Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Monday, April 28, 2014

Scouting

As we move closer to summer, our warm water streams here on the Cumberland Plateau are beginning to wake up.  On Sunday afternoon, I headed out with a friend to check a new spot off the list.  Most of these streams on the Plateau are remote and often much more rugged than anything I've ever encountered in the Smokies.  The hike in can often be brutal, but if you put in your time and do your homework, there are places with better access that can be found.  In fact, we never fished more than 1/3 of a mile from the car.

The best water is usually much tougher to get to though so I'm planning a return trip that will involve a bit more hiking.  While these streams are full of small bass and sunfish, some nicer fish can be found as well as evidenced by this nice smallmouth I found.

Photograph by Seth Arnold

Fishing was still a bit slow and will heat up over the next 3 weeks as waters warm and flows drop.  By June, things should be moving right along and will continue to be good through September most likely.  By late in the season, the fish in these streams are spooky as flows drop to a fraction of what they are now.  Long clear pools interspersed with gentle riffles and pockets make long casts a necessity as well as smaller flies.

But now, for the next few weeks at least, I'll be out there tossing larger flies like my PB&J streamer.  Bright colors worked best and the PB&J in Firetiger got the most looks.  Soon they'll be taking bugs on top as well.  The smaller fish were working the hatching Hendricksons pretty well, but soon we'll be tossing Stealth Bombers, Wiggle Minnows, and hopper patterns at the bass and panfish.  If you live in the area, Plateau streams and creeks are a worthy target in lieu of driving somewhere further to trout fish.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Drifting with Friends

One of the best things about the sport of fly fishing is all of the great people you meet.  From fly shops across the country, to stream side chats, I've met some of the nicest and most generous people.  Meeting for a float is about as fun as it gets so when my friend Breck checked in about a possible Caney Fork float, I was all in.

He was wanting to see the Caney since he hadn't fished it yet and was bringing his boat.  The generation schedule called for high water so it would be a day of throwing streamers the whole way.  I tied up a few more flies the night before and got up early for a start at daybreak.

Once he arrived, we dropped my car for the shuttle later and headed on up the river.  Breck is a streamer fanatic and with good reason I might add.  He has caught some huge browns on rivers like the Clinch while drifting and knows what it takes to have a good day on the water.  His boat boxes were full of monstrosities designed to turn the largest fish in the river.

It didn't take long to get the first fish of the day as well as some drive by action that resulted in the usual exclamation of "Did you see that?!?!?"  The skipjack are up in the river right now but not in the size that I'm accustomed to from the Chickamauga tailwater in Chattanooga where 18 and 20 inch skipjack are normal.  Once we started drifting, the early cold started to wear off as the sun rose higher.  Fish started to flash with some regularity and Breck came up with the first rainbow and brown of the day.




I love rowing and stayed with it for a while even after Breck offered to take a turn, but eventually the pull of throwing big flies was too strong, and I finally agreed to take a turn with the fly rod.  We covered a lot of water, pounding the banks as well as trying to work over deep water in the middle near shoals and structure.  Fish came from a lot of different places with most of mine coming off of banks and Breck's coming from out in the middle.

It wasn't until we were near or past the halfway point that Breck got excited.  I looked and saw a dark shape swirling before hammering the streamer.  Unfortunately luck was not on our side as the hook pulled from the big brown's mouth and we were both left plotting how to return again for another try some day.  Finally, as we came into the homestretch, Breck offered to switch again, and I was back on the fly rod.  Flashes and swipes became more common and soon I had my own fish as well.

When I offered to row again so Breck could fish, he told me to keep fishing.  See what I mean about generous?  I didn't argue too long and kept at it strong until the takeout.  We had a great trip even if we didn't get that big fish.  Thanks again Breck for a great day out on the water!

You can see Breck's report on our trip on the Little River Outfitters message board here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fishing to Refocus???

While perusing the World Wide Web this morning, I came across this news story about the Indiana Pacers' Paul George.  Apparently he has offended many people because he went fishing after a big loss in Game One of the 1st round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.  Sports columnists and commentators are ripping him for not being focused and suggesting that the Pacers are going to lose the series to Atlanta the way things are going.

I'll offer a different perspective.  For many years, fishing has been my way to escape and relax.  I usually return from fishing trips feeling refocused and energized.  While the majority of the non-fishing populace doesn't understand this, mostly because they've never given fishing a fair shake, those of us who do fish totally get what Paul George is up to.  In fact, I'll go out on a limb and predict a big game from him in Game 2.

Anyone else think he was just relaxing and collecting his thoughts so he could refocus or am I way off here?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday News

I don't have a whole lot to share today but for those of you on Twitter, you can now find me there.  In a few minutes I'm heading out to chase some crappie and perhaps some bass and bluegill so there should be a warm water report in soon.  This week will feature some time on the tailwaters and I'm starting to plan some backpacking excursions in the Smokies.

Currently, I have some open days as well for guided trips late this month and through May.  The Smokies are settling into a routine and will be awesome for the next few weeks.  If you are willing to hike there are always the possibilities of big days for numbers.  I can set up a trip for whatever you are looking for.

The tailwaters are starting to show some windows as well.  Last week was phenomenal on the Caney.  Bring your A-game and there is always opportunity for big browns.  I hooked and promptly lost a large fish last week but it didn't matter as I had already wore out my arm on the buffalo that were all over the river.  The trout fishing this year is going to be incredible as long as we can find some sections without too many people.

Head over to Trout Zone Anglers to learn more about trip options and pricing or send me an email to set up your trip!

Happy Easter

I just want to wish everyone a Happy Easter today as we celebrate the Resurrection!!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Quick Report: Guide's Day Off


So I'm running low on time today so I'll keep this as brief as possible.  The last two days, the Caney Fork had a couple of windows with no generation for all of us wade fisherman.  That didn't last long as today they are running water all day again, but it was nice to get out while I could.

With no trips scheduled on Wednesday and of course wanting to see how the river is fishing, I took off and timed it so I would arrive just as the water was falling out enough to get in the river and fish.  It didn't take long for me to see some MASSIVE fish busting on the surface or at least so it appeared. My first thought was, "Oh no, the stripers are already here. Too bad for the trout!"  After getting a glimpse of fins and tails breaking the surface, I soon concluded that it wasn't stripers and started to wonder what in the world was going on.

Eventually I discovered the commotion was made by spawning Bigmouth Buffalo.  I'm not entirely convinced that there weren't some carp in the mix as well but let's just say I was in awe.  I've always heard about these fish but never run into them in large numbers on the upper river and by the time I see them on the lower river later in the year, they are very tightlipped.

Running my nymph/midge rig through the deeper water eventually resulted in a hookup.  Wow! These things can pull!!!  My arm is still sore.  After catching a couple on the midge, yeah, that's right, I said a MIDGE on 6x no less, I was worn out and decided to go looking for trout.


That's a size 22 gray midge

The net opening is 16" x 22" for reference and this was not the largest I caught...

In some deeper water downstream I started catching some rainbows with regularity and had a large trout, probably a brown, break me off with just a couple of good headshakes.  The trout were showing a preference for the nymphs which was interesting.  I never did get around to fishing a dry/dropper rig  but they probably would have eaten the Zebra Midge fished that way.  Late in the day I even found a skipjack for a rather unusual slam of rainbow and brown trout, buffalo, and skipjack.  Fun trip for sure!

Fresh hatchery 'bow

Deeper water was the ticket...

The good news is that the midge hatches are getting stronger and the fish are responding.  The Buffalo are in the river as well and can definitely provide some entertainment if you've never hooked one.

This brown fought twice his size and had me convinced a big fish was on for a while.

Yep, spring is definitely here when the dogwoods start blooming!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Road Trip

This afternoon I'm hitting the road to head for Hendersonville, TN to speak to the Hendersonville Fly Fishers.  If you are a member and able to come tonight I'm looking forward to meeting you!

Yesterday was a much needed guide's day off and I found some good water on the Caney with willing trout.  There were a few surprises as well which I'll report on late tonight or tomorrow morning!  Let's just say the river is fishing well and if you need a guide to show you the ropes, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BRRRRR

The frost this morning appeared as promised, but thankfully it doesn't seem to have hurt anything too badly.  We don't have too much green around here yet.  The trout streams are probably having a much tougher time of it.  Take a look at this temperature graph from Little River just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Talk about falling water temperatures...that is a continuous drop of close to 15 degrees, and a drop from the highest recent temperature of more than 15 degrees.  I would be willing to bet that the fish might be lethargic to start things off today simply because of the drastic change.  Fish don't like huge fluctuations in temperature or water levels very much and will normally take a bit of time to adjust.  The good news is that the general direction of the water temperature is most important.  We should see temperatures begin to increase shortly as the stream receives full sun exposure throughout the day.  Once that temperature starts to rise, then the fish will be happier for sure.

In other news, it looks like I might get out on the water.  The Caney Fork is showing a 5 hour window without generation so someone clearly needs to go investigate to see how things are on the river.  Hopefully I'll have good news!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dogwood Winter

Right on cue, as the dogwood in our front yard started to bloom, an epic cool down arrived.  After temperatures in the 70s for several days, waking up to snow flying outside my window was a rather abrupt reminder that spring temperatures are never particularly reliable.  Indeed, even now, the snow is nearly gone after covering everything this morning with a fresh coat of white.  Temperatures should warm into the 40s before tonights hard freeze.  Some of the plants are already looking tired and cold while others are still trying to act as if spring didn't hit the pause button.

When I got up, I grabbed a camera and headed straight outside.  Around here you never know how long the snow will hang around.  Now I'm glad I was in such a hurry.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

The woods received a fresh coat of white.

The maples are wishing they had waited a few more days to leaf out. 

The daffodils are already feeling pretty cold. 

Forsythia brings some bright cheer to an otherwise drab day. 

Ground with lots of sun exposure was still warm enough to melt most of the snowfall. 

Redbuds are just starting to bloom.  The ones who haven't are probably much better off now.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Pledge Drive

Okay, so I'm not going to ask for money, and quite honestly those pledge drive things on the radio drive me crazy.  However, I am hoping that everyone will head over to the Trout Zone's Facebook page and especially the page for Trout Zone Anglers and hit the "Like" button.  If you are one of the many who seem to be jumping the Facebook ship, but you do use Google+, then head over to the Trout Zone Anglers page there and check it out.  I've just started working on it and it is definitely still a work in progress.  That's all and thank you  all for your support!