Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Fishing Report. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fishing Report. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Fishing Report and Synopsis: May 31, 2020

Wow, what a lot has happened since the last fishing report update. I had to quit guiding for the month of April as the Great Smoky Mountains were closed due to COVID-19. In March and April, I typically book all or nearly all guided trips for the Smokies as water levels are normally great along with hatches and willing trout. With tailwaters running high, there just wasn't any way to rebook guide trips and people weren't really traveling anyway. Fast forward to May, and things are quickly returning to normal in terms of guide trips/business, but the threat of the virus still looms and we are taking appropriate precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.

I have spent most of my time on the tailwaters this month, especially the Caney Fork. It has fished very well and of course the fishing in the Smokies has been good also. Unfortunately, I have good and bad news on both fronts.

In the Smokies, the light colored bugs of late spring and summer are here and have been for a while. The sulfur hatch was particularly strong this year and now the little yellow stoneflies are out in force. That means good fishing for the near term at least. Good water levels continue to be the story as it is raining more often than not this year. Hopefully we'll continue to stay wet, at least up in the mountains, and fishing will remain strong right through the warm summer months. Expect the yellow bugs to continue. Some larger golden stoneflies should be around and offer the larger fish some big bites. Don't forget terrestrials now as we transition into summer. Green weenies, beetles, and ants are all important at times in the mountains. The one small sliver of bad news? Crowds are as bad as I've ever seen them in the Smokies. The National Park Service is keeping the Elkmont area closed for some reason with the official reasoning having to do with COVID-19. That means a longer walk if you want to fish upper Little River. Otherwise, most of the Park is open and accessible now.

The Caney Fork was fishing great the last few weeks. It looked like we were on target for a good to excellent year of fishing there. Unfortunately, the Corps of Engineers slammed the brakes on that at least temporarily by conducting spill operations on the Caney this weekend. Why in the world you would dump warm lake water into a cold water fishery is beyond me. In fact, on Saturday, the generator was even shut off for about an hour, meaning the ONLY flow was warm lake water. After all the river has been through, I can't believe that they decided the best idea was warm water. We can only hope that the fish hunkered down and made it through. As long as the generator is on, there might still be enough cool water to not kill all the trout. Unfortunately, this surge in water temperatures is going to draw all the stripers up into the river now. That will probably mean the end of good spring fishing on the Caney about a week or two earlier than normal. If the trout make it through the spill operations the past couple of days, then we might have some decent fishing a bit longer, but things are probably on the annual downward spiral now. I just hope I'm wrong about that. The one silver lining this year is that the dam is being operated on a normal schedule, meaning there is more cold water storage available for summer and fall. Hopefully there will be some trout left to take advantage of that.

Smallmouth streams have been often running too high for good wade fishing like I enjoy. Over the next 1-3 weeks, that should change and with the heat of summer will come good smallmouth fishing here on the Cumberland Plateau.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fishing Report and Synopsis: March 24, 2020

You may have already noticed some changes around here. The first and most important is that I'm changing how this fishing report displays. Instead of a static block at the top of this blog, I'm now going to try and keep an updated fishing report up as a blog post. That could mean weekly, and hopefully it will at least mean monthly. If things get too crazy, maybe I'll even do one more often than that.

Speaking of crazy, the shutdown of life as we know it is accelerating right now. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is officially closed at least through April 6. Unlike some past closures, you are NOT allowed to enter the Park even on foot at this point. While it seems like the great outdoors is one of the best places to be right now, apparently too many popular trails and features were still crowded with people ignoring current social distancing guidelines. Since the Park closed down all facilities including restrooms, this is probably for the best. Lots of people don't know how to go in the woods if you know what I mean.

For me, this means I'm out of work for at least the next couple of weeks. This is a very tough time to be running out of work since early spring is an important time to start making money again after a couple of winter months not guiding much. Hopefully this whole thing blows over quickly and we can all get back to work, fishing, family get togethers, and everything else we're missing out on.

If you are sitting at home bored, take some time to scroll through old blog posts here. Share them with a friend or family member. More page views here means at least a small chance of making up a little lost revenue here on the blog. Not enough, but every little bit helps.

Now, on to what you were really wanting to hear about: the fishing. The fishing was good to excellent in the Smokies the past few days before this closure. I was very fortunate to have scheduled a cabin stay with my wife before this all got crazy, so we spent a few days late last week and through the weekend enjoying the Park. Hiking, looking for wildflowers, photography, and of course fishing were all on our list of things to do. We accomplished all of them! Some streams were only mediocre, while others were excellent. The dry fly fishing has been okay but not great, but nymphing has been very good. We hit some small streams that I've been wanting to fish for a while and found eager fish everywhere. A Guides Choice Hares Ear nymph along with a Tellico nymph proved to be a big hit when high sticking. On this trip, I taught my wife to high stick and she picked it up quickly. Of course, she caught the largest fish of the trip as well. For full disclosure, this fish was caught while indicator fishing but we spent more time high sticking than not.


With lots of rain forecast, fishing won't be great anywhere for at least a few days unless your thing is high water and big streamers. In that case, the Clinch or Caney Fork might be a good option to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. An extended dry spell is looking more likely starting by next week or early April. That has been our norm for the last few years, so look for flows to drop rapidly and become fishable by mid to late April on many area rivers.

Smallmouth will start turning on when flows are reasonable. We hope to be out chasing them sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

To Be Detailed and Descriptive or Not?

Brookie from Stream X. Yeah, I'm not talking.

A recent local trend has been disconcerting to say the least: publicly outing small streams, particularly brook trout streams, on the Internet for the masses to read about. Sometimes referred to as HOTSPOTTING, the results can be horrendous.

Now before someone calls me out (aw, shoot, go ahead and call me out because it should make for some good entertainment), I recognize that I have often given trip reports that are detailed enough as to leave little to the imagination, sometimes even naming small streams myself. In fact, anyone who has followed my blog for more than a few months has probably noticed that the details associated with my fishing reports have dwindled to the point that some people probably don't even bother to read them anymore, and that is fine with me. In all honesty, I started writing this blog for myself and if others enjoy it so be it. Most of my trip reports are from fairly obvious Park waters, but I'm still not interested in having company next time I fish there.

Having seen what exposure can do to streams has definitely shifted my views over the years. When I first started exploring some of the high elevation brook trout waters in the Smokies, it was not unusual to be able to fish roadside for days and not see another angler. Back then, my favorite sections were probably fished no more than once every couple of weeks and the fishing was accordingly amazing to the point of being stupid easy.

Now, with fishing reports filling the Internet (including from yours truly) and anglers seeking out the water in ever increasing droves (or so it seems), it can be rare to find a piece of water to yourself anywhere close to a road. Add to that an increased acceptance of catch and keep and it becomes obvious why certain sections that used to produce 50+ fish days with several pushing the 10-12" range are now good for maybe 10-20 fish with none over 8 inches.

Sure, people have been keeping fish for a long time, but when did it become acceptable to proudly herald the fact, an act that just encourages more and more people to do the same? The fisheries biologists say that anglers have little to no impact on the trout populations in the Great Smoky Mountains, but that is assuming the status quo from the past few years. If just the anglers I have guided had all kept a limit on each guide trip, I would personally be responsible for the removal of triple digit numbers of trout in the last couple of months. Spread over the whole Park that is a really small number, but concentrated into a few sections I like to return to over and over again that suddenly becomes very significant.

Even more importantly, when anglers remove the largest trout from a section of stream, they are removing the dominant genetics from the gene pool and leaving the little guys that just weren't quite good enough to to make it to "head honcho" status. Spread that trend out over several generations of fish and the result is disturbingly obvious. Catch and keep has its place in our streams, but seriously, please release the largest alpha fish. Those are the genes I want to see being passed down on these wild streams.

So what is the main problem? I could be wrong, but it would appear to be a lack of education. A lot of newer anglers, like myself many years ago, are stoked about the sport and finding such good places to fish. Without quality mentors to teach them the near sacredness of the pursuit of trout and other fish on the fly, it can be a tough trial by fire. Unfortunately, at least a few of these people will have to learn by arriving at their favorite stream to find a plethora of anglers fishing their hidden gem.

Some hints I've seen online recently are obvious to anyone with a map and brains, but still probably shouldn't be announced to the masses. For example, the fact that Stream X has a decent flow and cold water is obvious to anyone with a map and vague concept of geography, but that doesn't mean that 500 anglers from the region should immediately descend on it just because they read about it online. Believe me, there are those anglers out there. "I read about it on the Internet so it must be true/awesome/epic/you name it, and I'm going to fish it this weekend."

A recently outed, previously hidden gem.

As a guide, I have been extremely selective about where I will take anglers. For some of the lesser known remote waters, I will not take clients there unless they specifically request a trip there. That means they have done their homework and already have some info on fishing there. Good for them.

While many of us view the exploration of new waters as part of the charm of fly fishing, there are some less than scrupulous or even just purely lazy anglers who read trip reports simply to glean knowledge about a hot spot that is not often fished. Some of those are fairly harmless and probably won't catch many trout anyway. Others are looking for an easy place to poach. I've talked to those people and have heard the stories such as anglers who used to take "brookies by the bushel" out of some remote headwater streams. Having heard the stories from credible first hand sources, I don't want to be the one responsible for making it easy on others to do the same.

Finally, most of all I'm admittedly selfish. Having worked very hard for 20+ years to discover most of the Park secrets for myself, it is tough seeing them outed by a careless word to the whole world. As someone who actively searches the Internet and keeps a detailed log of possible "secret" waters across the country to someday fish, I know that I'm not alone in my quest for that secret fishing hole. In an age of more and more transparency and fewer secrets, I just hope that at least one of my secret brookie streams will still be untouched next time I fish it.

Is there some contradiction with my complaints and the fact that I guide? Am I part of the problem?Quite possibly (and definitely in terms of creating new anglers or introducing people to fishing in the Smokies), but at least I am in a position to help educate others on protecting the resource. For example, I am always amazed at how many people (including long time fly fishermen with plenty of experience) seem to have no clue that you should NEVER dry hand a fish. Yes folks, please get your hands WET before touching a trout (assuming you even need to touch it). I have no problem with a quick picture of your catch, but dip those hands in the stream first.

The crazy part of this whole thing is that it is not even limited to small waters in the Smokies. Even tailwaters are susceptible to this. I've seen a fair amount of increased traffic on my local tailwater just from a few generically good reports on how it is fishing this year. With large numbers of quality fish leaving the river on stringers, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the pressure is bad. Our tailwaters could be full of fish averaging a legitimate 15-18" if we could just get people to release the majority of their catch and follow the regulations. Unfortunately, a lack of education and a stocking truck chasing mentality permeates the local fishing culture. People are living in a time of instant gratification and are not willing to see how letting a few go now could lead to unbelievable fishing down the road. This weak-minded approach is leaving our tailwaters in a sad state compared to the national treasures they could be.

The best pictures do not show any landmarks.

If that is not enough tangents for one post, then I don't know what is. I'll wrap this up as I don't have much else to say. I guess the recent hot water and low water leaves me without much else to do than dream up complaints. Maybe I should move back out west. I hear they have more water there than they know what to do with.

Oh, if I don't share much information with you, that is probably because I'm watching to see if you are a good steward with what you do know. Want to learn some secrets? Find a map and start hiking to search them out for yourself. Once you pour out your sweat in search of a great fishing location, you probably won't want to share either.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Panfish Action Heats Up

Spring panfish crappie tail shot


What a difference a week makes if you are looking looking for panfish! 


When I took a few minutes to run to a nearby small lake last week looking for some crappie and bluegill, things were pretty slow and ice was still melting in a few spots. One hungry bass did grace the end of my line, but that was the only fish spotted.

Fast forward to this week and I'm naturally wondering whether things have improved. With much warmer air temperatures and at least a couple of sunny days since my last quick trip, I figured the fish might be more active. One rod was already rigged and I decided to string up the seven weight in case I found some larger bass willing to plan.

The lake was again devoid of other fishermen. That won't last very long with such nice spring weather finally here, but I'll take it and enjoy it while I can. When I first walked up on the big rock that I normally start fishing from and peaked over the edge, I saw fish spook every which way. That is always a good sign.

As it turns out, the fish had mostly moved up into the shallows, probably enjoying the warmer water where the sun could do the most good. Oh, and they were hungry. I caught more and larger fish than I have caught in a long time from that lake. All the larger bluegill and crappie were hungry and were the more aggressive than even the little guys which meant I only caught three smaller fish.

Spring panfish bluegill

spring panfish crappie

In the end, I didn't fish all that long but caught a lot of fish. From now on, things will only get even better for panfish. Along with the warming temperatures has come a huge increase in the number of migrating birds which leads me to believe that spring might actually be here for real this time. Sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, and of course plenty of robins and other indicators of spring have been arriving. Some pass on to points much farther north, but every spring and fall I enjoy seeing the variety of feathered friends heading north and south respectively.

Even though spring appears to really be here, if we have learned anything from this winter it is to expect something unusual. In Tennessee, some of our largest snows have come in March so its not over until its over. Still, with hatching bugs and rising trout, not to mention hungry panfish, I'm fairly confident that we are starting to turn the corner.

spring panfish crappie

spring panfish crappie eye closeup

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Funny Story

There is a funny story in today's fishing report from Byron at Little River Outfitters. The story is about the opening of Lynn Camp Prong and how some wires got crossed just a little. Head over to the Fishing Report and check it out!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Missing Big Fish

Lost any big fish lately? I have, and I can tell you that they are still fresh in my memory. The last two streamer floats I've done have resulted in losing nice fish. One was two weeks ago, and the other was this past Sunday. At least I'm still getting out and catching a few fish though.

On Sunday, my buddy Dan Munger from Little River Outfitters, and I had planned on doing a float. Going back and forth between trout and musky, we finally decided to hit the Caney Fork. Putting in on low water, we stirred up a few fish with nymphs as we waited for the rising water from the power generation to catch up. Once the water hit, we drifted and threw streamers.


Overall, the fishing was slow, but I did have that one moment with a big brown trout. We were well along in our day at this point. I was in the front of the boat and was working a good fishy looking bank. Suddenly I saw the dark shadow take a swing at my fly and miss. Pausing just briefly for the fish to find the fly again, I continued my retrieve. The second time the fish nailed it, but somehow I just missed the hook set plain and simple.

On my previous trip, I had the fish on long enough for a couple of jumps before the fly shook loose. Clearly I'm in some sort of a rut, and one where the main feature is loosing or missing big browns is depressing indeed. The only solution I can think of is to get out and fish some more. So for the next two days, I'll suffer and get out some more in search of more fish. Someone's got to do it...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back on the River

Joe Mcgroom photograph


Once again I spent some time on the river this past weekend. Unfortunately it looks like that will be my last time on the water until next week during break. The cold weather kept a lot of people off the river for a second weekend in a row. This was good for us because it meant we were able to fish all the best runs without any competition for a change.

Our first stop didn't produce any fish over 16 inches or so. Despite the lack of larger fish, the fishing was still excellent. There were several times that we were all hooked up simultaneously. The river is absolutely on fire right now if you have the correct flies and know where the fish like to feed.

The water started coming up after we had fished for a couple of hours so we headed up to fish just below the dam. This proved to be a good choice and we found the largest fish we spotted all day. After working a pod of good fish for several minutes, I finally hooked one and it immediately went ballistic. Thankfully all my knots held and I was soon admiring a beautiful male brown in the shallows. After a couple photographs, I released the fish and watched it bolt back to the dark run it calls home.

Joe Mcgroom photograph


Later on I came back to the same pod after they had calmed down and hooked a beast. The fish tore across the river towards a log on the far bank but I somehow managed to keep it from hanging up. Next it decided to head downriver. Moving quickly in pursuit, I grew increasingly nervous as the battle was becoming drawn out and I knew it was a monster. Suddenly the line went limp and I was left to ponder what might have been. Reeling in my line I discovered that it was no fault of my own. The #16 hook had straightened out partially, just enough for the big fish to gain its freedom.


Joe's big brown

My buddy Joe Mcgroom also managed to catch a pig. If he wasn't ruined last week he definitely is now.

Joe with his big brown...

We're planning a trip to another Tennessee tailwater during Thanksgiving break and this trip will include some monster browns hopefully. I'm hoping to find that 32 inch monster I mentioned in the previous post...

"Hero" shot of my big brown - Joe Mcgroom photograph

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back on the Tennessee


My curiosity has got the best of me the past couple of evenings. I've been heading down to see what is happening and today was finally a good one! Things started off quickly with a fish on within 3-4 casts and it never really slowed down all that much.


The highlight of the day was my first crappie which has been one of my goals for fishing down there. All that's really left now is a smallie and a striper. I'm about ready to give up on the striper until next winter but we'll see. The smallie is another story, and I should be able to get one of those but time will tell.


The Skipjack are still around. Last night I hooked what probably would have been my best one yet but it threw the hook a minute or so into the fight. Tonight I found a good spot where the action stayed hot for the last hour or so of daylight... Hopefully I'll have time to try again here in the next few days but with finals next week, that may be difficult. Also, it is possible that the Caney Fork might have a wadeable window this upcoming weekend. If it does, I'll be heading down to see how the fish our doing...

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Walk in the Park


That's exactly what I did this past Sunday. The weekend was spent camping at Elkmont which was great as always albeit a bit expensive. They seriously need a student rate so poor college students like myself can enjoy some time in the park without breaking the bank. I guess I just need to start backpacking instead of car camping...and now I'm off topic...

One of my favorite ways of fishing is to hike in on a day trip, sometimes up to 15-16 miles roundtrip. Sunday's goal was not that optimistic. I'm out of shape after a lazy winter so 10 miles roundtrip seemed reasonable. The trailhead at Elkmont was reasonably busy when I arrived at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. An hour later, I was 4 miles deep in the backcountry and ready to start fishing. The stream temperature was about 48 degrees and the clouds hinted that the air temp might not climb much as the day progressed.


A double nymph rig seemed reasonable considering the conditions and I tied on a GRHE with a softhackle dropper and a couple small split shot. After a couple fruitless casts, an energetic rainbow hit the Hares Ear and the day progressed nicely in similar fashion. An hour later I had caught 10 fish and was getting hungry. During lunch I began noticing that every time the sun poked through the clouds bugs would start flying up from the stream. After I started fishing it began to make sense. The rocks were all covered with newly hatched yellow stoneflies. It was too cold to fly quickly so they were waiting for the warmth of the sun to take to the air.


This revelation brought out my trusty Tellico nymph as the new dropper and the catching continued. Not long after lunch I hooked and lost the best fish of the day, a brown pushing 11 inches. I missed a nice brookie as well but the rainbows kept coming to hand at a steady pace.


Somewhere after 30 fish I began to wonder if they might hit a dry and out come a yellow Neversink Caddis. The fish must have been starving, because they attacked it with reckless abandon. The time was slipping away unfortunately so I finally called it a day and started the trek back to the trailhead with another amazing day on the water under my belt. By 7:00 p.m. I was on the road back to Chattanooga with a great sunset in front of me and a relaxing weekend behind...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hitting the River

I had a couple of hours free this afternoon and made a quick run over to the Tennessee River here in Chattanooga. The fishing is good right now with lots of active fish. I managed a nice largemouth to go along with the usual yellow bass. Unfortunately I had a problem with the camera so no pictures to share...

The largemouth hit a #4 Simi Seal Streamer stripped fairly fast in shallow water and the yellow bass liked a smaller #8 white woolly bugger fished a bit slower. The exciting news is that the stripers are being caught the last few days. According to another fisherman I talked to, there was at one guy that caught nice stripers on 3 consecutive casts at one point. I'm guessing they were probably schooling and chasing baitfish. That is my goal for fishing the river, to catch a striper. Hopefully I'll accomplish that one soon...

I'll be going back to fishing for trout, probably sometime next week, but until then I might make another trip over to the river to look for those stripers. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Foolish Fish


April Fools should obviously be spent playing a joke on someone or fooling them in some way. I decided that the best way to spend the day would be fooling some fish. Besides, I've been missing the Park a lot lately so I headed up towards Townsend.

After a stop at Little River Outfitters, I was soon on my way into the park to see how the fish were doing. My goal for the spring is to catch a big brown. I didn't get off to a great start yesterday in that category but had fun nevertheless. Oddly, I never even saw any large fish which is unusual, even when I stopped at the pool where I ALWAYS see a big fish or two.

Other than the lack of big fish (at least to my limited searching abilities), it was a beautiful day in the park. The fish were acting a bit strange and not rising as much as I thought they should. Still, I was able to catch a few on a dry fly for the first time in awhile up there. Sadly, the dry fly action has supposedly been awesome recently but it was a little off for me yesterday, not to mention the fact that I needed to shake the rust off of my reflexes. Those wild fish are just a completely different ballgame than what I've fished for over the winter.


The low point of the day for me was watching a nice brown of 13-14 inches take my dropper (a softhackle at that point of the day), and I didn't set the hook in time...only fast enough to feel a brief resistance as the hook pulled free. I even got the fish interested twice more but couldn't get it to commit again. The day had high points as well including a nice rainbow that was a bit larger than the other small fish I was catching. All the rainbows were extremely colorful...


The interesting discovery I made was that the drought really seems to have been good for the browns. I was catching a lot more browns and in places that have always held rainbows in the past. Hopefully we'll see more quality browns for the next couple of years as a benefit of the otherwise bad drought we experienced but time will only tell. Overall I had a great day and can't wait to go again, hopefully in another week or so...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lake-run Rainbows


Today, I officially began my quest for lake-run rainbows. I've been hearing plenty of stories about the great fishing opportunities they present and while we may not have salmon and steelhead runs like the West Coast or the tributaries of the Great Lakes, there are still some decent possibilities to explore. Many of the streams take some effort to get to and I'm hoping to get in some backpacking trips soon to check those out. Even the ones that don't require an overnight trip take a bit of effort to get to. Today I drove for what seemed like eternity through the winding backroads of the Appalachians. The drive was nice though a bit too winding for it to be a quick trip...




The end result proved worth the wait. I found just a few large fish in the stream of choice but they were actively feeding making my job easier. Only one (of the big guys anyway) was gracious enough to let me land it but one of the ones I hooked was almost as memorable. I was drifting a copper john with a midge dropper through a run where I had spotted an actively feeding fish when my line stopped dead and shot upstream. My feeble attempts at putting on the breaks did absolutely nothing as the fish muscled its way on upstream before shortly throwing the tiny midge. The fish I did land was gorgeous but was missing a chunk of tail from some past brush with danger...

Hopefully there will be a lot more fish in this creek in the near future. There's only one way to find out though so I'll make the sacrifice and check back soon so everyone can know that someone is out there having fun...


Friday, October 26, 2007

I Went Fishing!!!

Shades of fall

I'm sure you have all been extremely concerned about my lack of fishing so I decided that I should probably go today. The Hiwassee has been on the back of my mind for awhile so I finally went and checked it out. The river (at least the upper part) is full of fish that are all hungry and the fishing is good...

Got to have the game face...

Unfortunately I never saw any large fish and all the fish I caught were recent stockers. On the other hand, reports from the river have indicated that the water temps stayed within the tolerance range for the trout over the course of the summer. Hopefully we'll see some better fish once we get a chance to explore a bit more over the next few months.

First fish in weeks

I mainly fished up in the vicinity of the powerhouse today and as I said, there were lots of fish in the river. They appeared to be starving to death and I couldn't keep them off my flies today. The best fish was around 12 inches but was on the skinny side in my opinion.

Nice 12 inch fish

I'll likely fish again Sunday morning early for a couple of hours so check back soon for some information on the Caney Fork...

More fall colors

A rainbow comes to hand

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Home Water


After a long fishing trip, it would be easy to have one of two problems. The first problem that could develop would be an addiction to fishing every day as much as you wanted. The second potential problem is that you could get so tired of fishing that you wouldn't go for a few weeks.

I probably am as close to being right between these two problems (and hopefully this means normal) as you can get. The shakes haven't taken over yet but I don't have to stay away from fishing either. Curiosity took over yesterday and I made the short drive down to my "home" tailwater, the Caney Fork. I had to do some research to see how the fish were doing.

Wow! Talk about being a bit rusty. As much as it sounds ridiculous, the west had spoiled me with hard to spook, easy to catch fish. I started out using standard indicators and quickly had to go back to my dry dropper to get into fish. Once I started the old routine I remembered so well, things started to improve. Another problem soon became apparent however. Caney Fork fish are perhaps some of the fastest in the world at taking a fly and spitting it back out. I had grown accustomed to big stupid Cutts on the Yellowstone that would grab my fly and dart upstream with the indicator dragging behind. Reaction time wasn't all that important and so my reflexes were a bit off.


I stuck some nice fish and missed a bunch, but somehow managed to bring a few to hand as well. The good news I discovered is that the fish are in great shape heading towards fall. If we can avoid any late summer dissolved oxygen issues, this fall should bring some of the best fishing we've seen in awhile on the Caney Fork including some excellent sight fishing opportunities for larger fish. There are lots of healthy holdovers and all the fish seemed fat and full of fight. Of course, I can't make too many judgements off of just one fishing trip so expect to see me on the river again soon doing more "research."

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Stop, Taylor River

The morning sun lights up Taylor Canyon

If someone were asked to design the perfect trophy trout river, it probably would be the Taylor we were fortunate enough to fish. When Colorado was added to the trip itinerary, I got quite excited. Having spent my whole summer in the Gunnison/Montrose vicinity last year, I was already very familiar with the wide range of quality fishing options that existed in that area. The Taylor was one of those streams that I left knowing that I would return, probably as often as possible. There just aren't that many rivers where you can walk up and see 40 brown trout laying on the bottom of one small part of one hole, all of which are in the 4-6 pound and larger range. Of course, catching these fish is another story.

We got into the Gunnison area fairly late Friday evening due to the previous troubles with the coyote. Thankfully, at this point the car seemed to be doing fine and gave little indication of the troubles we would encounter much further down the road. Considering that late hour, I was visibly nervous about our prospects of finding a camp site. As we travelled up Taylor Canyon, my fears seemed well warranted. Every campground was either full or the extra sites had "Reserved" cards on them. Finally, we found what had to have been the last available site in the entire canyon and after a very quick setup, we were soon in our tents sleeping soundly.

The next morning, I awoke refreshed and excited to be embarking on the first leg of this grand adventure I now fondly recall as West Trip 2007. The canyon was cool and surprisingly humid with condensation showing up on my rain fly. This did little to dampen my spirits however as I saw my first view in the daylight of the magnificent Taylor Canyon since last summer. The early morning sun was lighting up the canyon walls with an explosion of colors and the bright blue sky providing the perfect backdrop with the white clouds floating through it

After a nice easy breakfast, we eventually headed up the canyon towards the short public stretch known as the Trophy section. Upon arrival we were greeted with a ton of other fisherman. I always know I can expect this on the Taylor but it is always a bit of a surprise each time I go there. Despite the crowds, we were soon rigged up and began our quest for some trophy fish.

After a short while, a good spot opened up and we quickly moved over and began sight casting over some very nice fish. About this time, a few bugs started popping off the water and I was pleased to see what appeared to be PMDs. I quickly reached for the nearest match I had at the moment which was a sulphur sparkle dun left over from some of my South Holston trips. The fly was lighter than the naturals but I didn't care. After a few casts, I noticed a fish rising steadily just upstream and carefully cast my fly in its direction. First cast, just a bit short and off its right shoulder, strip, strip, pick up line, cast again, perfect. The fish rose confidently as I tensed then gently lifted my rod tip and the battle was joined. The fish quickly ran downstream into the big pool just below and started the bulldogging that we became so familiar with. I hadn't seen a fish that could rip line for quite awhile so this moment was one to be savored. Of course, the 6X I had on slowed down the process but eventually, a nice brown came to the net. After a quick pose with my first fish of the trip, he darted back off into the river in search of more trouble.

First fish of the trip

It was somewhat ironic that I caught my first fish on a dry. Don't get me wrong, I love fishing dries and fish them whenever opportunity beckons, its just that between me and my buddy fishing with me, I was the nymph guy and he was the dry fly guy. It got crazier soon after my first fish when he hooked a very nice fish and after another solid fight, I netted it for him. When he began to remove the hook, I asked what he caught it on. "A nymph" was his reply. So both of us got our first fish doing the exact opposite of what we usually do.

The Release

After this revelation, I quickly changed to a nymph rig. My buddy Trevor had brought to my attention the fact that there were some fairly large stonefly shucks hanging around on the banks. This brought out my favorite Tennessee fly (most of you should be able to figure this one out easily) which was soon employed in hauling in large Taylor river fish. I was in heaven. Sight casting to large trout with a double nymph rig was just about as good as watching a fish rise to the dry and I soon was catching enough to let me know that the nymph was no fluke. Shortly after, the Green Drakes started hatching but I stuck with what was working and the fish rewarded me. I caught fish on several different flies that first day on the Taylor and none of them was smaller than a #14. Sometimes, the fish just want to see something different. Almost everyone else there was fishing small stuff except for those that had figured out the hatch that was in progress.


Brilliantly colored Taylor Brown

As time moved on, I was enjoying myself but realized that I hadn't caught any rainbows. This is not that surprising as the browns are dominant in the Taylor but I still wanted my 'bow. After spending a bit of time sight casting over a few smallish rainbows, I found a better one feeding just behind the lip where a nice run fed into a large pool. It was feeding in 4-5 feet of water and was quite active so I knew I had a very good shot at hooking this fish. A quick check of all my knots reassured me that everything was in good shape and I began casting and trying to ascertain the proper drift to get my flies into the strike zone. After a few drifts that were off, I finally found the proper line for my flies and was soon drifting them reasonably close to the fish every cast. I knew that eventually my flies would either interest the fish or chase it off. Fortunately, the former happened and I soon had several pounds of rainbow ripping line off my reel. "This is one fish you don't want to lose," I breathed softly to myself. After several hard runs and what seemed like an eternity, the fish began tiring slightly. However, every time I got it anywhere near shallow water, it made another hard bulldogging run back into the current. Finally the fish seemed ready and I guided it in to Trevor who was waiting with the net. Once again, a quick shot of the fish and it swam strongly away leaving me with a memory of thick shoulders and brilliant sides.

Nice Taylor Rainbow

Finally, we began to get a bit tired and hungry and decided to leave the fish in peace for the rest of the day. We made our way up above Taylor Reservoir to find some smaller fish in the upper Taylor. It just wasn't the same though, we had been spoiled on our first day of the trip. This would ultimately bring us to spend some extra time at the Taylor when we discovered that the Gunnison in the Black Canyon was blown out (read excessively muddy) due to the recent rain.

Collegiate Peaks as viewed from Taylor Park

Our return to the Taylor proved just as much fun although the fish were slightly more picky the second time around. I actually had to use the small stuff I had so carefully avoided our first time through and caught fish on various midges in addition to the dries that imitated the currently hatching PMDs and Green Drakes.

Taylor Brown on a dry

Once again, I left the Taylor with a desire to return. Some rivers just have a gravitational pull, or perhaps its as simple as good fishing. Regardless, the Taylor is one river I will be back to again over the upcoming years.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fishing With My Uncle

The last couple of days have been spent with relatives visiting from out of state. My uncle has spent a bunch of time telling me stories from his younger days when he fished a lot. Big browns in Montana are generally the topic of my favorite stories but he has good stories to tell from throughout the west. He can't get out in the river well anymore himself but thought it would be fun to come watch me catch a few. I assured him it was a good time to go as the fishing has been great lately so we headed down to the Caney Fork for a couple of hours. He made himself comfortable in a chair on the shore and I proceeded to catch a few fish to show him. Another big fish ate my fly but this time I didn't even get the hookset so he is still out there to be caught. Fortunately, some other nice fish decided to play.


My appreciation of fluorocarbon tippet is increasing by leaps and bounds. I can't remember the last time I fished 5x so successfully on the Caney and it is nice to be able to pressure fish a little. Midges are still working well...

My uncle got a kick out of watching me catch fish and a good afternoon was had by all!