Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the Last Cast...

...of the evening, a nice brown took my fly.

 Catherine McGrath Photograph

More on this fish and what it ate to come, as well as some area warm water updates and news on my upcoming trip to Yellowstone!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Nymph Tactics for the Wade Fisherman: Part One



Many books and articles have been written on the broad subject of nymph fishing.  The topic is one that cannot be addressed in just a single article.  I’m going to attempt to address as much as possible over the course of at least 2-3 articles.  In this first article I will try and present some of the theory that I believe affects the degree of success for any nymph fisherman.  Then, with my theories explained, I will attempt to share my thoughts on specific situations and how to approach them to increase your success. 

One way to become a better nymph fisherman is simply trial and error while out on the water.  Having someone to show you a trick or two definitely speeds up the process however.  My first true lesson on nymph fishing came from long-time Smoky Mountain guide Walter Babb.  Previous to this experience, my only understanding of the topic came from reading articles and any other material I could get my hands on. 
In general, I can learn most things through reading about them, but fly fishing has been an experience where watching a master can save months or even years of experiments.  The small detail that I had not really understood sufficiently before my lesson was line management.  Keeping as much line off the water as possible is extremely crucial, and I cannot emphasize it enough.  In my opinion, you always want the line to enter the water anywhere from directly above to slightly downstream (or downcurrent which is not always downstream) of your flies.  Generally, the current itself will eventually get your drift aligned properly eventually, especially if you are using an indicator, but what happens when a fish hits very early in the drift if your line has slack in it?
My reasoning is that if the line is entering the water upcurrent of your flies and a fish takes, there is slack in the line which will delay any indication of a strike.  That split second is crucial to actually hooking and landing the fish.  If you have reached that point in your fly fishing career where you don’t worry about the number of fish hooked and are just satisfied by tricking the fish into sampling your flies, then stop reading now.  If you want to catch more fish, read on.
Here is an attempt at an in-depth explanation using some basic high school geometry.  If you don’t need convincing of my logic or really hate math, you can skip the next few paragraphs and just trust me on this one.  For the rest of you, recall that in right triangle trig, the sine of an angle A is the length of the side opposite of A over (or divided by) the length of the hypotenuse.  Cosine of an angle A is the length of the side adjacent to A over the length of the hypotenuse.  In the diagram below, notice the direction of the current.  The fly is downcurrent of the indicator.  For the sake of our illustration, let’s just use an indicator depth of 4 feet.  Assume that the fly is at an angle that is 3o degrees from vertical.  In other words, the flies are NOT directly under the indicator.  Solve the triangle drawn onto the diagram using the sine and cosine formulas. 

For the sake of our illustration, assume that when a fish takes the fly, it does not rise or drop vertically in the water column after eating.  As the indicator drifts downstream over the fish, the fly is now stationary in the fishes mouth.  The indicator is still drifting though and as it comes vertical over the fish, we have over half a foot of line unaccounted for or causing slack between the fish and the indicator (see diagram below).  In fact, until the fly is 30 degrees upcurrent of the indicator, we will continue to have slack in the line.  The indicator can drift up to 4 feet downstream in our particular illustration before the slack is removed between indicator and fish.

Clearly, if you cast so that your flies are entering the water upcurrent of the indicator or rest of your line, you will be in a much better position to detect any takes, especially the soft ones where the fish barely moves at all. 
A particularly memorable example of the importance of this principle occurred last summer on the Caney Fork River.  I was floating with David Perry of Southeastern Fly along with my cousin Nathan.  We were having a nice day but had not found any nicer browns yet.  As we drifted into the back of a large pool, David P. suggested that I cast to a particular spot.  It was straight across the river from the boat, but I hooked the cast so my flies dropped in upstream of the indicator.  Almost immediately the indicator pulled gently under.  Instead of the routine stocker rainbow, a nice 18 inch brown was soon thrashing in the net.  Getting those flies in the correct position fooled a beautiful fish that really made my day. 
Nathan Stanaway photograph
Now that you know the basis of my theory, I will move into explaining other important principles to increase your success as a nymph fisherman.  I nymph more than anything else it seems, and have found that most of the time it is the best way to bring good numbers of fish to hand.  There are many exceptions to this generalization, but the fact remains that improving your skills as a nymph fisherman will drastically improve your catch rates. 

Back In Felt

I first heard about the change announced by Simms over on Tom Chandler's Trout Underground and have since done some research although specific information is a little hard to come by.  In talking with Byron Begley at Little River Outfitters, it seems that, at least at my local shop, the staff and owners didn't bother complaining to Simms.  The customers that wanted felt simply bought other products while a good number of people opted to give rubber soles a try, and everyone was still satisfied.  On the other hand, at least one customer reported falling multiple times in his newly purchased rubber soled boots.  While my first instinct is to laugh at Simms for such a quick about-face, at the same time I have to respect them for actually listening to the consumer.

My initial reaction to the announcement of the ban was to fire off an email to Simms explaining how crucial felt was here in East Tennessee.  Of course it depends on your fishing and wading style, but for those that fish the Smokies and tailwaters with lots of slick ledges like the Hiwassee, felt is hands down the safest way to stay on your feet.  My most recent pair of wading boots was a pair of Redington boots I got a good deal on.  The main reason they weren't Simms was because I couldn't find any Simms felt sole boots anymore.  I'll be going back to Simms next year or whenever I need to buy a new pair of boots because they fit me better than any other boot I've tried yet, and I'll support a company that is so willing to listen to what their customers want...

When it comes to preventing invasive species, I believe that education is the answer.  Legislating or marketing a specific method or product will not work if the masses don't buy in.  Instead of trying to force the industry in the direction of their choosing, Simms would do well to put their time and dollars into spearheading a collective effort to provide education to anglers and perhaps researching the best methods to clean gear. 

In talking to the good people at Little River Outfitters, I was alerted to another method to clean gear that is used by the Great Smoky Mountains NP fisheries biologists.  I have a few documents, brochures and papers to peruse but will be sharing more on that in a few days...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Creekin'

Back on the water, I've moved away from the tailwater trout and onto small stream panfish and bass.  The smallies are really active now as well as all manner of sunfish.  I've been on multiple Cumberland Plateau bluelines lately both here around Crossville and down towards Chattooga.  The next three months will provide some of the best fishing these streams have to offer.

As far as gear, I normally fish a fast-action 9' 4wt rod.  Two weeks ago I fished a St. Croix Legend Ultra on the creeks near Chattanooga.  This past Friday I was fishing a prototype rod from James Marsh.  Both times I had my old, battle-worn Orvis Battenkill reel with a four weight Rio line.  The important thing is that you choose a rod capable of throwing anything from little beetles or ants to small clousers and wooly buggers.  Any reel and floating line will do for this type of fishing.  Generally the fish aren't picky although they can be a bit spooky at times when the water starts to get low. 

Last Friday, I fished a local creek that is flowing well above seasonal norms due to all the rain we have had lately.  The fish was slow at first, mainly because I was unused to fishing with the higher water conditions.  Once I tied on the correct fly and figured out where the fish were, it was game on! 

I probably caught in the neighborhood of 30 fish in a couple of hours give or take although I can never truly keep an accurate count of how many fish I catch.  Catching fish is one of those bonuses to any fishing excursion, and I try to keep my definition of success at least somewhat detached from the number of fish caught.  Still, its always nice to come back and tell everyone that I caught more fish than I could count or remember. 

My dad came along just to hang out and take a few pictures of the scenery.  It is always nice to have someone around while fishing, at least most of the time.  It is hard to juggle the camera and the fish without causing undue stress to the fish although definitely possible.  Having someone else along just simplifies the whole process. 

David H. Knapp Photo 



I didn't end up taking many pictures.  Most of the fish were on the small side as is normally the case on these streams.  Thats not to say that large fish aren't around, just that they don't show up on the end of my line very often.  This week looks like it will contain minimal fishing.  I'll be tying for myself and filling a couple of fly orders as well.  The following week is shaping up like a possible backpacking opportunity.  I'm thinking along the lines of big brown trout, but we'll see what happens...

Another Big Oil Mishap

The great Yellowstone River has been inundated with as much as 1000 barrels of Exxon Mobile crude oil.  The timing is really bad too since runoff is in full swing.  That means instead of keeping the oil at least a little under control it will be washed well down the river and into the Missouri.  On the other hand, for the Yellowstone River itself it could be a good thing as the oil will largely get blown downstream.  The interesting part is that the pipeline that broke was under the river.  Wonder who had that great idea?  Every seriously heavy runoff event was bound to stress the pipeline until eventually it couldn't take it any more.  Apparently there were a total of three pipelines (from three different companies) under the river, so let's hope the other two stay secure.

Major news outlets are now picking up on the story.  Hopefully Exxon Mobile will do what they say they are going to, namely do a good job with the cleanup.  If past history is any indication, I'm a little skeptical about a Big Oil company doing the right thing...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flies

I just finished an order for 2 dozen of my beadhead caddis pupa, and was realizing that I haven't mentioned any flies for awhile.  As we get into summer, make sure you have plenty of terrestrials if you are planning on fishing the Smokies.  My favorite combination is a green weenie and ant fished with a couple of split shot in the faster pockets and runs.  The fish will kill an ant when nothing else seems to work.  Also, the Isonychias should be around now, and I have a couple of great patterns for this hatch.  My favorite is a soft hackle pattern that has produced some of the largest fish I've caught in the Smokies including a 19 inch brown and 16 inch rainbow. 

If you need any of these patterns, please don't hesitate to contact me through email for further information on prices and availability.  I will be tying for my upcoming trip to Yellowstone over the next few weeks and will only be taking limited orders for flies so please check soon if you want some of these great patterns...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big Terrestrials

David Perry Photograph

Fly fisherman in middle Tennessee have experienced the pinnacle of terrestrial fishing here in the southeast this summer.  The cicadas have been nothing short of spectacular as the 13 year periodic cicada hatch produced many opportunities to take large fish on dry flies.  I never got on the big browns like some people but caught nice browns and rainbows up to 19 inches.  The carp fishing was insane, and I finally figured out why some people are so enamored with this species. 

I floated the Caney a few times including a couple of trips with David Perry who has spent the summer putting clients onto big fish using dry flies on multiple area tailwaters.  The first trip was absolutely incredible but it was the carp fishing that really got us excited.  Early in the float David P. nailed a big brown that was 22 inches on a cicada.  That got our hopes up for more big fish, but the next few hours were slow with just a handful of fish to the net.


As we moved further down the river, we started seeing large fish cruising the dead water along the banks and feeding on the surface.  My first cast to one of these surface feeders was long, probably 60 feet, but the fly landed on target and the fish sipped the big cicada pattern.  Upon feeling the steel, the fish promptly ran into a tangled mass of logs and broke the 4x like nothing.  Since then I've used nothing lighter than 3x.

Thankfully that wasn't the end of my day.  Continuing down the river, I soon got another shot at a carp and shortly had my first ever carp pictures.  David P. wanted in on the action so I rowed for awhile while he fished to more rising carp.  Neither of us had ever experienced anything quite like it and were having a blast. 

My largest fish of the day came late when we were getting close to the take out.  A nice fish swirled in the deepening shadows along the bank.  The cast was right where I wanted it and the fish pushed a wake as it came to investigate.  The fly disappeared in a swirl and the fight was on.  I knew immediately that this fish was in a different class than the ones we had been catching.  As I fought the carp up and down the river, David P. rowed after the fish, providing a great opportunity to actually land the beast.  Finally we neared the shallows, and I jumped out to beach the big carp as there as no chance of it fitting in the net. 

David Perry Photograph

Another float with David P. was fairly slow for trout but that was because we weren't really targeting them.  That's right!  The carp were so much fun that we spent time intentionally targeting them even when trout were around and available.  The one trout I got on that float was memorable because I nailed it before we even started floating.  David P. was parking the truck and I decided to see if any fish were hungry.  On the third cast an 18 inch brown took my offering.  My day was complete at that point so I volunteered for rowing duty and enjoyed just being on the water.  Later on we enjoyed chasing carp again.  Fishing for them is addicting enough that I will now purposefully try to catch one when I get the chance...

David Perry Photograph

Two other days I made it down to the river on my own and both times I had excellent fishing.  The Caney is fishing well although it will seem really slow now that the cicadas are basically done.  Large trout don't show up as often when the game consists of nymphs and midges but its good to know they are in there.



The Caney should continue to fish well assuming that there is enough cold water in the lake to last through fall.  The recent heavy generation may start letting up soon although the heavy traffic on the river makes fishing it a less than appealing proposition. 

I will probably be spending more time fishing for warmwater species over the next few weeks although my time on the water will be limited.  More time will be devoted to tying in preparation for my trip to Yellowstone in late July and early August.  I still have some reports to do here as well and have more articles in the works so I definitely have plenty to keep me busy...



Back

I have been having some internet struggles lately but am now back and will try and get several updates and pictures up as soon as possible.  There is still more information on the middle Tennessee cicada action earlier this summer as well as some warmwater stream trips for smallmouth.  I have additional fishing trips coming up including a Yellowstone trip so stay tuned for all that and more...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Carp...

...on cicadas!!!  I've been on the Caney for the past couple of days and likely to get out again another day or two in the near future.  The cicadas are on but definitely winding down now.  All this time I thought trout fishing was a blast, but now I sort of understand why some people get all excited about carp.  These fish were chowing down on cicadas on the lower river.  Here is one picture of a 30 inch carp caught during a float with David Perry.  Lots more to come over the next few days so stay tuned for more on the cicadas and the big browns, rainbows, and yes, carp that are tearing them up. 

David Perry Photograph