Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Little River Outfitters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Little River Outfitters. Show all posts

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Winter Is For Fly Tying

During the cold months, when I'm not out fishing, I'm usually getting caught up on my tying for the year. That doesn't mean I won't tie throughout the season as well. Normally I have to tie at least weekly and sometimes more. If I'm fortunate, however, I can get far enough ahead now that I won't have to tie large quantities until next winter. That opens up more time for fishing and of course doing other important things.

I like to pursue my winter fly tying in an orderly fashion. Typically, I focus on the flies that I go through the most in a normal season. That means lots of midges for the tailwaters and the usual nymphs, dry flies, and terrestrials for the mountains. As a guide, I tie the vast majority of the flies I guide with. There are some exceptions though. While I really enjoy tying stimulator and parachute style flies, I will often buy a good supply of those in bulk because of how many I go through in a season. Nymphs and midges, on the other hand, are flies that I can produce quickly in bulk and make sense to tie my own. This is especially true because I tie some patterns that you cannot purchase commercially. 

And that is at the root of my fly tying. I like to experiment. Tweaking existing patterns and also coming up with my own flies is part of the excitement of the sport of fly fishing. It is said that there is nothing new under the sun. Thus, most of my supposed inventions are ones that someone else is tying somewhere else. In fact, most of my inventions were motivated by flies that I've already seen or been told about. However, when there are more and more anglers out on the water than ever before, sometimes the difference between a slow day and a good day is just a subtle variation on a standard pattern. The fish see the same "shop flies" over and over again every day on some rivers. Sometimes, those shop flies work great, but you have to think outside the proverbial box.

This last year in the Smokies, I had a late season epiphany that really changed the success we had one day on a brook trout stream. The common wisdom is to fish yellow well into the fall. That is because of the availability of a vast array of yellow bugs in the warm months, perhaps the most important of which are the little yellow stoneflies found so plentifully on our southern Appalachian streams. In other words, the conventional wisdom is there for a reason and usually yellow works. However, when you are on a fairly pressured stream, never mind that you're fishing for brook trout, there comes a point in the season when the fish start to get finicky. That's a good thing and just means that the vast majority of anglers are releasing their catch which is as it should be with these native jewels.

Anyway, back to my story, there we were on this brook trout stream and the fish are only half-heartedly inspecting our standard yellow dry flies. Going smaller in size got a bit more interest, but it was clear that the fish were onto the game at this late point in the season. So what did we do? Small, dark, and subtle. I didn't notice any dark bugs on the water, although in the Smokies anything is possible at almost any time of the year. What I did notice, though, was that the brook trout were no longer shy. Even with brook trout, showing them something they aren't used to seeing can be the ticket. 

On the tailwaters, that means carrying a large variety of color schemes on my midges. In particular, I carry a wide variety of colors with my Zebra Midges. It is no coincidence that my old article on fishing the Zebra Midge is one of the all time favorites on this blog. This is one of the most fish catching flies that I know of. I mostly use it on the tailwaters, but it also catches fish in the Smokies. There are so many possible combinations of bead color, wire color, and thread color, that I couldn't begin to list them all here. I will say that some of my favorites include black and silver, black and copper, olive and copper, and chocolate and copper. Most of my most successful midge patterns are darker, but sometimes lighter colors are the ticket.

Recently, I decided to share a quick video of tying the Zebra Midge over on YouTube. If you haven't already, check out my channel there. My goal is to share a lot more content via video in addition to the usual blog posts here. While you're there, make sure and subscribe to the Trout Zone Anglers channel. There is another midge pattern that I have shared there that I probably fish even more than the Zebra Midge these days. It has accounted for more fish over the last few years than any other fly and also plenty of big fish. For those of you who are experienced fly tiers, these videos probably won't provide much new info, but I'm mostly trying to help out those who are just getting into fly tying. 

The recent explosion in popularity of fly fishing is bringing more and more people into the sport. Not everyone will decide to also take up fly tying, but the satisfaction it brings is well worth considering. Because our good friends at Little River Outfitters are not able to do tying classes right now because of COVID, I'm going to try and share tying videos more often over the next couple of months. If you have a specific pattern you would like to see (or other content), please let me know in the comments below OR send me an email.

Back to my fly tying, I'll work on midges and streamers for now. I have several tailwater guide trips lined up and those are the most likely to be needed over the next couple of months. As we get closer to spring in the mountains, I'll be tying quill gordon and blue quill imitations in anticipation of the first hatches of spring. I also need to replenish my little black caddis imitations. This is an overlooked hatch that can provide surprisingly good fishing.

Before late spring, I also need to replenish my terrestrial box. Mostly that means making sure I have plenty of green weenies and barbie bugs along with some beetles and ants. What I really need to do is get out all my fly boxes and start working on refilling them in an orderly fashion. This guarantees that I won't forget something important. One of the worst feelings is getting out on the stream only to discover you don't have the right pattern.

If you carry a tying kit with you, then you could quickly spin up a couple. That doesn't work very well when you're guiding unfortunately. To be fair, who carries a tying kit with them on regular fishing trips? I take one with me on big trips. I have many good memories of sitting at a picnic table in the evening in Yellowstone or Colorado and whipping up some bugs for the next day. Nowadays, I try to prevent this from being necessary by planning ahead though. If you haven't gotten into fly tying yet, consider giving it a try so you can be prepared as well. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On a Roll

One of my favorite things about winter is time off from work. Not that I mind guiding, of course, but it is nice to get a little fishing in for myself on occasion. Lately I've been privileged to spend more time on the water than I deserve including trips on tailwaters like the Caney Fork and South Holston as well as fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The best thing about this streak of fishing trips is that they have all been successful. Now, success can be a difficult thing to understand. Defining success becomes even harder when multiple anglers all have their input, so let me explain my idea of success when I'm the one holding the fly rod. Success is, first and foremost, spending time out in nature. Catching a fish would be nice as well. After all, I'm out fishing for more than just the scenery. That said, I don't need huge numbers these days. I don't really even need big fish although those are always nice. Secretly, most anglers hope for big fish so they can wow their friends with stories of their fishing prowess. I don't know about wowing others, but I will say once again that big fish are nice to see.

The thing about big fish, though, is that they get kind of stressful. When you have a big fish on the end of the line, all of your nerves and muscles bunch up. In the end, it can take days to unwind from a particularly hefty specimen. Needless to say, catching too many wall hangers could take its toll.

The absolute best fish to catch are those that are larger than normal, but not so large as to cause you to completely lose your mind. Larger than normal because, let's admit, they look good in the picture if you are into that sort of thing. I take pictures to help me remember the fish later. I'm starting to realize that my good memory may not last forever, but hopefully those pictures will help jog my memories if it comes to that.

Over the last two or three weeks, I've been blessed to catch four of those memorable fish. On each fishing trip, only a handful of fish were caught. On at least one, I know for sure that the memorable fish was the only fish. Somehow that helps those memories become a little clearer. The hazy memories usually come from the days where I quit counting how many 18+ inch fish I caught oddly enough.

Anyway, so as I was saying, I've been on a bit of a roll lately, and I'll gladly take it. Any serious angler knows that luck can turn suddenly, so it is usually wise to ride a winning streak hard. The first good fish came from up in the Smokies, the next two from a couple of tailwaters, and the last one was back in the Smokies again. Let me tell you about that last one.

It happened this past Thursday. A weather system had moved through Wednesday night into Thursday morning dropping snow in the higher elevations. The morning after the storm was cloudy, and I hoped it would stay that way. Fishing for brown trout is always tough, but clouds do give an angler an edge even if it is a flimsy one at best. My usual early morning responsibilities evaporated and I was suddenly free to head for the mountains earlier than I anticipated.

I was not too far down Interstate 40 when I noticed the breaks in the clouds to my east; definitely not a good sign for chasing brown trout. The openings in the clouds became more defined as I got closer to Knoxville, but mercifully started to fill back in by the time I was passing the Knoxville airport.

My intended short stop at Little River Outfitters stretched longer than I wanted but that was my own fault. They have set up a tying table to tie flies for worthy causes. When Daniel told me I could tie the first fly, it was an opportunity I could not pass up. I quickly cranked out a bead head Pheasant Tail nymph, something I'll probably do each time I visit now. This is definitely a fun idea so check it out when you are in the shop next time!

Finally, after grabbing some white tying thread (there is a hint there about my streamers, but of course not about where that color is being fished), I finally said my good byes and headed into the Park. It was a cold blustery day. The white on the hills above town told me that snow had fallen in the higher elevations and probably still was in places. The clouds were just thick enough to give me some motivation, but the cold day was giving me second thoughts. Just getting out to see the mountains was enjoyable enough. Of course, I wouldn't be writing this story if I just drove around looking at the water. By now it should be obvious that I did indeed go fishing.

My streamer rod was still rigged up from my last tailwater float. While that combo probably would have worked, I decided to change flies. At the last second, inspiration struck and I tied on a sculpin pattern to the short leader at the end of my full sinking line. That is always a good idea if brown trout are around as long as the water you are fishing also contains sculpins. The second run I fished produced two really good hard tugs, but neither fish found the hook apparently. The first hit was particularly gratifying as I watched the fish come flying out of calm water to chase the streamer.

Moving slowly down the river, I fished another couple of runs without any hits. One of those was a particularly good spot where I had caught my first fish of 2017. When it didn't produce, I decided to go looking elsewhere. Still more or less uninspired as to where I wanted to fish, I decided to just explore. That is almost always a recipe for success in my experience.

Early in my exploration I found quite a few fish. In fact, I had more brown trout chasing streamers than I can recall on just about any other fishing trip. Still, the fish either wouldn't commit or couldn't find the hook. Both problems left me searching for that one fish. There is probably a good metaphor there as well, but I don't feel like unpacking it tonight.

Finally, I remembered where I caught the nice fish that had started this whole string of good luck a couple of weeks back. The beauty of catch and release is the chance to go and see if old friends are home so that is what I did.

Remember exactly where the last fish had come from helped a lot. I worked my way into the run very cautiously, knowing that it is far too easy to blow a nice fish. A couple of drive by flashes from smaller fish got me excited. When I finally threw to that one spot, I strongly suspected I would be seeing that nice golden flash again. Sure enough, the brown charged, swirled once, then twice before knocking the streamer silly. It was all I could do to not pull the fly out with a massive hook set. Instead, I started twitching the fly like I imagined a disoriented sculpin would be doing. Miraculously, it worked. Seriously.

When it all comes together, and I should point out that this is not the norm, I'm left wondering: why can't I get myself together and do everything right all the other times? When a nice fish is in the net however, I leave the wondering until after taking pictures and generally admiring the fish. They deserve my respect which looks like a very fast picture and quick release. The fish posed beautifully and then I was left to wonder about why everything worked this time. Somehow I couldn't quite make sense of everything, but was left to realize that I'm definitely on a roll and better enjoy it while it lasts. A streak like this won't last forever. In fact, the clouds broke just after catching this fish and the streamer bite went dead in a hurry. For now, I'll be watching the forecast waiting for another cloudy day.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fly Tying Demo at Little River Outfitters

If you are in the area this weekend, I will be tying at Little River Outfitters on this Sunday (January 29, 2017) from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. If you have time, stop by and say hello. I'm planning on tying tailwater midge patterns and also some nymphs that should be good both on tailwaters and in the mountains. If there is time, I may do a few terrestrials as well. I'll be discussing fishing on the tailwaters and sharing some of my tips and stories for success. If anyone wants to talk fishing in the mountains, I may do that as well. If you have any particular patterns you would like to see, please let me know by responding here or emailing me with your request.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fly Tyer's Weekend 2015

If you like to fly fish, you should be at Fly Tyer's Weekend 2015. Geared specifically towards fly tyers, it will involve plenty of fun and entertainment for non tyers as well. The event is sponsored by Tremont Lodge & Resort, Little River Outfitters and the Southeastern Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers. A showing of the IF4 (International Fly Fishing Film Festival) will be happening Saturday evening. In addition, learn fishing tips and tricks from each tyer on how to fish their favorite patterns and more.

I will be tying Sunday afternoon so stop by, say hello, and discover some of my favorite patterns for fly fishing in the Smokies.

For more information, visit the page on Fly Tyer's Weekend.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, September 14, 2015

High Fish Concentrations

Little River rainbow trout in the Great Smoky Mountains

While most people are bemoaning the low flows in the Great Smoky Mountains, I'm enjoying some of the best fishing I can remember in a while. To be clear, I did not say catching, but if you enjoy stalking trout and sight casting, this is as good a time as any. Fall is my favorite time of year as I have often said on this blog. Low water is at least a contributing factor in that for me.

You see, the mostly unmentioned benefit of low water is that it helps to concentrate the fish. Whereas in the spring the fish are spread throughout the entire river, there are now only a few places for them to hide. Finding those places, approaching them without being seen, and getting a good cast on the trout can be challenging, but who isn't up for a good challenge?

Times like this is where you push your skills to the utmost, either becoming a better angler for it or quitting until conditions get better or using whatever other excuse you can to avoid the poor conditions. Fishing and the quality thereof varies, like most things in life, in the eye of the beholder.

Not too long ago, I had purchased a Rio Euro Nymph line with the eventual goal of purchasing a longer fly rod (say 10'-11'). Just the other day I finally put it on a reel and had to try it out before leaving for Yellowstone. After finishing with the Little River Outfitters Day 2 Beginner Fly Fishing School, I headed back to the Park and soon found a convenient pull off.

Feeling pressed for time with the sun quickly descending in the western sky, I had the rod rigged in record time. With low water, I wasn't sure what to expect from the fishing. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Fish were still hungry and willing to eat my nymphs. Overall, I really liked the new line but did find that it had a learning curve. After fishing weight forward lines exclusively for a long time, it was a LOT different throwing the lightweight Euro nymph line. It offers some great benefits though and in the long run will be well worth the investment. More on that in a later post once I've spent more time getting to know the line.

Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The fish seemed willing to eat my Isonychia soft hackle although I didn't catch large numbers of trout. Slow and steady seemed to be the rule. Lots of nymphal shucks were to be found on the rocks along with Golden stoneflies. Yellow quills or some other yellow mayfly made an appearance as well as some tiny Blue-winged Olives. With cooler temperatures, we should continue to see more hatches moving into the fall. A little water wouldn't hurt, but the fish are still there and hungry as always. The main benefit of this low water is that we should have some extra good dry fly possibilities this fall.

Little River rainbow trout

Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For now, this will be one of my last fishing reports for a while. I'll hopefully roll a couple more out, but I'm leaving for Yellowstone National Park this Thursday and will be gone until early October. I'm booked until mid October but have some availability starting October 14, 2015. If you have been wanting to book a guided fly fishing trip this fall, don't wait too long as the calendar is filling very quickly. Both float trips on the Caney Fork River and walk/wade trips in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be fantastic this fall. Call/text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com to book today.

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...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greedy Smallmouth

On Tuesday, I had the good fortune of getting out to chase musky and smallmouth bass and to just enjoy the warm weather we had for a few days. Dan Munger made it over to fish since it was his day off from Little River Outfitters. As always it was great having him in the boat. I also had my buddy Tyler who had not been on the boat yet. The goal was to chase some musky. Dan did well on his first musky float a few weeks ago and got that first musky out of the way so we were hoping for a repeat performance. Unfortunately the fish had other ideas and we just didn't see very many over the course of the day but then that's musky fishing for you. Of course, Tyler is not convinced that there aren't really such thing as musky in the rivers we fish so we'll have to take him again to show him some fish. he highlight of the day was when Dan had just cast to a nice rocky ledge. He barely started his retrieve before the heavy fly rod was bent under the weight of a nice fish. I thought for sure it was a nice musky, but he quickly announced it was a smallmouth. After a solid fight, we got the fish in the net and took some pictures. First, notice the size of the fly it hit! The fly was at least 6-7 inches long and perhaps more!



The best part though was that the fish had a large crawdad stuck in its throat. Talk about a greedy fish! It had a big meal and still wanted more.



The rest of the float was uneventful except for the one musky that taunted us by rolling 10 feet off of the takeout ramp as we were approaching it. I guess we'll just have to get back out there sometime soon and try to even the score a little. As we took out the boat, the sunset alone made the whole trip worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

First Time Musky

One of my favorite things in fly fishing is seeing someone catch a fish for the first time.  Kids who are picking up the long rod for the first time and even seasoned anglers catching a new species all enjoy the experience so much that just being around is fun.  Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the day on the water with my buddy Dan from Little River Outfitters.  He has been dying to catch a musky, and I had some time free and an idea of where we might catch one.

We met up and hit the water early enough that it was still pretty chilly out.  The adventure almost got off to a bad start when I nearly didn't get off the ramp with my car/trailer (minus the boat of course).  Recent wet weather had really messed up the top of the short ramp with a deep ditch cut by runoff.  Thankfully, after more suspense than I really care to have, the car eased on up, and I was able to start breathing again.  Soon we were drifting and Dan was throwing big flies looking for the toothy critters.

The early part of the float was pretty slow.  I suspected that we would start seeing fish after the first couple of miles.  Slowly floating down, we enjoyed the nice day and the warmth of the sun that was not just making it more comfortable for us but hopefully was also warming the water to turn on the musky.  We both started wanting a snack at about the same time so I pulled the boat over and we got out to stretch our legs on firm ground for a little while.  I also got busy with the camera.



As soon as we started floating again, Dan had 3 strikes in a row off of the same bank.  We never did get a good look at the fish but were glad to see the action picking up.  Continuing down, we got close to the section I wanted to really hit hard and I decided to take one more turn in the casting brace before getting Dan on the prime water below.

Just a few feet further down the river, I had cast up into a big back eddy and was retrieving the fly when a familiar shadow appeared behind the fly.  I started speeding up the retrieve and the fish charged on, unmindful of the boat.  Going into my figure 8 motion, the fish shot past, only to come charging back.  Unfortunately I made a little more commotion than I should have with the fly rod in the water and the fish bolted at the last second.  My buddy Dan was going crazy at this point. "Did you see how big that fish was?!?!? he asked.  His eyes got even bigger when I told him that it was a small to average fish, probably around 3 feet long.

I kept casting a little bit longer but as we closed in on the prime water, I insisted that Dan get back in the front of the boat and it didn't take much urging on my part.  He was ready now after seeing that fish chase.  The wind was starting to pick up and the clouds were lowering as rain moved closer.  It was now or never.

Dan was working a large pool, casting to logs and other structure.  Finally he turned and started working the far bank when I heard "There he is!"  Almost immediately the line came tight and the battle was joined.  I started rowing after the fish and it was a strong one.  Dan had the 8 weight bent over more than I believed was possible and the fish would not give up.  Several runs later and some lucky oar work thrown in for good measure, we had the fish in the net.  Dan was pumped, and I have to admit I was as well. These fish never get old!



We pulled over for the obligatory photos.  Soon the fish swam off, still incredibly strong considering the battle we had just enjoyed.  Minutes later, the rain arrived and we did not see another fish the rest of the way.  Still, getting a musky in the boat rates as a great day and we both had more than enough energy for the ride home.  I'm sure we'll be hitting it again sometime soon and I'm positive we have a new convert to musky fishing.  These fish have a way of getting in your blood.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Evening Escape

Evening trips are accounting for the majority of my fishing, either after guiding all day or after getting off at Little River Outfitters on Thursdays.  That works out great because the fishing is generally best early and late right now although depending on the stream and daily weather conditions it can be good throughout the day.

The majority of the hatches are happening late and include small caddis, the Giant Autumn Sedges, some Isonychias, and some as yet unidentified mayflies that are bright pink or orange in color.  A few Yellow Quills have also been spotted and the midges are both prolific and an all day affair.  All of this adds up for healthy and happy fish that are usually willing to eat something.

Last week I got out for a few hours in the afternoon after a half day morning guide trip.  The fishing was very good for overall numbers.  An Isonychia soft hackle was getting it done for me although other flies caught a few as well.

Perhaps the best part of the whole afternoon was that moment when I was fishing my way through a nice stretch of pocket water and got a whiff of grapes.  Seriously, grapes.  I actually ignored my nose at first but then the smell was so strong that I knew I wasn't imagining things.  Turning around, I found a rock wall covered in Muscadines.  Delicious!

A bit later, I found a rather interesting brown trout.  It is not the easiest to discern in this photograph, but the fish had some scars around it that appeared to be from tippet/leader material where the fish rolled itself around the line a few times as the angler was fighting it.


The evening light was perfect for pictures.  Although I spent a lot more time fishing than capturing images, a few I did take turned out okay.


These evening escapes are a great way to unwind at the end of the day.  You can be sure that the next time I'm in the Smokies, you can find me out on the water in the evening somewhere.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First Fish of 2014

What a great way to start the year! Even though I still have boxes and stuff scattered all around from my move back to TN, I knew that I couldn't wait on visiting the Smokies any longer.  After an early morning, I made it to Townsend and stopped for a while at Little River Outfitters to chat with Byron and Daniel.  As always we had a great time talking about a little of everything.  Eventually the pull of the streams was too strong, and I headed out of town and into the Park.

Driving slowly up Little River, I stopped at several likely pools.  At one stop, I spotted a nice 18" brown sitting right by the bank.  After several casts to judge the drift, I got a good one in there and the fish came over for a look.  Thinking it had taken the fly, I set the hook.  The fish moved back the other direction casually and would not be fooled into a second look.  Oh well!

Several times, fish came charging out to inspect my large offerings, but each time refused at the last second.  I was beginning to think that my day would be done without catching anything, and of course sometimes that does happen this time of year when you are chasing big fish.

I was running low on water by this time with both Nalgene bottles almost empty.  A quick run up to a good spring seemed like the logical solution and would enable me to check out Middle Prong.  The very first hole I hit had a great surprise.  As I was slowly working the pool, a fish came up and ate.  I just barely felt the soft hit but set the hook and was soon staring in surprise at a very nice rainbow of about 14 inches.  Probably it had swam up from the stocked water in Townsend, but it looked healthy and even wild so I'm not entirely certain.

Later, after filling up on water, I was working my way back downstream and stopped at a very nice pool that I know holds good fish on occasion.  The rain was falling by this time and it was getting close to sunset.  The low light conditions were perfect for brown trout to be out hunting.  I worked the top half of the pool thoroughly and then moved down to the back.  Pitching a careful cast out between two trees, I started my retrieve when I saw the golden flash.  Feeling nothing, I continued the retrieve.  On the second pass, the fish made a solid grab.  After a solid battle, I was holding my first Smokies brown trout of 2014, a beautiful 17 inch fish.  Because of the rain, my camera was staying dry in the car, but I still have my memories which sometimes are better.

That fish was another first for me as well: it was the first brown trout I've caught on Middle Prong.  I've seen plenty of them but never actually caught one until this trip.  Not a bad way to start the year and not a bad first brown for me on Middle Prong!

Monday, March 18, 2013

High and Cold

Spring in east Tennessee, Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, Black and Brown Stoneflies, rising trout....and don't forget the daffodils and everything else that combines to make this one of the best times of the year.  Conventional wisdom says that the bugs should be hatching around the first of March give or take a week.  By mid-month things should be pretty awesome, in a normal year that is.

The new norm is, well, anything but normal.  Last year the bugs were hatching a full month ahead of schedule in early February.  Shoot, I even had a day in mid-February that was so warm that it was NOT prime fishing unless you arrived early in the morning.  By noon the hatches were over.  Fast forward a year and a warm and very wet winter has been followed by a cool and wet spring, make that cold and wet.

My initial fears of arriving after the peak hatches were soon replaced by fears of no hatches.  In the end the actual conditions were somewhere in the middle but closer to the latter extreme.  My first day in the Park was last Tuesday, March 12.  While driving into Townsend, a text brought a call from my buddy Josh Pheiffer who was heading into the Park to fish.  After arranging where to meet, we were soon on the stream and looking for trout.


In a couple of hours of fishing, we saw a handful of fish with the best being a 15-16 inch brown that I fished for but never even remotely interested in my offerings.  I also missed a healthy brown on a big Parachute Adams but that was it.  The water was cold, high, and clear which made things a bit tricky.  Finally we parted ways for the evening with my dad and myself heading back to Townsend for the night.

Photo by David H. Knapp

The next morning brought back the excitement at being in the mountains.  I knew that Wednesday would be the toughest day in the Park but was dead set on making the most of my time there.  My dad was just along to hang out.  It was great having him along to chat with and made the long fishless periods go much quicker.  By mid-afternoon, the waters had warmed from frigid (upper 30s) to very cold (low 40s).  I wasn't particularly hopeful and had decided to just fish streamers.


My new 5 weight was rigged with a small white streamer like I fish out here on the local creeks.  My seven weight was rigged with fast sinking line and a much larger streamer.  I was covering my bases size-wise but was dedicated to fishing streamers on this day.

Finally, in a pool recommended by my friend and Smokies big fish guru Joe McGroom, I spotted a rise.  Huh???  The sun had not been out much, nevertheless, a few bugs were hatching here and there and soon I spotted a very nice brown rising to the snack.  The two isolated rises did not deter me from my original intent and I was soon probing the depths with the seven weight.

Gradually I worked out more and more line.  Casting was tricky with all the trees and high bank behind me.  However, I finally got something resembling a rhythm down.  Two false casts with a vigorous double haul would land the streamer on the far side of the current.  Three quick mends while throwing out more line soon had the fly swimming properly downstream and across.  On one of these drifts, something slammed the streamer.  Finally, a fish, I thought.

Fighting the fish through the heavy current, I soon had a nice glimpse and was thrilled.  Not a bad first fish of the year in the Smokies!!!  My dad graciously came over and took the camera from me to document this beautiful brown trout.  I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face.

Photo by David H. Knapp 

Photo by David H. Knapp

Something about catching a nice fish like this makes me appreciate my surroundings even more.  Instead of immediately fishing even harder to catch another, I took a breather and used my camera to help me remember that moment.  The water continued to roll past.  I noticed a single large boulder across the stream facing the onslaught of water and was impressed at the forces it had to withstand to still be there at the head of this pool.  Many Smokies pools are completely different this spring as a result of the high water this past winter.


Eventually, I felt like fishing some more.  Further up river, I came to a nice undercut bank with deep soft water next to it.  I just new there had to be a fish somewhere in there.  The soft water reminded me that I was still carrying a 5 weight in addition to the heavier rod.  I set the 7 weight down and started jigging the little streamer along the bank.  The second cast produced a spirited strike and soon I was admiring my second Smokies trout of 2013, a colorful 8 inch brown.

Again, I paused to enjoy the beauty around me.  On some trips, I almost wish that I could just photograph while someone else fishes, almost.  There is something rewarding to me about not only coming into such close contact with nature by fishing, but also photographing the experience for rememberance later.


My day was becoming better by the moment.  While landing the last fish I had noticed mayflies crawling out along the bank and quickly drying their wings.  The cold weather had slowed down the hatches but not stopped them altogether.  The little brown I had caught was obviously along that bank to eat the nymphs migrating to the bank to hatch.  I paused to wonder whether a nymph pattern would have fooled the fish as well, coming to the conclusion that, yes, it probably would have worked just fine.




The day was beginning to draw to a conclusion, but I had one or two more pools on my mind.  Heading upriver even further, I soon came to the last pool of the day.  Just one more, I thought to myself.  By this time, I had changed over to a big dark articulated fly.  The second hook was cut off at the bend to remain legal in Park waters.  Slinging the fly across the current and beginning the retrieve, I felt a tug after the first strip.  An especially hungry brown had grabbed the fly, and I was excited again.  What a way to end the day.

Soon I had my third and final brown for the day to hand.  My dad again graciously took pictures, and I slipped the hook out and watched the fish swim away.

Photo by David H. Knapp

Photo by David H. Knapp

Considering the water conditions, I think it was a pretty amazing day on the water.  Besides, the highlight of the trip for me was just seeing so many friends and family in Tennessee and visiting the Smoky Mountains.  Catching fish was just icing on the cake.

The final day of my Smokies excursion would bring yet another great experience, but more on that later.  Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures of the streams.





Friday, March 01, 2013

Patiently Waiting

Every year for the past 3 years or so, east Tennessee has had a cold first week of March.  I was always glad to be heading out-of-state to places like the Everglades and the Grand Canyon for spring break.  Also, each year had a warm second week of March.  Since spring break out here in Colorado fell on the second full week of March, I was hoping to hit the weather right in Tennessee.  So far it looks like everything is working out!

With snow and cold temperatures in Tennessee right now, I'm glad that I'm not walking the banks of Little River looking for a hatch that may never start.  The long range forecast calls for moderating temperatures.  That means that while the bugs haven't exploded yet, they might be trickling off in fishable numbers upon my arrival.

I've been patiently waiting for spring break but my patience is quickly wearing thin now.  With only a week to go, I'm now tying flies during every available moment.  Last night it was #18 Parachute Adams to match the Blue Quills.  Today it will be more of the same as well as larger #12 and #14 flies for the Quill Gordons.  I've stocked up on my Copper and Partridge Soft Hackle as well to match the caddis that will also be around.  I tied plenty of Tellicos and other stonefly patterns weeks ago and am fairly confident with my supply there.  Still, there is rarely a fishing trip that I feel completely prepared for.  If all else fails I'll be stopping by to see my friends at Little River Outfitters and picking up a few extra flies if I run low.

Lately I've been paying special attention to Ian and Charity Rutter's fishing report as well as Josh Pheiffer's.  Both are excellent area guides that frequent both the mountain streams as well as the tailwaters.  The most recent reports indicate that bugs are hatching sporadically but in general the big hatches have yet to happen.  I guess I don't have a lot of options and will have to try and stay patient for another week.  Going home will be a nice treat for spring break!!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

First Day on the Job


Yesterday was the first day at my summer job working for Little River Outfitters in Townsend, Tennessee. I’m going to enjoy working there. A lot of my time was spent doing the more mundane tasks of receiving shipments from some of our distributors and getting them out in the store. The most enjoyable part of working there though is being able to talk about something I love doing. I’ve always enjoyed fly fishing, and helping others with fly selection and offering advice on where to fish is about as good as it gets (and did I mention I get paid for this?).

Being able to go fishing in a mountain stream after work for wild trout ain’t bad either… As soon as I got off work I headed up Middle Prong to check out how the fish were doing. The fishing was very good with lots of bugs on the water near sunset. There were little yellow stoneflies both hatching and also out laying eggs. The big news from last evening though is that the large yellow stoneflies are out in force. I’ve never seen that many large bugs flying around at one time. As usual this time of year, just about anything yellow worked well including Neversink Caddis, a parachute Sulphur, and a yellow soft hackle. Because of the large stoneflies out and about, I’ll probably be somewhere up the East Prong this evening chasing some larger fish…wish me luck!

For now it looks like I’ll be working weekdays so stop by and see me…

Friday, May 23, 2008

Last Time and New Job


Today I made one last (most likely anyway) trip to my home river before heading east for the summer. If all goes as planned, I'll be living in Townsend by this time next week. I was hoping for a cloudy day on the river to get the fish going but it was not meant to be. The clouds gave out on the drive down only about 5 miles from the river and it stayed bright and sunny the whole time I was there. Despite the less than ideal conditions, I still managed to catch a good number of fish. Most of the fish where caught on various midge patterns and would only eat if I got my flies right on the bottom.


I probably won't make it to the Caney for awhile now but that will be fine because I'll be on the wild trout streams of the Smokies as often as I want to (when I'm not working). You can rest assured that I'll be hitting the evening hatch often and hopefully will still have time to post reports. Additionally, I'll probably experiment a little with smallies and make a trip or two to the South Holston, Watauga, Clinch, and/or Holston rivers.

Best of all, I'm getting the opportunity to work for a fly shop which I've always thought would be a great experience. I'll be working for Little River Outfitters for a couple of months this summer until school starts again. I'll be working in the shop and taking care of the fly tying materials section. It doesn't get much better than helping folks out with fishing so I should have an awesome summer! Ya'll stop by and see me if you get the chance...