Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth
Showing posts with label Summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Summer. 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, July 11, 2017

Beetle Fishing

With the hottest days of summer also comes some of the best terrestrial fishing of the year. Ants, bees, hornets, grasshoppers, inch worms, and beetles are abundant and often end up in the water. Never mind how they get there, the important thing is that these bugs fall in the water and the fish eat them. Of all the options, ants probably provide the most consistent fishing while hoppers and beetles provide the most exciting fishing. Let me explain.

Ants fall into the water throughout the warmer months. In fact, fish can be caught on ants in the Smokies almost year round and certainly from April through October. This includes some of the larger brown trout a few select Park streams are known for. Subsurface offerings are usually the most consistent both in the mountains and on area tailwaters, although you will occasionally catch some really nice fish on top as well.

Hoppers and beetles, on the other hand, provide visually exciting sight fishing to wary trout, often in shallow water. Fish will usually eat a beetle given the opportunity. Hoppers are not far behind, but knowing your local water is important here. For whatever reason, there just isn't much hopper fishing in the Smokies. Not that you can't find a few fish willing to crush one, but that is definitely the exception rather than the rule. Beetles seem to be rather widespread however. I had this reinforced just a couple of weeks ago.

After a half day day morning guide trip, I decided to hit the water for a couple of hours to see how the fishing was on Little River. My goal was to either fish streamers or terrestrials with a strong preference for the terrestrials. Streamers are better in the winter, or at least that is when I prefer to fish them. Beetle fishing is best during the heat of summer once the Japanese beetles make their annual appearance. I made my way up to the river after a stop at Little River Outfitters and was soon looking down at a nice pool.

Sure enough, a quality brown trout was resting in a favorite lie in the back of the pool. This is a prime spot because it is accessible and easily approached without spooking the fish. I rigged up with my favorite black beetle pattern and dropped into the stream well downstream of the fish. Working slowly up the bank, I snuck into position behind a boulder just downstream of the trout.

Pulling enough line off the reel, I made a quick false cast and dropped the fly into the water just to the right of the fish and....nothing. Another cast looked perfect but the fish didn't even seem to know the fly was there. The third cast, well, the third time is a charm. The cast was about two feet upstream of the fish, and it rose confidently and ate without any hesitation. The hook set was clean, and while there were some tense moments during the fight, I soon had the fish in my net and ready for a quick picture.

Brown Trout Caught on a beetle in the Great Smoky Mountains on Little River

My day was made at this point. Sight fishing is my favorite thing to do in fly fishing so I was content. Thankfully, I didn't stop at that point.

My next stop was a pool that had several quality brown trout in it, at least it did as of a few months ago. I already knew where the fish should be but couldn't spot anything from my vantage point. Regardless, I wanted to throw a few casts so I scrambled down another bank and worked my way across the riffles downstream to get into position. Moving up, the first cast was right where it needed to be. Sure enough, a nice brown was waiting for me. This fight was less stressful than the last, but it was still satisfying to slide the net under another healthy fish.

While the day had been made twice already, I decided to try one more spot. Working up a rough section of water, the fish I had gone looking for didn't seem to be home. Not far upstream, I was ready to call it a day. There was a good rock wall where I could climb out, and I started up. Just as I hit the top, I glanced upstream and notice a shadow near the bank. Sure enough, another nice brown trout was sitting out just waiting for me.

A few casts later, I had my third quality brown trout in the net. Not bad for an hour or two of fishing with minimal expectations. I decided to call it a day before I pushed my luck too far. The stream had been more than generous, and I was satisfied.

 Last beetle caught brown trout on Little River for the day in the Smokies

The key to summertime beetle fishing is presenting the fly to the correct water. This seems obvious, and yet two of the three fish I caught were in water that most anglers would have overlooked. These mid-summer terrestrial eating fish are usually in shallow or shaded water (or both), often in "dead" water that most people don't even expect to see a fish in. Success is much higher if more time is spent looking than casting. Yet, for those who are patient, this pinnacle of fly fishing sport is a lot to offer. Rainbow and brook trout will also eat beetles well this time of year.

One word of caution is needed here. Water temperatures in the lower elevation brown trout streams are often getting higher during the day than an ethical angler should fish in. Please carry a thermometer and curtail your fishing activities if the water temperature is 68 degrees fahrenheit or above. My personal cutoff is 66 degrees and above. If you do find warm water, simply look higher in elevation for your fishing experience. Good fishing can still be had through the hottest part of the summer for those willing to explore.

If you are interested in learning more about beetle fishing in the mountains or on the tailwaters, I offer guided wade and float fishing opportunities across middle and east Tennessee. Please visit my guide site for more information on guided fly fishing trips. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fishing Stays Steady but Conditions Are Improving

Over the last couple of weeks, I've spent time on both the Caney Fork tailwater and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fishing in the Park is anywhere from average to very good depending on where you are fishing. In fact, for those willing to put forth some effort to hike a ways, this time of year can produce some fantastic numbers of rainbow and brook trout on dry flies.

The roadside streams should be improving with the cool and cloudy weather this week. In fact, this weather is about the greatest thing we can get in the middle of August. Hopefully September will bring cooler temperatures and maybe even an early fall.

Last week, I had several trips. We had a good time on all trips but one had the added bonus of being on water that had brook trout. Here are a few shots from that trip with Charlie.

Brook Trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains
Prospecting a nice pocket with the dry/dropper rig.

Charlie with a nice rainbow trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Charlie with a nice rainbow trout.

Fall colors
Fall is coming!

Brook Trout from the Great Smoky Mountains
A Great Smoky Mountains brook trout.

A remote brook trout stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Remote brook trout water in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tomorrow it is back to work with a trip in the Park. Later in the week I have some days available as well as some time the following week. If you have been waiting for empty streams and willing trout, this is a great time to book a trip. Most of the summer vacationers are gone since school is back in session. If you want to have the water to yourself, this time of year is second only to the cold of winter for solitude if you go midweek.

If you would like to book a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Caney Fork River, please contact me (David Knapp) via call/text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Creek Fishing

Wading warm water creeks and streams is one of the less popular but nevertheless fun elements of the sport of fly fishing. Some people never even get that far. If you only fish a few days a year, you are likely still focusing on trout for each of your trips. That is just fine, and with a few exceptions, what attracted most of us to the sport to begin with. In fact, I still fish for trout the majority of the time. That said, when I have a few hours to kill and want to have fun, you can probably find me with a four weight rod and some topwater bugs looking to have fun with the smallies and panfish.

Last Tuesday, I checked with my buddy Chase to see if he wanted to fish some creeks. We agreed on when and where to meet and not much later I was headed out. Looking down at the outside thermometer on my car, I knew it was going to be a hot one.


When we arrived stream-side, we found the usual collection of people out swimming, drinking beer, jumping off of the rocks, and generally scaring all of the fish. That always means a hike so we hit the trail. By the time we had hustled back about a mile, my shirt was soaked with sweat, and I was almost ready to jump in and swim instead of fish. As soon as we started fishing it was obvious that the discomfort was just a small price to pay.

The fish were hungry and looking up, always a good combination for fun. I nailed a gorgeous sunfish on one of my first casts. The fish hit so hard that I thought it was a smallmouth.


Chase soon followed up my sunfish with a nice smallie that would turn out to be the best fish caught for the trip. We saw some much larger fish that, while mildly interested, were much too intelligent for us on this trip. With a little foresight and planning, these fish are just as catchable but a few factors need to come together to make that happen.


Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass

In the end, with the heat and humidity, we didn't make it as far up the creek as I sometimes do. The trip was eventually cut short when I didn't want to make a required scramble around some boulders through thick brush. If the weather was cooler and we had more hours of daylight, then we probably would have continued up the canyon.


At this furthest point upstream, I paused to take some pictures. After shooting several of the scene, Chase nailed another good fish, this one a nice sunfish. A couple of pictures later and we headed back downstream.


The thought of a Gatorade in the cooler in my trunk kept us moving back down the trail at a good pace. I'll be back to this stream soon, but probably not while it is so hot.

This next week is going to be great for fishing across the area. We got enough rain this weekend to help just a little with the water levels and the water temperatures are dropping like a rock. The good fishing should last at least through the upcoming holiday weekend. If you have been thinking about a midsummer trip to the Smokies or to walk a smallmouth creek, this is the time to do it. The topwater bite is ON for smallies on the creeks and floats are putting out good fish and numbers still. The flows are very good right now for Caney Fork floats.

Contact me if you are interested in a guided trip for trout in the Smokies or on the Caney Fork, or smallmouth bass and panfish on the Cumberland Plateau streams. Email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text me at (931) 261-1884.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eyes Turn Westward

As summer approaches, the realization that my trip west is approaching has me scouring the Internet for any and all information on the Montana and Wyoming areas. I enjoy keeping track of the fishing Journal at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone just to see what they have been catching and what works at various times of the year. The Dakota Angler & Outfitter maintains a fishing report as well that I check from time to time. Western South Dakota really has some excellent fishing and is a must-fish stop for me when heading to the Yellowstone area.

The latest word from the Billings Gazette in Montana appears to indicate the the Mother's Day Caddis are starting on the Yellowstone River. Rumors have been floating around of good numbers of caddis showing on the famed Arkansas River in Colorado as well. Of course, this leaves me wondering why I chose to head west at the hottest and most crowded time of the summer. Some of my best fishing in western South Dakota has been during early May to mid June. The early season in Yellowstone National Park can be an experience as well. The Firehole is often one of the best options for early season fishing in the park and it provides reliable hatches of BWOs, PMDs and evening caddis.

The early season can be a hazardous time to plan a trip around however. Depending on runoff, most western rivers will be high and dirty at best and quite possibly downright unfishable. If you time it right however, early season fishing can be among the best of the year as the crowds are nowhere to be seen and big trout hungrily feast on the bounty of spring. This can be the best time to fish the high country lakes throughout the Rockies. The expert stillwater fisherman will generally all tell you that the time for large fish is either soon after ice-out or in the late fall just before everything freezes. Some of my best early spring memories involve high country lakes. From Apache trout in Arizona to Grayling in Yellowstone, the early season often provides non-stop action for the adventuresome angler.

That's all well and good, but this year I'm going to settle for the terrestrial action of summer. I've been dreaming about the big Cutts in Yellowstone for awhile now and this is the year to make it happen, which reminds me...I've gotta tie some flies....