Featured Photo: Football Brown

Featured Photo: Football Brown
Showing posts with label Trout Zone Anglers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trout Zone Anglers. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Summer Smallmouth Explorations

Last minute cancelations are rare these days which means I'm not doing much fishing. To be clear, I'm participating in fishing a lot these days, just not as the actual fisherman. That is okay, I suppose, because it means business is going well. On the other hand, it means my time to explore has been severely limited as of late. Summer smallmouth exploration trips are probably one of my favorite downtime activities. This is likely at least partly because of how rare they have become.

As a short aside here, if you want to get on my calendar this summer, plan ahead. I'm booked solid until the last week of July although things are not quite as busy in August. That said, August is probably the best month of the year to fish the Caney Fork (in my humble opinion) if you want to find and stalk large brown trout on midges, but enough of that. Back to my smallmouth fly fishing exploration trips.

The first smallmouth trip was on limited time and was a return to an old favorite. That day went well as I caught several healthy fish on topwater foam hoppers on light tackle. This is probably my favorite way of fishing for smallmouth.

When another cancelation happened just a few short days later, I decided to go a bit further afield in search of some new scenery and hopefully good fishing. My dad happened to be off of work as well, and I checked to see if he was interested in a hike. He was, so we quickly made our plans and hit the road for the new destination.

The hike in turned out to be shorter and relatively easier than I expected which was great. The fishing also turned out to be amazing. Fishing topwater flies is probably my favorite way to stalk these feisty bass, so I tied on a black Stealth Bomber. My usual selection is either that fly or a Chernobyl style hopper. Add a rod in the 4-6 weight range (usually a 4 or 5 for me) and you have an afternoon of fun ahead of you. Smallmouth on these creeks can get big, so a rod up to a 7 or even 8 weight isn't the worst idea, but I think more fish eat the fly because of the gentle presentation of the lighter rods.

Once I rigged up and got on my wading boots, I quickly waded into the stream and started casting. A few casts later, and I had my first bass! That fish was soon followed by a second and the day was looking good!



About this time the distant sound of an ATV had grown louder and I stopped fishing long enough to chat with a guy and his son who lived nearby and proved to be a wealth of information about the area. Armed with this additional knowledge, I started working my way upstream while my dad relaxed in the shade on a large rock overlooking the stream. A few more fish came to hand on the Stealth Bomber before I decided it was time to turn around and work back downstream on my way out. Since all of the fish had already seen the top water fly, I decided to go sub-surface with a favorite smallmouth bass streamer.

On my way up, a large fish had spooked out of the tailout of a big pool. This fished wasn't really interested on the Stealth Bomber but I thought it might go for the subsurface offering. Sure enough, as I approached the spot, I could see the fish cruising. My cast landed the fly 5-6 feet upstream of the fish and it immediately charged. After a quick pause to stare at the fly, it inhaled the streamer and I gave a tremendous bass set.

Somehow the 5 weight provided enough power and the fish was soon charging around the pool. I was thankful for a good large arbor reel with its ability to quickly pick up a lot of line. The fish grew tired, and soon I lipped it and snapped a quick picture. This may be my new favorite place to fish for smallmouth!


Knowing that time was short, I worked quickly downstream and back to where I had left my dad. He agreed that the day was warm and humid so we were both ready to leave. I stopped to fish a little off of the rock he had been relaxing on and quickly nailed two more nice bass on the streamer. My dad kindly snapped a couple of pictures with my phone and then we were ready to go!



This is definitely one of my top three favorite smallmouth locations now. The access is not terrible although I'm always nervous leaving a vehicle parked in the middle of nowhere on the Cumberland Plateau. So far I've been fortunate thankfully. The fish are willing and clearly not too pressured. The only difficulty with fishing for smallmouth is the skill required. Short sloppy casts won't work on these fish, and once you get one to eat you better be ready to set the hook hard. That said, the rewards are well worth it. Exploring these remote smallmouth creeks is reward enough, but finding fish like these make it even better!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guides Guiding Guides

There are guide trips, and then there are guides guiding guides. Of course, it is possible for there to be some crossover between the two. Let me be clear from the start by saying that there was no money exchanging hands on this particular trip, just three friends getting together to have a good time.

The day began the week before when David Perry contacted me about getting out to fish streamers together on Sunday. When I told him that my calendar was clear, it was time to find a third person to join us. We talked about some possibilities and soon settled on another great Caney Fork River guide, Susan Thrasher. Amazingly, her calendar was also open and things were quickly finalized to meet Sunday morning. With the time change happening that Saturday night, we didn't start too early and targeted 9:00 AM as a good time to meet up.

Morning came too early with the time change, and I was glad we hadn't started any earlier. David Perry had brought his boat. It didn't take long to throw the necessary items into his truck and ride up to the dam. I stayed with the boat to get everything ready while he and Susan ran the shuttle. Before long they were back. Comfortably settled in at the rower's bench, I told them to jump in, and we were off for a few laps around the dam pool.

Fish started to come with some regularity and soon it was time to trade off on the rowing job. We ended up each taking a lap around the dam pool before starting off down the river. Both strikes and fish were coming with enough frequency that you had to stay on your toes. This was going to be one of those good days.

I had some experiments to try out. I've been working on deep water nymphing techniques for one and two generators. On several previous trips I had the one generator routine dialed in, but wanted to try some things for two generators. The ribbing from my guide friends started in earnest when I pulled out a pack of balloons. In the end, the amount of weight I was trying to float ended up being more of a hassle than it was worth, and I quickly ditched the balloon idea. Unfortunately, I didn't quit before Susan snapped a picture to preserve the evidence. To be fair, before my experiments came to an end, everyone wanted to try the lucky flies so it wasn't a complete failure. They just didn't want to fish them under a balloon!

Photo Courtesy of Susan Thrasher ©2017

Early in the float, David P. had the hot hand with plenty of fish coming to the net. Susan started to catch up and then we got into a pod of fish that was producing almost every cast. By the time we started down the river, everyone was on the board. The hunt continued and we tried some different techniques out. The key to any of the techniques was depth (isn't it always?), and when the depth and speed was correct the fish would respond.

White was a clear favorite as far as fly colors go. The fish are responding to shad imitations such as my PB&J even when there aren't any obvious signs of a shad kill which leads me to believe they have been coming through at times. A few weeks back, on a guided float, we saw some come down the river and the fish were going nuts for them. All of this bodes well for the fishing this upcoming year! Fish are healthy and growing well this winter and early spring.

The highlight of the day came shortly after I nailed a nice rainbow trout. We were having a conversation about how nice it was to fish with other guides. As much as we all love guiding, it is also nice to occasionally spend time on the water without being responsible for putting someone else on fish. Sharing ideas together allows each of us to become better anglers and guides.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Thrasher ©2017

About that time, David P. was back on the rower's bench and I was in the front of the boat. As we came into a nice bend in the river, I stuck a good brown off the right side and was followed shortly after with Susan putting a deep bend in her rod. David P. was left to ask which of us wanted our fish netted first. Both fish came to the net about the same time so we pulled over for the always enjoyable "Double" picture. Susan's was a gorgeous rainbow trout while mine was a buttery brown trout. David P. did the honors taking pictures for us and soon both fish were released to swim and be caught again another day.

Photo by David Perry ©2017 and provided courtesy of Susan Thrasher

There were more fish to be caught and still some distance left to float. As the shadows started to lengthen, we got the crazy idea to do it all again. Well, sort of. Things slowed down and we started thinking about the dam pool again. There were and are plenty of fish up there and we decided to run up there and make a few more laps. Accordingly, we hustled down to the takeout, loaded the boat, and were soon back up at the dam.

The final fish were caught and we were all starting to think about work the next day. All good things must come to an end or so it seems most of the time. This was no different. We loaded the boat and put up gear. Soon we were saying our goodbyes and promising to do another trip like this one as soon as possible. Thanks again David P. and Susan!

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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Meat Eater Brown Trout on the Clinch River

This past Friday, I had made tentative plans to fish on the Hiwassee. By Thursday evening, I was having second thoughts. The Clinch River was my second choice so plans were changed. The forecast high temperature was 41 degrees which is not bad by winter fishing standards.

When I got up on Friday morning, I was excited to get going. My last trip to the Clinch had been very memorable, and I was hoping for a good encore. The drive over set the stage for what would turn out as a very cold day. The sky had a solid gray mass of clouds from one horizon to the other. The sunny skies that were forecast never materialized which kept our temperatures from reaching the forecasted highs. When I got to the river, it was 28 degrees. Not the coldest I've fished in, mind you, but cold when you aren't mentally prepared for the occasion.

The water was still running from the generators when I arrived at the Clinch River, so I took a brisk walk up and down the river. My scouting trip upstream was successful, and I headed back to the car to rig up. Big fish, including some nice brown trout, had been located and there was no time to lose!

At the car, I looked at a couple of options and settled on my 9' 5 weight Orvis Helios fly rod. A dry fly with a tungsten bead head midge dropper seemed appropriate. The fish I had noticed were eating and the likely food of choice was midge larva or pupa. This is probably my favorite sight fishing rig for large trout on tailwaters. The dry fly makes a perfect subtle strike indicator, while the midge is a food organism that is prevalent on all tailwaters and most freestone streams as well for that matter (hint hint).

Walking up to where I had found the fish, I arrived as the water started dropping out from the generation. Fish were moving back and forth, enjoying the bounty of the river while there was still enough flow to keep them active. It took three casts before a nice rainbow trout took the midge. The fight was over quickly. Even though I was fishing 6x tippet, the Rio Fluoroflex Plus held just fine. I took a quick picture and short video clip of the release, and then it was time to fish again.

Despite persistence, I eventually gave up on finding more willing fish. Besides, the wind had started blowing which left a chop on the surface of the water that was nearly impossible to see through. I headed downstream to a section where, although I had not spotted fish there earlier, I was confident that the fish were there.

Sure enough, when I started walking slowly through the section, I saw nice brown trout holding in deeper pockets and runs throughout the section. In all honesty, a deeper dropper would probably have been more effective, but it was still below freezing and my fingers were doing good just to cast the fly rod. Every few casts, I would have to chip ice out of the line guides or dip the rod tip in the water to thaw them out. In other words, classic winter fishing. Here in Tennessee, we only get to enjoy this type of fishing a handful of times each winter. The great thing about living here is that there are plenty of warmer days throughout the winter which are comfortable enough to fish without a jacket.

Despite my early confidence, the fish didn't find my midges irresistible. I did miss one or two large brown trout due to operator error. In other words, I didn't set the hook effectively. I'll blame the cold weather.

By this time, other sections of the river were starting to call me, so I started the trek back to the car. Along the way, I fished a few choice runs. I was about to reel it in and just walk back when I saw a nice fish in a shallow riffle feeding heavily. Then I noticed another. Both fish were tucked into slightly deeper pockets and were moving quickly back and forth as they fed on midges. I cast at each one in turn and ended up spooking both. Right as I made my last cast, the indicator (I had switched rigs at this point) twitched and I set the hook...on a monster.

The little three inch trout darted this way and that. I was about to simply lift the fish out of the water too unhook it when a shadow came up behind with jaws open. The little fish ran this way and that trying to avoid its fate. Without even thinking, I dropped the rod tip so the fish had room to finish their uneven duel. It didn't take long. The large fish crowded the little rainbow up into the shallowest part of the riffle before eating it.

I waited enough time for the brown trout to secure its prize before giving tension to the line again. The fish simply sat down on the bottom of the riffle and would not budge. I've had this happen before. Usually it turns into a tug of war where the larger fish eventually spits out the smaller one or gets snagged on a trailing fly. On this particular fishing trip, I was in for a curveball.

Slowly I worked the fish up to the surface and started sneaking closer with the net out. I was hoping to net both fish at the same time. Suddenly, as I snuck closer, something slipped and I saw the little trout escape the large brown trout's mouth. The surprise was that the line was still heavy. When I gave a little pressure, the big fish took off. My midge was securely stuck in the corner of his mouth. That was a new one for me.

I worked my way downstream, following the heavy brown trout until I was within range with my net and quickly scooped. My accidental and brief foray into bait fishing on the Clinch River was quite successful if I do say so myself!

Brown trout on Clinch River Tennessee

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Updated Website

Lots of changes have happened with the Trout Zone Anglers website. If you remember back, I introduced a new website several months (okay almost a year) back. That was an experimental site that allowed me to get up to speed on the new platform (Wordpress) and get the basic site set up so I would have minimal downtime. Fast forward to today and I'm happy to announce the new website.

The basics of the website are complete, but the site is far from being done. Check back often for fishing guides to many of the streams, rivers, and even lakes across middle and east Tennessee. Eventually those guides will probably even include destinations further away. Of course, you can also find information about my fly fishing guide service on the new site.

One thing I would highly recommend is subscribing to the Trout Zone Anglers email newsletter. Go to the new website link above and look at the right sidebar for a signup form. Simply add your email and name and hit submit and you will be good to go. Lots of extra content comes through the newsletter that does not show up here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Solo Mission

Despite having the boat for going on three years, I had never been on a solo journey until last week. For me, floating is as much a good time with friends as it is a fishing trip, so I had not dealt with the hassle of unloading and loading a boat by myself yet. Finally, with the river fishing so well, that moment arrived when I could not find any friends to float at the last minute, and I was faced with either floating solo or not going. Solo it was...

Everything was already rigged and ready to go from the previous day's guide trip which had been epic enough to motivate me to float on my own. I was about to continue a current trend I've been experiencing: banner days with clients and slow days on my own.

To be fair, I usually experiment at least half of the time when I'm fishing on my own. After all, that is how I dial in new patterns and continue the endless innovation required to keep putting people on big tailwater trout. There is no substitute for testing flies on real live trout. In other words, I have to go fishing so I can be successful at my job. I know, life is tough.

This trip began smoothly and before long I was cruising down the river, being tossed to and fro with the strong winds. That wasn't in the bargain. The weather reports lately have been terribly optimistic when it comes to wind. A standard forecast has been "partly cloudy with calm winds." When it claims  that winds will be light up to 5 miles per hour, I know I'll be fighting the wind all day long. Either forecast usually results in variable winds with gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Go figure. Variable meaning they vary in intensity and direction. The winds come from all points of the compass. So, fishing by myself was possible if the calm winds forecasted materialized. As it turned out, I had to anchor up to fish some parts of the river. There was simply no way to track straight without constantly working the oars which made it difficult to also work the fly rod.

Thankfully, in some sections the wind would magically die down for anywhere from 30 seconds to sometimes 15 or 20 minutes. Those were the easy times, were my drifts were perfect and long, and the indicator dipped just often enough to keep me interested.

One section gets hit by every boat coming down the river, so I realized I needed to fish it differently. That meant choosing a line that was not the same as other boats. This was one of the calm sections so I could managed to fish effectively without fighting the boat. A long drift was in the process of becoming longer when the indicator shot down. The fight literally took me all over the river, and I almost lost the fish due to some submerged structure, but eventually a beautiful holdover rainbow graced my net. I was all set up to take pictures quickly without stressing the fish and tried it out for the first time on this fish. Turned out well I think!


The float would continue about the same. Lots of wind, a few fish, lots of relaxation. Late in the day, I hit a shoal that has been fishing well and anchored up for some of the best action of the trip. Back to back to back to...well, you get the point. Several casts in a row produced fish, and although none were large, I was happy to enjoy these beautiful rainbow and brown trout. This was the first truly good consistent action of the day so I probably stayed out longer than I should have.


I never did find any of the big fish I was hoping to catch. That is the funny thing. I've had a lot of great days lately with clients still catching several big fish, but more often than not I'm only catching normal fish whatever that means. The big brown trout have eluded me since that bruiser back in August. I've been having a great time though regardless of whether I've been catching big trout. My clients have and that is the important part. I enjoy watching others catch big fish at least as much as I enjoy catching them myself. Want to see some of these big fish? Check out my Instagram and Facebook Accounts (search for Trout Zone Anglers).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Don't Touch the Fly Rod

When I started guiding, I was under no illusion that my life would now consist of fishing all of the time. There is a common misconception that guides get paid to go fishing. While that is true in a sense, they are not the one holding the rod. Fishing through another person is an even greater challenge than just doing it yourself, but one thing seems to be consistent with fly fishing guides: they don't fish while with paying customers on a guided trip.

Some people are surprised when we begin a trip and I only rig up a rod for them. Of course the temptation to fish is strong, particularly when they announce that they "don't mind" if I fish, however I try to stay strong. The rare occasions I pick up a fly rod are to try and demonstrate something, or occasionally if we are on a lunch or water break.

Earlier this summer, I was reminded why I don't fish with clients during a water break high up Little River above Elkmont. We had been fishing hard and catching a few here and there, but not as many as I knew we should be. When we stopped for a quick break for water and a "trip to the woods," I grabbed the rod (my own rod we were using) and tossed it into a nearby pocket. I quickly hooked and landed the largest brown of the day at around 11 inches and was thoroughly reminded why I don't fish with customers along.

Fast forward to last week, and I am out on the boat with my friend Gary on a guide trip. Gary is a very good fisherman and is always a joy to have on the boat. He can cast efficiently and generally catches plenty of fish and also provides good conversation. We were having a good day already with a nice rainbow already landed in addition to the smaller usual fish.


Nearing lunch time, I was about ready to pull for the shade near shore but since we were drifting towards some good structure, decided to let things go a little longer. Sure enough, the indicator shot down and the battle was on. Gary did a great job fighting this big trout and before long, we were admiring a big brown trout in its finest fall colors that just happened to be Gary's largest brown ever. Feeling good about how the day was going, we moved into the shade and enjoyed lunch.



After lunch, we started drifting again and quickly picked up a couple of trout and that is how the day would continue. Drift a little to find good structure and moving water, toss out the flies, catch a few fish. By the time we approached the main point in time that this story is about, it was getting late and we only had an hour or so left.

I had pulled in close to shore and dropped anchor. Just below the boat and over a shoal some fish were rising steadily and at least one looked like a good fish. I watched Gary cast a while and realized that a good pile cast would allow the extra drift needed to get an eat by one of those fish. Offering to show him the cast, I grabbed the rod (again, my rod we were using) and made a couple of casts while talking about the benefits and technicalities of the cast. On the third cast, I pulled the line out of the water hard for one more cast towards the middle of the river to demonstrate one last point but ran into what felt like a concrete anchor on the bottom of the river. Somehow, even though I was not "fishing" or watching my flies, a fish had taken the midge and was determined to keep it.

Going through the whole fight routine, I just kept thinking to myself, why did I ever pick up the fly rod? This soon was followed by telling myself just don't touch the fly rod anymore on guided trips. Seriously, how do you catch a big trout without even trying? If it hadn't of been for leaving flies in the poor trout's mouth I probably would have just broken the fish off at that point. The rest of the trip down the river, Gary didn't forget to rib me about my catch, and I know it is definitely one I will not live down.


So, for those of you who have fished with guides, do you appreciate having a guide demonstrate (not truly fish, just demonstrate) techniques or prefer to leave that for non-fishing times? Perhaps I should carry a rod strung up without any flies or maybe a dry fly with the hook point cut off. I still need to figure this thing out because I believe there are times that a demonstration is the best way to teach, but I can't keep catching fish that should have been the customer's even if it is all accidental.

The rest of our trip was successful despite the much-deserved teasing I was getting from Gary. We found a brook trout to complete his first ever slam or Caney Fork Hat Trick as I like to call it. The day ended with an amazing sunset.




If you are interested in a guided trip, feel free to call/text me at (931) 261-1884 or check out my guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, for more information.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Alexander

One of the most epic days I've had the privilege of enjoying on the water happened earlier this summer when my buddy Jayson was about to get married. Another friend and fellow groomsman, Pat  Tully, along with myself and Jayson took a day to float the Caney Fork River to celebrate his upcoming wedding. The day turned out better than I could have imagined with the groom-to-be catching two 20"+ fish, and Pat and I caught some great fish as well.

Fast forward a little and you will find me looking forward to hosting Jayson and his bride Hailey on the drifter again for another trip down the Caney Fork River. When discussing the trip, Jayson made it clear that he wanted Hailey to catch a big fish. True to his word, upon arriving at the river to start our float, he quickly jumped in the back of the boat and Hailey was in the front casting brace ready to hunt some large trout.

The water cut off right on schedule which was a pleasant change. Lately the Corps has been inconsistent with the water shutoff time. That can make for some frustrated waiting at the beginning of a float trip. Thankfully we weren't waiting at all on this day. Both rods were already rigged and ready so after parking the truck, I was back down to the water and settled in at the rower's bench in no time at all. I handed Hailey and Jayson their respective rods and we pushed off into the current. Before long, we were bringing some nice trout to the net including an early double. We had to take a picture of the double for the newlyweds. I think they were having fun!


Moving on down the river, both Jayson and Hailey were casting right where I told them and getting some great drifts. The wind was up a little which meant that both anglers and the guy rowing had to work a little harder, but the fish didn't seem to mind. If anything, I think they were feeding even better than normal.

Moving on down the river, we were approaching a spot where I had recently spotted a large brown trout. Directing both of them to get their drifts started early, I moved the oars at the right time and the boat was perfectly positioned as it came over the shoal. Suddenly, Hailey's strike indicator shot under and the battle was joined. I was already going crazy with the possibility that we had found the big brown trout. The big flash when the fished rocketed towards the surface told us that, instead of the big brown, she had found one of the great rainbow trout that are in the river right now.

The fish was hot and for a while it was touch and go if we would land it on the #20 fly and 6x tippet. Hailey did everything perfectly though and before long got her picture taken with the big trout she had come to the Caney Fork River to catch.


We made another pass over the shoal but then kept on moving down the river. As we were drifting, we started to notice a roaring sound down the river. Lately the river has been inundated with various power boats and this jet boat was no exception. A lot of these guys are polite, but several have been roaring by with no thought for the large waves they throw as well as the discord in an otherwise quiet day. Thankfully, these will not be on the river for ever. A certain element within our sport seems to show up only shortly prior to and during the spawn. I would rather catch my big fish under normal conditions but a few people seem to only show up when fish are at their most vulnerable. If you are interested in catching these fish under fair conditions, consider a float in my drift boat as I know where these fish are as well as what they are feeding on year round. If you must fish for spawners, please respect the fish and keep them in the water. Above all, do not keep any trout caught during the spawning season.

With the shoal we had been going to catch our next big fish on shot by the jet boat that took a couple of passes over it, we had to adjust our plans a little. It was getting late so I decided to do lunch and give the water a little time to rest. Loud motors have a way of spooking the better fish in the river.

We enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches, chips, and my famous Greek pasta salad. Jayson was extra excited about the chocolate chip cookies to chase everything down with, and I discovered that it was his favorite sweet. I was glad that he was happy and content because Hailey was well on her way to owning the day from a fishing perspective. Jayson was still catching fish, but Hailey was finding all of the quality fish.

After lunch, we pulled back out in the current and started drifting again. Almost immediately Hailey tied into a really great fish. I chased the fish up and down the river and she did everything correctly. Before long, we had a really nice brown trout in the net. Meanwhile, Jayson was in the back of the boat still working on catching the little guys.


We continued to enjoy our float, with the jet boat passing us at least twice, throwing a big wake and not slowing appreciably either time. Both times we continued catching fish but not the big guys. Those fish were well under cover by this time.


Late in the float, I offered Jayson the chance to enjoy a treat. The dry/dropper fishing with midges has been phenomenal in one particular stretch and I handed him the four weight ready to do business with those trout. Late in the day without the pressure of wanting Hailey to catch large trout since she had already cleaned up from the front of the boat, Jayson put on a clinic. He caught several really nice fish until it was determined that the hour was late and we needed to leave.



Thanks again for an enjoyable day Jayson and Hailey, and I hope it is the first of many fun times for you in the drifter together!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Redemption

Sometimes you lose on one fish but ultimately win for the day. Those days are a roller coaster, especially when friends are around to witness your defeats. Some of those defeats sting more than others. Last Tuesday I had one that really stung.

I was floating with some friends, not guiding, just fishing together. Everyone had caught some nice trout including one really nice rainbow that was a personal best for the angler. I had spent a lot of time on the oars, more interested in watching my friends catch fish than fishing for the most part. For one section, though, I was willing to give up the oars for a short 200 yard stretch. A large brown had shown itself repeatedly on previous trips, and I was determined to catch him.

Sure enough, as we were drifting peacefully along, I suddenly saw a submarine large brown trout materialize under my indicator and saw his mouth open. Things are a bit fuzzy from that point on, but I'm fairly certain that I set the hook before the indicator even moved. The fish was definitely on, but when the large trout came to that realization, he remembered a very important appointment he had somewhere upriver. The only surprise here is that he didn't break me off and simply spit the fly after a long run which saw my real screaming and my buddy Pat, who was on the oars, asking, "What should I do? What should I do?"

In the end, there was nothing anyone could do because it was over before I even had much chance to think. Both the rower and myself had done everything right (or at least had not done anything obviously wrong) but the fly simply popped out.

The next day on the river, I was floating with my buddy Tim and his friend Andy. They scored what may well be the Double of the Year. That was the highlight of the day at the time, but something else would prove to be even more important a couple of days later. We were floating through an area that always holds a lot of trout. Several quality brown trout were spooked by the boat but that is not unusual. What captivated my interest was one large fish in particular. I made a mental note of where the big fish was hanging out and vowed to return...soon.

On Friday I was finally free. Fishing time for myself always gets me excited, and I took full advantage of the lull in my schedule. Getting to the river right as the water was dropping allowed me to get in and start fishing before the crowds got too bad. I worked my way down to where I had spotted the nice fish. Another angler was nearby so I didn't head right in to fish for the hog.

My original plan was to fish with a dry fly and midge dropper but the higher flows made that difficult. Soon I switched over to an indicator rig which allowed my flies to get down to the level of the trout. That brought some results, but still not the big trout I was hoping for. Finally, after one particularly long drift, my indicator shot down and when I set the hook a big fish immediately started cartwheeling. The pink stripe told me that I had a big rainbow trout on the end of my line. In between the jumps, I was able to turn the fish and assumed I had a good shot at landing it. Then, suddenly, it started to take off, and I could no longer turn it.

About that time, a drift boat edged in behind me and dropped anchor. I turned to see my good friend David Perry jumping out with a net. Suddenly, my hopes revived. I might have a chance with a little help.

As I slowly fought the fish, I realized my problem. On one of the jumps, the top fly had snagged the fish near the tail. In the ensuing commotion, the little midge that had originally hooked the fish had popped free. A 20" tail hooked rainbow is one tough customer. Eventually, I worked the fish in close. Close enough that I was starting to think this might actually happen. Then, the fly simply popped free. There was nothing much to say. David P. jumped back in his boat to continue the float with his two clients. I was left with a memory of a big trout jumping across the river and a screaming reel.

By this time, I was resigned to probably not finding a large trout. Luck seemed to be against me on this week. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and things were definitely not looking promising. About this time, the angler below me worked up a little closer and made some comment about a huge fish cruising around where he was fishing. I knew it was probably the trout I had come looking for but bided my time.

Eventually, obligations pulled him away from the river and I was left to check on the big trout for myself. I waited a little longer as another drift boat was moving down behind me. They moved through the run without noticing the shark lurking under the surface. The fish was still mine. Noticing some risers nearby, I changed back to my dry fly and midge dropper rig to work the nearby fish. Resting the big fish a little more, I finally couldn't stand it any longer and made my way down.

Almost immediately I spotted it. The fish looked even larger than I remembered. Long enough, for sure, but extremely thick. I wanted to catch that trout in the worst way. My position was good for a clean drift. I was up and across from the fish which made a down and across slack line presentation the best option.

I made the cast, tossed a couple of mends and some more slack in the line, and the flies were on their way. The big fish saw my midge and moved confidently over. I saw the mouth open and set the hook...and the fish spooked. Somehow the fly didn't, catch but the fish definitely realized something was wrong. He bolted for cover and disappeared quickly.

Spotting some other trout, I cast to them for a while, hoping for a consolation prize. At this point, I would have been glad to see any fish just to take the sting away from missing such a great fish. In all the excitement I had not really noticed, but now that I wasn't focused on the big brown trout I noticed that my toes were numb. This helped me to remember why I never wet wade on the Caney, even in the heat of summer. I considered heading for dry ground to let me feet recover some warmth and then glanced back to where the large fish liked to feed.

This sounds unbelievable, especially if you know anything about large trout, but the big brown had returned and was again chowing down on midges and blackfly larvae. Fate had intervened to give me another chance. Not willing to risk having someone come by and spook the fish, I quickly made an almost exact replica of the previous cast and drift. The fish moved over again and inhaled my flies, and this time the midge stuck firmly in his jaw.

I almost regretted fishing my 7'6" Orvis Superfine Glass rod at this point. The four weight was no match for the big brown as far as power was concerned, but in the end it was the soft tip of the glass rod that protected the 6x tippet long enough to give me a chance to land the trout. The fish quickly ran me almost into my backing while I stumbled along down the river behind, walking on numb feet and slipping on the algae covered gravel and small rocks. Throughout the fight, I had to remind myself to keep the rod tip up. My arm was getting tired!

Finally, after numerous last minute surges, each of which made my heart stop, the big brown trout slid into my spacious net. Even in the big net this fish looked big. It was also very heavy. I stumbled towards the bank, keeping the fish in the water as I went. Just then, a passing canoeist asked if I would like a picture. He didn't need to ask twice. This blessing enabled me to get a couple of excellent pictures of the big brown, something I probably couldn't have accomplished on my own while keeping the fish in the water well enough. When I measured the fish against the net, he stretched out to between 23 and 24 inches. That made the picture that much more meaningful: this was my personal best brown trout on the Caney Fork. Thanks again to Bob Mansolino for kindly stopping and taking a picture for me!

Photo Courtesy of Bob Mansolino

When I released the fish, he swam off strongly. I'm already planning on catching this fish again in the near future, or better still, helping one of my friends catch him. After losing all those fish last week, redemption was sweet. While I had been fighting this big brown trout, I promised myself that if I landed the fish I would call it quits for the day. After watching him swim off, I remembered my numb toes so keeping that promise was even easier. I walked away from the river while the sun was still well up in the sky, completely satisfied with my few hours on the water.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Birthday Rainbow Trout

Guide trips seem to always be in a state of flux right up until the moment I meet the angler(s) for the day. This past Friday things were no different. Deb had fished with me before, but the friend she was supposed to bring would be on the water with me for the first time. Unfortunately, at the last second, that friend had to cancel, but of course Deb was still all for a day on the water. Part way through the trip I would discover why.

We started off the trip in a steady rain. The radar did not look promising, but if I have learned anything while guiding, it is that I should not cancel a trip for weather reasons unless it is truly dangerous. Deb was a trooper and would not be deterred by the water falling from the sky.

The early portion of the float was unusually quiet. I commented on the fact that normally we would have had some quality fish earlier in the float and started through my fly changing routine. Eventually we settled in on some patterns and started drifting again. A few smaller browns were hooked. Some were landed, and some were lost.

Then, we reached an area where I was certain we would find some good fish. It was just a matter of what flies would be necessary to make that happen. Right as I was about to go through another fly pattern change, the indicator took a determined dive. Deb set the hook and the battle was begun. Quickly dropping everything required to rig up differently such as fly boxes and tippet spools, I grabbed the oars and started chasing what was quite obviously a large rainbow. The fish surged up and down the river and we stayed hot on its tail. The one thing that stood out to me during this fight was how calm an angler I had in the front of the boat. A lot of people will get tense and make a mistake when fighting a large trout but not Deb. She was enjoying the experience immensely though, that much was obvious.

Before long, I slid the boat into shallow water and jumped over the side with the net. This fish wasn't going to have any chances for escape. The rod lifted, the net dipped, and the big rainbow trout was safely where we could enjoy it briefly. Pictures were taken and then Deb commented, "That is my birthday fish!"


I'm really glad she waited to tell me until after catching such a great fish. If I had known that her birthday was last week the pressure would have just about killed me. Thankfully, the fish posed for a couple of pictures and was soon released to be caught again another day. After high fives and a moment to soak in the moment, we pushed back out into the river. I was about to row back upstream, and in the meantime Deb had cast out to get her line ready. Right as I pulled hard on the oars to head up for another pass, her indicator shot under again. No way, I thought.

Sure enough, we had as close to a repeat performance as is possible, except that this fish was a little longer than the 19.5" fish that we had just released and a whole lot heavier. Back to back quality trout and we still had a lot of the float to go.


By this time, the rain had eased and we were left to drift down the river under leaden skies. The calm was almost eery at times, but also beautiful and a real treat to experience the river this way. We picked up some fish here and there, but soon our time was drawing to a close. I really wanted to put her on one nice brown trout and knew just the place to do that. That was the easy part. The hard part was making a very long and pinpoint accurate cast and then getting a good drift.

Of course, Deb was up for the challenge. The fly lit softly on the water and started drifting. Suddenly the dry fly sucked under as the trout took the midge underneath. She set the hook like a pro and again we were rowing all over the river. This fish didn't take as long as the big rainbows, but was still an excellent trout to end the day on.


We were soon pushing on down to the takeout, another good day on the water behind us.

This week and next week both have some guide trip openings, so if you are wanting to experience this great fishing, contact me to learn more about a float trip with Trout Zone Anglers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Double of the Year?

While I have a ton of cool experiences as a fly fishing guide, I rarely find the time to share them with the world unfortunately. However, yesterday was one of those days that was incredible enough that I just can't contain it anymore. One fish is in the running and currently the lead for guide trip fish of the year, but to have two great fish at once? Priceless. Let me tell you about it.

My buddy Tim Helton has, in one short year, become a true fishaholic, or maybe he is an aspiring trout bum. Regardless he spends as much time as possible on the water and many hours of his time has been on trips with me. Our first trip together was in the Great Smoky Mountains on Little River. We hiked up the trail a ways above Elkmont and covered the finer points of high sticking a Smoky Mountain stream for the beautiful wild trout found there. As I remember, we caught some nice rainbows and a couple of browns during our time together that day. Since then, Tim has fished all across east Tennessee, and I have had the privilege to share many of those moments on the water with him.

Like any good angler, Tim has become quite interested in catching some big fish. Over the last months, he has had a lot of big fish on the end of the line. Like most anglers, the story progressed from hooking big fish, to eventually hooking and landing big fish. Those two things don't always go together unfortunately. This year, we had already caught some great trout together. Those big fish did eventually come with a lot of perseverance and dues paid in time on the water.

Yesterday was the first time we shared a day on the boat together. This trip had been planned a time or two before, but finally everything came together and Tim along with his friend Andy arrived at the river ready to jump in the boat and catch some trout.

Early in the day, Andy had the hot hand going. This was his first time ever fly fishing, but he took to it in a big way landing more trout than even many experienced anglers would normally get to see in one day. By lunch, both guys had caught a lot of fish including a nice 16" brown for Tim. While we sat in the shade and enjoyed our food, Tim made a comment about wanting to catch a large brown trout with a big kype jaw. To that, I gave my standard answer which is, "If you put in your time on the water, good things will happen." Little did we know how soon...

After lunch, we shoved off into the lazy current and started drifting again. Both guys were hooked up again on some healthy rainbow trout before we started approaching the next run. We netted those fish and got on to more important things, the hunt for larger fish that is! I directed both guys to cast into the deep water to the right of the boat and they got their drifts going perfectly. Tim's indicator shot down a split second ahead of Andy's, but I immediately knew we were in trouble. Neither fish had any inclination to come up without a fight and we had two on at the same time.

Directing the battles from the rower's bench, I started gently easing on the oars to back the drifter into calmer water. The fish would surge, but both guys kept their rods up and the rod tips protected the 6x tippet. When I got a glimpse of the fish, I was in about as bad of shape as Tim and Andy were. They were impressive fish!

Tim's big brown trout (the one with the big jaw he wanted of course!) was the first to hit the net and Andy's big rainbow was close behind. I had the guys take a quick "Double" picture together to verify what would otherwise be a ridiculous and unbelievable story. I took the pictures and still have to check every few hours to make sure it wasn't a dream.

As is the case with many big fish stories, the rest of the day was anticlimactic. Both guys were thoroughly spoiled but a river that has been treating me great all summer. A hookset on a 12" fish would invariably bring a comment such as, "Oh its just a little one."

Tim had achieved his goal of a big brown trout and Andy was truly ruined in his first time every fly fishing. Me as the guide? I'm spoiled on a daily basis to be able to meet and interact with all of the great people who come to fish with me. However, from a purely memorable fishing moment perspective, I'm not sure if I'll ever have another double that produces a legitimate 40 inches (taped) of trout in two fish. For now, this is the double of the year...



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Smelling Beetles

Some guide trips are routine, while others are definitely a little out of the ordinary. This past Monday, I had a half day guided wade trip on the Caney Fork River. We had moved around trying to stay ahead of the generation that has been a challenge lately.

We found several willing fish on midges and nymphs (mostly midges) early in the day as well as a few that ate the hopper but didn't find the hook. When the water started rising, it was time to move and move we did. We found another good section with more favorable water conditions and started fishing again, knowing that we had limited time before the rising water found us. I had mentioned wanting to try a certain section and Terry who was fishing with me was all for it. Moving down the river, we were approaching our target spot when I froze.

My nose detected the definite smell of Japanese beetle. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the pungent and unmistakeable smell of beetles made me look up. Sure enough, the tree that was hanging out over the river nearby had lots of beetles eating away on the leaves. Knowing at least a little about such things, I quickly deduced that instead of a midge behind the hopper, it was time for my favorite, a black beetle.

Terry was soon maneuvering into position and made a great cast to a brown trout I had spotted. Immediately the fish nailed the fly. This scene replayed itself again and again over the next hour.  Most of the fish were brown trout, but at least one or two were rainbows.

Terry Butrum with a quality Caney Fork brown trout

Catching fish on dry flies on the Caney Fork River is always a treat and this day was no different. Before long, we had to make a beeline for the bank because the water was catching up, but we had already caught several fine trout. Next time you are out on the river during the summer, make sure to stop and smell for beetles. You might just luck into some great fishing!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beginners' Luck

Luck. Some of us have it and some of us don't. If you are like me, you will get a good run of luck, but the whole time you are dreading the inevitable turn of fortunes. A bad string of luck can involve losing giant fish, breaking fly rods, and even filling up your waders after an innocent slip on the rocks. Some people seem to have a knack for catching big fish, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they are seasoned pros or beginners.

Last week, I had a couple of people on the boat who said they were beginners. After a trip like we enjoyed it can be hard to believe something like that, but I'll take them at their word.

This was one of those trips that had been on the calendar for months. The goal was to help them learn how to successfully fish the Caney Fork River. As fairly new fly anglers, Jeff and Sandy wanted some instruction that they could then take and apply on their own to enjoy the sport of fly fishing. Upon booking the trip, we left the question of a wade or float trip to be decided later. As the trip drew closer, I received an email and discovered that the decision was to float. That was great with me since it meant I wouldn't have to walk around the river roasting in my waders in the 90+ degree heat we've been enjoying. Additionally, I prefer floating the river for guide trips as it allows us to access some spots that I know have big fish.

On the evening before the trip, after consulting the generation schedule, I contacted Jeff and Sandy to set up the meeting time and place. Then I hit the tying vise for a couple of hours of prep work. We would have plenty of the hot patterns for our trip.

We met the next day and were soon at the put-in ramp. Taking 20 minutes before the trip to go over the finer points of playing large trout was hot even though we found some shade, but it paid huge dividends before the day was over. After coaching first Sandy and then Jeff through the proper technique for fighting large fish on a fly rod (both were accomplished anglers using other tackle), we were ready to go. I dumped the boat and rowed out into the river before we anchored up to rig the rods. Soon both of them had the first fish of the day. These were monster brown trout in the 6-8 inch range. In other words, they were catching the future of the fishery but not the fish we had come to find.

I pulled the anchor and we were off. In the first section the fishing seemed a little slow, but Jeff was steadily catching some trout from the front of the boat. The largest early on was around 12 inches but most were smaller. Sandy, after her initial luck, had things slow down for a while.

By the time we were a good distance downstream, both anglers had settled into a routine. Cast, mend, drift...repeat. The water was just high enough from the generation to allow us to slide over a couple of gravel bars that are normally off limits. It was in one such place, as we approached a deep slot, that Jeff had a great drift interrupted by the indicator plunging down. As soon as he set the hook I knew it was serious. I instructed Sandy to get all of her line out of the water so we wouldn't have any distractions for Jeff to fight his Caney Fork trophy. Soon I was rowing up and down the river. Finally, the fish seemed like it was getting tired, and I dropped the anchor over a gravel bar and jumped out of the boat with the net. The big rainbow trout slid into the net and congratulations were passed around. Jeff had learned quickly and earned his picture with the beautiful fish.


Sandy got jealous when she saw how nice Jeff's big fish was. However, she would have to wait a little longer before her turn for a picture came around. A few hundred yards down the river, Jeff had a nearly repeat performance except that this fish was 19 inches instead of 22 inches. Either fish would be the catch of the day on most trips and Jeff had found two.


This brings up the importance of not only a good guide, but someone who knows the river. The 19 inch trout was in an area I've had my eye on. In fact, the other day during the epic bachelor party, we hooked a monster brown trout out of the same hole. If you want to catch some nice trout, a guided float trip is definitely the best way. If you are like me and enjoy learning on your own, then repeat trips down the river will, over many trips, teach you some of the tricks you will learn on a guide trip. A guided trip just shortens this learning curve.

By this time, Sandy made it clear that it was HER turn. Accordingly, I turned the boat so she had an equal shot at the fish since she was in the back. We were approaching another good spot that I like to hit and sure enough, her indicator dove and she was into a great brown trout. Again we had to row all over the river to chase this fish, but in the end it slid into the net just like the others and Sandy got her picture with a fantastic Caney Fork River brown trout.


Jeff followed up with a nice brown of his own before Sandy struck with a quality rainbow trout. Not long after these fish, it was time to start heading for the takeout ramp. Along the way, we stopped in one spot just long enough for them to get a nice double to end the day. Nothing better than a net full or brown and rainbow trout!





The Caney Fork River will continue to fish well on guided float trips. Weekends are NOT conducive to good fishing and I don't recommend float trips then. However, if you can get away during the week and have the right patterns, the right drift, and the right location, you too may catch a big Caney Fork River trout. I can't guarantee such incredible beginners' luck as Jeff and Sandy had, but we will always have fun and a day spent on the river is about the most fun you can have.

If you are interested in a guided float trip on this river, or a guided trip in the Smokies or anywhere else, don't hesitate to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.


Monday, June 13, 2016

June Openings for Guided Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

Due to a cancellation and a couple of dates still open, my calendar has some options if you are looking for a guided trip in the Smokies this month. Currently, I have Friday morning June 17, all day on Monday June 20, and June 26 and 30. This is one of the busiest months of the year for good reason. Everyone is in town on summer break or heading to the mountains for a day or two to beat the heat. The fishing has been good although water levels are dropping. If you need help learning how to fish in the Great Smoky Mountains, please don't hesitate to email me (TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com) or call. July has a few more possibilities so just let me know if you are looking to get something booked then for either the tailwaters or mountains or even smallmouth bass streams.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Found Fly Box

While guiding on Little River yesterday, I came across a rather nice and well-stocked fly box that some unlucky angler had lost. If you have lost a fly box recently, please contact me via email and describe both the box and its contents, and I'll be glad to get it back to you!

Monday, June 06, 2016

Remote Smallmouth Creeks

One of the great things about living on Tennessee's beautiful Cumberland Plateau is the abundance of great smallmouth bass streams, some of which also harbor the elusive muskellunge. These streams are mostly in remote, hard to get to areas which adds to the quality of the fishing both from a catching perspective and also just the overall atmosphere. The glorious thing about the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams is that they are almost always empty except for the people swimming and playing in the creek in very close proximity to the access points.

Given the choice, I would avoid fishing in crowds every day. Not seeing other anglers, except for those I'm fishing with of course, can make a good day of fishing out of a slow day of catching. That is why I love fishing the Smokies in winter so much. Empty streams, fish or no fish, are my overwhelming preference.

I've already been out to check on some of my favorite smallmouth bass streams a few times this year. Some of the trips were very good while only one was what I would term slow. On these streams, slow usually means at least a few fish were still caught and this time was no exception. The pinnacle of smallmouth bass fishing, at least so far this year, was on a trip a few weeks back with my buddy Jayson.

Everything came together at the last minute, with both of us having a day off from work, and we readily agreed that smallmouth bass should be the choice of the day. Arriving at the stream, we both rigged up our preferred smallmouth bass fly rods and were soon walking down to where we wanted to start fishing. I found one really good hole and started going through my fly selection process. Changing flies often is how I like to dial in the flavor of the day. One healthy smallmouth was willing to hit my PB&J streamer, getting the skunk off, but otherwise things were slow.


About the time I landed that first fish of the trip, I noticed that Jayson had disappeared around the bend upstream. Knowing him, I assumed he had found some good water and maybe even figured out the fish. Wandering upstream, I found him tight to a fish. It turned out to be a green sunfish.


Convincing him to get out of the water was not difficult when I mentioned the big bass possible downstream. We hit the trail again and before long got in to a good section that usually has some quality fish. Jayson had figured out that fish would readily hit a popper, so I decided a big black Stealth Bomber would probably work just as well. Turns out I was right!

We both caught a decent number of fish on the surface, not once going back to streamers or nymphs. Some of the fish were quality fish as well which kept things interesting. That big 20" wild smallmouth is still eluding both of us on this particular stream although we have seen some fish that are at least that large.



We ended the day on a good note, with Jayson getting a nice smallmouth while I watched from a perch high on a rock. The fish just couldn't say no to his popper.



The smallmouth fishing will stay strong through at least September. I have several other streams that I want to explore further, but time is not on my side. With some luck, I'll be able to enjoy a handful of other days out fishing for smallmouth this summer. Until then, I have some good memories of a day on the water!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Guides' Day Off: April 2016 Smallmouth Edition

When two fly fishing guides with busy schedules plan an intentional guides' day off, you never know what is going to happen. When not taking clients fishing, we are just as likely to spend a whole day experimenting to just to try some new flies or tactics or maybe mess with some fish we don't target as often as the usual trout.

The day before our planned excursion, David Perry of Southeastern Fly and I were discussing where to fish and several options came up. None were on the current "hot" sections of our favorite rivers to guide for trout, but that was intentional. Sometimes these exploratory trips turn out well and sometimes they are a bust, at least as far as catching a lot of fish goes. The one thing that is always guaranteed when you fish with friends? A good time. It is not just about catching fish after all.

We finally settled on a game plan that involved smallmouth bass, always a good choice. Arriving at the river, David decided to back his boat way out in the middle of the river, mainly because the edges were simply too shallow for the boat to float. That would be a theme for the day. If the river had been another 100-200 cfs lower we might not have made it down. The fish didn't mind though.

To launch or not launch? How about taking a test drive (or is it a test cast?) before committing...


I caught several small redeye bass in quick succession despite David P. not catching any fish from the boat trailer, so it was determined to go ahead with our game plan and off we went. Floating along, we found a few redeye and briefly hooked up with a smallmouth or two, but it was obvious that a strategy change was in order. Thankfully, David P. brought the hot fly tied by smallmouth angler extraordinaire Gary Troutman (what a great fishing name right?).

After some discussion now how to fish said fly, David P. stepped into the casting brace and started working the magic fly. As a good guide, I was incredibly oblivious gazing at the scenery so I could point out interesting things to the guy in the front of the boat. Thankfully he was focused on the task at hand and when the fish hit he was ready. After a solid fight, the first nice smallmouth came to the net and we took a much deserved picture.


Insisting that David P. keep fishing for a while, I eventually lost my reluctance to leave the oars when a great hole with lots of structure came into view. I grabbed a heavy rod rigged for musky and started flailing the water. That produced a maybe follow. A maybe follow is when the angler thinks they see a fish but it could just as easily be the product of an overactive imagination. Despite my optimism, no other fish showed so it was back to smallmouth. In due time, I found my first nice smallie.

Thanks to David Perry for the photograph

We continued the day, taking turns fishing and getting a fish here and there. The pinnacle of the day came unexpectedly. Having caught the last nice fish, I was deservedly on the oars while David P. kept looking for another good fish.

We had already drifted down several exceptionally shallow shoals, but the boat was still in one piece. As we approached another obstacle, this one a huge tree laying across the river, David P. turned around and with a completely straight face told me to go left. I looked at him in disbelief. No way was I going to try to take the boat left but I did manage to blurt out a "I would like to see you row that."

Not one to back off from a challenge, he told me to switch spots. I got into the front of the boat while he grabbed the oars. On further examination, he told me I was right made the prudent decision to not try getting over the tree. Just as I started breathing normally again in relief, David P. told me to go ahead and fish since I was in the front of the boat. Not one to argue when the option to fish presents itself, I cast the hot fly into the run we were drifting past. The fly barely hit the water before getting slammed. After just finishing a long fishless stretch as the angler, the guy at the oars was a little shocked. I was glad to have snatched what should have been his fish but also felt a little guilty.

Thanks to David Perry for the photograph

After the pictures ,which he still graciously took for me, I tentatively offered, "You want me to row so you can fish again?" His answer was an unequivocal yes and brought no argument from me. That big smallmouth made the day for me, and I was content.

The rest of the float was anticlimactic. Despite our hopes, we only saw one or two more muskie and the smallmouth seemed mostly uninterested. The scenery was nice though as was the time with a good fishing buddy. We had set out to catch a few fish and have a good time and succeeded on both counts.

Floating for smallmouth is tough now with low water, but wade fishing for them is just picking up. If I can help you with a guided fly fishing trip on the Cumberland Plateau for smallmouth bass, please contact me via call or text at 931-261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Clinch River Float Trip

The Clinch River continues to fish well and produce quality trout. This fishing is not for everyone as it requires the ability to cast fairly well and manage your line, however those who are willing to work hard on this beautiful tailwaters will be rewarded with some large trout.

Recently, I had the good fortune to float the Clinch with Chris and Eddie and already know this will be a river I'll return to many times. Small flies, light tippet, large trout, it doesn't get any better. The majority of fish were caught on my own midge patterns although some nymphs worked as well.

Both guys caught some really nice trout but Eddie took top honors for big fish of the day. He played it well and kept his composure through several head shaking runs by the nice rainbow. Here are a few fish from out day on the water.





Monday, April 11, 2016

Fishing the Clinch River

This might be the year of the Clinch River, or at least for me anyway. I've now fished it twice within the last four days and that after not fishing it since, well, I can't exactly remember the last time I was down there but it has been a while. Based on the fishing last Friday I'll be down there a lot more. Based on the fishing today it might be a while before I'm back. Let me explain a little further.

Last week, with the nice weather, I've been contemplating fishing a little for myself. With the spring hatches in the Smokies has come a flurry of guide work. That is all well and good, but I do like to at least occasionally fish a little for myself as well. After a steady dose of the beautiful but small wild trout that are found in the Great Smoky Mountains, I was ready for some fish that were larger and more difficult. The Clinch offers both in great abundance.

The idea had been bouncing around in my brain for a while when my old fishing buddy, Trevor, checked in to see if I was available to fish on Friday. Amazingly enough I actually had a free day. Plans were originally made to fish the Caney Fork, but a last minute change of plans had us headed to the Clinch.

When we arrived at the usual Millers Island access, I was shocked to only find a couple of other cars in the parking lot. This place gets packed so to say the lack of people was a blessing is an understatement. We started with the usual midge rig that is so effective on this river. I quickly caught a little rainbow and later another. Trevor got into a hot streak in a good spot. Eventually I snuck in close enough to snag a fish or two myself out of his run when he got tangled momentarily and couldn't fish.

For the most part it was slow. The one high point of the morning was when Trevor got a solid 16-17" rainbow that was all colored up. Some of the fish spawn this time of year so their colors are usually extra vibrant. The real event had yet to happen for me though.

We moved well down the river to a spot near the town of Clinton. Having never fished there, I trusted Trevor's directions and judgement which included a lengthy walk. As we were walking along the river, the occasional rise would prompt me to ask if we should start fishing, but he kept telling me to keep going. Finally, just when I thought we had embarked upon a true death march, he announced that we had arrived at our destination. I looked around and almost immediately noticed a rise downstream just a few yards. Bugs were in the air including caddis and craneflies which prompted me to switch to the tried and true dry/dropper rig with a caddis pupa as the dropper.

In reality, this was my favorite Smoky Mountain rig, something that should never work on the educated trout of the Clinch. On the other hand, sometimes you just never know. On probably my second or third cast with the new setup, the dry fly shot under, and I was hooked up with a solid fish. This fish was strong and acrobatic, giving my four weight fly rod a better workout than it has seen in quite some time. Trevor soon had his net out with an offer of assistance which I gladly accepted.

Nice Clinch River rainbow trout

Soon I was admiring a great Clinch River rainbow trout, the first of many more to come. In fact, I continued to catch trout up and down that section of river, working my way across towards the far bank and back. While I know that I shouldn't expect the same from the Clinch every time I fish there, it was enough to tempt me back for several more times in the near future even if some of them turn out to be far less exciting in terms of fish catching. In fact, I say that after a very slow day on the water.

Today's plans were made just a couple of days ago. The forecast had been calling for partly cloudy skies although a chance for some wind was cause for mild concern. When I arrived to meet my friend John who had kindly offered to show me some of his favorite water, things were looking good. The river had a little bit of chop but nothing too intense. We were soon rigged up and ready to fish with small dark nymphs and midges, in other words, traditional Clinch fare.

After slowly getting in the water to fish, I proceeded to cast and mend, and mend, and cast again. Over and over, but without that nice motivation of a diving indicator and heavy trout on the other end of the line. Finally, one suicidal trout nailed the nymph which broke the monotony, but otherwise the day was slow. John eventually ended up with a fish as well, but we more or less agreed that the fish were not feeding. The weather was rapidly deteriorating and we both like to think that played a significant role in the lack of fish to hand. The wind was soon approaching gale force and when the rain started like stinging needles, we waded out and trooped back to the vehicle.

Despite the lack of large numbers of fish, the company was good, and I kind of like having challenging days because it keeps me interested. Problem solving is good for the mind and is one of my favorite parts about fly fishing. I guess that's the math teacher in me. The Clinch River promises many more days of both large trout and good problem solving opportunities so I'll be back again and again over the next few weeks.

Clinch River Rainbow Trout

Looking for a guided fly fishing trip on the Clinch River? Visit our guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, to learn more about booking your trip.