Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Plateau Creeks

Here on the Cumberland Plateau, we are blessed with an abundance of small to medium sized streams. Every one of these holds a variety of fish with smallmouth and various sunfish usually dominating. Tired after a long year of teaching, I just couldn't get excited about making the two hour drive to fish in the Smokies, but the thought of driving 30 minutes and trying some of the local water sounded appealing.

This morning I went through my usual pre-trip ritual of stressing over my limited available fly selection, and this is always despite the fact that I normally have enough flies to open a small fly shop. Regardless of whether or not I had enough flies, I knew that if I didn't tie a couple the trip would be a bust. Sitting down at the vise, I quickly tied three flies that have done well on these local fish before. Throwing the flies in my car along with the other necessary equipment, I was soon cruising along the back roads near Crossville on my way to a favorite area that I have only begun to explore.

Arriving at the stream, I was surprised to see that very few people were around. That is unusual for this particular spot, so I took the opportunity to fish a pool that normally has plenty of people swimming and otherwise enjoying themselves. Several fish later, the crowd started to show up so I wandered downstream in search of solitude. I moved slowly along, casting my fly to each likely spot while keeping both eyes peeled for snakes. While I love fishing this area, it always seems to have a large number of snakes. Friends have told me of seeing rattlesnakes swimming in this particular stretch of water as well so I'm always on the lookout.

As I moved farther away from the road, the smallmouth started biting better. Most likely they just weren't used to seeing flies, but I like to think that I was actually doing something right as well. I ended the day no more than a quarter of a mile from the road but still the farthest I've made it downstream.

My morning tying session was justified...all the fish I caught except for one were on one of those three flies I tied. Part of my problem with tying is that I've been lazy lately. I just don't sit down to tie in the evenings like I used to. Each fishing trip uses up more of the supply I have so eventually I have to start tying again. Tonight I need to tie a few more patterns. I'm going to a bluegill and bass pond tomorrow evening and will have a friend that is new to fly fishing along. I need a few more good bluegill patterns ready to go since I am running low on the usual for now I'm off to the tying bench. Here are a few more pictures from today's fishing...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Diverse Weekend

In addition to attending Troutfest, I also managed to get a little fishing in as well this past weekend. I caught a few trout, a few bass, some panfish, and my first carp...not a bad way to spend the weekend I have to say.

Saturday afternoon, I decided to do a little scouting around Catoosa WMA northeast of Crossville. Catoosa is a large wild area with plenty of untouched water to sample. The streams contain bass and panfish, and there are rumors of musky in the more remote sections. I wanted to check a favorite access point and possibly fish while I was there. Unfortunately, storms earlier in the day had Stream "A" high and muddy. No worries though as I drove a few miles to another stream.

When I arrived, I was pleased to find the water low and clear. While watching the water for some indication of active fish, I saw a smallie cruise past and vanish into a deep hole. I went back to the car and grabbed the 4 weight, rigging it with a small Crazy Charlie variation I tie. Back at the waters edge, I flipped the fly into some bankside structure before wading in and caught a few fish before even getting wet.

The sky was becoming more threatening and low rumbles of thunder told me that I was fighting against time at this point. After a couple more fish, the thunder was loud enough that I decided to call it a day. Twenty minutes of fishing and 5-6 fish is a nice relaxed way to enjoy the afternoon.

On the drive back out, I saw a turkey wandering around in the road. It spooked as I drove closer so I couldn't get a picture. The wildflowers were stunning, and at one point, I just had to stop and take a couple of pictures.

Saturday night I tied up a couple of Light Cahill parachute patterns. I was more or less out, and this, along with the Yellow Sallies, is the hatch to be fishing right now in the Smokies. Of course, there are lots of other bugs in the water right now as well so be prepared. My goal was to fish dries during the evening hatch after attending Troutfest.
Sunday morning I slept in later than I intended but eventually got on the road to Townsend. At Troutfest, I wandered around taking in the sights and got to talk to several old friends and meet some new ones. After I saw everything I wanted to, I headed over to Little River Outfitters to pick up some tying materials I was needing. My buddy Trevor was supposed to meet me there so we could go check out the bass action.

After he arrived and picked up the things he was needing from the shop, we went in search of some smallmouth bass. Unfortunately the fish were not very cooperative, but we both managed to catch a few. Rain eventually caught up with us again so I decided to head back to the mountains for the evening hatch. I stopped at the first pool I came to on Little River (yeah, not many options there so guess away...) and found fish rising steadily. The Light Cahill parachute accounted for a few smaller rainbows before I moved on to another location. The final pool of the evening yielded several rainbows including one that was probably 10 or 11 inches. When I couldn't see my fly well anymore, I knew I was approaching the limits of legal fishing hours and decided to head back towards Crossville.

I stopped at one of my striper spots hoping to find the big fish in feeding, but instead I found lots of carp. They were definitely as picky as any fish I've ever cast to although that could be simply because I have no clue when it comes to catching carp. Finally I got one to take a pheasant tail nymph and the battle was on. I couldn't believe how hard this fish pulled. Everytime I thought it was ready to give up, the fish would go on another hard run. Fishing alone, I was unable to get a picture but I still have the memory.

The carp was a strange end to a pleasant yet diverse weekend of fishing. I always enjoy catching a new species although I don't really keep a detailed list of all the fish I've caught. The main thing I learned this weekend was that there are some great places close to home that I need to be fishing more. More to come on that as I get out on the water...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Big Weekend

The last few weeks of school are always extremely busy both for teachers and students. I've been too busy to fish (mostly anyway) so other than one or two quick trips for bluegill, I haven't really been out much lately. This weekend that should all change.

Troutfest is happening in Townsend, Tennessee this weekend. I'll be heading up that way on Sunday to take in the festivities which include such big names as Joe Humphries, Lefty Kreh, and Bob Clouser all doing various demos and seminars. Best of all, everything is free!

I highly doubt that I'll spend the whole day there. Instead I'll enjoy a few hours in the park on some favorite water hopefully catching some trout. The evening hatches are supposed to be great right now and the predicted rainfall should bring water levels up and trigger better than average emergence of mayflies and stoneflies. Light cahills should be hatching now as well as little yellow stoneflies and probably a hodge podge of other insects. This is the time of year to catch good fish on dries. The low light conditions during the best hatches coincide with the only legal time you can fish that also happens to be prime time for large fish to be feeding. You rarely will find nice fish rising in the middle of the day but that all changes during the banner evening hatches.

I'll try to have a few pictures after the weekend so check back to see what happened...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Snakes and Trout

At a young age, I realized that snakes would be a permanent part of at least some of my fishing trips. I can still remember playing in small streams and creeks and coming across the inevitable water snakes, not to mention other occasional types that like to hang out close to wetland areas in hopes of an easy meal. I’ve never been afraid of snakes, exactly, but do give them plenty of healthy respect. Snakes that are visible and obvious don’t bother me. It’s the ones that suddenly appear under my feet that concern me.

Some of my earliest encounters with serpents were of the terrifying variety. Running through the yard at age 6 only to have a 5 foot blacksnake rear its head in a menacing gesture practically under my feet was terrifying enough. Much worse was a trip to the Smokies with my family in which we camped on Little River in Townsend. I headed down to the stream one evening to try and catch some trout with my trusty Zebco and some spinner flies. The number of snakes I saw that evening still astounds me. In the dwindling light, it seemed that the bank was literally covered with snakes, while out in the water they swam this way and that but mostly right towards me. Probably there were only 10 or 12 total, but it seemed like something out of a nightmare that left me, if not permanently scarred, at least a little jumpy when things start moving under my feet.

During the recent epic fishing trip with my cousin Nathan and JR, a highlight of the trip was when I needed to filter some drinking water. I’ve stopped carrying enough drinking water for the day, taking only a single Nalgene and my MSR filter. Sitting comfortably on a rock while operating the filter, I looked down to see a strange pattern in the water between two rocks under my boots. At first, hope almost convinced me that it was just a strange rock or maybe a branch, but eventually I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was a water snake that had somehow appeared mere inches away. Snakes that magically appear are the ones that concern me. Thankfully, this particular critter was still sluggish in the cool water of spring, so I grabbed it by the tail and threw it across the stream at my buddies. Such is life on a fishing trip with the guys.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an appreciation for snakes. When the opportunity presents itself, I always snap a few pictures of any noteworthy specimens. Generally this means copperheads or rattlesnakes around here. While living near Townsend and working at Little River Outfitters one summer, I saw copperheads on the road near my cabin almost nightly as well as a pair of rattlesnakes one evening. In the Park itself, I rarely see poisonous snakes, but find more water snakes than I find pleasant. They have a habit of appearing while I’m wading upstream, usually in mid stride and directly under my feet. The snake dance ensues, probably leaving their nerves more shattered than mine. Still, even the water snakes can be intriguing. A couple of years ago in the spring, I came across a ball of breeding water snakes on the rocks along one of the most popular pools on Little River. If most people realized the number of snakes inhabiting that vicinity I would probably have the place to myself.

Last summer, I heard repeated stories of a rattlesnake hanging out near the trail a short distance above Elkmont. This put a damper on my normal habit of hiking out late in the evening after dark. I figured a headlamp should become part of my gear on day trips but didn’t start carrying one yet. Last weekend I found a rattlesnake about ¾ of a mile above Elkmont within 10 feet of the trail, convincing me that it was finally time to start carrying the headlamp or else hike out only while I could still see well. The snake was near a bench overlooking a nice pool on Little River. I climbed down closer to the snake to get some good pictures. There were too many witnesses around to attempt catching the snake. Harassing wildlife is strongly frowned upon so I had to leave my first capture of a rattlesnake for another day. Besides, by this point its angry response was to coil up and start rattling. Such are the hazards of photographing snakes. I wasn’t concerned in the least, but the “Holy Crap” I got from one nearby tourist when I pointed out the snake told me that not everyone is as unconcerned about rattlers as I try to be.

The rest of that day was perfect for fishing. I caught plenty of fish, even though I kept discovering that I was fishing behind people. The bright spring colors provided excellent opportunities for my camera, but the memory of the snake kept me watching me step, at least occasionally missing the beauty of new life around me. Probably the biggest difference between this and normal fishing trips was the fact that I hiked out with probably 2 hours of daylight to spare. No, I’m not afraid of snakes, its just healthy respect…I promise.

Help the Hiwassee

This afternoon I was perusing the Little River Outfitters message board and read a thread from Byron Begley. He had heard that some regulation changes were being considered for the Hiwassee River and wanted to give everyone a heads up. After doing a bit more research, I came across this article from the Polk County News. According to the article, TWRA is considering removing the "Trophy Section" designation and also adding a delayed harvest season.

The delayed harvest is a great idea, but I can't really say that I think it will increase the quality of the fishing. TWRA's version of a delayed harvest is basically to stock fewer fish with the idea that they will be caught over and over again. I fear that enforcement will continue to be very limited meaning that the fish will end up leaving the river anyway. While going to school in Chattanooga, I fished the Hiwassee a fair amount and was never checked for a license. If TWRA would step up enforcement then the delayed harvest is a great idea.

I wish the Trophy section would be left alone. It really is not doing its job particularly well, probably somewhat due to the lack of enforcement. The remote nature means would-be poachers can come and go at will with a very small likelihood of getting caught. Additionally, water quality problems during summer wreak havoc on the trout population in this area. Not all the fish die though. I know for a fact that brown trout are holding over in the river, at least on a limited basis. Better enforcement of current regulations and better stocking strategies could still make the Trophy section a great fishery. For example, brown trout tend to migrate upstream from their stocking location. Instead of stocking fingerling browns at Big Bend, TWRA should consider stocking them further downriver so they can move up into the Trophy section and get a chance to grow for awhile.

Unfortunately, there are so many things wrong with the Hiwassee that there really may not be a good solution. Still, I urge everyone that cares about this river to take a few minutes to let TWRA know how they feel about the proposed changes. Simply send an email to Please include “Sport Fish Comments” on the subject line.

I would recommend supporting the delayed harvest proposal. However I cannot support removing the Trophy Section designation. Even if the section is largely failing in its purpose, it still gives these fish somewhat of a refuge on a river that is hammered throughout the warm months by many fisherman. A small sanctuary that is occasionally violated is better than opening everything up to normal fishing regulations.

An additional recommendation I would add is to limit brown trout to one kept per day. The current proposal is to allow up to two browns per day. However, brown trout hold over much better in this river than rainbows and limiting the number leaving the river would offer better opportunities for trophy fish.

Again, please take a few moments to let TWRA know what you think.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Epic Smokies Trip

Another trip is in the books and was one to remember for a long time. The fishing was great and the catching was off the charts. The first afternoon was spent figuring out what the fish wanted, but once we discovered the hot combination things quickly improved. Fish would take a variety of nymphs the first day, but the clear favorite was a beadhead caddis pupa. On top, the fish were definitely interested in taking a Parachute Adams. I finally settled on a dry/dropper combo as the best way to consistently take fish.

We kicked off the fishing portion of the trip after we set up our camp at Elkmont. Instead of wasting valuable fishing time driving somewhere, we just fished out of the campground, hiking either up or down the river. With me on this trip was my cousin Nathan and his buddy JR. Nathan fishes with me fairly often, but this was the first time fishing with JR. To make things even better, this was JR's first time fishing in the Smokies.

Taking people out to a Smokies stream for the first time is always a great experience that I enjoy immensely. You watch their progression, beginning with them splashing through the stream spooking all the fish, to becoming a wily veteran utilizing every bit of cover and camouflage to approach the fish. JR had fly fished a little before so the casting was not a problem. He did just fine getting the fly to the fish and his reflexes were quick enough that he hooked his first fish within 10 minutes of getting on the water. Best of all he learned quickly. I never had to tell him twice to be sneaky. Stealth cannot be emphasized too much in trout fishing, and in particular this is true in the Smokies.

My favorite tactic for putting someone new to the park onto fish involves a beadhead nymph and an indicator. For that matter it works great for anyone not accustomed to highsticking nymphs without an indicator. We all started out with nymphs simply because it was a bright sunny day. Trout tend to be a little skittish under these conditions and sit deeper in the water column. Of course, this time of year, you can almost certainly find trout willing to rise to a dry fly if you are willing to cover water.

Playing Guide for JR, his first Smokies rainbow (Nathan Stanaway Photo)

With both Nathan and JR both set up with nymph rigs, I was ready to fish myself and tied on a double nymph rig. Once I get people catching fish, I start experimenting with patterns, quickly cycling through patterns that will likely be catching fish at the given time of year. Currently yellow stoneflies are starting to hatch and of course there are still plenty of mayflies around. Additionally, the caddis should really be turning on shortly now. The mornings feature an excellent midge hatch. If you know what time of day each of these insects are active, you can maximize your efficiency in catching fish.

I cycled through most of the standard patterns that usually work well for me this time of year. While all the flies caught fish, I still felt that things could be much better. Finally I tried a simple little caddis pupa with a beadhead. Immediately I started catching fish. At first I thought it was a fluke, that is until I moved into a small pool no larger than 15 x 20 feet. Every cast resulted in either a hookup or a missed strike. By the time I had pulled out 5 or 6 fish, I knew that I was onto something. Each fish hit the same pupa pattern. The best brown trout caught the first day came from this pool. Quickly digging through my fly boxes, I found a few more so Nathan and JR could get in on the action. Moving together upstream, one on each side and one observing, we started to nail fish left and right.

( Nathan Stanaway Photo)

After an hour or so it was getting towards dark. We fished up to one last pool, in the process catching a few more fish. As we were leaving the first mayfly spinners were making an appearance, and the fish started rising enthusiastically. On the hike out, I saw fish rising in every pool and soft pocket. Arriving back in camp, we built a huge fire and did the traditional hot dog roast. Sitting around the fire, we shared stories from the day before finally hitting the sack.

Saturday morning I got up early to hit a few pools below Elkmont in search of larger browns. Despite my best efforts, I never saw any truly large fish but had a good time looking. Before heading back to camp for breakfast, I fished a favorite pool and caught a few rainbows. Again, the bead head dropper was nailing all the fish.

In camp, after eating a hearty breakfast, I pulled out my tying equipment and cranked out a dozen of the hot fly pattern. Assured of a good supply of flies, we headed out for another day on the stream. Our destination required a bit of hiking which is always a gamble. Someone could be on the water ahead of you spooking all the fish and causing your catching numbers to suffer. However, if you are the first one on the water in a few days, the results can be spectacular.

We finally commenced fishing in a favorite pool of mine. Of course, I say that about most of the water on Little River. Still, I have had more good days in this area than any other stretch of Little River. I figured that it would probably produce at least a few fish for my less-experienced fishing buddies. What I didn't expect was how much the river would show off for us.

I started fishing up the first run while Nathan and JR got into their wading gear. Generally I hike in ready to fish, but they packed their waders. Fishing to the head of the first pool produced five fish, and my excitement was growing exponentially. Most of the fish were on the dropper, but some were rising to the Parachute Adams as well. Once I got Nathan and JR fishing, they were immediately successful as well.

Soon we developed an efficient rhythm. In stretches where it was easy to leapfrog, we spread out through a 100-200 yard section. Where the rhododendron crowded closer to the water, we fished directly across from each other in stealth mode, sneaking slowly along the edges and picking pockets for the brightly colored rainbows and occasional brown that took the caddis pupa with reckless abandon and kept rising often enough to insure that we stuck with a dry/dropper rig. In fact, by the end of the day, we all agreed that probably half of our fish came on the dry flies.

There were many highlights throughout the day, but one of the best was when Nathan caught a nice fish. I was busy helping JR to retie when I heard Nathan shout. When I looked up, I saw his rod bent and asked if it was a good one. The look on his face was priceless as he responded in the affirmative. Quickly finishing the knot for JR, I started wading back across the stream to help land the fish and take pictures. The trout started on a blistering run downstream with Nathan following in pursuit. Finally, in some dead water behind a boulder we landed the nice brown. High fives were given all around and then we took a few pictures. The fish had put up a heroic fight so I spent some extra time reviving it. When it was rested, the fish took off quickly, hopefully to grow some more before we catch it again.

Another highlight was when I happened on a pool where seemingly ever trout was out feeding. Before I was finished, I had taken 12 trout out of the pool along with my best fish of the weekend, a 12 inch brown. In the last pool of the day, Nathan and I caught 1o trout between the two of us. These are just two examples that give some idea of just how good the fishing was on this trip. Sometimes I enjoy just catching a lot of fish. Other times I am in the mood for a difficult fish or maybe a quality hatch. On this trip, I definitely got my fill of catching average Smoky Mountain trout.

(Nathan Stanaway Photo)

Sunday morning we planned on fishing for an hour or two after taking down camp. JR still had not caught a brown trout despite catching probably 40 or 50 rainbows over the previous two days. We decided to fish a section close to camp and hope for a brown or two. Again, the stars aligned and JR got his brown in the first pool he fished. This was a good way to finish an epic weekend. Both Nathan and JR had caught a lot of fish and the weather had been perfect. Things couldn't have been better...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Smokies Weekend

Fishing was absolutely sick. The fish seem extra stupid right now. Full report to come in the next day or two...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Lull

My fishing time has been increasing significantly lately. This past weekend I was able to take the new float tube out for a short maiden voyage. The fishing was great but the catching was nonexistent. I am excited to use the tube to exploit the many untouched stillwater opportunities in the area. It will also come in handy on my excursions out west.

With the recent unseasonably warm weather has come an excellent response from the fish. Trout in the mountains are feeding enthusiastically on the bounty now constantly passing in the current. Smallmouth bass are starting to be caught again on the lower elevations of the same streams. This past Sunday found me headed for the Smokies again. My observations from the trip surprised even me.

This time of year, the normal routine is for the insects to become active in the middle of the day. Significant hatches tend to start around noon, give or take an hour. The norm has been significantly altered however due to the very warm temperatures we have been experiencing. It appears that the Quill Gordons are just about over now. Naturally a few stray bugs are still emerging but the bulk of the hatch has passed. If my observations from Sunday are accurate, it actually appears that we are in a lull between hatches. Hendricksons have started but are not particularly heavy yet. A random assortment of stoneflies, caddis, and several mayflies are all trickling off but not in consistent all-day action. The midge hatch was actually probably the best of any type of insect I observed, but I was there to fish dries and didn't even feel like dropping a Zebra Midge under my Parachute Adams.

Fish are still more than willing to eat a just have to find the ones that are looking up. The weather featured a bright sunny day which have in turn drove the fish deeper during the middle part of the day. Fishing on Sunday felt much more like mid summer when early and late are the rule to consistent action. The fish that did rise generally did so in the shade although that was not 100% true.

One of the highlights of the day was having my license checked by a ranger. I am always glad to see them out patrolling the streams and made a point of telling him that I appreciated his efforts. I hope everyone else will do the same when a ranger or fish and game officer stops by. They have a tough job and I notice that we as fly fisherman (myself included) often like to grumble about a lack of enforcement. A little positive feedback can go a long ways towards getting better enforcement and effort from the people responsible for enforcing the fishing regulations.

If the hatches in the park were a bit on the light side, the caddis hatch below the park was more like a blizzard. I stopped on the lower portion of Little River to try and find some smallmouth bass and was amazed at the number of little black caddis in the air. It looked exactly like pictures I have seen of the famed Mother's Day Caddis on rivers like the Arkansas in Colorado. Unfortunately, trout are almost nonexistent in the lower sections so there were no fish actively rising to the banquet. The smallmouth were not very cooperative but I did manage one small fish on a Clouser. I intend to spend a lot more time this year figuring out smallmouth. Hopefully I'll find some larger ones soon...

At one point during the day, I spent some time just enjoying the beauty of a mountain stream in early spring through my camera lens. The following are a few of the shots I took. The first picture is of a nice run that produced several rises but all from smaller fish. I took a rainbow and a brown, one near the back, and one at the head of the run.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Small Ponds Waking Up

This is one of my favorite times of year. In the mountains the trout are rising to the best hatches of the season, and at the same time the warm water scene is heating up. This past week we had an outing for the guys at the school I teach at. There would be a small lake very close by so I took a couple of fly rods hoping to get a little fishing.
Things worked out much better than I anticipated when a bunch of guys wanted to go swimming and I was assigned to be one of the people to supervise. Naturally I rigged up the two rods. At this point some of the guys were watching with a bit of interest and one came over and asked if he could try it out. I'm always glad to give my students a chance to try the sport. Last year's outing produced good results with the bluegill for all the students that tried fly fishing.

This year I was a bit surprised by the fact that only one guy, Michael, was really interested in trying it out. We both strung up our rods, mine for bass and his for bluegill, and started to slowly make our way around the pond. I fished the first spot, all the while providing commentary on what I was doing and I.
Michael K. Photograph

As I was bouncing my fly past some structure, a bass came out to inhale the offering. The guys were all impressed and I was happy. Last year we couldn't buy any bass on this lake so it was a good start. After getting a couple of pictures, we continued moving around the pond. I slowly worked ahead, constantly watching for fish and directing him to sneak up and cast when any were spotted. Still, the fish were very spooky and we were having a hard time getting close enough for his basic casting skills.

Michael K. Photograph

Finally, we were about out of time. I stopped at a small bay and proceeded to pick up my third small bass of the day while he jumped in a canoe with another guy to take a shortcut back. As I was releasing my fish, I heard him shouting, "Mr. Knapp, Mr. Knapp!!! I've got one!!!" I sent back instructions to keep the fish in the water until I arrived and then hurried on around to where he was. He had a big grin on his face and a nice little bluegill. After helping him pose with the fish, I snapped a couple of pictures and then we released the fish. All in all, it was a great outing and hopefully another young person was converted to the sport.

I currently have a new float tube sitting in my living room waiting for its maiden voyage. I'm hoping to do that tomorrow or Sunday so check back soon for more warm water action here in East Tennessee. I'll be heading for the mountains again soon as well...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Staying Warm

One of the challenges of fishing in the cooler months is staying warm, especially if you are catching a lot of fish and have to constantly be dealing with unhooking them. I have wanted to share my system for staying warm and almost waited too long. The warm months stretch ahead of us now, but hopefully this will help you plan for next winter. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by David French from about doing a product review on their hand warmers. It was a great opportunity to pick up a few handwarmers as well as motivate me to write this post that I have been planning for awhile.

First of all, I personally feel that handwarmers are crucial to my happiness when winter fishing. I always have at least one in a pocket and sometimes have two ready, one for each hand. My indicator that tells me I am too cold is simply this: if I can't tie knots then I'm too cold and it is time to spend a couple of minutes warming my hands. If I'm cold enough that I can't get warm using handwarmers, then I have a more serious problem and either need to return to my car or build a small fire.

To delay the inevitable, I highly recommend wearing a good pair of fishing gloves, at least on the really cold days. I prefer to fish without them but solved that problem by wearing it on just one hand. The main reason I have discovered to wear gloves is because they keep your hands dry. The exertion of casting otherwise keeps you sufficiently warm. However, constantly stripping line is a good way to get both cold and wet. Wearing a glove on whichever hand you hold the rold with solves this problem. I prefer to strip line with a bare hand. If I keep the line running between the fingures of my casting hand, the material of the glove soaks up all the moisture and my line hand stays dry. Naturally, when it is really cold outside the best method is to just wear gloves on both hands, and if they don't really bother you, I would wear them on both hands anyway. I just don't like the bulk...

Next, you need a way to stay dry. I never touch fish with gloves and don't recommend doing it unless you have a pair with a rubber finish to minimize the damage to the fish. There are two alternatives: either carry a net and simply never touch the fish or remove your glove each time you land the fish. I have used both and any time I want a picture of a particularly good fish I remove my gloves. Afterwords, the water on your hands and the cold air temperatures will have your hands miserable in no time. So I have started carrying a small hand towel or even a washcloth. I just keep it tucked in my wading belt so it is always there when I want to dry my hands.

After drying your hands, you need to warm them back up, and this is where the handwarmers come in. Using the handwarmer a couple of minutes on each hand is the perfect way to keep fishing for hours with minimal discomfort. I fish with this system even when air temperatures are in the teens and twenties which is about as bad as I have to worry about here in Tennessee. If you live somewhere where it is colder, then I'm sure you have to use some additional measures on occasion. One other thing I like to do is have a small fire going on shore if it is legal. Everyone has there own method, and I would be interested to hear any other ideas you may have on keeping warm in the winter...