Today I met Becky and Charlie R. from Gallatin TN to help them catch their first fish on a fly rod. Becky had fly fished before on the Caney, however the water was high and the conditions were tough. Charlie had fished before but had not used a fly rod. Both wanted to catch a fish before the day was over, which was a goal I thought the river might be able to help them with.
First time anglers are pleasant and in my experience have expectations that are reasonable. Part of the reason I started guiding was because I have always enjoyed helping others catch fish while they learn the ins and outs of fly fishing. When we lived in Knoxville I was lucky to have a very patient teacher who helped break me of some of my bad habits (I still have many) as we fished all across East Tennessee. I have tried to pattern myself as much I can to that model and when I have the opportunity to teach the fundamentals of the cast, mending and setting the hook it makes for enjoyable day. Rest assured no one is happier than me when an angler catches their first fish on a fly rod.
"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it"
Ferris Bueller (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
The weather guessers spelled gloom and doom for Middle Tennessee when I left for the river. All the reports were for a 30% and higher chance of thunderstorms. When we arrived at the ramp it was clear and sunny. The sunblock was needed for the beginning of this trip as a clear sky with few clouds made way for the bright sun.
The Most Patient Angler on the River
We spent time teaching the basics of casting and mending, while the US Army shut down the generator. They left the sluice of 250 CFS going and as the water began to recede it was apparent the water clarity was going to be good for the afternoon’s float.
After the casting, mending and strip-set lessons were complete we backed out into the current and put their techniques into practice. Becky was the first to boat a rainbow on a fly she had tied at a local fly tying class. The first fish on an angler's own tied fly is a big accomplishment. Charlie was not far behind with a rainbow of his own and soon they put the long rods to work with the stockers. We boated several fish while working on different techniques to make their first drift boat trip more enjoyable. The bad weather was still holding off as we moved toward Lancaster.
The Hatch is Underway
Those Are All Bugs
The clouds began to gather in the sky as the gray set in. There was also a cloud on the water that was unusual. The midges began to come off the water and the trout began to sip from just under the surface. The top of the water was covered in midges/black fly and the trout were gorging themselves as the storm continued to approach. I switched Charlie over to a couple of midges and when he hit a long drift over a gravel bar the indicator disappeared and Charlie set the hook on the biggest brown of the day. We switched Becky over to a midge pattern as well and she was soon hooked up with a larger fish. She got the fish on the reel , then into the net and was rewarded with a healthy brown of her own. It was good to get these fish in the boat as the rain picked up and the storm threatened.
Charlie Popped This Brown on a Midge Pattern
Becky's Brown on a Midge Pattern
We drifted into the Chute with the storm raging just over the bluff. We sought cover under some trees to keep the rain off the boat as much as we could and waited for it to pass to our South. We spent time watching fish rise, otters swim and deer that were watching us. After the storm was off in the distance we made the decision to fish some more as the trout keyed back in on the heavy midge hatch. We picked up another rainbow before we slipped into the gravel bar at the ramp and ended the day.
The End of the Afternoon Float
It turned out to be a good day. We came across the heaviest midge hatch I have ever encountered on the river. Becky landed the largest fish of the trip and Charlie completed the Slam with a fresh brook trout. Now both of them have checked a box on their Life List and I am looking forward to October when we fish together again.
Caught & Released