Monday, October 31, 2011

Caney Fork River Fishing Report

The Elk- The big story on the Elk is the water release. TVA is drawing down Tims Ford Lake, for winter pool, and the water release is tough to forecast. Over the weekend the water release was showing 800+ CFS and the next few days are up and down. Anglers should call TVA before going to the river and shouldn't be surprised if the info changes on the drive. If you find an opening in the water release keep a sharp eye on the water levels. I have been on the Elk when water is released unexpectantly and getting out wasn't the easiest thing to accomplish. In short be careful and stay on your toes.
Center Hill Dam Sluice Release
The Caney Fork- Expect the water to be somewhat more clear than the past month. Visability is getting better, although it still is not back to where we all like it. In a few weeks hopefully it will be running at normal clarity (whatever that is) and the fish will respond. The browns apppear to be finishing their normal Fall activities. The water tempratures are running 62 degrees at the 4' mark, taken about 2.5 miles from the dam. So, really the water temps are about the same as usual for this time of the year.
This Heron Kept a Close Eye as We Passed Under
It has been a lazy past couple weeks as we wait for the water to clear and the scheduled trips get back underway. Brent and I went to the Caney and started the float on one generator. We both threw streamers and were trying to move some bigger fish before the US Army Corps turned off the generation. The water was a bit more clear than a few weeks back, when I took the pictures of the sluice release.  We found two things...1) the brookies are aggressive toward streamers. 2) there is a large brown lurking right down by the
Some Brookies are Very Colorful and Some Are Just Starting to Get Their Color
Brent was on the oars and we were working a shoreline. The water was slow on the edge with some faster current toward the middle of the river. I watched the streamer come out of the darker water and a large fish coming in behind. The fish was within striking distance, but wasn't making any moves to get in front of the offering to make an eat. At first the fish looked like a striper, but as it got closer it proved to be a brown. The big brown came to the boat following the streamer and then when it got to the tip of the rod, the fish turned and went under the oar blade. The big brown made two circles under the oar blade and then turned back toward the darker water. The fish hesitated for an instant and then swam away and down toward from where it came. Yes. I threw the streamer back in and no the brown never ate. The fish was one of those fish that sticks with an angler for a while. 
An After Lunch Snack & A Couple Sticks
After that brown we waited for the water to begin to fall out and dug out the nymph rod. We went with a bead head nymph and an egg pattern. Last year we had luck on eggs and picked up some nice rainbows. This year the egg patterns haven't been as productive. Brent got back in the casting brace and we were working a bank on falling water. We worked some blowdowns and stayed mostly in current seams. As Brent worked the nymph I worked the oars. We fell into a steady pace and spotted some fish, then the indicator took a dive and Brent set the hook. At first we thought it was just a usual customer, but then the headshakes started and Brent was in a fight. The fish made a couple short runs and then started to come to the boat. When fish come to the boat they either do one of two things. 1) they run under the boat possibly seeking shelter, or 2) they make a reel screaming run. Personally I like to hear a reel sing so option 2 gets my vote. This brown turned it's tail and took off. Brent got the rod turned, then brown's head turned, and the fish came to the net. The nymphs were catching nice fish again. This brown looked to be fresh off a spawn. It has the big tail, long body and appears to be in need of some protein.
Brent's Largest Brown of the Year
This time of the year leaves and blowing wind create a hostile dry fly environment. When we arrived at my favorite dry fly stretch the wind and leaves made it pretty miserable to fish dries. So, we went back to nymphs and picked up more rainbows. Toward the end of the day, when the winds dies down, we went back to the dry fly and fished to rising fish. The story wasn't as exciting as Brent's brown trout but we had the dry ready, saw the fish rise, threw the dry upstream of the rise, the fly drifted a few feet and the rainbow ate the dry. Yep, it seemed easy and if nothing else it was a cool take. Streamers brought out the big ones, nymphs took the fish of the day and dries capped off a good day of just "Gettin Out There".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Elk River and Caney Fork Dry Fly Fishing

Mirror Images
The Elk River- This week TVA dialed back the release from 800+ CFS to the normal release of 240 CFS. The future generation for the next few days shows the same 240 CFS release. It is Fall and time to start the lake draw-down  Be sure to check the generation schedule close and keep your eyes  on the "Hourly Discharge" on the TVA website. The release has been coming from the release gates and not necessarily through the generator. If you are wading down the river keep your eyes open for a possible unexpected release. Rumors of non-published releases are swirling.

The fishing has been OK on the Elk. Using nymphs and small streamers has been working pretty good. Most of the fish are eating below the surface so dries can be tough. Swinging soft hackles through faster moving water has been taking some fish as well. The temps remain around the 58 degree mark and when the water clears, anglers will have opportunities for more fish.
David Delivering "the Groceries"
The Caney Fork- There have been some discussions concerning the water clarity, dissolved oxygen levels and general overall poor water quality of the Caney lately. The sluice water is dingy green with lots of roughage and junk mixed in. The fishing has been off as of late, compared to earlier in the year. The water is clearing just a bit and visibility is about 4' now. The water temps are still running in the 62 - 63 degree mark, according to my thermometer which is tied to about 4' of 20 lb floro and dropped over the side of the drifter (hi-tech stuff- this trout fishing ).
Fall Along the River
I was going to take a couple weeks off, but....David and I got out for a day on the river. The sky is clear right now and Fall is in full swing. That begs the fishing better on a cloudy day or is that just a myth? David brought a streamer rod and, as he said, he was going to throw "the groceries".  He arrived with some really nice looking articulated goodies as well as some nice single hook creations.  My plan was to throw streamers, dries and nymphs or just about everything. We were lucky and caught fish on all of them.   We started out the day with me in the casting brace throwing a really nice shad type pattern that we used earlier in the year. We tried different retrieves, against the bank but the fish weren't interested. We switched colors, patterns and anglers. Then David hooked up while banging the banks with an articulated fly.  He immediately got the chance to row again.
Leo at Cumberland Transit loaned me a Cortland Big Sky 9'-5wt and asked me to give it a try. I have seen these rods in the shop but haven't really given them a second glance. Before this day was over the rod would get a good test.  We rigged  double nymph set-up and picked up some fish. We spotted some fish here and there. The brook trout are pretty active right now. Some  of the brookies are in full color and some are silvery with almost no color. All the fish looked relatively healthy. 
We caught several Rainbows
The rainbows in the Middle Tennessee rivers are looking pretty healthy.  We caught them on mostly nymphs and dries, but we also had some swings and misses on streamers.  The bows are feeding more toward the top of the water column and their colors really pop when they come to the fly. 
A Nice Brown on a Small Dry
Those of you who have been following this report for a while, know that I have been fishing more dry flies this year than ever before. For me dry fly fishing started in the Smokies. When we came to Middle Tennessee, nymphs and soft hackles seemed to be the way to go. Dry flies never have left my mind and regular trips to the Smokies seemed to give me "the fix" that an angler needs from time to time. As this year has gone along more clients want to fish dries. They understand numbers can be tough when fishing dries, but when an angler fishes to the fish, sees the fish comes to the fly and then eat, it is a great day.
A Nice Bow Under Blue-Bird Skies on a Small Dry
There are some times of the day that dries fish better. They don't necessarily fish better than other types of flies, it is just that at certain times, dries just fish better than they would at other times of the day. There have been some interesting hatches coming off lately. We've seen lots of midges as usual, caddis from size 20 to 14's bouncing around like caddis do, yellow stoneflies and some small-almost tiny crane flies as well.  David and I fished to a pod of rainbows for a while. These fish were feeding and leaving that bubble on the surface in the middle of the rise almost every time they would eat. We began tying on dries. The fish were picky and we had several (OK we had a lot) of refusals, until we landed on the right pattern.  When we did land on the right pattern, well, it was a great day!
Gettin Out There

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poll Results

The polls are closed to v0ting and the dry flies are the winners. There is nothing like catching a big fish on a dry fly and apparently others agree. 84% of the anglers, who answered the poll question, would rather catch a 20" rainbow on a dry vs. 16% of the anglers who would rather catch a larger 22" rainbow on a nymph. ***
Dry fly fishing can be some of the most exciting fishing, in the world of angling, and when a big fish comes up to  the top to eat, the excitement cannot be beat.  This year we have gone after and caught more large fish on dries than ever before. It all started with the cicada hatch, which was epic. A quick trip to Michigan to fish the Hex Hatch at night on spinners! Then we moved into a short hopper season that produced some nice tailwater fish as well. As we do every year we spent some days in the Smokies fishing Thunderheads and other dries. Throw in some more tailwater trout on Parachute Adams (the planet's most recognized dry fly) and rounding the Summer out with Isonychia patterns and spinners.  This year has a been a good year for dries. Are we giving up on dries? No way! We are going to continue to fish dries, even when others gave up on them months ago.
The down and dirty streamer season is just around the corner as the first cold front of the year is moving in as I write this report. The hail earlier in the day and the approaching front will remind the fish to start building protein for a long Winter.  The thoughts of tailwater anglers everywhere are turning to the shad kill. There are some techniques that I tried late last winter that produced some good fish during the shad kill, and those techniques should work just as good as the shad move toward the dam in mid-winter. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nashville Area Fly Fishing Report

There is a Lot of Trash on the Bottom
The Elk River- TVA has begun the Winter draw-down of Tims Ford Lake. They are releasing 830 CFS through the spillway. Reading the water release on the website is not enough, anglers need to scroll down and see the release schedule. Wading is tough at best. The water level at the Highway 50 bridge is way up on the gravel bar and the current is extremely swift. There are fish to be caught and some nice ones at that, but it is going to be tough for several weeks. The good thing? There is a heavier flow which we hope will dislodge some of the excess weeds and trash on the bottom. Now is a good time to throw streamers and possibly egg patterns, if you can get eggs down to the bottom quick enough and in the right places. Again, be careful- if you fish the Elk at all.
We Don't Even Know What This Means?
The Obey River- Not much to report here. The release is the same release as the past several weeks, with a short window in the A.M. and a one generator release pretty much the rest of the day.
The Caney Fork River- The Caney is fishing but the catching is tough. The rainbows are coming out to play in the evening and the fish have been rising on falling water. The temperature in the lake is 65 degrees at 10' and the river temps are still right around 62 degrees depending on the depth the measurement is taken. Midges on falling water will work. Fishing to feeding fish is anglers best bet, although nymphs and dries need to be presented drag free and on target. Streamers are working as well. The water clarity is not good and usually doesn't show improvement until the big sluice release is reduced in November. The recreation releases continue with nice wading and low water floats on the weekends. Don't let the tough water conditions keep you at home, go, try to crack the code, the occasional big catch is still possible in these tough conditions.
We Like Fat Rainbows

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Middle Tennessee Fly Fishing Report

Gary Working a Pool on the Elk River
The Caney Fork- Center Hill Dam continues to release water during the week. If anglers get there early or late there is a chance to fish low or falling water, depending on which time and which access you prefer. The water in the lake temperature is 63 degrees at 10' and on the other side of the dam, in the river, the temps are 62ish. Speculation is the lake may be starting to turn over, but who really knows. The amateur biologists have a lot of theories and they could be right. The water in the Caney is still off color from the sluice, so the fishing is tough, but one or two great fish can make an angler's day.
The Only Bass of the Week....and Caught on a Trout Stream?
The Obey River- The river is full of water from one generator on the weekends. But anglers get a reprieve during the week, when the cool waters of the Caney Fork help cool the water for the steam plant downstream.  Low water is the best time to fish the Obey, however fish can be caught from a boat on one generator. On low water the flow can produce the most painfully slow drifts known man. But the river will five up some good fish on small nymphs and midges.  Check the generation schedule before you leave and keep an eye on the flow. This river fills up fast and rumors of unexpected releases have been heard. Make sure you have an exit strategy before getting in, especially if you are wading the first mile or so.
Time to Get on the Water

We Saw LuLu Guiding Her Owners on the Elk River
The Elk River- So the Caney has been getting some press lately about the off-color of the release. The Elk River is running just a little bit more clear, but not much. There is no sluice at the Elk River and the release has been mostly from a release from the top side of the dam. But the TVA has done a good job of conserving cold water (or at least cool) because the water temperatures are 58 degrees a couple miles downstream. Still the greenish dirt color of the water slows the fishing a bit. There is a lot of grass and weeds floating in the river right now, so fishing streamers is difficult. We had some follows and caught some on streamers this week, but it wasn't easy. And expect to clean those hooks most every cast. Also, the river still needs several hours of generation to give it a good flushing. Wading or dropping an anchor can produce clouds of debris that would make a feeding carp blush.
Hoping These Will Grow Up!
We have been fishing more nymphs as of late on the Elk. Choose the right size, color and shape and the indicator will dance like a Mexican jumping bean, choose wrong or get lazy and it's going to be a long day. The fish are reacting to the better drifts and there has been a recent stocking. The river sees a lot of traffic that thins downstream. Be careful wading because it is hard to see the snags, downfalls and unexpected rocks on the bottom. Some anglers are reporting better days than others.
A World Record Chub?
 I fish with Brent several times a year and when he said he was going to the Smokies I was glad he was getting a chance to go. Brent took off on the Gatlinburg side of the the Park and got into some brookies on dry flies. Man was I jealous It was good to see the fish were responding even with the low clear water.  Brent spent most of his day on dry flies and catching these little Jewels of the Park. The forecast for the mountains this week is for some much needed rain. So the next few weeks could be "epic" in the Park. 
Brent Went to the Blue Lines This Week
There is a poll on the right side of this report. If you haven't already, take a minute and vote. It is good to see what anglers prefer. I keep telling myself I am going to take some time off and wait for the tailwaters to get into better shape but who knows. Hopefully I can get out onto a lake in the next couple weeks or up in the Smokies for a day or two....guess we will see what shakes out.
Fall on the Elk River

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dry Flies and Snickers Bars

Part of the Arsenal
Howard and I have fished the Elk River several times this year. This time Howard wanted to fish the Caney. We exchanged texts about water clarity, water temperatures and slow fishing on the Caney. Eventually there we were, out on the river looking for that perfect circle from a rise. We have been a good team this year. We have caught fish, some trips more than others, but most times we boat at least one really nice fish by anyone's standards. Howard likes to fish dries, as do I, but also we understand that sometimes nymphs are simply just what's working. This day we would try dries and nymphs, both would produce...wait I am getting ahead of myself just a bit.
Fresh Off the Truck
We started the day with a dry/dropper. After a couple changes to the dropper Howard hooked up and after a quick fight the freshly stocked Hatchery Brat was caught, photographed and released to grow. I put Howard on another dropper pattern and then we moved on as the wind picked up. We went to nymphs under a dry for a while and picked up a few more fish, some were better than others but most were the usual suspects. The reports on this day were slow fishing, from just about everyone.
A Decent Brown on a Nymph Pattern
The water is still a greenish dirt color from the sluice and the water temps are running in the 62 degree range. This is pretty much normal for this time of year, although no one likes it all that much. Nymphs under a big dry were working OK and Howard was able to boat several fish. We snacked on hot Cheetos and other "health food". The hunger was growing as we hunted bigger fish. Usually there are some Snickers on board the drifter and I told Howard if he would catch a nice fish we could go ahead and eat  the two Snickers I stashed in the cooler when I left the house that morning. It wasn't like he wasn't trying, because he was putting the fly in the right spots and getting good drifts. I was changing flies every chance I could. Still it was a bit slow and I was growing more hungry by the minute.
We spotted different hatches throughout this day. We saw a nice caddis hatch, the usual midge hatches and some tricos that came late in the day, which is a bit unusual. The late evening bat-hatch also came out before we got off the water, but we didn't fish a bat pattern. We continued munching on the health food and trying to bring fish to the top. You can't force them to come up, well some people say you can't anyway. The nymphs got a bit boring after a while and we slid into a nice spot where fish seem to eat top water more often than not.
The fish haven't been responding to hoppers and beetles lately. So I guees they have faded a bit. We had an Isonychia dry on Howard's 4 weight Sage with a Trico trailing close behind. The fish were rising in slack water more than on the usual lines. We spotted a fish feeding on a small seam by some structure and Howard laid the cast right where it needed to be, then flipped a short mend. The feeding fish didn't waste any time and came up to the fly and sucked it down with a big splash.
When I first saw the fish feeding it was just eating with subtle takes on the bugs that were popping off the seam. The fish seemed to be smaller than we wanted, but heck how can you pass on fishing dries to feeding trout? So anyway, Howard made the cast, flipped a short mend, the fish ate and the battle was on. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing and just watched the fight from the rowers bench while smoking a fine cigar. When the end of the rod began those tight shakes I knew it was a better fish and put down the cigar, then grabbed the net. The fight was well on its way to an epic battle Well maybe not epic, but lots of give, some take here and get the picture. The fish made several short runs on the 4 weight, while Howard and I discussed the many snags just below the boat. A sense of urgency came about us both just as the fish turned its head and finally came to the net. We had our nice fish on a dry fly and the river gave up another prize.
Livin' Like a Health Nut
It was about time the fish gave up because I was really growing tired of carrots, Wheat Thins, cigars and Mt Dew.  That Snickers was just around the corner... We took the usual shots and Howard snapped a photo to text to his fishing partner who opted to stay home. We continued fishing to rising fish but the sun was going down and the Fall moonlight was just starting to shine down on the river. After a bit more fishing we lost sight of the flies and called a day. The celebration of a slow day- turned decent, was discussed and the Snickers came out of the cooler.
We stowed the rods and started toward the ramp. Isonychias are not exactly a primary hatch on the Caney Fork, the Tricos add to the story late in the day on these warmer water temps. There have been a few more Caddis hatches as of late and the midges are pretty much a given. Soon the egg pattens will come into play for hungry rainbows....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caney Fork Sluice

Disclaimer- This report is purely opinion and observation with some sarcasm. There is no scientific data or research attached to this and no I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. If you disagree, please don't send me complaining emails, they wouldn't be read anyway. Take the next few minutes of reading for what is worth and work on mending, cause the fish are pretty dang picky right now.

A Close-Up View of the Sluice
For a few years now I have been watching the sluice and the effects of the sluice as it relates to the trout fishing on the Caney Fork River.  The river doesn't seem to fish as well during the periods the sluice + generation as it does with straight generation, after they have been turned off and the water is falling. However, it is my understanding the sluice is supposed to put dissolved oxygen (the kind of oxygen the fish breath) in the water at this time of the year. If the fish have plenty of oxygen, then why are the fish tight-lipped? 
I was on the river this week (report to follow) and I decided to do some research on the subject. So I went to the other side of the dam (actually I drove the truck because it seemed like a long swim). Yep all the way to the other side of the river, just to take a look around. Really, I did and the view of the water was a bit surprising. 
The Line Between Sluice Water and Generation Release Water
As can be seen in this photo there is a line between the sluice water and the generation release. The photo does not due justice to difference in water clarity. The water from the generation is clear, even with the release the clarity is several feet. The sluice release water is a milky-green, with a hint of dirt color. The water from the sluice is pulled from the bottom of the lake (or there about) and the generator is higher in the lake, thus making the generation release a completely different release from the sluice.  We could talk about the possible reasons for the difference in water clarity all day long, but, we won't because this is just food for thought and all that stuff. Besides there are flies to be tied and fish to be caught. So what's the bottom line?
The Line is Clearly Visible

The bottom line is the fish have always liked water that is clear better than they like greenish-dirty water.  But the fish still have to eat and they still will eat. Maybe we need to get the trout some fish goggles so they can see our flies. Another bit of info is the water temps an hour after generation is still 62 degrees. These temps are a bit on the warm side and reflect the late Summer/early Fall temperatures we usually witness.
Reports from up and down the river this week have been of slow fishing and tight lips. We have experienced the same. We have tried some different fly patterns, retrieves and twitches that have produced fish. We catch fish on every trip and have caught some nice fish on trips as well. The sluice will be over soon and life will return to normal (whatever that is).  Some anglers have called it a year and packed their fishing stuff until Spring. And, some, will keep waving the stick and trying different approaches to the age old puzzle of fly fishing.  I could say something cheesy right now and try to sound like some fly fishing writer or talk in a soft voice like those fly fishing shows on TV, but I won't. I'll just finish this report and go tie some more flies, because remember the fish are pretty pick right now.