Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What is the Craziest Thing You Have Caught While Fishing?

Help me out! I am working on an article on the question above. What is the craziest thing you have caught while fishing?

If you happen to have photographs that you would be willing for me to use, please let me know by emailing me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com. This is for a freelance article I'm working on so only offer images if you are okay with them being used for that purpose (commercially). Thank you!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Early Winter Sunsets


As far as I can tell, one of the chief disadvantages of winter is the early sunsets. Cold weather is great as far as I'm concerned, and I enjoy ice and snow. The weather tends to be gray and even drizzly more often which provides great fishing. Really, I cannot find too many things wrong with winter.

I know that a lot of you will probably want to get on my case for my appreciation of winter and especially the cold weather and that's fine. I'm just glad that so many people dislike the cold months. The fewer people who get outside the more I can feel like I have it to myself. 

Selfishly, this is probably the main reason I like winter. The colder and nastier it is out the fewer people I have to compete with for fishing, and less people also means I am more likely to get uncluttered pictures. In the summer, especially in high traffic tourist areas like the Smokies, I have to often wait and wait and then wait some more for people to get out of my pictures. Winter brings a pleasant change of pace where I can pretty much show up, take my pictures, and then leave for the next spot.

The one silver lining to the short days is that the sun is in the sweet spot for more time both in the morning and the afternoon. I'm talking about that time when the sun has sunk to just above the horizon or perhaps has just made its first appearance for the day. The golden hour of light is a photographers dream.

In winter, that warm light lasts longer and seems even richer than normal. My obvious appreciation of winter may bias me here, but I think that the trajectory of the sun this time of year keeps it close to the horizon longer without actually sinking behind and out of sight.

The result is some of the best sunsets you will find anywhere. If you want to see a great sunset, winter is one of the best times to do so. The air is usually clearer and cleaner so the colors are brighter. Landscapes bask in the glow of the late afternoon winter sun.

Almost daily I promise myself that I'll start getting up early and heading back out in the afternoons to catch that light, but usually I'm doing good to just get the late afternoon version. Still, the sun blesses me with some nice opportunities to photograph the sunset. Maybe I'll get up for the sunrise tomorrow...



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Townsend USGS Gauge for Little River Working Again

After being on the blink for several days, the Townsend Tennessee United States Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow gauge on Little River is back up and running. For those that would prefer to just show up and see what the river looks like, more power to you, but I prefer to maximize my fishing time by being on the water during prime conditions.

A couple of tips to help you out on Little River this time of year include watching both stream flow/level and the water temperatures. This is winter, and while the fishing will often be slower than in the summer, the fish still have to eat. That means that the general trend of the water temperature will be more important than the actual temperature.

If the water has been 39 degrees or less for several days and then spikes up to 43 degrees, the fishing may be good. Those are the sorts of trends you should be watching for on the Townsend streamflow gauge.

Also, a bump in stream flow this time of year will often correspond with rising water temperatures. Because of our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, a lot of our cold season rain events are warmer than you might expect. Fifty degree rain works like magic in bringing up water temperatures and in turn gets the fish a lot more active.

Start watching the streamflow on your favorite waters and you might be surprised at some of the correlations you discover with quality fishing.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fly Tying Google Searches Are Linked To Cabin Fever

Fly tying seems to be peaking in interest right now, and I have good solid data to back me up on that. While perusing the Internet late this evening, I stumbled onto this interesting page called Google Trends that allows you to see what people have been searching for.

Intrigued, I started checking out trends on some fly fishing related topics. One of the more troubling results was that, as a whole, searches on the topic of fly fishing have been declining for almost 10 years. That likely signals a larger decline in people interested in fly fishing which is bad news for the industry.

After getting a couple of obvious searches out of the way, I decided to type "fly tying" into the search box and see what happened. The graph looked suspicious and sure enough, upon investigation I confirmed that each peak in search activity corresponded neatly to the January/February time frame.


Notice that we are recently headed for our seasonal peak in fly tying interest. If this graph does anything, it makes me realize that I'm not the only one stuck at home with cabin fever. For the past 2 weeks I keep telling myself that I'll go fishing sometime soon. Every day I seem to find an excuse to avoid it.

I thought that the weather was going to finally break this week. Originally it looked like highs would be well into the mid and upper 40s which would allow for some decent fishing over in the Smokies. Unfortunately the reality turned out to be a little colder, enough so that we had a coating of ice on everything outside this morning. Freezing fog or drizzle or something like that according to the weather people.

So, instead of fishing, I'm sitting at home and tying flies. Just the fact that I had the time on my hands to research this topic tells me that I need to get out on the water and soon. Next week...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Icy Cold

Here on the Cumberland Plateau, we don't get as much winter as I experienced when I lived in Colorado, and I'll admit that I miss it sometimes. Recently, we did get the cold portion of winter, but unfortunately the best we could do for snow was a very light dusting. The cold temperatures did produce some beautiful ice formations however. Here are some pictures from my favorite quick woods getaway near home. Before looking at all of them, you may want to compare the scenes with my recent trip that didn't include ice...












Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Full to the Brim

As has been the case for the last several months, we continue to receive a lot more rain than we probably need meaning I hike more than I fish now.  The widespread moderate rainfall this past weekend caused the most recent in a long string of high water events.  Here on the Cumberland Plateau, we have minimal soil.  In some places, the underlying sandstone is completely exposed.  All of this means that when it rains, there is not a lot of soil to soak up all that moisture and it runs off quickly.

This last rain event was not as bad as the one in early December.  Here is a picture from December 6.


When I returned the other day, the water was definitely still high but I could safely maneuver up the rocks on the right side of the above picture for a better upstream shot this time.  As you can see, it is full to the brim, but not as dangerous as the previous time I was there. Unfortunately, it was enough rain that I had to cancel a guide trip, something that is really tough to do financially this time of year. Safety is always a priority, however, and should be when dealing with the streams of the Smokies.



Here are a few more shots from my trip on Saturday.  I've been fortunate enough to get out in the woods several times over the last few days and intend to continue to do so as I work back into good backpacking shape for the spring fishing season!





I still wish that this little stream was capable of holding trout. What a fantastic opportunity it would be for me and so close to home! Unfortunately, in the summer it gets very low and also too warm to support trout.

Check out more of my previous trips to this beautiful little stream.  It just keeps producing incredible photo opportunities for me!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Clear and Cold Brings Us Closer to a Shad Kill

Here on the Cumberland Plateau, the recent storm system has moved out leaving us experiencing clear skies and cold temperatures.  Hope for a shad kill is on the upswing with the cold snap dropping temperatures in area reservoirs.

Each year we experience at least a small scale shad kill but in the best years it can bring the largest trout in the river out to feed.  By Thursday, we are expecting lows down near zero so it won't take a whole lot of time at these temperatures to bring down water temperatures in the lakes.  If we continue to have cold weather, I could see the shad kill here as early as the first of February although in some years it holds off until early March.  Once it starts, no one knows how long it will last.


In between tying flies and doing some writing, I've been able to get out and take some pictures.  The picture above shows how bright the sun is this time of year under mostly clear skies.  That cold blue color reminds me that the coldest temperatures are yet to come.  Here's to hoping for a really cold next month or so.  Then you'll know where to find me: floating down the river tossing white streamers...

Friday, January 02, 2015

First Rainbow Trout of 2015

Catching the first trout of 2015 was high on my list of things to accomplish yesterday, but it almost didn't happen.  With minimal time available to devote to fishing, I had to stay fairly close to home.  Even if I had made the drive to the Smokies, the very cold temperatures would not have been doing me any favors.

One of the winter stocking locations came to mind, and I started planning a quick trip.  Since Cumberland Mountain State Park was not stocked this past December due to a lake drawdown, I had to find another place.  Cookeville has a place I enjoy fishing on occasion that also just happens to have some trout stocked in the winter so I headed that way.

Arriving at the lake, I still had a rod rigged up from the other day and decided to just see what that would do.  Pulling some line off the reel, I made my first cast of 2015.  After letting the fly sit for a moment, I started a slow retrieve, stripping line in short 3-4 inch pulls.  Before I had moved the fly very far the indicator went down, and I set the hook on the first trout of 2015.  Seriously.  First cast, first fish.


Now, the question that I need answered is this: is it bad luck to catch a trout on the first cast of the year? Anyone who has fished long at all knows that catching a fish on the first cast of a fishing trip could be a bad sign.  In fact, this particular trip highlighted this very problem.  In a cold hour of fishing, I never had so much as another strike, much less a fish to hand.  The somber skies matched my concerned mood.  Bad fishing luck must be dealt with as quickly as possible so maybe I'll have to look into a new lucky fishing hat.


The hot chocolate waiting in a thermos in my car helped to warm things back up.  In fact, by the time I got home I was almost as warm as if I had not gone fishing to begin with.  The question of luck continues to nag me though, so it looks like I'll have to do some first hand research into the subject by forcing myself to go fishing and see if my luck improves.  I know, life is tough.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Years

Happy New Years to everyone! I hope you all have a fantastic 2015 and make this your best fly fishing year ever.  My plan is to fish and travel more this year than ever before. What plans do you have?

Birthday Brown Trout


My birthday is long gone in the rearview mirror by now, but I'm still remembering a nice big brown trout I caught two days before my birthday.  In fact, the picture of this fish was last month's Photo of the Month, but until now I have not told the the story of this trout.

Each year, I have a birthday tradition that includes going fishing.  It doesn't always fall on the exact day, but I always make sure to enjoy some time on the water and relax.  Since I had to do some guiding a couple of days before my birthday, I decided to hang around at the end of the day and get some time in on the water.

Choosing where to fish is always a challenge, but I was soon on a nice stretch of pocket water with a good pool at the top of the section.  Working through the pocket water, I caught some nice rainbow trout on the same rig I had for my client.  Arriving at the pool after slogging through some fast water below, I noticed a nice brown trout out feeding.  Three casts with the nymphs produced one look but no eat, and I knew that to have any chance of catching that fish I would have to change flies.

Searching for the right fly box, I realized with a sinking feeling that it had been left in the car.  This was not the time to leave as I was in perfect position and moving again could spook the fish.  I would have to make do with what I had on me.  Finding a different box, I scrounged around for a good fly.  Noticing a streamer I had tied more as a combination between a joke and an experiment, I shrugged my shoulders and decided to try it out.  Fresh tippet came first and then the fly.  Glancing up, I saw that the fish had moved and would require a few moments of rest before I started casting again.

Finally, it slid back into its feeding position, and I started casting.  The first cast was too far to the left, but the next cast was perfect.  As the fly swung into view near the fish and I worked it with the tip of my rod, the fish charged over and inhaled the streamer.  I set the hook and lurched to my feet from the cramped position on my knees.  Immediate the fish made a run into the faster water below the pool, and I got nervous.  Somewhat encouraged when I saw the fly firmly stuck in the corner of his jaw, I focused on easing the fish out of the heavier current and towards my waiting net.

The moment of truth was anticlimactic as I got the net under the fish.  Sitting down, I held the net under water so the fish could rest and breathe.  After admiring it and taking a couple of pictures, I watched it depart quickly.  Nothing could top that moment so I waded across the stream and headed back to my car.  Some days, it only takes one fish and to ask for more would be greedy.