Photo of the Month: Through the Fog

Photo of the Month: Through the Fog
Showing posts with label Spring Wildflowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring Wildflowers. Show all posts

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Spring on the Cumberland Plateau

Spring is my second favorite time of year, only barely edged out by my top favorite, fall. Yes, I love the transition seasons although summer and fall are both great as well. Summer gets a little hot and muggy and of course winter produces some slower fishing at times (although not always), but all of the seasons have their own charm. This year, spring has been glorious.

Starting out cool and wet in March and early April, we have finally transitioned into late spring. Bass are on the beds along with bluegill and shellcracker, at least up here on the Plateau. In the mountains, early spring hatches of dark colored bugs have given way to the lighter shades of summer. Most of the trees have finally leafed out although some are still getting going in that department.

One of my favorite things about spring and fall is being able to hike comfortably without experiencing the extreme temperatures of the other two seasons. Last Saturday I headed to a favorite local hike. Brady Mountain has a segment of the Cumberland Trail that climbs steeply from a trailhead on highway 68 until reaching the higher elevations on top of the mountain.

While the steepness of the mountain side can make the hike a daunting challenge, the solitude and views gained from the top make it a worth while hike. In the spring, wildflowers reign. The late afternoon sunlight filtering through the fresh green of spring made for some beautiful sights in the woods. Here are some pictures from my hike this past weekend.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dry Flies and Brook Trout

Have you ever developed a sudden craving? Hopefully it is for some delicious food and not that bad habit you kicked years ago. The other day I developed a craving for some brook trout in the Great Smoky Mountains. The fish were all glad that it just involved catching them and not eating them.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I drove over to my local farm pond to see what was going on. When I got there, the weather was so perfect that I started thinking about fishing again on Wednesday. Suddenly, I knew I had to go brook trout fishing in the Smokies. Just like that.

Somehow, spending April Fools out fishing just makes a lot of sense. Away from civilization, the only tricks that can be played are either on yourself or on the fish, hopefully the latter. While I love guiding, I don't always get to fish as much for my own enjoyment and with a couple of open days on an otherwise busy calendar, I knew it was best to get out while I could. After a stop by Little River Outfitters to pick up a couple of awesome fly cups with built in dividers (I use these cheap plastic fly cups ALL the time), I headed on up to the trailhead.

Now, I know you are thinking that you have figured out where I was going if you know much about the Smokies. Turns out you probably don't know after all, because it wasn't where you are thinking and where everyone else is going. That was intentional. I didn't want to fight crowds all day.

When I hit the trail, I was confident that I would be the only person on the water, and I was right. On the hike in, the trail is fairly clear for a while but slowly dissolves. This stream involves getting a little off the more travelled trails which is at least one reason not many people know about it or fish there. Here the path is still fairly obvious while it runs along a carpet of wildflowers.

Even though I was focused on fishing, I did stop long enough to enjoy the tiny flowers and dug out the camera to take a couple of pictures. Here is one of the better ones.

Not long after, the sound of roaring water got louder and the creek came into view. Even though I know that the fishing is better farther up, I wanted to see what the lower section was like and started fishing right away.

This trip was the first time using my new toy. People who book a trip with me will enjoy using this rod I think. I've seen reviews on this rod both praising it as well as people who do not like it. I will say this about the rod: it was extremely accurate with dry flies at the close ranges (8-25 feet) I fish on the brook trout streams and was fairly sensitive while having enough backbone to be a fantastic nymph rod when necessary as well.

The action on the lower creek was slow as is normal. The average sized fish was also really small which led me to believe that the creek may have been fished in the last day or two. Or it could just be not as good. Clearly, further investigation is necessary. Larger fish were there, however, but appeared to need a few extra meals. This relatively long fish compared with the little guys I started out catching was as skinny as any brook trout I have ever caught.

As the water slowly warmed, so did the action. By the time I was moving higher up the creek, I had cut off the dropper and ditched the short experiment of a double nymph rig (which to be fair did catch a fair number of fish). A simple Parachute Adams or Elk Hair Caddis was all the fish seemed to want and so that's what I fished.

Moving up the creek, I paused to eat lunch before catching more brook trout. I decided that one sandwich was not enough and made a mental note to bring two next time.

The stream was so beautiful that I stopped to take pictures of the water from time to time as well as the usual pictures of the trout I was catching.

Eventually, with the nice bright sunlight to allow fast exposures, the wheels started turning in my brain, and I decided to plan around with some in the water shots. While I have no problem with a quick fish picture as long as one is careful to wet their hands and being fast to get the fish back in the water, shots of fish in the water are nice because they look more natural. Here are two of my favorite results.

By this time, I was getting hungry. Wishing for a second sandwich didn't seem to fix the problem so I started the hike out before things got desperate. On the way, I stopped to take a shot of the "trail."

The stream also begged for another shot or two as well.

Walking through one section where I had been in the stream on the way up, I noticed the flowers were even better than on the hike in further down the mountain. Out came the camera and if anyone had come along they would have been calling for a rescue probably as I was all sprawled out on the ground trying to get just the right angle.

Farther down the mountain, I again stopped to catch a second species for the day. The stream I had been fishing was strictly a brook trout stream and hopefully it stays that way. Down below, the stream is a good rainbow trout fishery. Watching this fish come up all the way from the bottom to eat the Elk Hair Caddis was a good ending to a fun day on the water.

One more stop with the camera not far from the trailhead made for two more enjoyable pictures and then I was back to the car and heading home for something to eat.

This day was a great reminder that this is not all about the fishing. The little things along the way from flowers to trailside reflections help make each day out something special to be remembered for years to come. The brook trout were just a bonus. I did get to spend the day out in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after all...