Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Terrestrials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terrestrials. Show all posts

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. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Terrestrial Fishing for Big Brown Trout

'Tis the season for terrestrials and quality brown trout. I just saw another report with a similar theme from my friend Ben Smith over at Arizona Wanderings. He found big brown trout that were eating cicadas which is always guaranteed to be fun. Here in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina, the annual cicadas are on but not in enough numbers to consistently get the fish interested. No, we have inchworms, ants, and beetles to get our fish interested.

I've already experienced some good terrestrial fishing this year, both as a guide and an angler. Inchworms and ants provide good fishing starting in May and continuing through the summer. Fish get accustomed to looking for these delicacies. In June, Japanese Beetle season commences and the fish will eat a well placed beetle imitation.

Yesterday, we were fortunate enough to experience some of everything during my guide trip with Kirk. The day started fishing beetles and ants to high elevation rainbow and brook trout. During this time, we found some quality fish and the takes were always something special. Here are a couple of the rewards for stealth and accurate fly placement.

brook trout caught on a beetle

rainbow trout that ate a beetle

A beautiful brook trout rests after the release

Speaking of stealth, fish were spooking even before we could get into casting range at times. I recommend doing everything in your power to be stealthy right now. Wear camo shirts, get down and crawl on your hands and knees, make longer casts wherever possible, and most of all, know that you normally only get one shot so make the first cast count.

As the number of landed rainbows and brookies continued to climb, Kirk and I started a discussion about whether or not to go looking for a nice brown trout to round out the day. Finally, we got to a good spot to get out of the stream and decided that we should go looking for a brown trout. I reminded him that the numbers of fish wouldn't be as high, but there was always the chance for a nicer trout of maybe 12 inches.

When we started fishing at our next destination, the creek was flowing at a perfect level to hunt quality fish. Early on, we missed a good 10-12 inch brown and had another couple of hits, but it took a while to catch the first fish which ended up being a little rainbow of perhaps 5 inches, definitely not the big fish we were hoping for.

Moving on up the creek, I paused to discuss strategy if we should happen to hook a big fish and explained how to beach a large brown without injuring it. Most importantly, when beaching a fish, make sure that it is on a firm but level surface and that the surface is WET. Other than that, beaching is an acceptable method for landing a large trout but remember to hurry to get the fish back in the water.

Shortly after, we got to a deep plunge that was well shaded. I pointed to the best spot and Kirk executed a great cast. After a second, the indicator plunged. I turned to ask if it was a rock or a fish and he was already in the process of saying, "That's a big fish!"

As soon as the fish came up and rolled, my face grew as serious as his was. He was fishing my new Orvis Superfine Glass rod (7' 6" 4 weight) and had the advantage of a very forgiving tip in the fight against the quality brown trout. We had to follow the fish downstream through two sets of rapids before Kirk saw a window of opportunity and quickly gained control of the head of the fish and slid it onto a flat spot with a small pool. I pounced just as the fly popped lose and secured the big brown trout for a quick picture.

A big brown trout caught on a terrestrial in the Great Smoky Mountains

I think both of us will dream about this fish, reliving the moment it came up and rolled and our mouths' both dropped open. Fish like this are more common than most people realize in some of our streams, but catching them is anything but common. In fact, a fish like this is often earned over many years of trial and error.

Oh, I forgot to mention. It ate a sunken ant that I tie. Those ants are like candy to the trout as I have written about before. Check out that link for how I like to rig my ants for catching quality fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Days like this are special to me as a guide. Naturally I cannot guarantee catching a nice fish. In fact, if I had people catching them all the time, you would see a lot more pictures here of big fish. It is very satisfying though to have a plan come together and a nice fish hooked and landed.

If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please contact me, fly fishing guide David Knapp, via call or text at (931) 261-1884 or via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hopper Banks

Have you ever found a piece of water that just begs for a particular fly or presentation?  Of course you have.  We all have a particular log jam that we always toss a streamer at or a dry fly slick where a trout is normally poking its nose out of the water to the prevailing hatch.  We probably even have a favorite run that we prefer to nymph.  Back in Tennessee, I had a section of bank on a tailwater that had a bunch of overhanging trees.  Terrestrials were the ticket in the summer on that section.

Here in Colorado, I've been blessed to find more than my share of good terrestrial water.  My favorite banks are those slightly undercut banks with plenty of grass hanging down into the water.  Hopper banks...  I fly smacked down with authority can result in a major adrenaline rush, even when the fish doesn't end up committing.  Here's a nice piece of hopper water I came across today.  When you get bored at work and need a short daydream about fishing, think about the surprise that might be waiting here...