Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Farewell Tour

Thankfully it was not my last chance ever to fish the Smokies.  With family still living in the area, I will be back to visit and will probably bring a fly rod along on those trips when time will allow for an excursion.  For the present however, yesterday was a farewell tour of sorts, a chance to visit my beloved Smoky Mountains one last time before the craziness begins.

Hoping for one last good brown trout, I got up at the unearthly hour of 3:30 a.m. and was soon on the road.  With the early sunrise of summer, I still was not on the water as early as would be best but luck was with me.  My buddy Ethan was already out fishing when I arrived and had located some good fish.  We decided to check out the pool again and sure enough, a monster brown flashed the streamer but would not hit again.

Slightly stained from recent rains and much higher than in recent weeks, Little River was perfect for fishing nymphs but still a little low for effective streamer fishing.  I switched rods and tied on two flies that are always killer in the summer including my soft hackle Isonychia pattern.  We headed down the river to another spot in hopes of finding more big fish.

The next pool obviously had some big fish moving around.  I was realizing that it was one of those magical days when the browns actually feed during daylight hours in the summer.  Time was short though since the sun would soon be over the ridge and on the water.  Ethan worked on a couple of the fish and soon we moved up the stream to a nice little run where I have generally had good success for rainbows but never any browns.

On my first cast, I changed things up with an active retrieve.  A brown exploded on the larger of the two flies and I quickly tossed the flies back for another go.  Sure enough, the same fish did its best to try and eat the fly but somehow completely missed the hook.  A third cast indicated that the fish had become wise to the game.  Determined to win, I moved up and set up a dead drift right down the middle of the run.  At the deepest point, the line hesitated, and I set the hook into a beautiful fighting brown trout.

The fish jumped and fought like a much larger fish as it tried to outwit me.  In the end, I corralled it while Ethan took over camera duty.  I removed the smaller fly, the soft hackle, and watched the fish swim strongly away, ready for another angler to enjoy the same experience.

Ethan Mcgroom Photograph

Continuing up the river, Ethan worked a large pool while I just watched.  Sometimes it only takes that one fish to satisfy.  This was one of those days.  I had accomplished what I came for.  Anything else would seem like a bonus, or worse yet, potentially greedy.  Above the big pool, a short section of rapids offered a pocket that at higher water levels would be frothing and unfishable.  As Ethan worked his way up, I decided to toss the nymphs in for fun, one of those "I wonder what will happen?" type casts.

The line froze and I set the hook.  This time a larger brown trout started running around the river.  The water was too swift to successfully land the fish so I followed it down stream.  The fish was smart and tried the trick of wrapping the line around a rock.  The current provided a nice advantage for the fish as well.  Remembering the earlier nice fish, I decided that I probably used up my luck for the day and that the fish would probably release itself somehow.  Moments later, I happily banished that thought as I beached the fish on a small sandy strip. Longer but much thinner than the other trout, it was still colored wonderfully.  Ethan was nearly walking on water behind me as he pushed through the rapid to see the fish.  Another picture, another memory stored, and I watched the fish vanish into its watery home.

Ethan Mcgroom Photograph 

Ethan Mcgroom Photograph 

Ethan Mcgroom Photograph

The stream had already been generous with me, but my day was not over.  Fishing a bit longer with Ethan, I started to just enjoy the day and take shots of the stream and scenery.  Eventually Ethan needed to head home so I went into Townsend to talk to the good people at Little River Outfitters and buy a couple of items.  Afterwards, I decided to make another trip into the Park before heading back home.



I messed around on a small stream, as well as on Little River again.  In one place, I found a nice sized rainbow willing to play.  The small stream yielded small rainbows as well as great scenery and the certainty that I was fishing fresh water.


My camera came out more and more to photograph my surroundings.  Recognizing that it might be a while before I return, I wanted to make the most of my time in the Park. Near the small stream, I found butterflies in profusion.  The fish aren't the only thing interesting on these trips!



Finally, drowsiness reminded me that the day had started early, and I had best head for home.  Cruising down I-40 towards the Plateau, I couldn't help but grin.  It had been quite a day!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Relocating

Big changes are looming on the horizon.  I just accepted a job in Colorado and will be moving that way soon...as in soon enough to start the new school year.  Things have been moving pretty fast and will continue to be that way.  I'm looking forward to the possibilities for career advancement and working with some new people, but naturally am also interested in learning about some new spots to fish.  My favorite parts of Colorado (so far anyway) are located far from where I will be, so I probably won't be fishing there as much as I might like.  Teaching in a new school will keep me busy as will the next few weeks of transition.

With that in mind, please forgive me if the updates and fishing stories come with less frequency for the next few months.  I want to focus on the new job which means some things like this blog might temporarily be put on hold.  I will still check in at least some though and intend to post trip reports and other news.

To all my Tennessee friends, thanks for making my fishing experiences awesome!  I will miss all the good times, but will be returning to visit, hopefully often, and will be doing at least a little fishing then.  The Smokies will always be the best!!!

In the meantime, I look forward to meeting new people and making new friends in the sport in Colorado.  Hopefully I can find some people willing to show me around and put up with a new guy...

Monday, July 09, 2012

Almost

Imagine yourself close to one of the best trout streams in the southeast.  Large brown and rainbow trout call these waters home.  Brown trout are frequently caught in excess of twenty inches.  This amazing stream is right at your finger tips -- but you do not have the opportunity to fish it.  Yes, I had to suffer a little this weekend.

Two good friends were getting married in the Asheville vicinity.  With a couple of hours of spare time, some friends and I went for a quick drive through the Pisgah National Forest.  Just enough time was available for a short walk so we strolled over the short path to Moore Cove Falls.  Just a thin curtain of water was pouring over the falls but it was still quite picturesque.


Later, driving on down the road towards Brevard before heading back to Asheville, we passed the Davidson River while I drooled over the thought of big trout.  Sometime I will return and fish this legendary stream.  In the meantime, I'll think about how I almost got there...

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...