the winners. The irony is that I have been thinking about upgrading some of my reels to medium or large arbor (especially for the 5 weight) and wonder of wonders, the reel I won was the T-Series T2 which is for use on a 5 or 6 weight rod. Yesterday it finally arrived and so far I'm very pleased. The reel has a nice cork disk drag and is as smooth as can be. Now I just need to get a line to put on it, find a large fish, and give it a good workout. Once I do, you can expect a full review.

Next weekend I should be back to the Smokies and at some point this week I intend to go back for that big bass in the local pond so check back soon for more...

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Poll is Back!!!

The newest poll is about tippet material. What brand do you prefer and trust the most? I've tried a few different brands over the years and am always willing to try something new. If a brand that I haven't tried yet is really popular, maybe I'll try it out...

Back on the Water

Made it back out today and while things were slow, I still managed the trifecta of a bass, bream, and crappie. All were on the small side but there was one lunker out cruising so there are better fish out there...now I just have to figure out what they are willing to eat...

Things Are Picking Up

The local ponds are finally starting to fish. The recent warm rains have brought up the water levels again which means that fish are often up in the brush around the banks. Additionally, the rising water temperatures has been great for the fishing.

Yesterday I headed over to a pond near my home to see what was happening. It has been many years since I fished this pond and never with the long rod. My first efforts were for naught but I downsized to a smaller fly and trailed a little bead head pheasant tail nymph behind for a deadly combo. This proved to be the ticket and I soon had a fish! Panfish are great since they are so plentiful and willing to eat flies.

I wasn't planning on spending more than about half an hour at the pond as this was more a scouting trip so I started heading back towards the car. Right before I reeled all the line in, I decided to fish up tight to a brush pile and a nice crappie nailed the fly.

No bass were caught but there is still plenty of time to figure them out. I might try to sneak away again this afternoon if it quits raining long enough. The weather is perfect for fishing and maybe I'll find a good one cruising the shallows...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chasing Lunkers

Over spring break last week, I had originally intended to do a pack trip in the Smokies. Unfortunately my buddy came down with the flu at the last minute and I decided to hold off until another time. Instead, I spent the first day floating the Caney (although without fishing) and then went fishing the second day. My goal was to head to the North Carolina side of the Smokies and camp at Smokemont for a night, allowing me to fish for two days.

I arrived in the Smokies later than I had intended so didn't fish really in the morning. I met my buddy Trevor Smart in the early afternoon to head over to Cherokee to try the tribal water in search of some big fish. We started out on a section he had fished before and were soon catching a few.

The highlight of the afternoon for me was catching my first palomino rainbow trout. The brightly colored fish stand out like a sore thumb so targeting them was easy. I felt a little cheap fishing water that was stocked with pellet pigs but still had a good time. Those big rainbows still know how to fight when they are hooked and it is exciting watching a 20 inch rainbow jumping even if it is a stocker. The fish were rising sporadically and that was even better. Big rainbows sipping little Blue Quills is truly a sight to behold although watching wild browns do it would probably be even better.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to be chasing bass and other warmwater species and also probably do some float trips. The backpacking trip that I've been planning is still going to happen but likely in somewhat abbreviated form (2 nights instead of 3-4). The sun is warm and the day is pleasant so I think I might sneak out a little while this afternoon. The bass should be getting aggressive soon...

Thank God for Bluegill

The school I am now teaching at recently had an outing for all the guys that included some time at a small lake. Being the ever ready fisherman, I had all my gear in the trunk just waiting for an opportunity. Unable to be near that much water for long without fishing, I finally succumbed and started assembling a fly rod. Several of the guys were excited to try some fishing, especially fly fishing, since most of them either had never fished or only rarely with very limited success. I assured them that when I go fishing I normally catch fish and if they wanted I would let them try it out for themselves.

Water temperatures were rather low since it is still only early spring. Walking the banks, I found a few small bass in the shallows but only got one to commit to the fly and missed the hookset. Later, I moved over to the dock to give the bluegill a workout. Thankfully there were plenty in the lake and I was soon sight-fishing small simi seal leeches to the hungry fish. After landing a couple, I began to give the guys instruction on how to catch some for themselves. Previously I had allowed them all a chance to really cast the fly rod but this was close fishing and I had them fishing with just a couple of feet of line out past the top guide. I acted as guide, spotting fish and giving a steady stream of mostly worthless instruction but they were soon hooking fish.

The look on their faces says everything:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mountain Stream Fishing

With a little time on my hands this afternoon, I finally took the opportunity to check the final results on the most recent poll. Apparently the majority of you enjoy seeing reports on fly fishing in the mountain streams of east Tennessee more than anything else. A solid 60% voted for that as their favorite type of fishing report I've posted on here. I tossed warmwater reports on as an option as well and it got one lone vote. In the next month or two I'll be doing more of that type of fishing so maybe more people will start to appreciate the opportunities available. Upcoming this next week I'll likely be chasing some warmwater species and also have a backpacking trip lined up in the Smokies. So far it looks like the weather will be decent but not necessarily great for the Smokies trip. However it will involve the possibility of some very nice brown trout and I'll also be taking a buddy along for his first try fly fishing so it should be fun.

I'm also very excited about the potential warmwater opportunities this next week. The water around here is still on the cool side but I'll be visiting a location that has a pond loaded with BIG bass (somewhere in TN). Big fish have to eat so maybe I'll coax one into getting fooled. Also I might finally get a chance to return to the Chickamauga tailwater to chase white bass, hybrids, yellow bass, crappie, largemouth, smallmouth, stripers, and many other species. This type of fishing is very exciting because you never know what is going to eat your fly. As always you'll be first to see the reports so check back for more!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Feels Like Spring

Every year I try to kick off spring with a camping trip to the Smokies. This year was no exception and last weekend turned out to be the perfect time to accomplish my goal. The forecast called for high temperatures in the low 70's while lows were generally supposed to be in the 40's and 50's. After teaching on Friday I hurried home, threw a bunch of camping gear in my car along with some food, and then headed east on I-40 at a rapid pace.

Stopping in at Little River Outfitters allowed me to pick up a few items I needed and then I was off again. Unfortunately, Elkmont Campground does not open until this next weekend so I had to stay at Cades Cove. Don't get me wrong, I love Cades Cove, but for fishing purposes Elkmont is more centrally located. Regardless, it was shaping up like a nice weekend and after setting up the tent in record time I headed over to Middle Prong to kick off the fishing trip.

Upon arriving at the stream, I was surprised at the lack of people already fishing. Nice weather generally brings people out in droves from places like Knoxville and even Chattanooga but the stream was relatively devoid of people...not a bad way to start the trip! I rigged up with a black Simi Seal Leech (#16) and dropped a Tellico variant (#14) off the back. A few casts later I had the first fish of the trip, an enthusiastic rainbow of around 6 inches. Working my way upstream, I had the opportunity to thoroughly appreciate the normal water levels that have finally returned to a region plagued by drought for the last two years. Negotiating the stream bed was much more difficult than I remembered. This was mainly due to the large volume of water coming down from the mountains above. Several fish and around an hour later, the increasing shadows told me that it was time to head back to camp and have some supper.

The next day was dedicated to looking for hatching bugs on Little River. I was on the stream early enough that I beat the crowds and found a section of water that I had not fished before. Slowly but surely I am fishing all of Little River from the park boundary up. It isn't happening in any orderly fashion and the lower river is definitely getting less attention than the stretch above the Sinks but eventually I'll fish the whole thing. The first section I fished was one that I've had my eye on for awhile now. It is a fishy looking stretch that does not have quite the number of pullouts as other sections. Always looking for an edge, I figured that this might be enough to at least put me onto some slightly less educated fish.

In the first pool I came up empty. The pocket water between it and the next pool was likewise seemingly barren (although I did not really give it much attention). Things were still a bit slow at the next pool when an interesting thought occurred to me. While I prefer to fish mountain streams without an indicator, this particular pool just screamed at me to put one on. The calmer back eddy beyond the main current tongue would be fished much more efficiently with a standard indicator rig so I put on a white yarn indicator.

After getting a few good drifts the indicator twitched just a little and when I set the hook things got interesting. The fish felt better than the little rainbow I was expecting and I was suddenly glad that I had brought a net on this outing. The wild trout in the Smokies are so full of vigor and fight that despite their size, it is often beneficial to use a net on the fish that are 10 or 11 inches or better. Once I got a decent glance at the fish, I started worrying about losing it. While not a monster by any stretch of the imagination, the nice 12 inch brown was definitely a candidate for fish of the trip and so it turned out to be. After snapping a few pictures, I prepared to cradle the fish awhile in the soft current, but it rocketed out of my hands and back to its deep pool.

Working up the stream, I managed a few more before one of my fishing buddies showed up. After talking a little while we moved to another stretch of water downstream but with disappointing results. After fishing awhile, he left to try another river and I moved over to a favorite stretch on Middle Prong. Another pleasant day concluded with several nice rainbows and then back to camp for a meal and a campfire.

The last day of my trip was supposed to be another good one if such things can be measured by good weather. For fishing I prefer overcast skies, but in the early spring it seems to be the sunlight that triggers the bugs to hatch. Another fishing buddy, Joe Mcgroom from Little River Outfitters, was supposed to be somewhere on Little River and I found him on some of the better dry fly water on the river. I moved up to the faster run above to try my luck while he worked some risers in the slow water. After fishing awhile, neither of us had hooked up and I was wanting a change of scenery. He graciously assented to try upper Little River above Elkmont and we took off. Heading up the trail, we decided to just focus on the best water available and look for nice fish.

The first pool we stopped at produced a couple of fish for me on nymphs but nothing rose to his dry fly. The next couple of pools didn't produce any better on the dry and he decided to switch to nymphs as well. The next stop was one of my favorite pools but one that is somewhat difficult to fish because of the current. After slowly scanning the whole pool, we both pointed and said in unison, "There's one." The "one" we were talking about was a nice brown of 13-14 inches sitting on the bottom in the pool. Since he needed to change flies, he gave me the first shot at this fish. I walked well downstream and crossed several pockets below the pool. Working up the far bank, I finally got into position and started casting. After watching for a few minutes, Joe mentioned that the flies were passing over the fish too high in the water column. An extra split shot was the perfect remedy and my next few drifts were much nearer the fish but it seemed frozen to the bottom and moved very little. Finally, after the perfect cast, my line twitched ever so slightly when the flies appeared to be near the fish. I gave a solid hook set only to find that instead of the nice fish, I was firmly attached to a sunk branch. The fish completely panicked and was gone in a flash. Admitting defeat, I worked on through the pool, hooking a very small rainbow as consolation and a slightly better one in the pool above.

We got back on the trail and decided to head on up aways. We finally got on one of my favorite stretches of water in the park. The fish were still a bit lethargic but we each caught a few nice ones so it was a good day at that point. On the way back down, we hit another good pool but only managed small rainbows out of it. During the day we saw lots of stoneflies but only a few of the big mayflies that excite so many local anglers.

Finally we stopped again at the pool where we had spotted the brown. After slowly searching out every corner of the pool, Joe finally pointed. Immediately I saw the fish again. It was near its old spot but in slightly deeper water and nearer the main current. Catching it would be harder than ever. Having been defeated the first time, I told Joe that it was his turn and he commenced throwing everything he could think of at this fish. He changed flies several times and even tried the indicator but with no luck. The fish was not spooking though so there was still a chance. Finally, just when he was about to give up, I wondered aloud what a streamer would do. Joe immediately set to work tying one of his secret streamer patterns on and got back to work. No sooner had he started casting to this fish when he yelled, "Got him!" The fish had moved up in the water column to attack the large meal drifting past. Several tense minutes later in which the fish tried all its tricks, Joe finally brought the beautiful brown trout to hand for a quick picture and then released it back to grow some more. That fish really made the trip since we put so much effort into trying to catch it.

We kept heading down the trail after that and were almost back when I decided I just had to throw in my favorite spot one last time. A couple of casts later I got my nicest rainbow of the trip which was probably in the 10-11 inch range. It hammered one of my big stonefly nymphs like it hadn't eaten in some time. Finally, the fishing was over. This was one of the best trips I've had in awhile. The numbers weren't what they always are, but I had a great time and caught some nice sized trout. Soon I'll be heading back for a backpacking trip weather permitting and will be catching some more good fish hopefully. In the meantime, I'll be tying like crazy so I'm sufficiently prepared...

My nice rainbow - - Joe Mcgroom Photograph

Nice little brown from high up Little River - - Joe Mcgroom photograph

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Help Improve the Tellico River

While checking some of my favorite sites on fishing in East Tennessee, I found this article over on Ian Rutter's website. In a nutshell, the Forest Service is considering closing down a lot of off road vehicle trails in the headwaters of the Tellico. Nearly every rain event causes a huge amount of silt to be washed into the Tellico, reducing water quality significantly. Head over to Ian's site and check out the particulars and while you're at it, take the time to send an email to the Forest Service (there's a link on the page) and let them know that you want the Tellico River to be preserved and protected.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Spring is Just Around the Corner

The following article is one that I wrote for the March issue of the Little River Journal which is published by Little River Outfitters. To receive the current issue you must sign up, but you can browse past issues on the website. I recommend checking it out. There are a lot of great articles included from area anglers and also some good stuff from Lefty Kreh. Anyway, here is my article on springtime.

With the first big hatches of the year expected any day, my thoughts turn to springtime in other years. A time of renewal, spring is one of my favorite times of the year. When the first bluebirds and robins begin making their appearance, I develop what quickly becomes a full-blown case of spring fever that is not satisfied until I find myself on a mountain stream. The entire winter has been spent looking forward to this moment when the trout rise methodically to the sudden abundance that surrounds them. All it takes is a reasonably good match to create an afternoon of memories that will be forever etched in your memory. I remember that day at Metcalf when I found that I had the water to myself one evening as the bugs poured off and the fish rose with abandon. Those are the days that fly fisherman long for and that keep us returning to the stream.

For the dedicated fly fisher, those first days of spring are marked by the arrival of bugs with names like Quill Gordons and Blue Quills. With the burst of new greenery on the trees still weeks away, these bugs along with others continue that never ending circle of life where they in turn sustain life in the trout. Early in the season the weather can be difficult. If you happen on the stream during one of those rare days where everything comes together, a blizzard of insects may be your reward along with many foolish fish. I will never forget the first time I encountered an early season hatch. Young and inexperienced, I was in awe of the activity around me and vowed to someday learn how to catch all the fish that I suddenly realized were in the stream. One of the biggest lessons I have learned since is that very few hatches are as impressive as that one that inspired me years ago.

The past several weeks I have been tying bugs just for such an occasion. If fisherman are good at one thing, it is being optimistic. Every year I tie hundreds of flies with the hope that I will catch enough fish to in turn lose that many flies. In fact, it is impossible for me to go on a fishing trip and feel prepared. There are always a few more flies that could have been tied. It is ironic then that every spring brings the same routine calling for the same flies. Oh, I have plenty of new ones to try out but somehow I always end up fishing the same reliable patterns.

In the Smokies, a few Parachute Adams in sizes #12-#18 will cover a lot of hatches early in the season. Just in case, I carry a few Quill Gordons for those picky fish that want something a little more exact. A few tiny Blue-winged Olive patterns along with a handful of caddis and stonefly patterns round out my selection of dry flies. For nymphs, I always carry Pheasant Tail nymphs and Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear nymphs in a variety of sizes. As I tie these flies, I remember the 17 inch brown that ate a Tellico in a deep hole early one March and tie a few more just in case. Tellico nymphs are a necessity and when all else fails, a soft hackle can save the day. I always have lots more patterns in my fly boxes but return to these same ones every year, not because I have a hard time changing but because the old standbys catch lots of fish.

That first trip of spring always has me as excited as a small child at Christmas. It is hard to sleep the night before I head for the mountains. As soon as I arrive at the stream of choice, I gear up as quickly as possible and head towards the water. Before tying on a fly, I’ll walk the stream bank for a few minutes, observing the water and streamside rocks for insects and rises. Most of the time I’ll tie on a dry regardless of whether or not there is much surface activity just because I have been looking forward to this for so many months. On a good day, the dry catches fish consistently but often I resort to nymphs. This time of year is one of the best to spend looking for large fish feeding on hatching insects and sometimes I’ll spend a few hours just checking the best pools for large trout.

As the days grow longer the fishing continues to improve. More and varied hatches occur and the fish really start to get into the routine brought on by the warmer weather. Despite the better weather I still prefer those first days of spring. The water is still chilly but the sun is warm and daffodils bloom in Cades Cove. Trout fling all caution to the wind as the first banquet in months drifts by on the current. On that first spring trip everything is perfect in the world, even if only for a moment…

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Recent Snowfall

Since I didn't get to fish much this weekend, here are a couple more pictures to keep you entertained. This is from the snowfall last weekend here in the Crossville, Tennessee area. Enjoy...

Tranquility Pool

Hidden Gorge Waterfall

New Net Update

Here is a picture of the new net. It works great for subduing creatures other than fish as this little dog shows so well. The dog belongs to my cousin's fiancee and was probably quite traumatized by its initial exposure to the Coho Ghost Net. After getting used to the net, the dog posed for this shot with me. This should give you an idea of the size of this net (16" by 22" hoop)...

Smokies Again and a New Net

On Friday I decided to take advantage of a rise in water levels in the Smokies to throw a few streamers. This is a type of fishing that I haven't done enough of, especially on mountain streams. While up there, I stopped by Little River Outfitters to pick up my 2009 fishing license and a new net that Daniel had ordered for me.

I'm excited about the new net. Last year I was fortunate to catch some very nice fish which were a bit large for the nets I already had. Trying to corral a big brown in a net meant for average fish is difficult to say the least. My trips out west to such destinations as the South Platte, Frying Pan, Taylor and Gunnison rivers in Colorado among other places has always resulted in nice fish. This year I wanted a net that would help get the fish back in the water quickly with minimal handling and stress. The perfect solution was the Coho Ghost Net from Brodin Landing Nets. This net is very large and will work well for anything from trout to steelhead and salmon so I should be set for awhile when it comes to nets. I rarely use nets except on larger fish so I only need to carry it when large fish are a definite possibility. The net is quite lightweight for its size making it reasonable even if I need to walk some to my fishing spot. So far I'm really happy with the net. Once I have a bit more experience using it I'll provide an update and short review.

As far as the fishing is concerned, I probably arrived a little too late in the day but I still managed to get several bumps and looks on the streamer. Unfortunately I never could hook up but I've been bit by the streamer bug so I'll be doing it again soon most likely. Too avoid the skunk, I ran over to Tremont and in 10 minutes of fishing got 3 little rainbows. They were beautiful little wild fish but I didn't bother with any pictures. I'm planning on a float in the next week or two and also 2-3 trips to the Smokies for the spring hatches over the next 3-4 weeks so stayed tuned for more on that as it happens...