Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Friday, January 02, 2009

First Trip of the Year

The first trip of 2009 is now complete. Originally I had planned to try and make it to the South Holston River yet again but today it didn't work out. Fate conspired against me and in the end I headed over to the local state park to try for the recently stocked trout. Overcast skies promised a decent opportunity to catch some fish.

When I arrived at the lake, I took my time rigging up. My old leader was badly in need of a replacement so I got out a new one to start 2009. One of my favorite flies for catching stocked trout in stillwaters is the Simi Seal Leech. I tied on a beadhead version in black and red and wandered down towards the water.

Normally there is a good bit of surface activity on this particular lake but today it was dead. Below the lake is a creek that provides a change of pace and I decided to start there. After 15 minutes of beating the water I begin to suspect that maybe none of the fish had come over the dam. Just when I really was ready to try another spot I got a hard bump. Refocusing, I enjoyed the swish of the line through the guides while shooting line to put my fly on the other side of the creek.

After several casts and a few more bumps I began to get tired of continually missing fish. A deep spot downstream caught my eye and I moved towards a logjam that had a bunch of foam piled in front. My first cast produced an explosive strike which made me wonder if there were larger than normal fish in here. After several more casts I finally hooked up with a trout that had an attitude. Guiding it in close to the bank, I soon released the first fish of 2009!


Four fish later, I called it a day, glad to have enjoyed a couple of hours on the water. The Simi Seal Leech accounted for all 5 fish and most took it hard in a convincing manner. While not the South Holston, it was a pleasant alternative to the three hour drive. There's always another time for large fish. The Caney is starting to provide a few opportunities for wading if you pick your time carefully. Of course I'll be floating it and throwing streamers sometime soon as well. The next few months provide some outstanding fishing for those willing to brave the cold...

Going to Yellowstone Next Summer?

Winter is the time to dream about the trips you took over the course of the previous year. It is also time to plan the trips for the upcoming warm months. Last summer I travelled to Colorado again and while I had a great trip, it just wasn't the same as Yellowstone. For the last couple of months I've been dreaming about fishing Yellowstone for awhile next summer. Early season on the Firehole is a great time and while Tennessee bakes in 90 degree heat, you can be happily fishing during a PMD or BWO hatch in 50 or 60 degree weather. There are several lakes that I really want to visit again including some that hold grayling. The question now is, will I actually be able to safely visit Yellowstone?

Over the last week, many small earthquakes have been shaking the Park. While not unusual for such a geologically active location normally, the recent earthquakes have been a bit out of the ordinary due to their frequency. There is one possible good that may result from the tremors but this is just a strictly uneducated guess. As I understand it, the Firehole River did not always warm up as much during the summer. Back in the 1970s, a particularly active period geologically caused some of the hot springs to begin pouring even more warm water into the river. Now it would be great to have the opposite happen. If the current tremors could shake things around so not as much warm water is running off into the Firehole, it might help the fish survive through the long hot summers in better shape. Now that I've said that the opposite will probably happen but let's hope not...

Anyway, for those that are interested, you can find more on this story here...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008: Great Year or Not

Soon I'll be posting a 2008 year in review but until then, I want to know how the year was for you. I just put up a new poll so you can put in you vote for how the year went. Personally I had a good year including the most days on the water in a year. This next year may not include as much fishing since I graduated and now have to get a real job. It is all about maximizing the quality of one's time on the water. I guess I'll be switching to quality over quantity at least for a few months.

If your year was amazing, reply here and let me know why it was great. I want to hear your best stories from the year. Did you finally get that monster fish or perhaps make a trip you've been planning for years? Also if it was bad for some reason tell me why...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More New Blogs

I just added a couple more blogs to the links list so check them out... The first is High-Noon Trout and is a blog on trout fishing in the high Sierra. Someday I hope to do some extensive fishing in California including some backcountry trips into the Sierras so this blog will be providing some incentive to do that trip. The other blog is Tar Heel Fly Fishing based out of North Carolina and the author is a young fly fisherman that also happens to enjoy the weather apparently (another hobby of mine) so it should be an entertaining read. The author is also a Carolina Panthers fan but I'll try not to hold that against him. Anyway, give both of these blogs a look...

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas to everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my blog! This has been a great fishing year for me and thanks for letting me share my favorite moments on the water with you. Here in Tennessee we have been getting one of the best Christmas gifts of all in the form of plenty of water. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the ongoing drought. Yesterday I took a drive up to the Smokies to check on a few streams and take some pictures. Here is a sample of what I saw on Little River...


Just above Metcalf Bottoms...

Water over rock...

Just above Metcalf again...

Sheet ice after the puddle drained out...

Another view of the run shown above...

Head of the big run...


Fresh beaver cutting on the April Pool

April Pool

The remains of the April Pool beaver dam...

Another view of the beaver dam...

Plenty of water now...

Cold day on the river...

Near Elkmont

Just below Elkmont

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trouble at Kingston Coal Plant

If you live and fish in East Tennessee, there is a good chance that you've fished the Clinch River at some point. The river was one of the better tailwaters in the area for many years before declining. Lately it seems to be on the comeback trail probably largely due to new special regulations such as the ones that have made the Caney Fork such a spectacular fishery. Just when things were looking up, news of a potential environmental disaster is coming from the very banks of the river. The Kingston Coal Plant is a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal-fired powerplant that apparently just polluted a rather large area.

According to the story from CNN, a large area of sludge broke free from the containment area, eventually covering around 400 acres in the potentially hazardous material. While TVA officials say it can't yet be called toxic,

One environmental attorney called that statement "irresponsible." The ash that gives sludge its thick, pudding-like consistency in this case is known as fly ash, which results from the combustion of coal. Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic and benzine, said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.


Wow, mercury, arsenic and benzine...sounds great for the Clinch. Fortunately for the trout fishery, this spill occured well downstream of the prime trout water. Still, as the Clinch is a major tributary to the Tennessee River, this is clearly a bad situation. Of course, I'm probably a little more bitter than normal since TVA is generating on most of the area tailwaters making a tailwater trip highly unlikely in the near future (unless its the SoHo)...that and the fact that the spill has already been killing fish in the area... I guess at this point the best thing to hope for is that the cleanup can be done quickly and thoroughly...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Big Browns and Small Streams

This fall has been a great one for catching large brown trout. The Caney was phenomenal albeit a bit crowded at times. The Clinch produced good fish and the Cumberland was spectacular as should be expected. Unfortunately the hopeful end of the drought has also coincided with increased generation be TVA on the tailwaters throughout the region. One of the only tailwaters with a reliable schedule for fishing lately has been the South Holston River.

During the past week, I've fished the SoHo twice and found good fish both times. Local anglers have been catching fish up to 15 and even 20 pounds and while I never saw any of the real behemoths, I did find plenty of willing fish and even a few good fish.




My best fish was a female of around 20 inches that took an egg pattern as soon as I got a good drift. I landed another very large male that was not fair hooked so this fish does not really count but was still a beautiful fish that I enjoyed getting to see up close. I had spotted a really good fish but couldn't see it very well. Casting just above where I thought the fish was, my line went tight almost before the flies hit the water. I reacted by setting the hook into what turned out to be the wrong end of the fish. After following the fish downriver, I got it under control and managed to remove mine and some other flies as well that the poor fish had picked up somewhere. This was the last fish of the day and while I enjoyed fishing for large tailwater trout, I'm really missing the simplicity of a small stream, a 4 weight and a handful of dry flies.

While dry flies may or may not catch fish, I'll likely head for the mountains soon where I can hone my skills on the wily rainbow, brown and brook trout that inhabit the streams of the Smokies. This winter I've set myself the goal of unlocking the secrets of fishing the freestone streams in the winter. The fish clearly still have to eat and I'm set on figuring out how to catch lots of fish in the cold weather. James Marsh over at Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains has provided some inspiration with entertaining articles in his Fishing Journal. Recently he had a series of articles on fishing cold water in the Smokies that will be a good starting point for my experiments. I'm fully convinced that if one is willing to change tactics, catching lots of fish in the winter on a freestone stream is not out of the question...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Poll

Yet another poll is up and this time I'm asking if you are going to take vacation time to fish around the holidays. It seems the rivers get crowded around Christmas and New Years Day. Is that just my imagination or maybe everyone is just fishing on the weekend. I've got to say though that it sure feels like people are out fishing during the week a lot. Anyway, vote in the poll and if you have any really cool trips lined up leave a comment here and let me know where you're going... I'll probably head for upper east Tennessee and probably the Smokies as well over the next few weeks. The Caney will be blown out for awhile so a trip to the Hiwassee might be in order as well...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fluoro For Bigger Fish

Our most recent poll closed a couple of days ago and the results surprised me a bit. I honestly did not expect to discover that nearly a third of you use fluorocarbon tippet for all your fishing. Well over half are using it for at least some of your fishing while just over one quarter of you don't use it at all.
It took me a long time to start using it and lately I've been using it more and more. Two summers ago I started using it when a buddy recommended I get some for the Frying Pan River in Colorado. My first spool was Seaguar Grand Max in 6X andit is still the best I've ever used although quite expensive. The beauty of using Fluorocarbon is that it supposedly is harder to see underwater compared to standard monofilament. Even better, it is stronger than comparable mono. Lately I've switched over to the Rio Fluoroflex Plus which is almost as good as the Seaguar. It is also a little cheaper which is good for the money starved trout bum. Cheaper here is relative and a good spool of fluorocarbon tippet will generally set you back $10 more than a comparable spool of mono tippet.

So now the big question, is it really worth it? After catching lots of large trout over the last two years, I'm really becoming a believer in the stuff. I've lost an unbelievable number of good fish due to the 6X monofilament breaking but have yet to break off a good fish on fluorocarbon tippet. A few weeks ago, I fought a monster brown on the Caney for several minutes before losing it. The line just went limp and I was sure it had broke off. Reeling in I discovered that the large fish had just straightened the #14 hook. A fish large enough to straighten a #14 hook is a big fish but it did not break the 6X tippet. On the initial run the fish headed straight for a large log and I was forced to apply a lot of pressure. With monofilament I have no doubt that I would have broke the fish off. So again, I ask, is it worth it?
Here's a few reasons I think it is...




End of the Drought?

After two major storms systems this past week, the southeastern United States may be well on the way to recovering from the ongoing drought. Here in Tennessee, three day rainfall totals were upwards of 4 inches across a wide area with some places getting even more. Area streams and rivers are flowing high and strong again for the first time in awhile. Center Hill Lake has come up 6 feet in the last 4 days meaning the Caney Fork will be unfishable for wade fisherman for quite awhile. Little River in Townsend peaked at over 3000 cfs and is still flowing well above normal. The forecast for the next week calls for more rain so things are definitely improving.

That's fine with me as the well-known tailwater has been getting hammered for the last several weeks and this should give the fish a chance to grow without the constant fishing pressure. This time of year often brings on a shad kill meaning those that want to brave the high flows and rip streamers might catch a large fish. Right now it might be a little two high. I'd probably wait until they cut back to one generator but then it should start to get interesting. The fish will be even stronger due to the high flows.



The weather situation out west is encouraging as well. A quick check of the National Weather Service homepage shows winter storm warnings, blizzard warnings, and winter weather advisories across much of the west . Forecasts for the entire Rocky Mountain region from Arizona and New Mexico north to Montana for the next week indicate several strong storm systems will traverse the region over the next several days. Lots of snow means a good fishing year next summer so the more the better!

Back on the home front, big things are happening this week. I will finally be graduating from college with a B.A. in Mathematics, a Minor in History, and secondary teaching credentials. In celebration I'll probably be doing my fair share of fishing this next week including another pilgrimage to the South Holston River in search of the monster browns that make this tailwater famous. The last trip did not produce any monsters but this week should be better...