Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Friday, January 29, 2010

Force Feeding


Sometimes you have to hit a fish in the nose to get it to eat....literally. A couple of weekends ago I was fishing in the Smokies with a couple of fishing buddies, Joe and Caleb. Joe was fishing a nice flat run while I spotted from on top of the bank. In the back, a brown aggressively chased his offering but wouldn't quite eat. After a couple of repeat performances, the fish finally saw him and moved into the middle of the stream where it sat motionless on the bottom.

Not wanting to bother with a fish that was only eleven or twelve inches, Joe worked on upstream. I continued to watch the fish. Finally it occurred to me that the fish would probably eat if I could just force feed it. I grabbed my fly rod which had a weighted wooly bugger and crept into position. The first several casts drifted close but there was little interest from the fish. Once it gave a half-hearted glance at the fly drifting by but that was it.

I couldn't shake the feeling that the fish would eat and decided to try and drift the fly directly into the fish. A couple of casts later, the fly was drifting perfectly and a well-timed mend set up the final drift. Suddenly the fly seemed to disappear into the fish, and I set the hook hard. I can't say that I actually saw the fish open its mouth, but I did notice the fly just seemed to vanish with the fish being the only likely culprit. After a brief but lively battle, I brought the fish to hand and Joe came back downstream to snap a couple of pictures for me. It definitely wasn't the largest fish I've ever landed but it was one of the more satisfying. I believe it was the first time I ever force fed a fish intentionally without having it ever move to take the fly...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Still Around

Nope, I didn't just disappear although I'm sure it has appeared that way. I had to send my computer in to HP for some repair work so despite being out on the water a couple of times, I haven't been able to get up a report. I hope to get caught up on a lot of stuff over the next few days including a good story from a Smokies trip. It is time to be submitting an article for the Little River Journal so that will keep me busy as well...

A couple of weeks ago I hit the Caney Fork with David Perry from Southeastern Fly to float in search of big browns. The day was a bit slower than we were hoping for and the frigid temps kept ice forming in our guides all day but it was still a good trip. We both caught fish including a couple of nice 18 inch fish. For more on that trip, check out the report over on the Southeastern Fly Blog.

Check back soon for more!!!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Christmas in the Smokies


My Christmas trip to the Smokies was a great experience with lots of good food, time with the family, and even a little fishing thrown in. The extended family rents a cabin every other year around Christmas so we can all spend a few days together without anyone having the pressure of playing host.

In years past, I took a day on each end of the trip to go to the South Holston since the tailwaters generally fish much better in the cold months than the freestone streams. Unfortunately, 2009 was the year that the drought finally broke and did it in a big way. All of our area reservoirs have been generating round the clock for weeks now and so I decided to just fish in the Park.

Christmas Eve day was our arrival day. The plan was to arrive early and have a few hours to fish before meeting up with the family. I got up there early but not as early as I intended. Still, I had plenty of time to hit the stream before I headed for the cabin and a hot supper.

I’ve been on a streamer kick lately. This is a type of fishing that I’ve only recently started to thoroughly learn. For many years I more or less ignored the potential productivity of streamer fishing, but lately I’ve been running low on new techniques to try. Most of the area waters are perfect for streamer fishing and especially the tailwaters. The mountain streams are a bit trickier though. The small size of the streams along with spooky fish makes it difficult to cast and then manipulate the fly properly to induce the hard strikes that make streamer fishing so much fun. My goal for the next few months is to work out a good system for fishing streamers on freestone streams known to hold larger fish.

The first two places I stopped and fished were disappointing to say the least. I never saw so much as a flash but wasn’t ready to give up without a bit more effort. Finally, at the third spot I tried I was rewarded with some active fish. I was working the far side of a nice pool when a fish came out and struck hard but failed to hook itself. A couple more casts to the same spot convinced me that the fish wasn’t going to show itself again so I moved down a bit further. The next likely piece of cover produced the same response as a fish darted out to attack my streamer. This time everything came together perfectly and I soon had a nice 10 inch brown in the net. Not the monster that I always hope for when fishing streamers but at least it was a fish. After a couple more brief stops, I realized that the hour was getting late. I wanted to get in before it got too late and headed towards the cabin.

The rest of my stay in the mountains was a blast but lacked much in the way of meaningful fishing. I fished for a little while each day I was up there but never had enough time to get off the beaten path. The biggest problem was high water that was comprised largely of snowmelt from the highest elevations. The fish were still feeding but I quickly realized that I needed heavier streamers to get down in the fast current. Next time I’ll be better prepared.

Even though the fishing was slow, I still managed to take a lot of pictures of the streams which are looking good with lots of water. The following are some of my favorites from the trip.

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...