Saturday, May 26, 2012

Elton and David

A Ring of Sunlight a Brown Trout
Elton and David decided to spend a day on the river fly fishing from the drift boat. The weather in Middle Tennessee has been a bit on the quirky side this year. It helps to at least take a look at the temps before doing outdoor activities. The temperature, it seems, has either been 15 degrees above normal or 10 below normal.This time it was the lower of the scale and there was a misty rain to make things more interesting.  We all met at the assigned place and at the agreed time and launched the drifter. When we pushed away from the gravel bar the misty rain was still falling and there was a blanket of fog on the river, that was thick enough to cast a fly out of eyesight. Yep it was a good day for fishing. The weather kept most of the undesirables of the crowd off the river  and when Elton hooked up early on the usual nymph, we decided it was just good to be on the river...and of course catching a few fish made it just that much better. How much better had yet to be determined but the river would give up some of its goodness before the day was complete.
Elton Stayed Hooked-Up Quite a Bit on This Day
We decided early that nymphs would be the way to go. We had the usual discussion about my theory of clear days being better than cloudy days, and how the sunlight warming the water, helps to get the bug life cycles moving...(sunny days have been better most times, unless the temps are super high, then clouds help, but you get the picture.) Anyway the guys were floating along enjoying the day and David began to get in the groove with his cast, which seemed effortless from where I was sitting. Both guys were casting good as the fog lifted and revealed partly cloudy skies. When the sun would pop through the rises, which were few, became more frequent. The rises on this day wouldn't be as frequent as most days but the fish still were feeding pretty good.
Elton and David on a Break at Mid-Day
I spoke with Mr. Currie several weeks ago and he advised the hatchery has been releasing more brookies, to be stocked, earlier in TN to make up for the rainbow shortage. The rainbow shortage is due to a water quality problem over the winter. We have found some nice brook trout already this year and if the weather and specifically rain will hold off, which will hold off the heavy generation, we could be seeing some nice brookies on the water this year. The good thing about the brook trout is, they made up the boat slam and David's slam as well. So we had good things going early in this trip, thanks to the efforts of TWRA and the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery. 
Healthy Brook Trout

David Scores a Nice Rainbow
As I said...Elton Stayed Hooked-Up Quite a Bit on This Day
After lunch we had a run of fishing that was a bit hit and miss. We picked up a couple nice browns and some decent rainbows. We also began to see the miniature browns that were recently stocked. The small browns do not have their instincts yet and can be aggressive toward a moving fly. We decided to end the day fishing dries for stocked fish, especially after bringing several freshly stocked browns that were in the 12" + range.
Fins to the Right
The guys ended the day on dries. We chose a couple Parachute Adams A fly that seems to catch more fish than any other dry fly and some say all others added together. As I said last week the fresh browns were aggressive and will even let you get a little sloppy on the drift. I highly recommend trying to be a little sloppy when fishing the access points of Middle Tennessee rivers, at least until these little hatchery brats get their wits about them. Oh and there was one more fish I forgot to mention. 
Like I said a couple times in this report Elton was hooked up quite a bit. David was too, but Elton produced a large number of fish. So, as we floated down the river David noticed a deep trough. I had never fished that trough or for that matter never really paid attention to it at all. David was fishing the middle of the river and pulled up some line, then launched a beautiful cast that landed at the top of the trough. Elton watched for a second and then he dropped his nymph right on the line that David was fishing before David chose the new water. As we drifted slowly along David and I watched in anticipation of the indicator taking a dive. The indicator drifted along and Elton said "there's one". His fly had drifter down the gut of the river and was picked up by a head-shaker. The fish had to finish the first run before it turned on its side to show us its length. That s when a lot of stuff happened in the boat. The net came out, the oars began to work and Elton played the fish, keeping it away from an old blowdown that had been in the river for several years. The fish would make a run and Elton would make a stop, the fish would turn away, only to turn back toward the blowdown and Elton get the head turned away again. This fish had done this dance before, but we were fishing some heavy tippet and Elton was in control. Elton got the head up and we decided that was the time to slide the big brown into the net. We netted the fish and right when the fish got to the net the fly popped loose. Although this fish was a bit heavy and tough to hold, we took the usual photos. Elton earned the fly and 24" of tippet to mark the length of the brown trout he just landed. Handshakes and headshakes were given by all, then we headed off down the river looking for the next fish. This day was a good day. David caught the largest bow and earned a slam. Elton landed the big brown of the trip and made the 20 + Club. The guys were a lot of fun to fish with and float with over the course of a long day and I look forward to a Fall trip and the search for other big fish.

Elton's Fish of the Trip

The Ride Home...and Before Dark!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Caney Fork and Elk River Fishing Report

There have been some fish caught this week. Both the Elk and Caney Fork are producing fish, but anglers need to know where to look and have patience. Staying focused can be as much of a challenge as anything else. The photo above speaks volumes about the insect life on Middle Tennessee rivers. Midges are still the largest hatch on both rivers and the toughest to match and certainly the toughest to  tie to a hook because of the size of the eye on these hooks and an angler's aging eyes. 
Another Reason to Get Out and Fish
The Elk River- This river needs a good flush of water to clean the bottom and release the scum and algae from some of the banks. The water temps are holding steady at about 50 degrees. However, the air temperatures are rising and soon the water temps will no doubt follow.  The brook trout that were stocked recently are adapting pretty well and are taking flies with some regularity. Who knows how long they will last? Nobody, nobody really knows. There is some speculation that they will not last the Summer and that may be true, but if the water temps stay below 60 some anglers could be surprised.
Fish Tails

Nymphs under a indicator continue to produce very good results on the Elk River. The lower reaches of the river are producing some interesting caddis and several different types of mayflies. The recent stocked fish are keying in on small dries and are still taking a dry with a little drag. Not sure how long that will last but it is a good excuse to fish a dry and even a chance be a little sloppy with the presentation. Midges (as from the photo above) are still the largest hatch on the river. Fishing the riffles and the front edge of the holes is also a good place to pick up the bite.
Healthy Brook Trout
Some Holdover Rainbows Are Still Around

Mr. No Shoulders and His Sculpin/Lunch
The Caney Fork- We have been picking up more fish on the Caney Fork. The Hatchery Brats, browns in this case, are taking dries. A small Adams is a good way to work on your reflexes. These browns are the best bet for a dry, but they catch on quick and after a couple fish are taken from the pod, they tend to wise up. When they wise up just go to the next pod and get one of two there. 
The water temps are holding about 58 degrees, depending on where the measurement is taken. There are fish holding in the dam pool, no doubt taking advantage of the cooler oxygen rich (well you know what I mean) sluice release. Nymphs are still hard to beat, but we had some looks on a hopper this week and brought some fish to the boat on streamers.
Generation is only one hour per day and the release has been steadily starting at noon. There have been some pop-up thunderstorms in Middle TN as of late and Center Hill Lake is rising although somewhat slowly. The low water in the river also produces an opportunity to fish more dries. It is still tough, but rewarding when a larger fish temporarily loses it's mind and takes a dry fly! Pretty much we are catching fish on most types of flies, but the bite isn't what I would call epic. We did get into a stretch of river last week that produced like I haven't seen in a long time. Now if we can just put a string of good sections together we will find what we are all looking for! 
Catch, Revive and Release

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Caney Fork and Elk River Reports

Revived and Waiting for Release
 Elk River- The Elk continues to fish well for us. The hatchery has released some fish, but there are less hatchery brats than usual at this time, because they missed the first stocking of the year. All that said there are still some fish at the access points. If you see the small browns rising, try running a soft hackle in front of their face or try a Stealth Bomber because they cannot resist this fly. The holdovers are still in the river, but it takes patience and it helps to know where they are located. Nymphs fished deep will bring these fish to hand. 
Stealth Bombers and Stocker Browns
The water temps continue to be good on the Elk even with the low flows of 100 CFS. The river could use a good round of generation to clean the slime off the rocks, but it is difficult for TVA to turn loose of water with the lake level at 882 feet. If you don't have a boat, be careful wading because every step sends a plume of algae and scum downstream.
The Caney Fork- The river is a bit stingy right now. The holdovers are there, well some of the holdovers are there, but it appears the constant generation over the Winter took it's toll on the slot rainbows and smaller fish. One of the results is the shoals that get a lot of pressure are not producing like a normal year. There are some fish in the deeper pools, if you can get in there between the watercraft that are on the river. The temps are a bit higher on the Caney and the US Army Corps says the lake could run out of cold water. The Army Corps hasn't done their best this year with water management, considering the drought was predicted months ago. But, sometimes anglers just have to take what they can get and  get on with figuring out the fish that are in the river and that is what we are doing. 
As for the hatches, the low water is producing some better hatches. The caddis are out in numbers in the afternoons as are several other types of mayflies. Nymphs have been working, as have the hopper/droppers.  The fish are not necessarily keyed into dries, however late in the evening there have been some takes on the dry fly game. It doesn't matter which fly you use, fish to rising fish and make sure to rest them every so often to get all you can out of a pod.
Holdover Rainbows

Monday, May 7, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fishing Report

Saturday Morning at Elkmont
Calvary Outfitters went to Townsend for the weekend and I was fortunate to tag along with the group. These guys are all a lot of fun and know how to enjoy themselves. Some fished for 3 days and some fished for two days. My trip started on Friday after lunch as Barry, Brent and me started up Thunderhead Prong looking for some rainbows. Barry and Brent found the rainbows and much to my surprise I got into the brook trout. Sams Creek is a little ways up Thunderhead and apparently some of the brookies have made their way into Thunderhead. Now catching brook trout isn't all bad and those fish reveal the positive results from the Park's re-introduction of this native species. 
The Beginning or the End?
The fly of choice was a #10 Thunderhead, after all we were fishing Thunderhead and the afternoon sun was behind the hills, so I couldn't see anything much smaller than that. Dinner was scheduled for 8:00 p.m. sharp for the other Calvary Outfitters guys and our group made it back to town at about 9:00 p.m. (this is pretty much normal for us). There aren't too many places open in Townsend at 9:00 but we found a hot meal and took our abuse from the others the following morning. 
A Rubber Leg Bead Head Pheasant Tail
...the following morning we set out to fish Elkmont. It was pretty early with a heavy fog. To say it was a tough morning was an understatement. Even Barry, who always catches Smokies trout had a tough time. Before lunch we decided to make a move and went to the Alum Cave Trail area. The fish were a bit tight lipped but as the sun came out and the hatches started, the fish came to the top and also were feeding on nymphs. The day started to turn around. We gathered again and made a second move toward Sugarlands. We fished the Little Pigeon and again the fish responded to dries, but were mostly taken on nymphs under the dries. After we had enough, it was time to head back to the motel and this time we would make the evening dinner call. Flies that worked were Thunderheads, Prince nymphs and BHPT's. A variety of dries were used to as indictaors and the bigger and bushier the better.
Sunday morning was our last day. This time Barry, Brent and I, went to Little River and fished our way high up into the backcountry. And, this time we were fishing that "last day before we have to go home" trip. You know the trip, it's the trip that makes an angler focus on the water ahead and try to forget about any problems left behind. It's just you and the rod, and the fly, and the environment, and the fish. 
The day started with a #12 Thunderhead as an indicator and a BHPT with rubber legs, then the switch to a Tellico. Added to the Tellico were several split shot and no indicator, to get down deep/ With the number of stone flies we had seen coming off, this fly just seemed like the logical choice. I caught up with Barry and Brent after a couple hours and switched to  a Hi-Vis Adams and it produced fish. By this time it felt like the drifts were good and in the right places... I kept working on technique and positioning within the long pools. Finally, after discussing the fishing and getting additional tips from Barry, I decided not to fish from the bottom of the pools upstream, but to keep a low profile and fish the pool from top to bottom. Meaning: position myself halfway up the pool without getting in the water and fish upstream and downstream in the same drift. It took some self-convincing but when that adjustment was made the fish began to respond with flashes, takes and even some more catching. One more adjustment was to get more of the fly in the water. After digging through the fly box I found a #14 Hi-Vis Parachute Adams. This fly is one of the most popular flies ever and in my humble opinion produces more fish because more of the fly body is in the film, where the trout can see an easy meal. It is easier to tie o Parachute Adams on than it is to cut the bottom of the hackle off another fly. The first cast after the change was a fish on and then a  sportsman release. We continued up the river hopping from pool to pool. The fishing picked up and so did the size of the trout. Finally we made it to a backcountry campsite and checked the time. It was time to make our way back down the river to the truck, then onto the road out of Townsend and finally back to I-40 West to Middle Tennessee. 

I know I don't get there often enough

But God knows I surely try
It's a magic kind of medicine
That no doctor could prescribe
                                                                                                           Jimmy Buffett

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fly Fishing Adventures at Ridgecrest

Fly Fishing Adventures at Ridgecrest Conference Center

In November of last year, I took a trip to the Asheville, NC area with Calvary Outfitters. The trip was relaxing and enjoyable, and the accommodations at Ridgecrest were clean, comfortable and clean. That's right I said clean twice on purpose. Well, Lifeway Books is putting together a fellowship and fly fishing trip May 21, 2012 - May 24, 2012. My friends Anthony and Blake, who also were hosts on the Calvary Outfitters trip, are helping with the hosting of this trip as well and it promises to be a good one.
As most of you are aware there is a lot of water in Western North Carolina.  Anglers can fish  the Davidson,  North Mills,  Curtis Creek, The Tuck and Cherokee, oh and the Smoky Mountains National Park and the list goes on. And, the fellowship promises to be as good as the fishing.  So if you are looking for a place to recharge your batteries, this is an excellent opportunity. You can read about the trip here and there are a few spots available.