Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Friday, June 29, 2012

Different Kind of Soft Hackle

Here's an experiment I just tied up. I love soft hackles and was thinking about different ways to do one with a bead head. Here's what happened...

Hook: #14 TMC 2487
Bead: 7/64 Bronze
Thread: Tan 8/0
Tail: Hare guard hairs
Rib: Krystal flash, color to suit
Body: Hare's mask dubbing (include a little in front of the bead
Hackle: Partridge

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Heat Wave!!!

Temperatures are soaring here in the southeast.  Highs starting tomorrow will be challenging both the record high for each date but also the all-time record high here in Crossville, Tennessee.  Tomorrow's record high temperature in Crossville is 92 and for Saturday the record is 93.  Both days' forecast high is 100 degrees.  The all-time high for Crossville 101 degrees so there is a significant chance of breaking that as well.

Graphic Courtesy the NWS Office in Nashville, TN

Somehow the heat has diminished my excitement about going to the Smokies tomorrow. To travel that distance and burn that much fuel is an investment for which I want a more pleasant return in exchange. Thus, my fishing expedition tomorrow will be confined to a local destination for smallmouth and panfish, not exactly a bad trade-off.

Later this weekend I'll probably be doing a half-day float to throw terrestrials and maybe some streamers.  In between all the excitement, I'm planning on tying and trying to keep cool indoors.

At least we aren't burning like the western United States.  For those interested in learning more information about the fires around the country, check out the InciWeb site.  There is a lot of good information there although the severity and number of fires means that some of the information is not being updated in a timely fashion.

The information that intrigues (and disturbs) me the most are the fire area maps.  Watching well-known trout streams get toasted is not pleasant, but realizing how large of an area these fires are capable of burning in an afternoon is at least interesting.  In the meantime, keep all of those who live near the fires in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Please vote!!!

If you didn't notice already, there is a new poll up.  I have not had one for a while and this one is exploring how many of my current readers tie their own flies.  Lately I have enjoyed doing more tying again and want to know if my readers share my interest in tying.  Find the poll just above and let me know how much you tie!!!  Personally, I tie probably 99.9% of what I tie but every once in a great while will pick up a few flies somewhere...

More Brookies?

I think the answer is yes!!!  My recent brookie backpacking trip has inspired me to chase brookies again, and hopefully soon.  I'm planning on trying to make it to the mountains later this week to beat the heat on a brookie stream.  The beauty of a day trip is appealing right now as forecast highs are supposed to soar into the 90s even in all but the high elevations of the Smokies.  Trying to sleep outside in a tent when its that warm just does not appeal right now.  A day trip is much better and may even allow me to try a few different things including bass, trout, and maybe even stripers!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Quick Fishing Summary

Since I was in Nashville over the weekend, I decided to stop by the Caney on the way home Sunday evening.  Rising fish greeted me when I arrived so I strung up a 4 weight and rigged up a dry with a Zebra Midge dropper.  A few small browns later, I was glad that I had stopped by my neighborhood tailwater.

Earlier in the weekend, friends of mine canoed from the dam to Betty's Island.  They reported that the boat and angler traffic was horrendous.  Right now you can basically forget fishing the river on the weekend in the normal areas.  Weekdays will be marginally better but still busy.

If you want to enjoy some great trout action, I would recommend heading to east Tennessee.  Choose from the tailwaters or mountain freestone streams.  If you are hitting the freestone streams and rivers, be sure you head high enough to get away from the worst heat.  Trout in the low elevations will be stressed due to higher water temperatures and resulting lower dissolved oxygen content.  Tailwaters will continue to fish well although the summer doldrums are upon us.  When the sun is high overhead with not a cloud in the sky, the fish can be pretty spooky.

Unfortunately, the weather pattern looks to stay about the same for the next week or more.  Hot and hotter seems to be the drill around here with dry conditions persisting.  Tennessee is slipping into drought conditions and I'm very concerned for area fisheries.  The tailwaters may be fine but low elevation freestone streams will probably see some fish kills by late summer if we don't start getting rain.

Dry years are a great opportunity for better than average terrestrial fishing.  I don't know why, but low water and terrestrials go hand in hand.  On the tailwaters, look for hopper and beetle fishing opportunities.  The annual cicadas are starting to hum as well so watch and listen for those.  In the mountains, a bumper crop of small hoppers along with normal ant, inchworm, and beetle fishing should make for a great terrestrial season.

As we move through the summer, terrestrials will increase in importance in the mountains along with Isonychia mayflies.  Little Yellow stoneflies and Golden stones will both continue to be effective although as the summer wears on they will be less significant.

On the tailwaters like the Caney and the Clinch, sow bugs will become more and more important and of course midges and blackfly larva continue to work well.  On the South Holston, the Sulphurs are on now as well as good beetle fishing during low water times.  If you want some phenomenal dry fly fishing, I recommend either the South Holston with its Sulphur hatches or the Hiwassee with the Isonychia mayflies.  The ISOs on the Hiwassee are unique from most Isonychias in that they hatch mid-stream instead of crawling out on a rock.  That means that drifting with dry fly imitations and emergers is a great way to get into some nice fish!

As the heat continues, striper action will get better and better in area tailwaters.  We have already seen some HUGE stripers this year and are excited to get back into the striper game.

Regardless of where you are, don't let the heat beat you!  Get out early and late to avoid the worst of the heat and catch some fish.  This is a productive time or year if you can get out...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Topwater Bass

Trout aren't the only fish looking up.  I recently hit a lake full of bass and panfish with one of my favorite hopper patterns.  In addition to a couple of BIG bluegill, I found a couple of nice bass that wanted to play.

The first fish was cruising with a school of fish in the middle of the lake, periodically nailing something on the surface.  Casting the hopper out in front of the fish and twitching it resulted in an explosion and some tail-walking as a nice bass came to hand.


The next fish was sitting up along the banks.  I was drifting within casting range of shore and pounding the fly up under branches and near structure when a swirl suggested that a fish ate.  When the line came tight, I knew I was into a nice fish.  The 4 weight rod bent and 5x tippet straining, I gradually worked the fish out away from the snags and into open water.  Finally, a quick picture, then I revived the fish.  With a splash it took off to be caught another day...




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yellow Stones

Late spring and summer in the Smokies always means Little Yellow Stoneflies.  There are different species, ranging in size from the big Golden Stones down to #18 but most commonly in the #12-#16 range.  The following is one of my favorite patterns for this hatch.  I like it for two reasons:  it is easy to tie, and it floats very well.  If you want to try it out, here is the recipe.

Hook: #16 TMC 100 or similar dry fly hook
Thread: Yellow 8/0
Body:  Yellow Poly Yarn
Wing:  Yellow Poly Yarn
Hackle: Light or Medium Dun, trimmed on the bottom


Lots of other great patterns work, but I'm about efficient, easy to tie patterns that still wear out the fish.  Next time you are heading up to the Smokies, make sure and stay until evening and then tie one of these on.  You'll be glad you did...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Backpacking For Brookies



Backpacking trips tend to happen abruptly.  That is, while I think about them and plan them for a while, things always seem to work out differently than I intend.  This past weekend was such a trip.  My original plan was to backpack into a favorite stream where you could catch brookies, yes, but also rainbows and browns.  In fact, my last trip there produced a fine brown trout close to camp in addition to lots of other great memories, both on the water and in camp.

As the departure date for this trip approached, the trip shifted its focus.  My dad decided to come along as he has been wanting to camp with me for a while now.  The front country campgrounds were all full or nearly so, and our desire for solitude made the decision to backpack easy.  I was concerned about my dad carrying a pack for too far, so changed our destination to an easy hike with willing brookies as the target species.  My dad does not fish although enjoys going with me on my adventures.  Joining us on this trip was a buddy of mine who I have been friends with since we were both kids.  He had not fished in the Smokies for many years and was excited to catch some brook trout.

On the day of our departure, it took a little time to get organized.  I wanted to keep my dad's pack as light as possible so packing took a bit of extra time.  In the end, we got on our way about fifteen minutes later than I wanted which was not bad!  Stopping in at Little River Outfitters gave my buddy David the chance to get a license, but soon we were on our way again.  A quick stop at Subway for lunch gave us the energy we would shortly need to hike to our campsite.


Arriving at the trailheads, the three Davids (yep, we all have the same name) shouldered packs and started moving.  The hike in was beautiful, but we were frustrated to discover an extra group at our site (not supposed to be there) that added an extra 4 tents to the relatively small camping area.  They were clustered like servants around a king of a tent that the other party (supposed to be there) had lugged in there.  While exploring the options for pitching our tents, I discovered where a recent visitor had used the bathroom without concealing it very well.  Not surprisingly, I was just a little frustrated about everything.  However, once we got the tents up and some food going, I decided there was no point to being upset in such a beautiful environment and that I might as well enjoy my time in nature.  I had brought in pita bread with avocados and tomatoes for supper and it was the perfect food after the hike in.


The creek nearby was gorgeous and after supper cleanup, I just had to rig up my fly rod and probe its waters.  Three brookies later I was convinced that we were in for a great camping and fishing experience.  The fish all came on a yellow Neversink caddis that happens to be one of my favorite little yellow stonefly imitations.

Back in camp, as day light yielded to darkness, we made small talk with the other campers before hitting the sack.  The soothing waters of the creek lulled us to sleep as it murmured by in the night.

The next morning, the big group of hikers had packed up and left by the time we got up, definitely a good start to the day.  They were very polite and kept almost complete silence so as not to disturb us as they packed.  By the time we were up and fixing breakfast, I was getting antsy to be fishing.  Its hard to not get distracted from breakfast when you are eating on the banks of a perfectly good trout stream.  Such are the difficulties of life.

 
Finally, with everything cleaned up, lunch packed, and rods rigged, we started off on our adventure.  As we were walking to our starting point, the trips first and second snakes made an appearance.  While I'm not exactly scared of snakes, it does tend to make one more cautious once you've spotted a couple.



Getting into the creek proved more difficult than you might think.  The banks were covered in vegetation, including a healthy crop of stinging nettle.  I avoided it the whole weekend, but both my friend and my dad ended up playing in it with varying degrees of resulting discomfort.  Once in the streambed, it was essential to keep moving through the water and on the rocks.  To move up the banks was to invite death by stinging nettle or at least a short term painful disaster.

 
I had brought my favorite fly rod (4 wt) which was designed just for such trips as this.  Small streams and dry flies are where this rod shines although I fish nymphs with this rod fairly often as well.  We started out with #16 yellow Neversink Caddis and that proved to be a good choice.  Really, in the Smokies, its hard to go wrong with any #16 dry fly in yellow this time of year.  I like the Neversink because of the foam wing that just keeps floating.
 

The first pocket we each fished produced nothing, but then the brookies started to come to hand.  A fish here and there, although not as many as on my previous trip to this same stream.  Still, they were pretty, and its hard to complain about catching plenty of brook trout without sounding selfish.  The stream was beautiful as well, the kind of place you find yourself daydreaming about at work.  Lush green lined the bank and led up into the darker woods above.
 

My buddy was happily catching trout after trout.  He hadn't fished the Smokies for quite some time and was glad to be getting into brook trout.  These southern strain brookies are amazingly colored, and while I love catching browns most of all, I would rate brookies a close second even though a 10 incher is considered a really nice fish.  Really, its hard to compare the benefits of one fish over another because in the end, for most people, the best fish to catch is whatever happens to be on the end of the line.  And of course, a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work, or something like that.
 


Anyway, there we were, in the middle of nowhere, catching more gorgeous brook trout than we deserved.  The stream continued to wow us around each new bend.  The fish rose more and more willingly as the day continued to warm and a bit of a hatch developed.  A couple of caddis here, some stoneflies over there, and a few big mayflies all combined to keep the fish interested but never too full for something more.


Eventually I tied on a #14 Parachute Adams as an experiment.  I dropped a little bead head behind that but soon removed it once the fish proved they really just wanted the dry.  By the time we stopped for lunch, fished a little more, climbed a couple of waterfalls, and hiked back to camp, we had each caught more brookies than necessary to call it a great day.


 

On the hike back, the trail nearly vanished in places from the onslaught of vegetation, including the dreaded stinging nettle.  Here and there, wildflowers drew our attention.  My camera would come out, then it would be moving again towards camp.


 


That evening we had a treat in store.  We had packed in everything to have chili dogs for supper.  I've brought some pretty good food on backpacking trips but this might be my new favorite.  In my opinion, when you aren't hiking very far it is well worth the extra weight to eat well.  I brought some newspaper and such for kindling so we roasted the hotdogs over a small campfire.  As the coals grew dimmer, we grew sleepy until it was obviously time to go to bed.

The sound of rain gradually woke me the next morning.  This dreaded sound on a backpacking trip is frustrating to say the least.  My solution was to roll over and try to catch a little more sleep.  This strategy worked perfectly, and by the time I was ready to actually get up, the little shower had spent itself and the day held the promise of good hiking weather for our trek out.

After chowing down on breakfast and throwing gear and dirty clothes into the backpacks, off the trail we went.  Just outside of camp, we came across a nice-sized black bear that took off up a hill.  I don't often see bears on backpacking trips so this was one of those nice bonuses that you accept but don't expect.  Later, within sight of the parking area in fact, another critter stopped us.  This time a nice timber rattlesnake that was stretched out by the trail.  After a maneuvering for a picture, the snake got a little grumpy and coiled up and proceeded to rattle at us until we left.  The snake was an even greater treat than the bear, being only the 4th rattler I've seen in the wild.


Back at the car, the lure of a good meal had us hurriedly throwing our gear inside and hitting the road, another great trip complete!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Brookie Water

Now that the heat is building and summer is asserting itself even before officially starting, the high country brook trout streams sound more appealing than ever.  This past weekend I made it to where the temperatures where cool and the water and trout plentiful.  Lots of brookies were caught and released.  More to come once I have a little free time...


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.