Featured Photo: Native Colors

Featured Photo: Native Colors

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Can't Get Enough

The Cherokee catch and release section is getting addicting. On Friday afternoon, I made my third trip over there with my buddy Travis from over at The Fishing Fanatic. While driving through the Park, I started looking over the various park waters carefully and realized that it is time to fish for wild fish. However, the large stockers are a lot of fun. While the fishing was slower as compared to last time, it was still a blast.

Right before quitting for the day, I got my Palomino for the trip. Those are a lot of fun to catch but obviously get pounded since they are so easy to spot. The fish I landed wouldn't really move to eat. I had to force feed it by by drifting my nymphs almost into its mouth. The fish moved probably 2 inches to eat which helped explain why the fishing seemed slow. When they are not moving to eat, you have to fish thoroughly.

Overall, while it is a lot of fun, I'll probably be sticking to the Park for awhile now. A Tennessee tailwater or two might also be in my near future along with a smallie excursion. I can't wait to try some new stuff out and as always, you'll be the first to hear about it...

Travis Reynolds photograph....

What Fish See

Ever wonder why the fish panic right before you net them? If you stuck your head out of the water and saw what they see, you would panic also...


Finally, the water is getting warm enough that the bass are getting active. I made it out with my new Elkhorn reel and sinking line to throw streamers. After lots of follows and short strikes, a fish finally made a total commitment. After posing for a picture, the fish swam off to keep growing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tippet Poll

There is still about a week to vote on the poll. Lots of you have voted already which is great. If you haven't voted yet, the poll is over on the right side of the page and asks which brand of tippet is your favorite. So far, it looks like the majority of you fish either Orvis or Rio tippet. I've used and am currently using a combination of both. There are some other great brands out there though...

Coming soon, I hope to have some more warm water reports. I've got some new flies to test out and still need to go back to catch the nice bass I saw cruising the banks a week ago...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time To Speak Up

Alrighty folks! Its that time of year when TWRA is soliciting comments from anglers who fish in Tennessee. You can simply take a few moments to send an email with any suggestions that you might have for improving any of the fisheries in our state.

Personally, I have suggested continued improvements on the Caney Fork River. My main points are:

-Increase the number of trophy browns in the river with either a slot limit (i.e., 16"-22" like they have on the SoHo) or increasing the minimum size limit to 20" or 22".
-Increase the retention of trophy fish by either limiting fishing during the spawn or requiring catch and release (I realize that these are not likely but its okay to wish).
-Adopt a minimum size or slot limit (preferably the slot) on rainbows.
-Increase enforcement on the river, especially during the spawn when the large fish are so vulnerable.

If you fish the Caney and want to see more and healthier big fish, please let TWRA know. I'm in no way opposed to folks taking a few home but it would be nice if they are taking home fish that are a little larger so there are plenty of 18"-24" fish in the river. This river can support a lot of very large browns if we just release them until they have grown sufficiently. There are plenty of rainbows for those that want smaller fish to eat.

To send your comments, send them to TWRA.Comment@tn.gov and put "Sport Fish Comments" in the subject line. The comments are due this month so take a few moments to let your voice be heard...

Thank you to everyone that cares about our rivers, lakes and streams and takes time to offer comments on improving these fisheries!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Trophy Water

Fishing stocked water for large fish is a lot of fun although the level of satisfaction from catching one is not as great compared to a wild or native fish of similar proportions. During my weekend in the Smokies, I was unsure what I wanted to do on Sunday but was excited about the prospect of fishing the trophy water on the Cherokee Reservation again. Still, I woke up Sunday morning without being positive of where I wanted to fish. There are so many fun streams on the North Carolina side of the Park that do not see nearly the fishing pressure as compared to the Tennessee side, and I always enjoy the opportunity to explore these various streams.

The call of big dumb stockers was strong though and I decided that it was worth the $7.00 for a daily permit to fish the catch and release water. To fish this water you need a special permit on top of the daily permit but I had already purchased one on a previous trip. The catch and release section permit is good for one year. After stopping at Big Don’s to pick up the permit, I headed up to start fishing. After examining all the places to fish I settled on a relatively uncrowded section (often difficult to find).

Looking the water over, a certain pool jumped out at me and I worked my way over to check it out. There were several nice fish feeding in this pool and I set about trying to catch some. My standard rig in the catch and release water is a double nymph rig that matches whatever naturals should be in the water. At this time of year that includes stonefly nymphs, Blue Quill nymphs, Quill Gordon nymphs, and midges. More mayfly species should start hatching any day in the mountains and nymph imitations of them should be working as well. A bead head pheasant tail nymph seemed appropriate as it does a great job of matching many insects potentially moving around this time of year. I dropped my “Trophy Section Secret Fly” off the back and started fishing. Not too many casts later I hooked the first fish of the day, a nice rainbow.

For the next couple of hours it was game on. I found fish in a lot of obvious places as well as some not so obvious places. I got frustrated over difficult fish that would eat but I couldn’t get a good hook set on. I was surprised by the size of fish that came out of some spots and also very pleasantly surprised to catch a few wild fish (browns and ‘bows) in addition to the stockers.

After fishing a long stretch of water, I headed back for the car and a snack break. Catching lots of good fish is tiring business and I needed some nourishment for the afternoon’s fishing. After eating and hydrating, I decided to look at the rest of the Catch and Release water to look for something different. I found a lot of nice water but lots more fishermen and a distinct lack of quality fish. Apparently they aren’t everywhere. Back to my morning stretch it was and thankfully no one had moved in yet. Fishing through the same stretch yielded more good results. Finally, as the day wore to a close I found myself on what had been crowded water earlier in the day. I stuck a few nice fish and then moved up in search of the Palomino rainbows…

There were several out actively feeding in addition to lots of big rainbows. The first rainbow I cast to ate and took off on several runs while my reel screamed. After following this fish downstream, it eventually broke me off so I headed for the bank to retie. The next rig was successful as well but it took awhile to get that first fish on. Finally I hooked and landed a rainbow of around 20 inches as well as a brook trout and started thinking about the Palominos again.

One particularly nice fish had moved out of the deeper water to feed midstream. I had been watching the fish for awhile and pondering how to approach it. Spooky fish don’t react well to lazy fisherman and by this point in the day I was feeling pretty lazy. A couple of casts in its general direction earlier had caused it to drift downstream another 10 feet or so before getting back in the chow line. After thinking over the situation, it became obvious that I needed to approach the fish from upstream. Feeding mends into the line as it drifted downstream would get the fly down to the appropriate depth.

What I had not counted on was the indicator spooking the fish. These fish see plenty of those so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. After the fish moved over a couple of feet, I realized it was going to take something just a little different. The occasional rise from the fish let me know that it was looking up so I decided to use the traditional wet fly swing. One of the flies I had on was a soft hackle so I figured it just might work.

I cast across and slightly upstream so the flies would have plenty of time to get down. As they approached the fish, I started to slowly raise the rod tip and gave the line some very subtle twitches. The fish moved up in the water column to investigate and began to follow. I felt the first slight bump but waited until the fish had fully taken the fly before setting the hook. In this type of fishing, the biggest mistake is to set the hook as soon as you think the fish has opened its mouth. Since you are standing upstream, too fast of a hook set will invariably yank the fly out of the fishes mouth. For once, my timing was perfect and the fish was solidly hooked. After a battle that left my rod arm exhausted, I netted the beautiful hook-jawed fish and took a couple of pictures before releasing it back to be caught another day. This was the high point of the day and I decided not to ruin it by fishing more. I took some time to soak in the moment, the warm sun, and the beautiful scenery. There’s nothing better than standing in a Smoky Mountain trout stream and I wanted to remember the trip for a long time to come…

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Persistance Pays Off

In my opinion, the largest difference in fishing ability is strictly a result of persistence. Perseverance is what separates the men from the boys, the posers from the real deal. Those that put in their time learning a stream and how to fish it are invariably the most successful fisherman. My buddy Joe Mcgroom is one of the most dedicated fisherman I've ever met. He will spend as much time looking for fish as he does actually fishing, sometimes even more. When we fished together and he finally caught the nice 13 inch brown on Little River, I got to watch him in action and see how he would approach a difficult fish.

Recently he found a nice brown trout on Little River. Of course, there are good numbers of nice fish but knowing that they are there and actually finding them are two distinctly different things. This past Monday, amid cold temperatures and intermittent snowfall, he decided to try and catch this fish. The horrible weather conditions made it uncomfortable for him, but the fish felt safer with the low light. Here's what happened next:

I spotted the fish in the same position as the last time I missed him. After rigging up my nymphs, the fish started to rise periodically. I switched to a dry but was unable to get him to eat anything. It snowed the whole time on me, and my hands were going numb from changing flies so often. I tried just about every nymph and dry in my box until he finally rose to a small, dark dry fly. After several tense jumps and a brief run, I netted the fish, took a couple pictures, and released it.

When I talked to Joe after he had caught the fish, the excitement in his voice was obvious. I would have been excited also if I had caught a 17" brown on Little River after working as hard as he did. Despite making it sound almost routine, Joe worked this fish for over 2 hours before hooking and landing it. Most people would have given up long before, but he persisted and was amply rewarded...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Big Day

The second and feature day of our weekend trip was to fish a special section of Deep Creek. We intended to do some hiking and fish a section that is a favorite. The main wrinkle in our plans was the cold night temperatures. First thing in the morning I took the water temperature at the Deep Creek Campground. The chilly 43 degree reading had us extremely nervous about the prospects for the day.

Cold water is not necessarily bad for trout. A lot of people think that the fishing is bad once the water temperature is too low but this is not quite an accurate generalization. The real detrimental factor is a huge fluctuation in water conditions, whether it is changing water levels or a large change in the water temperature. Rising water temperatures are often good early in the season but a large drop in temperatures can put the fish down. Despite the cold start, the forecast high was in the upper sixties under mostly sunny skies.

We started the day hiking in to where we wanted to fish. On the way up we stopped at a couple of spots to see if the fish were active yet. Large numbers of midges were on the water, but the fish did not seem interested. Considering the hike, we were a little nervous about the overall fishing for the day but hope springs eternal and we pressed on. Finally, we found what we were looking for. A beautiful stretch of dry fly water was just begging to be fished. At our last stop I had tied on a pair of nymphs but the sight of such nice water quickly convinced me to tie on a dry. The fly of choice was a #16 parachute Adams. I slowly worked my way into a nice shallow riffle but could not get a rise. The deeper part of the run looked good with a midstream boulder creating a perfect pocket.

My first cast was too close to the faster current but the second one was perfect. The fly slowly danced tantalizingly in the dead water behind the boulder and then it happened. A dark shadow materialized from the depths and inhaled the fly. The hookset was perfect and a nice little rainbow was dancing on the end of my line. At this point in the day, we were both quite relieved to see a fish so we took the necessary “first fish of the day” pictures and then watched the fish dart back to the bottom.

Joe Mcgroom Photograph

Moving upstream, we saw a few more fish but none of them seemed particularly enthusiastic. Good numbers of bugs were hatching, most notably several large Quill Gordon mayflies. Rummaging through my box of dries, I found the perfect match and tied it on. Immediately the fish were all over it. I couldn’t keep the fish off. As we continued upstream, I caught lots of fish while Joe was struggling to get any to rise. Finally I offered to give him a fly like I was using and that did the trick. The fish were keyed on Quill Gordons. The rest of the day was spent tossing big dries to hungry fish. Over the course of the afternoon we both lost track of how many fish we caught but agreed that it was plenty.

The biggest surprise of the day was that the majority of the fish we caught were brown trout. I always catch plenty of browns on Deep Creek but normally they aren’t the majority. This made the day even more special. The final pool of the day was the same place that I caught my nice 19.5 inch brown last summer. I was really hoping to find this fish again since it should be over 20 inches by now but it didn’t want to come out and play. We were both tired from the hike and our feet were a little sore because we wore our wading boots for the hike up. It had been a perfect day of fishing and we weren’t going to push our luck.

As we headed back down the trail, we spent some time discussing the days fishing and everything we had learned about early season fishing and hatches. I was also thinking about the next day’s fishing with visions of big fish dancing in my head…

Fishing On Arrival

Upon arrival at Deep Creek, I immediately strung up a rod and headed out for some fishing. The opportunities were somewhat limited early in the trip since the creek was up due to the recent rains. My buddy Joe Mcgroom and I headed up stream from the campground to a certain pool that we wanted to fish thoroughly. The first item of business was to look for nice fish. Higher water levels often bring the big fish out to play so we were hoping for something special. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. There were lots of fish feeding but nothing unusually large. I headed up stream a little ways and found some beautiful pocket water that yielded the first fish of the trip, a chunky rainbow. As the sun sank lower in the west, we headed back for camp and a warm meal, anticipating the next day’s fishing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Standing in Deep

My long awaited trip to the Smokies finally happened! I met a couple of fishing buddies for a weekend at Deep Creek Campground. Thursday and Friday brought a lot of rain to the mountains causing water levels to be just a little too high for optimal fishing. We made it work though and even found some good fishing. Best of all, the bugs were hatching, the fish were keying on Quill Gordons, and we caught plenty of fish on big dries. Life is good!

Self Portrait on Deep Creek

More coming soon including good times catching big fish...