Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Went Fishing, Got Cold, Caught a Few

Some people quit fishing through the cold months of the year, and that's just fine with me.  Getting out on the stream with little to no competition is a special experience, especially somewhere like the Smoky Mountains.  After the mad days of spring, summer, and fall, wandering up and down Little River and maybe seeing two other anglers is a refreshing change of pace. 

Yesterday, I headed for the mountains to meet my buddy Travis from the Fishing Fanatic.  We try to fish a few times a year, but often getting our schedules to match up can be a little tricky.  Despite the cold weather, we decided to fish no matter what.  Our original plan involved the South Holston but TVA's generation schedule has been a little strange to say the least.  Plan B was to head for the freestone streams of the Smokies.

After exploring our options, we finally settled on a good pool that always has a few willing fish.  A smattering of midges were hatching so I suggested to Travis that he start out with some type of nymph (preferably a stonefly) and a midge as a dropper.  From a good vantage point above the water, everything appeared to be completely dead at first glance.  However, our patience was rewarded and we soon saw fish moving around on the bottom.  The water was frigid but fish still have to eat, and they were moving around quite a bit.

Travis completed his setup with some split shot and moved into position while I stayed put so I could spot fish.  After a few casts, he was getting a perfect drift each time.  Eventually the inevitable happened and his indicator dove under.  Soon a beautiful wild rainbow was brought to hand, and I snapped a quick picture to prove we really did go fishing.  Some people have a hard time believing that I fish in such weather so pictures are always helpful.


We fished that pool awhile longer with Travis catching some more fish.  Finally we decided to head downstream to try another spot or two.  I picked up a nice rainbow at another favorite spot before we called it a day.  For as much time as we were out, neither of us actually fished a ton.  We both spent a good amount of time looking for nicer fish.  None of the better fish we saw were in a good spot to fish to so we left them without harassing them. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Going Fishing

Report to follow...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cold Weather

Here on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, winter has arrived in a big way.  Recent high temperatures have not been above freezing and overnight lows are getting close to the single digits.  The first snowfall completed the appearance of winter with light snow showers stretching out over a couple of days.  Waterfalls near my house have been forming large areas of ice around the base and as well as icicles off the rocks nearby.  The Sandhill Cranes have mostly migrated south of the area but scattered flocks continue to fly over, hurrying towards the warmth and abundance of the southeastern U.S.  The large fields nearby now have wintering raptors hunting their broad expanses.  I have identified the majority as being Northern Harrier Hawks which usually appear around Thanksgiving and will be here until early spring.  

Since my car has been stuck, I've been getting my outdoor fix by hiking around near the house.  This has provided plenty of great opportunities for my camera.  On one recent hike, I even took the time to build a small fire to warm up while relaxing in the stillness of the woods.  The wind whispered through the trees, but my spot at the base of the rock was still and warm. 


A waterfall around the corner was the perfect spot to spend a few moments with my camera.  A large area of ice had formed at the base adding an interesting element to an otherwise common picture. 



Unfortunately my car is still not fixed so I haven't been doing any fishing.  Hopefully that will change this weekend.  I'm looking at trying to get out on the water on Sunday if at all possible.  I have been getting some good reports from the big fish hunters in the Smokies and have been dying to get back over there.  This is my favorite time of year to be out on the water.  The lack of company on the water more than makes up for the cold temperatures and physical discomfort, and of course catching a fish every now and then helps too... 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"There he is!"

Stalking and sight casting to trout is my favorite aspect of the sport of fly fishing.  Some days I would rather spend my time looking for fish instead of casting.  Once a fish has been sighted, the real fun starts as a plan must be developed.  That includes figuring out the best position to cast from, what cast to use, deciding what the fish is eating, what imitation will work, and finally putting everything together.  Sometimes it turns out much easier.

Recently, I was fishing a Smokies stream with my buddy Joe McGroom.  We were hunting brown trout which had finished spawning a couple of weeks prior to our trip.  This time of year they are hungry and willing to eat a properly presented fly.  I had a wooly bugger with a small dropper tied on ready to fish in the hope that the hungry fish would not be very picky. 

As we moved up the stream, the fish were noticeably absent from the places we expected them.  Usually this time of year, the fish have moved into the deeper holes and slower runs, but can often be sighted in their favorite feeding lies.  Despite our expectations, only a few fish had been found out feeding.  We had walked about a mile and a half of stream and only spotted 3-4 fish up to 17 inches.  Joe had only landed two small fish, and I had barely even cast but we were covering a lot of water and knew that eventually we would start finding fish. 

We were taking turns walking in the lead.  I had just moved up to take the lead and was stalking slowly up the edge of the stream when I caught a flash of brown.  A nice brown was in the middle of one of the better runs.  Immediately I froze.  Joe crowded up behind, peering into the stream as I exlaimed, "There he is!" 

"Where?" was his reply.  I was already stripping line from my reel.  "Right there" I said as I dropped the flies 12 inches upstream of fish.  Immediately it nailed the bugger, and I raised the rodtip.  Joe didn't have much trouble seeing the fish as it tore around the stream trying to throw the fly.  Soon I landed the fish and posed for a quick picture.  The fish taped out at 15 inches which definitely isn't a monster, but at the same time was one of the most memorable fish I've caught this year.
Joe McGroom Photograph 

 Joe McGroom Photograph

Later in the day I hooked another fish that would probably have gone an inch or two longer.  This fish nailed the same fly as the first and went ballistic once hooked.  Oddly though, after what felt like a good solid hookset, the fish simply threw the fly after about 3 seconds.  I was left staring at its rapidly vanishing shadow which moved into a column of bubbles and disappeared for good. 

I've had days on the stream where only one fish would have been really disappointing, but I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of this day...its not just about how many you catch that counts...

Friday, November 26, 2010

November Sunset

This is one of many reasons why I love the cold months.  It seems the sunrises and sunsets are consistently better this time of year, and of course that could just be my imagination.  Regardless, I DO know that I particularly enjoyed the sunset this evening despite the coldest temperatures of the season yet and stiff breeze that tried in vain to deter my photography session.  The beauty in the heavens was too much for me to be distracted by something as insignificant as cold weather.  Here are a few of the pictures from the evening...








Stranded

On the way home from my last fishing trip, trouble caught up with my car, and now I'm immobile at least for a few days and perhaps longer.  My trusty troutmobile finally had some serious problems so it looks like I won't be fishing much for awhile.  I still have a report or two to post and hope to get some tying posts up as well.  During the cold months is the time to start tying and stocking up on flies for the new year.  I will be offering up some patterns for sale on a limited basis, so if you need a source for your 2011 patterns don't hesitate to contact me.  If you need recommendations for a particular destination just let me know, and I'll do my best to help or point you in the right direction...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Big Day on the River


Today was one of the better days I've had on the river in the last few months.  Fish were feeding heavily and once I found the right fly combination I was into fish pretty much the whole time.  I fished a fly that I haven't really thrown yet this fall but was reminded how it has been one of the better tailwater patterns I've fished over the years.  The hot fly was a midge larva pattern that I have fished out west on rivers like the Gunnison and Roaring Fork in Colorado as well as the tailwaters here in the east.  If anyone doesn't tie and needs this pattern, I'm offering a few patterns now so just shoot me an email, and I can give you the details and pricing. 

The Caney has not had the best schedule for wade fishing, but you can still fish the upper river late in the day for a few hours once the water starts falling out.  Right now the fishing is tough if you don't know the river well.  These are the conditions when a good guide can be particularly helpful to put you on the fish.  The water is still running quite cloudy which isn't helping those who prefer to sight fish.  Fish are concentrated anywhere the water is funneling food.  Shoals provide the best concentrations of fish right now, but fish are spread throughout the river as well.  Late day midge hatches are coming on strong and bringing a few trout to the surface.  Anglers that enjoy stalking trout with tiny dries and emergers can do well right now as long as they stay patient. 

Within the first 10 casts I caught 3 fish, a brookie, then a brown, and finally completed the slam with a rainbow.  Throughout the afternoon, I managed more rainbows than anything else but did catch 3 beautiful brook trout and 3 browns including one chunky fish that was close to 18 inches. 



I found a few fish that were willing to eat a zebra midge late in the day.  Over the next few weeks, the streamer bite should start to pick up.  The browns are coming off the spawn and should be hungry.  Overall, the river is in the best shape I've seen for awhile.  If we can avoid any major flood events and keep generation to a minimum this winter, then next year should be a great one for the Caney Fork...


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Caney Fork Outings

Despite my lack of trip reports, I actually have got a little time in on the stream.  Over the last month, I have been on the Caney Fork a couple of times including a float trip with David Perry this past weekend.  The river is fishing fairly well although the water is quite off color right now during generation.  I'm not sure if the lake is turning over or if it is just a result of the low lake levels.  Whatever the cause, the water clarity could definitely be better.

A few weeks ago, I went down for an afternoon on the river and had one of my best outings in a long time.  The days where expectations are low seem to turn out the best, and this was one of those days.  I fished here and there before finally settling onto a nice riffle that spills over into a deep run.  It seemed that every rainbow in the river had moved up into the shallows to feed.  The routine was so simple that it almost was ridiculous.  Throw in my nymphs, watch the indicator dive, raise the rod, and voila, a trout was hooked.

Caney at sunset

Caney rainbow

On this and subsequent trips, the hot fly was a Ray Charles which does a good job of imitating the scuds and sow bugs present in the river.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with this fly, I highly recommend giving it a shot.  At certain times of the year it is particularly effective.  If you don't tie and need a source for this fly, contact Trevor Smart at customtiedflies@gmail.com.  He charges $1.50 per fly and ties other patterns as well such as the South Holston staple, a Tungsten Bead Stripper Midge (#20-#22).

Trevor Smart Photograph 

 Trevor Smart Photograph

This past weekend's float was very similar.  Early on, I started out throwing streamers in the hopes of finding an aggressive monster brown.  All that wanted to play though were the rainbows.  Later, the nymph rod did the trick with the Ray Charles producing well most of the day and Copper Johns picking up the slack later on.  The fish all seemed to be quite healthy including one hot rainbow that came from a slot up against a log.  This fish shot out of the water in the first of several jumps as soon as it was hooked, truly one of the better aerial shows I've seen from a trout this whole year.

 David Perry working a nice run

I FINALLY saw a train on the tracks along the Caney on this particular trip.  Up until this float, I had NEVER seen a train anywhere around the Caney although I could only assume that the tracks weren't just there for nothing.  Best of all, we caught the train as it crossed the Smith Fork bridge, providing a photo opportunity that few get without either getting lucky or going to some effort.

Train over Smith Fork bridge 


Late in the day, we found three Bald Eagles that also gave me an opportunity to use my camera.  Someday I'll have a better zoom lens, but in the meantime I'm just glad to have seen these beautiful birds and documented the experience.  We also saw deer and even the river itself provided incredible opportunities for my camera.

Bald Eagles 

Fog makes the river almost eerie yet beautiful at the same time.

 Hopefully I'll be returning to fish the Caney in the next few days.  I also have a trip to the Smokies coming up in just over a week.  Check back for updates on those trips as well as some more reports from the last month or two...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Poll

We haven't had a poll in quite a while here at the Trout Zone, but I finally fixed that.  The poll is simply asking what water type you do most of your trout fishing on.  I'm curious what type of fishing most of the readers here do.  I spend more time on freestone streams personally but not by too much.  I make it out to the tailwaters often as well.  You can only choose one option on this poll, so if you have a close second then leave a comment explaining that...