Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rising Water

High water has been the theme lately, both on tailwaters and on the freestone streams of East Tennessee. I had been planning to fish the Smokies this past weekend for awhile now. High water just meant a better chance for large fish.

Friday was perfect for throwing big stuff on Little River. After stopping at Little River Outfitters, I drove on up the river. The water was up to around 1800 cfs when I started and continued to rise throughout the day. Eventually it peaked at somewhere around 2500 cfs.

Finally I found the pool that I wanted to start on. After rigging up, I thoroughly fished the first pool without glimpsing any fish. That is never a good way to start, but I moved on to the next pool with high hopes.

Things improved but not immediately. I worked the pool slowly and methodically and finally had a brown come out and slam my offering. Thankfully the fish found the hook, and I was soon admiring my first fish of the day. The brown was pretty but not very large. Still, a fish is a fish, and I wasn't about to complain.


The rest of the day brought a lot of hope but each time I was disappointed. Several fish came out to play but each one just couldn't seem to find the hook. Visiting the Park is probably just about my favorite thing to do though so I had an enjoyable day. Fishing in high water is always sketchy. Catching one fish is always better than catching no fish. Next time I hope to fish during normal flows. Sight fishing is the way to go but almost impossible during high water. Of course, in a month or so we'll be fishing the spring hatches.

Those of you that are looking forward to the hatches just remember that there are bugs hatching now. Everyone is excited to fish the "big" hatches in the spring but there are plenty of bugs hatching now. You just have to spend a little more time finding the hatch. Midges, various dark stoneflies, and even a few blue quills and blue-winged olives are hatching.

Don't let bad weather or high water keep you from fishing. The fish are still there and still hungry...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Winter in Tennessee


Finally some snow!!! Here in Tennessee, we don't get as much snow as when I was a kid. A snowfall is always an exciting event. Starting January 29, we got more than the usual snow.

The first several inces fell just like normal but around 11:00 p.m. on the 29th, warm air above the surface started changing the snow to freezing rain. The flakes were melting before hitting the ground but the surface temperatures were still below freezing. The result was quite unusual for this area. We had a layer of snow with a layer of ice on top. Usually when we get both, the order is reversed.

The trees were covered with a sparkling glaze of ice, and the result was extremely beautiful...

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.