Sunday, May 22, 2011

Drift Boat Instruction & Elk River Fishing

Rainbows Were Out Most of the Day

The Elk is the first tailwater to slow the generation enough to fish the river effectively. The Caney is still blowing water, however the forecast, at Center Hill Dam, is showing improvements in the near future. The future generation schedule still shows a lot of water, but not the excessive amounts we have been seeing over the past several weeks at the biggest trout tailwater in Middle Tennessee. The Obey continues to see high water as Dale Hollow Dam continues to release at least one generator and two generators for most of the day.

I had the pleasure of fishing with Adam and John. Adam had just bought a nice Hyde drifter and wanted someone to give some pointers on rowing as well as general boat use. John had never fished with the long rod before and came along on the trip to try his hand at a new adventure. Adam quickly proved he was a fast learner and compared drift boat rowing to flying a plane. Adam is a pilot so the drifter and currents came naturally to him.

John's First Fish on a Fly Rod

Adam started out fishing from the back seat. We put John up front and went to work on his casting, mending and hook set practice. We started the morning on nymphs and soon were getting some takers on the usual stuff. Adam boated a fish or two and we put him on the oars. Adam rowed around the toughest shoals, long stretches of flat water and through the tightest runs. he did well on every stretch.

John did a very good job from the start. It is always interesting to watch someone who has never fly fished before. I see all the things that I did right and wrong, when I started, in other people. It seems that they catch on quicker than I did and certainly catch their first fish in a shorter amount of time than the amount of time it took me to catch my first fish.

John had the usual long fishless stretch as he got his cast under control and worked on his mending. With my usual "coaching" (no I wasn't too harsh...really) and John's concentration it wasn't long before he started getting hits and then some takes. Then John dropped the fly onto a small gravel bar, made the right mend and the fight was on. A few minutes later John held the first fish he had caught on a fly rod.

Our First Brown of the Day

An Upstream View

Adam Hooked Up

We continued the day, seeing some folks we've seen over the past couple years. The fish, we have all been chasing, were tuned into nymphs early. The 350 CFS sluice release raised the river a little and made it necessary to add several inches of distance between the fly and the indicator. The fish were spread out a little more than usual, but the best lies still held the largest fish.

Bent Rods and Scream'in Reels

With John catching fish and Adam behind the oars we settled into a rhythm. At the guys invitation I had a chance to pick up a rod and fish too. The fish were responding to nymphs on a regular basis. So, when we came into some rising fish I went to the dry fly. There were not a lot of fish rising, but there were enough to peak my interest. After a few minutes the fish began taking looks, then the began to take the offering. This experiment would pay dividends for John later in the day.

One of Several Browns for the Day

Watching Rising Fish After Lunch

After lunch John continued fishing nymphs, while Adam learned more about his boat and the river. He made an excellent first pass through Van Zant, while John took in the sights of the Elk River. We passed some other boats that launched about the time we launched. The other reports confirmed most folks were having a pretty good day. As the other boats passed none of us knew that our boat was about to see something pretty amazing.


The bugs coming off the water here and there soon turned into an evening hatch. The usual bug activity of the lower Elk was about the same as most other warm days. Caddis popping, mayflies drying their wings then flying off, along with the usual midge hatch. John was on dries and Adam was running the boat in the middle of the river. John was getting some strikes, but having a little trouble closing the deal. Most of the fish were just taking looks and splashing the fly with their tail when they refused. John hung in there and continued to fish for rising fish.

John's First Brown and on a Dry Fly

Just about the time we were going to make a move to different water a nice brown enhaled John's fly. The dry fly was lodged nicely in the brown's mouth and John was quickly learning a new skill...line management. The fish struggled against the 6 weight BVK and large diameter tippet. After a nice fight John and Adam boated John's first brown on a dry. It was a good way to spend an evening on the Elk River.

This Brown is Getting Out There

This trip was unique, by that I mean I didn't row all day and frankly at times I wasn't sure what to do with myself. But, when the tougher parts of the river came, I had a chance to help a new Capitain navigate. And, I still made fly selections and tied on new tippet. Mostly I viewed the river from the rear seat. The guys both did a great job with their new passtimes. Adam will make a very good Capitain of that nice Hyde drifter and John has learned the basics of catching good fish on a fly rod. I look forward to seeing these guys on the river in the very near future.


We are booking trips into June as we wait for the fish to get good and keyed into the cicadas, that are singing loud here in Middle Tennessee. Before we know it we will be into hopper season, one of my favorite times of the year. The tailwater flows are slowing a little, some of the other rivers begin to open up. Don't miss out on the fun and make 2011 the Year of Getting Out There.

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