Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Monday, April 27, 2009

Instant Classic at the Underground

Tom Chandler over at the Trout Underground has a story today so wild and far-fetched yet supported with undeniable photographic evidence that it has to be true. The instant classic involves trout raining from the sky...yep, that's right...foot-long brown trout raining from the sky! Only at the Trout Underground I'm guessing although if it ever starts happening here at the Trout Zone I'll probably think that I've died and gone to Heaven. That's probably the only other place where trout fall from the sky. Regardless, I highly recommend a quick trip over to check the great story...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

West Trip 2009

Right now, as I mentioned in a previous post, I'm in the early planning stages of a possible West Trip 2009. The idea this year is to try and hit the famed Salmonfly hatch somewhere in the Rockies, and if all goes well, several somewheres. Early June it will be in Colorado, specifically the Gunnison and Colorado rivers. I'm hoping to fish Colorado for at least a week or two and maybe longer before heading north towards Yellowstone and Montana. Up there, I'm hoping to fish YNP and also the Madison outside the park and perhaps the Yellowstone. Other rivers that are under consideration to fish on this trip include the Green and Bighorn.

As I said, I'm currently searching for any useful information for this trip. I've done a lot of research online and will continue to do more. However the main problem for me is money so this trip needs to be cheap. What I want to know is, what campgrounds do you recommend staying at while fishing the Yampa in Colorado, the Green in Utah, and the Madison and Bighorn rivers in Montana? Any other advice would be appreciated and if you would be willing to answer some other questions that would be great. Feel free to reply here or you can email me.

The biggest problem with these trips is that there is so much water and only limited time to fish it all... I'm hoping to get to Yellowstone while the Firehole and Gibbon are still fishing well since it has been a few years since I've got to fish that side of the park. In Colorado, the Taylor, Gunnison, Frying Pan, Roaring Fork, Colorado, and Yampa are all on my list of rivers that I would like to hit. In Yellowstone, I would like to fish the above mentioned waters as well as doing some exploring and probably fish the Yellowstone if it is fishable while I'm there...

Back to the 'Gills

Since I wasn't in the Smokies as I originally intended, I decided that chasing some bluegill and bass late in the day would be a good idea. The small lake nearby that I like to fish had several other people out fishing on it but there were still plenty of good spots to work. My favorite area was deserted so I worked my way over.

When I got there, I tied on a swimming frog (slider style bass bug) from James Marsh and on probably the third cast, this little bass nailed it. The visual aspect of fly fishing is probably the most exciting. Watching fish sip dry flies, nail streamers, explode on popping bugs, all of these add up to make fly fishing the enjoyable sport it is. I'm really starting to enjoy fishing bigger flies and watching fish come chasing them. It all started when I floated the Caney with David Perry and he got me started on streamers. The bug just keeps getting worse. I'm currently in the very early planning stages of a trip out west and am hoping to do some streamer fishing out there as well...

After catching the bass, I started working back towards the car. There are lots of bluegill in this particular lake so I decided to try and catch a few. I tied on two flies, the second of which is one of my most deadly bluegill flies. I've mentioned this fly before but it is well worth mentioning again. It is the Simi Seal Leech and I was fishing a size #16 with a small beadhead in purple. I finally hooked one and for a second thought that maybe a bass had taken the first fly in the two fly rig. However, when I got it close, I saw it was indeed a bluegill and it had taken the small leech pattern. This was one of the fattest bluegill I've ever seen and it fought really well... That fish really made my day. I caught a few more smaller bluegill and sight fished over a bass for awhile, changing flies several times, but he was on to me and wouldn't eat.

Today I'll probably tie a bunch of flies and start planning for my potential trip out west. I've got to do some research on different rivers I hope to fish, fishing license fees, camping fees, and lots of other things. Also, I might try to get a little more time in today fishing...check back to see if I catch that big bass!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bear Trouble

For the last few weeks I've been looking forward to a backpacking trip in the Smokies. The upper Little River watershed is one of my favorite areas to fish, not so much because the fishing is great as because it is really where I learned to fly fish. My plans for this trip included 2 nights at backcountry site #24 and then up the trail to #30 for another night. I intended to hit Fish Camp Prong and upper Little River over the course of 2-3 days of fishing.

Heading up to the park Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by Little River Outfitters to pick up some tying supplies (thinking about West Trip 2009). After chatting with Byron Begley for awhile, I headed on towards Elkmont. After filling out my backcountry permit, I took off up the trail. There were only two hours of daylight left and I wanted to get into camp and have time to eat supper before dark. I made it in plenty of time and after eating supper went to bed. Sleeping right by the creek is extremely peaceful and relaxing. The sound of a rushing mountain stream is one of natures most soothing sounds and I enjoyed it to the fullest.
Thursday morning I woke up ready for a long day of fishing. As I ate breakfast, I contemplated about how much money it takes to get started backpacking. While I don't have great gear, it still represents a decent investment monetarily and I thought about how terrible it would be if someone took all my gear. I never even thought about Mother Nature destroying anything. After breakfast I was ready to go. Day one was going to be Fish Camp Prong and I hoped to get the Smoky Mountain slam of a rainbow, brook and brown.

The lowest stretch of the stream is the place to catch brown trout so I started there, working my way up slowly from Little River. Things started out a little slow, but finally I picked up a rainbow on a Tellico nymph. Little Yellow stoneflies started making an appearance and I decided to try a Neversink Caddis. This proved good for several fish including a nice brown that ghosted up out of a deeper run to inhale the fly.

After catching the brown, I got back on the trail and started walking to get into brookie territory. I've caught brook trout within a mile of Little River but they seem to be a bit scarce in the lower sections. Finally I got tired of walking and decided to try my luck. As I moved up the stream, the fishing continued to be very inconsistent. It seemed that every run, pool, and pocket required a different fly. I would catch a few fish on one fly only to have it seemingly quit working. Different sections of the stream had different bugs hatching and overall it seemed that a Parachute Adams or Neversink Caddis was a fair representation of most of the adult insects. I fished a double nymph rig as well with a Tellico and one other nymph. After several rainbows, a brookie finally took one of my "secret" soft hackle patterns fished deep as a standard nymph and the slam was complete.

I was fishing through a bit of a gorge and fished until I thought I could scale the high bank back to the trail. Back on Little River I decided to fish up from the Goshen Prong trail bridge to #24. Here the dry fly fishing really picked up. I fished a Parachute Adams for awhile and then switched to a yellow Neversink. The fish liked both equally well it seemed and I caught several nice rainbows and one more brown. After what seemed a short distance, I saw my tent and decided to call it a day.

As I approached my tent, I did a double take. Something didn't seem quite right. My tent was all lopsided and as I got closer, I saw gashes in the side. Upon closer inspection, 2 out of the three poles were broken and the third was bent. Some of the broken pools had tore through the sleeves and there was another gash in the bottom corner where the stake loop used to be attached. Dirt was on the side of the tent and I quickly realized that a bear had stopped by while I was gone. Greatly annoyed, I saw a pile of trash and a hole in the ground and realized that someone had buried trash near where I set up the tent (before I was there). The bear had come through and dug up the trash. Not finding anything to eat, it apparently decided to make my tent uninhabitable on its way through. Maybe it was angry since there wasn't any food. Regardless, I'm now in the market for a new tent. It was ironic that a bear would tear up my tent just hours after I had considered how bad it would be if something happened to my gear...

After taking in the whole situation, I decided it would be in my best interest to pack everything up and head out. I would have to really hustle because it would be dark soon. I got everything in my pack and hit the trail by 7:30 Eastern time. One hour later I had made it back to my car.

Shortly after leaving camp, probably about 300 yards below #24, I saw a fairly large bear feeding near the trail. I clapped to try and scare it away but it just stared back at my completely unconcerned. Bears without fear always make me nervous and I was glad that I was heading out for the night. On the way back down I ran into a guy from the Wildlife Division who was out hunting wild pigs. I told him what had happened and he asked for my name and phone number so he could do a bear report. He mentioned that #24 would probably be closed in the next day or two.

Overall I had a great trip. The fishing was good although I can't quite call it great. I caught a lot of fish but was working a little harder for them than I sometimes have to. There is even a blessing in disguise about my tent being ruined. I could have been in the tent or in camp when the bear decided to show up or it could have more thoroughly destroyed my tent. While the tent won't work for camping anymore, it could have been much worse. The bear could have shredded it and then got the sleeping bag and thermarest inside. That would have made things even worse for me. Replacing a tent is bad enough, but the rest would have been very hard to do anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Favorite Tippet

Our latest poll ended yesterday and it looks like the majority of you either use Orvis or Rio tippet products. Lots of others with a loyal following as as but it looks like those two are the favorites. Personally I've fished Orvis Super Strong for years but lately have switched over to Rio. I'm not really sure if I'll stick with the Rio or not though because it feels just a little stiff in my opinion. I do like the Rio Fluoroflex Plus and use it in place of my favorite but more expensive Seaguar Grand Max FX.

For those that haven't made the switch to fluoro for some of their fishing yet, give it a shot. I can honestly say that I feel I land many more fish because of the fluorocarbon tippet used. The "invisible" effect is not really the main reason I fish it. Instead, I feel much more confident that nothing is going to break when I hook that nice fish. Mono tippet seems to break so much easier, and I can pressure fish a lot more with fluoro tippet meaning it is possible to land those large fish much quicker. This is important anytime you intend to release that nice fish which I always do.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Can't Get Enough

The Cherokee catch and release section is getting addicting. On Friday afternoon, I made my third trip over there with my buddy Travis from over at The Fishing Fanatic. While driving through the Park, I started looking over the various park waters carefully and realized that it is time to fish for wild fish. However, the large stockers are a lot of fun. While the fishing was slower as compared to last time, it was still a blast.

Right before quitting for the day, I got my Palomino for the trip. Those are a lot of fun to catch but obviously get pounded since they are so easy to spot. The fish I landed wouldn't really move to eat. I had to force feed it by by drifting my nymphs almost into its mouth. The fish moved probably 2 inches to eat which helped explain why the fishing seemed slow. When they are not moving to eat, you have to fish thoroughly.

Overall, while it is a lot of fun, I'll probably be sticking to the Park for awhile now. A Tennessee tailwater or two might also be in my near future along with a smallie excursion. I can't wait to try some new stuff out and as always, you'll be the first to hear about it...

Travis Reynolds photograph....

What Fish See

Ever wonder why the fish panic right before you net them? If you stuck your head out of the water and saw what they see, you would panic also...


Finally, the water is getting warm enough that the bass are getting active. I made it out with my new Elkhorn reel and sinking line to throw streamers. After lots of follows and short strikes, a fish finally made a total commitment. After posing for a picture, the fish swam off to keep growing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tippet Poll

There is still about a week to vote on the poll. Lots of you have voted already which is great. If you haven't voted yet, the poll is over on the right side of the page and asks which brand of tippet is your favorite. So far, it looks like the majority of you fish either Orvis or Rio tippet. I've used and am currently using a combination of both. There are some other great brands out there though...

Coming soon, I hope to have some more warm water reports. I've got some new flies to test out and still need to go back to catch the nice bass I saw cruising the banks a week ago...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time To Speak Up

Alrighty folks! Its that time of year when TWRA is soliciting comments from anglers who fish in Tennessee. You can simply take a few moments to send an email with any suggestions that you might have for improving any of the fisheries in our state.

Personally, I have suggested continued improvements on the Caney Fork River. My main points are:

-Increase the number of trophy browns in the river with either a slot limit (i.e., 16"-22" like they have on the SoHo) or increasing the minimum size limit to 20" or 22".
-Increase the retention of trophy fish by either limiting fishing during the spawn or requiring catch and release (I realize that these are not likely but its okay to wish).
-Adopt a minimum size or slot limit (preferably the slot) on rainbows.
-Increase enforcement on the river, especially during the spawn when the large fish are so vulnerable.

If you fish the Caney and want to see more and healthier big fish, please let TWRA know. I'm in no way opposed to folks taking a few home but it would be nice if they are taking home fish that are a little larger so there are plenty of 18"-24" fish in the river. This river can support a lot of very large browns if we just release them until they have grown sufficiently. There are plenty of rainbows for those that want smaller fish to eat.

To send your comments, send them to TWRA.Comment@tn.gov and put "Sport Fish Comments" in the subject line. The comments are due this month so take a few moments to let your voice be heard...

Thank you to everyone that cares about our rivers, lakes and streams and takes time to offer comments on improving these fisheries!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Trophy Water

Fishing stocked water for large fish is a lot of fun although the level of satisfaction from catching one is not as great compared to a wild or native fish of similar proportions. During my weekend in the Smokies, I was unsure what I wanted to do on Sunday but was excited about the prospect of fishing the trophy water on the Cherokee Reservation again. Still, I woke up Sunday morning without being positive of where I wanted to fish. There are so many fun streams on the North Carolina side of the Park that do not see nearly the fishing pressure as compared to the Tennessee side, and I always enjoy the opportunity to explore these various streams.

The call of big dumb stockers was strong though and I decided that it was worth the $7.00 for a daily permit to fish the catch and release water. To fish this water you need a special permit on top of the daily permit but I had already purchased one on a previous trip. The catch and release section permit is good for one year. After stopping at Big Don’s to pick up the permit, I headed up to start fishing. After examining all the places to fish I settled on a relatively uncrowded section (often difficult to find).

Looking the water over, a certain pool jumped out at me and I worked my way over to check it out. There were several nice fish feeding in this pool and I set about trying to catch some. My standard rig in the catch and release water is a double nymph rig that matches whatever naturals should be in the water. At this time of year that includes stonefly nymphs, Blue Quill nymphs, Quill Gordon nymphs, and midges. More mayfly species should start hatching any day in the mountains and nymph imitations of them should be working as well. A bead head pheasant tail nymph seemed appropriate as it does a great job of matching many insects potentially moving around this time of year. I dropped my “Trophy Section Secret Fly” off the back and started fishing. Not too many casts later I hooked the first fish of the day, a nice rainbow.

For the next couple of hours it was game on. I found fish in a lot of obvious places as well as some not so obvious places. I got frustrated over difficult fish that would eat but I couldn’t get a good hook set on. I was surprised by the size of fish that came out of some spots and also very pleasantly surprised to catch a few wild fish (browns and ‘bows) in addition to the stockers.

After fishing a long stretch of water, I headed back for the car and a snack break. Catching lots of good fish is tiring business and I needed some nourishment for the afternoon’s fishing. After eating and hydrating, I decided to look at the rest of the Catch and Release water to look for something different. I found a lot of nice water but lots more fishermen and a distinct lack of quality fish. Apparently they aren’t everywhere. Back to my morning stretch it was and thankfully no one had moved in yet. Fishing through the same stretch yielded more good results. Finally, as the day wore to a close I found myself on what had been crowded water earlier in the day. I stuck a few nice fish and then moved up in search of the Palomino rainbows…

There were several out actively feeding in addition to lots of big rainbows. The first rainbow I cast to ate and took off on several runs while my reel screamed. After following this fish downstream, it eventually broke me off so I headed for the bank to retie. The next rig was successful as well but it took awhile to get that first fish on. Finally I hooked and landed a rainbow of around 20 inches as well as a brook trout and started thinking about the Palominos again.

One particularly nice fish had moved out of the deeper water to feed midstream. I had been watching the fish for awhile and pondering how to approach it. Spooky fish don’t react well to lazy fisherman and by this point in the day I was feeling pretty lazy. A couple of casts in its general direction earlier had caused it to drift downstream another 10 feet or so before getting back in the chow line. After thinking over the situation, it became obvious that I needed to approach the fish from upstream. Feeding mends into the line as it drifted downstream would get the fly down to the appropriate depth.

What I had not counted on was the indicator spooking the fish. These fish see plenty of those so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. After the fish moved over a couple of feet, I realized it was going to take something just a little different. The occasional rise from the fish let me know that it was looking up so I decided to use the traditional wet fly swing. One of the flies I had on was a soft hackle so I figured it just might work.

I cast across and slightly upstream so the flies would have plenty of time to get down. As they approached the fish, I started to slowly raise the rod tip and gave the line some very subtle twitches. The fish moved up in the water column to investigate and began to follow. I felt the first slight bump but waited until the fish had fully taken the fly before setting the hook. In this type of fishing, the biggest mistake is to set the hook as soon as you think the fish has opened its mouth. Since you are standing upstream, too fast of a hook set will invariably yank the fly out of the fishes mouth. For once, my timing was perfect and the fish was solidly hooked. After a battle that left my rod arm exhausted, I netted the beautiful hook-jawed fish and took a couple of pictures before releasing it back to be caught another day. This was the high point of the day and I decided not to ruin it by fishing more. I took some time to soak in the moment, the warm sun, and the beautiful scenery. There’s nothing better than standing in a Smoky Mountain trout stream and I wanted to remember the trip for a long time to come…

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Persistance Pays Off

In my opinion, the largest difference in fishing ability is strictly a result of persistence. Perseverance is what separates the men from the boys, the posers from the real deal. Those that put in their time learning a stream and how to fish it are invariably the most successful fisherman. My buddy Joe Mcgroom is one of the most dedicated fisherman I've ever met. He will spend as much time looking for fish as he does actually fishing, sometimes even more. When we fished together and he finally caught the nice 13 inch brown on Little River, I got to watch him in action and see how he would approach a difficult fish.

Recently he found a nice brown trout on Little River. Of course, there are good numbers of nice fish but knowing that they are there and actually finding them are two distinctly different things. This past Monday, amid cold temperatures and intermittent snowfall, he decided to try and catch this fish. The horrible weather conditions made it uncomfortable for him, but the fish felt safer with the low light. Here's what happened next:

I spotted the fish in the same position as the last time I missed him. After rigging up my nymphs, the fish started to rise periodically. I switched to a dry but was unable to get him to eat anything. It snowed the whole time on me, and my hands were going numb from changing flies so often. I tried just about every nymph and dry in my box until he finally rose to a small, dark dry fly. After several tense jumps and a brief run, I netted the fish, took a couple pictures, and released it.

When I talked to Joe after he had caught the fish, the excitement in his voice was obvious. I would have been excited also if I had caught a 17" brown on Little River after working as hard as he did. Despite making it sound almost routine, Joe worked this fish for over 2 hours before hooking and landing it. Most people would have given up long before, but he persisted and was amply rewarded...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Big Day

The second and feature day of our weekend trip was to fish a special section of Deep Creek. We intended to do some hiking and fish a section that is a favorite. The main wrinkle in our plans was the cold night temperatures. First thing in the morning I took the water temperature at the Deep Creek Campground. The chilly 43 degree reading had us extremely nervous about the prospects for the day.

Cold water is not necessarily bad for trout. A lot of people think that the fishing is bad once the water temperature is too low but this is not quite an accurate generalization. The real detrimental factor is a huge fluctuation in water conditions, whether it is changing water levels or a large change in the water temperature. Rising water temperatures are often good early in the season but a large drop in temperatures can put the fish down. Despite the cold start, the forecast high was in the upper sixties under mostly sunny skies.

We started the day hiking in to where we wanted to fish. On the way up we stopped at a couple of spots to see if the fish were active yet. Large numbers of midges were on the water, but the fish did not seem interested. Considering the hike, we were a little nervous about the overall fishing for the day but hope springs eternal and we pressed on. Finally, we found what we were looking for. A beautiful stretch of dry fly water was just begging to be fished. At our last stop I had tied on a pair of nymphs but the sight of such nice water quickly convinced me to tie on a dry. The fly of choice was a #16 parachute Adams. I slowly worked my way into a nice shallow riffle but could not get a rise. The deeper part of the run looked good with a midstream boulder creating a perfect pocket.

My first cast was too close to the faster current but the second one was perfect. The fly slowly danced tantalizingly in the dead water behind the boulder and then it happened. A dark shadow materialized from the depths and inhaled the fly. The hookset was perfect and a nice little rainbow was dancing on the end of my line. At this point in the day, we were both quite relieved to see a fish so we took the necessary “first fish of the day” pictures and then watched the fish dart back to the bottom.

Joe Mcgroom Photograph

Moving upstream, we saw a few more fish but none of them seemed particularly enthusiastic. Good numbers of bugs were hatching, most notably several large Quill Gordon mayflies. Rummaging through my box of dries, I found the perfect match and tied it on. Immediately the fish were all over it. I couldn’t keep the fish off. As we continued upstream, I caught lots of fish while Joe was struggling to get any to rise. Finally I offered to give him a fly like I was using and that did the trick. The fish were keyed on Quill Gordons. The rest of the day was spent tossing big dries to hungry fish. Over the course of the afternoon we both lost track of how many fish we caught but agreed that it was plenty.

The biggest surprise of the day was that the majority of the fish we caught were brown trout. I always catch plenty of browns on Deep Creek but normally they aren’t the majority. This made the day even more special. The final pool of the day was the same place that I caught my nice 19.5 inch brown last summer. I was really hoping to find this fish again since it should be over 20 inches by now but it didn’t want to come out and play. We were both tired from the hike and our feet were a little sore because we wore our wading boots for the hike up. It had been a perfect day of fishing and we weren’t going to push our luck.

As we headed back down the trail, we spent some time discussing the days fishing and everything we had learned about early season fishing and hatches. I was also thinking about the next day’s fishing with visions of big fish dancing in my head…

Fishing On Arrival

Upon arrival at Deep Creek, I immediately strung up a rod and headed out for some fishing. The opportunities were somewhat limited early in the trip since the creek was up due to the recent rains. My buddy Joe Mcgroom and I headed up stream from the campground to a certain pool that we wanted to fish thoroughly. The first item of business was to look for nice fish. Higher water levels often bring the big fish out to play so we were hoping for something special. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. There were lots of fish feeding but nothing unusually large. I headed up stream a little ways and found some beautiful pocket water that yielded the first fish of the trip, a chunky rainbow. As the sun sank lower in the west, we headed back for camp and a warm meal, anticipating the next day’s fishing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Standing in Deep

My long awaited trip to the Smokies finally happened! I met a couple of fishing buddies for a weekend at Deep Creek Campground. Thursday and Friday brought a lot of rain to the mountains causing water levels to be just a little too high for optimal fishing. We made it work though and even found some good fishing. Best of all, the bugs were hatching, the fish were keying on Quill Gordons, and we caught plenty of fish on big dries. Life is good!

Self Portrait on Deep Creek

More coming soon including good times catching big fish...