Friday, June 13, 2008

On the Reel with Rachel and Jamie

I fished the Caney with Rachel and Jamie H. who came in from Florence AL via the Elk River the day before. Their home waters are the Elk River and their report on the Elk was- lots of stockers, a cleaner river bottom and good water temperatures. This is good news for the trout and a change from the previous weeks. It seems the changes TVA has made to the water flow may be helping the river.

Thursday morning I stopped for the usual gas, ice and coffee. I stopped at new place for a biscuit and it was possibly the best gas station biscuit I’ve ever experienced. I caught up with Jamie and Rachel at their rental cabin at Center Hill Lake shortly after the biscuit. We had spoken on multiple occasions about the trip via email and it was good to finally meet them both. It is always good to put a face on a name. With that we were off to meet Dan (Shuttlemon) for our ride to the dam and the launching of the boat.

We were on the water, with the Army Corps setting a blistering pace of 4000 CFS. Rachel and Jamie picked up the streamer rods and went to work. Jamie caught a rainbow pretty quick on a Clouser and then………nothing. After that there was still more nothing. Finally, I stopped the float. We discussed the finer points of Alabama fly fishing as well as a discussion concerning the killer eel we saw earlier in the day, which turned out to be a corrugated sewer pipe floating in the current. I tied on some nymphs for falling water. At 10:30 the armada of boats began their trek past us and up river to the dam, so they could catch the falling water too. Then at 11:00 a.m. the Corps showed mercy and shut down the generation. Fifteen minutes later the fish began to rise and we were off with a new arsenal of freshly tied nymphs.

The action really turned on at Lancaster where Jamie picked up his second bow of the trip. This fish was large enough to demand Jamie get it on the reel and give the fish gave the reel a drag adjustment. Jamie did an excellent job getting the fish to the boat and into the net. This left Rachel fishless, but I knew that wouldn’t last long. She picked up a nice bow 100 yards downstream. Before we could get the photo-op I dropped the fish back in the river.

Score = fish with sore lip 1- guide with stone hands 0.

Shortly after Lancaster the water level became favorable (although it never really fell out all day) and the fish turned on to our offerings. Rachel picked up a bow that she had to get on the reel, as she was fighting her bow Jamie chimed in with a nice rainbow of his own. This was the first of several doubles for the day.

Jamie picked up a brown and Rachel announced he was 2/3 to his Slam. Somewhere about this time Jamie announced it was “Good to be King” and it was game on for both of them. They both began to get into their rhythm and continued to pick up rainbow after rainbow.

We picked up a whole mess of rainbows so I moved the boat into position to try and pick up a different offering. Rachel searched out some good looking water and picked up the first brookie of the day, which completed the boat slam. Jamie also got into the brook trout action and the duo picked up the boat record for brook trout this season. Rachel caught the largest brookie of the year which is pictured in the photo. Biologists are saying the brook trout will grow about a ½” per month. Next spring we should have nice pods of large brookies in the river.

People who know me well understand I really like to fish, some folks say I would rather fish than eat. With the short window in generation I made the decision to put off lunch while the action was hot. Actually we put off lunch for so long and the fishing was so good- Rachel and Jamie decided Cheetos and Gatorade would be good and the shore lunch was called off. Some folks would rather fish than eat! They drowned nymphs for the remainder of the day.

We continued to try to stay ahead of the generation and continued to pick up rainbows and brook trout. The mission became - get Rachel the elusive slam. We extended the float and hit shoal after shoal. Rachel continued to boat rainbow after rainbow. The slam became such a passion that she actually wasn’t upset when a nice rainbow sportsman released.

Finally, the generation caught up boat and the heat caught up with us. God was merciful today and didn’t give us quite the high temps we all expected. Rachel made it 2/3 to the slam and I have never seen an angler go after something with such vigor. It was evident that she and Jamie both have a true zeal for the sport. Jamie got the Slam, and Rachel boated the largest brookie I’ve seen on the river.

On the way back to the cabin the conversation turned, as it usually does, to the number of fish caught on the day. As they debated the number I listened and finally threw out a number that may have been a little low. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I quit counting when I run out of fingers and toes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Watercolors and Paddlefish

Today I fished with local artist Dan Sharley. Dan is a self taught watercolor artist from Murfreesboro who paints fish and other wildlife. He enjoys painting freshwater as well as saltwater species and his work is spread throughout the south. He is not only an accomplished artist, but Dan can also handle a fly rod very well.

We left Murfreesboro a little later than normal and arrived at the river approximately 8:00 a.m. naturally I put a streamer rod in his hand to see how his shoulder would hold up. Dan rewarded us with a skip jack and a rainbow in the first several minutes. We dodged boats floating, trolling and regrouping for better positioning, while we searched out the best water.

Soon we were out in front of the conga line and pounding the banks with streamers. Dan picked up a few nice fish including a nice rainbow and an equally as healthy brown trout. The generators shut off at 10:00 a.m. and the water began to calm down. Then a large scum line of weeds and pollen covered the river. We switched over to nymphs and droppers and continued to bring several nice fish to the boat.

During the morning Dan picked up a couple nice browns including the one he is holding in the picture below. We continued down the river in a relatively boat free zone throwing nymphs and droppers with some success. Just before stopping for lunch we hooked up with the days only brook trout. It was a tick larger than the usual brookie, but not quite as colorful.

After the brook trout encounter we hooked up on a 14” brown. The brown was fighting like most other browns with head shakes and short runs, but all of sudden it got real serious about getting away. That’s when we saw a 4 foot paddle fish swim into view. We let the brown run a little line off while the paddle fish slowly cruised upstream. We got the brown in the boat and revived him, then we let it back out into the current where the fish promptly disappeared.

Following lunch we hit the water again and picked up several more fish, before the second wave of generation caught up with us. We floated into Happy Hollow picking up fish here and there.

We noticed several very large fish on the opposite bank from the ramp. So, we rowed over and saw 20-30 carp rolling in the shallow water. The carp were either spawning or playing a came of tag, but we were pretty sure it was the former. After investigating the bigger fish we rowed over to the ramp and got in line to get off the water.

We had another good day on the Caney Fork, although it was somewhat shorter than the usual marathon float we boated a good number of healthy fish.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mark J. and Bob I. on the Caney Fork

I picked up Mark J. and Bob I. who are both from Murfreesboro, TN and we were to the ramp at 7:00 a.m. The waters of the Caney Fork were rising from one generator as I rigged up the rods and discussed the first plan of action for the morning, which was…..Streamers…..of course.

We were off the hit the banks with our Clousers and immediately began to see flashes as the fish chased the guy’s offerings. The skip jack were out in force as well as the trout. We boated a couple of skip jacks in the 15” range, when they found fondness in the Clouser. We stopped at one of my favorite holes and lost a nice fish. I went ahead and put the fish on notice that we will be back for it in the near future.

I ran down the list of food and drink on the boat. When I got to desert of the day, which was a Snickers Bar…Mark was ready to eat desert at 8:30 in the morning. It reminds me of a friend of mine who says, “Life is Short, Eat Desert First”. This is a thought provoking statement and it has a lot of merit. But, Mark decided he could wait and explained how proud his family would be that he was eating a healthy snack of baked chips instead Snickers for breakfast.

When the Army Corps shut down the generators and the water went from 3400 CFS to zero, we went from streamers to nymphs and started picking up rainbows. Before lunch we were well on our way to the Grand Slam. The only species left on the list of trout being a brown, which we had on the hook, but hadn’t brought to hand. Rainbows and brooks had already been bagged for the day.

The recent stockings of brook trout have made a new target species for folks. Although the brook trout are still a little small, they are coming into their own colors now, as they adapt to the river. The fish are turning more orange with a hint of red at their underside and still have the pure white around the edges of the fins. They have migrated throughout the river and from where they last saw the inside of the stocking truck. Hopefully we will see them grow into some of the monsters that states including North Carolina and Arkansas have been able to produce.

Mark is deadly with a soft hackle and brought along a sweet little bamboo rod that has great action. When we crossed the lunch shoal and he saw the fish stacked up, he just wanted to stay right there. We pulled into the usual spot and set up for lunch. While I cooked, the guys hit the shoal with soft hackles as the water continued to fall out.

After lunch we went hunting browns and we boated the first one within 15 minutes. This completed our first Grand Slam, but there was still another to be put in the books. The canoe traffic and people playing in the river made navigation interesting, but not as bad as we seen in recent years.

The water hit again, this time from the Army Corps 2:00 release. We waited for place in the line of boats and landed a couple of rainbow doubles. We managed to search out a double of brook trout just as the thunderstorm hit. The rain came at us sideways, tree limbs were blowing into the water and across the road by the river. It was bad, but the weather behind the storm looked to be clearing. While others headed for the safety of the ramp, we waited out the storm to continue fishing.

Post storm we hooked up with a few more fish including the nice brown trout that Bob is holding in the photo below. The day began to end when the river turned the color of chocolate milk. But, Mark did manage to catch the first stripe bass of the year. I pulled back into Murfreesboro with two tired fishermen. The guys did a great job working together and were a lot of fun to have aboard. I am looking forward to fishing with Mark and Bob again on their fall trip.