Featured Photo: Native Colors

Featured Photo: Native Colors

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ramsey Cascades Near Death Experience

Ramsey Cascades has been on my must-do list of hikes for a long time.  While camping a week and a half ago, I finally made the somewhat strenuous trek to the falls.  Several friends as well as my cousin allowed themselves to be talked into joining me on the hike.  We headed up the trail with the knowledge that we were racing time.  Storms were forecast and we didn't want to get caught out in the weather. 

The hike up was tiring but uneventful.  The cascade was actually much better than I anticipated.  We spent plenty of time relaxing and taking pictures.  I found some nice angles but ultimately the higher water of spring prevented me from getting to all the spots I wanted to take pictures from.  The stream below the cascade was as picturesque as the falls so I was happy to spend time with my camera.

After resting, eating lunch, and filtering some water, we started back down the trail.  The wind was increasing and several trees fell in the woods above us.  One section of trail was completely buried in the rubble of a rotten tree that had fallen minutes before we passed.  The crash reverberated through the forest, making us increasingly nervous.  The size of the tree that fell convinced us that the best thing we could do was to get out of the woods as soon as possible.  After having one member of our party pose in the debris for pictures, we quickly moved on.

Nathan Stanaway Photograph

Shortly after, one of my friends decided to jog ahead.  As we came around a bend, we found her lying in the middle of the trail.  Since she had just posed in the trail for pictures, we figured she was joking.  As we got closer, we started making comments like "nice job," and "comfortable down there?"  Then we noticed the large limb next to hear and someone bent closer and spotted blood on her face.

  Nathan Stanaway Photograph

Nathan Stanaway Photograph

My cousin is a paramedic and immediately went into work mode.  He made a quick assessment, and thankfully she was responsive.  Apparently, she was jogging down the trail when a huge gust broke a limb out of a tree.  All she knows is that she felt a jolting blow to the head and collapsed in the trail.  She was groggy for several minutes and had a headache for days but otherwise seems to be fine.  I made the best of an otherwise bad situation by taking an amusing "guide/client" shot with the limb.  As you can see, it was very large and had to have fallen from at least 30 feet up.  It is really a miracle that she was not hurt any worse.  God was definitely watching out for her.  Finally we helped her to her feet and continued down the trail but at a much slower pace.

  Nathan Stanaway Photograph

Thankfully the worst of the rain held off until we were in camp.  A quick stop for donuts lifted our spirits despite the gloomy weather.  Back in camp we fixed a hot supper and then went to bed...the next day would have more adventures and we needed plenty of rest...

Friday, April 22, 2011

High Water 'Bow

Last weekend in the Smokies was difficult from a "standard" fishing perspective.  The streamers were fun, but Sunday was supposed to be a day to take some friends fishing.  We were hoping to fish dry flies or nymphs so we headed for the West Prong of Little River to find some fishable water.  The West Prong always drains out a little faster since it is a small stream with few feeders. 

We found some pools that were at a perfect level for fishing nymphs.  Everyone tried something a little different, but in the end the fish did not care.  I caught fish on a Tellico and on a Red Copper John.  The last rainbow was a nice sized fish for a Smokies small stream.  It was very acrobatic, putting on quite an airshow.  This 'bow was the perfect end to a nice weekend in the Park. 

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The dogwoods definitely signal spring here in Tennessee.  Last weekend the trees in the Smokies were in full bloom.  I finally found some overlooking Little River that made a beautiful picture.  The early morning sun was illuminating the forest in the distance...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Streamer Action Hot

Last weekend's high water event in the Smokies brought the browns out to play.  I almost didn't find out until too late, but got in on the streamer action before things returned to normal.  Lots of fish followed my fly and several hit as well.  Only one actually got its mouth around the big Clouser though. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Troubled Montana

Apparently special interests have convinced the politicians of Montana to override the wishes of the state's residents.  The state legislature passed a cyanide leach mining bill so now the best we can hope for is the governor to veto the bill.  Tom Chandler over at the Trout Underground is keeping up with the latest developments.  If you read further on his blog there are several other posts referring to the topic.  Educate yourself and then contact the Montana governor via email (email link on the Trout Underground post). 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Smallmouth Fishing Compromised

Those who enjoy fishing the Little Pigeon in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge for smallies may want to wait awhile before heading to the river.  Apparently there was a major sewage spill upriver at Gatlinburg...guess I won't be targeting smallmouth there anytime soon...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stalking Risers

Spring in the Smokies is for rising trout.  Usually this means lots of 4"-10" rainbows with a few browns thrown in the mix.  Yesterday I had some business in Knoxville so as soon as I finished, the Park started calling my name.  The sunny skies and warmer temperatures had me dreaming of big hatches and even larger trout.  Large browns do not rise freely to insects very often, especially in the freestone streams of east Tennessee, but if you are going to catch one on a dry then spring is the time to do it. 

When I first arrived at the stream, there were good numbers of Blue Quills, Quill Gordons, and even some Hendricksons mixed in as well as a huge midge hatch.  Several fish were rising, but I was after larger game.  I spent a lot of the afternoon simply looking for large browns.  Some time was spent simply covering water with a dry or double nymph rig and I scored a few decent fish this way as well.  Several very nice fish were out feeding, but it wasn't until late in the day that I struck gold.

I was creeping along the bank of a nice pool when I noticed a dark shadow float to the surface to take an insect.  It was so unexpected that I almost ignored it, but thankfully my fisherman's instinct kicked in and I froze.  Thankfully the fish hadn't seen me, and I watched from behind the cover of a large tree trunk as the fish moved back and forth in the lazy current, rising occasionally to pluck something from the surface.  I checked the rest of the pool to make sure I wasn't missing something larger before returning to sit on the bank and observe the nice fish.  The brown was still there and another slightly smaller fish had moved in behind to feed as well. 

After considering my options and observing the fish, I carefully tied on a dry and crept down the bank to within 15 feet of the fish.  Stripping several feet of line off the reel, I carefully made two false casts and then dropped the fly gently above the fish.  For a second nothing happened.  Then the fish moved and began its ascent through the water column as my heart started pounding.  For an agonizing second (or was it an eternity?), the fish stared hard at the fly and then confidently inhaled my offering. 

As soon as I raised the rod tip, I knew I had a solid hook set and a good chance at landing the fish.  What I hadn't counted on was the fish going aerial.  My heart sunk as the fish repeatedly took to the air, but soon it grew tired, and I confidently raised its head prior to netting. After a couple of pictures, I cradled the fish gently in the current while it regained its energy before heading for a rock to hide under. 

At this point my day was perfect, and I couldn't ask for anything more.  I did spot another good fish, but finally decided to just head home and let the other fish in the stream feed in peace for that day.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Trout

Winter is a somewhat lean time for trout in the Smokies. There are still plenty of nymphs in the water but they definitely aren’t as active or readily available to the trout. Hatches are sparse if present and consist of midges and perhaps a few BWOs or stoneflies. On the other hand, spring always brings quality hatches. Even when there is not an active hatch in progress, the trout feed heavily on the bounty of aquatic insects and other food sources in the drift.

The quantity of food available means that even the usually wary brown trout are sitting out in the open consuming as many calories as possible. I catch more browns in the spring than any other time of the year except possibly early fall just before the spawn begins. Best of all, they tend to run a little larger than the average Smoky Mountain trout.

Camping is best in spring or fall, and I make sure to take at least a couple of camping trips during those times each year. A little over a week ago I found myself in the Smokies for my first spring camping trip hoping to run into a good hatch. All winter I have been looking forward to the return of steady dry fly action. While bugs were hatching, including Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, Brown Stoneflies, and Little Black Caddis, the heavy hatches I was hoping for didn’t happen. In fact, the best hatches I encountered were of the little brown stoneflies. Trout don’t normally rise very well to these insects although a stonefly nymph imitation can be deadly.

Over the course of the weekend, I had very good success with a Tellico nymph which is a great generic stonefly nymph imitation. Wooly Buggers and Pheasant Tail nymphs rounded out the rest of my arsenal. For dries, all I threw was Parachute Adams to match the Quill Gordons I found sporadically hatching. The fish responded best to the nymphs but under the right circumstances trout would rise to a well-presented fly. The larger browns were either in deep runs or waiting in ambush near structure, particularly overhanging or undercut rocks.

On Sunday I hiked a good distance up Little River with my buddy Kevin. We were searching for solitude and hungry trout and found both. Three miles of hiking put us above the last angler and gave us lots of good water to choose from including some really nice pools. We started fishing subsurface offerings which I stuck with for most of the day. Kevin switched to a dry after awhile and found plenty of willing trout.

The big surprise of the day was a small young of the year brook trout I caught around three miles upstream from the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont.  That is unusually low to catch a brook trout but this was probably because it washed down during one of the recent high water events.  The tiny fish somehow managed to take the fly, beating several other much larger rainbows which makes one wonder about the theory of rainbows out-competing with the brookies. 

My best trout of the day was a nice brown of 15-16 inches that nailed the Tellico almost before it hit the water. When I saw the golden sided fish roll, I almost dropped the rod in excitement. Thankfully all the knots held, and I beached the beautiful brown at the low end of the pool. After a couple quick pictures, I released the fish and watched as it shot across the stream to a hiding spot near the far bank.

Continuing up the river, I caught several more nice fish including another brown of around 13 inches. Small streams and willing trout provide one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day fly fishing in my opinion. This day on the water was one of the better small stream experiences I’ve had in the last year.

As area waters begin to warm, more fishing opportunities are opening up. Bass should be moving around now and the fishing for both smallies and largemouth should improve drastically over the next few weeks. I intend to spend more time in the Smokies soon, but have some professional responsibilities beyond my normal work load that may limit my time on the water for the next week and a half or so. After that, I have a break with several days off and will probably spend a significant amount of time with friends in the Park. Naturally at least a little fishing will be included…

Blooming Soon

The dogwoods are just about to start blooming in the Smokies.  I remembered this picture I took several years ago just above Elkmont of on early blooming tree.  You just can't beat spring in the Smokies!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Feeder

Nice brown caught on a recent Smokies trip.  Updates on that trip coming soon...