Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Backpacking In Search of Brookies

Plans had been made for some time to hike into #47 with my cousin this past weekend and do some brook trout fishing. At the last second he got sick and couldn't make it but I enjoy solo trips and decided to just go anyway. 

After swinging by Little River Outfitters to chat with Byron and Daniel awhile and pick up some supplies, I headed over the mountain. After a quick stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for my permit, I headed on up the Straight Fork road. The plan was to head over Hyatt Ridge trail to the Enloe Creek trail down to Raven Fork and #47. I got to the trailhead later than I wanted and had to hustle to get over the ridge and into camp before dark. Thankfully I made it in time and after setting up camp, I ate a quick supper and went to bed with visions of brook trout dancing in my head.


The next morning was perfect. The sun was out and the air was nice and cool. Throughout breakfast, I found myself eating faster and faster in anticipation of hitting the water. You don't hike over Hyatt Ridge to catch small stream rainbows. No, you go for the brook trout. Raven Fork and its tributaries are a great place to catch brookies although there are some rainbows in Raven Fork as well...

After breakfast, I washed my dishes and got some snacks to take with me. For the morning, I decided to hit one of the smaller tribs and it proved to be a great decision. For the next three hours, I caught brook trout after brook trout. By lunch, I had already caught enough fish for three days worth of fishing and only used two flies the whole time. The first Yellow Neversink was lost in a tree after 40-some brookies had chewed on it. The second fly, also a Neversink, lasted for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. 

Throughout the morning I caught brook trout up to around 9 inches. The largest fish came from an undercut rock adjacent to a deep pocket. It ghosted out from under the rock and gently sipped the Neversink Caddis. After posing for a couple quick pictures, it swam back to its pool.

The brook trout from the tributary were beautifully colored, and obviously the spawn is fast approaching. Some of the males were even developing the closest things to a kype that these small brookies will ever get.

For the afternoon, I fished Raven Fork proper, slowly exploring my way upstream from the campsite. Here I caught a mix of healthy rainbows along with more brook trout. The brookies weren't colored as much yet compared to the ones I had caught earlier in the day. I finished my day well upstream from camp and regretfully turned back towards my tent and a hot supper, wishing instead to be continuing on upstream and explore to the farthest reaches of the headwaters.

The hike out the next morning was much better than the hike in, just under one mile uphill and then 2 downhill. After a few more pictures of the stream by the campsite I headed up the trail.  After arriving at my car, I was soon cruising back down towards Cherokee where I made a quick stop for something other than backpacking food. Lunch was spent on the Oconaluftee. The water levels were low and a few hours of fishing in the afternoon convinced me that the browns and rainbows here are nowhere near as bold as the brookies from the high mountain streams.

I managed a few rainbows and browns from the 'Luftee before heading over the ridge. A 20 minute stop on Walker Camp Prong produced a couple small brookies and a surprising large rainbow for the water I was fishing.

Another stop, this time on Little River produced the largest fish of the weekend. A nice brown of around 16 inches apparently thought my Tellico nymph looked edible. After a quick picture I sent him back to hopefully grow a bit more.

The weekend was great, but I do wish that the larger streams had a little more flow in them right now. The fishing is still good to great, especially on the smaller high gradient streams where water levels aren't as much of an inconvenience...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Killer Deals

Found some more incredible deals including some super cheap wading boots among many other things.  Save at least 50% on more than 400 markdowns. Check it out!

TWRA Changes Proposed

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has unveiled its proposal for regulation changes for the upcoming year.  The proposed regulation changes and/or additions seem reasonable, and I can support them.  Over the past 2-3 years TWRA has made tremendous strides in implementing regulations that enhance fisheries across the state and the new changes look to continue that trend.

However, TWRA has a proposed guide license on the table which appears to be completely ridiculous.  It unfairly targets trout guides, the largest number of which are fly fishing guides.  The proposal "was made to consider a fishing guide license only for the following waters: the rivers immediately below Wilbur, Watauga, South Holston, Cherokee, Norris, Appalachian, Tim’s Ford, Center Hill, Dale Hollow, and Normandy dams."  If you fish in the great state of Tennessee, you know that the above listed waters are all of the state's trout tailwaters. 

The justification from TWRA for the proposal is "that a guide license is needed to assist in expenses at TWRA’s state fish hatcheries due to the likely reductions in trout production at federal fish hatcheries in Tennessee, Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish Hatcheries."  I can understand that people should pay to utilize a resource, but TWRA stocks many other fish species than just trout.  Maybe they already have funding for those hatcheries, but the burden should not be limited to just fishing guides.  Any walleye guides, striper guides, musky guides, etc., should also help shoulder the burden because TWRA stocks those fish as well.  In the end, if a guide license must be introduced, I think all guides should have to purchase a guide license. 

The following is the email I sent to TWRA:

I am writing concerning the proposed fishing guide license. While I don't have a problem really with the concept of a guide license, I do have a problem with TWRA finding just another way to charge their "customers." The main proponents of a guide license do have a good point that a lot of out of state guides are making lots of money off of our state's resources. If that is the real problem, then charge the out of state guides to utilize our resources and in the process, advance local Tennessee business interests which is always a win-win situation.

If the issue really is one of finding funding for the hatcheries, then this is one of the most ridiculous proposals I have seen in a long time. Why is it that you only want to target trout guides? If you implement a guide license, you should require one for ALL fishing guides across the board, regardless of what species they primarily target. I know that TWRA stocks species other than trout, yet there is no mention of a tax on striper guides or musky guides, or any other guides. This is very pointedly directed at trout guides and should never get anywhere close to being implemented.

Additionally, if you really want to make the right people pay for the trout being dumped in our streams, charge an "urban" fishing license fee to cover all the trout that are dumped in various bodies of water throughout the winter to provide "trout fishing" to people who normally do not go to the effort of seeking out these beautiful fish in more natural environments. Every single fish that is stocked in the winter stocking program is doomed to death, either by high temperatures and low dissolved oxygen during the summer or in the frying pans of those who like to catch and keep their fish.

Also you should consider charging catch and keep fisherman a higher license fee (trout stamp, striper stamp, musky stamp, etc...) than all the catch and release anglers. Sure there is some mortality of fish with the catch and release anglers but not nearly as much as if they are killing everything they caught. If I and some of the other excellent anglers I know kept all the big fish we caught on rivers like the Caney Fork, Clinch, and South Holston, then the population of larger fish would soon be decimated.

For full disclosure, I am NOT a guide nor am I associated with any fishing or tackle shops. I do fish with guides on occasion and would hate to see yet another tax burden on them as they try to maintain their livelihood.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my opinions.

If you are interested in contributing your opinions to the decision making process, please contact TWRA at TWRA.Comment@tn.gov.  Please include "Sport Fish Comments" or "Guide License Comments" in the email subject line.  I would encourage everyone to send your comments to TWRA as they are fairly good at listening to public opinion/input. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Last week I was able to get out a little with some guys on the Caney to float in canoes.  Naturally I wanted to fish in the process so I took the streamer rod and pounded the banks here and there.  Problems started when we were nearly at the end of the float. 

I had just hooked a large striper and as it was running straight up river, somehow the canoe flipped.  Now this was during generation and anyone that has every floated the Caney knows that even one generator is pushing a lot of water.  We watched equipment floating off downstream while we swam our swamped canoe ashore.  Quickly bailing the water out, we through the few things we still had back in the boat and started downstream at top speed to catch everything. 

Thankfully we recovered all the the lost items except I had a stream thermometer disappear and my sunglasses vanished at some point in the chaos.  Now for the bad part.  Sometime during the confusion, the tip on my 7 wt broke (already have a new tip in hand, thanks to amazing customer service from TFO!!!).  Most costly though was the fact that my DSLR was in its case, lashed to a cross bar in the canoe.  When it flipped, the camera was soaked.  Most likely the camera is toasted along with the lenses.  I can't afford the expensive cleaning and can't justify the cost when I can add a couple of hundred bucks and just get a new camera.  So for the time being I'm without a good camera. 

Unfortunately, my old Pentax Optio W-20 has an extremely short battery life now.  That is being fixed as I just ordered another battery.  However, I still need to replace my DSLR.  Hopefully over the next few months I can save up enough to make the purchase.  In the meantime, please forgive me if the content (especially pictures) is not of the quality you have come to expect.  I still have some reports from Yellowstone to add, complete with good quality pictures from before the camera died...  Hopefully by sometime after the new year I can come up with the necessary cash to buy a new camera.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Brown Trout Mania

My favorite time of year is upon is, when the browns turn agressive and the temperatures start to turn chilly.  The next 4-5 months will bring some of my favorite fishing conditions of the year.  Cold weather will keep the crowds away, and I can roam my favorite waters in peace.  While most people spend the majority of the winter tying flies for spring and dreaming of hatches to come, I'm doing most of my dreaming and tying now and fishing when its colder. 

Lately I've been specializing in fall patterns, both for general trout fishing in the mountains and for chasing monster browns with larger than normal flies.  Today I tied my first articulated pattern and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The only problem with these articulated patterns is that the time required to tie them means that losing one will probably bring on a bout of depression....for a minute or two anyways.  Here is my first attempt at an articulated streamer, inspiration thanks to Kelly Galloup's SD...

Monday, September 05, 2011

One Day at a Time

Yellowstone is too vast to appreciate in one visit.  We recognized that before going by not really planning each day there.  It would be enough to just appreciate our surroundings and take what each day gave us, one day at a time.  When we woke up our second day, the Tetons seemed like a good destination for the day.  Despite the fact that we drove past them on our way in, we never had enough time to really enjoy and explore them, much less take plenty of pictures while we were there. 

Before breakfast, I drove up the Firehole and took lots of pictures of the steam rising from the numerous geothermal features along with some more pictures of the falls in the canyon.  In one large field, a pair of sandhill cranes were just far enough away to present a challenge for my camera.  I didn't stay gone long.  The food was in the trunk of the car, and I knew that the others were probably waking up and getting hungry. 

Heading south towards Old Faithful after breakfast, the sky at first seemed promising.  By the time we reached Lewis Falls though, clouds were building off to the south indicating that a forecasted increase in monsoon moisture was indeed approaching.  By the time we were passing the South Entrance Station, it was obvious that the nice clear skies were not going to happen.  At that point though we had invested enough in getting to the Tetons so we just kept driving. 

In the past, I've taken lots of different pictures of the Tetons but this was the first day with a dreary sky.  Despite its foreboding appearance, the sky never really dropped its load of moisture on us.  Up the valley towards Yellowstone it was a different story however as sheets of rain hid the horizon from our view. 

Despite the somewhat challenging light conditions, it was still fun to play with the camera and take some pictures.  While in the Teton area, we spotted two separate moose (both cows), although at distances too great for good pictures even with my new zoom lens.

The following are all pictures from the day, mostly in chronological order.