Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts

Monday, March 21, 2016

Welcome Spring!

Just like that, the calendar says that spring is here. The early spring wild flowers are getting going now and in fact some of the very earliest have already peaked in a few locations. The garden has been tilled a couple of times now and plants are sprouting here in the kitchen, just waiting until I can put them in the ground in another month or so. Despite all of this, apparently Mother Nature does not read the calendar.

Yesterday, on my way home from a weekend of camping, hiking, and enjoying time with friends, I drove through a near whiteout. That is rare here in Tennessee, but to be fair, snow in the spring is to be expected. Spring usually happens in fits and starts, with the cold short days of winter only grudgingly giving in to longer warm days. The junction of the seasons can be both maddening and stunningly beautiful. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Forsythia after a spring snow storm in Tennessee
"Snowy Forsythia"


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Turning the Corner

Cumberland Plateau snow


Just when I was starting to get at least a little tired of winter, it looks like we might be turning a corner. This weekend should feature highs in the 60's perhaps and definitely well into the 50's. Next week, we naturally should expect a cool down again, but the important thing is the trend in temperature is headed in the right direction. I wouldn't hold my breath, but it looks like we may be in store for an on time arrival with the spring hatches and at most a week or so late.

This rationale was nowhere close to being formed when I woke up this morning. It was still dark outside, or nearly so, but I listened intently. Suddenly, the sound came again, loud and arguably musical depending on your listening preferences. Sandhill cranes were flying over, quite low I should add, and their loud cries had roused me from my sleep. A glance at the alarm clock showed me I still had a few precious minutes of sleep available, but it was no use. Excitement had set in.

The cranes are usually the harbingers of spring, and of winter too for that matter. The huge flocks pour south in huge numbers just prior to and sometimes after the first strong cold fronts in late fall. Their preference for warmer weather is not particularly strong though as they are some of the first birds heading back north in the spring. I expect large flocks of robins will probably arrive this weekend with the warm weather. They'll stay too, assuming that the ground isn't buried under any more snow that is. If it snows, they'll retreat 50 or 100 miles south or to the nearest place that has clear ground available for worm hunting and other important activities.

With the robins I expect bugs. Not food for the robins but for the trout. Blue quills, quill gordons, little black caddis, not to mention the little black and early brown stoneflies. The fish of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will respond, first with caution as if they don't completely remember what food even is after a lean and cold winter. Then, when the hatches get heavier, they'll feed with abandon, and with a little luck, I'll be standing there with my fly rod ready to cast when their noses start poking out of the water.

As a guide, I might not be that lucky, to catch the fish myself that is. There is a decent chance that some lucky angler will be standing with me there on the stream, asking what kind of bugs those are. I'll smile and dig out my dry fly box, and soon the angler will be smiling too as the trout succumb to our trickery. Yes, I'm glad that spring is nearly here.

Smoky Mountain brown trout caught on a Parachute Adams

If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip, feel free to visit my guide site at www.troutzoneanglers.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. I still have some availability during the prime early season hatch times in March as well as the peak times in April and May and would be glad to help you with a day on the water that you will enjoy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Successful Smokies Fly Fishing Tips: Temperature Trends

A couple of weeks ago, I addressed the current El Nino as well as what effects it might have on winter fishing in the Smokies and across our region. One of the points I emphasized was the idea of temperature trends. Just last week, on one of my guide trips, I experienced a new example that just confirmed, at least in my mind, the importance of the general temperature trend.

We had been fishing several different sections of the Park. I did not expect particularly good fishing, especially early in the day, because water temperatures were between 39 and 41 degrees. Generally that signals poor fishing in the mountains. However, the cold snap was about done and the trend in water temperature was up. Our day was pleasant with plenty of sun early and the water temperature rose accordingly. Not only did we catch fish early, but we caught a good number of fish.

Late in the day, the guy that I had out fishing wanted to see some different places to fish. This is normal on days when I have anglers who want to be introduced to fishing in the Smokies. I explained that I could show him some brook trout water but that we shouldn't have our expectations set too high. Ice on the rocks did not give us any extra hope, but this was more about learning how to fish so he could come back under better conditions.

Brook trout stream in winter in the Smokies

Surprisingly, we missed some nice fish including a colorful brook trout and got a decent rainbow trout on a dry fly. The water was 39.5 degrees when I checked.

A Smokies rainbow trout caught in the winter on a dry fly

It is very important to remember that trout across the mountainous areas of the western US are routinely caught in very cold water during the winter. I'm talking about water full of slush and ice floes cold. Here in the southeast we are spoiled to be able to fish year round and generally do so on ice free streams, but remember that even when it is cold, the fish still have to eat.

You can do at least a little to stack the odds in your favor. Pick that first warm day after it has been cold, or even better the 3rd or 4th warm day after it has been cold. You might just be surprised at how good winter fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be when the water temperatures start to creep upwards. Sometimes you'll even catch fish on dry flies...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Invading the South

As the days rolled by, pent up energy was building far to the north. Local hunters and anglers have likely noticed something is amiss, but only a few realized the severity of the situation. True, a few advance scouts had infiltrated the region, but in reality their numbers were a fraction of what should be. Was there a bottleneck or traffic jam? Perhaps someone had called off the invasion.

Over the last two weeks, a few more have been churning their way through. Better two months late than never I suppose. Two days ago, I heard the distinct symphony of the winged invaders. Glancing up, I smiled. They are coming after all.



I suppose this means we might have winter after all. Apparently someone thinks so. I noticed something in the news about energy stocks rising due to expected cold weather boosting the demand for natural gas. Some cold weather would be nice. I went for a hike on Christmas Eve day and wished I had worn shorts. Christmas Eve!!! When it should be cold. Oh, and I saw a snake. This all happened the day after tornadoes ripped across parts of Tennessee and Mississippi. On Christmas day we set a record high temperature here in Crossville and also a record for the most rainfall on December 25. What is going on? Everything this year has been behind or so it has seemed. We may still have a good winter in store. The sandhill cranes invading the South seem to think so.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The El Nino Effect



Fly fishing in the Smokies during the winter months us generally a hit or miss proposition. Some years are better than others for winter fishing while others are downright tough. Last winter, for example, and the winter before were both cold with warm weather a rarity. This year is shaping up to possibly be the exact opposite. Most likely we have El Nino to thank for it.

Generally, El Nino years result in more warm stretches which helps to keep overall water temperatures elevated compared to winter norms. The quality of fishing is directly correlated to water temperatures. That is not to say that fish cannot be caught in cold water. On the contrary, the fish still need to eat but their instinct to feed is triggered by environmental conditions, especially abundant food. When it is very cold, most fish will not move far to seek out food. In cold months this equates to a flurry of activity in the warmest part of the day when a few midges, winter stoneflies, and perhaps some caddis flies all make an appearance.

Another important factor involving water temperature is the temperature trends. Last week, we saw an excellent example of this. The water temperatures were running between 42 and 44 degrees. Conventional wisdom would suggest that fishing would be slow under such conditions, but on the contrary we had a fairly good day for winter with one lucky angler catching a trophy brown trout by Smoky Mountain standards and everyone, including a first time fly fisherman, catching at least some fish. Why was the fishing good on this particular day? The temperature trend.

You see, the previous day saw the water temperature get up to around 43 degrees (as recorded on Little River at the Park boundary just outside Townsend). However, warm overnight temperatures kept the water temperature from falling. That meant that the next morning, instead of starting at 39-41 degrees after the expected night time temperature drop, we were already starting at the previous day's high temperature. The fish responded enthusiastically both to the improving conditions and to our flies.

This winter should see good fishing more often than not. El Nino will bring more warm weather to the region than we saw the last two winters. One of the best parts about winter fishing is having the water to yourself. Sure, beautiful and unseasonably warm weekends are going to have some people out enjoying nature, but for the most part you can find your own piece of water even on the weekends. Can you fish on a weekday? If so then expect to have it more or less to yourself.

The only possibly fly in the ointment is the potential for high water. We will probably have to deal with high water on several occasions over the next few months, but then that is part of winter fishing anyways, at least in these parts.



I plan on taking full advantage of the El Nino Effect this year and get out throughout January and February even on some small streams if possible.  Today would have been a great day to be on the water if I hadn't of been busy. Water temperatures on Little River are in the mid 50s which is more like you would expect in October. I'll most likely get out a day or two this upcoming week. Also, I'm hoping to fish for brook trout a little more this upcoming year. Okay, maybe a lot more.

My goal for the next year is to catch a brook trout a month. I'm hoping to accomplish this on a dry fly to make it even better but will not be above using a dropper if the fish aren't looking up. I might even do it on one of my new Tenkara rods to add another level of novelty. Don't worry though. I'll still be out chasing the big browns on occasion as well!

So, in summary, I expect good fishing to happen more often than not in the Smokies this winter. There will definitely be some cold snaps and probably even some frozen precipitation, but there will be some great fishing on occasion as well. We also probably have a better than average chance of starting the spring hatches early this year so stay tuned for more on that.

Monday, March 02, 2015

A Perspective on the 2015 Ice Storm

Here are two photographs from the ice storm of 2015. When I awoke around 3:00 a.m. to the sound of gunshots snapping limbs, I knew that morning's light would bring a scene much different from what I saw the evening before. Incredibly, the really good show held off until after daylight, allowing us to sit and watch out the windows as limbs and even whole trees came crashing down.

Once I have a little more time to digest the event I'll have a lot more written about it I'm sure, but for now, here is what it looked like outside my bedroom window looking down from the 2nd story. This tree does not have many branches left. They all came down in a crash of sound and glistening ice.


While we were still debating the safety of venturing outside, the neighbors kindly came out with a chainsaw and a large tractor, making quick work of the road and even our driveway. Now that is being neighborly!


Perhaps the saddest part of this whole deal? I haven't been fishing for two whole weeks.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Storm Warning

Here in Tennessee, we are under a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service. I'm excited as we really haven't experienced much "winter" other than cold temperatures so far this year. I love snow and really any frozen precipitation although I would rather avoid freezing rain as that tends to cause the power to go out once trees start falling on the power lines. Anyway, tomorrow should be a fun day. I will be out and about with my camera enjoying the white goodness!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Frosting on the Trees

Yesterday, I had some business to attend to at the Park Headquarters for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After finishing that up and also spending some time chatting with the Park fisheries guys (thanks again Matt and Caleb for taking the time to talk with me!), I headed up into the Park to see if anything was going on. Let's just say that I never even got my waders out. That had a fair amount to do with the fact that I was feeling lazy from getting up super early. However, it was still a fantastic day to be out and my camera captured a few images. Here is one of my favorites from the day.


I'll share some more later, but right now I'm heading out to float on the Caney Fork. Today we got a surprise low water day that coincided with the last "warm" day for a while (think 50s for highs). From here on out, it looks like the great arctic chill is on the way. In fact, this might be the two weeks of really cold air that we need to get the shad kill kicked into high gear. More on that later as it develops.

If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip on the Caney Fork or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit my guide site for more information. The fishing is about to take off so don't delay in setting up your day of guided fly fishing!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Hiwassee River: A Return To An Old Favorite

Travelling northeast from Chattanooga, I was headed for the Hiwassee River. Back in college it had been my go to trout stream, partly because it was so close of course, but also, well, the mighty Hiwassee just grows on you.

Wide for a trout river anywhere, the Hiwassee is a tailwater, but a rather unusual one. Below Apalachia Dam (yes, that is spelled correctly), the streambed barely contains a trickle unless the dam is spilling as the majority of water is piped 8.3 miles downstream and released at the powerhouse where the best trout fishing on the river begins.

On low water, the Hiwassee River shows her teeth, but when the generators kick on, it becomes a rafters’ paradise with several companies running commercial trips on the river. The shoals still lurk just under the surface, which means that only the most experienced drift boat oarsmen should attempt rowing the river. I have seen it all including people floating down the river on blowup mattresses from Wally World. Thankfully, all of that nonsense takes place in warmer weather. In the winter, anglers pretty much have the river to themselves.

Driving east from Cleveland I noticed something that I had never seen before. The mountains appeared to have been frosted. Even more impressive was how distinct the apparent freezing line had been the night before. Big Frog Mountain to the east-southeast was so beautiful that I almost changed my plans for the day to go hike the mountain instead. At minimum, I was inspired to go do some winter hiking in the Smokies before things warm up. Much closer, Chilhowee Mountain just above Benton had just a little of the white stuff on its highest reaches. 


Continuing on north towards the Hiwassee River, I was counting on the fact that it was a weekday to have the river mostly to myself, but surprisingly there were almost as many fishermen out as I would normally expect on a winter’s weekend.

Driving slowly upriver with the requisite craning of the neck to look at the water, I came around a bend to find an interesting sight: the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) trout stocking truck. As they were just finishing up one stocking location, I asked if it would be all right if I followed them up and took some pictures of the stocking in action. They graciously agreed.


While we’re on the subject, for the record, I am not in the habit of following stocking trucks around. I remember reading an article once about trout warriors who follow stocking trucks around so they can do battle with trout as soon as the fish are released. Something about that strikes me as not quite sporting so I try to avoid even the appearance of evil being a trout warrior chasing rubber stockers.


I know this sounds like a lot of excuses for a couple of pictures, but you will have to trust me on this one. As soon as I got my photographs I headed upriver as far away from the stocking truck as I could get. I felt marginally better after catching a few healthy fish that looked like they had been in the river a while.

By the time I reached the turnaround, fishermen had begun to descend on the river. I passed several anglers on my way up who were working the accessible bankside water as they waited for the flow from the turbines to be shut off. My own preparations became more and more hurried as that moment loomed closer. Everyone’s goal was to be in position to fish their favorite spot before the water went off so they could fish as it fell out. After all, there is usually a flurry of feeding as the water drops.

My original hope had been to fish some shad patterns on high water. The stop to watch the stocking truck consumed enough time that I had no chance, so I rigged up for nymph fishing. A couple of standard flies under an indicator completed my setup, and I was soon slogging across a narrow side channel in the still heavy current. Right on cue the generators went off, and I started casting.

Trout were already rolling all across the river. Not seeing any winter stoneflies, I was left to assume that it must be midges. A short time later I finally saw some of the little bugs and had my suspicions confirmed. As the water level dropped, I was able to access more and more streambed. Wading aggressively, I was soon casting to feeding trout in deeper water. Strangely, the usual suspects were not appealing to the fish on this day.

Something of an “Ah ha!” moment took place, and I tied on a small white streamer that is always very effective for me during shad kills. Only a few casts later I had a solid hit and the first rainbow of the day came to hand. Apparently the trout have been seeing some shad.

After perhaps 3 trout on the white streamer, I changed over to a dry fly with a dropper. My normal winter setup on this river is a Parachute Adams. This fly does a passable job of imitating the winter stoneflies at least vaguely in shape and size, never mind the giant white wing sticking up on top. That part is to help me see the thing 60 feet away. Underneath I would normally drop a small midge, but instead I used a little bead head caddis pupa that you would recognize if you have fished with me before. The fly is the embodiment of simplicity so I do not mind losing one every now and again. In other words, a perfect guide fly.

Carefully slipping and sliding around the river bottom, I managed to scare up another trout or two before wondering how the water downstream was fishing. While I have fished a large portion of the river from well above the powerhouse downstream to Reliance and beyond, those excursions away from the upper river are the anomalies. I prefer the water from Big Bend upstream for a simple reason: that section has the highest concentration of trout in the Hiwassee River.

Accordingly, I was soon making the short drive downriver to fish a favorite area at Fox’s Cabin. This stretch of river produced some of the most epic match the hatch fishing I’ve experienced anywhere. Of course, the whole river was good on those days, I just happened to be fishing there. Still, a little nostalgia always creeps in when I fish there and remember the good old days. You know, my college years before the real world kicked in and started kicking my butt.

Anyway, so I stopped just downstream where I had seen the stocking truck earlier. There is a shoal that extends across the river there that I enjoy fishing when the winter stoneflies are out. By that time in the day I was seeing a few fluttering around and also some explosive rises.

As I waded in, I could not help but notice a large school of trout podded up near the bank. Apparently the stockers from earlier in the morning had survived their rough entry into the river. I did my part to help them disperse so an unethical angler wouldn’t come along and full up a couple of 5 gallon buckets with fresh stockers. To any onlookers, I probably looked a bit like a Labrador retriever who had not seen the water in a few months as I bounded through the water in pursuit of the terrified fish. My mission was soon accomplished though as the school scattered for safer habitat. The area duck hunters quit yelling at me to “Fetch!” and things quickly returned to normal.

Wading out across the shoal, I worked quickly towards the middle of the river to get away from those poor fresh stockers. They were still confused enough that I could have scooped them up in my net if I wanted.

I was catching brown trout, more than normal I might add, although it has been so long since I fished the Hiwassee I might just be remembering incorrectly. Lots of the fish were barely larger than fingerlings and a few could have convinced me that they were hatched in the river if I didn’t know that TWRA stocks a lot of fingerling browns in the fall. Hopefully those will grow up to be large predatory browns in the next few years.


The complete tour of the shoal was finished about the time the water came up from the afternoon pulse of generation. Heading a short distance upstream to the large pool at Fox’s Cabin, I fished a streamer rod in the heavier current for a while. My one reward was a chunky rainbow around 13 inches in length. Soon the pulse abated, and I worked my way back out on the water with the 5 weight again in hand.

Some of the prettier fish I caught on this day came after that afternoon pulse. Some of the rainbows were so pretty that it seemed a shame that they most likely would not get the chance to grow much larger. The delayed harvest season is on a bit longer, but when it ends there will be carnage on the streams that fall under this designation. This has more than a little to do with the fact that most Tennessee tailwaters do not produce as many large fish as they are capable of, but that is a topic for another time.

The pulse seemed to hang around longer than expect, but that was likely a product of the fact that I was not fishing immediately below the powerhouse this time. Water drains out fairly quickly on this river, but it still takes time for it to go somewhere. Slowly I worked my way out towards some deeper runs in the middle of the streambed, catching the odd rainbow trout or two along the way.


This set of runs has produced some fantastic fish for me over the years. On a day when I was just happy to be out, the magic struck again. A big boisterous rise got my attention across the pool I was fishing. I had just caught a rainbow from the near current. It was a pretty fish and I paused a moment to appreciate its colors. You never know when a fish will be the last one of the day, and I needed something to daydream about over the cold days ahead.

That big rise was across some dead water that was just past the current closest to me. On the other side of the dead water was a current seam along the edge of the dominant current flowing through this particular pool. Based on the rise, I assumed the fish had noticed one of the few stray winter stoneflies still fluttering around.

I made a long reach cast across, reaching upstream so my line would not drag immediately in the secondary current just beyond my rod tip. The dry drifted about three feet before I blinked. When my eyes opened again the dry fly was nowhere to be seen. There was a split second where I questioned where it could have gone before I thought, “Maybe I should set the hook, you know, just in case.” This scenario seems to be a more common ailment among fly fishermen than is generally acknowledged, but most likely more research needs to be done.

Over the years, this problem has reared its ugly head in some rather humorous ways. One time I was fishing the Caney Fork River when a drift boat with three guys came through. I have to say I was rather enjoying the scenery until one of the gentlemen yelled at me to set. At least I obey quickly. I landed that fish while guys probably thought I was the least focused fisherman they had seen all day. Now that I’ve guided a while I realize it is a universal problem. As a guide, I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve had to yell set. Of course my friends do it to me all the time when we fish together out of the boat. If you’ve found the cure, then I’m all ears.

Anyway, so as I was saying, my flies had disappeared, and when I set the hook I could tell it was better than anything else I had caught all day. The flash of buttery brown immediately had me wishing that I had brought a net. For some reason or another, my net had been left at home. Want a surefire way to hook a nice trout? Leave your net or camera at home, preferably both of course.

The dropper that the fish had eaten was dangling off of that Parachute Adams on 6x tippet. With all of the ledges and sharp rocks around I was nervous. I really wanted to see that trout up close!


To spare you the boring details, I soon guided the fish up onto a nice soft barely submerged weed bed that cradled the brown almost as well as my net. A couple of pictures later I held the trout carefully in the water. When the fish was ready to go there was no holding it back.


By this time the late day sun had moved well below the nearest hill and there was a definitely chill in the air as evening approached. The far hillside was lit with a warm glow that you can only get in winter. Reflecting off of the water, it gave the illusion of liquid gold flowing downstream below me.



Before calling it quits for the day, I decided on making one last stop at Big Bend to fish the bottom of the big shoals there. Several more browns made an appearance although none were as nice as the handsome fish I had caught further upriver. The late day sun was sinking even lower, so after a few more quick pictures, I decided to finally call it a day and head back to civilization.





These other recent posts on the Trout Zone may interest you as well. 



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fly Tying Google Searches Are Linked To Cabin Fever

Fly tying seems to be peaking in interest right now, and I have good solid data to back me up on that. While perusing the Internet late this evening, I stumbled onto this interesting page called Google Trends that allows you to see what people have been searching for.

Intrigued, I started checking out trends on some fly fishing related topics. One of the more troubling results was that, as a whole, searches on the topic of fly fishing have been declining for almost 10 years. That likely signals a larger decline in people interested in fly fishing which is bad news for the industry.

After getting a couple of obvious searches out of the way, I decided to type "fly tying" into the search box and see what happened. The graph looked suspicious and sure enough, upon investigation I confirmed that each peak in search activity corresponded neatly to the January/February time frame.


Notice that we are recently headed for our seasonal peak in fly tying interest. If this graph does anything, it makes me realize that I'm not the only one stuck at home with cabin fever. For the past 2 weeks I keep telling myself that I'll go fishing sometime soon. Every day I seem to find an excuse to avoid it.

I thought that the weather was going to finally break this week. Originally it looked like highs would be well into the mid and upper 40s which would allow for some decent fishing over in the Smokies. Unfortunately the reality turned out to be a little colder, enough so that we had a coating of ice on everything outside this morning. Freezing fog or drizzle or something like that according to the weather people.

So, instead of fishing, I'm sitting at home and tying flies. Just the fact that I had the time on my hands to research this topic tells me that I need to get out on the water and soon. Next week...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter Fishing in the Smokies


Winter fishing does not have to be all about frozen guides and numb fingers.  In fact, if you choose your moments, the fishing can be as good as during the warmer months.  This fact was driven home yesterday on a guide trip I had in the Park as well as afterwards when I fished a bit for myself.

Guiding in the winter can be a tricky proposition.  The generally cold water temperatures and sluggish trout means that the catching can be tough even for the best of anglers.  Over the last few days we have experienced a welcome reprieve with water temperatures at the Townsend USGS gauge flirting with the 50 degree mark yesterday.  That is almost always a good thing, especially this time of year.  When we hit the stream for a half day trip starting in the late morning, I was not sure what to expect.  When 2 of the guys had fairly hard strikes early on I was feeling better.  Getting new fly fishers on fish can be tough, but when the fish are hitting hard it helps a lot.

We finally hit up a pool that always holds a lot of fish and really started to do well.  In fact, the three guys took turns and caught a total of 6 fish out of that one hole.  The lesson there is that when you find fish in the winter, there will probably be several.  Wintering holes will have a lot of fish stacked into a small space.  Look for deep water with moderate to slow current with easy access to food.

By the time the guys had each caught a couple, I decided to head downstream to another section to see if we could find water where they could all fish at the same time.  We got on a few more good spots and landed another trout before we had to call it a day.  It was at this last spot that I started seeing the bugs hatching.  Midges were everywhere and some caddis were making an appearance as well.  I even thought I saw a mayfly but was not positive on that.


After dropping the guys off at their cabin and stopping by Little River Outfitters to see Daniel and Bill for a few minutes, I headed back up to the Park to see if I could scare up a few myself.  Sure enough, it didn't take long before I was catching trout.  Over the next hour and a half, I caught and released 17 trout.



The fishing was so good that I decided to see what they wouldn't eat and tied on a Green Weenie.  Sure enough, I kept catching fish.  I even had at least 2 solid strikes on the strike indicator which tells me that I could have caught at least a few on dries.


So, the other lesson for the day was that warm water will almost always be a good thing in the winter.  I think the best part about the water temperatures yesterday though was the fact that they had risen gradually and didn't need a big push of rain water to help them climb.  The fish were feeding like it was their last meal.  Maybe they knew it was about to get cold.  The temperature has been dropping steadily ever since and will through at least tomorrow.  I'm just glad I got to be there on such a good day!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Trending Colder

Today is cold, windy, and a bit damp.  Sounds like perfect weather for staying home, tying some flies and maybe having a hot beverage to help keep warm.  I'll be tying some musky flies for a trip I'm hoping to do within the next week.  Stay tuned for more on that!

As I peruse the area stream flow gauges, I see that Little River is down into the low 40s for water temperature.  The flows are actually very good, but with the trend towards colder weather I'm willing to bet that the fish are a little off today.  Earlier I received a report that Newfound Gap Road is temporarily closed due to snow and ice so don't think about driving over the ridge today.  The colder weather should hold on for a few days but by next weekend we should see decent conditions for fishing again.

Area tailwaters are running high across the region so check the generation schedule before heading out to fish.  A good alternative to the wild trout streams are the delayed harvest streams.  Even when it gets cold these streams fish reasonably well.  That is because the larger stocked trout still have to at least maintain their body weight.

Last Thursday I did some exploring around the Tellico area and found a good number of rainbows.  I caught several 10-14 inch fish on Wooly Buggers and Pheasant Tail nymphs and one that was a bit nicer.  The colors on this fish were simply incredible!  Don't be afraid to impart some action to the small streamers but the nymphs should be fished dead drift under an indicator (this can work for the wooly buggers as well).




Monday, December 01, 2014

Directions

Directions are essential to fly fishing.  Being able to follow even the most vague of directions can net a large reward.  You know the kind. Go 3 miles past the first pullout and park in that pullout overlooking the big pool with a large boulder on the far bank.  Walk upstream 300 yards and start fishing there.  Of course, there are other kinds of directions as well.

Recently, while fishing with my buddy Joe, it occurred to me how important individual rocks and logs are on the stream.  We were watching two large browns in a pool and trying to keep the hand gestures to a minimum so as not to spook them.  See that reddish brown rock that is really flat? About halfway across and slightly upstream?  Those types of directions can be confusing at first, but as you start to really see the bottom of a trout stream, those directions make more and more sense.

Just the other day I came across the ideal direction rock, one that is easy to pick out and isolated enough so as not to be confusing.  What made the view even better was the more subtle direction rock also included in the picture.  If you were standing with me looking at this run, I'll bet you could pick out the nice bright quartz rock.  Just below it is a strip of reddish brown bedrock.  Using the quartz to help locate the bedrock makes the whole process much easier.  Such are the directions you might receive on a trout stream.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Already?

After an early declaration of fall, I'm also ready to make an early announcement for winter.  At least the early fall announcement was merely a few days early.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on who you are, this winter business is starting more than a month earlier than the official start on December 21.  In case you need some convincing, here are some pictures from our 3 inches of snow on November 1.  Oh, and this next week will feature another cold Canadian airmass with highs struggling to get much out of the 30s by late week.  Is winter really here or just a strange fall?  Only time will tell.  Regardless, I'm still plotting on taking some late season fishing trips.

Yep, 3 inches exactly. 


The snow was wind driven, sticking to the sides of the trees for a beautiful effect. 


This tomato looks like it is wearing a white hat.  It just needs eyes and a mouth! 


Needless to say, the peppers were a little shocked. 


A few hearty trees were still holding on to their green outfits. 


There is nothing better than a silent forest after a snow fall.   


Fall, meet winter. 


This tree had a lot of snow stuck on the windward side. 


I found a leaf that had stuck itself into the snow on the deck railing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BRRRRR

The frost this morning appeared as promised, but thankfully it doesn't seem to have hurt anything too badly.  We don't have too much green around here yet.  The trout streams are probably having a much tougher time of it.  Take a look at this temperature graph from Little River just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Talk about falling water temperatures...that is a continuous drop of close to 15 degrees, and a drop from the highest recent temperature of more than 15 degrees.  I would be willing to bet that the fish might be lethargic to start things off today simply because of the drastic change.  Fish don't like huge fluctuations in temperature or water levels very much and will normally take a bit of time to adjust.  The good news is that the general direction of the water temperature is most important.  We should see temperatures begin to increase shortly as the stream receives full sun exposure throughout the day.  Once that temperature starts to rise, then the fish will be happier for sure.

In other news, it looks like I might get out on the water.  The Caney Fork is showing a 5 hour window without generation so someone clearly needs to go investigate to see how things are on the river.  Hopefully I'll have good news!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dogwood Winter

Right on cue, as the dogwood in our front yard started to bloom, an epic cool down arrived.  After temperatures in the 70s for several days, waking up to snow flying outside my window was a rather abrupt reminder that spring temperatures are never particularly reliable.  Indeed, even now, the snow is nearly gone after covering everything this morning with a fresh coat of white.  Temperatures should warm into the 40s before tonights hard freeze.  Some of the plants are already looking tired and cold while others are still trying to act as if spring didn't hit the pause button.

When I got up, I grabbed a camera and headed straight outside.  Around here you never know how long the snow will hang around.  Now I'm glad I was in such a hurry.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

The woods received a fresh coat of white.

The maples are wishing they had waited a few more days to leaf out. 

The daffodils are already feeling pretty cold. 

Forsythia brings some bright cheer to an otherwise drab day. 

Ground with lots of sun exposure was still warm enough to melt most of the snowfall. 

Redbuds are just starting to bloom.  The ones who haven't are probably much better off now.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Silver Ribbons and Red Stripes

As my last day in Colorado rapidly approaches, I was wondering if I could squeeze one last day of fishing in.  A short hike combined with fishing seemed ideal.  South Boulder Creek (SBC) just below Gross Reservoir is the perfect place for this type of trip so off we headed for another adventure.  The stream was still running ice free thanks to the recent warmer weather.  The winds that brought the warmer temperatures had me concerned but were forecast to die down in the afternoon.

Reaching the parking lot and seeing only two other cars, I quickly rigged up with a small caddis pupa and a Zebra Midge.  A small pinch-on indicator above seemed appropriate and then we hit the trail down.  As the stream came into view, I was amazed out how much ice had melted since my trip last Wednesday.  Of course, the first section you see gets a lot of sun exposure so that explained the lack of ice.

Staying high above the creek, we turned downstream. I was heading for a section of nice pools that should hold plenty of fish in the winter.  Looking back upstream, I paused to take in the beauty.  The stream looked like silver ribbons running down over the rocks as the afternoon sun through light across the bottom of the canyon.


Eager to fish, I quickly continued downstream.  The pool where I had caught several fish last week already had another angler in it, but the pool just below didn't.  After several drifts with only one small rainbow striking and missing the hook, I decided to continue downstream.

The next pool was another favorite.  Last fall I spotted a 16 inch brown spawning in the back of it so I suspected that there were good fish somewhere nearby.  The fish were holding tight to structure and under the fastest water in the deep holes so my luck was not the best...yet.  As I fished, my girlfriend had fun with her camera.  I'm fishing somewhere here...

Photo by Catherine McGrath

I really like how this stream shot came out that she took. Notice that in this more shaded section the ice was still holding on along the edges.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

As I fished up around the bend, a nice slow pool looked like the perfect hiding spot for a trout in the winter.  I tossed the flies and indicator in and then crouched behind a boulder to keep from spooking the fish.  The indicator swirled around a couple of times before being pulled under.  I set the hook and was happy to discover that I had finally hooked a fish!  The rainbows here are incredibly beautiful.  They all have these magnificent red stripes down their sides, even the little guys.  It can be hard to believe that some of the stocked specimens I have caught in my life are even in the same family as these wild rainbows.


With that first fish out of the way, I now wanted to catch one or two more before calling it a day.  The next pool upstream seemed like just the place to do that.  As I fished, I had lost track of where my girlfriend had gone with her camera.  It turns out she was getting some more cool shots that I can't get on my own.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

Right after this shot, on the next cast, I tossed my fly over next to the boulder against the far bank.  There just had to be a trout under that rock.  Sure enough, the indicator dove and I quickly realized that the fish I was now fighting was in a different class from the first trout.  As the fish ran around the small pool, I just let it run and tire itself against the spring of the rod.  I didn't have a net and was taking no last second chances on losing this beautiful trout.

After a couple of pictures, I released my new personal best rainbow from SBC.  Even on a day when the flows are low, a few fish can be caught and a good time had.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

This fish was the perfect way to end my last fishing excursion here in Colorado for this trip.  I was thankful for the two fish that had graced the end of my line.