Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Soon

This week featured some very good guide trips.  On Monday it was a float down the Caney Fork that produced some very good fishing.  We eventually lost count of how many fish we boated on the half day float which is always a good sign.  Tuesday was a full day wade trip in the Smokies.  Fishing hard on a stream that I've been on several times this summer (both guiding and fishing for myself), my client landed not one but two of the largest rainbows I've seen out of this stream all year.  Both were colored superbly as well which is always a special treat.  Needless to say, I'm excited to see fall looming on the horizon finally.

Today as I drove home, I noticed that the sun angle was noticeably farther south in the western sky.  In less than a month, it will officially be fall.  That means cooler water, happy trout, and fired up brown trout.  Streamers will be working better over the next few months.  Anglers willing to fish streamers hard out of the boat may be rewarded with their largest fish of the year.  Fishermen in the Smokies will find that the brookies and brown trout are already starting to color up as we head towards the fall spawn.

Currently, I'm booking trips in September and October.  The calendar will fill quickly so if you are planning on booking a trip, don't wait too long or else someone will beat you to your preferred day.  For that matter they may already have.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flopping Fish

Over the years, I've had so many people make observations about the fish pictures I take.  "How do you get the fish to hold still?" is one of the most common questions I hear.  Generally, you have to have the camera ready very quickly after lifting the fish out of the water.  Have your buddy compose the shot first and take the picture as soon as the fish is in place (there's a reason a lot of the best pictures have water dripping off the fish).  Snap 2-3 very quickly and one will usually turn out.  Then get that fish back in the water ASAP.  Done correctly, a fish should never be out of the water more than 10 seconds and even that is on the long side.  Ideally this is done with two people of course.  If you have to take self timer shots, get a BIG net and keep that fish in the water until the last possible moment.  The last thing you want to do is kill a fish that you intend to release.

And now for the whole point of this post, I wanted to make sure you all realize that not all fish are cooperative, I thought I would share a favorite brookie shot I just came across from a couple of years ago.  Actually, I have a whole collection of these "action" shots. Maybe I'll do an expanded post showing them another time and you can all laugh at my (and other anglers') facial expressions as I realize the fish is headed somewhere else.  For now, here is one of many anti-picture brook trout.  At least the colors are still beautiful!


What To Tie???

First I want to make mention of a big event coming up in November of this year.  Yes, I do know that it coincides with some great fishing, but what better way to kick of the cold months of tying "season" than at Fly Tyer's Weekend?  This year, Little River Outfitters is bringing back an old favorite and is working closely with Tremont Lodge and Resort to put on this big event.  Some of the best tyers in the southeast and even in the country will be there to demonstrate techniques and flies.  Tremont Lodge in Townsend is newly renovated and will be a fantastic place to enjoy this big event.  If you enjoy tying or are thinking about learning, this is a can't miss opportunity.

Okay, now that I've got a little of the excitement out of my system, I'm happy to further mention that I'll be tying on Sunday, November 9.  If you are planning on visiting and have some specific patterns you would like to see, please let me know.  I guess I better start figuring out what I would like to tie as it will be here before we know it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Naming Flies


While messing around trying to come up with a brown trout catching machine, it occurred to me that I have quite a few good flies that I've designed including some that are go-to guide flies.  At what point do you start actually thinking up names for these monstrosities?  Take the streamer above, for example.  To begin with, there is nothing even close to a guarantee it will catch fish at this point so we don't have to worry too much yet.  But, for the sake of letting our imaginations run wild, what in the world would you call this thing?  Deer hair head, saddle hackle tail with buck tail and marabou for the wing.  I even snuck in a few rubber legs and some variegated chenille.  Hopefully the trout won't care that it doesn't have a name.

Oh, and if anyone has a foolproof method of naming flies, I'm all ears...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watauga Morning


On my recent trip to upper east Tennessee, I fished the South Holston and Watauga rivers as well as a high elevation freestone stream.  Of the three streams I fished, the Watauga was the easiest by far.  The fish are less sophisticated than on the South Holston and would eat most any nymph I drifted through their living room.

I only fished the Watauga for a few hours in the morning but probably caught 30 or 40 trout during that time.  None were large but all were in great shape.  Some of the browns I caught looked like they were wild.  For that matter some of the rainbows did as well although I'm not sure how many wild rainbows are in that river.  Once the clouds started to break and the sun peaked through, the fishing tapered off a bit but was still very solid.

The only downside of this trip is that now I'm wishing I lived closer to these fine streams so I could fish them more often.

Here is one of the browns I caught on the Watauga that is a strong candidate for prettiest fish I've caught this year.  Just look at those spots!!!


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bronzebacks

Most off days lately have resulted in some great exploration.  The Cumberland Plateau area is blessed with more great water than one could reasonably expect to fish in a lifetime although that isn't keeping me from trying.  The local smallmouth are eager to hit surface bugs which is probably part of the draw.

Here are a couple from last week.



The stream has a fairly decent flow for this time of year although we could still use a little rain.  One of the things I'm noticing more and more as I look for good shots with the camera is that fall is on its way.  Yes, I know some of you don't want to hear about that yet.  Seriously though, there are colorful leaves everywhere I look.  Fall is coming soon!





Saturday, August 02, 2014

Stonefly Shucks

It may just be me, but it seems like the Golden stones were a little late this year.  I was seeing shucks here and there in June but it wasn't until the last 2-3 weeks that good numbers have appeared on stream side rocks up in the Smokies.  In case you were wondering, the fish do seem to recognize them, I'm just not saying in what form.  Go find out for yourself....


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Side Job

Starting tomorrow, I'll be working 2 days a week at Little River Outfitters fly shop in Townsend for a few months.  My normal work days will be Thursday and Friday (until 5:00 p.m.).  Stop by and say hello if you are in the area!  The rest of the time, I'll still be guiding.

The mountains are fishing great right now with the cooler weather.  If you are looking to take a guided fly fishing trip this summer the next week or so might be the perfect time to get out.  Water levels are ideal as well as the temperatures.  I'm offering a couple of new short guide trip options for wading in the mountains.  Some people would rather fish with a guide so they can watch and learn.  Join me for a "Fish with a Guide" trip or check out the new "Evening Hatch" special.  Head over to Trout Zone Anglers and look at the Services page for more information.  Both of these new options are on a very limited basis so if you are interested in booking one, do so quickly before the available evenings are filled.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gorge

When my cousin Nathan came up for several days of fly fishing, I knew we would have a great time.  The first day of smallmouth fishing was fun and the Caney Fork float produced that nice brown I'm always looking for.  Next up on our list was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hopefully a mid to high elevation stream that had good numbers of rainbow and brook trout.


Arriving in the afternoon at our campsite, we hurried to set up the tent and stash our sleeping pads and sleeping bags before hitting the water.  Not wanting to fish too long, we stayed close to camp, walking no more than a mile before we started fishing.  We each caught a few fish, and I took some pictures before heading out to go try out a new restaurant in Townsend for supper, the Monte Real Mexican Restaurant.  Turns out the food was good! We enjoyed it knowing that the menu was camp food for the next day and a half.

After a good night's sleep, we were up and ready to fish hard all day.  Our goal was to return to a gorge we had fished together a few years ago.  Sure enough, it was just as amazing as we remembered.  This particular stretch of water has both rainbows and brookies and is among the most rugged stretches of water in the Park.  Numerous times we reached places where continuing on meant boosting each other to climb over the huge boulders.  Not for the faint of heart nor for the weak, this stretch of water should never be tackled solo for obvious safety reasons, but the fishing is so worth it.

The rainbows here are thick and never vanish completely, but the higher you go the more brook trout you can find.  I caught a nice one early on, and on a dry fly at that!


Nathan has a soft spot for brookies and was doing his share to catch a bunch.  After catching one fish in particular and shooting a couple of quick pictures, he gently released it in the shallows at the stream's edge.  We watched it rest on the bottom for probably 30 seconds before it took off again.  Naturally I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to shoot a few pictures...


In between the brookies, the rainbows kept us more than busy.  While none were large, they were plentiful and eager to hit our flies.  Enough fish kept hitting the dry to keep us from going to straight nymphs but most were hitting the dropper.  In the low clear water we could often watch the fish materialize off of the bottom to come up and swirl on the little bead head trailing behind the dry fly.


The stream is beautiful which is part of the reason I keep coming back.  The fish are the other part of course.  Between those two things, the visiting angler most be extremely careful.  To spend too much time on one section means getting stranded in this long gorge overnight, not a fun idea.


Since there were two of us, I spent quite a bit of time with my camera.  This is something that is harder to do when you are the only one fishing.  I tend to get so focused on my fishing that I forgot to enjoy the sights around me, but when I'm sitting back to watch a friend fish, getting out the camera just makes sense.  In this case, it allowed me to get two back to back shots that I think turned out well.



The fish just kept coming to hand and the farther we went the better the fishing got.


Photo by Nathan Stanaway

Not too far from where we would climb out and hit the trail back, I had a very nice fish hit and somehow managed to keep it on the line.  My best fish of the day turned out to be a brookie, and I couldn't have been happier!

Photo by Nathan Stanaway

The hike out was all down hill so we made good time and were soon back at camp for a relaxing evening around the fire.  This trip will be one that I remember for a long time. It's always great to get out with my cousin Nathan!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Float for Me

Guide's day off trips don't happen as often as I would like.  Of course, helping others catch fish is always pretty awesome some I'm not complaining.  I guess you could say that I'm simply pointing out  that being the one handling the fly rod is nice on occasion.  Last week I had a short vacation.  My cousin Nathan came up to fish with me for a few days.  We started the week fishing for smallmouth, followed that up with a trout float on the Caney, and finished up with some awesome trout fishing over in the Smokies on a day that was all about sheer numbers.  In other words, I had an incredible week.

The smallmouth trip was a lot of fun, but neither of us hauled a camera along so there is no photo evidence.  I guess that means I can inflate the size of the fish we caught.  Really it was a standard smallmouth wade trip with some nice fish caught but nothing to write home about, the kind of comfortable every day fishing that scratches the itch but leaves you wanting a little more.

Day two started out much the same with the main difference being that we were floating in the drifter instead of wading.  The generation schedule on the Caney has been a little strange lately.  The Corps of Engineers can't seem to decide what schedule is the best so each float is determined the evening before after a consultation of the following day's generation schedule.  We figured that we could sleep in a little and still make it in plenty of time to catch falling water.


We dumped the boat and were into fish before I had really gone anywhere.  There's nothing like those willing hatchery fish waiting at the ramp to get the skunk off so everyone in the boat can relax and focus on the task at hand.  I was at the oars and Nathan was wearing out the fish.  By the time we got around the first corner, I had turned the boat sidewise in the soft current so we could both fish.  Rowing and fishing at the same time presents a minor challenge but nothing that cannot be overcome.  It wasn't too long before I had caught a couple as well and decided to just focus on rowing while Nathan fished.  He quickly got several nice brook trout as well as a few rainbows but the nice browns were eluding him.




Eventually he offered to take a turn rowing and I assured him that he could take over at a certain point.  I was hoping he would catch a nice fish first but eventually we got to a spot I was dying to fish, and I let him take over rowing duties.

Sure enough, two casts later (seriously, I had barely even got to the front of the boat) something big came up and inhaled the hopper I was trying out.  Fighting the fish on one hand and telling Nathan where to row on the other kept me busy but soon the fish was in the net and we could all relax.  Nathan took over camera duty while I enjoyed the nice brown trout.




Soon we took off again, and I continued to catch fish on the dropper under the hopper.  Nathan eventually figured out how to row and fish as well and started catching some nice fish including his brown for the slam.


Not too long after that we made it to the take out just as the rising water caught up with us.  I was glad that we had finished before the water came up too much.  Nathan was getting pretty tired by the end.  The river can get awfully hot without any shade and a hot summer sun beating down.  We were soon on our way back home to get ready for the Smokies adventure starting the next morning!