Thursday, April 19, 2007

The "Big Girl and the Rainbow"

“The remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy are producing heavy rainfall over Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. The rain will continue throughout tonight and into the early part of the morning for much of the area. Flooding is possible in….” the Weather Channel Girl’s voice faded as I woke Friday morning and tried to clear the cobwebs from my head. I need a cup of coffee I thought to myself. Wait I don’t drink coffee, but if I did I would need a cup to jump start the last full day of our family vacation in the Smokey Mountains.

All week we’ve vacationed in Gatlinburg and experienced most of the tourist traps that any good “Touron” could be expected to experience in only a week. We received directions from the twenty four hour “Touron Channel”. People tune into the Touron Channel when there is nothing to watch on the sixty available channels of cable TV. We’ve watched the Touron Channel a lot this week.

When we lived in Knoxville my neighbor and I made fun of the Touron’s that clogged the roadways, hotels and walked the streets of Gatlinburg. Now I find myself doing those same things except we found a cabin in the woods, with a nice view of a man made pond, instead of a hotel, and we remember the back ways into town. I guess that still makes me somewhat of a local, although I can’t complain how much things have changed there, because the only time I spent in Gatlinburg was passing through the narrow streets to fish the streams of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

My focus is back to the TV where elevator music has replaced the verbal predictions of the weather channel girl and the five day forecast is showing for Knoxville. Today, seventy five degrees and raining, also the picture has a lightning bolt through the block for Friday. Saturday half the block is rain and the other half of the block shows clouds. The temperature for Saturday shows us a cool sixty two degrees. Good, a cold front is coming tomorrow, so today should be a good day to fish or today could be a bad day to fish. I try to remember which one it is supposed to be. The moon phase figures into it somehow, or did I read that on the Internet message board? I think to the day ahead.

Today my daughter and I are supposed to go fly fishing for trout in the mountains. I can't wait for her to catch a trout on a fly rod before we head back home and I jump on a plane for a week long meeting in Chicago.

It’s pouring rain now. I ask her if she still wants to go trout fishing. “Yes. We need stop and buy me a new fishing pole, because my fishing pole is for little girls and I am almost seven. Daddy, girls who are almost seven do not fish with little girl fishing poles. So, I need a big girl fishing pole. I will get dressed” She says and moves toward the stairs. I tell her I brought her fly rod, which is a “big girl fly rod” as she disappears downstairs.

As far as I am concerned a fly rod is different than a fishing pole. To her it doesn’t matter, she just doesn’t want to be seen with a pink fishing pole that has a cartoon character printed on the reel. She comes back into the living room wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon character printed across the front. I realize it is the same cartoon character that is printed on the reel of her now old fishing pole. This would be the same fishing pole she was just talking about replacing. I am not sure of the differences between a cartoon character printed on a t-shirt and a cartoon character printed on the pole, but I am sure we paid too much for both of them. It all seems complicated to me. But, a “big girl” who is almost seven is a complicated thing. I need some fresh air from the mountains.

The rain is letting up so we jump in the truck and head down the ridge toward the local fly shop. When we stop at the first light I ask her if she is excited about trying to catch a trout. “I am excited, but what if I get wet?” she asks me.

“We will buy a poncho for you so you don’t get wet. We need to pick up a couple more flies to replace the flies I lost while I was fishing alone up in the mountains earlier in the week” I tell her. She nods her approval.

I don’t mention the fact that she has on flip flops so wet feet are a given, she is almost seven and I know she will figure it out on her own. I just want to find a poncho that covers her entire body, so Mom doesn’t get mad at me for bringing a soaking wet child back to the cabin.

We pull up to the local fly shop in Gatlinburg. She says “I want to fish where the big girls fish, not where a little girl would fish”.

We walk into the fly shop, the gentleman behind the counter smiles and asks if he can help us. I explain we need a couple of #12 Thunderheads and directions to a fishing hole where a big girl, who is almost seven can catch a trout. He says he has a map for us that would lead us directly to a very likely spot where a big girl could catch a trout. The flies are right back there in wooden cabinets". I head toward the cabinets of flies and she moves toward the fly rods that are laying length ways in nice wooden displays. Just as I select the proper Thunderheads she decides on a fly rod.

“Daddy, I believe this is the one I need”. She says. I know better than to ask, but sometimes it is interesting to find out what her thought process is on the selection of an item. As I walk toward the display of fine rods I ask, “why that one”?

“Oh it is so pretty and look at the brown handle, see the little cracks and holes in the soft spongy stuff here on the big end.......that is the one I need” She explains.

“It doesn’t have a cartoon character on it, oh and by the way do you have $695.00”? I ask

She puts her hands on her hips and looks at me out of the corner of her eye. I make a mental note to discuss her current posture with my wife. She tries to pout as I grab two ponchos as we head for the counter.

The man behind the counter has the Gatlinburg Trout Fishing brochure in hand when we get there. He shows me the “hot spots” that are stocked on a regular basis. Then looks at her flip flops and says Mynatt Park has the “best” access. He explains that the city stocks trout every Thursday and sometimes they stock some large fish for the kids. I pay him for the flies and ponchos and thank him for the information. She takes one last look back toward the fine rods on display and we head out into the rain toward the waiting truck.

We drive up the main street through the Gatlinburg traffic. People walking in the rain, riding trolleys and in the bumper to bumper traffic. We turn left onto a side street and head up to Airport Road. I wonder if there is an airport up there somewhere or was the name of the road just a Snipe Hunters cruel joke.

We arrive at the secret fishing hole and we are the only people there. The rain was coming down in sheets and sideways. We put on our ponchos, which were really clearish green extra large garbage/leaf bags with a hood.

We walk along the creek until we see a nice 11" rainbow relaxing at the back of a pool. We climbed down the rocks and get her into position to catch the trout. She expertly, if I do say so myself, cast that Elk Hair Caddis just above the fish and let it swing down in the current. The rainbow bolted from his position, took a slag at the fly and missed it. After several more passes over the fish we change flies to a Tellico Nymph. Again the trout tried his best to eat the fly but each time she pulled it from his mouth before he could get a firm grip.

I decided we needed to change positions and let the fly swing directly thought the pool and into the feeding lane. We moved, don't forget the rocks were wet and slick. Imagine trying to get an "almost seven year old" who is wearing blue flip flops, to move 10 yards up stream in the pouring rain. After two falls and one tearful “I want to go back to the cabin" we were above the pool and just in time I might add.

I took off the Tellico and tied up a “Huber Gnat". When I got the Huber Gnat all tied up she points into the run above the pool and says “Daddy look at that leaf". That was no leaf, but there it was, a rather large trout fanning in the run. I told her to cast into the run and we would try to catch the bigger fish instead. I thought this was a great plan and I was showing my hunter/gatherer instinct. She didn’t notice. After convincing her I wouldn't kill the fish if she did catch it, she cast over the fish, under the fish, beside the fish, on the other side of the fish. FINALLY she cast that Huber Gnat above the fish and trout moved from its feeding position and grabbed the fly. She wanted to hand me the rod but I made her fight the fish and get him on the reel. After a couple of minutes she brought the line to me and I grabbed the fish by the belly. This was one time I wished I hadn't left the net at home. I picked up the fish, a fat….healthy rainbow. We took a couple of pictures, none of which she would get close to the fish. Also, none of which developed as anything other than a white blur after we got home. I did cut the fly line at the tip of the fish’s tail to measure the length later.

I tied up another Elk Hair Caddis and asked if she wanted to go downstream a little further and try for another fish.. She said "no that's OK I caught a fish. So we can go back to the cabin and see what Momma's doing". I wanted to fish the rest of the day, but I knew 2 more minutes would be out of the question, much less the rest of the day.

When we got back home today I took the line out and measured it. From the Huber Gnat to the end of the cut tippet, which is the length of the her first rainbow, the measurement is just over 16". The Huber Gnat and tippet will go into a scrapbook. My daughter fished 30 minutes to catch a fish that some people fish all year to catch. This was pure quality time.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fishing Alone. Saturday, April, 14th, 2007

Spent Saturday on the Caney Fork River. With turkey season, family obligations and some friends under the weather I ended up fishing alone on Saturday.

Shuttle Dan gave me a lift to the dam and I launched the boat about 8:30. It was a nice float down to the first stretch of the river and the first stop was the bluffs where I picked 5 "little" brown trout on a black Bead Head Pheasant Tail (BHPT) fly. Then moved onto the bend where Cows Walk on Water. The first of several rainbows were caught there on the same black BHPT and then I turned the corner to start toward Lancaster.
The rain came!! So, I did some manual bailing of the boat and pulled out the streamers. I had a few looks on shallow running streamers when the water hit. As soon as the water hit I started picking up fish, all rainbows and nothing under 12"s (no fish tails here and the fish are
still fat from the shad a few weeks was good!). The water got a little high and the anchor rope got a little short so I moved down river with the flow. Floating past Lancaster there was a guy that practically ran to a mud puddle where he picked up about a 14" - 16" rainbow and started shout "white" which I am assuming means he caught it on a white streamer.
The rain was torrential for about 30 minutes, followed by more manual bailing of the boat. I stopped at my favorite bend and fished there for about an hour or so. That is where a nice brown trout responded to a Raider Clouser (a black and silver Clouser). With high water and larger fish I saw the backing on the 5 weight twice yesterday, which is a welcome change. I picked up several more rainbows there and moved down to my new favorite stretch of water on the crossover. I tried several different colors of Clousers with none really working better than the others, however all color combinations produced at least one fish.
It started getting late so I cruised on into Happy Hollow, put the boat up and changed into
dry clothes. Then drove home in another torrential downpour. The weather guessers did good with their 90% chance of rain prediction.

Did I mention it rained Saturday!

"Wildlife", Streamers and Family Day on Friday, April 6th, 2007

My bride, my 8 year old daughter and I hit the Caney Fork just as they began a 1 hr pulse and caught the rising water today. We were on the water about 30 minutes when we had our first strike and.........a miss.

I told the girls they would see some wildlife, because 'we always do', Sure enough we did and it went like this......there were four guys fishing and one guy who had obviously fallen in. He was stripped down to his drawers and drying out his pants and shirt, which was a 'wild' thing to see in 40 degree weather. After I covered my daughter's (and wife's) eyes we were finally out of sight of the 'wildlife'.

About 10 minutes later we anchored to a shoal and my daughter caught a few fish on a streamer. We had a fish on that broke the 3x leader. I lost an entire box of freshly tied streamers somewhere today and had to dig down deep in the boat for another. I found a shrimp pattern and tied it on. We moved down about a quarter of a mile and she caught a few more on the shrimp pattern. I dug through the boat some more and found a poorly tied (by me) streamer wannabe. We floated through Lancaster without a bite, then I hooked up with a nice FAT 14'er. At a deep pool my daughter caught several more fish before we called it a day and headed for the takeout. It was a great day that ended at the local Mexican joint and some chips, a beer and Margarita's. Our daughter had sweet tea ;^}

Streamers were the fly of the day, we caught (0) zero on nymphs. According to my automatic fish counter (my 8 year old) we caught 11 fish, all on streamers. It was a great day.