Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Last Cast on the Caney Fork River

24 degrees. That is what the digital thermometer above the rearview mirror in my truck read Saturday morning. We layered up our clothing and shoved the boat off the trailer. A fog was coming off the water, because it was a lot warmer than the air outside. Our third partner dropped out at the last minute, which left me and Dan S. to float the Caney Fork River.

Shuttle Dan dropped Dan off at the top of the ramp and waved as he pulled off for his next shuttle. I haven’t seen his new dog Midge yet, but we had a good conversation about her on Friday night when I called to set up the shuttle. Midge must be a good dog because I hear rumors that she likes drifters.

The Caney Fork Was Quiet With No-One in Sight

We shoved off from the ramp and were quickly out into the middle of the river and drifting with the flow of one generator. Neither Dan nor I were in a big hurry to fish and were content just watch the herons and other wildlife while drinking our coffee. The first part of the trip was simply us floating along with good discussion, hot coffee and an occasional pull on the oars to help avoid landfall.

Finally I gave in, stepped up to the front casting platform and put a black Deceiver through its paces. The freshly tied fly brought several looks and flashes, but no takers for the first minutes. We concentrated on structure early in the float and with structure fishing comes boat positioning. Dan did a very good job taking the drifter through the stumps, downed logs and limbs were close to the bank.

Lefty's Deceiver

We anchored up in the midst of several hard hitting acrobatic browns. The first fish of the day was Dan’s. It was brown trout that was caught on a streamer that we named the Chicken Fly, because underwater, well, it looks like it is the size of a chicken. Quickly the conversation went downhill and considering the temperature, which was still very cold, The Chicken Fly was re-named the Frozen Chicken Fly.

A good Brown on the Chicken

Between knocking the ice out of our guides; we caught a couple more browns, a couple rainbows and a nice brookie to complete the slam. You can tell when the action is fast, because the first thing to be thrown by the wayside is the camera for the hero shot. Only the most colorful or nicest fish got their picture taken. The brook trout in the photo below measured just over 13” (or 19” on the Caney Conversion Chart), but the colors of the fish were among the most impressive of all the fish caught.

Colorful Brookie

A fly that I haven’t been using much this year is a Bust-a-Brown. This fly is one I developed one evening when I combined my poor tying habits with some red wine. The Bust-a-Brown first started as a soft hackle, but I quickly determined the soft hackle material did not cooperate with the wine and the fly rapidly became a soft hackle/streamer. The following day I was standing below Tims Ford Dam, in the Elk River with a couple friends. The TWRA apparently had just released several thousand 9-11” browns. Those browns couldn’t get enough of my new creation, but I couldn’t buy anything over 11” that day. I caught lots of fish, but never could get it down below those stockers, to see what else might be hungry. Over the years I would go back to the Bust-a-Brown from time to time, if I want to see if there is any action in a riffle here or drop off there.

#14 Bust-a-Brown

I tied several #14 Bust-a-Browns the other evening while working on my poor tying habits. When the action slowed a little I tied one on and threw it into the swift riffles against the bank. On the third cast a healthy 14” brown took the fly and quickly got a chance to see the inside of the boat net as well as a measuring tape. Yep, the fly still produces the browns when called upon.

We continued downriver as the sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed the day a little. The Chicken began to thaw and the fishing slowed to a crawl. We picked up a few here and there on nymphs and had some flashes on Deceivers. With the day winding down Dan noticed the Chicken was down to one eye and some of the tail material was tangled as well. The now One Eyed Chicken Fly continued to produce fish and flashes from the more curious fish.

The Brook Trout are Growing

“This is the last cast” is something we really don’t mean, but all seem to say. We look for every excuse to say those words one more time as we pull in slack to start another back cast. We had said those dreaded words at least twice already, as Dan was standing in the front casting brace looking at some downed structure. He had to get home for a Preds game and I wanted to surprise the family by getting home before dark.

Dan said “this is the last cast” again, as he dumped the forward cast. He started stripping the line fast. I knew he was going to take one more shot at the structure, because he had been looking at it out of the corner of his eye, as the current pushed us closer and closer. The dumped cast was unintentional; I shifted the nose of the boat a little more down stream for angle. Dan pulled the line, double hauled and put the One Eyed Chicken at the base of a stump, and then he gave a couple quick strips to take out any slack. With the first good pull a fish boiled and Dan set the hook. We backed into the middle of the river to keep the fish from tangling in the structure. When the fish made it into the safety of the net it was another brook trout that measured 13”. The appropriate photos were taken and we stored in the camera.

The Last Cast Produces

We stored the rods and swung the boat around so I could put my back into it and get us down to the ramp. It was about 45 degrees but the wind made it feel more like the morning in my mind. The fish were rising occasionally and we could see some sitting on the bottom feeding on who knows what. But, that really was the last cast.


  1. Nice blog, and thanks for the report.

  2. Very nice. You didn't say how big the brown is that Dan's holding? It looks huge!

  3. Love your blog guys. I spent all summer on the Caney Fork learning how to fly fish. I go to school at Vanderbilt so when we started back in August all of the fly fishing ceased. I'm planning on getting back up there some time over Christmas break but I'm not sure what to expect. I've never fly fished in winter so I dont know what flies to use, where to fish on the river, how to fish (topwater or not), etc. Any advice? Is the TVA generating alot right now? Any help would be appreciated