Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Hiwassee River Trip

The Towee Take-out at the End of Day I

Jim and I headed East for a couple days to try our luck at the Hiwassee River. Jim's plan was to catch some fish and relax. My plan? Go catch some fish, but mostly take the drifter down the often talked about, sometimes overplayed  and always exciting river. I checked-in with Rob and Garrett, and they met us there on the first full day of fishing and boating.

The Hiwassee has been designated a Tennessee State Scenic River and as it winds through the valley, the river offers Class I, II and III waters. The name Hiwassee is said to be taken from the Cherokee word "ayuwasi" and means place at the foot of the hills. The boating was a lot of fun and the fishing wasn't bad either.

Jim "The Stick"
Jim and I hit the water after lunch the first day and found the afternoon hatches light. The fishing was tough and we were on the clock against the generation schedule. When the water is turned off, boating can quickly come to a boat grinding, and boat stranding halt. We made the upper float of the Hiwassee without hitting a rock. It was a small victory, but a victory none-the-less.

We Caught Some of These
The second day we stopped by the fly shop for directions down the river. As the guys at the shop began telling us the lines and the places to avoid, it was apparent there were some nasty ledges to stay to either side of that. We headed to the ramp/zoo. The ramp was abuzz with soon to be kayak, canoe and rafting captains. We launched the boats and went for an opening in the crowds. Jim was into fish right away and boated several while I watched wave after wave of recreational boats take to the river. 

I Did a Lot of This
We stopped along the way, fishing runs, chutes and pools. Rob and Garrett were having luck, but it was Jim's day. Jim was tuned into nymphs and as much as I tried he was reluctant to get into dries. But after some particularly nasty ledges I talked him into a Thunderhead on the TFO. We found a long pool and Jim began hitting the bank. He was rewarded with a brown trout that rose to the dry while the fly was passing under an overhanging tree limb.

Garrett Waiting on the Next Section

You Know It Is The Right Place When You See These
Although we did catch some fish, my focus was the boating and I had a blast most of the day. We got the drifter hung a few times, but we made some good runs too. The river can be a punishing ride, as it's known for and several times the bottom on the boat was all that saved me from having to rework some fiberglass this week. If you plan on going and boating, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a map of the river and get some pointers from the locals.

Just Another Day on the Hi
Next week we will be back on Middle Tennessee tailwaters chasing those holdover fish. The upcoming month of September has potential to be a very good month around here. The fish should be moving into their best feeding lanes to fatten up. So if you are ready to get out there let us know and if you are just going to wet a line let us know how you did when you get back. We like to hear those reports too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Obey , Elk and Caney Fork Fishing Report

What The?

The Obey- Water, water and more water. That is the story of fishing the Obey River right now and throughout the remainder of the hot days of Summer. The US Army Corps needs to cool down the Cumberland River and Dale Hollow is the coldest and largest resource to achieve the cool down. So for anyone wanting to wade the Obey is not a good choice right now. For floating this river can be tough because the daytime float-fishing will be done for the most part on two  generators. Hang in there though because late Summer and Fall are great times to be on the shortest of tailwaters in Middle Tennessee.

The Elk River- This tailwater is fishing pretty good even through the hottest of hot Summer days. If the fish aren't rising- go deep. The fish are making instinctive decisions, including whether the value of protein in a bug will be worth the amount of energy it takes to go get the bug. Bigger is not necessarily better when going up top, but it sure is fun when they come up and kill a big furry dry fly. Shallow moving water will work for dry flies, although drifting a big nymph past their nose will bring more numbers of fish. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Those who aren't getting out there, aren't having to make those decisions. The best suggestion is get out there and try it all. The operating guide shows about a 1 & 1/2 months of good water, barring a rain event, before TVA begins the lake draw-down and Winter pool begins. This river can be a pretty good choice when booking a trip.

The Sights of the Lower Caney Fork
The Caney Fork River- We spent some time on the lower Caney Fork. We were a little bit ahead of the generation and the two hour pulse caught up with us pretty quick. We were looking at tossing streamers and hopper dropper rigs on one generator and almost 5000 CFS for most of this trip. The lower part of the river was not the best place to be, so we explored some and fished some backwaters to pass the time. There are no crowds to speak of down low on the river. The bugs however are better. We saw some awesome midge hatches, a few caddis and a nice mayfly hatch or two or three. The fish weren't too interested in the bug life down there and it would help if TWRA would drop a truckload or two of browns down that direction. 

The upper portion of the Caney Fork, below Center Hill Dam, is producing the best fishing on the river right now. The low water that is comfortable for wading is the  best time to be there. Late in the day or very early in the morning helps to combat the canoe hatches that come off mainly on the weekends and mainly on falling water. The river can be peaceful after the last group of boats pass. I have spent a lot of time this week working on some different midge patterns. The life cycle of a midge is interesting and spurred some thought. Some of the patterns brought strikes, but other patterns brought nothing. The good patterns went back to the box for return trips and the non producers went to the garbage when I got home.  Small dries on midging fish sometimes can be good entertainment. Now back to those midge patterns...

Normandy Lake- I spent a bit of time on Normandy Lake with the fly rod this week. Poppers and small streamers have been working and a friend of mine even caught a catfish on a small streamer. As the water temps drop, the lakes may come into play for that late afternoon fly fishing fix.

That's What The...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tennessee Fishing Report

A Hatch on the Elk River?

Let's start with the Caney Fork- School is back in session and the Summer vacations
are slowing. College football is just around the corner and so is Fall. The canoe trips should be slowing down a bit, which will give way to anglers coming back to the Caney Fork. The weekend water release schedule remains favorable to recreation.

For the angler this is a good news- bad news situation. The good news is the wading angler has opportunity. Midges have working a bit on the Caney and nymphs have been taking the larger fish as of late. Terrestrials are still working but the fish are getting smarter after seeing the same hopper patterns over and over. Think a little farther out of the box. The weekday generation schedule is best for floating on one generator right now. More good news is that the weather forecast calls for cooler temperatures. Cooler weather hopefully will bring less generation. The bad news is the fish are skiddish and are eating, but only it seems, when necessary. We have sight-fished to some trout lately on low water and found most to be sulking at the bottom of their favorite holding lie.
Early Morning Fog
 The Obey- Generation is not the wading angler's friend and it doesn't like boats much either. The US Army Corps is running two generators during most of the day, presumably to keep up with demand. Hopefully as Summer gives way to Fall we will see some lower water, at least before the draw down of the lakes. But, for now, if fishing from a boat on high water look for slower pockets against the bank and fish those seams! 

The First Rainbow
 The Elk- On a recent trip to the Elk River Anthony and Brent joined me for an all day float. The 250 CFS release is a bit lower than we have been accustomed to, but the fish are still there. The water upstream, by the dam was a bit warmer than expected but still cold enough to comfortable support trout. The water was stained the usual off green color and sight fishing in the deeper sections would be of no use. So we went to the nymphs. Anthony tried a small streamer for a bit, but when we boated some rainbows on the usual bead head stuff, he went back to deep dredging under the indicator as well.

Brent with a Usual Suspect
We continued on through the day This day revealed some strange occurrences and one of those was the water seemed to clear as the miles clicked off. The water was never crystal clear throughout, but did get a bit more clear as the day wore on. And on another note the water seemed to get cooler as we floated. I need to take the thermometer to confirm the coolness, it did seem a bit strange and noticeable to more than just me.

As the water seemed to clear we tried hoppers and on a particular stretch of river, that normally doesn't hold large populations of fish, we floated a hopper through some likely looking water. Just before I was ready to push on and we were ready to make a move, we saw a rise in the middle of the river. We got a hopper over the fish and it produced a drive-by. A refusal sometimes can be a great thing. Sometimes just the interest in the fly can result in the angler's confidence in the fly just a bit longer. At times this can be a bust and at times it can be as rewarding as any decision made that day.

We hung in the area and tossed a good sized offering along a grass bank. The bank tuned to weeds under a tree and that is where a nice brown had set up shop. The hopper floated a for a bit and the brown swam to it and rose slowly. Then as has been the case of many dry flies this season, it was soon gone and lodged in the trout's mouth.
Colors Along the Elk
The fishing in Middle Tennessee can be a bit slow this time of year. The fish are feeding but are more weary of traffic. Wade slowly and wait for several minutes and for the waves of your walking to settle, if possible, before casting. Mending is another item for consideration. Mend big and mend early. Mend out of the zone of the fish when possible. A reach cast can be your best friend when the water is low and the fish are on edge from heavy traffic. If you have to mend a couple feet from a feeding fish, that fish will probably not eat. Sure anglers get lucky from time to time, but as a general rule the instincts of a fish will win over a sloppy cast or splashy mend.
An Elk River Bimini Top?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day Two- Fly Fishing Greenbrier in the Smoky Mountains National Park

A Greenbrier Rainbow
...and after the evening rain came to our side of the Smokies I was back on the water only this time it was higher than expected. I started off with nymphs only to find out my heart wasn't in it with the nymph rig. After three casts and three less than perfect drifts I was back to the dry flies. I learned from a client that if you are on the water, fish how you want to fish. So I took out a big Thunderhead, one with enough hackle to make a hairdresser whimper and tied it on. I doctored it up with Frogs Fanny and started upstream. The fly drew some attention and then in a likely looking spot a rainbow rose, as only a wild rainbow can. For those of you who have fished for these fish you know exactly what I talking about. Just like that the skunk was off. So fished that Thunderhead the rest of the morning and walked back to the truck satisfied,for a while anyway.
I have always enjoyed East Tennessee. The heritage, the old farms, the music and its instruments and the old trucks and machinery. While out enjoying my time on the river I also had the chance to see an old farm. Although I didn't want to cross any boundaries as an unwelcome guest I was able to get some photos of some pretty interesting stuff. My outings and this blog aren't always about fishing. I do enjoy trying to help people catch fish, but it always isn't about the 'catching' it can about the adventure too.
A Parachute Adams from the Trout's View
The morning came and went. I headed back to the cabin for some lunch, then we checked out the Believe-it or Not's, the cotton candy stores, and the Carmel Corn t-shirt cigarette outlets of Gatlinburg.  That's right they all run together after 10 minutes of too much carnival overload. The sun came out and the girls eventually headed back to the pool. I headed back to Greenbrier for the evening hatch. There wasn't much of anything hatching except for tubers down low and a wedding party on some shoals. I continued upstream and stopped at the end of the road.
Most of the Fish Came Water Just Like Where the Arrow is Pointing
It took a while to dial-in, around the big boulders and small plunge pools. The fish were not located where the books said they would be located. But that's OK because I have past experience to fall back on. The fish were taking in oxygen on the riffles and more shallow runs. The Thunderhead did not work with the lower water levels. The size #12 Parachute Adams was soon on the end of the tippet and the bite was on. The fish were hitting better over the right water, as is usually the case. And as is usually the case it takes a bit of time to find out what water is the right water. Eventually it was just another afternoon of drifting the fly in the current.

Does it Get Better Than This?
So it was another great trip in the Park. The water levels fluctuated, which made the fishing interesting and sometimes even a challenge. There is a new fly in my arsenal. The yellow Parachute Adams, in various sizes, take up an entire row of my fly box. Yellow is the hot color of the Smokies and everyone knows it. Even the Female Parachute Adams, with the yellow rear section, did not work as well as the yellow Parachute Adams.

Eventually it is time to come home and get back to work on the Middle TN tailwaters. The drifter is ready to go on the next adventure and we have a few that we are working on now. With Fall just around the corner we are getting ready for the cooler weather floats and pre-spawns and egg patterns. Until then we are still on terrestrials and going for the smaller midges. Also, Tricos are just around the corner and waiting for their chance...
The Road Home

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fly Fishing the Roaring Fork in the Great Smoky Mountains

Neyland Stadium....just like the sign says
Sometimes it is good to take time away. When my wife said she wanted to go to the Smokies, who was I to disagree? We loaded up the truck and headed East. This Summer we have been going by colleges, so our daughter could see the different campus', because it's never too early to start looking for a good one. When we decided to head toward Knoxville we couldn't resist stopping by for a look. We ended up down at the stadium and my daughter got one of her life lessons, a lesson that I learned long ago from a close friend. When entering somewhere and your are not sure if you should be there....Just act like you know where you are going and like you are "supposed" to be there. We went in and took a look around. The ground crew is getting ready for the upcoming season as they marked the lines and of course the T on the field. After some snapshots inside and out, we were off again.
A Jar of Honey...My Parking Pass
A Roaring Fork Rainbow
Then it was up into the Smokies to hit some water on the Gatlinburg side. It was good to get back over there after several years of fishing near Townsend. The guys at Smoky Mountain Angler set me up with the right dries and off I went. Roaring Fork is close to the cabin we were in and with the girls safely at the pool I had the river too myself and no worries otherwise.
The fly of the day was going to be a size #10 Thunderhead, just like I usually fish. With my usual Thunderhead stash and some newly added yellow Parachute Adams I was armed ready for some dry fly fishing. The water levels were low, which made stealth was the approach of the day. It's been a while since I have been out of the drifter and on foot. But, when a trout did a drive-by on my third cast it felt good to be back fishing for opportunistic feeders. The Thunderhead fished well in the runs and especially in the more rough water.
Pools and Runs of Roaring Fork
Technical Dry Fly Fishing
#10 Thunderhead....from the Trout's View
The Parachute Adams
The runs were producing and interestingly enough so were the back of the pools. There bigger fish seemed to be hanging back out of the swift water and just taking leftovers. That was fine because they made me work on my stealthy approach. I would like to think I got better at stealth, but the majority of the fish came from more swift water. It appears we may need to go back again to help me get better at my approach.
Orange, How Appropriate
This was the first day. The pace of fishing was swift, with stops at likely looking cover and a fish here and then there. The Roaring Fork Nature Trail is a loop road that runs up above the Roaring Fork, so the road was in sight most of the morning, which is comforting when fishing alone.
So, what is up with the jar of honey? The road around the Roaring Fork Nature Trail is usually backed up with sight-seeing tourons. In order to get some fishing in quickly it is best to either make a made dash the wrong way on a one way road, to a parking space at the exit of the loop. Or, you can stop at the store at the end of the loop and try to talk your way into a hard to come-by parking spot. I chose option B and found a fresh jar of honey for my trouble. Here is a warning though, don't park without permission not only because it isn't cool, but also because if you park in the wrong spot the vehicle may be towed, which could put a bad mark on a good day of fishing.
So that was the first day and when I got back I found the girls planted on lounge chairs at the pool. Immediately I began my plans to get back out the following morning, this time to fish other waters. But heavy rain was in the forecast...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Elk River, Caney Fork and Obey Fishing

Glad to See These in the River
The Elk- The Elk is running 350 CFS still. The flow is excellent if you are wading and great for floating. Soft hackles are producing fish when they are fished across the shoals and there are more shallows from the higher water to swing those Bust-A-Browns. Swing'em if you got'em. The bigger fish have finally turned off the cicada patterns for the most part and they haven't completely turned onto the big hoppers. But, don't fret it won't be too long. Until then try some smaller hopper patterns and floating ants have potential. Even if they sink just a bit hat's OK, ants aren't know for their Olympic swimming abilities.
The Obey- Not much to report on the Obey other than good numbers of fish on clear water. The generation is favorable for both wading and floating. Catching falling water produces the best opportunities for a double digit day. Nymphs, nymphs and more nymphs get down to those more quality fish. Take those smaller nymphs and certainly don't leave home without you favorite midge patterns.
The Caney Fork- Middle Tennessee's highest profile river is crowded and the fishing can be a bit slow. Nymphs are producing as well as midges. Dry flies are making good indicators for the small stuff and some anglers are reporting good fish when changing colors early and often. The TWRA guys are on the river. We have seen them the last 5 out of 6 times we have been out there. On the most recent trip they were writing tickets to a guy who kept fish that were too short. The reported fine was approximately $400.00. That's a lot of fresh salmon at Kroger if you do the math. Hopefully the Judge will back the guys who wrote the ticket if this dude decides to appear in the Court room.
Lot's of Habitat on High Water
One for Joe on his Lucky Fly
The mission was to get Joe into a brown trout. We figured that wouldn't be a problem because the last several trips had seen several in the net. Joe proved he had the skills to catch rainbows and even some nice brookies, but the browns were not fooled. We found a nice pod of browns and tried the usual stuff that almost always brings out the larger fish. After starting late in the day the falling sun gave way to darkness and the browns remained elusive. We are already making plans to go back for another shot at the nice browns we know the river holds as we continue to make 2011 the Year of Getting Out There.
Mark, and the Guys Were Close Most of the Day
The Usual Suspects Caught & Released