Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tying With Mustard

One of my most productive patterns for smaller streams out west such as high elevation cutthroat streams is a variation on the Copper John.  I call it the Mustard John.  The fly is also extremely successful on rivers like the Gunnison during Yellow Sally times.  I'll always fondly remember fishing the Gunnison River immediately below the NP visitor center for 2-3 hours and catching trout after trout.  Most of them were browns in the 14-18" range with one or two pushing 19" and a beautiful rainbow trout thrown in for good measure.  All fish came on the Mustard John.

I'm currently preparing for a Smokies adventure this next weekend and was tying a few flies last night.  It occurred to me that some of you may enjoy using this fly so without further discourse, I give you.........the Mustard John!!!

Hook: TMC 5262 #14
Bead: Brass 7/64
Thread: 8/0 Yellow and Black
Tail: Brown Biots
Body: Medium Ginger Ultra Wire
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Wingcase: Mottled Bustard Thinskin + Pearl Flashabou + epoxy
Legs: Mallard dyed wood duck

Tie it the same as you would a regular Copper John, just using the different colors mentioned above.  For a good tutorial on tying the Copper John, refer to this page on Charlie's Fly Box.  If you don't already tie and fish Copper Johns, I highly recommend that you add them to your arsenal immediately.  Don't hesitate to experiment with colors.  Other proven colors to try are red and green but don't let yourself be limited.

Floating the Caney

On Sunday I made it out with a couple of friends to float the Caney.  As always we had a great time and even managed to fool a few trout.  Rain was threatening throughout the day but never really materialized to any great extent.  I was a little disappointed because I wanted to throw streamers and wanted some downright nasty weather.  Still, we managed a few fish, mostly on nymphs.

  Photograph by David Perry

The high point of the day was seeing some BIG stripers, one of which was feeding in a shallow riffle.  Really I wish these fish would stay away from the trout but when you do see one it is pretty exciting.  In fact, I might have to start doing some striper fishing again sometime soon.

For a little more on this float, check out David Perry's blog over at Southeastern Fly.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Splendid Two Hours

Everyone has it, or at least everyone should.  I'm talking about that little local fishing hole which for the more blessed is a blue ribbon trout stream, but for the rest of us is probably a little pond or maybe a small stream full of a wide variety of species.  My local fishing hole, not to be confused with my home water which is a completely different topic, is a little lake down the road which happens to be the water supply for a nearby municipality.  That means that boats with gas engines are prohibited from using them on the lake, and it is never crowded despite the boat ramp.  The bank sitters are likely to be found chunking bait under a bobber, but otherwise it is easy to find a quiet spot and catch a few fish.

For me, the beauty of the local fishing hole is precisely the fact that it is close.  I can drive the three or so miles without feeling like I just spent my life's savings on gasoline.  These days a road trip can unfortunately begin to feel a little like that.  Since it is so close, I don't really feel the necessity weighing down on me to get in my money's worth of fishing time.  Those Smokies trips often turn into fishing marathons simply because I went to so much effort to get there, never mind that I would rather be fishing there but its just too expensive to do very often lately.  If most people could get past the deluge of information on the great fishing to be had in other locales, they would probably find great fishing in their own back yard with a little bit of effort and research.

That local fishing hole can have a bit of mystery to it.  This is generally due to the fact that we tend to overlook what we have in the back yard for destination trips that require a $400 plane ticket and leaves us standing in "famous" water.  Local fishing holes often surprise, or at least surpass expectations, but that seems to be how things work.  Fly across the country to fish in Yellowstone, and every time you leave thinking that it could have been at least a little better perhaps.  But catch a monster in that little out of the way fishing spot and you'll probably be bragging to anyone who will listen and not always so subtly either.

The nicest thing about the local fishing hole is that I can be there for a couple of hours but home in time to cook a good supper and maybe even mow the grass.  For some reason I occasionally return from a longer trip feeling slightly guilty.  After all, when you know full well that there are legitimate chores to do at home, you would have to be detached from your conscience if there wasn't at least a little twinge of guilt at so much time fishing.  Of course, any good fisherman has long since figured out how overcome those twinges, but its nice to have a fishing trip that doesn't produce them in the first place.  That's where the little lake down the road comes in for me.

Yesterday I almost talked myself out of fishing.  The excitement level is not the same for those local spots, even when you know full well that the fishing will be good.  Just about any lake I choose around here will have good to excellent fishing for bluegill, but I was not really in the mood for catching them or so I thought.  Once my mind was made up I moved about with purpose but still unhurriedly.  After all, when you only plan on fishing a little while what's the rush?

A brilliant thought struck me as I was scrounging around for all the right gear:  why not take two rods?  After all, that is what I would do on a float trip and perhaps I would even take three.  It never hurts to be prepared so, just in case, I tossed in the 7 weight for the bass if they wanted to play.

Arriving at the lake, I quickly figured out that I had made two mistakes.  I left home the banana bread that was going to be my mid-trip snack, and also the spool of 12 lb. fluoro that I use for tippet with streamers and other larger flies.  The snack I could do without, but the fluoro was more important.  Did I mention I was only three miles from home?  It was way better than the time I made it halfway to the Caney Fork before realizing that I left my wading boots, and I remembered the banana bread on round two through my house.

Back at the lake, I got the usual questions and stares about the float tube.  Apparently the locals here are just a little unfamiliar with the concept.  When I explained to one guy that, no I didn't have a paddle but I had fins for my feet, he mumbled something and found other places to be.  His confused look explained everything though.  As I launched, everyone around stopped to stare as I slowly but surely kicked across the lake.  Some people really don't get enough entertainment in life.

Upon reaching the other shore, I started throwing a tiny white streamer against the banks.  The logic was that something that small would appeal to the bluegill but the color might still entice bass.  After a short session that probably had as much to do with confidence, I switched to a bead head Simi Seal Leech in black.  Immediately fish started to eat the fly.

After a couple of bluegill, I tossed the streamer rod around with a Wiggle Minnow and......nothing.  Again, I didn't really properly apply the scientific method, but the small sample available suggested that a switch back to the bluegill rod might be in order.

Something about the opposite bank was calling me, so I decided to kick across and fish the shade.  The few bluegill I had picked up so far were from bits of shade where trees overhung the water.  A good fisherman will fish in any circumstances, so I tossed the line as far as I could and started to troll my way across.  Since the lake is deep and fairly cool, I didn't expect much but one never knows.

About half way across, I felt the surge of a nice fish.  In fact, it was even taking line a couple of times on my 5 weight.  My first thoughts were of bass, but then the fish came to the surface and even from a distance away I could tell it was a big bluegill.  It is funny how a glimpse of a fish is all it takes for you to want that one fish even though there are plenty more to be caught.  I was already envisioning what the pictures might look like.

Most of the time, when you start day dreaming before landing the fish, something goes wrong, but in this case everything worked out perfectly.  Soon the fish was both being roughly measured against the ruler on the stripping apron, but also photographed in a couple of different poses.  Finally, almost reluctantly, I let it go.

Turning to face the new shore, I continued by catching a few more bluegill and even taking another picture or two.  Later the 7 weight came out again, just long enough to catch a couple of bass.  As time moved along, I drifted along the shore and enjoyed the day.  The banana bread came out and the mid-afternoon snack was great.  I never did need that tippet come to think of it, but the banana bread hit the spot.

As I slowly neared shore again, I could hear the little kids asking, "Mommy, what is that man doing?"  Smiling I loaded all my gear into the car, and rolled back towards home.  Glancing at the clock in my car, I realized that I had only been there for two hours, but in that time life had slowed down and everything was splendid.  And, yes, I was back home in time to make a scrumptious supper.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Walk

The holiday weekend has been good to me so far.  On Friday, it was off to a local creek to swim and even do a little fishing.  The swimming was great, but the fishing was a little slow.  The recent thunderstorms still had the stream high and stained, but the fishing should improve soon.  

Yesterday was spent with my family.  In the afternoon we went to a favorite destination: Black Mountain.  A segment of the Cumberland Trail runs from there to highway 68 above Grassy Cove.  We normally just spend a little time walking out to the overlook where the view extends from Grassy Cove to the Smoky Mountains when the air is clear.  Knoxville was its usual hotbed of pollution so the distant views were lacking.

When I'm out with my camera, the natural limiting factors often cause me to approach photography from a different perspective.  Anyone can walk to the edge of an overlook in awe and snap a few pictures.  Few people take the time to look at the smaller scenes constantly playing out around them.  With the air too hazy, I started to look more closely at my immediate surroundings.  The first thing that jumped out at me was a wild blueberry bush growing along the cliff edge.  As I was shooting, a fly unexpectedly entered the scene and added that little something extra.

Not far away, but back in the woods and shade, the Mountain Laurel was mostly done blooming.  Here and there, a few bushes still had enough flowers left to be worth a quick picture.

The new spring growth was obvious all around.  In particular, I was drawn to several trees and shrubs that had seemingly large quantities of red for this time of year.  Expected in fall, it was nice to have something other than the shades of green so common in the spring.

Along the road by the parking lot, some vines were trailing along but again looking more like fall than spring.  The contrast between the fresh spring green and bright red was much more vivid than anything in October.  

Flowers were growing here and there, and right in front of our vehicles was a nice patch of daisies.  Experimenting with different angles and exposures, I found myself wishing for my tripod.  In the end, I was more or less satisfied with the result although nothing ever turns out exactly perfect. 

The treat of the day was found on the road back down the mountain.  On the way up I had noticed a few bursts of colors on the hill above the road.  The shady north side of the mountain is the perfect area for Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron and we hit the jackpot with the Flame Azalea.  I would have my dad stop the car, jump and and run straight up the hill to the flowers.  After several pictures, it would be back in the car to find more.  The thing that amazed me was the variety in color from a brilliant red to bright orange and even a few muted shades of orange.


Monday, May 21, 2012

School Is Out

Finally!!!!  School is out, and I want to go fishing.  My time on the water will be somewhat limited, but I'll be out at least a little.  I'm planning on making at least a couple of trips for trout in the Smokies as well as possibly the Caney Fork a time or two.  However, most of my fishing will be done locally for smallmouth and panfish.  Hopefully I'll have a better update soon and possibly a good fishing story.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thanks Mark!!!

Several months ago, Trout Zone reader Mark (Shoreman) asked if I had ever tried a Thinmint on the Caney.  In the ensuing discussion, he graciously offered to send me some to try out.  Since then, I have rarely been on the Caney, and always during very low water when dry flies or midges where the way to go.  However, I kept telling myself that it would be killer in the Smokies. 

Fast forward to yesterday and you find me rigging up along Little River and thinking about big browns.  I saw the Thinmint in my box and decided to tie one on.  On probably the third cast something blasted the fly and I thought, "wow, that's an easy way to catch big browns."  The fish ran all over the river and I kept thinking it was a big one. 

As I got the fish close, I saw instead a healthy rainbow.  Several rainbows later and the fly was falling apart.  I missed at least two very nice browns during this time as well.  When I'm looking for big fish in the Smokies, you can be sure that this fly will always be in my box from now on.  What a great pattern to add to the lineup!!!  Thanks again Mark...

 Nice Park rainbow on a well-chewed Thinmint

Partial Trip

Getting out in the Smokies is an opportunity that is not to be missed.  This past weekend's trip was special, a trip into the backcountry.  As much as I love backpacking, I don't do it often enough.  However, there is one aspect of backpacking that I really don't enjoy: going in the rain.

With the forecast practically guaranteeing a downpour, I opted to stay away from the overnight portion of my trip.  The messy forecast actually had me excited about the fishing though.  Hatching insects and nasty weather tend to go hand in hand.  I was supposed to fish with a new fishing buddy and he was not afraid of the forecast so the trip was still a go for Sunday.

The anticipation was building to the point where it was hard for me to go to sleep.  When it is after 11:00 p.m. and the alarm is set for 4:00 a.m., the logical side of my brain insists that I fall asleep.  As soon as your brain insists, the body rebels and the vicious cycle spirals out of control.  Sometime close to midnight I finally drifted off.  The alarm woke me up rudely.  As I moved around the house, my brain began to clear and the excitement returned. 

Arriving in the Park, we opted to head up Little River trail.  Our original plan was to hike a ways up but with the bad weather we knew that the stream would probably be ours for the day.  Accordingly we started fishing without going too far.
Somewhere on Little River...

Breck wanted to try some new techniques, especially fishing nymphs using the "high stick" style so common in the southern Appalachians.  I rigged up with a double nymph rig and set him up with a single bead head Tellico.  During my quick demonstration of the technique I landed two nice rainbows and we were off and running.  He quickly hooked and landed his first rainbow with the new technique and then we worked up the stream, taking turns at likely spots.
Breck fishing a nice pocket

As the rain continued to come and go, the insects became more and more active.  Finally we couldn't stand it any longer and tied on the dry flies.  After a couple of fish, it was obvious that while we could catch a few on top, the primary method for the day was nymph fishing. 

Later, after Breck had to leave in the early afternoon, I tried some new spots out.  The plan worked out perfectly.  Numerous mayflies and stoneflies were hatching and after picking up some really nice rainbows and missing a couple of larger browns on nymphs, I switched over to dries.
Rainbow caught nymphing a deep run 

Brown trout and dry flies!!!

This was the perfect way to end the day.  I caught a couple of browns on top and finally the previous late night and early morning caught up to me.  With daylight still left I opted to head on home before I fell asleep on my feet.  Thankfully, I managed to stay awake long enough to stop and spend a little time with my mom for Mother's Day.  When I finally fell asleep it was the sleep of exhaustion from a day well spent.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012


This weekend, I'm hoping to head for the backcountry of the Smoky Mountains.  Unfortunately I can only get away for one night, but of course that is better than none.  I've been tying a little, but not enough. Then again, I don't remember any trip I've ever been on where I had tied "enough" flies before leaving.  There is always the feeling that I should have tied more or maybe tied with more variety.

There is just one fly in the ointment.  My throat is a little scratchy, nothing serious mind you, but just enough to cause mild concern.  Must...not....get....sick.  Opportunities to backpack don't come often enough by any means so I'm really hoping I get to go.

Only time will tell, but in the meantime I'll be hitting the vise.  For this trip, I'm thinking of light colored flies.  Little Yellow Stones, Golden Stones, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, and maybe even some terrestrials.  It has been warm long enough now that ants and inch worms will start to be important.  In fact, I think I just convinced myself that it is time to tie...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Super Moon

Out for a walk Saturday evening, I watched as a beautiful sunset gave way to a beautiful moonrise.