Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Late Fishing Report

Last Thursday I decided to go up to the Smokies for the day and it turned out to be an excellent decision. The fishing was very good with lots of insect activity and the water temperature was in the low to mid 50's. My best fish of the day came from a pocket that I had spotted good fish in before but hadn't hooked any out of it yet. Thursday turned out to be the day though. I was fishing a double nymph rig with a large stonefly on top and a Tellico dropped off of that. As usual, I was fishing without indicators using the highstick tightline method that is so productive in the Smokies streams. I lobbed my heavy rig up into the pocket that had a nice little eddy and watched as the line drifted around. Suddenly it seemed to hesitate and I quickly set the hook. You never know if it is snagging the bottom or if it is a fish so it was nice to feel something move on the other end. At first, I thought it was a nice rainbow of perhaps 12 inches or so. It didn't feel particularly heavy at first but as it ran downstream, I tried to stop it and met firm resistance. "Maybe it is a nice rainbow" I thought. Of course, I had been hoping for a brown but the glimpse I got lead me to believe it was a rainbow. Once it started bulldogging though, I realized it was probably a brown. I pressured it more than I should have been on the 5X tippet but everything held and soon I had a nice brown to hand for a quick shot.


The rest of the day continued to produce very good fishing with lots of rainbows and one more brown. All but one fish came on the Tellico nymph and the other one hit a softhackle I had tied up the night before. The average size of fish was particularly good also with most of the rainbows in the 9-12 inch range which is good for the Smokies.




Later in the day, I had a "situation" which proved disastrous for my camera so I won't be able to post pictures for at least a week or two as I shop for a new one. I fortunately was able to recover the pictures from Thursdays trip from the memory but otherwise, the camera is dead.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Rust and Spring Hatches

The long hoped for spring hatches have arrived in the Smokies!!! They will only get better over the next few days. I fished Abrams Creek today and spent a bit of time on Little River as well. The caddis hatches on Abrams were spectacular. It was definitely the closest I'll ever be in the Smokies to a blizzard hatch of caddis. There were thousands of the bugs filling the air along with Blue Quills, BWOs, and a few Quill Gordons. The fish are still a bit slow to respond to the feeding opportunities however. I think they need another few days possibly before they start keying on the dries consistently. There were plenty of risers to keep me occupied but I had to search them out instead of just picking any spot I wanted. I picked up a few fish on nymphs and a few on dries today.


Luckily for the fish though, I didn't catch nearly as many as I should have considering the excellent conditions. As happens every year, it appears I have some rust I need to get off. The stocked fish of the tailwaters I fish through the winter have made me lazy yet again and I have slowed down a lot. That's fine as long as I stay on the tailwaters, but when I start trying for wild fish in the mountain freestone streams, I must be on top of my game to succeed.

By the end of the day I was getting disgusted with myself for my lack of ability in the catching department. Despite catching several fish in the middle of the day, I couldn't buy a fish later in the day. I even found all the BWO's that Tom Chandler of the Trout Underground has been looking for all winter on his home waters, the Upper Sacramento in California. They apparently all came clear across the country just to grace us with their presence and the fish were rising enthusiastically to the little rusty spinners. I tried to catch the risers but failed miserably. Things looked much better when I tied my nymphs back on and I started sticking fish left and right but still could not bring one to hand. It was probably just as well as I was getting quite frustrated. I know it was in the fishes best interest.

Really, I can't complain at all. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 60's and the water is warming enough to get the spring hatches rolling. However, I DO still have a bit of rust to get off so I'll be heading back to the park as soon as possible which will probably be next weekend but I may sneak off one day this next week.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Footballs

Today I decided to not go to the Smokies. I've had a bad cold and wasn't feeling that well but by afternoon, I was feeling good enough to make the short drive down to the Caney Fork. I arrived and immediately noticed that a lot of gulls were flying around below the dam and on downriver. The first thing I thought of was a shad kill.

I started fishing below the dam and soon caught a brown. After working the run thoroughly, I finally decided to go up to just below the dam where I saw numerous fish rising. I waded out and started casting. This area is somewhat like a shallow lake with almost no current. Fishing here is a waiting game. You try and cast in the vicinity of where the fish are working but then you just let the dry and dropper sit until a fish discovers it. Usually a take is fairly obvious with the dry sucking under. After a few minutes of casting, I finally had a hit and immediately had a strong fish on. After a nice battle on the three weight, I brought to hand a VERY chunky football shaped fish.


The rest of the time continued in much the same way. I caught several fish including a few more footballs. The last one I caught was spitting up half-digested shad in large quantities, losing a lot of girth in the process. There were plenty of dead shad in the shallows as well. The fish that are eating the shad are extremely fat and should put on a lot of weight quickly which is good news for those of us that fish this river. I have seen some pictures of very large browns caught in the last few days so this is an excellent time to be on the river.


If I am feeling well in the morning, it is off for the Smokies so hopefully I'll have another report tomorrow afternoon or evening!!!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

HI Day

Today was the time for yet another trip to the Hiwassee. I've enjoyed my time on that river but I'm really getting the itch for small wild trout in the Smokies. The good news is that the fish are looking up now on the big HI. I fished with my buddy Trevor today and stuck to subsurface flies for awhile. In the meantime, he was showing me up by using an assortment of dries which the fish took with gusto. The fish were still taking the Simi Seal but it was obvious that what they really wanted was something on top. I eventually fished a dry for awhile and picked up a few fish that way.
Lots of bugs were on the water today with the stoneflies and midges making up the majority. I also saw a larger MAYFLY, not one of the common cool weather BWOs. The midges were fairly large, probably a #20 or #22. Late in the day the fish began taking them and provided some fast-paced action on Zebra Midges with the odd fish taking the parachute Adams.

As I said, it was a good day but it is time for some WILD fish... Thursday I'll be working on scratching that itch so check back soon...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Going Out On a Limb

I'm going to stick my neck out a bit here and make a prediction: The good fishing in the Smokies will start next week!!! Several factors influence my thoughts on this. First and perhaps the most obvious, it has to happen eventually and we are moving into the time that the big spring hatches have started historically. Second, this week is my spring break and I NEVER have good fishing conditions during spring break, it is a curse I guess.

Of course, the curse usually means that the week before and especially after (next week) break will be epic... This curse is real, honest to goodness. The last big rain event we had brought up the water level in Center Hill Lake to the extent that they have been generating 24/7. Before my break, it was fishable all day every day and I was making plans to hit it hard this week. Instead, I'm forced to go fish the Hiwassee...be sure and check back tomorrow night for a report.

Back to the more important great fishing looming just around the corner, the third reason is that the weather pattern is forecast to progress so we will be seeing warmer weather by next week. Will it be warm enough to kick off the hatches? Here at the Trout Zone we think so and are already planning to be in the Smokies at some point that week and perhaps that weekend. Bring your Quill Gordons and Blue Quills and be ready for some fast-paced action!!!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Getting Reacquainted

New streams are always fun. You never know what you will find on new water. Old streams are nice also though...the ones that you could fish in your sleep. Some places I can tell approximately the size of fish that will be caught beside a certain rock. Today was a day for getting reacquainted with a favorite river. It has been altogether too long since I had fished the Caney Fork. I knew that with all the rain over the last 24 hours, most of the river would probably be discolored at best and most likely just plain old muddy. However, a short section up near the dam is unaffected by tributaries and after briefly trying farther downriver, I started fishing immediately below Center Hill Dam.

The water was very cool as I waded to where it was about waist deep just below the dam and began casting. Some fish had been sporadically rising so I knew they were there. Despite the windy conditions, I was soon slinging my line out in the vicinity of the occasional rises. My offering....the usual rig I start with on the Caney, a dry with a zebra midge dropper. I had been casting for probably 10 minutes when a fish discovered the zebra suspended under the dry and quickly inhaled it. I raised my rod and had an energetic rainbow dancing on the other end. As usual on the Caney, I immediately overestimated the size of the fish I had on. It was pulling like a freight train and I just knew I had hooked a solid 16 inch fish. After several nerve wracking runs that had me fretting about the 6X tippet, I finally brought a 13 inch rainbow to hand. I quickly slipped the hook out of its jaw and watched as the fish darted away. Another 20 minutes and I had another fish on, comparable to the first.

I was enjoying myself but curiosity overcame the fact that fish were there and biting and I decided to wander downstream a bit. After an hour of looking around and missing a couple of fish, I worked my way back upstream to just below the dam. A good midge hatch was underway and the trout were reacting by feeding a bit more. I was soon working a good run that I knew had some nice fish in it and quickly had a fish on. The 10 inch rainbow was released and I started working the head of the run.

My cast landed as soft as a feather and I intently watched for signs of a take. Suddenly, a couple of feet downstream from my flies I thought I saw the flash from the side of a nice fish. "Steady," I told myself, "wait for it." Just as my dry floated over the spot, it vanished as the fish took the zebra midge dropper. I gently raised the rod and knew immediately that I was into a fish a bit better than the 12-13 inch fish I had been catching. The first hard run was capped with a spectacular leap as the fish sought freedom. It was soon followed by a second and third leap and I was getting nervous. Would the tippet hold against so many strong runs? I kept turning the fish as it tried to run and slowly worked it towards shallow water. The vivid colors were incredible and all I wanted was to snap a couple of quick pictures of this beautiful fish. Finally, the stars aligned and I brought the fish to hand. It was colored up nicely, probably because it is the spawning season. After getting a couple of pictures, I eased the fish back into the water and was glad to see it rocket away back to its hole. I tried fishing for a few more minutes but knew that I should be getting home. This fish was enough and I decided to quit bothering the other fish for the day. I think I'm going to have to continue getting reacquainted again soon though!!!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Its On!!!

The Hiwassee is fishing well again finally! After a few outings where only a few fish were caught, today was a great day!!! I stuck to fishing nymphs all day, trying to get back the magic in time for spring break. The water temp was right around 50 degrees all day which I'm sure helped a lot. The fish were feeding very actively. I caught fish mainly on a black simi seal leech and a bead head pheasant tail nymph. Since spring break is approaching, I'll soon be doing a lot more fishing so stay tuned for much more excitement, hopefully including the start of SPRING HATCHES IN THE SMOKIES!!!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is it Spring Yet?

As spring break approaches, I have been hoping that the spring hatches would start and be in full swing by the first week in March. Despite some promising trends, it appears that the water temperatures are just not quite going to make it to the magical 50 degree mark just yet. However, we will have some rain moving in over the weekend here in East Tennessee and if we are lucky, it will be a warm rain and boost the water temps into the "good" zone. Will it be enough to get the bugs going? We can only hope...

Thankfully, the lack of strong hatches doesn't mean that fish cannot be caught. I made yet another trip up to the Hiwassee yesterday, this time only for a couple of hours. Once again, the generation pulse made for some fine dry fly fishing. There were more of the little stoneflies coming off than before so that is a good sign. The water from upriver has warmed a bit also which definitely can't hurt. The fish feasted heavily on the stoneflies for the first part of the pulse and then as the water slowly dropped back out, they started keying on a good hatch of TINY midges. Anyone that enjoys fishing very tiny flies to picky risers should try fishing the midge hatch on the Hiwassee. Of course, as always, evening on the Hiwassee is awesome!!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Fly Fishermans Best Friend and Worst Nemesis

The weather. It can make or break a fishing trip. For that matter it can make or break an entire season or year of fishing. For example, in the west, the winter snowpack is crucial in providing plenty of water for the rivers in the summer. A low snowpack and a hot summer can spell disaster for a trout stream. Lately, I have been anxiously watching the winter snowpack reports for the western US. A quick glance at the maps that display the mountain snowpack as a percent of the norm is disturbing. (Additional snowpack products may be obtained here)In the map above, reds, oranges, and yellows represent below normal snowpack. Much of the western US is having a below average to much below average winter for precipitation. With the trip I hope to make to Yellowstone and surrounding areas, I have been nervously watching as the drought monitor continues to indicate abnormally dry conditions throughout much of the west including the greater Yellowstone area.

The first half of the winter I didn't mind the unusual weather associated with El-Nino. Record warmth occurred throughout the eastern United States providing dependable fishing here in Tennessee during months that are traditionally a bit slow due to cold water. However, our fortunes have reversed and we have experienced much below average temperatures throughout the southeast for several weeks now, putting a damper on fishing. Thankfully, it looks like we are headed towards a warming trend by early next week. I'm hoping it brings on the spring hatches in the Smokies. Hopefully the west will get a lot more snow before winter is over as well....

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The River

I ran up to the Hiwassee again yesterday evening. The temperature is forecast to be rather cold for the next few days and I wanted to get one last afternoon of fishing in while it was still nice out. I arrived just a little while before the generation pulse and as soon as the water came up, I started casting to rising fish.


I managed a few fish before the water went back down and things slowed again.

Evening on the river is always worth the drive, even when the fishing is a little off...