Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Observe, Analyze, Plan, Execute

Some of my most memorable fish have come when I’ve had to work for them. Size doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with making a fish memorable. One of my more memorable fish this summer was just a small brown trout. I remember that fish well for a reason. I caught the fish by formulating and following a careful yet simple game plan.


Often a fish is memorable because of a great cast. Several years ago I was fishing a stream “somewhere out west” that also happens to be one of my favorites all time. The stream had trees lining the banks so the casting conditions were very similar to my home waters here in the Smokies. I had spotted a nice 14 inch brown rising just upstream, but the fish was in a very tough spot to cast into. A branch was hanging low over the stream directly above the rising fish making the presentation difficult, at least to me at that stage in my fly fishing career. The cast would obviously need to be punched up under the limb if I wanted any chance to catch the fish. My first cast was perfect with the fly landing far up under the tree and miraculously not snagging on the foliage. The fish did its part by casually eating the fly and soon thereafter I briefly admired a beautiful wild brown. I’ve caught many browns since then and will no doubt catch more but I’ll always remember that fish with a sense of accomplishment.


Catching a memorable fish generally comes down to the ability to carefully observe and then analyze the situation, planning the presentation, and executing the game plan. Another brown was memorable more recently. Once again it was not for anything particularly great, just a feeling of accomplishment when everything came together exactly as I had planned.

A small deep pocket caught my eye as I moved up the stream while fishing near Elkmont. I knew there had to be a fish lurking because of the depth of the pocket and the quality of water around it. There was just one problem. A branch was lodged between the rocks in the pocket leaving a decent piece of water to present a dry on but no room for error once a fish was hooked. Only one solution would work. If a fish hit, I knew my only chance would be to pull it all the way out of the water and into the main channel where there was room to maneuver without the fish snagging on something in the stream. My first cast produced an explosive strike from a 7 inch brown. The hookset was perfect with just enough extra power to lift the fish away from the potential hazard. If I had let the fish run back into its home it would no doubt have snagged the fly on a branch and escaped. Instead I had a picture and a memory…



Friday, July 04, 2008

Don’t Take My Picture!!!

When I go fishing, I almost always carry a camera. One never knows when the perfect photo op will present itself, and of course there is always the possibility of catching a truly memorable fish. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about photographing fish however, it is that you can never expect a fish to just roll over and pose.

This presents a problem for the conscientious angler: how do you achieve the balance between getting the perfect shot and yet not compromising the life of the fish in the process?

There have been times where I’ve caught a nice fish but because of a variety of factors decided the shot was just not worth it. Perhaps the fish was acting severely stressed or the water temperature was quite high. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t play the fish fast enough and it just needs to be returned to its natural state as soon as possible. Often though I manage to come up with a decent picture.

There are a few things I try to keep in mind with respect to the health of the fish. First I always wet my hands before touching the fish. Too many times I’ve seen first hand the ugly result of improper handling. The fish will soon have nasty white spots where the mucous membrane has been damaged or removed if you are not careful. Second, I try to keep my fish in the water as much as possible. Many of my shots are taken with the fish laying on its side near shore, and these shots are always done either with the fish still lying in shallow water or on a wet bed of moss or grass. Fish should never be placed on dry dirt, rocks, or anything else streamside. Finally, I try to keep fish off of rocks that are not either in the water or more than a couple of inches from the water. If the fish starts flopping it can hurt itself if it doesn’t reach water immediately. Once again, the great shot is just not worth killing the fish.

Of course, sometimes in the excitement of the moment you still place fish in a less than ideal position for the photograph. I’ve done it plenty of times myself but by trying to remember the fish, you can usually get a good shot and keep the fish in shape for the next contest.

Fish are not always cooperative for pictures. Often they remind me of a young kid that is camera shy. I’ve got some hilarious pictures over the years when a picture was taken just as the fish bolted for freedom. This summer I’ve already had some pretty good ones. Maybe these are the best pictures of all. I’m left with a funny memory, because after all, it is supposed to be all about having fun…

A fish makes a bolt for freedom...


The fish leaps just as the picture is taken...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Favorite Fly Line

Our new poll is about fly lines. I'm wondering which brand everyone prefers to use. Personally I've been using the SA Mastery Trout lines for awhile but decided to try out the Rio Gold on my 5 weight. So far it has only seen action on the water once, but it seems like a good line. So, what brand are you using the most?

Getting Bigger

Fishing is all about having fun which should mean just getting out and enjoying the time on the water. Sometimes I just want to catch some big fish though. This summer I've been hoping to find a good brown out feeding. So far it hasn't happened but the fish I'm catching keep getting larger, slowly but surely. I've been consistently catching rainbows up to around 10 inches with some slightly larger, and last night I caught a better than average brown.

It was around sunset and I was on the last pool of the day. I leisurely fished my way up through the pool, catching a couple smaller rainbows before getting up to the head of the pool. An overhanging tree limb was in my way but I decided to force the issue. There was a rock with a deep slot up against the far bank which just looked fishy. Carefully I checked behind me for trees before picking up my line. The forward cast was perfect as I punched it far up under the branches to the upper end of the good lie. Suddenly there was a swirl as something took the dry and it was game on. The brown gave my 3 weight rod a good workout running up and down the pool but in the end I prevailed. Carefully I snapped a quick picture as the 11 inch brown came to hand, then I gently picked him up and held him facing the soft current. Apparently the fish still had some energy and after a couple seconds, he bolted back to the shadowy depths of the pool called home.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Poll

Well, the latest poll resulted in a tie between "Elkmont Evening" and "Caught!" so I decided to put both of them up. "Caught!" went in the normal "Photo of the Month" spot and "Elkmont Evening" is to its right. Thanks to everyone who voted and please watch for our next poll!

Ending the Month Right


A Caney brook trout swims away

The month of June ended with two days of fishing for me. Sunday I fished the Caney Fork along with everyone else in the state of Tennessee and also those that are flocking here from other states to partake of our excellent fishing. That river is a total madhouse on weekends, and I suspect it is staying fairly busy on weekdays as well. With the odd generation schedule lately, wadeable water is hard to come by making the few places where you can effectively wade excessively crowded. I probably won’t fish it much more until the weather cools and some of the crowds start to diminish.

Releasing a nice Caney 'bow


Despite the crowds the river is still fishing extremely well. I broke off two large fish and am starting to think that I’ve somehow been cursed when it comes to catching big fish. I’ve either stung or hooked and lost some very nice fish each of the past several times I’ve been on that river but have yet to actually land one. Hopefully all the missed fish will add up to some good luck in the future.


The interesting side note to the day occurred while fishing up near the dam when I heard a noise off behind me. I turned around to see an animal ambling along up the shore in my general direction. After doing a double take I verified that, yes indeed, it was a raccoon. Seeing these things out wandering around in broad daylight always makes me a little nervous about their health and well-being but this one acted basically normal I suppose.


Monday evening again saw me on a stream, this time Little River here in the Smokies. After I got off of work at LRO, I grabbed a snack and headed up into the park to see what was going on. Driving slowly up the river, I took the time to stop and sample several spots above Metcalf Bottoms and finally ended up above Elkmont for the evening finale. The fishing is still holding up and should actually be excellent for the next several days as we go into the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Most trips are yielding some better than average rainbows up to 10 inches and even slightly larger.



The weather forecast holds some good news as well. Starting this weekend we should have a chance for showers and thunderstorms for several days. Every little bit helps and will keep the fishing good.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Photo of the Month: New Poll

Our newest poll will allow you the readers to vote for the picture you want to see at the top of this blog for the next month. Vote soon as I'll be updating the blog and pictures soon and the poll will only be open for a couple of days.

To vote, simply go to the poll on the upper right side of this page and click on your favorite and then hit "vote."

Here are the pictures you will be voting on:

#1 Mountain Solitude



#2 Water's Dance



#3 Caught!


#4 Elkmont Evening

#5 Smoky Mountain Speck

Updates

Since I'm home for the weekend, I've finally been able to have a little "Internet time" for myself. At work I have time to post new blog entries and check my email but that's about it. I've been catching up on some of my favorite sites on fishing in East Tennessee and the Smokies including Hugh Hartsell's site and also one of the best on fishing in the park, Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains by James and Angie Marsh. There are several great updates on their site including a new section that will apparently be developed over time about fishing the headwater streams in the Smokies.

They have a new contributor to their site that is helping with the headwaters page. His name is Craig Lancaster and he is a die-hard fly fisher that often hikes into some of the most remote streams in the park and surrounding areas in search of solitude. In addition, Craig has a new blog which looks like it will be very interesting to read.

If that's not enough reading material, I should have a few more updates soon. I've got a book review to do on The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace With the World (which was very enjoyable to read by the way), and tomorrow I might make another Caney Fork trip although the generation schedule is not the best. Also I've decided to make an effort to try and catch some of the larger browns in the Little River watershed so I'll let you know how that goes. Finally, before my time in the park is over, I'll make at least one weekend trip deep into the backcountry. I have a couple of ideas on where to go but nothing definite yet. Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Drought Continues...Maybe...

The latest drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is not painting a pretty picture for extreme eastern Tennessee and surrounding areas. A small bullseye seems to be centered on the Smokies for the drought to "persist." The other day here at Little River Outfitters, Byron Begley brought an interesting fact to my attention. The current streamflow is actually lower now than it was at this time last year. That can't be a good thing.



Thankfully, we may at least get some short-term relief. Starting today we have rain in the forecast with the best chances over the weekend. Right now, anything will be better than nothing...

Whack a Rainbow, Save a Brookie


This past weekend I stopped by a small brook trout stream that I like to fish. For the first time ever I caught several rainbows. An occasional rainbow is to be expected in this particular water, but unfortunately there were a few more than would qualify as “occasional.”

The first real pool I fished was loaded with fish. My first cast to the middle of the pool resulted in a flashing strike. Looking forward to admiring a brook trout, I quickly brought the fish to hand. I was surprised to discover a rainbow on the end of my line. One rainbow in a pool with 6-8 brookies had beat all of them to a supposed item of food. I’ve always heard that the rainbows out-compete the brook trout here in the Smokies streams but that was easily the most obvious instance of this I’ve ever experienced.


I’m starting to wonder if a policy requiring fisherman to kill rainbows in certain stretches of water might not be a bad idea. In Yellowstone National Park you are required to kill all lake trout you catch on Yellowstone Lake. Perhaps something similar might be beneficial to our special brook trout here in the Smokies…

Oh yeah, despite the rainbows, I still caught several brookies