Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Relief On the Way

The extended dry spell may be coming to an end. I won't get too excited until the rain actually falls since a lot of rainy forecasts lately have not panned out. Nevertheless, I'm cautiously optimistic that we are about to turn the corner towards wetter and better times. If you are looking to fish the Park, remember that fishing can improve drastically whenever the river spikes up. Just be careful for rapidly rising water and flash floods. Lightning is always a concern as well.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

South Carolina Trout Fishing: Day Two

Now that we are a month removed from my South Carolina excursion, I'm finally getting around to day two of the adventure. Things got busy in a hurry once the weather turned nice so I'm a little behind. Other great stuff is on the way this week including a trip report from the Smokies last week in which I matched my second best all time day for numbers. The quality was good as well.

So, back to the headwater streams in the northwest corner of South Carolina, after our day one trip to explore the lower reaches of the stream, we were excited to hike in a bit and see how the stream fished higher up. The weather was again perfect and the only fly in the ointment so to speak was the necessity to get back home to help my cousin do some work around the house before it got too late. Seeing as how the stream was relatively close, that was actually not really a problem so we headed out early for a great day on the water.

We headed up the trail, completely unsure of what to expect from the fish. The stream was beautiful though and it was not too hard to imagine a trout or three in every pool and pocket.


Dry flies were still tied on from the day before so we were ready to fish! Heading slowly upstream, we had a few hits and even caught some smaller trout. The fish were obviously there but the action was not quite as fast and furious as the day before. Overcast conditions probably did not help since the sun was not warming the water as early in the day.  Eventually, however, the bugs did start to show up. Quill Gordons were hatching along with a few stoneflies and caddis.

By the time we were getting hungry, we had progressed on up the stream a ways and were needing some energy to fuel our last hours of fishing for this particular trip. Some delicious chili and chips on a cool spring day hit the spot.


Not long after lunch, we started finding some nicer fish. The pools were perfect and obviously provided habitat for quality trout.



While the fish were still not large, they were better than the tiny two to three inch fish we also were catching at times. These wild streams always provide a variety when it comes to the fish size. Most streams have large numbers of one and two year old fish and fewer of the three and four year old fish just because of the natural cycles. That means that any time you are on these streams you better expect to catch a few of the little guys also.

While stopping to catch pictures instead of fish, I had fun with my camera and my cousin took the opportunity to catch a nice rainbow.



What was particularly interesting to me about this rainbow is how golden it appeared and also how dense the spotting is. I'm quite curious about the genetics in this stream. Does anyone know how much coloration like this is a product of genetics versus the environment? The stream produced several of these golden colored rainbows with a lot more yellow compared to the fish I catch in the Smokies. Some of the rainbows looked a little more "normal," though still with a yellow tint.


Eventually, after having more fun with the camera along the way, we reached a good point where we could get out and hustle back down the trail. We were pushing our deadline to get back to my cousin's house and knew we better hurry. What a fantastic day though! I'll be looking forward to getting back down there. I went ahead and got an annual fishing license and am sure there will be more fishing adventures in South Carolina!




Monday, March 16, 2015

South Carolina Trout Fishing: Day One


Ever since my cousin moved to Greenville, SC, he has been trying to convince me to visit and experience some South Carolina trout fishing.


Not that I needed much arm twisting when fishing was involved, but you know how life gets in the way and things get busy. Last week, with the memory of the ice storm of 2015 still fresh in my memory, the thought of a warmer climate and spring hatches had me thinking about a road trip.

Most people probably don't even realize that South Carolina trout fishing even exists. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the quality of fishing that I would find, but then part of the charm of fishing new water is in the exploration as much as in the catching. After doing a fair amount of research, I discovered that, yes, South Carolina does have some trout fishing although it remained to be seen whether it would be worth a second trip.

A few weeks back, when the Cumberland Plateau was stuck in winter's icy grip, I called my cousin and made plans to visit during his spring break. When last week turned out to be one continuous rain shower here in Tennessee, I knew I had picked the right time to travel. While my local waters were all high and blown out, the streams in South Carolina were almost perfect or at least the ones we were experiencing were.


All of our fishing was on the same stream although on different sections. This particular stream had an interesting catch and release section that is apparently only open 3 days a week. At some point in the past it appears that the fish received supplemental feedings, but we could not find any current evidence of such taking place. The fish were your average mountain freestone stream trout with a heavy dose of fingerlings and small fish up to about 5 inches. The occasional nice trout kept things interesting though.


Photograph by Nathan Stanaway.


Photograph by Nathan Stanaway.

On our first day out fishing, we noticed little black caddis, little black winter stoneflies, and early brown stoneflies in addition to the usual collection of assorted midges. A stray mayfly or two was spotted as well but not in enough numbers to get the fish keyed in. the good thing about this stream is that the fish did not seem to be very selective and we caught them on a variety of both dry fly and nymph patterns.


By the end of the first day, it was clear that the stream had potential and we were excited to get back for round two fishing higher up the drainage. So far, South Carolina trout fishing was pretty good!


Monday, February 16, 2015

What Is a Shad Kill?

Since I keep talking about the shad kill, many of you have been wondering what I am referring to. Here is a little more information on the phenomena and why it should get you excited as a fly fisherman!


Many years ago, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) started building dams throughout the Tennessee valley and its tributary streams, numerous warm water reservoirs were formed. Each of these lakes boasts incredible diversity when it comes to fishing and a few even offer trout fishing.

The unintended by-product of these lakes was the cold water fisheries that prevailed below each dam. Within just a few years, many of the rivers were being stocked with trout. Not all of the TVA lakes have a trout fishery downstream because some are too shallow, but in the lakes that are deep enough for stratification to occur, cold water settles to the bottom of the lake. During the summer months, the bottom draw reservoirs are dumping cold water through the generators in their respective dams and create fantastic tailwater fisheries downstream. Rivers like my local tailwater, the Caney Fork River, as well as the Clinch, South Holston, Watauga, Holston, and Hiwassee are all known as great fishing destinations.

What most anglers do not realize is that these tailwaters fish great through the winter. Most anglers prefer to come fish during spring through fall when it is warmer outside. However, the winter can produce phenomenal midge hatches, and on a few rivers, blue-winged olives and winter stoneflies. The big event each year happens in late winter, if it is going to happen.

Each summer, in the reservoirs, the various species of shad (especially threadfin) proliferate in the nutrient rich waters. The shad in turn provide a great forage base for various fish including smallmouth and largemouth bass, stripers, white bass, and many other species. However, the shad need relatively warm water to thrive. In the winter, when the surface temperature on area reservoirs drops into the low 40s, shad start dying en masse. When this occurs, the current from the generators in the dams slowly draws the dead and dying fish. Eventually they get sucked through and come out below the dams into the tailwater fisheries.


That is when the real fun begins. When shad are coming through a given dam, the fish in the river below go on a feeding binge. In fact, this phenomena is one of the secrets of the fishing I do for large stripers. Generally, you can expect the best shad kills to happen in late winter during the months of February and March. It is during these times that the lake surface temperatures normally reach their lowest points of the whole year.

Even better for us fishermen, when a shad kill is on, fish will often hit just about anything white as they eat as much as they can and then some in an effort to pack on the pounds. Fish grow fat ridiculously fast on this high protein diet.


This year, I'm forecasting a good shad kill on the Caney Fork River. If it happens, it will be in the next 1-3 weeks. We have already seen some limited numbers of shad coming through the dam at Center Hill but so far the fish have not keyed in on the shad in a big way. If you are flexible with your schedule and want to experience some incredible fishing, call me as soon as I announce the shad kill has started to book a float trip to throw streamers. You may catch the fish of a lifetime...

There is a good chance that we will also see good shad kills on the Clinch and Holston Rivers. Additionally, even though it is a warm water fishery, I have had good luck fishing the shad kill on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga below Chickamauga Dam. The white bass and hybrids seem to like the shad as well as freshwater drum and of course the stripers when they are around. If you are interested in learning how to approach this fishery as a wade angler, please contact me for more information or to book a guided trip.


Over the years, I have developed 3 flies specifically for the shad kill. Two of them are ones you have seen or heard about before, the PB&J and my recent floating shad creation. The PB&J is best when you need to dead drift your patterns.


In addition to these patterns, white Wooly Buggers work as well as just about any other white streamer. I'm partial to Kelly Galloup's Stacked Blonde in all white.

Regardless of what flies you fish, make sure that you are using a strong rod and heavy tippet. I fish the shad kill with a 7 weight rod or heavier and fish no lighter than 10 lb. tippet but preferably 12 lb. The fish can be large at this time and the worst thing you could do is to hook the fish of a lifetime on too light of a tippet.

Stay tuned here for more on the shad kill. Once it is on it may last for days or it may be over within 48 hours. In rare years it may drag on for a few weeks but don't hold your breath for that one. However, as long as it stays unseasonably cold here in Tennessee, we have a pretty good chance of an awesome shad kill!

If you have any other questions about the shad kill or want to book a guided trip, please reply here and let me know or contact me

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Frigid Temperatures and the Shad Kill

This week it looks like we will actually get some good winter weather. The main question right now is how much snow will we get, but overall things are looking good for some extremely cold air. That means I'm thinking about the shad kill. David Perry over at Southeasternfly saw some coming through a week or two ago, but so far the fish have not seen enough to be keying on them real well.

Besides, when it is truly on, the fish look like little footballs and the largest fish in the river start feeding on the white morsels. With at least the possibility of low temperatures below zero but Wednesday night this week, I'm expecting a full blown shad kill by next weekend if we are going to get a good one this year. That is always a big if.

Depending on whether the temperatures continue to be unusually low or not, the shad kill could go on for a couple of weeks or even into early March. The best year I remember had a good shad kill into March so things could be awesome for a while now.

Even if the shad kill does not get particularly exciting, the nymph and midge fishing has been good recently. When we can get good flows to float (0 or 1 generator), then it is worth getting out on the water. Things should get even better in March so if you are looking for a tailwater float on the Caney Fork in the next couple of months, please contact me and I would be glad to help you get a trip set up.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Monday Morning Trout

If you are already planning next weekend's fishing trip, I understand your pain. The rat race is real, but of course if everyone quit their jobs to fish then things would go south in a hurry. The least I can do is encourage you with your Monday morning trout. This one is a beautiful rainbow trout from the Hiwassee River delayed harvest waters. I had a fantastic two days on the Hiwassee last week so watch for more posts on those days coming up soon!


Friday, June 13, 2014

One More Drift

Fishing is as much optimism as anything else, but of course there is a healthy mix of knowledge involved in catching a few trout.  Sometimes, there's even a little voice inside your head that convinces you to stick with it.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not but when I'm catching nice fish who's to argue?

Yesterday I had a 1/2 day guide trip in the Park.  The morning was spent on a couple of different streams so my client could see a few different options when it came to Smoky Mountain trout fishing.  After dropping him off and grabbing some lunch, I stopped by Little River Outfitters for a bit to say hi to Byron and Daniel and the rest of the crew.  After getting an excellent first-hand report on the local smallmouth from Byron, I was almost tempted to skip heading back to the Park and chase the bass instead, but thankfully trout won out.

On the drive down Little River to town, I had mentally been talking myself into fishing several good stretches.  One in particular stood out, and I decided to return there.  This is a beautiful section of pocket water interspersed with some smaller pools and a couple of deep runs.  For some reason this short 100 yard stretch does not get fished nearly as often as a lot of Park water but that's just fine by me.  I have always done well the few times I've fished it, and more people fishing it could very well put a damper on future expeditions.

Having just eaten and glad to finally relax after working hard all morning, I took my time rigging up the usual double nymph rig.  Some heavy split shot rounded things out well and assured I would be ticking the bottom.  I began casting lobbing the heavy rig into the deeper water and right away caught a little brown on the dropper.  At least I knew I was on fresh water.

Working slowly upstream, I maneuvered back and forth across the stream.  Catching a fish here and there, I noticed a nice deep slot against the far bank with a big rock on the stream side.  Perfect home for a brown.  Working carefully across the current, I was soon running my flies through the slot and alongside the rock.  A small fish was quickly caught and released but that rock just looked like a spot for a nice brown.  Time and again I got what appeared to be a perfect drift.  Not wanting to waste time on a pointless spot, I eventually decided to move on upstream.

That's when the little voice spoke up and demanded that I cast there once more.  Something subconscious maybe?  I don't know, but that gentle tap as the flies drifted up under the rock yet again was definitely real.  When I set the hook, I felt the hesitation and quickly came tight on a nice fish.

For its size, the fish really fought well, surging back and forth across the stream every time I tried to lift its head and slip the net under.  That it was a pretty brown trout was obvious and naturally gave me extra incentive to be careful and not lose it.  Of course, in a short amount of time (that naturally felt like forever) I was slipping the net under the trout.  After a couple of pictures, I gently held the trout in the current until it was ready to go.  All that effort to spend a minute or so with a fish probably seems ridiculous to some, but I was awfully happy at that moment.



The rest of the evening was anticlimactic.  The Yellow Sally hatch never came on strong although there was some egg laying activity that brought a few fish up.  I stuck with the nymphs and caught a good number of rainbows and small browns, but probably I should have just quit after the nice trout.  The time on the water was relaxing though and much needed.  Catching that nice fish early allowed me to really slow down and focus on the experience for the rest of the time.  I even stopped and took a few stream pictures, something I often forget to do in the rush to find more fish.



Next week I'll be back at it.  Maybe I'll just hit a small stream instead, or maybe I'll chase the larger browns again.  Either way, I know I'll always have an enjoyable time in the Smokies!

If you are interested in a guided trip in the Smokies for wild trout, please contact me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or check out my guide site, TroutZoneAnglers.com, for more details.  

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Brush Up On Your Skills

A new page has been added to Trout Zone Anglers.  This one is a page of useful links.  Right now, I have provided links to several articles I wrote a few years ago for the Little River Journal.  Depending on your mood, you can brush up on your skills, read fishing tails, or perhaps get inspired to journey further afield in your search for that untouched gem of a trout stream.  Just don't explore this page unless you have some time on your hands.  You will get the most out of each story if you can take the time to enjoy the read.

Also, if you have a page that you think would be useful for my readers and clients and would like to have a link on the Trout Zone Anglers' page, please contact me and let me know why I should include your page.