Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Caney Fork Top-Water Report

Top-Water Action

Another View of Center Hill Dam

I spent the weekend camping with the family, above Center Hill Dam and it was a nice way to spend some time together. But I think after a few days, they were ready for me to get back on the water. After such a good trip to the Elk River, heck after mostly all good trips to the Elk this year, it was time to get back on the Caney Fork. The rods were rigged and flies were tied, both waiting for me to get the chance. I spoke with Mark early in the weekend and we opted for a Memorial Day float. We had time for a half day morning float. My weapon of choice was the TFO BVK and the same couple of flies we used on the Elk last week.
The First Fish of the Day

Like I said my weapons- the flies of choice- were the same flies we used last week. It was tough to change the flies that let us catch such nice fish on the Elk and let's face it, when I am fishing for fun, I can be pretty darned lazy. Lazy worked this time as the first fish came up early for a "slow roll take" on top. The fish came up with the dorsal out of the water, then the head came up, the mouth opened and the fish ate the fly in slow motion. The take was a thing of beauty and things just got better as the day went along.


So what pattern was on the rod? Because it should be common knowledge now and because even the local news channels are talking, I have named the patterns #13 and Capt'n Obvious... If you are thinking that anyone can throw-on any pattern and have a good day, well you might be right...but, if you want to know the difference between a 'good day' on the water and a 'sick day' on the water, then do your homework. I say that because the pattern matters and the pattern can change between morning and afternoon. It was my turn to row the boat, which put Mark up front with the BVK and #13.

Smile Like You Mean It

We went through some good water and Mark picked up a couple fish here and there on #13. Then we entered some good shoals and some good bank structure. Mark stuck the fly in a nice little pool and after a big splash, the fight was on. The fish went for and came out of some structure then it headed to open water. After a bit more of a fight the brown headed for the net and a short time later the hero shot.

It's Not Always About the Fish...This Report is Mostly All About the Fish

Reflections from a Brown Trout

Finally...it was my turn again. Mark put me on some good water, but I was in a slump. I think he put the voo-doo on my set-up (not really but...), so I changed to a nymph and picked up a few more rainbows and another medium sized brown or two. We swapped back and forth fishing nymphs until we came to some better water.
Mark on the Second Pattern

I stayed on #13 and rowed while we put Mark on another pattern I have been working on- that is now named Capt'n Obvious. #13 began to fade and the Capt'n Obvious pattern started coming alive. Mark was picking up fish 3 to my 1. After a good stretch of river it was soon time for him to get back on the oars and let me concentrate on some of the better water.

Look Closely

Look at the Back on This Brown

I switched over to Capt'n Obvious and within a few casts a brown, that looks like it lost a fight with a heron early in life, came out from a likely spot and nailed the fly. This fish had some experience and went straight for a blowdown. Mark got us over to the fish and after some untangling and a little rod work the fish was in the net. Finally my day was starting to crank up.

The First 20 of Spring

We continued down the river, soon there were boats and canoes going by and a couple stacking up behind us. It is always good to be in the casting brace where everything is easier to see. The view was great when a big brown shot off the bank- rolled up onto its side and took the fly with a big splash. It was all purely visual and almost like poetry, only a lot more violent. It was not unlike all that crap we read in the fly fishing books and articles. Stuff that makes us want to sell everything and move to St. Somewhere-Else to fish all day and tie flies while chasing off bears at night. It was epic stuff...

Waiting in the Conga-line at the Takeout

If you have been waiting to Get Out There for some reason or another, now is the time. There are some open dates on the calendar and we have capabilities for up to three boats. If you want to book a trip or are reading this for your own info, now is the time to get off the couch and out to your favorite stream...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Drift Boat Instruction & Elk River Fishing

Rainbows Were Out Most of the Day

The Elk is the first tailwater to slow the generation enough to fish the river effectively. The Caney is still blowing water, however the forecast, at Center Hill Dam, is showing improvements in the near future. The future generation schedule still shows a lot of water, but not the excessive amounts we have been seeing over the past several weeks at the biggest trout tailwater in Middle Tennessee. The Obey continues to see high water as Dale Hollow Dam continues to release at least one generator and two generators for most of the day.

I had the pleasure of fishing with Adam and John. Adam had just bought a nice Hyde drifter and wanted someone to give some pointers on rowing as well as general boat use. John had never fished with the long rod before and came along on the trip to try his hand at a new adventure. Adam quickly proved he was a fast learner and compared drift boat rowing to flying a plane. Adam is a pilot so the drifter and currents came naturally to him.

John's First Fish on a Fly Rod

Adam started out fishing from the back seat. We put John up front and went to work on his casting, mending and hook set practice. We started the morning on nymphs and soon were getting some takers on the usual stuff. Adam boated a fish or two and we put him on the oars. Adam rowed around the toughest shoals, long stretches of flat water and through the tightest runs. he did well on every stretch.

John did a very good job from the start. It is always interesting to watch someone who has never fly fished before. I see all the things that I did right and wrong, when I started, in other people. It seems that they catch on quicker than I did and certainly catch their first fish in a shorter amount of time than the amount of time it took me to catch my first fish.

John had the usual long fishless stretch as he got his cast under control and worked on his mending. With my usual "coaching" (no I wasn't too harsh...really) and John's concentration it wasn't long before he started getting hits and then some takes. Then John dropped the fly onto a small gravel bar, made the right mend and the fight was on. A few minutes later John held the first fish he had caught on a fly rod.

Our First Brown of the Day

An Upstream View

Adam Hooked Up

We continued the day, seeing some folks we've seen over the past couple years. The fish, we have all been chasing, were tuned into nymphs early. The 350 CFS sluice release raised the river a little and made it necessary to add several inches of distance between the fly and the indicator. The fish were spread out a little more than usual, but the best lies still held the largest fish.

Bent Rods and Scream'in Reels

With John catching fish and Adam behind the oars we settled into a rhythm. At the guys invitation I had a chance to pick up a rod and fish too. The fish were responding to nymphs on a regular basis. So, when we came into some rising fish I went to the dry fly. There were not a lot of fish rising, but there were enough to peak my interest. After a few minutes the fish began taking looks, then the began to take the offering. This experiment would pay dividends for John later in the day.

One of Several Browns for the Day

Watching Rising Fish After Lunch

After lunch John continued fishing nymphs, while Adam learned more about his boat and the river. He made an excellent first pass through Van Zant, while John took in the sights of the Elk River. We passed some other boats that launched about the time we launched. The other reports confirmed most folks were having a pretty good day. As the other boats passed none of us knew that our boat was about to see something pretty amazing.


The bugs coming off the water here and there soon turned into an evening hatch. The usual bug activity of the lower Elk was about the same as most other warm days. Caddis popping, mayflies drying their wings then flying off, along with the usual midge hatch. John was on dries and Adam was running the boat in the middle of the river. John was getting some strikes, but having a little trouble closing the deal. Most of the fish were just taking looks and splashing the fly with their tail when they refused. John hung in there and continued to fish for rising fish.

John's First Brown and on a Dry Fly

Just about the time we were going to make a move to different water a nice brown enhaled John's fly. The dry fly was lodged nicely in the brown's mouth and John was quickly learning a new skill...line management. The fish struggled against the 6 weight BVK and large diameter tippet. After a nice fight John and Adam boated John's first brown on a dry. It was a good way to spend an evening on the Elk River.

This Brown is Getting Out There

This trip was unique, by that I mean I didn't row all day and frankly at times I wasn't sure what to do with myself. But, when the tougher parts of the river came, I had a chance to help a new Capitain navigate. And, I still made fly selections and tied on new tippet. Mostly I viewed the river from the rear seat. The guys both did a great job with their new passtimes. Adam will make a very good Capitain of that nice Hyde drifter and John has learned the basics of catching good fish on a fly rod. I look forward to seeing these guys on the river in the very near future.


We are booking trips into June as we wait for the fish to get good and keyed into the cicadas, that are singing loud here in Middle Tennessee. Before we know it we will be into hopper season, one of my favorite times of the year. The tailwater flows are slowing a little, some of the other rivers begin to open up. Don't miss out on the fun and make 2011 the Year of Getting Out There.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Warm Water Report

Looks Like the Spilling at Tims Ford Should Be Reduced Soon

The water has been going down for several days, in spite of some daily showers. I am ready for a tailwater drought, so we can get down to business with these cicadas I have been tying. The Caney Fork is running three generators 24-7. The water levels are high and pretty much not a safe bet. Some anglers are taking boats out, but I think we will stay on the warm water streams and hit the tailwaters that are dialing back some water.

A Spring on a Local Lake

Anthony and I went to a local TWRA lake for some panfish and bass action. The day started with a trip to the local market for a daily permit. If you plan to fish a TWRA lake, make sure to stop and pay the daily license for access. We started out on streamers and only had one flash. After a dry spell I changed to a popper and had a little action. Then we dropped a BHPT off the popper and picked up some fish almost immediately. The popper=dropper was a success for panfish, but no as effective for bass.

This Fish Inhaled a Rather Large Popper

Anthony proved he was the warm water King. When he tied on the popper Anthony's game came alive. He started picking up fish and then when the evening hatch turned on Anthony kicked it into a whole other gear. Before the hatch was over Anthony had picked up a couple bass and a bunch of bluegill. Although I cannot give away his secrets, Anthony did prove color is critical when hitting those warm water lakes.

The Popper King

So we set up on a point and when the fish keyed in on some mayflies, we went to work on some topwater action. The point was some of the most shallow water in the lake, so the fish didn't have to look far to see our offerings. When we finally got off the water and got the drifter loaded onto the trailer, the geese were active but we were the last anglers on the property. It was a great day to be out and a good way to spend an afternoon.

Check back for a Troutfest and Smokies report...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Casting for Recovery

Several weeks ago I received a call from Steve, who was asking for guides to help out with the Casting for Recovery event, which was hosted by the Music City Fly Girls and Petticoat Junction. I was honored to help and arranged my schedule to accommodate.
When I arrived there were ham and biscuits and other breakfast items. With our appetite curbed and rain gear on we headed to the river with the participants. I was guiding Susan for the day and she was enthusiastic about catching a fish on her birthday.

Susan's Birthday Fish
So, as if there wasn't enough pressure with the rain, Bedford Lake at a high level and rising and windy conditions, we added a birthday to the list. Before the day was over Susan's cast had improved and made my job much easier than I thought it would be. Yellow was the color of choice (is there another color) and in-spite of the murky water I went for the popper on topwater. Also, I was determined that if Susan really wanted to catch a fish, she would have to cast the fly, retrieve the fly and land the fish herself. I was only there to add advice about where to cast, help correct casting and stripping issues and lend a hand when needed. I wanted her to learn to fly fish and remember this day for a long time to come.
Grumpy and I had a conversation about what flies we would have our participants fish with. He said, as a joke, that I would probably have my angler fishing with a big streamer and 250 grain sinking line. We laughed it off, but I did have a heavy sinking line and an articulated streamer all set up and hanging in the truck, just in case there was time for Susan to cast for some big bass.
The lake was a mess and the weather was worse, but we kept at it and Susan progressed over the next hour or so. After I saw a flash and confirmed there were fish in the lake, I became cheerleader/guide. It wasn't long before Susan landed the first fish for the entire group and we put a check in the box beside "birthday fish". And the best part was that Susan did it all on her own. Susan it was great to fish with you and to everyone who volunteered to help I cannot wait to help again next year!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Unexpected Generation Relief and Cicada Sighting

Clean-Up is No Fun

It has been interesting around our house this week. On Wednesday we woke up to a small tornado coming up our street and over our home. So we spent the next few days cleaning up the broken trees, lining up people to fix the roofs and repairing other damage that tornado's tend to cause. After cutting trees and dragging limbs the following days it was time to spend a few hours on the river, before we got back to cutting trees and dragging limbs... Although the damage is a pain to deal with we are thankful our damage was nothing compared to the damages in other areas of the South.
Notice the Water Seeping at the Flood Gates

With the rough weather came the rain. Each year about this time we seem to get some bad weather and heavy rains. We fished at the dam a bit and noticed the water is up to the spillgates and seeping around the bottom of the gates. Center Hill can only discharge water through its flood gates when the pool is in flood stage, i.e., above elevation of 648.0. Right now the elevation is 653 and rising, as the US Army Corps tries to relieve the water in the Ohio Valley basin. So what does it mean? The possibility of little or no generation on the Caney and then when there is room in the downstream lakes, huge releases.

Muddy Water Bows

Brent and I took off to get on the river for a quick float. We started on streamers and Brent struck first with a rainbow and then a white bass. After that it was on. We had follows, flashes and strikes on most stretches of the river. Water clarity was terrible downstream of the dam. We continued for a while, but we decided to hit a few of the better spots and then load up the drifter and head for the dam.

Waiting for the Start of the Float

We tried nymphs for a short time, but the water clarity was just not good enough for the fish to respond. We stayed on streamers and sinking line. The fish did respond to the streamers and really made what could have been a slow day, at the very least, worth the drive.

One of Brent's Bass

Some of the Scenery from the Float

Brent Long-Arming a Fish...

Even With Muddy Water - Fish Responded to the Streamers

When we first got to the dam pool we went for trout. We found the pool to be clear and we caught several trout on nymphs. Then we brought out the streamers and started playing with the skipjack. We boated a large number of skippys and it seemed that they were all in a pod that was moving around the big pool. We found them in several places and then determined they were all in a huge hole that was several feet deeper than the rest of the pool. Once we found them, they responded on practically every cast. Brent tried several patterns and all produced. Different retreives also produced more fish than others. Retreive and stop would produce more strikes than a fast retreive and deer hair produced more hits than lead eyes. It was an interesting experiment.

These Were in the Dam Pool

So with all this water we wait again. The Elk is generating, the warmwater streams are high and the Obey is in the same shape as the Caney. This week I will be working with an outing for Casting for Recovery and have also been invited to present Observations from the Tailwaters at the Middle TN Fly Fishers May meeting. So it will be a pretty busy week. On another note, I heard a report from Mark Joines that he found the first Cicada at his cabin over the weekend. So, get on those vises because it looks like that hatch is just around the corner.