Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free Giveaway

While I know its probably decreasing my chance at winning, I thought I'd let everyone know about a great giveaway happening over at Arizona Wanderings, one of my favorite blogs on fishing in the southwest.  Ben is giving away a fly box stocked with some of his favorite small stream flies as well as an Arizona Wanderings t-shirt.  Check out the details to see how you can increase your odds of winning...

Hot and Cold Water: Yellowstone Part One

For fly fishermen, the lure of Yellowstone exists in the multitude of cold-water fisheries. From small streams, to lakes, to the mighty Yellowstone, the Park has waters to suit any taste. However, the original goal of the Park was more to preserve the natural beauty as seen in the hot springs, geysers, and other geothermal features as well as to preserve the native wildlife.
On my recent trip to Yellowstone, I was able to get in enough fishing to stay relatively content and yet at the same time enjoy the scenic beauty of the Park, often from behind the lens of my camera. During our stay, many hours were devoted to searching for wildlife and just soaking in the majestic views. 

The first full day in the Park involved hot water, perfect timing, and a nice hike that included some amazing wildflower viewing.  We had 8 days to enjoy the Park and planned a rather ambitious schedule that would cover all the things we wanted to do and see.  Old Faithful was high on the list and an obvious must.

Madison Campground would be our home for the first four nights and it is in relatively close proximity to Old Faithful.  We woke up and ate a hearty breakfast during which resident ground squirrels came by to see if they could get a handout. After cleaning up, we headed up the Firehole River.  Taking the Firehole River Drive allowed us to explore the Firehole River Canyon with its falls and cascade.  The scenery in this short stretch is so much better than on the main road.  After completing the drive, we continued on to Old Faithful.

Luck was with us and we found a parking spot relatively close to the viewing area.  Noticing large crowds watching expectantly, we hustled over and within 3-4 minutes Old Faithful erupted.  On previous trips, I have always arrived shortly after an eruption resulting in long and boring waits.  The hot water from Old Faithful provided the perfect opportunity to take pictures. 

My camera stayed busy the entire time and throughout the day, capturing incredible views of hot springs, steam vents, and beautifully colored runoff from the geothermal features along the Firehole River. 

One of my favorites is Grand Prismatic Hot Spring.  I could spend a whole day trying to capture all the moods and scenery around the hot spring which lies in the Midway Geyser Basin.  The colors range from a vivid deep blue to some of the richest oranges and reds I have ever seen.  Just the scale of the hot spring is mind boggling to me.

By this time the constant exposure to the sun, which was more intense than we were used to due to the elevation and dry air, was beginning to take a toll on everyone.  Some time in the air-conditioned car searching for wildlife seemed like a great solution.  After a quick consultation, it was unanimously agreed on to head for the Gallatin River and maybe find a good hike if the afternoon cooled off any. 

We drove down the Gallatin and eventually made it outside of the Park into Montana.  The beautiful Gallatin River canyon kept drawing us on but eventually we realized that this was a drive that could go on indefinitely and turned back towards the Park.  By now, clouds were blocking at least some of the sun's intensity.  The cooler temperatures drew us out of the car and up the Fan Creek Trail in a bid to finally discover some interesting wildlife. 

Up to this point, elk, pronghorn, and the ground squirrels were the only interesting animals discovered.  The wild flowers were absolutely gorgeous though and soon interrupted us from our main goal of finding wildlife.  At Fan Creek, I wet a line for a few minutes but soon decided to head back down the trail as everyone else was not too interested in watching me fish for hours. 

As we headed into an area of dense timber, a rustle quickly brought us to a halt.  With itchy trigger fingers searching for the bear spray, we soon discovered the culprit.  A mighty chipmunk was posing on a nearby log.  Soon my new zoom lens was on and being put to good use.  All too soon the little creature decided that enough was enough and headed for the safety of a hole in a rotten stump.  The remainder of the hike back was uneventful and we returned to our search for wildlife. 

Driving downstream again, we found nothing more in the way of wildlife but did find some more picture worthy wildflowers.  The late afternoon sun briefly lit up the whole valley for a stunning scene, but all too soon the light faded as the clouds returned.  Tired from such a packed day, we headed back to camp for a hot meal and bed.  The next day promised to be as busy as the first...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Great Sale

More great items on sale. Save up to 20% on more than 60 fishing products.  Included in the list is one of my favorite reels if price is a consideration...for the good deal on the Battenkill reel check out the third page of items...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: "No Shortage of Good Days" by John Gierach

Small streams are one of fly fishing’s pleasures that is particularly meaningful to me.  I grew up fishing the small streams of East Tennessee for the rainbow, brown, and brook trout that live in the cold water running down from the forested slopes that encompass some of the roughest terrain east of the Mississippi.  When I heard that John Gierach’s latest book not only contained chapters on small streams, but specifically a chapter on fishing with East Tennessee sons, James and Walter Babb on some of my own home waters, I immediately knew I had to read the book “No Shortage of Good Days.”  Around the time of release, I was contacted about doing a book review, and while I did not accomplish that goal in a timely fashion, I have finally come up with the time to do the review. 

Gierach’s newest work is full of the same recognizably Gierach style and content that has made all his other books so successful.  Reading anything by Gierach, I can’t help but recognize my own experience and journey as a fly fisherman in the stories he relates. 
He wastes no time getting on the subject of small streams with chapter one entitled, “Third-Rate Trout Streams.”  The timing was ironic because I have spent some time recently dwelling on how I could love my local waters so much, and yet most visiting anglers would be terribly disappointed compared to more glamorous destinations such as the blue ribbon trout streams of the Rocky Mountains.  Gierach naturally communicates his thoughts on the subject more clearly than I would have.  He has “this idea that constant exposure to the ordinary is good for the soul” and I couldn’t agree more (p. 3).  Often, after an extended trip out west, I’ll return home and catch a nice fish on my home water and wonder why I bother to seek the pot of gold at the end of the western rainbow. 
The beauty of the ordinary is that we can learn to understand the subtle nuances of our home waters, which in turn gives us a foot up on all the competition that filters through over the years.  I would place my bets on a local legend here in the Smokies anytime against an outsider in a fishing competition.  Experience in the form of time on the stream is the best teacher.  Learning to love these smaller, less famous streams is all about figuring out how to have good to excellent fishing on what is otherwise considered marginal or average water. 
In fact, while it is hard to infer Gierach’s opinion of my own beloved home waters, it appears from what I know about him that he probably is not looking for a plane ticket to return as soon as possible.  He describes the area fishing as “Small streams, spooky trout that seldom rise to dry flies, difficult to nearly impossible casting conditions…,” and knowing his preference for bamboo and dry flies, I would assume that he probably wasn’t overawed with our east Tennessee small streams based on that description (p. 66). But in the end, to borrow a Gierach phrase, that’s as it should be.  The outside visitor should not enjoy everything that an area has to offer on their first visit…it just wouldn’t be fair to the locals who have spent their lives learning the streams. 
One thing I appreciate about Gierach is that he is dedicated to the sport.  He relates his experiences fishing in winter, including a day on the famed South Platte which was so cold that the odd iceberg was drifting downstream.  Later in the day, the stream filled with slush, but not before he caught 7 fish and this on a day where most normal people wouldn’t even consider fishing.  I particularly was reminded of an amazing day on the Caney one winter by the following:
Every ten casts or so, the part of the line that was wet would ice up in a pattern resembling a string of pearls and I’d have to chip it off before I could cast again. By the time that was done, a glaze of clear ice would have formed around the wet flies. I thought it would probably melt away once the hooks were back in the water, but I wasn’t certain of that, so I’d chip them free with my thumbnail. Then I’d have to stop and warm my fingers in my armpits for a while (p. 86).

Another late winter experience he relates reminded me of another aspect of fishing I often find myself caught up in. This particular winter he found himself in the habit of driving up to a short local tailwater that is normally fishable all winter.  The stream is not noteworthy in general fly fishing terms, it just happened to be convenient.  Gierach tells of stumbling onto a small midge hatch that was fairly reliable and would normally stir at least a few fish from their lethargy for a period of surface feeding.  On the first day, he threw size #24 patterns at the fish to no avail only to run into another local on the way out who claimed he was catching a few on size #32 flies.  For the following few weeks, Gierach returned on a somewhat regular basis to dial in the hatch and then just to get that fishing fix when nothing else around was really open yet. 
Over the years, I’ve found myself repeatedly returning to some particular stream or lake, often out of convenience, but also because I’ve formed something akin to a grudge with the local fish.  That they eat is obvious, but sometimes it seems so hard to figure out what pattern they will take that it becomes something of an obsession.  And of course, once I crack the code, I like to return just because I can (and perhaps for a little revenge on the fish as well for making me work so hard). 
One of the final chapters was so much like déjà vu that I found myself daydreaming more than focusing on what I was reading.  In “A Good Year,” Gierach recalls a particularly great year on his local high mountain streams.  The fish were particularly healthy and willing to eat or so it seemed.  I was transported back a few years, never mind how many, to when I was able to fish the Smokies fairly regularly. 
That particular summer will stay with me the rest of my life.  It was the last year I can remember Abrams Creek fishing even remotely well on a consistent basis, but it was not just good, it was phenomenal.  Every trip produced nice fish and the same went for all the branches of Little River and any other stream I attempted.  Some years are just better than others due to a combination of natural conditions.  While I’ve figured at least some of those out, I still can’t make Mother Nature do what I want so in the meantime, I’ll settle for the good memories and be glad to have been reminded but a great writer. 
All good things must come to an end, but this particular book wasn’t shoved into a hidden corner of the book shelf to gather dust.  Instead it assumed its place among the books that I at least somewhat regularly return to as an old friend when I need a little entertainment or something to pass my time.  As far as Gierach’s books go that I have read, this one is probably my favorite.  If you want to be transported around the world on fly fishing adventures in a book that is still down to earth and will remind you of your own fishing experiences, then I would definitely recommend reading “No Shortage of Good Days.”

Incredible Deal

Super deal right now for a backup rod/reel combo.  If you've ever found yourself with a broken rod 3 hours from home, you know the necessity for having a backup.  At this price, you can even buy 2-3 different combos...

Monday, August 22, 2011


The first week of school is always hectic, and most years I don't really have an opportunity to fish until things calm down 2-3 weeks into the school year.  Fortunately, I was prepared enough for the upcoming week to make it out Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours.  The stream was a favorite local stream known for its smallmouth, redeye, and other sunfish.
Fishing slowly down the stream was a great way to relax and recover from a busy week.  I'm already plotting how to sneak off for an evening this week.  Unfortunately that probably won't actually happen but it's still nice to dream a little.

During my time on the water, I saw a multitude of fish and even caught more than my usual share despite the very low water conditions.  While working slowly down the stream, I even scared an otter that was playing in the creek.  It soon vanished under a huge undercut rock.  I was surprised to find that its presence did not really affect the fishing much at all.  The catching still went on uninterrupted...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Smokies Backcountry Fees?

In the midst of the madness otherwise known as the beginning of another school year, I ran across some interesting information about a proposal being considered for the Smoky Mountains.  Apparently the Park Service is considering charging a fee for backcountry campsites.  Personally, if I could afford it, I would have no problem paying for the privilege.  However, as it is my local Park and has never charged a fee, I am strongly against it. 

Currently on a very limited budget, I've resorted to backpacking as a way to still visit my favorite place anywhere on overnight trips.  I enjoy car camping but it is just too expensive to justify or even afford on a regular basis.  By charging for backcountry sites, the Park Service will more or less be pricing a Park experience out of some people's budgets and cutting down on the number of trips others can take.  While some backcountry sites get too crowded, it is my opinion that charging money is NOT the method to cut down on crowds.  If the Park Service would simply get out and ticket backcountry users for staying without reservations they could still generate the revenue they are claiming to be in desperate need of. 

While I'm sure there are good arguments in favor of fees, I am strongly against it.  Anyone who loves hiking overnight in the Park and does not want to be charged for the privilege should contact the Park Service as they are in the process of taking public comments on this proposal.  I've already sent mine in and would encourage everyone else to do the same. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

From Tennessee to Montana...

...and everywhere in between, we just got back from a roadtrip to Yellowstone that included enough fishing to at least maintain my sanity but lots of time taking in the scenery as well.  I spent a considerable amount of time behind my camera taking lots of pictures and will be sharing those and stories from the trip over the upcoming days.  School is starting so I'll be busy.  Please be patient with me as I juggle time on the job with updating the blog...  Here's one picture of the Lower Falls on the Yellowstone to get everything started.