Sunday, March 1, 2015

Middle Tennessee Trout

This Winter has been brutal in many ways, but the time off  the harsh weather provided has been needed. The latest round of ice storms and days of snowfall have kept us close to the Southeastern Fly Corporate Headquarters (or I should say upstairs at the tying bench) with one trip to the west to visit family. We are back on the river and booking trips into the Spring. We still have to make it through some rough weather, but it is shaping up to be a real good first couple months of the fishing season. Speaking of the new fishing season, if you are reading this and planning on fishing, get your fishing license and trout stamp because your yearly license from last year will not work when you meet with TWRA on that trip.
The Caney Fork- Some of the area around the Caney has been iced in for over a week. The ramps were iced over and for a period of time there was not a clear ramp to put the boats in or to take the boats out. Things on the ramps are back to normal, whatever that means, and the fish still have to eat sometime. With that being said the water is a bit on the high side.
The water levels on the Caney are on the high side but the fish are healthy. Right now there is plenty of food in the river and this is making the fish more picky than usual. Nymphs are not the way to get fish to the net and dries aren't producing a lot of action either. Throwing streamers is the best way to get some attention. 
There is a chance to get a trophy on the Caney and to do that on high water it takes the ability to cast a streamer for an entire day. Not only does it take a strong casting arm and shoulder, it takes accuracy with that streamer. Getting the fly tight to the bank or to the exact spot on the gravel bar, that you may not be able to see, is critical. As stated earlier there is plenty of food in the river and the fish are full for the most part. It can be a grind for long periods of time if not most of the day. Keeping your head in the game is a must, because when a trophy shows up it is intense. 
The Elk River- This river has been giving us some times for low water floats. For some reason the fish haven't been responding to the streamer. So, we have been fishing nymphs and midges. I heard about a midge pattern over the cold months and began experimenting with different versions of the pattern last week. Armed with several versions we dialed in a couple different midges this week. You can work on patterns for months, thinking with every wrap they will the best fly on the river, but you don't know 'til you go. The new midges produced good results on the river, so we will be fishing a more dry/droppers in some parts of the floats throughout the spring.
Nymphs are still the king of the Elk. If you don't have the right pattern it is tough to bring fish to the net. The wrong version of the right nymph can also put an angler in the weeds. Speaking of weeds the river bed is looking good now. There is still vegetation but the bottom is clean. The banks are also clean as we await the spring wake-up. The water has been clear too and that makes spotting the fish much easier. All this makes the job in the center of the drifter and at lunchtime easier. 
The Perfect Shot- The fish are pretty lively right now and they jump several times before finally getting to the net. This year I hope to figure out how to get a good shot of a jumping fish. If you are a regular reader of this report you've probably noticed more shots of fish as they come toward the boat. I hope you don't mind my less than perfect jumping fish shots. I hope to show some progress throughout the year. So, please bear with me as I work toward this goal.
Jimmy the Net, a nickname that was somehow born out of bad tippet. Here we go. Early in a recent float Jim was drifting a nymph under a particularly good overhanging tree. I was picking the next likely spot and trying to scratch my ankle. Anthony was trying to figure out how to steal Jim's water...OK Anthony may not have been trying to figure out how to steal Jim's water, but there is a better than average chance that's exactly what Anthony was doing. Anyway, Jim has his nymph floating in some fishy water and the next thing we know he is coming tight on a fish. The fish puts a good bend in the rod, which shifts my attention from how do I scratch my ankle through these waders and wading boots to where'd the net go? Anthony and Jim start talking about the size of the fish and the first glimpse I get of the fish is the large tail... The net is under all the extra bags and jackets, because it was 26 degrees when we started this float and apparently it's my job to get the net. It's my job to get the net not only because Jim can't move all this stuff and fight the fish, but also because Anthony sure isn't going to help. Anthony? He is already winding up his cast to drop his nymph under the same tree Jim was just fishing. 
Jim was well into a fight with an above average brown and it was putting his Orvis Helios II to the test. Jim knows how to handle a big fish and was doing a good job staying ahead of this 20+ Club entry. While Anthony finally gets a good drift going and with his fly drifting under the tree and into a blowdown, Jim is fighting the fish and it makes a run along the length of the boat. We all get a real good look at this brown trout. Jim's got the fish on the reel, Anthony is just about far enough into the blowdown to get good and hung up and I am now thinking of a way to get the handle of the net inside the waders and down my leg so I can get some relief from this itching ankle.  Then the fish began a slow run upstream. The fish got just enough speed and force that a short time later it was over. The tippet broke at the leader knot... Everyone was quiet for a short time and I briefly forgot about the itchy ankle. 

Being as we are all friends it was decided, mostly by me, to begin giving Jim a hard time. Anthony was quickly there to assist with the constant bombardment of fun at Jim's expense as we moved toward the blowdown to get Anthony's fly, that was hung in a small branch under the water. The best way to help a friend through the loss of a big fish is "to make it fun" for the rest of the trip. Anthony and I made it fun, at least for us, while Jim suffered the thought of the loss of that fish. Dude, nobody has ever lost a big fish like that before and now everyone is going to do it. Anyway, we helped him through his heartbreak by letting him row more than usual. He didn't even have to ask and the extra rowing really seemed to help. He also had the chance to net our fish on many occasions which may have been what earned him the nickname Jimmy The Net. He is now good at netting fish because we brought our fair share and Jim's fair share to the net. Practice makes perfect and all those other sports analogies work with a netter in training.  And for the few times Jim was fishing, Anthony would take Jim's water just in case there was a big fish lurking. For those who don't remember and the one who wants to forget, remember Jim lost that big fish. Jim losing that fish started this whole story in the first place. Jim took it all in stride, but couldn't have done so without our "help". You're welcome Jim.

The Paul Harvey or the rest of the story...A fish or two later we found out the loss of that fish may have been was definitely due to a roll of bad tippet. This isn't the first roll of expensive tippet I have seen that wasn't good. Jim's roll wasn't old and there weren't knicks in the many feet of the roll. It just had weak spots and plenty of them.  We tied some less expensive but better tippet on the leader and the problem was solved. Jim didn't get a second chance at another 20+ fish on this trip. But, Anthony and I both had a better than average time on the river.
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.

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