Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life on Pause in Townsend Tennessee

Sometimes it’s just a good idea to put life on pause. I took the family to Townsend last weekend to spend some family time and, well, I “needed” to fish the Smokies, because I haven’t fished up there since January. We arrived in Townsend in the afternoon and I slipped off to Little River Outfitters to pick up a few things. I met David Knapp, who I have talked with via email several times. We had a good discussion concerning fishing in the Smoky Mountains National Park and fishing the tailwaters around Middle Tennessee.

I took a few minutes and talked with Byron as well. We talked about fishing and the business of fly fishing. Everyday I try to read Byron’s reports on the Little River Outfitters web-site. Byron has very good info on water flows and knows what is working in and around the Smokies, but I like to get his take on World events as well.

After an hour or so in the shop I headed back to the pool for a quick swim before retiring to the cabin to check in with Pat M. who really helped me get started fly fishing while I lived in Knoxville. Pat and I set the time to meet in the morning and the plan of attack for the next day of fishing. And, one more thing, Pat is an extremely early riser.

I rolled out of bed at 3:30 a.m. CST. Yep, I am old enough now to get out of bed at the same time I used to go too bed. Things change…..anyway, I made the traditional PBJ sandwich for lunch, but promptly decided it would be a better breakfast, so, I ate it for breakfast and made another one for lunch.

A Smoky Mountain Stream

I met Pat at the usual rendezvous point and we went in search of a cup of coffee. On the road with coffee in hand and rain drops on the windshield we headed over to the Little Pigeon.. Pat is, well an exciting driver, but the ride is always more exciting when we are in a hurry to be the first ones on the river and I am holding a steaming hot cup of coffee. We made it without too many burns.

The Saturday Forcast

We decided to wet wade and little did we know how much the word ‘wet’ would really play into the days events. I was first in the water an on the second cast was rewarded with a healthy Smoky Mountain wild rainbow. Then the clouds opened up and the rains came. Not just the regular rain like we had seen that morning, but a rain storm. We headed to the truck and decided drive another couple thousand feet up the mountain to try and escape the rising water, which now had the consistency of a Chocolate Yoo-Hoo.

We made it up to one my favorite streams before the rain made it up to the stream. I convinced Pat we needed to fish and floated the idea that we may have driven out of the rain, which could be on the other side of the watershed and “may not” effect this stream. Pat wanted to fish as bad as I did, so we hiked a few hundred feet up the mountain and got into the stream.

We had shots at a few fish before the rain caught up with us again. This time we were on a much smaller stream and as we entered a narrow canyon the rain picked up. The water began to get that familiar deep brown color and the bottom disappeared. Then the water started rising and we made the decision to climb out before we were caught in the canyon. Out, was straight up the side of the mountain to the trail that we left a few hundred feet earlier when we entered the stream. Rhododendron is a plant common to the higher elevations of the Smokys. Also, Rhododendron can be “cumbersome” when trying to hike up the side of a mountain, hundreds of feet from the nearest trail. We did make it to the trail and back to the truck with only a few minor bumps and bruises.


We drove back down and across the side of the mountain to Elkmont to see firsthand what that water there looked like. When we got to Elkmont the river was more of the same brown and high mixture. So, we did some exploring of Elkmont. We found that after the logging companies began to leave the Smokies, the trains that once hauled the trees out to the saw mills began to shuttle vacationers to Elkmont. Those visitors stayed in the various cottages as well as the Wonderland Hotel. The Wonderland was built in the early 1900’s and stayed in operation for approximately 80 years. The Wonderland has been torn down, but the remains of some of the cabins are still standing today. It was nice to see some of the cabins are being restored to keep that piece of Americana alive in the Smokies.

We left Elkmont and rode the rest of the way down the mountain to Tremont. The water in the Middle Prong was slightly high and slightly stained. We fished the Middle Prong for a while before the river began the staining process as the clouds dumped water into the watershed. When we couldn’t see the bottom any longer and called it a day. We went back to the cabin, where we did the cooking chores for our families. We had a quiet afternoon and caught up with old friends. Then after everyone said goodbye we headed to the pool for a quick swim before retiring to the cabin to get ready for the next day in the Smokies.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Raymond Sr. & ray Jr. on the Caney Fork River, Tennessee

My morning commute was different on Monday. Instead of getting into the truck and heading to the office, I hooked up the drifter and headed to the river to meet Ray B. Jr. and Raymond B. Sr. for a float on the Caney Fork River. Ray Jr. came down from Paducah, KY to meet his Dad, Raymond from Dalton, GA. I picked them up from their motel and we met Dan for the usual shuttle arrangement.

We were on the river several hours after the Army Corps had shut down the flow. The water was gin clear and as low as I have seen it this year. The fish could see every movement and were extremely skittish. Fortunately, both Ray and Raymond are very good with their rods and could cast the distance needed for a shot at these nervous fish. It was apparent early-on that we need some relief from the low water.

By switching to multiple fly combinations we had the boat slam early in the trip, although we hadn’t picked up the size that we were seeking. The stockers had come out to play, but the friendly holdovers were running the other way and moving into the shadows at every opportunity.

We stopped for Pineapple Chops and baked potatoes, cooked over an open flame. While we rested and filled our tanks, the Army Corp released a generous helping of 4100 CFS and filled the river. After lunch we packed up and launched the drifter for part two of our day.

We only floated 50 yards before the first quality holdover struck Ray’s BHPT. He commented on how much time had passed since he caught a fish on 6x tippet. I took the opportunity to explain that he should be extra careful, because I had him on 7X. After a few minutes of reel scream, Ray brought the rainbow to the net and we boated the first quality holdover of the day. During our pass through Lancaster, Ray Jr. hooked up with a few nice fish.

Raymond lost a nice brown a short time later and then he got into a few nice fish of his own. It is remarkable how the colors on the rainbows have brightened up over the past few weeks. Their gill plates are deep red prism and their lateral line has distinctive color markings that are visible while they lay on the bottom.

Both anglers got their Slam. Ray Jr. caught the longest brookie and Raymond Sr. took the honors of the largest rainbow and the largest brown. Toward the end of the float Ray Jr. took out a sweet little hand built 3 wt Sage. Ray built this one himself a few years back while they were fishing out West. We dropped a nymph under the indicator and he gave the 3 wt. a run through its casting paces. His reward came a short time later from another colorful Caney Fork rainbow.

Although Ray and Raymond are accomplished dry fly anglers, they didn’t have any trouble catching fish on the nymphs. With the new orifice gate going in, hopefully the new flow will help the hatches on the Caney. As the gravel bars get a little more water for the bugs and the brookies gain some additional size, would it be a stretch to expect some quality dry fly fishing on the Caney Fork?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Caney Fork and Elk River Trips

Two Boats on the Caney Saturday, June 28th, 2008

We took two boats to the Caney Fork and launched just as the Army Corps shut down the generator. We were floating just minutes later and we had two slams before lunch, actually within a couple hours of the launch. Although the water again didn’t really fall out as far as I like before the second wave hit, Jim A. and Barry H. both caught fish . The Army Corps didn’t call and ask me for advice on the generation schedule, but we still managed to boat some quality fish.

Jim A. With a nice Caney Fork Rainbow caught on a BHPT

We stopped for a bite with the water rolling under one generator. Lunch today was Mexican Pork Chop Quesadilla’s with Black Beans. We solved many of the world’s problems right there on the river bank, as we always do at lunch time.

While we were eating we saw a guy on a kayak flip and lose everything. I grabbed one of the boats, with Anthony in the front and Barry in the back. We rowed to the middle of the river and caught the things we could salvage. We retrieved his paddle along with his box of lures. The young man made it to the opposite bank and Mark took the paddle to him along with the other things we retrieved. By the time Mark made it back we had broken down the chairs, locked down the grills, and then we went back to fishing.

To sum up the day on the Caney it would look like this. We caught many fish in the usual spots and they were caught, for the most part on the usual flies. The brook trout continue to fatten-up and the browns are coming back around on lower water as we’ve seen them in the months past. Traffic was the usual for this time of summer…..heavy…..but everyone knows this going into a float and we just fish around the other boats, canoes and wading fishermen.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 Our Two Favorite Clients

Mark and I took our daughters for an afternoon of floating and fishing on the Caney. The girls are nine and ten years old and they are becoming quite the little fisher girls. (OK maybe I am a little biased). We hooked them up with fish while we were still within eyesight of the ramp. Both of the girls brought fish to hand, which is good considering their short attention span. Inevitably they will end up in the back of the boat discussing their future plans and how they are going to talk their Dad’s into buying them a horse.
Discussing the Hatch of the Day

The girls even let the Mark and I get in a little fishing action before we had to relinquish the long rods back, as they resumed their catching. The set-up of the day was BHPT’s and red Zebra Midges under an indicator, along with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The most fun I had was watching Emily catch a fish, while Delaney netted the fish. It looked like a small circus in the front of the boat for a few minutes, but I will have to say it was as much fun as I can remember on the river in a while.

We cruised into the take-out just before dark. On the way home, it was quiet in the truck and they were asleep just after we hit I-840.

Saturday, July 5, 2008 The Elk River

After the recent discussions concerning the warming of the water below Tims Ford Dam, I wanted to get back to the Elk and take a look at the fish for myself.

As most of you know TVA was asked to adjust the flow and generation to save endangered species on the Elk which are apparently below the Alabama state line. The spilling that had been occurring several months back warmed the water temperature of the river. The temperature was close to the seventy degree mark, which is lethal to both rainbows and brown trout. TVA listened to anglers and local residents, as well as the folks from TWRA. They have begun to spill and sluice to lower the temperatures. During the week TVA will also run a generator for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening which appears to be helping to stabilize the water temperature.

Considering the holiday weekend we were amazed at the number of people at the dam. It was not nearly as crowded as we had suspected and we saw some familiar faces in the water as we floated to the Bend Pool.

The TWRA had recently stocked the Elk at the Dam as well as Farris Creek Bridge. The people who were fishing immediately below the dam bridge were having a high success rate, but my concern was centered around the general trout population at the mid point of the float.

We had one trout by the time we made it to the bend pool. After we rounded the corner at the Bend Pool and began our float down the short shoot to the Scud Pool, business began to pick-up. We boated an amazing number of fish within the first three miles. The majority of the fish were SNIT's (Standard Nine Inch Trout), but there were some fish that appeared to be holdovers as well. We caught an almost equal number of browns and rainbows, however we still hadn’t gotten to the mid point of the river to see the effects of the long weeks of warm water on the fish population.

The lunch this trip consisted of Pork Chop Quesadilla’s with a great Banana Pudding recipe from Gary and Nina Woods. This went well after a few hours of intense fishing.

As we floated into my favorite stretch of the river we were glad to see rise rings emerge in the middle of the river. The fish are alive and well. They appeared to be as healthy as they were in March and April, before the recent events took place. Most of the fish were holding in the usual places such as the shoals and the deep runs and if you found one fish you would find several more within a few feet. The fish seem to be moving around a little, but they are also staying tightly packed.

Mark Engages in a Different Form of Catching Fish

We picked up several fish and as you can see from the photos there are some nice sized fish still in the river. Mark was on target with a Hare’s Ear and Silver Bullet Midge combination and I got in on the action with a BHPT and a Silver Bullet Midge combo.
Elk River Brown Hits a Silver Bullet

I’ve been on the water several times during the past few weeks. There is definitely another trip or two, to the Elk, in the coming weeks just to make sure I’ve got a good handle on the river. Also, the Caney generation schedule has changed once again and looks to be favorable for a quality float. So, I am looking forward to more great days on the rivers in Middle Tennessee...

The Drifter Gets Some Rest After a Hard Morning of Fishing