Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fly Fish the Watauga River

Several months ago Calvary Outfitters, a local faith based fly fishing group, decided to take a few days off and go fish the Watauga River in Upper East TN. I was lucky enough to tag along to enjoy some fine Fall fishing. Our hope was that this year's results would be very similar to the results of last years trip.
On the first day we dumped the drift boat off a grassy area of the river bank. No real ramp was needed and after running a quick shuttle we pushed off. Brent was along and graciously let me have the front casting brace while he rowed me and Barry. Brent put us both on fish practically right away as I tried to take full advantage of the fresh water at the front of the boat.
Some of the sections that produced nice trout last year were awfully slow this year. But, some sections that weren't so good last year were hot this trip. There were very few rising fish, so we went to deep water nymph rigs to dredge up the fish. The rainbows and browns did not disappoint us as they came to the usual offerings 
We stuck our share of fish and toward the end of the day, Barry had made his way to the front casting brace while Brent made his nest in the rear brace. Our trip last year revealed several good spots on the river and I eased the drifter into good area of rocks that were laying against a steep bank. Barry laid a good cast into a narrow feeding lane and was soon hooked up. He was on a good brown that was down in the water-column and not giving up. Barry fought the brown for a bit and finally got ahead of the fish. Soon the fish was in the net and then released to be caught another day.

After that fish we kept drowning the nymphs and sticking some lips working at bringing fish to the net. The river was starting to crowd a little with other anglers and we were getting hungry. So we rowed to the ramp and loaded the boat. Then we went to Pals because when we are in the area it is hard to pass up that local favorite. We ended the evening with the Calvary Outfitters by the fire as everyone made plans for the next day of fishing...
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mitigation

When dams in the southeast were built a decision was made to mitigate the rivers with trout. This decision was made because the cold water, which is drawn from the lower depths of the lake, was too cold to support native fish species. Funding for the mitigation of the mitigation program is now in jeopardy. The final decision from US Fish and Wildlife is pending. To understand this issue take a few moments and watch this video.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Squidly MacNerd on the River

The other day Squidly MacNerd went streamer fishing and after several hours of casting Squidly finally hooked up. Here are a few shots from his day on the drifter....and Happy Halloween everybody


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Brent Makes Another Appearance in the 20+ Club

With the recent rains we didn't want to battle the heavy flows of the tailwaters and decided to get on musky water to pass some time. Brent and Alain were on the boat and we started a little on the early side or so I thought. 
We were just minutes into the float when Brent got the first follow for the day. The fish came in pretty hot but then split when the fly arrived boat side. Maybe it wasn't too early after all. We tried a couple different patterns, some bigger and some smaller. The big flies were fun to watch, as long as someone else had to throw them for hours, but the smaller flies seemed to win this day.
Brent dropped his fly in some soft water and brought it through a run, several pulls into the retrieve the fish flared and sucked the fly down. This fish was certainly not the largest fish we've caught but it sure was a fighter. The fish made several long runs as Brent kept the rod tip ahead of the fish. The fish made several jumps and as usual a gator roll, or two, or three. Brent played the toothy critter perfectly throughout the entire fight and brought the fish to the waiting net. 

We took a few photos between keeping the fish in the water. Brent had the honors of making sure the fish was revived and then with a swipe of the tail the this fish disappeared back into the river to be caught again in the future. Brent was solidly in the 20 + Club once again.
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Craig and Walter on the River

Walter came back to enjoy the southern waters. This trip he would bring Craig to enjoy the day and some fish. Craig had fly fished before this trip but we still worked on a few things to get his distance. Naturally we worked on mending as well. Walter was dialed-in right away and picked up where we left off last year.
Craig worked hard on his technique and it paid off with several fish in the upper stretches of the river. Walter was casting better than I have seen him cast and we worked a little on the mend. As soon as he would get a good mend the fish would respond. Both guys got their slam in the upper reaches of the river. As the fishing got hotter so did the air temperatures.
It is that time of year when the Fall spawners are in full color. The brookies fit that description right now for sure. We caught multiple brook trout and all but just a few were in "full bloom". 
The day was heating up, but just over the ridge was the biggest storm of Fall. Then minutes later high-winds came over that ridge and blew down the slope. A cold front moved in and we were in the middle of it. With the leaves beginning to turn the wind blew large amounts off the leaves into the river. Then the rains came. Further upstream hail was falling in the dam pool. We hunkered down in the boat and waited for the back side of the storm.
Walter and Craig were troopers and were back in the casting braces after the worst of the storms had past. The fishing was tough after the leaves got into the water column.  We still caught some nice fish including some rainbows that were in full color, apparently from eating something that was agreeing with them.  

So we floated the river while dodging storms and fishing between the leaves. Craig improved his fishing drastically over the float. Walter was casting so well I swear he is the only person who could cast all the way to Kentucky when he turned the last false cast loose. We had a good time throughout the day and I can't for Walter to come back and do it all over again.
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fly Fish Michigan

The Pain is Worth It- After day one, with sore shoulders and arm pain lingering from day one, we got a later start on day two because we had decided to fish a different float. This float would mean less angler pressure and the chase for different species. On this day the boat was loaded with some small streamer rods and the 10 wt indie rigs. The small streamer rods would be 6 and 8 weights with floating line. Streamers would be stripped around LOTS of structure on the second day...and we mean lots of structure.
Wood is Good...or something like that- Trees lining the river are nice and all, but those trees eventually fall in the river. This makes fish habitat plentiful on smaller tree lined rivers. We would spend the morning fishing deep runs, but eventually if there is a streamer rod on the boat, I can't help but work the structure and the banks for resting fish. Within the first few casts with the streamer rod the fish began to respond. Although the steelhead wouldn't respond to the streamer the browns had no problem moving several feet for a couple different patterns.
Floating Through Deep Runs- The river had some very deep runs. Some of the runs we 10' wide and well over 10' deep. Dan knew where all the snags were located and did his best to keep us out of the worst snags. Just like my last trip to Michigan downed trees would claim many of our flies. 
 
Fun With Streamers- On the Middle Tennessee tailwaters we fish a lot of sinking lines. On musky waters we fish heavy sinking lines with light 6" - 10" flies. With the number of snags in Michigan rivers we fished floating lines with weight applied until just the right depth was achieved. One other item was added to the streamer as well. With all the salmon in the river fish were tuned into egg patterns. We would run an egg just above the knot for added effect. The first fish of the day was a small brown that tried to intercept the egg before our streamer could get it. It was a lesson we will use in the coming months.
Steel Craziness- It has been said on many occasions that anglers who chase steelhead are a different breed. Anthony was in the front of the boat and fishing a deep indicator rig. The indicator took a bump and he set the hook. The water exploded and boiled.  While Anthony was getting the fish on the reel the fish was making its next move. The fight was quick and decisive. The fight was also won, this time, by the fish. When Anthony turned around he had an unfamiliar look in his eye. We would learn a few minutes later that Anthony was well on his way to becoming hooked on steelies. 
A Day is Made- The front casting brace is the place to be on these waters. There is an advantage to being the first fly to the fish. After his steelhead experience Anthony ushered me to the front of the boat. We fished several deep runs with indie rigs and ended up fishing a long run just below some deep snags. I had a good float going and took the opportunity to look at everything but the indicator. When I finally decided to look back at the indicator it was gone and Dan was looking at me and apparently wondering if I was going to set the hook. Well, finally I did and fortunately the fish turned to help me get a good hookset. Our initial thoughts were of more steel, but the fish was a runner and jumper. Soon a nice brown would show itself. This brown was a lot of fun and the fight was memorable. After the "hero shot" my day was done. This fish was a good way to end a fantastic trip. So, I buttoned up the indicator rod, stowed both of the rods.  Even though there were a couple miles of fishing left, my decision was made and I gave the front of the boat back to Anthony. Sage watched me as if to say "are you done?" It was a good trip and a trip that ended on a good note. I can't wait for the next time we head North!
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fly Fishing Michigan

The Plans Are Made- In June, while we were in Florida, I got my kitchen pass the decision was made to book a trip for the Fall salmon run in Michigan.  So I called Anthony, and the guide, then booked a couple cabins. Our trip was set for October. Last week we headed North for Michigan with fly rods and high hopes. On the drive up we ran into the first snow flurries of the year around the Kokomo area. But in the long run we picked the perfect driving day, which saved two fantastic weather days for fishing.
The Salmon Whisperer- My plan was to just keep guiding here in Tennessee and not worry too much about the trip until a couple days before we left. Anthony is a bit more thorough and learned as much as he could about salmon fishing prior to the trip.  We stopped in the fly shop for our Michigan license and Anthony asked about the water level. With the heavy rain throughout our travel day the river was on the rise. I have to say Anthony was dead-on when he predicted the rain would raise the river level and get the fish moving. The next day fish were moving and with his prediction Anthony became the Salmon Whisperer, at least for this trip anyway. To top off his prediction he also brought the first salmon to the net.
Fishing Dogs- It has been said there is no such thing as a fishing dog. I have never thought much about a fishing dog until this trip. Dan, our guide, brought along his dog Sage. Or maybe I should say Sage brought along the guide. Either way Sage was a welcomed addition to the boat on both days of our trip. When the boat would stop Sage was out and on the bank to chase squirrels and do whatever dogs do in the north woods on a Fall day. When it was time to make a move Sage would show up just before the anchor was raised and would take her post on the downstream side of the boat.
That First Salmon- The river is crowded during salmon season so we left the cabins at 5:00 a.m. EST. That's 4:00 a.m. CST, which isn't too bad for me, but for some it was early. We launched Dan's Hyde on zero daylight. Then headed straight to the best part of the river and arrived to claim our stretch before most anglers even thought about their alarms. This move paid off and Dan's plan came together early.

So we were up early which gave us the best spot on the river and within a few casts Anthony had a fish in the net, then a few minutes later I was motioning for Dan to bring the net. The first fish was pretty easy to fight because the adrenaline was flowing and weeks of anticipation built up for a great fight. But, later in the day after a good number for fish, several doubles and seeing the backing a fair number of times the same fight was a bit of struggle because of a sore forearm and shoulder...and that was a good problem to have.  
Salmon Weren't the Only Fish-  After the several salmon it was a welcomed change to find a nice brown or two on the line. The browns, salmon and some small steelies were occupying the hole I was fishing, so the variety was a bonus and to tell the truth it was nice to get something different on the line even if salmon was the initial reason we came to Michigan. 
Fall Color- The Fall colors were out along the river. The next couple weeks may be better but we hit the colors just about right. Maples, Oaks and Birch trees were bringing the color on this trip and were fortunate to be able to make "Leaf Peeping" part of our trip. 
Good Guides- In Michigan, on this river at least, anglers don't float and fish. Anglers will find a spot in the river and tie it up for most of the day if it is a worthy beat. Guides can't always have the perfect plan, but I have to say Dan had about as good a plan as anyone could have hoped.  We beat the rest of guides and anglers to the best spot. When the sun came up we claimed our beat and began catching fish. There were a couple more groups who had a good day, but there were also some long faces in some of the other boats. One boat floated into our beat while Anthony and I had one of our many doubles. It is hard to conceal your spot and frankly the grin, when both fly rods are bent double and 25" + fish are rolling and jumping, but we did our best.
  
Lunchtime- Seeing smoke from the grill was a welcomed sight. Pork chops and all the accoutrements really hit the right spot and at just the right time. After a short rest and good discussion, soon we were lobbing those indicator rigs at salmon with the same positive results.
Equipment- So what does it take for these fish? I took along a couple of our musky rods. The primary set up was an Orvis Access 10 weight with floating line. The leader was about 12' down to a heavy weight and then another 4'-6' of heavy tippet. The rig was difficult at first to roll cast, but as the first day wore on and once our timing dialed-in it wasn't as hard. 
Next Year- It has been said confirmation of a good trip is planning the next trip on the ride home.  Our confirmation began at the end of the first day when we stopped by a local eatery for some fresh walleye. Next year it looks like another trip to Michigan is in the works. The trip will be limited to 6 anglers and will include two days guided fishing as well as lodging. For anyone interested just give me a call or send an email and we will can discuss the preliminary details. So that was day one and over dinner we began to discuss our day two plans which would move us off the salmon and on some different water with a slightly different prey. Check back for the recap of day two.
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jed and John on the River

The colors along the rivers in Middle Tennessee are coming to life. The fish have been responding, rods are bent and cold weather is just around the corner. John and Jed came along to fish with us to fish for some fish that are also getting more color.

John has spent some time with a fly rod but Jed was pretty much new. Jed had something some others do not have and that is a love for fishing.  We pushed the boat away from the gravel bar and began our float down the river. We stopped a short time later and began to work with Jed on his cast. He started out absorbing the instruction and then he began to get some more lengthy casts. He dropped a good cast and we were dialing in the mend when he had his first solid hit. Jed set the hook and had caught his first fish. We were all excited but I think he was a bit more excited than his dad and me.
To say we had a few rods with some serious mojo would be an understatement. The guys brought their own rods, I had a couple more and there were fish in the boat the entire float. To start the float we slipped into the current seam and hit structure along the banks in slower water.  The fish were not responding in the middle of the river. Structure along rocks, gravel bars and wood were the way to go.
The guys were picking up fish along a rock wall with some regularity. Jed picked a couple nice rainbows and while we were releasing Jed's rainbow, John set the hook on a nice fish. The fight was on between John and fish. The brown tried the usual digging toward the bottom, runs to the rocks and snags, then finally a hard run under the boat. 
Many fish have made their run under the boat as an attempt to get away from the sting of a fly. This fish made the same run and when it came out the other side John was waiting and the rod still had a good bend. The fish made the usual last pulls and John got the brown moving toward the net. Finally we slid the fish into the net head-first and the fight was over.
The river is running pretty slow right now. A stop at lunch can make the day begin to slow down to a crawl. This lunchtime crawl is a real good thing for anglers. The day slows, they get some time to reflect on the morning instruction and take time to fuel up for the afternoon. 
After lunch we went right back at the fish. Jed was up on the front brace and dropped flies in front of a lot of fish. John was doing the same from the rear brace and the guys were beginning to make a run at a record number of fish for the drifter.
Records come and go. This record went down hard. The guys passed the old record with a couple miles left in the float. The fish, especially those browns are full of color. The deep colors make for some good photos and for some of the fish, the pull seems to be amp'ed up as well. If the weather holds the rivers are as good as I can remember. John and Jed got on the water at a real good time and caught a big number of fish with some nice fish sprinkled into their day. Next time we may throw some streamers, for hopefully,some really chunky results.
To see the latest fishing report click here and for more booking information see our Homepage.  If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river just email or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water.