Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Caney Fork. Saturday, November 24th 2007

I heard “David P. what’s up man?”……

”Not much, how was Thanksgiving?” I asked the voice on the other end of the phone. As we got into our conversation I realized that Dan, who is my shuttle guy, was outside. I was in Chattanooga for a couple days; it was 8:00 pm. in Chattanooga and 40 degrees. I knew the temperature in Buffalo Valley, where Dan was, would be somewhat lower and if Dan was outside the temp by the river would be even lower. I asked Dan what the heck was doing? He told me he was sitting outside with his neighbor and a friend… the fire. Apparently life is good when you live where you want to live, do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and Dan would know.

“How about a shuttle at 8:00 in the morning?” I asked.

“Only if I get to go.” He said

“I already have a full boat. Is that the river I hear in the background?” I was getting nervous

“OK I will see you at 8:00 and we need to fish” Dan said, as he let me off the hook… was a long distance release.

“You got that right we do need to fish, are you coming to Liars and Tiers on Tuesday night?”

“Yep, I hear we are havin chicken” He told me.

“Yep, see ya tomorrow”….

I met up with Mark Griffith and Anthony Williams of Murfreesboro the next morning. Mark had been fly fishing just one other time, but Anthony and I have fished all over Middle and East Tennessee. I am not good at math, or sometimes counting for that matter, but I’ve fished more times with Anthony than I have fingers and toes and always enjoy it. Anthony is easy going, but the best thing about Anthony today…he was bringing the burgers for the shore lunch! The shore lunch is quickly becoming one of the highlights of my trips. It is not a highlight because we cook such great food, but more because it is a time to get out of the boat, slow down a little more, count the rise rings and watch the river pass by as much as anything else.

Dan was there on time and we were on the water 45 minutes before the Army Corps was scheduled to stop the release. With-in the first 200 yards of no generation Mark was hooked up with a rainbow, which he long distance released with great precision. Little were we to know, although he would make a dramatic comeback later in the day, this was the last fish of a long dry spell for Mark.

We made it to the first bend in the river and Anthony hooked up with a very nice rainbow, which he fought for awhile. Two folks, who were fishing from a rock, guessed at its length several times before it ever came to the surface. How they had any idea the length, I don’t know, but they were close when they guessed 16”. This rock is also becoming a fixture of floats because there is almost always someone there with a spinning reel. In turn we almost always boat a fish within eyesight of that rock, which I am sure gives them great joy….

We stopped just after noon for burgers, chips and drinks. Anthony and Mark discussed their favorite vacation spots and bonfires. While they were entertained with that discussion, I counted rise rings, seven (7) all at the same time was the most I counted and it was just before a wind rippled up the water. I observed this from the comfort of my lawn chair by the stove. The river was falling out and our day was now crawling just like I had planned.

We got back in the boat and headed toward the halfway point of the trip. A little further downriver we picked up a brown trout that measured 15”. It was caught on a #16 BHPT, while the clouds became heavier and darker. A little later I begged the question, too myself, as well as the others. “Why would I leave my raingear in the truck?” It started to rain.

We passed the spot on the river where Anthony was broken off twice, on consecutive casts, by two large fish, earlier in the year. He wanted a second shot at either fish and as we passed over the spot he was quietly mending. We passed through the shoal twice, and picked up a couple, but apparently the bruisers were not around. It kept raining, the wind picked up and so did the wind knots.

A few minutes later Mark said “sometimes it just ain’t your day.” I love a good challenge and I re-rigged his rod with a fresh BHPT. We hit the first set of shoals on the home stretch where Mark picked up a 10” rainbow as well as his spirits. That fish prompted a discussion of Anthony’s week which consisted of fishing three rivers in as many days. We discussed the quality of the fish on the Caney this year and how we’ve had many good days on the river. It is getting late in the season and with the change in the weather I am searching for and beginning to tie more midge patterns for winter. This all leads to the shad kill in late winter/early spring, which brings on summer and it goes on and on….

I believe fish know when the discussion is getting deep and they use this gift to taste-test passing flies while they think no one is looking. This time Mark saw his indicator go under and hooked into a nice fish. He fought the fish as I discussed the fine art of reeling up excess line with a small arbor reel, while trying to untangle yourself and letting the fish run when it feels the need. During Mark’s fight with his fish, Anthony hooked a nice rainbow (the daily double was on), which we brought to the net. Anthony took the hook out of his rainbows sore lip and I helped Mark boat the largest brown he has caught, which measured 14”. (See 2nd photo)

We pulled into the ramp just after dark where we caught the last two plays of the Tennessee vs. Kentucky football game. Everything in the boat was locked down and we hung the rods in the truck. When we got on the interstate I called Dan.

“David P. what’s up man?”

“How about a shuttle Friday morning?” I asked.

“Only if I get to go.” He said

“I already have a full boat. Is that the river I hear in the background?” I was getting nervous

Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 10th, 2007 The Upper Float on the Caney Fork

The day started off early, as usual, with a stop for the contents of a good shore lunch. Today, I would have two relative newcomers aboard. Rod Murphy and Mark Smith are in the Healthcare Industry and as with most folks who work hard they needed a day away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. These two made the two hour trip from Chattanooga, TN. and we met at the ramp at 8:00 a.m... Getting to the river today was an experience within itself. UT was hosting Arkansas and with kick-off at 12:30 (EST) the traffic is better compared to holiday traffic on I-40. However, we all made it without incident and were on the water by 9:00. The weather was clear and sunny with a temperature of 65 degrees. What a great day for a float on the gin clear water of the Caney Fork.

We floated down to the end of the walk-in below the dam and anchored in the slack water. While I rigged rods, they solved most of the world’s problems. We were ready to start fishing as soon as the Army Corps closed the sluice gate and turned off the generator. The water went from 5100 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) to Zero CFS and we pulled out into what was left of the current as the fish began to rise.

Neither of my guests had been on the water in a while and the fish were not fully awake. The water was still a little high and the Captain began charging the usual $2.00 as each fisherman missed their share of fish. The day was shaping up to be a good day.

When people get together from different backgrounds and different walks of life there is an opportunity to learn new jokes and steal some good quotes. The best quote came when we overheard two fishermen on the bank speaking something other than Southern. Rod said “Mark you know Karate what are they saying?” This was one of those quotes, probably better heard first hand, although certainly it is worth noting.

At lunchtime, Tennessee was in control of the football game and I am certain the traffic at the concession stands of Neyland Stadium were now much heavier than the traffic on I-40. The traffic on the river today was light, and fish were rising steadily to what appeared to be a size 30 midge. After lunch of Ritz Crackers & crab dip, chips and burgers, we were back in the boat to finish out the day of fishing.

Both brown trout and rainbow were present today. It is my understanding the browns were introduced to United States from Europe over 100 years ago. In my book, fall of the year is when the browns put on their best colors. Their overall golden brown color is only a compliment to their black and red spots. Their belly is close to the color of butter and when they strike, if one is lucky enough to see them strike, they still show the flash of silver that gets a fisherman’s heart pumping.

Mark was in the front of the boat as the sun began to set behind the ridges. By the time I saw the indicator move; Mark had seen the flash of silver and began to set the hook, and the fish on the end of the line was well on its way to putting a nice bend in the Sage rod. Mark played the fish like he fishes daily and with-in minutes we had netted and measured a 17” Brown Trout. (see photo)

We made it the ramp at Happy Hollow well after dark, put the boat on the trailer and stored all the rods. Rod and Mark headed back to Chattanooga with what seemed to be a satisfying day for them. The productive flies of the day were BHPT and Miracle Midges.

I am going to check the traffic on Saturdays before I head to the river during football season and I think I may learn how to speak Karate…Today was an excellent day for a float on the Caney Fork River.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The New Anchor 11/3/2007

Tuesday night at the monthly meeting for the Liars and Tiers…it was a night of good friends, a good show on Salmon fishing, great ribs, dry flies and the group bought me a new anchor. This anchor replaces the anchor I left on the bottom of the Watauga a year or so ago. Not only do I appreciate the anchor, but it gives me a credible reason to fish this weekend!

Up early Saturday morning, this is the last day of the year, before the fall time change. It is a little cool at thirty-four degrees, so I fixed some coffee and did the morning rituals. Guess I’m getting a little lazy in my old age because the boat is sitting the garage with stuff piled up on top of it. Once it’s hooked up to the truck I’m on my way to meet Dan the Shuttle Man for a day trip on the Caney Fork.

A quick stop by the local food store for hot dog buns and a fire log, and then I hit I-840 to meet Dan at Happy Hollow. Passing over the Caney bridges on I-40, the water looks as low as I’ve seen it all summer. For some reason when I get to Happy, Dan is a little surprised that I didn’t bring waders. I let him know I do not intend to get wet today. This is a decision Dan’s back will regret most of the morning. We move onto the ramp below the dam where we find a family of fisherman. The most interesting thing about the group is one of them is using a surfcasting rod to bottom fish for trout in the Caney. Note to self...if the fish are that big, I think we need a bigger boat.

My laziness is continued when I discover my rods aren’t rigged for the Caney, or anywhere else for that matter, because I haven’t even thought about them since the Tellico trip two weeks ago. As I rig the rods Dan is on the catch. He boats four or five before I get the first rod rigged. Two or three before I get the second rod rigged and another before I catch my first fish, which is a dink about three inches long. Dan-O is on fire with his midge. Through the narrows we see another fisherman, who is not having a lot of luck. The guy should be able to tell Dan is having a good day simply from his wide grin. I add a little fuel to the fire and let him know Dan has already landed over a half dozen. We get a bigger grin from Dan and he offers up the exact recipe for the fly he is catching all those fish on.

Through the first run and seven kayaks later it is Dan’s first opportunity to get out of the boat and……..pull it over the shoals. Like I said before “Low Water Today”. It’s my turn in the front of the boat and I promptly miss three or four fish while looking at a doe that is 50 feet down stream. Several more misses and then a couple hook ups. It is all coming back to me now. We fish down to the narrows Where Cows Walk on Water. This is where Dan has his second opportunity to exit the boat and pull it across the gravel bar. Remember, the water is low today.

We fish around the bend and the water release catches us, which means it’s time for lunch. We unload the boat on shore and start a fire as well as the grill for hot dogs, chips and an adult beverage. We put the new anchor through its paces with the rising water and it performs flawlessly. Following some good food, a warm fire and some deep discussion that you can only have with good friends by a campfire, we are back in the boat.

Past Lancaster and then the hook up with the first large fish of the day, it is a 16” rainbow (see the inset). Dan was obviously busy tying the “perfect surgeons knot” because it took him as long to tie the knot as it took me to land the fish. He did take the appropriate hero shots for me and only put his thumb over the lenses once (I’m kidding).

Anchor up….. another flawless performance by the anchor. We get the boat back into the current and another nice fish, this time a brown that measured 14”. We travel through the Crossover and it is almost uneventful other than a rainbow or two. We continue floating down the home stretch toward Happy and Dan continues his Catching Clinic. Through the Chute and we enter into stocker heaven. I get out the Thunderhead dry fly/midge dropper and promptly miss one fish, on the dry, that is less than a foot off the bank. Then another fish hits the dry and he is on his way to the boat with a Thunderhead in his mouth. This one is a brown that looks to be about 12” before I perform my near perfect sportsman’s release followed by the proper cuss words.

That ends it for me and Dan boats one more fish before we call it a day. The final tally for the day: a good number of fish, some good food, a warm fire and one sore back. Did I mention how low the water was?