Sunday, April 29, 2012

Call It & Catch It

Revived and Waiting for Release
 "There's one working on the left up there"...."If you can call it, then catch it". Butch came in from Mississippi for a family visit with Ronnie. They both enjoy fly fishing and enjoy the outdoors, so they ended up on the drifter stalking trout. It was apparent from the their first casts, both Ronnie and Butch are no strangers to the long rods. While I ran the shuttle the guys warmed up their casting arms for the day's events.
Ronnie's First Rainbow of the Day

Butch and Ronnie, Just Above the Anthony Hole
 Last week we found out the hatchery was a little behind on the stocking. They have since visited all the tailwaters we fish in Middle TN. Early in this trip Butch landed his nymph in the right spot at the right time, a rainbow came to the fly and ate. Butch brought the hatchery brat to the net and before we knew it the skunk was off. Ronnie was up next and landed a cast between two limbs of an old blowdown. The fly settled and the indicator went under. This is a shallow stretch of river and at first I thought the fly might have snagged the bottom. Ronnie had other ideas and quickly hooked up with a rainbow of his own. He raised the rod tip and the rainbow came out and over the snags of the blowdown. This fight was a little longer than our first rainbow, but finally the fish gave up and came to the net. After a quick photo the fish was revived and released. 
The First Brown of the Day

Bow Dorsal
Ronnie backed up his first rainbow with a brown, then the guys hit the likely spots as we kept moving down the river. They settled into casting from a drift boat, while making the appropriate mends at the right time and all the other stuff that goes along with a day in the drifter.  As we continued downstream, the fishing  was going a bit better than the catching. Then we entered one of my favorite stretches of river and we started picking up a few more fish. The catching seemed to come in groups on this float. If you caught one and stayed with it, then there would be another a short time later.  We stayed with nymphs because the rises were sporadic and lets face it, this time of year nymphs just work. 

Fish Tails
Butch was starting to pick up fish with more consistency, while Ronnie was holding his own. We decided to make a move to a hole just before lunch. This hole usually holds some nice fish, but it lacks a name... We slipped in and Butch picked up a bow off the shoals, almost immediately. We had a couple other opportunities, but couldn't hook up. I put the drifter into position for Ronnie to work a group of tree roots. He landed the cast, but didn't connect. He had to re-position the fly and when he came out for the backcast the tippet tangled at the fly. Butch didn't waste any time moving into Ronnie's tree roots and "bogarted" the water for himself. As we tended to the tangle, Butch set the hook on a fish and we had a good laugh, then we saw the fish which was now pulling us around the pool. We realized it was a brown, a really nice brown. The fish even looked big in the water and made a few runs just to show off. After a few more stunts the fish jumped, turned its head to make another run, then broke the tippet... It was over, and Butch was standing there with a tippet and indicator. Ronnie and I made the appropriate comments about moving into another angler's water and taking another man's fish. Then it was time to eat, so we stopped to grill some burgers... and let Butch stew on a lost fish. I have to admit I stewed with him! We ate lunch while we went through all the what if's and soon we were back in the boat.

 Sometimes it is just your day... After lunch we hit a couple more likely spots. The guys were settled in to their routine of casting, mending, and drifting. Then the guys cast, mended and drifted the nymphs some more. Ronnie and Butch resumed fishing the seams after lunch. Butch hooked up again. When he set the hook and started the fight, the fish pulled back. This fish was sitting on the outside of the seam and when Butch's fly came down the feeding lane the fish must have moved in and took the fly. The fish made a run further into the moving water, but Butch was on it. The fish made the usual run under the boat, but a pull on the oar spun Butch around and he brought the fish out and into the slack water. The fish wasn't done. When Butch got the rainbow's head up and coming toward the net, the first two times, it made a break again. Finally the fish gave up and came to the net.  Butch had recovered from the earlier brown. We laughed that he even fished his own water to get this one. This fish just missed the 20 + Club, but it is still a healthy rainbow, with all it's fins and a defined pink stripe. The top of the fish is the dark green color that we all like to see.  We took the photos and revived the fish in the moving water. When this rainbow was ready to go there was no mistaking and we released it back into the area from which it came.

As usual daylight was becoming a problem, so we started for the take out. The guys fished off and on through the various shoals and pools. Both anglers boated fish, but at some point  the guys were just riding in the drifter taking in the day. Butch spotted a fish rising downstream and casually mentioned  "there's one working on the left up there".  Ronnie said "If you can call it, then catch it, we will be impressed" and I chimed in with "well it is his day". We all laughed as the drifter glided toward the rise ring. Butch unhooked the fly from the keeper, stripped off some line and raised the rod. He made a couple false casts and dropped the fly just above the rise and right inline. The fly drifted along for a while and just when we thought it wasn't going to happen, Butch proved us wrong by sticking with the drift and showing some persistence. The fish ate and Butch set the hook on a nice brook trout. He brought a nice colored brookie to the net. Butch called it and caught it...and we were impressed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Elk River Report, Warmwater Report & Caney Fork Report

Other River Residents
Hatchery Update- For those who are wondering about the fate of the Hatchery Brats, I called and talked with the folks at the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery this week. They advised there was a water quality problem over the Winter and a portion of the rainbows died, also the fish that did survive are not growing at the usual pace. Therefore, the hatchery did not begin stocking and they may not be able to make up what was lost in the die-off. The browns were not affected nor were the brookies, but apparently those species were not growing at a normal pace either. So, that explains why the rivers do not have the usual Hatchery Brat numbers, which we have all grown accustom. 

There are Some Hatchery Rainbows in the Caney
The Caney Fork- The Army Corps turned the water off, for the most part. Well, let me explain in a little more detail. Over the Winter we saw releases of 10,000 + CFS, remember? Yep, so do I, and we all went to other venues and chased different fish while waiting to get back on the tailwaters. Then the rain slowed and the Army Corp continued the releases, finally backing off and then... the generators were backed off more and the sluice was shut down. After that we saw releases of one generator for a few hours a day and no releases additional releases, other than the water by-passing the dam through the waterfall and other cavities in the limestone that have not been filled by the repairs. So, essentially anglers had the low water, but it was so low there was not a lot of moving water. If you found moving water, you would find a fish. 
Recently, the Army Corps decided to release water through the sluice to supplement the generator releases and continued running the sluice 24-7. This is helping with the dissolved oxygen and giving everyone's flies some drift. The result? The fishing is picking up. Oh, and the folks from Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery made a stocking run to the Caney and dumped in some small browns and some rainbows that just barely made the size limit for stocking. We measured the water temps and they are running 59 degrees by our thermometer. 
The water remains pretty darned clear, which is good. Anglers need to work on "their stealthy" because if you can see the fish, the fish can probably see you too. So anglers shouldn't go marching through the water like they are on a combat mission.   Nymphs are working as well as midges. The river is showing hatches of caddis, a variety of mayflies as well as some sulphers.  Long tippets help and dry/droppers are worth throwing.
Fish Tails
 The Elk River- The temperature of the Elk is running at 49 degrees. The water is cool and the water clarity looks good. Rain events, even the smaller ones, have an affect on water clarity. But, catch this river after several days of no rain and it can be gin clear.  The stocking truck has been a little slower to get to the Elk. There are still some holdovers that can be caught and don't be surprised if you end up with a brook trout on the fly. 
The fish are taking nymphs fished deep. A hopper/dropper will work on this river, but expect many, many more fish on the dropper. The hopper is really more for show. The fish will come up and take a look from time to time, then they turn and take the nymph. It is easy to mistake the turn of the tail for strike on the hopper.  When a fish eats a hopper, they do not miss!

Warm Water Report- The freestone rivers in Middle Tennessee could use some additional water too. The low water conditions make it easy for the fish to see poppers and even dries. Try some large dries in the evening and you never know what will come to the top and take the offering. Cumberland Transit has a good selection of warm water flies. Grumpy and Leo will help you with your selections. Girdle bugs are working as a dropper for us and I would say they will bring your catch rate up as well.
This Bow is Very Healthy

David K. in the Trout Zone and Hard at Work with a Nice Brown

Transitions From Clear to Cloudy
David and I hit the river this week and had a good day. We had a discussion about an Orvis Clearwater that I brought along. I had it on board the drifter for some recent trips. Anglers who haven't fished a lot or who have never fly fished before, sometimes do better with this rod. The reason, in my opinion, is because the rod softer and this slows down a beginners cast.  Now I am not saying that it cures every casting habit, but it does suit some anglers better than other anglers. David and I were using the Clearwater rod for a single nymph rig, under an indicator. As usual we had several rods on the boat, and even caught fish on them, but eventually we went mind-numb watching the indicator bob up and down in the wind.  

As we floated along David tried to remember where a log was located, a log that last year he picked a trout from on a nymph. We located the log, David gave a false cast and dropped the nymph just upstream. The indicator settled in and floated along. The tungsten bead had plenty of time to send the fly to the end of the line. Just when I thought it was going to bottom out on the gravel, the indicator dove and pulled a bit sideways. David set the hook and pulled the fish into open water. The fish came to the net, changed its mind and started back to the log. After a short game of tug-of-war, David got the head up and into the net. The fish didn't look like a monster, possibly because of the head, but we measured the fish and David is again on the 20 + Club page. 
The Orvis Clearwater Single Nymph Rig
Fishing is picking up here in Middle Tennessee. We are booking tailwater trips into May and some dates in June are starting to get looks as well. If the weather and water hold, this could be a great hopper season. If you are thinking about booking a trip, give us a call, send an email or text and we can start looking at available dates. Don't forget about the warmwater trips either as those species are coming on strong as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tom and Paul

Tom wanted to take his Father-In-Law Paul fishing. So. when Paul's birthday rolled around, Tom booked the trip. Things started off well when they showed up 10 minutes early. We loaded up and went to the river. The plan was for Tom to fly fish and Paul to take the rear of the boat and enjoy a day of fishing gear. The river was clear and low. The flow is extremely slow, which made nymphing without drag, even more critical. Tom is an experienced small stream angler and was ready to take those skills and adapt them to the tailwaters. Paul brought his own bag of spinners and deeper running lures. The weather was partly cloud and low 70's for the high. The water temps began and ended the day below 50 degrees.
What's the Real Problem Here and Why Is Tom So Happy?
Everything was in place or so we thought. I took the guys straight to a good stretch of water. A stretch that has produced nice fish almost every trip and has never let me down by producing at least something worth noting. This time however,  we had some hits and follows, flashes and losses. When the indicator would dive, Tom would set the hook, sometimes play the fish for a short time and then, the fish would throw the fly. This went on in the front of the boat, while in the rear Paul would produce a fish or two on gear, but things were just not clicking. Tom appeared to be doing everything right and so did Paul. I made the decision to stop the float and re-fish that good stretch of river... The guys were looking to me for answers, I couldn't figure it out. About that time the answer appeared!
The Real Problem? Bananas On A Boat!
The boat was now back at the upper end of the stretch that we had just fished. As we waited for a group of recreational boaters to pass through, we all grabbed a snack and that is when it became apparent there was a banana on the boat. Not only was there one banana on the drifter, but there were three bananas. The story behind bananas on watercraft is almost as old as watercraft themselves. I explained to Paul and Tom that bananas were not just bad luck but were also why we were not bringing fish to the net. When the first banana was finished I took the peel and disposed of it! The guys were not convinced I was being truthful, but the more I talked, the easier it was for them to understand I was not happy. They fished a bit longer,but the banana theory began to get into Tom's head He finally couldn't stand my griping any longer couldn't stand the thought that I might be right. So, he took the other bananas and disposed of them as well... Tom set up for his first "nanner free cast"...
...the fly landed and the indicator turned over, then settled into a slow drift. The indicator dove, Tom set the hooked and the fish flashed. The fish made several runs and a few jumps, but Tom got the head up and brought his catch to the net. The guys had a good laugh and there was relief from the rowers bench. While I revived the fish the guys discussed out loud that there could be some truth to the "banana theory". We revisited the recent catch, but I am not sure they were convinced.  So, Tom stepped back into the casting brace, stripped off some line and cast again. The fly landed and the indicator turned over. Then it floated a short distance and dove again. That cast produced another fish in the boat and while this was happening in the front, Paul was hooked up in the back casting brace. This time the guys produced a double. There would be no more bananas on any fishing trip with these guys.
Paul Joined In With Spinning Gear
The guys continued to fish throughout the day and at times it was a bit slow. Just when it seemed like the front, that was moving through the area, was going to completely put the fish down, one of them would bring a fish to the net. The morning turned to afternoon. Afternoon was getting late when Paul hooked a fish that fought differently. When he got the fish to the top we found a crappie on the line. Paul had the slam. The slam for this trip was a brown, rainbow and crappie!
Tom Hooked Up
A Good Day On The River

The tree lines began to make some long shadows on the river as the sun began to fall. We were well into the float and the takeout was about an hour away. Paul was bombing the bank with a shallow running rooster tail and he picked out another species. This time a rock bass came to the net and I guess Paul completed his super slam. Overall the fishing was good and the catching was good. Paul and Tom were enjoyable to fish with and they were open to suggestions that hopefully made their day and future fishing better. If none of us learned anything else, we did learn the "banana theory" was no theory at all.
Tom With A Rarity

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fly Fishing the Stones River

First Fish of the Day
Hap Was Hooked Up
A Low River
We are in the heart of small stream fishing and have been on the local streams chasing something different. Mostly we fish warmwater in the Spring, when the tailwaters are adjusting for lake levels.  Hap and Price, who are brothers, wanted to learn about warmwater fishing.  Both have fished some and had good fundamentals, so we planned the trip and the next step was to launch the drifterThe river was low and we had to drag the drifter across some shoals right away.  We found a resting spot and began tying some simple knots.  Then the fishing began.
Now Getting On With the Catching!
Price Hooked Up 
Colorful Pan fish
The Drifter At Rest
The rivers all around Middle Tennessee are low and the Stones is no exception. The fish weren't tough to find and the small pan fish began pushing the flies around early in the trip. The sun warmed the water and the fish came to the top. The guys worked on their casting, some different retrieves and before the day was over they were hauling. The longer the casts got the more the fish responded. The casts were really looking good so we added a dropper, which improved the catch rate.
The colors of the various species were spectacular. There are many species within the bluegill family, each are unique in color and pattern. The blues on the fish are vivid right now and stand out as much as any color, on any warmwater fish. Add this to the fish's aggressiveness and that makes for a fun day on the water.
The Brothers At Lunch

We stopped for lunch and filled up the tank with cedar plank grilled salmon and the usual accouterments.  We watched the river and the wildlife, then we gathered up everything, including some garbage left by others and hit the river again. The catching continued and the instruction became less and less. The guys were clearly coming into their own.


...and Beer Pong, Red Eyes
After lunch we were passed by several canoes. Everyone was pleasant and it seemed, from the conversations with the passers-by, that the guys were more than holding their own against others on the river. One canoe in particular had two pleasant gentlemen, who were just enjoying the day and spoke as they slid by. Later as we approached a gravel bar, it appeared they were pitching a tent. But as we slowly fished our way toward them, we realized they were playing beer pong!  We were invited to join them, but we had to decline as there were more fish to be caught and the end of the day was pressing. So we kept rowing and declared another first on a Middle Tennessee river. 
A Handful

Ancient Hierogliphics?
The day was winding down and there were two more rock ledges I wanted to explore. Both had been good to us in the past and we hoped this trip would be no different. The pan fish were still on, but the best was yet to come. Price caught yet another offering on his last few casts of the evening. So we moved to the last ledge. Hap, tossed the Bomber with a dropper and gave the line a couple tugs, the bass tugged back. Hap set the hook and the line came tight. This bass did not disappoint us in the fighting department. The fish finally came to the net and after the release we ended the day that positive note.
The Last Fish of the Day
Hap and Price were a lot of fun to guide. They were quick learners and both improved steadily throughout the day. The warmwater trips are fun to do and we have some lakes that also offer excellent opportunities for angling adventures. Thanks again guys, that was a good day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork with Kelly and Brent

This week Brent wanted to take his Brother-in-Law Kelly on a float. The goal was to teach Kelly to fly fish, give him a chance to enjoy the river and help him catch a trout on a fly rod, before he returned to Cambodia and his life long missionary work. We launched the drifter under cloudless skies, on clear water with a fair number of recreational boaters. TWRA has not stocked the river, from what we saw the rumor mill is accurate. This made the upper portion of the float, slow. The water was 59 degrees and crystal clear, we could see the fish and the fish, of course, could see us as well. 
Sunrise on Saturday
We spent some time casting with Kelly. He was already several steps ahead and it was apparent that he and Brent had spent some time practicing before the float. Practice is very important for a new fly angler and sometimes just as important for a seasoned angler. After we worked a little more on the casting and of course mending we were off. The upper section of the river showed us a few fish here and there.  
Low Water
The low clear water was a bit distracting at times. There is a lot to look at on the bottom of the river and we all spent time spotting fish as well as other things. The gravel bars are pretty much in the same place even after the 10,000 + CFS beating the river took over the Winter. 
Kelly's First Fish on the Fly
Kelly was patient while the fish were tight lipped. We kept him on nymphs and adjusted the indicators to the river bottom. The fish were on shoals and in the holes. We tried several different patterns and ended up fishing the Tutto. Brent was dialed in first on the Tutto and caught several fish. Kelly used his patience, while he took in the sights and developed a real love for the river. Then we entered a run and Kelly dialed in. He got a good drift in a small seam and a rainbow made the indicator dive, then Kelly pulled the rod and the line came tight. The fight was on. The rainbow tried to use the current but Kelly got the fish to the net and soon after that, he was holding his first fish on a fly rod. The proper photos were taken and the rainbow was released. 
Brent Hooked-Up
This is the Lowest Water I Can Remember
 Every time I get to float with new anglers I learn something new or am reminded of how I saw the river the first time. Brent, who has been on the boat several times was at home in the back seat. Kelly had the front seat, which is known to be the best position while fishing. That front casting brace is just a good place to be.  Cambodia is a long way from Buffalo Valley and the environments are completely different. Now Kelly has the pleasure of knowing both. Good luck on your return to your work Kelly and I look forward to seeing you again when you come back to the states.