Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fly Fishing The Elk River 4/4/2009

Up early and off to the Elk River for a trip with a couple of regular clients. Jamie and Rachel H from Florence AL. They have floated with me several times and they made a bonsai trip of a three hour drive to the river and three hour drive home, with a nine hour float squeezed between.

We started the day with a quick drive-by at a lower ramp. Then we launched at the dam, with surprisingly few people wading on such a beautiful day. We had some action early on nymphs and had a great hookup after we broke the seal on the bag of Cheetos. Jamie grabbed his first fish on a green bug and Rachel was hooking them on the usual BHPT. We landed a decent rainbow for Rachel and the One Fish Per Month Challenge on the LRO Board and cruised on down the river drowning nymphs.

An Elk River Rainbow

As usual if we are fishing nymphs I like to have a pretty good sized nymph somewhere in the mix. Usually the bigger nymph is a BHPT and today we selected a #12 with a large tungsten copper bead, because the water was a little higher and stained slightly from the recent rains. We changed the bottom fly regularly with scuds, gray bugs and Zebra Midges, trying to get a good feel for what the fish wanted.

Most folks put quite a bit of distance between nymphs and midges, but my approach is somewhat different. I like to see about 6” between the two flies and if we are fishing three flies only about 4”-5” sections between each fly. The reasoning is that fish are looking up, but not too far up if they are holding on the bottom of the river. Placing the flies as close to the bottom and in a fish’s view for as long as possible is the theory. Does it work? Well yes it does work for us. How does it compare to other styles of nymphing? Try this approach for yourself if you are not already.

An Elk River Brown Trout

Jamie and Rachel have been great to work with and we have, for the most part, nymph fished when they book their trips. But, this time I brought some streamer rods along (I know that is hard to believe) to fish the lower and slower sections of the river. Until the fish in river get more cooperative the fishing is more a hunting trip than an all out catching trip. Early on I worked with Rachel on the streamer techniques but only for a short time. My plan after lunch was to get the six weights back out and put their arms to work.

The marabou and bucktail came out after our lunch of North Alabama Slaw Dogs and a desert of Snickers. We drowned the nymphs a little longer, but we were streamer fishing before they knew it. With all the marabou laying around the boat it looked like an episode of the Muppets.

The Fly Fishing Muppets

Both Jamie and Rachel caught on to our adopted style of streamer fishing quickly and were soon landing the fly within inches of the banks. The retrieve still seems to be the most difficult action in the process, but both were getting the hang of as the miles clicked off.

Animal an Original Muppet

Jamie Becomes A Streamer Fisherman

For the last couple miles of the river Jamie got into the groove of pounding the banks with the Muppet Flies. Rachel got back on the nymphs, but was really watching Jamie transform into a new type of fisherman. (He might not be saying that the next morning). We switched out flies often while searching for just the right color. Jamie was getting that glazed/focused look and just as we all settled into a peaceful rhythm of floating and casting, Jamie landed the fly within a couple inches of a rocky bank and the water erupted. The fight was short-lived and the fish broke the line. Judging from the hole left in the water and the sound of the take, we had an extremely nice fish on.

Jamie Focused On The Streamer

From that point on Jamie put on a casting clinic and picked up the only brown of the day a short time later. With Rachel and me spurring Jamie on, he finished out the float throwing the Big Uglies at every likely looking spot. While Jamie settled into his new found style of fishing and we floated closer to the ramp, Rachel came up with two words that best described the situation. “He’s Ruint”

The Elk Just Before Sundown


  1. Looks like fun! Can't imagine how you could get more people addicted to throwing streamers. I recently won a new reel in a drawing loaded it with a sinking line. I'm ready to throw streamers on my 5 weight...

  2. I knew you would start coming around to my way of thinking sooner or later. That sinking line should be real useful up around Elkmont.