Sunday, June 28, 2009

Elk River TN Fly Fishing

Anthony, Dan, Mark and I went to the Elk River to fish a cool tailwater on a hot summer day. We shoved off from the dam access among several other boats, canoes as well as other forms floating transportation. Everyone, it seemed, was headed to Ferris Creek and most were going to stop along the way to fish for trout. The trout are still in the river for sure, but the number of shad in the river was the talk of the morning.

With a water temp of about 57 degrees and an excellent flow the trout were cooperative. We spotted trout in amongst the schools of shad and were able to pick up some here and there throughout the morning. The usual nymphs and midge combos worked as they should work this time of year. We picked up browns, rainbows and a decent carp along the way during our morning float.

Elk River Brown Caught on a Nymph

I had just sat down on the rower’s bench after a long stretch of drowning a nymph and a couple of midges. The only thing between us and lunch was a riffle. With Anthony at the front casting station guiding us we made it through the riffle without even a scrape. Anthony threw his nymph into the run below and promptly picked up a nice rainbow, just as we glided to a stop for lunch. Mental Note…go back and fish that run…

We stopped for lunch, re-hydrated and each found different stretches of water to fish before getting back in the boats for the second leg of the day. I think everyone picked up some rainbows and there were a few small browns caught as well. Also, we enjoyed some entertainment from some locals who were floating downstream just passing the day.

When the lunch break was finished Dan and Anthony swapped boats for the afternoon float. As Anthony and Mark disappeared around a bend, Dan and I rowed back upstream and hit the pre-lunch run again. Dan picked up a nice brown and we lost a decent rainbow from the run. Then we found a spot in the conga line and continued downstream, straight into a thunderstorm. It rained hard as we stood under a bridge with several other fly fishermen from Cleveland, Jackson and Lebanon TN. After the storm passed and we bailed water from the boat we continued our float.

Thunderheads Gathering on the River

There is still a tree across the river on the right side of the island at Van Zant Bend, which in a boat the size of the drifter would extremely tough to get through. But, with the flow TVA is releasing currently, the trip around the left side of the island is very easy to get through and opens up more technical water.

Release from the Watercress Fields

Vegetation Along the Elk River

I am not going to bore you with the blow by blow of the rest of our day, however after the rain there was a significant amount if vegetation floating in the current. We hooked one of the larger browns were looking for on the river, but it was lost at the boat after a screaming run that ended when the line went through some of that vegetation and the brown broke the tippet. Mental Note…..go back and fish for that brown…

Friday, June 26, 2009

Presentations and Fly Fishing the Elk River

Several months ago I was invited to give my Observations from the Tailwaters presentation to the group at Calvary Outfitters. The presentation is based on the article I wrote for the Little River Journal, which is also named Observations from the Tailwaters. Last night was the night I was scheduled to do the presentation and it was also the first time I had presented the material in the photo format. The presentation seemed to go well and hopefully, as was the intent, people appeared to gather information for their own fishing adventures. I must admit everytime I see one of the pics and discuss the water in the pic I think of a possible new way to fish that type of water.

I wanted to take a minute and thank Anthony Williams and all my friends at Calvary Outfitters for the opportunity to present the material. Thanks guys I really appreciate letting me come by and give the presentation.

Also, I am looking forward to coming to the Cohutta Chapter of TU to present the material in July. Now, it is time to prep the drifter for a day on the Elk River and we will see you after the trip tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork with Brian, Stan and This is Fly

I had enjoyable time guiding Brian Hodges and his father Stan, who booked a father & son outing on the Caney Fork River, to fly fish for trout and other species.

Brian is an Editor for This is Fly (TIF) and is also a fly fishing travel agent who books fly fishing travel to locations in the US and abroad. Brian had been in Nashville for a few months and was referred by a friend and client. As we spoke over the past several months Brian decided to sample the Middle Tennessee waters. He booked a trip for himself and his father on the Caney Fork, as a send-off before Brian and his wife headed back to Jackson Hole for the summer. is an online fly fishing magazine with a more edgy flavor. I recently had the honor of contributing to the latest edition of TIF for an article named "What the Doctor Ordered" (page #31).

We launched the drifter and started the morning with blue gill. Then moved to my favorite back eddy where Stan promptly caught the largest TN Tarpon of the season. When the Army Corps shut down the generator we were headed down river and picking up the recent stocker browns and rainbows. We missed the TWRA shipment of fish by mere minutes and were too far downstream to partake the TWRA offerings with the dry flies. But, we had the nymph rods loaded and were seeing, catching and on occasion even missing a few of the usual suspect browns and bows.

A Caney Brown Just Before Release

Usually I will ask anyone who books a trip, and needs to use our gear, if they will need left or right handed reels. Brian had assured me he and Stan both were right handed. Halfway through the day I noticed Brian, while occupying the rear seat, was casting with his left hand. He had been laying out 60 foot + casts all day long and this cast, which I caught out of the corner of my eye, was no different. I quizzed him on his left hand casting and he replied “my right arm got a little tired so I changed to my left hand”. A short time later we boated a largemouth as a prize to Brian’s left hand cast. If you haven’t tried casting with the opposite hand of which you normally cast, I would encourage you to do so….after you finish reading about their day.

Lunch this trip was Cedar Plank Smoked Salmon with potato salad (hey we are in the engaged in good conversation concerning the booking of travel, exotic fly fishing destinations and shore lunches. We set the groundwork for a possible Southeastern Fly Friends and Clients trip to a very well known lodge out West. There will be more on the trip later.

We had fished mostly falling water throughout the morning and had brought a buffet of species to the boat. But, that one nice brown, we seek on each trip had eluded us so far. Brian and Stan began to call the browns with the six weight rods and sinking lines. The flies of choice were big nasty streamers in a variety of colors. Both anglers had several flashes and a couple of hits, but still no nice brown to end the trip. Finally after several misses and lots of flashes Brian boated the brown of the day. Immediately Stan requested a white streamer similar to Brian’s offering.

We tied on the “sure thing go to fly” and Stan picked up another largemouth. Then literally with only feet to go before we had to cross the river to get to the ramp, Stan boated his brown trout to round out the day. The discussion turned to fourth quarter with only seconds to go. Both Stan and Brian had caught their browns just before their dinner reservations were to be caught back in Nashville.

Stan & Brian at the End of the Day

To contact Brian concerning fly fishing travel shoot him an email at

The Caney Fork, as most of you know, suffered somewhat over the Big Spill. However, we are still catching fish although not in the numbers as we were this time last year. We will be floating the Elk River later in the week and I will provide a report about that after we return. But, all reports are the Elk is fishing as the Elk should fish this time of year. Stay tuned for an explanation of that statement later in the week.

Please feel free to email or call if you want to discuss the current conditions of the Middle Tennessee Rivers or to book your trips. We are finding some rivers are fishing better than others, but all of them have fish that are waiting to be caught.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gone Fishing!

I will be gone fishing for a few days and will give a report from the salt as well as a recent trip to the Caney Fork when I return.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guiding Jane W. On The Caney Fork River

Back in the fall I was on the Caney Fork with a Barry H. We were just out for a day on the river, floating, catching up on some things that need to be caught up on, and generally just wasting some time in a good way. It was my turn to fish as Barry had already boated a few fish, when we came up to a nice shoal and a couple anglers. As we moved to the other side of the river, to give as much room as we could, we were flagged down by a nice lady who was interested in the boat and who inquired about a Caney Fork fly fishing guide. Jane, who I had come to know in just a few short minutes, said she would give me a call to book a trip later. We pulled up the anchor and slid down stream, Jane also added a tip about a nice pile of rocks that would beg my streamers attention.

One of the Rainbows Jane Brought to the Boat

Fast forward to January when Jane and I scheduled a day for a trip on the river to throw streamers. But, Mother Nature had other plans and the float was called off. After a few other attempts at getting on the river together, between busy schedules and high water, we finally arranged a half day trip to hit the Caney Fork.

Sometimes when a trip is booked you wonder if the angler knows the cork is end the end you hold. Jane's enthusiasm let me know that first day in the fall that she knew which end of the fly rod was made for casting, which end was made for catching and possibly more than she was letting me know. However, I didn't know Jane was such an accomplished angler...

The Water On The Caney Is Still Off-Color

Jane was glad to be on the water and appreciative to get a chance to cast the rod. I put her on the streamer rod right-away... (you know how I am, and well, it was high water and all). Jane wasted no time in landing the streamer inches from the bank and I realized my suspicions might be correct, in that she knew much, much more than she let on in the previous discussions.

As we floated down river and got to know each other, she began to let me know that she knew how to cast, where to place the fly, and how to select good water. We came into a large pool that backed up to a shoal. Jane flipped the nymph and it floated several years before the indicator began its descent. As she fought that healthy rainbow and played it to the boat, a large hybrid/stripe came to the surface and took a swipe at the bow, then just as fast it was gone. We netted the rainbow and released it after the appropriate hero shots. The big predator fish was the talk of the boat the rest of the day.

We don't fish many dry flies on the Caney, mostly because we see more midges than any other insect. The midges do not tend to stay on the water long after making their way to the surface. Therefore, the trout don't key-in on the top water as much as some other streams and tailwaters. Jane is getting ready for her summer trip out West where dry flies are the norm and she wanted to float a dry across a shoal. So that's exactly what we did. The dry fly is where Jane shines. Her casting and placement of the fly in the right places was uncanny. We fished the shoal and the tail of the pool, down a bluff and into some cover. We didn't pick up the fish we were looking for, but we did agree that we would continue the quest for dry fly action in the future.

We continued the push down river and picked up several more fish along the half day float. We also got to know each others strengths and weaknesses that always seem to come with a new pairing of guide and angler. We ended the day at the ramp watching a couple of guys rescue a stranded truck from rising water. (See Jane's story here) Overall it was a good day on the river. We fished the cycle of generation, falling water and then a round of rising generation to complete the day.

Jane I am looking forward to fishing together later this year and have a great trip to Jackson Hole.

Moon Coming Up Over Betty's Island

Monday, June 8, 2009

Deadliest Catch Poll Results

The poll is over and with all the time I have been spending at the river I just noticed the final score. Only two boats achieved a score. The Northwestern scored 71% of the votes while the Time Bandit brought home the remaining 28%. These are also my two favorite boats on the show, so the poll turned out well in my eyes. Don't forget tomorrow night is Deadliest Catch night and the crews are going after opilio crab, which is sold around the world as snow crab.

Fly Fishing The Caney Fork With A Group of East Tennessee Anglers

I spent the day on the Caney Fork with fellow guide Mark Roberts who booked a trip for four anglers from East Tennessee. Jeff, Bill, Russ and Chip came in on Thursday night and were ready to launch bright and early on Friday morning. We rowed down the river on falling water and soon Russ and Jeff, who were in my boat in the morning, were hooked up on PT’s and midges.

We made our way through the conga line in the upper portion of the river and saw some friends and familiar faces. The water was falling, but did not clear like it normally does after a couple hours of generation. As a matter of fact it like similar to the Elk a couple months back, before TVA took the time to flush out the Elk. But the generation had moved some water, so no one has really put their finger on the stained water situation.

The Group Boated Their Share of Browns

The stockers were helping to put a bend in the rod, but none of the larger fish were showing up. Until Jeff hooked into a rainbow on a PT. We moved the fish toward the net and the fish popped off at the boat. But, Jeff was cool about it and we continued on spotting fish and waiting on the second round of generation and ….lunch.

Slippery When Wet

At lunch Jeff brought the trips only brookie to hand, which completed the boat slam for us and brought the morning trip to an end. He brought the brookie in just as the water began its rise from the second round of generation. But, the Army Corps did not stick with the forecast and only released 2000 CFS for one hour. The water was also warm and some passers-by where saying it was already 61 degrees. It will be interesting to see how the river recovers from the spill last month. We had a good meal of chops, potato salad (we are in the South), grilled corn on the cob and fruit salad. We topped all that off with a piece of pie and soon we were back in the boats.

Lunchtime on the Caney Fork

This time we switched up the anglers (as we do most times) and it was Bill and Chip’s turn in the drifter. Bill and Chip quickly hooked up with a couple of rainbows and we boated a shad, but the most interesting fish of the day was a walleye/sauger that we caught just a few minutes after lunch. Bill quickly boated the fish and we were soon off to the next big thing, which were more rainbows and a brown or two for both Chip and Bill.

The weather was clear with a high pressure system over the area, with a full moon to boot. It was very good day to be out on the water with a fine group of anglers.

Bill Completes the Newest Caney Fork Slam

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork after the Big Spill

One of the Brown Trout We Caught
FW: Here is the fishing report

Anthony and I hit the water last week for a float on the Caney. The Army Corps was more favorable with the generation schedule after a long spill. The Army Corps was able to bring the water level of the lake down from the rains last month. The weather guessers also gave favorable predictions and brought their guessing percentage up with an accurate forecast. It was very warm with highs in the mid- to upper eighties.

Center Hill Dam Release Schedule

Date Time (Central) Generators

5/30/2009 midnight - 3am 0

3am - 6am 1

6am - 9am 0

9am - noon 1

noon - 3pm 0

3pm - 6pm 1

6pm - 9pm 0

9pm - midnight 1

The last time Anthony and I had been in the drifter was back in February with our schedules and all. But, we fell into a routine very early in the trip and went right to work boating browns and rainbows. The water was a little high to drift a nymph and midge, so we both pulled out the six weight rods, with sinking line, and went to work on the banks. We tried our usual color combos and as has been the norm lately we settled on purple and yellow streamers. White streamers for the most part did not produce as well for us, although traditional thinking seems to be leaning toward white after a long spill. We threw some other colors including orange, but we seemed to gravitate toward yellow more than any other color. We had a few fish on and some fish got off.

We Caught Several of These

The lost fish of the day came when we were anchored in a run. We had a couple small fish on and a few boated. The TWRA officers were on the shoal checking licenses and life jackets of the groups fishing around us. We hooked up a nice fish that demanded raising the anchor and chasing him down the run. We followed the fish for a short time before the fish used the current to its advantage and threw the hook. Fortunately for us there were several more fish waiting for us downstream and helped us shake the blues of missing a nice photo-op.

We Caught One of These

As usually is the case after a long period of high water there were several additional species in the river. To supplement our catch of browns and rainbows (the brookies were not out in force for us, but there is rumor on the river of a nice brookie caught on a nymph) the stripe bass were abundant. They proved to be holding in the slack water that more often than not had shade for added protection. Many times we could call the stripe before the cast when we came to slow water under a shady spot in the river.

We Caught a Bunch of These

Our stripe routine was good and a welcomed change between faster moving water where the brown and rainbows seemed to be hanging out. The browns were out in force and hot for protein. We picked up browns on most shoals and in the faster moving water. They were also hanging on the sides of the gravel bars and waiting to grab a meal that passed within their range. The rainbows were primarily on the shoals, as they usually seem to be, darting around and finding their food crossing over the shoals.

Caught Many of These

We hit the river hard for the morning portion of the float. Anthony did a good job working the oars. He paid particular attention to keeping the boat parallel with the bank when we were fishing the streamers. He kept us at the right distance to hit the bank, while we both concentrated on the gravel bars, shoals and holes as we picked our way down the river.

You Never Know What A River Will Produce After A Spill

Speaking of changes to the river… The bars are still in the same location for the most part. Some shoals extend a little farther and some of them start a little farther downstream (from a foot to maybe few feet downstream). The changes to the bottom do not appear to be that significant, but we will really know more about the bottom as we get into summer generation and longer periods of lower water. The early scouting report is promising.

So we rounded out the trip with a nice rainbow on a #12 BHPT and a largemouth bass that was holding off to the side at the end of a run. It was a mixed bag of fish, but a productive trip. Another plus was getting out on the river with a good friend after a long lay-off.

Anthony Works on his Hybrid Techniques

I have a standing invitation to fish with my father for crappie somewhere around Chattanooga. He has spent the last few years searching the out crappie and is finding success. I am looking forward to finding the time to get on his boat and have him guide me for some nice crappie.

The next two months may be the best two months of fly fishing yet on the Caney Fork and the Elk rivers. The nymph and midge fishing should be extremely good and the streamers is proving to work on the larger fish searching for protein. I am looking forward to a very productive summer of fly fishing in Middle Tennessee.