Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back Again!!!

Christmas in the Smokies 2009 is officially over. I had a great time hanging out with the family and even snuck out for a few hours of fishing but all good things must come to an end. The park streams were tough to fish most of the time due to very high water but I still managed to find fish. Sometime in the next day or so I plan on getting a complete report up, but in the meantime, here's a picture of Little River at Elkmont from Christmas day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Went Fishing!!!


Recently stocked rainbow trout are generally not the first thing I think of when I want to go fishing. In fact, they are probably towards the bottom of the list...most of the time. However, when the cold arrives for winter, it is nice to go somewhere close and just catch a few fish. Here in Tennessee, TWRA has a special winter put and take stocking program that provides trout fishing options for people in places where they normally wouldn't be able to catch trout.

Locally, Cumberland Mountain State Park provides just such an option. When it gets cold and I'm too lazy to drive to the Smokies, I can be fishing in twenty minutes. After I catch a few, then its back home for a warm meal and something hot to drink. As much as I like dedicating a whole day to fishing, sometimes the close trips are the only option. I can go for a couple of hours after work if I don't have to drive very far. The days are too short right now to drive more than half an hour or so after work...

The fish are definitely not large but still a lot of fun. Starting tomorrow I'll be in the Smokies for a few days. I'll get at least a little fishing in so hopefully I can catch some larger fish while I'm over there. My buddy Joe Mcgroom caught a nice brown recently so there are fish to be caught if you put in your time.


Joe's Nice Brown

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Big Brown

As many of you have probably noticed, I'm partial towards brown trout. There's nothing like a big brown being brought to the net for excitement. Probably it is the challenge they present since browns are notoriously spooky and often hard to catch. Today, while checking all my favorite fly fishing sites, I came across a picture of a monster over at the Trout Underground. When I say monster, I'm talking about a fish that could just about swallow the first section of a four piece rod, most likely with the reel still attached. It is fish like this that keeps my going back, hoping that someday it will be me...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Finals Madness

This past week has been total madness. Administering and grading final exams is definitely not very high on my list of most enjoyable activities. In fact it didn't even make the list. It has been two weeks since I was last able to fish, and I'm starting to feel withdrawal symptoms coming on. This weekend will include exactly zero fishing, but next week things will start improving.

My family will be staying in the Smokies for three nights including Christmas, and naturally I can't be that close to the Park without doing a little fishing. This time of year can be quite fickle if you are interested in actually catching fish but it is far from impossible. Even on the coldest days you can often find rising fish if you put in enough time looking for them. My buddy Joe Mcgroom has been doing well on better than average browns with some new techniques so hopefully I'll be able to meet him to chase some monsters.

I intend to devote this winter to fishing the Park. I had already made this decision a few months back, but the relentless rain has made it the logical choice. The area tailwaters are all blown out and look to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Right now, the only thing holding back full blown withdrawal symptoms has been the memory of yet another first, and 2009 has definitely been the year of firsts. The most recent was my first walleye. My secret striper spot has now yielded up many different species from trout, to stripers, and now the walleye and seemingly everything in between. I was quite pleased to catch the walleye, especially since it was caught by sight casting (my favorite way to catch fish!!!). Apparently my shad pattern works on fish other than stripers and that's a good thing. This next week I hope to finally get up the promised pictures of this pattern along with lots of other goodies. With a little luck, I'll have some great fish tales to tell in another week or two as well!!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How Big Was It?

Fisherman are habitual liars and that is part of what makes our sport fun. Large fish always seem to grow even larger with each telling of how they were caught. There's nothing like a big fish to generate a good fish story. How often have you been telling a buddy about catching a big fish complete with pictures only to have them doubt that the fish is really as large as you claim? Many people are just too polite to do such a thing, but others can be downright ornery about it. Not too long ago I found the perfect solution to this problem.

A few months ago, I was making a routine stop by Little River Outfitters when Daniel Drake told me he had something for me to try out. Upon returning from the back of the store, he handed me a device called the Handi-Measure. I had seen pictures of the product before but never actually tried one. Basically it is a tape measure that attaches to your net. When you catch the fish, you can simply pull out the tape while cradling the fish in the net and get a measurement.

Since Daniel gave it to me, I have found myself using it more and more when I want to know the length of a fish. To me, it is a lot easier than carrying a measuring tape in a vest pocket and having to rummage around for it while the fish is wondering what just happened. If you have been looking for a good way to measure your fish quickly and efficiently, I would highly recommend that you check out the Handi-Measure.

Back on the River

Photograph by David Perry


Initially I did not plan to fish this past weekend, but when David Perry from Southeastern Fly emailed me to see if I wanted to float, I couldn't refuse. Recent reports coming from the river have been distressing, and we both wanted to see what the situation really was. When Sunday morning donned cloudy, my expectations immediately went up. I was hoping to find some big browns willing to chase streamers.


By the time I got to the river to meet David, the clouds were starting to think. By the time we made it up to the dam to launch, the clouds were giving way to sunshine. Still, we were excited about the potential for the day. To get things started, we headed up to the base of the dam and looked for big fish feeding. After checking the sluice (and finding it a bit dirty), we finally headed down into the main river channel to start floating. As we worked our way down the river, I noticed that others were catching fish which was a good sign. We both had fish within a reasonable amount of time although it wasn't on fire either.


As we continued on down the river, we found plenty of rising fish, but in general there was no consistency at all to their rises. When I find a fish that rises consistently, I will stop and fish for it. We did this for a couple of fish, but I was too lazy to tie on the tiny midge dries that worked well for me last time I was on the river. I took over rowing duty for awhile and watched as David worked the water with his indicator rig. We were seeing a few fish but just not as many as what should be expected. After he caught a few, we switched places again.


Just as I was starting to get concerned about the lack of larger fish, we discovered a large pod of risers with some better heads showing each time the fish rose. A big head almost always indicates a larger fish. I cast my nymphs and indicator just upstream of the risers and watched as the indicator twitched and then slowly pulled under. The hookset attached me to a bulldogging brown that made several hard runs. Finally I brought the fish close enough for David to get the net under it. He handed me the net, and I was admiring a nice 18 inch female brown. After a couple of quick pictures, I gently held the fish in the current and then watched it bolt back into the depths.





Photograph by David Perry



We continued down into a favorite spot of mine where I missed a good fish the last time I was on the river. I wanted to work the water carefully to try and stick the big fish, but things just didn't work out. We continued on down the river and shortly I saw the indicator dive again. The next fish was almost as large as the previous one and was definitely fatter.



Photograph by David Perry


For the rest of the afternoon, we continued down the river, taking turns at the oars while the other fished. As darkness fell, we still had aways to go to reach the takeout. I decided to go back to the streamer rod and see if I could find a good fish willing to eat something big. My efforts were rewarded with a couple of quick hits but the fish were just not committing enough. Finally, as I was swimming the fly back towards the boat, I felt a solid hit and soon boated the last brown of the day. The fish was right around 16 inches and fat!


Overall, I was encouraged with the results of our scouting expedition. My main goal on this trip was to just see what was happening on the river, and that goal was exceeded by catching some very nice browns. The numbers were lacking, but I'll take quality over quantity whenever I fish. I want to thank David Perry for a nice day on the river. He is an excellent fisherman and guide, and I learned a lot throughout the day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gone Fishing

I'm off to float a nearby tailwater today and the increasing clouds have me excited about the potential for the day. More than anything, today will be a scouting trip to check up on the river. Check back late today or tomorrow to see if any monsters were caught...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Smokies Excursion


The Smokies call my name year round, but my favorite time to go is the fall. The leaves are gone now and the streams are cooling down, but it is still the perfect time to go. My cousin Nathan and I had been planning a camping trip during Thanksgiving break for a couple of months. As the time approached, we decided to cut the trip down to just one night because the forecast was not ideal.

We made the drive up on Monday, stopping by Little River Outfitters as usual to say hi to everyone and allow Nathan to pick up a fishing license. I also wanted to give Byron one of the streamers that I've been catching all my stripers on so he can try it out on some of the lakes he fishes. After stopping at the shop, we drove on towards Elkmont. I wanted to check a couple of spots for big fish and was amazed to find a monster at the first place we checked. Luck was not on my side and after fishing for it awhile, the big fish spooked.

After trying for the big fish it was time to get a campsite. There were more people at Elkmont than I expected, but there were still lots of empty sites. We set up the tent and spent a little time foraging for firewood. A big fire was perfect for the chilly night in the mountains and we spent the evening sitting around the fire.

I had planned on getting up early to stalk big fish but was feeling kind of lazy when I woke up. Instead we lazied around the campsite and cooked up a big breakfast before heading out to fish. The destination for the day was the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon. We wanted to hike a short distance up the Ramsey Cascades trail and drop into the gorge section for rainbows and brookies.



The day had started out with plenty of sunshine, but as we got closer to the trailhead the clouds thickened. When we started up the trail, the sun was completely obscured by the clouds. In general I like cloudy days better, but in the cold months I prefer sunny days. The water temperature never came up at all, but the 47 degree temperature was not too bad. The fish still eat just fine in the colder water but are concentrated in softer water. This seems to be the case now as all the fish we caught came from the pools and slower runs instead of pocket water. For the next few months it will be important to focus on these types of water to find success.


I had been hoping to fish dries but most of our fish came on nymphs. The two best patterns were a Prince Nymph and a Tellico nymph. Both Nathan and I were fishing tandem rigs with other patterns but these two were easily the best producers. There were a few little dark stoneflies flying about and a stray caddis or two but that was it. I did coax a few fish to a stimulator in the slower water, but in general they just weren't interested in rising.


We eventually decided to call it a day. Between the two of us we managed between 20 and 30 fish which isn't too bad. From now on the fishing will tend to be slow although excellent fishing can still be had if you time your trips right. I'll be fishing tailwaters more for the next few months but will still get to the mountains on a fairly regular basis as well...



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Product Review: NEOS River Trekker Overshoe

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the folks at Overshoes Online about reviewing one of their products, the NEOS River Trekker Overshoe. The River Trekker is a hip wader that is designed to be worn over your regular footwear. I have been waiting for the opportunity to try these out on a tailwater before writing a review. The Caney has finally been fishable recently so now I have tested them on all the water types I fish.

My first impression of the River Trekker was a bit skeptical. This was because I couldn't believe that a shoe worn over your regular shoe could actually be comfortable. As it turns it, the exact opposite is true. As soon as I tried them on I was impressed with how comfortable they were, and I didn't feel like I was walking on top of a platform. The best thing about them is how fast you can get them on and take them off. These are perfect for several things including as a quick backup pair of waders that you keep in the car for those rare opportunities when you want to fish but don't have all your gear with you.

My chief complaints about the River Trekker are that it is only a hip wader and that the rubber soles don't grip well on mountain freestone streams. The first part is just a personal preference. I am a very aggressive wader and prefer chest high waders instead of hip waders. I am definitely limited about where I can wade if I am only wearing hip waders. The other complaint is that I wish they had a felt sole. The Vibram sole works great on smaller rocks and gravel and makes these perfect on the tailwaters. However, on larger rocks in mountain streams, I just didn't feel safe. The rubber sole just does not grip the slick rocks as well as I would have liked. To be fair, I still haven't tried on any rubber soled boots that I feel are as good as felt. As far as rubber soled wading boots go, the River Trekker is probably as good as any other.

These hip waders have a couple of great applications. The first is for anyone that has a drift boat or other type of boat but doesn't want to wear waders throughout the whole float. The ease with which the River Trekkers can be put on or taken off makes them ideal for those times when you need to get out of the boat in the shallows such as launching or taking out or stopping for that shore lunch. They are also great for wading small creeks that don't have lots of larger rocks. As long as the bottom is gravel, silt, sand, or even mud you will be fine. Shallow tailwaters are also ideal for using the River Trekkers. They will work even on a river like the Caney Fork, but you will be limited on the water you can access.

For certain applications, these are a great wading product. I can't really recommend them as your primary wading gear unless your wading is mainly on the water types that I mentioned as being ideally suited for them. I think that the addition of a felt sole and maybe also making these as a chest high wader would make them better, but as they are, they do have some great uses.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Catching Monsters

The latest poll here at the Trout Zone was on the topic of world record fish. I have often wondered what I would do if I caught a fish that was most likely a record. Probably I would release the fish without even thinking about it but then again, big fish make people do strange things. Of course I would take pictures before releasing the fish. In the poll, the vast majority of you said that you would take pictures and measurements and then release the fish. A few wouldn't even do that which is interesting. I must admit that I am excited enough about catching big fish that I always want a picture. Even if it isn't a large fish I often take a picture. Trout are such beautiful fish that I like to take as many pictures as possible to help me remember each of my days on the water. Anyway, thanks for your input on the poll and watch for the next one coming soon!