Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork

After a trip to the mountains we were back on the home waters this week. We floated the lower part of the Caney Fork, trying to beat the traffic on the upper floats. The fish were there but not always where we thought they should be. With the current generation it is easy to spend most of a day low on the river and with low water too. The hatchery brats are at most of the access points and are still in their pods. 

If you find one fish close to an stocking point there will be several more in the same area. We started on nymphs and as the day wore on we moved onto dries with droppers and eventually just dries. There were a few caddis coming off later in the day, but the majority of the bug action was a size 14 yellow may fly. On practically every shoal there was a hatch of bugs and a hatch of birds. It is a lot fun to watch a bug come off the water and begin its flight only to see two or three birds race from different directions and one of them grab the bug like a trained fighter pilot zeros in on a bogey. It is nature at its purest. 

The brookies are easy to spot on the river right now. The white tips of the fins almost glow and stick out in the clear water. They are not easy targets, but they are a sucker for a dry fly. Comparaduns worked pretty well and as has been the case over the past few floats an Adams also brings fish to the top. Be prepared for some refusals. At one point we were fishing to feeding fish and changed flies about every 5-10 casts. We went from medium to small, then to large and it seemed like every size in between. The fish in one pod would all seemingly rise at the same time and if the fly was drag free at least two or three would check it out and occasionally one would take. Sometimes we would get one to the net and sometimes the point of the hook would moss the target and we change the fly again. It is a game that is fun to play.   
So that was one side of the story. The other side of the story is the fish that is oblivious to a boat or a wading angler. Just plop the fly down while it is feeding and it takes the fly. Just like that, no hesitation, no thinking, no competition from other fish driving the eat. Just rise to the fly and eat. Yes it happened that way too. Not sure why but it did and we like it when that happens. 
The air is hot right now and the bugs are hatching. Nymphs are working as are dries. Streamers will get the fish going a bit crazy too. The afternoon floats are a good time to get out and catch the evening hatches. We are doing half day trips for the afternoon hatch. If you want to catch some fish on top now is a good time to get on the drifter. Just give me a call or send a text or email and we can get a day on the books.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fishing Calderwood Lake

"The guy did a Peter Pan right off of this dam, right here" Deputy Gerard (The Fugitive 1993)
We decided to take a trip to Calderwood Lake on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina for a few days of trout fishing. Our campsite was just downstream from Cheoah Dam, which was made famous in the 1993 movie "The Fugitive". Calderwood is a lake controlled by a dam, which makes it somewhat like a tailwater and somewhat like a lake,although it fishes completely different than either.  This body of water is stocked with trout, both rainbows and browns, and there is rumor of lake trout in the deepest parts. Largemouth, smallmouth and red eye share the water with the trout and have been known to bite such flies as Wooley Buggers and such. The campground is primitive but clean and most campsites are waterfront. The people who shared the campground with us were nice and also there for the fishing. 
Jim Tried the Other Side of the Boat
On this trip the fishing was tough for the most part. The lake did manage to give up some prized fish and on the first full day of fishing we made our mark, compared to the other reports in the campground. The morning started with Gary catching a nice smallie up by the dam. Then he caught another one right after that and we thought we had something figured out. Then as is sometimes the case with scouting a new piece of water we entered a long dry spell. We banged the banks, threw terrestrials and dries, then we ended up fishing nymphs with the small amount of flow from the dam. There were slow drifts, super slow drifts and most over 5' deep. Jim decided he would try the "other side of the boat" and hooked up with a nice bow. Then another and another. I tried to Bogart his water, but he continued his streak. Then it was time for lunch. The count was Gary a few, Jim several and well that was the count...
We Fished That Spot Right There
After lunch we went back to the well and continued long, deep, slow drifts with nymphs. The fish continued to come to the stoneflies and drown the indicators. We got the appropriate photos and ventured off for new water as the other folks in our group arrived. 
Gary With Some Smallmouth Goodness
The View From the Front Casting Brace
The others arrived and set up camp, then they went to try their hand at the waters of Calderwood. We pretty much fished every style of fly we could find in the box and had some fish to show for the efforts. We fished in the sun, rain and the storms. The small campground was spared the worst of the storms that crushed Tennessee, the first evening as we rode them out in our tents.
This evening was still young and the storms were building. We built a fire and grilled some stripe that were caught on a warm water river in the Spring. We had guitars and watched shooting stars. There was good conversation that solved some, if not most, of the worlds problems. The night was young as the storms continued to build. The rain finally sent us to our tents. 
Base Camp
Fish Tails
The Only Brown of the Trip.
Jim Took This Photo...Really He Did
Note to Self: Always Try the Other Side of the Boat
The next morning was unusually tough. Everyone's ego took a beating. At lunchtime we regrouped and changed some tactics. Gary got on the oars for a trip to Slickrock. Barry and I pounded the banks with streamers. After fishing the mouth of Slickrock (hey everyone needs to do this, if for nothing else but the scenery) then  we started pounding the banks back up the lake. We had hits here and there but nothing to write home about. I even took a musky fly and fed the fish with that for a while. It drew only a halfhearted strike from something deep in the lake. Soon we were on saltwater flies of which we didn't even know the name. They were sleek minnow imitations made of Puglisi and flash and finally we saw some action. It was a tough day but a good day.
Lake Front 
The Eyes Have It
The Drifter at Work
Fishin's Hard
A Quick Stop at Chilhowee
 I could go on about the fishing and what all was used to catch the fish of Calderwood. But, other than a morning and early afternoon of nymphing we did not crack the code with any regularity. The views were outstanding and the camping was good. The company was good as well and the stories were entertaining. If you go to Calderwood take a variety of flies and techniques. Be ready for some dry spells as this lake/tailwater is a difficult nut to crack. When a fish does decide to eat it is usually a quality fish and picture worthy. 
Revived and Released

Sunday, July 15, 2012

River Revenge

Early Morning with the Sun Coming Up
Howard came back and we got some revenge on the river. Th last time we fished together TVA had a problem with the dam, which resulted in low water flows and spilling warmer water into the river.  That trip was not fun and this trip we hoped would be not only better but much better. I woke up and checked the Accu-porch weather, which showed a cloudy morning on the upcoming sun. Load the fly boxes and cooler into the boat and the rods hanging in the truck, then off to the river. Howard was right on time and soon we were on the gravel bar launching the drifter. A quick call to TWRA to report some poaching and then we were floating down the river.
Howard Hooked Up
It did not take long before Howard was hooked up on an old pattern that I had completely forgotten about, until Corey P. brought it up in a recent conversation. I dug through some old fly boxes and added the midge pattern to the days fly choices. Thanks Corey the pattern hooked up early in our float. Howard was on a dry dropper and the dropper produced a few brook trout. Then we found some rising fish and began fishing to feeding fish. 
Just Another Fool for a Dry Fly
Howard is an excellent dry fly angler. We fish dries on floats from time to time, but when the fish aren't cooperating he doesn't mind going to the nymph. We found a fresh rise ring and Howard cast just upstream. The fish rose to the dry and Howard stuck the fish. A short time later there were high fives and such as the fish was reviving in the net. The morning was still early and this wouldn't be the last fish of the day on a dry and it sure was fun. 
Just After Morning Coffee
Caught & Released
We fished dries off and on as we drifted down the river. The usual nymphs worked well as we expected. Long, slow and painful drifts were extra slow on the low water release. The water temps are still 59 degrees or so on the 85 CFS release. So there is some cold water but not a lot of it. Rain would be one of the many stories of the day. The rain was heavy at times and short lived most times. There were short drizzles and blowing winds, which are typical for this time of the year. The water clarity is still good and that is sometimes half the battle.
The Browns Were Out and Took a Nymph

A Different Kind of Refusal
Howard and I stopped at a place where on my last float there was a feeding fish. We slipped into the pool and found what appeared to be the same fish. On this day the fish was not feeding as aggressively as the last time, but it was still high in the water column and looking up at the passing food. We made a few passes with a dry dropper and the fish was not paying too much attention. But one of the drifts was right on line and the fish was looking. The fish rose again and almost nosed the fly, then it turned toward the bottom and refused the fly. After a fly change and a few more passes the fish came to the fly again and gave a slight refusal, then it just swam into the bottom of the pool and disappeared. We made a move to more feeding fish downriver.   
Net Revival

More From the Dry Fly
A short time later we came to a pool that used to be my favorite pool on the river. On this day there were rising fish in that pool. Usually the fish in this pool, for the most part, are normally brown trout. There isn't anything really huge in the pool, but the fish are healthy. Howard dropped the dry fly along the edge of some structure and then he was setting the hook as fast as any angler I have seen. The fish gave a nice fight before conceding the fight and came to the net. We fished a bit more in some run-off before pushing on. A short time later there was another rise ring. We searched for the fish and after a couple drifts and passes we backed up and got a longer upstream drift. The fly settled into the current and the brown rose to the small dry, took the Adams and Howard was right on again. We shot some photos and then we began pacing ourselves to beat the storms. 
Phish Tales
The storm came a short time later. When the storm came it came with high winds, lightening, and very heavy rains. It seems no summertime trip to the river is complete without a storm or at least a chance to try and outrun a storm. The day began to wind down and new storms were forming in front of us. I settled in behind the oars and we briefly hit the better pools before we relented to an all out row for the takeout. The river is fishing pretty good right now. As you can tell dries are working as are nymphs. The numbers are good and could have been better if we had stayed with the nymphs all day. But how can anyone resist a chance to stick a feeding fish on the dry fly?
This is what the Pre-Storm Looked Like

Monday, July 9, 2012

Middle TN Angling

What's Around the Bend? 
This week I have been working on midges for the multiple midge hatches going on now...and pretty much always on the tailwaters of Middle Tennessee. Fishing midges is fun and fishing them under a dry is even more fun. The thing about fishing the midges under the dry fly is, the fish come to the dry at times and there lies the problem. Eventually fishing midges turns into fishing straight dries and that is addictive. Addictive to the point that anglers will float down the river, fish off and on throughout the day, then when there is a fish feeding on top, they jump up and pull out the dry fly rod and start least it seems that is what I do.Let's move onto the fishing report.
Healthy Brookies
The Caney Fork- The river is fishing pretty good and in the late afternoon the fish are midging pretty heavily.  Low water is pretty much the key to catching these fish. The US Army Corps is releasing water for much of the day and late into the evening. So, watch the generation by calling and/or by checking the website before going to fish. The water temp are about the same as they have been the past few weeks and in the low 60's several miles downstream. 
Fish ON!

Healthy Bows
The water clarity is very good on the Caney right now. It appears all that generation earlier in the year flushed the bottom of the lake and cleared the water, even as far down in the lake as the sluice pulls water. In the Fall last year the sluice was running and the water clarity was poor at best and the fishing was only OK because of it. The clear water we see this year is good and gives the river a healthy look.  But, it also gives the fish a more clear view of fly rods whipping, lines flying and hitting the water. One or two false casts and long leaders are just a couple of ways to combat the view of the fish. Also, the fish have a long inspection time and know the same old flies better than we do when the come off the vise, or so it seems. A buggie nymph seems to be working better for us right now. 
Working on an Exit Plan

A Brown on a Single Nymph
The Elk River- The river is fishing good right now. The folks at the Dale Hollow Fish Hatchery released a bunch of brook trout, along with a good group of small browns. Add to that a couple thousand bows from Flintville (pronounced- flin-vul) and there are plenty of stockers in the upper section. There are some holdovers as well. However, they have been tight lipped on the past few trips but there are still some there.
Brent Hooked-Up

Bows on Dries
The dry fly is a lot fun to fish on the Elk. Of course we still fish nymphs as a primary means of catching and a lot of the larger fish, but it is that way on most rivers. The terrestrials are out and about as well. They are fishing a bit slow although we are still getting some hits on these patterns. Most of our all day trips are on the Elk and we are running half day trip on the Caney as generation allows. As the forecast gets more "angler friendly" we are starting to book trips on both rivers. 
The Drifter Taking a Break

Fish Tails
Also don't forget- there is an opportunity for someone to pair with another angler on a half day trip. What does that mean exactly?  If someone is looking to split a half day but don't have anyone to go, we have a gentleman who wants to split a half day with another angler. For anyone who is interested, just drop me an email at or call 615.796.5143.
Leaves in the Water, It Only Looks Like Fall Out There

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trip Sharing

There is an opportunity for someone to pair with another angler on a half day trip. What does that mean exactly?  If anyone is looking to split a half day but don't have anyone to go, we have a gentleman who wants to split a half day with another angler. For anyone who is interested, just drop me an email at or call 615.796.5143.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Caney Fork Fly Fishing

Hot Action
It's been hot here in Middle Tennessee and where better to spend the day than on a cold tailwater? I have been on the river quite a bit over the past few weeks and the action has been very good some days and slow others. The hatches been good on the Elk as well as the Caney Fork, but we will get into that later. 
Before we get too far into this report, I would like to say thanks to all the folks who have booked trips so far this year. I am looking forward to seeing those anglers who are re-booking again and to meeting those folks who are thinking about and booking for the first time. It has been a good year with some nice fish and great floats! 
Stopping to Wade on a Hot Summer Day
The Elk River- After a few weeks of crazy water flows and water that was low and warm, TVA has the dam fixed and the flow is somewhat back to normal for this time of the year. The water temps at the gravel bar below the dam has been a consistent 58 degrees. The fish are much happier and the bite is on in the upper and mid section of the river. The larger fish are back in action and the last round of fresh hatchery brats keep a float interesting. 
Behind the Scenes
The water on the Elk is clear, so longer casts are a must. We try to get the fly in the zone before the fish notice the boat, which keeps the anglers on their toes when false casting and mending. The clear water also keeps the guide on his toes when putting the boat into position when fishing the pools. The fish have a lot of inspection time, so the flies need to have an appetizing look. A fly that is tied sloppy or worse yet out of proportion is a recipe for a long day. Presentation is critical too. Mending, well mending may be more critical than it has been in the past several years. Drag is easy to spot when the water is this clear.
There is More Than Just Fishing
One more thing we have been doing on the Elk is dropping a soft hackle under a dry. This has produced mostly hatchery brats, but they are fun and a good warm-up for those better fish we are taking on nymphs. The fresh brookies in the Elk and the small browns take the dry from time to time and they can be a challenge for any anglers reflexes. Dropping a midge below the dry can also produce a bent rod.
Fish Tales

The Dam After Dark
The Caney Fork River- This river will be crowded through Labor Day. The water temps are in the low 60's on the lowest water and downstream of Happy Hollow. TWRA has turned loose a bunch of Hatchery Brats that that always seem to be on the eat. We were fishing to a nice rising fish the other day. There were also other fishing rising, but the fish we were after was noticeably better. It seemed like every Hatchery Brat in the river ate or was on our fly. The nicer fish couldn't, or didn't want to, eat.  So we caught some fish on the midge but the fish we were really after never hooked up. That's OK we were still bringing fish to the net.  
Just a Little Farther
Streamers on the Caney are producing fish. The deeper holes are worth probing with a sinking line and light fly. We have been fishing some big flies and although we get follows from smaller fish, the larger fish are taking the fly. There are still some white bass in the river and they are lazy. However, they will come off the bottom for any color streamer, as long as it's white. 
Get the Point
The Caney trout still like the nymphs. When the generators are off and the water is falling, nymphs, still seem to produce better fish. Fishing from the drifter ensures a drag free drift and with the clear water drag is bad! So fishing from the boat makes life easier.  Recently, a client said there are a million things to remember and they were right about that.  Depth is as important as most everything else and is probably the easiest change to make. Get the right fly, with a good mend, far enough away from the boat and if the fish are there but not on the take, sometimes just a simple depth change will produce the fish. 
One for the Old Timers 

That Isn't a Buffalo
The scenery on the Elk and Caney are both outstanding this time of year. With the current weather there is a lot vegetation that is turning brown. The vegetation close to the river though still has a lot of green left.  We have seen some trees that are already shedding their leaves, but those trees are usually higher and on the ridges and small bluffs. 

Dan Hooked Up

Right Side Down?
How to catch a smallie. There are many ways to catch smallmouth bass. We were fishing nymphs the other day and saw a rising fish. What is one of the most productive ways to catch a fish? Fish to rising fish! We were on nymphs when a rise ring formed just off the bank. A false cast or two to gain some line speed and the fly was then landing about a rod length upstream of the rise. The fly settled, the indicator did a short dance then stopped. The next move of the indicator was a little more aggressive and the hook was set. These fish fight longer and harder than a trout of the same length, but eventually they will give up and come to the net. This fish took a nymph, which is a bit unusual, but made for a good laugh.   
Donnie Hooked Up
There it is, the report from the tailwaters of Middle TN. Pretty much everything will work right now, but the fish are a bit picky. The water clarity is as good as I can remember and that is good and bad. Right now we are setting records with these high temperatures. So, if you go fishing right now take plenty of fluids along. Drinking a couple bottles of water on the way to the river isn't a bad idea and drinking a couple more while fishing is a must. 
We are ready to book trips for hopper season and the fish are starting to look up. For now there are slams to be caught on both the Caney and the Elk. Half day trips on the Caney are a good way to spend an afternoon or morning out on the water. So if you are thinking about booking just give us a call or shoot an email. For now, it is time to go tie some more flies and get ready for the next round of floats. Thank you for stopping by!
Smallies on Nymphs?