Friday, June 24, 2011

Dry Fly Fishing the Elk

Looking Back at You
Howard came back for a second try. We did the same float as last time and focused on sight fishing with dries. We used everything from terrestrials, to Adams and even some nymphs pretty early. Nymphs were not working too well, which at the end of the day did not hurt our feelings. So, when we came to some water that gave us some action last time, we had Howard's fly rod ready with a big ole dry. We discovered another great pool that held several nice fish and two really big browns. Howard fished the pool with everything we could think of but the beast wouldn't rise to the fly. We slipped down the river and missed a few, caught several and before we knew it we were in a steady rhythm of, spot a fish- fish to the fish. We even caught some we were fishing too, just for the picture, so someone would know we were there.

These Guys Are Moving all along the River
Howard Took This 14" Brown on a Hi-Vis Adams

Howard is fun to fish with and loves to throw a dry fly. We would drift down the river, I would try to spot the fish and then he comes in and catches them. It was a pretty deadly combo when everything is clicking just right. This type of fishing makes being on the rowers bench a real nice way to spend the day.
One of Two Rainbows for the Day

Just before lunch the action slowed so we focused on the best looking spots. Howard tossed a big dry next to a tree and right in a blowdown. The fly disappeared in a big splash. Then the fish went to the downed tree limbs, but Howard got the head of the fish pointed in the right direction. Somehow he got the fish into open water and after several big runs and even a couple jumps the fish came to the net. This brown was only slightly smaller than the brown from our last trip, but still a very healthy fish.
Another Nice Brown for Howard

One of the First Fish of the Morning on a Dry

Overall the day was good, we had the nice brown and several other nice fish on the dry. We missed some fish here and there, and there were also some fish we wish we had another shot at catching. But, it is hard to catch them all. Some of my most memorable moments were the fish we did not catch.; the fish that rose to the fly and didn't take and the fish that turned and bolted just before the take. Of course watching the fight out of the blowdown is a big memory of the day, that is hard to discount. Fishing with dries doesn't bring as many fish to the net, but it is very exciting. So if you haven't already make 2011 the Year of Getting Out There...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Middle Tennessee Fishing Report

We have been on three rivers over the past several days and we aren't complaining that's for sure. The Caney Fork River continues to produce good fish for us. The US Army Corps is starting to crank up the release for a few days, possibly due to all the rain Center Hill, Great Falls and the plateau have received. While the Elk is still fishing well with the larger fish responding, the smaller (11-14") fish have slowed on hitting the nymphs. I must say we have gotten used to those fish to keep us entertained between the bigger fish, but still the Elk River is worth a trip if you want to get out to chase good browns and healthy rainbows. We haven't been on the Obey as much as I like to get up there. But we did get up to that short little tailwater as well. The hatchery brats are out in force and the slam is not too difficult to achieve but anglers have to be on their game to get the best results . The fish are plentiful although sizable fish are tough because of all the small fish that rush the fly when it hits the water.

Dave's First Fish on the Fly Rod
Brent and I fish together pretty often. He wanted someone to teach his brother-in-law Dave how to fly fish, so Brent booked a trip on the Caney Fork and that's where I come into the picture. We met up and drove to the river. While I was running the shuttle Brent took the opportunity to land a real nice brown trout. The day was shaping up to be a good one, although the weather looked ominous at best. Later in the day the Weather Channel girl's prediction of bad storms would come true in a very real way.
We backed the drifter out next to the flow and dropped the anchor. Dave picked up on casting very quickly and a few casts into the lesson he picked up a rainbow on a dead-drifted nymph. We were still basically at the launch and both anglers had produced fish. Not a bad start to the day.

Brent Went Back to the Well and Picked up this Rainbow
We drowned some nymphs early in the float. The nymphs just were not the ticket we wanted to get punched and after trying different depths and patterns we abandoned the nymph rig, then went in search of feeding fish.
Brent was keyed into feeding fish and tossed his rig next to an old blowdown. A fish rose to the fly and Brent missed (I mean the fish missed) and Brent went back to the same spot with another great cast. The fish rose, slapped the fly and then felt the hook. The fight was good and the fish came to the net with some noisy splashing. We took the hero shot and Brent was on the board with a nice brown and a nice rainbow.

Dave's First Trout on a Dry
Brent was a gracious host. He fished from the rear casting brace and gave the best water to Dave. Dave was getting the hang of casting. When his cast would go away for a bit, Brent and I would reassure him he was doing all the things everyone does when the first pick up a fly rod. Dave worked on his cast and when we arrived a good spot, I pointed to a nice hole. Dave stuck the bug within inches of where I said and a good rainbow responded....just like the book says (more on that in a future report). The best results were just around the corner....literally.

....and Then the Rain Came, So Did the Fish

....and More Fish, More Rain, and Wind, Then Hail

Dave's Catch of the Day
Dave continued to work on his casting, while Brent continued to offer the best water to Dave who was in the front of the boat. Sometimes the best plans are hit and miss, at best. But, sometimes the best plans come together. We found a large feeding fish and slipped the boat into position. The fish was feeding and working hard at fattening up before the storm arrived. Dave put the bug in just the right spot. The fly settled into a drift and a short while later the fish exploded on the fly and fight was on.
Dave was midway through the fight when we realized he had been hand-lining the other fish to the boat. This rainbow was going through it's bag of tricks when we began the lesson of "oh yeah, here's how one of these fly reels work". Dave picked up the lesson quickly and purely out of necessity. The fish came to the boat kicking and screaming. Minutes passed and then Dave was the proud holder of the large fish of the day world record (i.e. he caught the big fish of the day).

I just like this shot

Browns Between Storms

We waited out another storm and continued to fish. Brent was on a mission and we were up against the weather. We drifted into a likely looking spot. Brent was still giving up good water and when Dave had a swing and a miss, he told Brent to go after the fish. Brent tossed his bug on the feeding fish and a nice brown came to the fly with its white mouth open. The fish ate the bug and went for some downed rocks. Brent played the fish to the net and we took the appropriate pictures to prove we had been there. Then the weather turned nasty...
I have been on the water through some cold weather, hot weather, hard rain, and sideways rain. I have even seen it rain "up" (think Gump). I haven't had the 'pleasure' of enduring a sideways rain and lightening storm with hail and I hope I never do again. The Weather Channel girl was right and these storms were intense. Boats were pulled to the side of the river and anglers were seeking whatever shelter that could be found. Finally the rain slowed and we bailed the drifter- as we pulled out and made a break for the ramp. Naturally when the drifter was on the trailer, the rods were hung in the truck and everything was buttoned down; the rain slowed and the sun was just starting to peek through some clouds.
This day was a good day. I count myself as fortunate, seeing Dave progress from a total rookie to an angler who has some nice fish under his belt and some confidence. Brent is a very good angler who I often have the pleasure of fishing with while always enjoying his company. Being out on the river with the people I get to fish with is a good way for me to spend my time. The people I've had the pleasure to meet has been an excellent way to watch other people catch fish.

Browns At Rest

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Elk River Fly Fishing

A Decisive Take From This Brown

Howard and I agreed to meet at Lynchburg Tennessee's most famous landmark, the Jack Daniels Distillery. I arrived a little early and scouted some smallmouth water. He came up from Chattanooga to fish the Elk on a hot Middle Tennessee Saturday. Howard is an accomplished angler who has seen some interesting rivers and who, like most of reading this report, doesn't miss a chance to test the water when he can get away.

The Drifter Waiting to Get on the Water...and So Were We

There were not as many rise rings as I like to see when we launched. So, we started the day on nymphs. The new nymph that we have been using produced a couple hits and a couple long distance releases and after a long stretch of closed mouthed fish didn't take a second look we switched to the usual pattern. We didn't see much of an increase in the action, but it picked up a little....very little.


Howard stuck with it as we moved into one of the shoals that usually produces a nice fish or two. We drifted through and Howard had a perfect drift, the boat was in the right spot, with the fly that has always been a big producer....and we got nothin. We rowed back upriver for a second pass and still...Then there was a rise, two rises and more. We put a dry fly on Howard's Sage rod and within the first cast he had a hit. Then Howard put the fly on a feeding brown. The brown took the fly and broke the tippet. We quickly solved the problem with some 12 lb tippet on a 20 lb leader.

One of the Usual Elk River Rainbows on Top

We fished to a couple of big fish that were holding in a small pool. Then time started pressing and the pigs of the lower river began calling. Some people don't see the fish that we get to see on the Elk. The larger fish can be elusive and wary. Some days they won't come out and play but if you do everything just right. "Just Right" meaning, the right fly, with the right cast for the right presentation and then to the right fish. This river can be very exciting. So, we pressed on catching rainbows on dry flies and watching a canoe or three go by.

It Wasn't Too Crowded

Howard In Action

As I stated earlier Howard is an accomplished angler. He has a nice cast and gets that excitement in his voice when the fishing gets real good. We set up on a bend and fished the structure, that in the past had been marginal and probably a little over fished. Howard pulled a couple rainbows out of there. One of those rainbows was textbook. The fly landed, the fish after and Howard set the hook. He played the fish into the net and we both commented on "how 'its' supposed to be". Then we entered a particularly good section. We were picking up a fish here and there, then "it" happened.

Howard laid the fly in a nice pocket, just about the time I looked away to watch for the next rise. When I looked back a big head was coming out of the water and a big white mouth was inhaling the dry. Howard came tight on the line and the brown began to grind to the bottom of the river. We chased the fish up the river for a bit. The fly was lodged in the roof of the brown's mouth, so the only worry was a sharp tooth against 12 lb flourocarbon.
The brown took us for a quick ride and didn't come quietly. Howard played the fish perfectly into the net and after a few photos, to help the memory later, released the fish for another fly and another day.
We continued tossing the dry to feeding fish. The fish were making us work for them. We didn't have the usual numbers of fish, but we increased the average size with the brown. We were a little pressed for time, but before we were off the river a second date was confirmed for a return trip. Hopefully we will have as nice of a day as this one turned out to be. Stayed tuned as Howard comes back for a return trip on the Elk....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trout & Trash Part II

Part II Was Exciting As Well

The Browns Were Out & About

We continued on downriver catching some more trout and then we went through a lull. We were leap-frogging some recreational canoes, kayaks and rubber rafts. I think we may have seen Floaty Boatwood and his crew out there at one point, but who can really be sure. Anyway, we caught some nice browns and bows for a while and then we just kind of cruised along in the drifter, taking in the afternoon. Dang it was hot and a short time of relaxing with the anchor out only helped to beat the heat. There was only one cure for the heat. That as we all know is: Fish- Big Fish.

Isn't This What 'Catching' is About? (insert big smiley face right here)
Take That- Carp!

We continued fishing top water. We noticed the fish were not eating live cicadas that were falling in the water. A live cicada will thrash around and flap its wings and make that loud screeching sound while it is trying to swim for its life. We saw very few fish take the live cicadas. The best takes were the cicadas that were already dead and that had dropped into the water. The fish and birds were feeding on the easy meal of dead bugs. The code was pretty easy to decipher, because when a live cicada would fall to the water we would watch in anticipation of a gnarly strike. That strike came rarely.


David cast to a rising fish at the end of a blowdown. The rise was unlike most we had been seeing throughout the day. But when the cicada pattern hit the water a big head came up and ate. David set the hook and the fish went straight to the blowdown and broke David off.

The Fight is On

We searched for a short time and found another riser. David cast to the rise and just like that, the fight was on. David played this fish to the net and shortly thereafter, he became a carp angler. That's correct he has been ruined as a trout angler, for the most part. But, with a trip or two to trout water and some additional treatment in the small rivers and prongs of the Smokies, David can be rehabilitated. This Isn't Quite as Easy as Everyone Thinks, But Almost (every 13 years)

I couldn't resist and got into some of the action as well. The takes were painfully slow. Slower than even a cutthroat take. We joked about counting to three, I wanted to grab a drink from the cooler and open it before setting the hook and eating a sandwich between the beginning of the take and the hook set didn't seem out of the question. Sometimes it pays to be patient.

You Should Have Been There

Every 13 years these little bugs come out and make a big noise. The cicadas reproduce, die and start the cycle all over again. If you haven't been out, well you should be. The noise reminds me of being at my grandparents about 26 years ago. The noise outside their home in West Tennessee was deafening. We were getting ready to go to Reelfoot Lake or over to Midway Arkansas to fish, loading boats, packing the camper and cleaning coolers., all the while listening to those screeching bugs. In a way the cicada event takes me back to a great time in my life, where I was taught to appreciate Just Getting Out There, but I guess I didn't realize it or even appreciate it then....

Oh No! (Mr. Bill)

The Big Fish of the Day

So all the fish seemed to be looking up. David and I floated toward the ramp as most of the other folks were getting off the river. David was fishing his 5 weight and tossed the big black bug toward a nice rise. Instantly the boil came under the fly and the fight was on. David and I both had caught the fish we were hunting, so anything else was a bonus. David was putting the 5 weight through its paces and lifting the big fish every chance he got. 5 weight rods are more for presentation, 7-8 or 9 weights are more for delivery of big flies and 10 + weights are made more for lifting. David's 5 weight was bending in the cork. When he would lift the fish toward the boat, the rod would bend and at times it should have groaned, but he kept lifting until the fish was in the net. The head of the fish was all that was in the net. So I rowed David to the bank and he fought the fish from the gravel. Eventually, David got the fish up into shallow water and the fight was over. We snapped the photos and released the fish unharmed to cast to on another trip.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Trout & Trash Float

The First Fish of the Day

David and I got out on the water for a trout...and trash float. The day started out hot and continued to warm up from there. We waded around at the ramp for a while fooling with some browns that others said were no where to be found. David wanted to experiment with some different patterns and I had a few tricks of my own that I just "had" to try out.


We floated for a while and fished to rising fish. I saw a nice rise down river behind some structure and verbally noted it with "d*%#n did you see that? As we continued down the river the big fish and a couple others were eating in a back eddy. As we slipped into a comfortable casting distance and David in the front casting brace, I offered the rising fish. David politely declined the offer. A second try at getting him to cast to the fish resulted in another decline of the invitation and that was it. I launched the newly tied Capt'n Obvious into the back eddy and with a huge splash the fish ate.
We Will Try to Catch This Fish Again

The fish went straight to an old blowdown, that I had never given more than a passing glance until that very moment. The BVK was now low and to the side and the fish shot out of the edge of the blowdown like a rocket. We made the usual comments that we all make when we are fighting a nice fish. The fish went under the boat on the left side and then on the right side. It was a long fight that was fought completely from the rowers bench. The big brown finally began to give up and after two more runs- one under the boat and one back to the blowdown- it began to let me make big pulls and finally the head came out of the water. David was there with the net and just like that the fight was over.


So just like that the fish was in the net and the skunk was off the boat. I have caught bigger browns and even bigger fish of other species. Those fish are all memorable in their own way, some of them, heck most of them are on streamers and some on nymphs, this fish was a fish that was eating with other fish, it was in a great location that was hard to get to and it ate as soon as the bug hit the water. What more can any angler ask for, it was shaping up to be great day and I have to admit I am a lucky guy.

You Never Know What is Going to Show Up on the Drifter

Everything was Trying to Keep Cool

David Working on the Rewards of a Successfully Tied Pattern

We were ready to hit the first good run that had a lot of recently fallen blowdowns and lots of overhanging trees. We stopped just before the run and David prepped his 5 weight. He tied on some new tippet and a new fly. After checking the knots and stripping out some fly line he was ready. David was locked into the front casting brace when we slowly rowed into the run. There were fish feeding and David placed the fly above the strike zone. The fly floated helplessly into the feeding lane and a nice brown raised it's head and struck. David grabbed a handful of cork and stripped in some line, which set the hook nicely in the browns lip.


The water was about knee deep and the current was strong. The only groove was just wide enough for the boat. The heavy brush on one side of the run provided the cover the brown was looking for. David was spot-on as he worked the brown out of the brush and into the fastest water of the run. He played the brown into the slack water of the pool below the run. The anchor was now resting on the bottom and it was time to grab the net and go to the fish. With David in the casting brace and the net now in place below the fish, David slid the fish into the net. After several rainbows we had another quality brown on a steamy day.

Another Quality Brown from the Caney Fork River

The Sun and Flip-Flop Followed Us Most of the Day

One of the Several Rainbows Caught on the Dries

We stayed on top water for the most part. Now that I think back we only caught two fish on a streamer and not one on a nymph. For the most part we didn't give the nymph a fighting chance as we were too busy selecting spots for the dry flies to land. "Fish to feeding fish" and fish to likely looking spots, that is what we have been concentrating on over the past several weeks.

David- Pre-Testing His 5 Weight?

The Usual Fight from a Rainbow...Trying Every Trick in the Book

The trout were responsive for the most part early in the float. The weather was so hot, it felt good to completely submerge yourself in the cool waters of the Caney. Wading from time to time helped as well. The sun was brutal and we slipped into a lull of cast drift repeat. Finally we stopped in the shade to cool off, but not before we saw some visitors in the form of the those sleek, saltwater turned fresh water, eating machines, known generically as- stripers...


There are some stretches of the river that are known to hold stripers and when moved toward them David was asking for the streamer rod. David loves the streamer as much or more than I do and he is accurate to within a few inches when it counts. We moved into the run and David tossed the streamer into the heavy current, I saw the rod bend and the fight was on. The fish pulled hard but the fight was over pretty quick. This striper was a mere baby, but there are some bigger fish in the river right now. But, you can't catch the bigger fish if you aren't Getting Out There. Then We Saw These & Some Other Trash-Stay Tuned for Part II