Sunday, July 26, 2009

Joe & Jeff Fishing the Caney Fork

When Mother Nature comes knocking, as she did in the Spring this year, things change. After a canceled trip early this year, Jeff Y. & Joe P. re-booked for a day on the Caney Fork. We left the appointed meeting place at 5:30 a.m. and were on the water and fishing before 7:00 to beat the crowd.

Jeff's Brown Early in the Trip

Joe with Nice Brown Trout

The guys are part of the Calvary Outfitters group and they are both a lot of fun to fish with. They both have extremely busy schedules and only get to fish a few times a year. But, within minutes Jeff and Joe had both hooked up and boated their first rainbows of the day. They both have good casting qualities that improved throughout the day and learned a few things about mending as well as the strip-set.

Joe's Matching Rainbow and Brown Trout

David's Definition of Strip-Set
A hook set that doesn't raise the rod tip, but pulls the rod tip at a side angle with the dominant hand, while the angler uses the other hand to pull the line tight. Which, sets the hook and starts the fight!

TWRA on the Water

Being on the water as much as I am, allows me the opportunity to see a lot of things. The drifter has been checked for life jackets, my clients, friends and I have been checked for fishing licenses more times than I can count this year. I see this as a good thing and hope TWRA continues to patrol the river as much as possible. What you cannot see in the photo above is the other TWRA Officer who is behind me writing another ticket to a gentlemen who, when asked to show a life jacket for each person in their boat said........

"I didn't know you had to have a life jacket if you are in a boat"
Quote by- The guy with a $180.00 ticket

A Warm Lunch and a Slower Pace

Joe had the Slam before lunch with a nice brookie and Jeff had boated the best brown. After a warm meal and bit of a rest, the guys were back at the long rods and drowning the midges. Joe wrapped up the largest rainbow of the trip while Jeff boated another nice brown and caught his Slam with only a short time before the float came to an end.

A Fish Puts an Arc in Jeff's Fly Rod
Yet Another Brown Trout

It was good day to be on the water for some Combat Fishing and a good day to be on the water with two fine gentlemen.

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A Brookie Caught & Released

Friday, July 24, 2009

Caney Fork Fishing Report- Guides Day Off (Part II)

Early Morning on the Caney Fork

Mark and I launched the drifter in the morning fog. We caught the rising water, which is unusual, but we both had to be home in the afternoon. So we took the water as it came and made the most of it by fishing streamers. We fished to some resting fish that were hid among the weed beds and had several flashes and a few bumps. We hooked up with a streamer as the water began to fall, but it was a very tough way to go.

Through Polarized Glasses

A Rainbow in the Mix of Browns

The water was still stained and in the mid to upper 50’s. The air temp, with this cold front, was again outstanding! We put the streamers up for the most part and pulled out the nymph rods with some midges and nymphs as offerings. We hooked up pretty quick after that, but didn’t get into consistent catching until later in the day when the water was almost bottomed out. We caught some nice fish, some of the shots I’ll put up on the report and some I’ll need to keep to myself for future reference.

Looking for a New Camera (with a lens cover that will open!)

Caught a Brown and a Sage Rod Too

Turned Out To Be A Nice Day!!!

Anyone fishing the Caney in the next week or so should take many colors of midge patterns from size 18 – 24. Keep switching until you hit on the right color. And, don’t be afraid to put a good sized nymph on to get those midges down into the feeding lanes. For those out there who are reading the report and thinking about booking a trip this is a good time to get out onto the water in the drifter for a full or half day float.

Ready, Set, Caught...

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...and Released

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Caney Fork Fishing Report "Guides Day Off" (day one)

Guides Day Off
Dan Sharley and I hit the water for an afternoon float on the Caney Fork River. We decided to float late, after the mid-day pulse, for a relaxing afternoon of drowning some nymphs and stripping some streamers. The water temp was in the mid to upper 50's, the air temp was outstanding and with the falling water after the pulse the float was Just plain relaxing.

Dan Stuck This Brown Early in the Trip

We fished an old standby that I used to fish on the Elk. Everyone who follows these reports has heard of the Bust-a-Brown, which is a soft hackle/streamer I developed for low water. It is not a super-technical fly, but it will produce a brown trout under the right conditions. Yesterday the Bust-A-Brown came through again and attracted several fish and a nice brown or two.

Dan is always good to have on the boat, because he doesn't mind trying things that I need to try, in hopes I can use them on future trips. He knows how to row the boat and he has an artist's eye, which shows in some of the photos from our trip. I won't bore you too much with all the details, because I believe the photos from our trip say a lot about our day.

Well, take me back down where the cool waters flow, yeah
I can hear the bullfrog callin' me home, yall
Wonder if my rope's still hanging from the tree.
Love to kick my feet way down the shallow water,
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back your mother
Pick up flat rock, skip it across green river.
Creedence Clearwater Revival

This Fish Came Later in the Trip

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Caught & Released

Monday, July 13, 2009

Caney Fork Fishing Report

Today I met Becky and Charlie R. from Gallatin TN to help them catch their first fish on a fly rod. Becky had fly fished before on the Caney, however the water was high and the conditions were tough. Charlie had fished before but had not used a fly rod. Both wanted to catch a fish before the day was over, which was a goal I thought the river might be able to help them with.

First time anglers are pleasant and in my experience have expectations that are reasonable. Part of the reason I started guiding was because I have always enjoyed helping others catch fish while they learn the ins and outs of fly fishing. When we lived in Knoxville I was lucky to have a very patient teacher who helped break me of some of my bad habits (I still have many) as we fished all across East Tennessee. I have tried to pattern myself as much I can to that model and when I have the opportunity to teach the fundamentals of the cast, mending and setting the hook it makes for enjoyable day. Rest assured no one is happier than me when an angler catches their first fish on a fly rod.

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it"

Ferris Bueller (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off)

The weather guessers spelled gloom and doom for Middle Tennessee when I left for the river. All the reports were for a 30% and higher chance of thunderstorms. When we arrived at the ramp it was clear and sunny. The sunblock was needed for the beginning of this trip as a clear sky with few clouds made way for the bright sun.

The Most Patient Angler on the River

We spent time teaching the basics of casting and mending, while the US Army shut down the generator. They left the sluice of 250 CFS going and as the water began to recede it was apparent the water clarity was going to be good for the afternoons float.

After the casting, mending and strip-set lessons were complete we backed out into the current and put their techniques into practice. Becky was the first to boat a rainbow on a fly she had tied at a local fly tying class. The first fish on an angler's own tied fly is a big accomplishment. Charlie was not far behind with a rainbow of his own and soon they put the long rods to work with the stockers. We boated several fish while working on different techniques to make their first drift boat trip more enjoyable. The bad weather was still holding off as we moved toward Lancaster.

The Hatch is Underway

Those Are All Bugs

The clouds began to gather in the sky as the gray set in. There was also a cloud on the water that was unusual. The midges began to come off the water and the trout began to sip from just under the surface. The top of the water was covered in midges/black fly and the trout were gorging themselves as the storm continued to approach. I switched Charlie over to a couple of midges and when he hit a long drift over a gravel bar the indicator disappeared and Charlie set the hook on the biggest brown of the day. We switched Becky over to a midge pattern as well and she was soon hooked up with a larger fish. She got the fish on the reel , then into the net and was rewarded with a healthy brown of her own. It was good to get these fish in the boat as the rain picked up and the storm threatened.

Charlie Popped This Brown on a Midge Pattern

Becky's Brown on a Midge Pattern

We drifted into the Chute with the storm raging just over the bluff. We sought cover under some trees to keep the rain off the boat as much as we could and waited for it to pass to our South. We spent time watching fish rise, otters swim and deer that were watching us. After the storm was off in the distance we made the decision to fish some more as the trout keyed back in on the heavy midge hatch. We picked up another rainbow before we slipped into the gravel bar at the ramp and ended the day.

The End of the Afternoon Float

It turned out to be a good day. We came across the heaviest midge hatch I have ever encountered on the river. Becky landed the largest fish of the trip and Charlie completed the Slam with a fresh brook trout. Now both of them have checked a box on their Life List and I am looking forward to October when we fish together again.

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Caught & Released

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Caney Fork Fly Fishing Report

Chris and Jason F.

I had the pleasure of being on the boat with Chris, from Thompson Station, and Jason of Knoxville, on the Caney Fork. We met at 5:30 a.m. so we could catch the first round of falling water. Chris and Jason are brothers who live in Tennessee and as kids spent some of their summers living in Florida. They were certainly no strangers to fishing; however this would be their first time fishing with a fly rod.

The Army Corps shut down the generator but left the sluice running at 250 CFS, which is hopefully helping cool the river. They have been doing this for several days and it is already helping with the water clarity. The fish seem to like it too as they were responsive to the offerings the guys presented.

First Fish on a Fly Rod

Quality vs. Quantity

This trip would be about quantity on one end of the boat and quality on the other end of the boat. After some instruction we started down the river and Chris hooked up with his first rainbow. Then he caught another and another before Jason hooked and landed his bow. Brotherly banter started early and was heard often as Chris took to fly fishing like he was born with the Sage rod in his hand. He was able to cast pretty well and he perfected the strip-set before we passed the wooden stairs. We changed to an Echo rod, which has a little more backbone, for Jason and his casting improved significantly on the first cast. Then we drifted with the current, stopping at a good hole here and there and backing up to hit some of the better shoals a time or two. The two brothers settled into

a good routine by the time we passed Where Cows Walk on Water.

Combat Fishing and Contrast

Being that it was a Saturday we knew the canoe rentals would be turning loose a couple rounds of canoes, add that to the usual traffic on the river and you get Combat Fishing. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to deal with it. There were two large church groups on the river, who were enjoying the day and who were pleasant. On the other end of the river traffic were the small group of twenty-somethings, whose manners and actions we all pray our kids never participate. It was quite an interesting contrast on the river.

Combat Fishing at its Finest

The trip was about nymph fishing and within the “rules” of nymph fishing is a no drag policy. Drag is a killer when fishing nymphs and drag can come from anywhere. One thing that can cause drag is waves. It is difficult to achieve the proper mend when waves from other boats come into the picture. With all the traffic in the morning we had our share of waves, but the guys paid attention to line management and kept a good drift going as much as possible. Jason had a large brown on, in between boats, but lost it when it jumped eye level as we stood in the boat. There was nothing he could do when the fish jumped that high, but it gave us an idea of what could come our way….

Good to See a Brook Trout

Just before lunch Chris had a good drift going over one of my favorite shoals when his indicator went to the bottom. Chris set the hook; a large rainbow rocketed to the surface and made a heroic jump, again to eye level, then threw the hook. The guy’s reply was a calm….”That’s why they are big”.

No Slouch Brown

We stopped for lunch and waited out the midday round of generation. They tried some wade fishing and then we rowed back up river to hit the shoal again. Jason turned on the quality and boated a couple nice browns, one of which he played for several minutes before he was able to bring it to the net. It was obvious these two guys have experience when it came to fighting fish. They told the story of a young Jason landing a 90 pound tarpon from the bank one summer in Florida. This brown was no 90 pound tarpon, but on a 6 weight fly rod it was no slouch by anyone’s standards.

This Rainbow Has Been Midging

The Wrap-up

Chris took the largest rainbow, which measured 14 inches as well as the high fish count for the day. We rounded out this trip heading down the home stretch with Jason taking care of the Grand Slam after netting a brook trout. It was a pleasure fishing with these two brothers today, hopefully they will remember the good times of this day for a very long time.

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Caught & Released

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fishing the Caney Fork

The Plan
A friend asked many months ago if I would help teach his wife to fly fish. After more probing I found out they had fly fished before, even on our home waters of the Caney Fork. I found out she owns a fly rod, had at least cast the fly rod, and even fished with it on an occasion or two. But, she had not had the opportunity to catch a fish…. After some additional conversation I determined the problem was the same problem I have, Lefty Kreh admits to and the same problem many other “smart” anglers acknowledge. It is very difficult to teach your spouse to fish.

A Different View of a Caney Fork Brown Trout

Volumes of information could be written about this very subject. Hell, my wife is smart enough not to even let the idea of me teaching her how to fish enter her thought process. (Yes, I am married to a very smart woman). I don’t think it has anything to do with a man thing or a woman thing, I see the situation as a spouse thing. It goes right along with a married couple trying to paddle a canoe, make a two person kayak go in a straight line or ride a tandem bicycle. It is hard to explain, but easy to understand.

Shoving Off

I did a half day float to teach Betsy S. to fly fish, with the main objective of helping her catch a fish. Now for those of you who have been reading the words of the past fishing reports and not merely looking for fish in the pictures, well you already know the Caney Fork is not fishing all that well. The river has been fishing as slow this spring as it was several years ago when we would catch a few fish and see very few other anglers in an eight hour day.

After dropping the boat at the ramp I went to see Dan at the Dan's Happy Hollow Happy Shuttle Service (that really isn’t the name of it, but you probably know who I am talking about) to give me a ride after dropping the truck. Dan’s birthday had just past and we talked of gardening and the finer points of a good river dog. Anyway, enough about our conversation I need to get back to Sunday. When Dan and I arrived back at the boat Betsy was casting to nothing in particular. I saw she had one half of a double haul practically perfected and just needed a little help on the release. She can cast (check!)

After the TWRA checked the people who were fishing from the bank as well as our life jackets and license we shoved off. The instructions from Betsy’s guide (that's me today) were simple... cast downstream, watch the indicator and when it disappears set the hook. Oh yeah and point the rod tip at the water, strip off some line, wiggle the rod tip, make an S in the line, watch the canoe and all the other things we do when helping someone get comfortable. I quickly found out Betsy is a good listener, who asks good questions and with only two minutes on the water she had learned how to set the hook and get her first fish to the net. Help Betsy catch a fish on a fly rod (check).

A Rainbow on the Upper River

A First
When the indicator went under and Betsy set the hook, the fight was short and sweet. She got control of the line, pointed the rod tip down for side pressure, brought the rod tip up, got the fish’s head out of the water and slid it into the net. That shad didn’t stand a chance. But, we weren’t looking for shad and our task quickly changed to help Betsy catch a trout…

The canoe traffic picked up just after the release of the shad. We began a discussion about line management that was quickly interrupted by a brown trout Betsy set the hook, got the line under control, encouragement from the guide “strip, strip, strip, side pressure, side pressure, watch the canoe, get the head up and into the net”. Mission accomplished early on, but there were more to fish to come throughout the day.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Those Stockers Are Good Practice…

After a dozen stockers the routine of catching fish can become, well just a little routine. But, don’t forget catching the stockers can be good practice for bigger things to come. We had good discussion about the finer points of nymph fishing and the recent Sauce Boss concert I caught at Harry A’s on St. George Island last month. These conversations were mixed in with the usual instruction that now became less and less as we made our way through the crowd of waders and boats. The conversation turned toward the number of fish and the size of fish, which by this time all seemed to fit into one category…small. The thing about small fish is they can prepare you for bigger and better things down the river. In this case the bigger and the better would have to come after the thunderstorm that was looming just over the ridge.

Storms, Caddis and Midges

And there's that one particular harbor
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within
One Particular Harbor- Jimmy Buffett

We waited out the storm on the bank, watching the fish rise to the caddis hatch. The hatch came on pretty strong just before the storm began and lasted almost until the last crack of thunder. The caddis hatch wasn’t big by any standards. Before we go much further this isn’t the Watauga, SoHo, or the Holston, it’s the Caney Fork so don’t raid the local fly shops bins for caddis patterns. But, I will say I have some size #18’s Elk Hair Caddis that could work well, just not during a lightening storm. Following the caddis was the midge hatch, which has been somewhat lacking, until today and it was incredible. Does anyone have a size #30 midge pattern?

Just Starting to Sprinkle

Back on the water we floated about a half of a mile before the second storm hit the river. This storm first produced a little wind, some thunder, and then lightening. The second storm was one that brought out the National Weather Service Alerts. There is a lot to be said about holding 9 foot graphite oars or an 8’-5” graphite rod during a lightening storm. I couldn’t think of anything good to say about it, so we beached the boat and headed for some local cover to wait out the storm. We could see the river and I can say the fish quit rising at the heaviest of rainfall. But, as the rain let up the trout came back in force under the surface, sipping the midges that were coming off by the thousands.

All That Practice…

Line control and rod control are at a premium when fighting a bigger fish. The big fish have an instinct that lets them taste the fly when the angler is preoccupied. Usually the angler is preoccupied with untangling fly lines, deciding on the next fly to use if the current fly doesn’t produce or just generally taking in the local flavor of the river’s scenery. Betsy had the moment and it was untangling the fly line out of the bottom of the boat and then the opportunity to get a larger brown on the reel. She fought the brown trout as the fish shook its head trying to get rid of the small midge lodged just in the fish’s top lip. After getting the line in the appropriate location and then stored on the reel, Betsy played the brown with the correct amount of side pressure, rod tip down, head up and then slid it into the net. She got that brown in the net, we celebrated with the appropriate proof (proof= hero shot or photo) as the clouds came and the pulse of one generator flooded the river.

A Happy Angler

We landed at the takeout just about dark, loaded the boat and reviewed the pictures of the day during the ride home. The trip could have been over within the first mile of the float, with the first several browns and rainbows. But storms or no storms that would have been a waste of a good afternoon. Betsy caught her first fish, first brown trout and first rainbow trout on a fly rod. I figured out the weather guessers are simply that just guessers, and nothing is routine about a day on the river.

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Caught & Released

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fly Fishing Reports from the Guides of the Elk, Caney Fork , MIdlle TN and the Gulf Coast

The Caney Fork fishing is slow. The water is somewhat warmer than this time last year and the off-color. The river has been crowded this weekend (and what would anyone expect for the 4th of July weekend). It appears we will be on the river again tomorrow, just and will let everyone know what the conditions are like first hand.

The Elk is fishing a little slow for this time of year, again, with the holiday weekend traffic. The water is stained, but not terrible, but the fish are responsive to the usual flies. Getting a place in the conga line is critical if you are fishing at the usual wade-in places.

The Warmwater Streams- The pan fish are hitting poppers early and the larger fish are down deep in the water column. The fish are deeper after the morning hours and when the sun gets overhead. Again it is Summer in Middle TN and this is not unusual...

The Gulf Coast (in-shore)- There have been several reports of tarpon running the beaches, as well as other game fish. From what I have been told the fish are on the move, so inside info is a must and the local guides usually have that info. The ability to remain flexible is also something to think about.

Look for an updated local report early in the week.

Happy Birthday Caneybuff!