Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Found Fly Box

While guiding on Little River yesterday, I came across a rather nice and well-stocked fly box that some unlucky angler had lost. If you have lost a fly box recently, please contact me via email and describe both the box and its contents, and I'll be glad to get it back to you!

Monday, June 06, 2016

Remote Smallmouth Creeks

One of the great things about living on Tennessee's beautiful Cumberland Plateau is the abundance of great smallmouth bass streams, some of which also harbor the elusive muskellunge. These streams are mostly in remote, hard to get to areas which adds to the quality of the fishing both from a catching perspective and also just the overall atmosphere. The glorious thing about the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams is that they are almost always empty except for the people swimming and playing in the creek in very close proximity to the access points.

Given the choice, I would avoid fishing in crowds every day. Not seeing other anglers, except for those I'm fishing with of course, can make a good day of fishing out of a slow day of catching. That is why I love fishing the Smokies in winter so much. Empty streams, fish or no fish, are my overwhelming preference.

I've already been out to check on some of my favorite smallmouth bass streams a few times this year. Some of the trips were very good while only one was what I would term slow. On these streams, slow usually means at least a few fish were still caught and this time was no exception. The pinnacle of smallmouth bass fishing, at least so far this year, was on a trip a few weeks back with my buddy Jayson.

Everything came together at the last minute, with both of us having a day off from work, and we readily agreed that smallmouth bass should be the choice of the day. Arriving at the stream, we both rigged up our preferred smallmouth bass fly rods and were soon walking down to where we wanted to start fishing. I found one really good hole and started going through my fly selection process. Changing flies often is how I like to dial in the flavor of the day. One healthy smallmouth was willing to hit my PB&J streamer, getting the skunk off, but otherwise things were slow.


About the time I landed that first fish of the trip, I noticed that Jayson had disappeared around the bend upstream. Knowing him, I assumed he had found some good water and maybe even figured out the fish. Wandering upstream, I found him tight to a fish. It turned out to be a green sunfish.


Convincing him to get out of the water was not difficult when I mentioned the big bass possible downstream. We hit the trail again and before long got in to a good section that usually has some quality fish. Jayson had figured out that fish would readily hit a popper, so I decided a big black Stealth Bomber would probably work just as well. Turns out I was right!

We both caught a decent number of fish on the surface, not once going back to streamers or nymphs. Some of the fish were quality fish as well which kept things interesting. That big 20" wild smallmouth is still eluding both of us on this particular stream although we have seen some fish that are at least that large.



We ended the day on a good note, with Jayson getting a nice smallmouth while I watched from a perch high on a rock. The fish just couldn't say no to his popper.



The smallmouth fishing will stay strong through at least September. I have several other streams that I want to explore further, but time is not on my side. With some luck, I'll be able to enjoy a handful of other days out fishing for smallmouth this summer. Until then, I have some good memories of a day on the water!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Orvis 905-4 Helios For Sale

A friend of mine is looking to sell their 9' 5 weight Orvis Helios fly rod. This lightly used rod is in pristine condition and is the mid-flex model which is a great all around rod for both dry fly and nymph fishing, especially on larger waters where big trout may be encountered. The soft tip will protect light tippets while the rod still provides plenty of backbone to land quality fish. The rod is bargain priced at $350 shipped to the lower 48.

The Helios is one of the finest fly rods Orvis has ever made. I have fished my Helios all across the country and it has helped me to land some super trout over the last few years.

If you are interested in this fine fly rod, please email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com, and I will provide contact information for the seller on this rod.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Social Media For Trout Zone Anglers

If you have noticed the recent lack of posts, I apologize. Hopefully you will understand that this has been one of the best months for fly fishing that east Tennessee has to offer. I've been fishing all over, from the Clinch and Holston Rivers near Knoxville, to the Caney Fork River in Middle Tennessee. Smallmouth bass streams on the Plateau needed to be explored, and all of this was happening in between the majority of my guiding which is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Thankfully I can report that fishing has been good to excellent depending on the day. Hatches in the Smokies have been diverse with lots of bugs on the water at times. This has resulted in a happy guide and happy anglers!

One thing new that has happened recently is that I entered the world of Instagram. That is right. You can go find me on Instagram. My Trout Zone Anglers Instagram is simply @TroutZoneAnglers. Following me there and over at both Trout Zone Anglers and the Trout Zone on Facebook will keep you more in the loop as to what is going on.

The month of June is already booking up very quickly. I still have a few dates available including a Smoky Mountain trip on Thursday of this week and Monday of next week. If you want to fish with me this month or next, please book as soon as possible to guarantee your spot. This year it looks like business will be very busy and as much as I hate to turn people away, that is what I'll often have to do when contacted just a few days prior to a hoped for trip.

One other great way to stay in touch with what I'm doing is to check out the Trout Zone Anglers newsletter. That is a link to the newsletter from early May, but a new one will be coming out in the next few days. To make sure that you don't miss out, use the signup below.



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Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Hatch

Smoky Mountain Rainbow Trout


Fly fishing is a science or an art form depending on who you talk to. Many, including myself, will even gladly label it as both. The true pinnacle of both the science and the art is found in match the hatch dry fly fishing. Most good fly anglers have a favorite hatch, especially those who are blessed to reside in a region with rich trout waters supporting a variety of quality hatches to fish.

Many anglers here in east Tennessee have a favorite hatch, but just as many don't want to hem themselves in. This is a product of our relatively infertile mountain streams where a truly memorable blanket hatch is rare although not impossible. Local anglers often gravitate towards generic patterns that resemble of variety of currently hatching bugs. Our hatches tend to be sparse but complex, with sometimes as many as 5 species of mayflies hatching, not to mention the caddis and stoneflies that the fish also love to eat.

I'll never forget the first time I got on a real hatch. Back in 2005 I was blessed to spend time fly fishing in Yellowstone for the first time. I arrived in early June for a week or two of exploring and fishing. My timing could not have been better. The Firehole was just about perfect while the Gibbon was still a tad high but readily fishable.

The first day I headed to the Firehole, I did not really know what to expect. The week or so prior to my trip had been spent tying Blue-winged Olive and Pale Morning Dun Sparkle Duns, two simply elegant flies that still find an honored place in my boxes. I wasn't sure if the hatch would come off, but all of the guide books recommended being prepared for these hatches and the Sparkle Duns were high on the list of accepted patterns for matching the hatches. The Firehole had rising trout in the first place I stopped, somewhere in the first 2-3 miles above the canyon stretch. I quickly tied on a PMD Sparkle Dun and began targeting risers. As it turned out, catching the fish proved relatively easy so long as I could make an accurate cast and prevent drag. That last item was not as easy.

I caught more quality brown trout than is probably fair for anyone to enjoy. At the time, I was thrilled to be catching 8-14 inch browns all day. For that matter, I would still take that kind of fishing now. That trip to Yellowstone quickly fell into an easy routine. Breakfast every morning would be attended by a family of ground squirrels who were hoping for some of the Honey Nut Cheerios I enjoyed. Then it was off for fishing, mostly on the Firehole or Gibbon, but I also explored some of the hike in lakes. Getting spoiled without knowing it, I eventually found it necessary to head for home. Although a piece of me would have preferred to stay in Yellowstone indefinitely, duty called, and I had to get a summer job to help pay for college in the fall.

Arriving back in Tennessee, I soon found myself missing the daily hatches and rising trout on the Firehole. It wasn't until several years later, perhaps four or five, that I enjoyed a great hatch on my home waters in the Smokies. That is not to say that I never experienced hatches or rising trout because I enjoyed both, but a heavy hatch is somewhat unusual around here.

Despite my appreciation for heavy blanket hatches of mayflies, I think I've come to prefer those that are sparse instead of those rare events where the water is covered in bugs. The fish seem to be much more willing to rise to most anything during these hatches we normally experience here in southern Appalachia. That is part of the charm. Each year, my favorite dry fly seems to vary a bit. Some years it will be a Yellow Stimulator in size #14 or #16. Other years it may be a Parachute Adams. This year, I've been on a yellow Parachute Adams kick.


Early on, of course, I stayed with the darker colors of a standard Parachute Adams, sometime switching out for a Spundun or even a tiny Blue-winged Olive Parachute for particularly picky trout. Yes, difficult fish do exist here, but they tend to be easier to figure out than the fish on streams like the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks where anglers have been known to reach madness or the next thing to it while trying to figure out a difficult trout.

Lately, with the transition to the lighter colored bugs of late spring and summer, I kept it a bit more simple than I sometimes do. Instead of elaborate bugs with perfect hair wings and shucks of Zelon, I've kept the Parachute Adams theme going but changed the body color to yellow. The fish approve heartily, but have also rose just as convincingly to a Parachute Sulfur and a Parachute Light Cahill. Like I said, the general idea is more important than the exact bug.

The best days for bugs happen to be the same days that most anglers prefer to not go fishing. Rain or high water keeps the streams open, and if you are adventurous like me, expect some great fishing. Last week, I enjoyed one evening after work where I stood in one spot and caught 8 or 10 fine trout before deciding that it was time to quit. Most were rainbows, but a few of the fish that got away flashed golden brown. One little brown couldn't quite throw the hook before I landed it, but otherwise all the fish were feisty rainbows from 8-11 inches in length. There were just enough natural bugs on the water to get the fish looking up, but not so many that they would miss my imitation as it bobbed downstream in the choppy current. That is a good hatch if you ask me.





Sunday, May 01, 2016

Guides' Day Off: April 2016 Smallmouth Edition

When two fly fishing guides with busy schedules plan an intentional guides' day off, you never know what is going to happen. When not taking clients fishing, we are just as likely to spend a whole day experimenting to just to try some new flies or tactics or maybe mess with some fish we don't target as often as the usual trout.

The day before our planned excursion, David Perry of Southeastern Fly and I were discussing where to fish and several options came up. None were on the current "hot" sections of our favorite rivers to guide for trout, but that was intentional. Sometimes these exploratory trips turn out well and sometimes they are a bust, at least as far as catching a lot of fish goes. The one thing that is always guaranteed when you fish with friends? A good time. It is not just about catching fish after all.

We finally settled on a game plan that involved smallmouth bass, always a good choice. Arriving at the river, David decided to back his boat way out in the middle of the river, mainly because the edges were simply too shallow for the boat to float. That would be a theme for the day. If the river had been another 100-200 cfs lower we might not have made it down. The fish didn't mind though.

To launch or not launch? How about taking a test drive (or is it a test cast?) before committing...


I caught several small redeye bass in quick succession despite David P. not catching any fish from the boat trailer, so it was determined to go ahead with our game plan and off we went. Floating along, we found a few redeye and briefly hooked up with a smallmouth or two, but it was obvious that a strategy change was in order. Thankfully, David P. brought the hot fly tied by smallmouth angler extraordinaire Gary Troutman (what a great fishing name right?).

After some discussion now how to fish said fly, David P. stepped into the casting brace and started working the magic fly. As a good guide, I was incredibly oblivious gazing at the scenery so I could point out interesting things to the guy in the front of the boat. Thankfully he was focused on the task at hand and when the fish hit he was ready. After a solid fight, the first nice smallmouth came to the net and we took a much deserved picture.


Insisting that David P. keep fishing for a while, I eventually lost my reluctance to leave the oars when a great hole with lots of structure came into view. I grabbed a heavy rod rigged for musky and started flailing the water. That produced a maybe follow. A maybe follow is when the angler thinks they see a fish but it could just as easily be the product of an overactive imagination. Despite my optimism, no other fish showed so it was back to smallmouth. In due time, I found my first nice smallie.

Thanks to David Perry for the photograph

We continued the day, taking turns fishing and getting a fish here and there. The pinnacle of the day came unexpectedly. Having caught the last nice fish, I was deservedly on the oars while David P. kept looking for another good fish.

We had already drifted down several exceptionally shallow shoals, but the boat was still in one piece. As we approached another obstacle, this one a huge tree laying across the river, David P. turned around and with a completely straight face told me to go left. I looked at him in disbelief. No way was I going to try to take the boat left but I did manage to blurt out a "I would like to see you row that."

Not one to back off from a challenge, he told me to switch spots. I got into the front of the boat while he grabbed the oars. On further examination, he told me I was right made the prudent decision to not try getting over the tree. Just as I started breathing normally again in relief, David P. told me to go ahead and fish since I was in the front of the boat. Not one to argue when the option to fish presents itself, I cast the hot fly into the run we were drifting past. The fly barely hit the water before getting slammed. After just finishing a long fishless stretch as the angler, the guy at the oars was a little shocked. I was glad to have snatched what should have been his fish but also felt a little guilty.

Thanks to David Perry for the photograph

After the pictures ,which he still graciously took for me, I tentatively offered, "You want me to row so you can fish again?" His answer was an unequivocal yes and brought no argument from me. That big smallmouth made the day for me, and I was content.

The rest of the float was anticlimactic. Despite our hopes, we only saw one or two more muskie and the smallmouth seemed mostly uninterested. The scenery was nice though as was the time with a good fishing buddy. We had set out to catch a few fish and have a good time and succeeded on both counts.

Floating for smallmouth is tough now with low water, but wade fishing for them is just picking up. If I can help you with a guided fly fishing trip on the Cumberland Plateau for smallmouth bass, please contact me via call or text at 931-261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Clinch River Float Trip

The Clinch River continues to fish well and produce quality trout. This fishing is not for everyone as it requires the ability to cast fairly well and manage your line, however those who are willing to work hard on this beautiful tailwaters will be rewarded with some large trout.

Recently, I had the good fortune to float the Clinch with Chris and Eddie and already know this will be a river I'll return to many times. Small flies, light tippet, large trout, it doesn't get any better. The majority of fish were caught on my own midge patterns although some nymphs worked as well.

Both guys caught some really nice trout but Eddie took top honors for big fish of the day. He played it well and kept his composure through several head shaking runs by the nice rainbow. Here are a few fish from out day on the water.





Monday, April 11, 2016

Fishing the Clinch River

This might be the year of the Clinch River, or at least for me anyway. I've now fished it twice within the last four days and that after not fishing it since, well, I can't exactly remember the last time I was down there but it has been a while. Based on the fishing last Friday I'll be down there a lot more. Based on the fishing today it might be a while before I'm back. Let me explain a little further.

Last week, with the nice weather, I've been contemplating fishing a little for myself. With the spring hatches in the Smokies has come a flurry of guide work. That is all well and good, but I do like to at least occasionally fish a little for myself as well. After a steady dose of the beautiful but small wild trout that are found in the Great Smoky Mountains, I was ready for some fish that were larger and more difficult. The Clinch offers both in great abundance.

The idea had been bouncing around in my brain for a while when my old fishing buddy, Trevor, checked in to see if I was available to fish on Friday. Amazingly enough I actually had a free day. Plans were originally made to fish the Caney Fork, but a last minute change of plans had us headed to the Clinch.

When we arrived at the usual Millers Island access, I was shocked to only find a couple of other cars in the parking lot. This place gets packed so to say the lack of people was a blessing is an understatement. We started with the usual midge rig that is so effective on this river. I quickly caught a little rainbow and later another. Trevor got into a hot streak in a good spot. Eventually I snuck in close enough to snag a fish or two myself out of his run when he got tangled momentarily and couldn't fish.

For the most part it was slow. The one high point of the morning was when Trevor got a solid 16-17" rainbow that was all colored up. Some of the fish spawn this time of year so their colors are usually extra vibrant. The real event had yet to happen for me though.

We moved well down the river to a spot near the town of Clinton. Having never fished there, I trusted Trevor's directions and judgement which included a lengthy walk. As we were walking along the river, the occasional rise would prompt me to ask if we should start fishing, but he kept telling me to keep going. Finally, just when I thought we had embarked upon a true death march, he announced that we had arrived at our destination. I looked around and almost immediately noticed a rise downstream just a few yards. Bugs were in the air including caddis and craneflies which prompted me to switch to the tried and true dry/dropper rig with a caddis pupa as the dropper.

In reality, this was my favorite Smoky Mountain rig, something that should never work on the educated trout of the Clinch. On the other hand, sometimes you just never know. On probably my second or third cast with the new setup, the dry fly shot under, and I was hooked up with a solid fish. This fish was strong and acrobatic, giving my four weight fly rod a better workout than it has seen in quite some time. Trevor soon had his net out with an offer of assistance which I gladly accepted.

Nice Clinch River rainbow trout

Soon I was admiring a great Clinch River rainbow trout, the first of many more to come. In fact, I continued to catch trout up and down that section of river, working my way across towards the far bank and back. While I know that I shouldn't expect the same from the Clinch every time I fish there, it was enough to tempt me back for several more times in the near future even if some of them turn out to be far less exciting in terms of fish catching. In fact, I say that after a very slow day on the water.

Today's plans were made just a couple of days ago. The forecast had been calling for partly cloudy skies although a chance for some wind was cause for mild concern. When I arrived to meet my friend John who had kindly offered to show me some of his favorite water, things were looking good. The river had a little bit of chop but nothing too intense. We were soon rigged up and ready to fish with small dark nymphs and midges, in other words, traditional Clinch fare.

After slowly getting in the water to fish, I proceeded to cast and mend, and mend, and cast again. Over and over, but without that nice motivation of a diving indicator and heavy trout on the other end of the line. Finally, one suicidal trout nailed the nymph which broke the monotony, but otherwise the day was slow. John eventually ended up with a fish as well, but we more or less agreed that the fish were not feeding. The weather was rapidly deteriorating and we both like to think that played a significant role in the lack of fish to hand. The wind was soon approaching gale force and when the rain started like stinging needles, we waded out and trooped back to the vehicle.

Despite the lack of large numbers of fish, the company was good, and I kind of like having challenging days because it keeps me interested. Problem solving is good for the mind and is one of my favorite parts about fly fishing. I guess that's the math teacher in me. The Clinch River promises many more days of both large trout and good problem solving opportunities so I'll be back again and again over the next few weeks.

Clinch River Rainbow Trout

Looking for a guided fly fishing trip on the Clinch River? Visit our guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, to learn more about booking your trip.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Light and Trout

As you probably already know just from a quick glance at the Trout Zone, I enjoy photography almost as much as I enjoy fly fishing which happens to be quite a lot. Finding that perfect shot where light and subject combine to create magic is nearly as fun as catching a nice trout. Sometimes, though, the two combine.

That is what happened the other day and I didn't even know what I had until I got home and looked at the pictures on my computer. Most pictures end up not quite as good as you remember the scene in real life. This time, however, I was definitely pleased with the result. When I snapped this picture I was just in the middle of taking several and had no idea what I had captured.

Rainbow Trout from Tremont

I love the mix of light in this picture. The below-water portion of the little rainbow trout blends in so well with the rocks that it is no wonder we have such a difficult time spotting fish in these rocky streams of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While I would love to take full credit for the way this picture turned out, sometimes the beauty produced by the camera is largely luck and this image definitely falls into that category. Either way, I'll enjoy remembering the smile on the angler's face during our guided fly fishing trip in the Smokies as he landed this beautiful wild rainbow trout.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Hiwassee Is On Fire



February through early May is my favorite time to fish the Hiwassee. The sweet spot though is late March into early April when the Hendricksons and Blue-Olives are hatching as well as various caddis and stoneflies. The last time I hit it right was back during my college days. In other words, it has been a few years too long. That is mostly my fault though and one I full intended to rectify this past Sunday.

Easter turned out a little different than originally planned and with my schedule suddenly open, I decided to take advantage of the free time. By the middle of the day I was headed southeast. The hope of mayflies and rising trout had me excited like a kid on Christmas morning.

My original plan involved hiking in somewhere in the Big Bend area but when I got to the river, the crowds were more than manageable so I just fished close to the car. The bugs were there and the fish were seemingly starving. I'll spare all of the details and try to resist bragging but will say this: the fishing was phenomenal and I probably caught more fish in those five or six hours than I've ever caught on the Hiwassee, and I've had some great days. Here are a few sights and trout from my day.

Redbuds

Hiwassee Brown Trout

Hiwassee average rainbow trout

Rainbow trout on the Hiwassee with great colors

Nice rainbow trout from the Hiwassee