Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Monday, November 27, 2006

Regaining Confidence

After a fairly slow day in the mountains on Friday, I was looking to catch a bunch of fish. I noticed that the generators would finally be off on the Caney Fork and decided to head down Sunday morning. Being a bit lazy, I didn’t get to the river until around 9:30. There were plenty of fish working and some midges hatching so I tied on my trusty zebra midge and started to catch fish right away. I never had to try another fly the whole time. There were some good sized browns working that I watched for awhile but they never ate what I was throwing. My catch consisted of about 50/50 ‘bows and browns which was nice since I normally catch more ‘bows. The best fish of the day was a nice brown right around 16 inches. Anyway, enough talking and on to some more pictures…

Friday, November 24, 2006

Cold Water

One of the crucial elements of a good trout stream is cold water and lots of it. Unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing. I was fortunate enough to fish in the Smokies today for the first time in awhile. The weather was perfect but the water was frigid. The water temperature was in the low 40's which is borderline for making the fish lethargic. It didn't take too long to decide that I would be drowning nymphs today and accordingly I started trying various flies, a George Nymph, PTs, a Copper John, a GRHE, and finally went back to the old standby, a Tellico. Almost immediately I had a hit and finally landed a whopper, four inches long. Over the next few hours, I landed 5 more fish of which the two largest were around 9 inches. Considering the conditions, it was not all that bad. The water was still up higher than I like and all the fish were hunkered down deep. There were decent numbers of midges, small caddis and BWOs hatching in the afternoon but I only saw one fish rise the whole day. Best of all, it was a beautiful day out so I really can't ask for more! The weather is supposed to stay beautiful for the next several days and I might sneak away one day next week so check back for updates soon...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dreams of Summer

As a college student, I am fairly busy from late August until early May. I still fish an inordinately large amount of time but not as much as I would like. When summer rolls around, I normally have to find work to make money for another year of school. However, I can usually squeeze in a trip or two to somewhere out of the ordinary. A couple of summer ago I was fortunate enough to spend time in Yellowstone and the Black Hills. This past summer I landed a job in Colorado that let me fish Blue Ribbon trout streams every weekend. With visions of giant trout rising lazily to inhale any fly I offer, the trip planning commences once again. As anyone that has been there can testify, Yellowstone is beckoning me to its world famous waters. If at all possible I have to return to the Black Hills as well. This will be the third time if I make it. Colorado was great and I would love to explore a little more thoroughly, particularly in the San Juan Mountains. I have some tips on a high country lake that produces lots of 20 inch plus rainbows and willingly at that. The only downside is the 17 mile hike it will take. I have never fished in Montana so that is another place on the list to visit sometime. Even Arizona holds a special place in my heart and I could spend weeks there. I could go on and on about waters I have fished or heard amazing things about but that isn't getting me any closer to the elusive trout that live in them. The cold days I spend on the water in the coming months will be warmed by my dreams of summer. During the days I can't fish, it is time to start tying flies and making concrete plans for the now annual pilgrimage west in my quest for that perfect day on the water.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

SE Tennessee Small Streamin'



I could not stay in any longer. The temps were reaching well into the 60’s and even 70’s the last several days and I knew the fishing would probably be on fire. A small wild stream came to mind that had been a goal to fish for awhile. I did not know what to expect from this stream but had a good idea what it might be like.
The fall colors were excellent but the drive still seemed a little long. After driving for what seemed like an eternity, I finally came upon the creek. It was a small tumbling mountain stream with plenty of nice small pools. After finding a good place to park, I walked back downstream and began fishing. A small parachute Adams seemed like a good way to start and I soon had the first monster on, all two inches of fighting rainbow.
I had several more hits from very small fish so I decided to go subsurface. When in doubt, I find myself tying on a Tellico more and more and that is exactly what I chose. I immediately had a 6 inch rainbow on and things were looking a bit better. I worked through a couple very nice holes and caught a few more.
My best fish came after seeing the fish follow the fly before fading back into his hole. I stealthily worked my way much closer to the deep pocket I saw the fish go back into and lobbed the bead head back in and let it sink straight down. The line twitched and I set the hook, energizing this nice little rainbow to make several jumps before being brought to hand.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Nice Day

The sky was heavy with dark clouds that flew from horizon to horizon. A gentle rain had been falling all morning and I was hoping that some good browns would be on the move. The river was low and clear and things were looking up. I decided to head up higher to water that was all wild fish and see what happened.
A Tellico tributary was my goal and I flew along, over and around the ridges. As I approached the bridge where I would first see the river, I noticed that the water looked awfully swift. Sure enough, the stream was high and off color. After a brief stop to make sure it wasn’t worth my time, I decided to head towards the upper Tellico and maybe some more tribs. High water seemed to be the theme of the day until I saw a stream entering the main river that looked semi normal. It was up and stained but not chocolate milk. “The fish should be feeding….” I thought to myself.
I was soon in the water with a fish on and things were looking up. However, I couldn’t keep any more on long enough to get a good look at them. Finally, the thought came to me to do some exploring so I headed to higher elevations in search of a brookie. The normally small trickles that originate high on the mountains were a lot higher but not too dirty. I had a few hits before I landed my first monster brookie! A solid 2 inches!!!
Happy that I caught one, I almost quit for the day but decided to try a couple more holes. I found a nice spot where a tiny feeder creek entered. My nymph was lobbed up into the small pool and the line came alive. “That’s a nice rainbow for this little stream” I mused. When I saw the fish, I had a pleasant surprise. It was another brookie and this one was a fat 8 1/2 inches. The day suddenly seemed brighter as I slipped out the hook and watched the fish fade back into the pool…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Convert


The Smokies are beautiful this time of year. The leaves are changing and it seems like everyone within a days drive of the park is here to look at the colors. The fishin' ain't bad either! Since it was fall break, a camping trip seemed in order with a healthy dose of fishing planned as well. My cousin wanted to come up for the weekend and I finally convinced him to try out fly fishing also. He was a natural from the start due in part to lots of previous spin fishing experience. After a quick demonstration to show him the method we would be using, he started fishing. Within 5 minutes, he had his first fish on!
He caught a few more fish and is now thoroughly hooked. Being his first time trying to catch trout on the fly rod, he did exceptionally well. Many people find the Smokies fish to be a bit challenging at first but he was fishing like a pro in no time. Of course, I had to catch a few fish myself as well but none were particularly noteworthy this trip. I'll have to go again in a couple of weeks to try and catch some more large browns so stay tuned for more!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Memories of Summer


As always, this summer was very memorable for me. I was fortunate enough to land a job in Colorado in the Gunnison vicinity close to hundreds of miles of trout streams and numerous still waters. Every fly fisherman dreams of taking trips to the locations described in the glossy pages of fly fishing magazines and I was going to work within a couple of hours of several such famous streams.

Of course I had to fish the Gunnison and its famous tributary, the Taylor River. Other lesser known streams would also provide some spectacular moments in the wilds of Colorado. I could tell story after story of various fish caught and almost caught. There was a 20+ inch rainbow I fought on the Taylor for several minutes before the tiny midge popped out. Wild brown and brook trout taken from pristine trickles high in the Rockies and then returned to the ribbon of liquid silver they called home. Then there was the 20 inch brown that sipped a CDC BWO emerger pattern when I did not have a camera with me.

Three excursions in particular stand out as high points to my summer fishing. One was the large brown. The next was a day trip into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I finally convinced some friends that they would enjoy the killer hike 2000 feet straight down into the Black Canyon in the National Park. We arrived streamside and I rigged up while they searched for a good place to swim. I had a couple of bumps on a softhackle and finally landed a small brown but I know it should be a lot better. I finally tied on a Copper John and that turned out to be the ticket. I lost count of how many fish I landed, all browns (above-left) except for one beautiful rainbow (left). The fish were all very strong and full of fight.

My final weekend provided the last great memory. Native Cutts!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Back to the Caney

I was fortunate enough to get out and fish again this last weekend. The Caney Fork had been on my mind for awhile so I drove down Sunday for a few hours of fishing. When I arrived, the water was still falling from the morning generation so I started in the large hole directly below the dam. Things were fairly slow even though I saw some fish working from time to time. I finally moved on downstream and was into fish quickly. The zebra midge came through again, but I never could really get in the zone with one color combination. I would catch a couple and then things would slow down. As soon as I tied another color on, I would usually be into fish again for a few minutes. This continued for most of the afternoon. All in all it was a slower day with probably 10-15 fish to hand. The weather couldn't have been better though so I'm glad I went.

A highlight of the day was seeing some huge browns up in the shallows. There isn't any natural reproduction in the Caney but apparently the fish are still trying to go through the motions. They were exceptionally spooky and I couldn't get any of them to eat my flies. Maybe I'll just have to go back soon...

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Smokies Rock!

I returned last afternoon from an epic weekend of fishing in the Smokies. I skipped my last class on Friday afternoon to make it up to Elkmont with plenty of time for some evening fishing. I set up camp and drove back down Little River and started fishing a hole that has always been kind to me. I caught caught a couple rainbows that were decent. I then cast to the other side of the main current, threw a quick mend to set up my drift and the rod almost got jerked out of my hands. I soon had a gorgeous 13 inch brown to hand that I quickly admired and then slipped back into the waters that he called home. "That was the high point of my weekend" I thought, which was too bad since I had only just arrived. I fished on upstream and finished with around 15 trout caught for an hour and a half of fishing. I started suspecting that since I did not have a camera, the whole weekend would be amazing as far numbers and maybe even size. Little did I know what the next day would bring!

Saturday I woke up and decided to try some new water. I drove over to Greenbriar and parked at the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead. I started fishing upstream from the bridge at the trailhead and fished between a mile and a mile and a half of water. It seemed I could do no wrong. I caught 40+ fish, mostly on a beadhead Tellico nymph but several also came on dry flies. I caught probably half rainbows and brookies with lots of nice sized fish mixed in. I had several rainbows in the 9-11 inch range and a couple of 8-9 inch brookies. I finally decided I was done battling the stream, which was probably the most difficult to traverse that I have ever personally fished. There were tons of huge boulders blocking upstream progress and several times I almost thought I would have to go back all the way downstream to the bridge to get out.

After returning to my car, I headed back over to Little River. Maybe, just maybe I would catch another nice brown. I started fishing a Tellico deep through I large hole when my line just stopped. I quickly set the hook on what I was hoping wasn't a snag. Sure enough, I felt a good-sized head shaking and soon had a 16 inch brown just long enough to slip out the fly. Shaking with excitement, I moved lower down in the pool and caught a small rainbow before moving back up to the head of the pool. I tried the same spot and had the same result, except this time when I set the hook, I didn't feel anything moving. "Oh no, here we go" I thought. I jerked again hoping to set the fly free when something started moving. "There is no way" I mused, but the fish seemed very real as it started surging toward an overhanging ledge underwater. I stressed the 4x tippet as much as I dared and eventually worked up another good brown, this one going 18 inches!!! I originally thought it was 17 inches as I measured it against my rod. I used to have marks on my rod so I could quickly measure a fish but they have worn off. After measuring my rod again, I realized that I caught my first 18 inch brown this weekend!!!

I think the solution to catching big fish must really be to go without a camera. It worked great for me this weekend, and I think it might be foolproof. I will have to test my theory by always taking a camera from now on and seeing if I ever catch good fish again. I will be back soon to fish the fall hatches. This is my favorite time of year and I will be on my home waters as much as my classes allow me to!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fall



Fall may be my favorite time of the year to fish, perhaps in part because I catch so many fish then, or maybe because the weather is cooler. Regardless of the exact reason, fall is a special time of year when I roam the streams in search of trophy fish.

Sometime, hopefully soon, I will find that one large fish in the Smokies that is willing to eat my fly. Having often spotted but never hooked the large browns that prowl Little River, I have never experienced the rush of adrenaline from hooking one of those monsters. This summer I hooked my second legitimate 20 inch plus brown, but not on my home waters. So now, as the weather cools, I am preparing to once again attempt a shot at the large fish in the Smokies. Maybe this will be the year I hook my first large brown. If not, I will still enjoy fishing my favorite water at my favorite time!