Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fly Fishing Tennessee

Not Looking Down?
The Elk River: It is Easter Weekend and TVA has decided it best to flush some more water through the Tims Ford Dam. The release of 3700+ CFS on this small tailwater makes it dangerous to float and impossible to wade. Recently there was a release from the stocking truck and this should flush some of the stockers downstream.
Fly Fishing in the Snow, These Guys Are Crazy
Starting Monday it appears TVA is turning off the generator. The usual flies should work in the usual places. The water quality appears to be good right now. The clarity is good so fish can see your flies from a longer distance which is good. The fish can also see anglers from a longer distance and that is not so good. When wading try to position yourself and then stay put. Don't move your feet too much and when entering and exiting the water do so at a 90 degree angle from the bank (think 90 degree rule in golf). That will help a little when moving from pool to pool or run to run.
The End of a Good Day 
The Caney Fork: Shad are coming through the dam, but for the most part the only thing eating with consistency is the birds. In-spite of the fish not responding too quickly to the shad we are still presenting float shad patterns and getting some response. Streamers are also taking some fish. Bring plenty of different color streamers, but don't bother fishing anything but the white ones.
Brent Putting a Bend in the Rod
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Fishing in the Park should start coming around this week. The weather is warming a little and that in turn should begin warming the water. The unknown to this equation is the snow in the higher elevations. However, the hatches will be coming off somewhere, regardless of the snow melt. If you like to fish the small streams of the Park and want to learn some of the more intimate details, drop me an email and I can hook you up with the folks who guide the Park on a regular basis. These trips are certainly worth the time and expense.
Donnie and Brent joined me on a float the other day. The weather was Prego, everything was "in there". We started out on a cold thermometer, even the mercury was wearing fleece. Donnie has spent most of his time in the South and he, like me, isn't too fond of cold weather. But he, like me, wants to fish. Brent never really complains because well, who knows, he probably can't get a word in with Donnie and me complaining about the cold. There was some discomfort. But then the sun would come out and warm the air only to be snowing 10 minutes later. Like I said the weather was Prego, everything was "in there".
Some Slowly Retrieved Floating Shad Results
We started the day on floating shad patterns and fished them a few different ways. A super slow retrieve produce some action. Fish were busting the top and we were targeting them. When the fish stopped responding we went to streamers. Streamers produced swipes, drive-byes, hits, and then fish. We brought fish to the net on streamers and with the water falling I wanted to test some nymphs. Nymphs produced fish as well and we were in business as other boats headed to the takeout. It looked like we would be the last boat off the water...again.
Donnie, The Bearded Guy

A Face Only A Mother Could Love
We headed to the ramp eventually but not without stopping at a few more places. Brent hooked up with a big fish that took him upstream and eventually spit the hook. We kept fishing and drowning those nymphs. I took Donnie off the line Brent was fishing and put him in a riffle that falls into a nice productive hole. That's when Brent drifted a nymph where Donnie was fishing and Brent hooked a big fish... 
Full Bellies

This Fish Has Been in a Scrap With Something (Notice the Wound in Front of the Dorsal)
...while Donnie and I discussed me changing his line, Brent fought the fish and it tried all the tricks it could try. Finally I think Donnie stopped being mad at me the fish tried one last maneuver and went under the boat, Brent played the fish right away and never lost the fish's head. The Buffalo (no, not the Great White Buffalo) finally came to the net and then it was time for the hero shot. OK, I admit I wasn't going to touch that smelly thing. Brent grabbed the fish and we took the photos. Brent learned later why I didn't want to touch the smelly thing but that is a story for another day. Oh and as usual we were the last boat off the water.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tennessee Fly Fishing

The Caney Fork River: The river is receiving a bit of reduction in flow now....finally. Still anglers can throw big meaty flies for that fish of a lifetime. The smaller fish, you know the fish that keep us entertained between the holdovers, were hanging on and just trying not to drown. Now those stockers are getting out and hoping for a morsel or two. When the flow is on the holdovers are in the soft water and edges. Drop offs that run parallel to the bank with slower current are also a good place to pick up nice fish. 
It has been several weeks since we have seen low water on the Caney and that's a long time in dog years. The forecast for the river looks promising. Keep tying those flies the chance to use them is just around the corner.

The Elk River: We spent some time on the Elk over the past several weeks. While some anglers are complaining of slow days, we have been fortunate. The fish are responding to a well placed nymph. We have even been lucky and caught fish after several drifts. If the fish aren't taking after a few passes, wait a minute or two and lengthen the distance between the indicator and the fly. Let the water settle and don't move your feet or walk around in the boat. Dropping the fly in the zone one more time, even several more times, has produced another fish for the net.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is turning up the release this week. The forecast for Tims Ford is showing a heavier release this week.  It looks like TVA is going to release water in the morning hours for at least a few days. Be sure to check the release schedule and Tims Ford Dam before heading to the river.
Smallies in East Tennessee: The smallmouth season is fast approaching and East TN will be firing pretty soon. The water temps should start to climb in the next few weeks and the smallmouth will be fattening up after a long and cold couple months. If you want to get into some smallie action on the fly, shoot us an email and we can hook you up with the folks who specialize in warmwater fly fishing. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gary and Scott's Day on the Drift Boat

Since the weather was near perfect and there was someone who needed to learn how to catch fish on the fly rod, in my mind we had two good reasons to go to the river. When Gary and I talked and set the date we had no idea the weather would be so good. The Weather Channel girl said 70 degrees and sunny, with a 15 mph wind (the only downside). That's OK some of our best trips were on windy days over the past few seasons. So we were off to help Scott catch his first trout on the long rod and to help Gary to catch his share of fish as well. And, unfortunately we also saw Mr. No Shoulders for the first time this year. 
Scott on His First Hook-up 
We pushed off from the gravel bar a little ahead of schedule, within a few minutes we were seeing bugs. Mostly we saw midges, but occasionally a caddis would pop. That was a good sign or so we thought. After some quick casting instructions and a lengthy mending discussion we were floating some productive water with nymphs. Scott got a hit and set the hook only to perform the perfect sportsmen's release. It wouldn't take him long to catch on to the take of a trout. Then both Gary and Scott began to bring fish to the net. Both anglers were into fish on a fairly regular basis. By the time we stopped for lunch the net was smelling fishy and both were in the groove.
After filling the tank with some lunch we got back to the fish. Scott was doing a good job with the morning's instruction and he "began to fish". What does "began to fish mean"? That means he was able to pick his spots, understands the currents and get a good drift. Oh, and he was catching fish.  Gary, who is a regular on the drifter, was in his usual catching mode and I was watching a plan come together. We stopped and fished a couple spots that usually we blow through. The new spots produced some decent numbers of fish and kept us entertained.
The morning bug activity was turning into an afternoon hatch and picking up. We found a pod of rising fish with only a couple trout actually eating adults. Although the fish were small they were active. We fished small adult dries through spinners, but the fish were spooky and were put down after just a couple drifts.  We stayed with them for a bit, but none wanted a sore lip. We went back to nymphs and immediately started picking up fish again. 
The caddis were starting to come off and a large hatch was soon underway. I tried to get a good photo of the hatch (see above) but the photos don't do the hatch justice. As the hatch grew larger we expected the fish to rise. Except for the one pod of risers no other fish were willing to play with the caddis. As Spring continues we keep hoping the fish will begin to respond.
It seemed as though the guys enjoyed their day. As the sun started to fall behind the hills this trip was coming to an end. We slid into the takeout once again with Scott, a new fly angler, ready to pursue trout and Gary with another successful trip under his belt. The Weather Channel Girl? She hit the forecast and that made for another very good trip on a windy day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Avery and Mark. Tailwater Nymphing Techniques

Gil Plates

Avery stopped me after a Calvary Outfitters meeting and booked some time on the drifter. He has been a creek angler for quite some time and recently decided to get some time on the drifter. His goal was to learn some additional fly fishing techniques. He would bring Mark, a long time angler and one who had previously spent time on the drifter. Mark is an accomplished fly fisherman. 
When we arrived at the river we spent time talking to TWRA. The guys at TWRA are surveying anglers to get an idea of the fishing pressure among other things.
Avery Hooked Up
There were several boats rigging for the day. Everyone was in a hurry to fish and enjoy the 60 degree weather. We pushed off from the gravel bar to get ahead of the traffic. We lost the jon-boats at the first shoal and were quick to get into the more productive water. The rods were rigged with nymphs and we hit a long pool. They endured went through my usual mending instructions. Mend, mend, mend, the proper mend technique is something that cannot be expressed enough. We discussed how the mend compliments the presentation and it is not just about whipping line around in no particular fashion. Mark hooked up first on a drift across structure, with that the skunk was gone. Avery worked some swift water and this gave him some insight on mending in a run. Just as the run settled, Avery's nymph drifted into the zone and just like that he hooked up. The guys were into the fish.
The Guys Caught Their Share of These
We fished pretty hard in the morning and Avery was getting dialed in. He was hitting his spots and catching his share of fish. Mark was hitting the spots and had a great mend, but wasn't hooking up quite as often. I didn't see him miss fish, it seemed the fish just were not falling his way. We concluded Avery had the prime spot on the river, in front of the drifter. In my mind there is not a better place on the river than in front of a drift boat.
We stopped for lunch and after eating, fished a run that will sometimes produce a decent fish. The guys worked hard on their mending in the slower and faster paced water. We continued on and it seemed we continued to catch the same fish over and over. 
Mark and Avery Working a Run
The day continued with the guys well into double digits. We floated into an all out caddis hatch. Size 14 caddis were popping everywhere. For the entire mile of the river and just before dark we continued to nymph. Why would we nymph with bugs popping? Not a fish was rising anywhere in sight. Maybe later in the Spring the fish will catch-on to a good meal...
We slid into the gravel bar as the sun set over the hills. It was a pleasure to float with Avery and Mark. Avery came a long way in a short period of time. He had all the basic skills before coming on the boat. He became a better angler because he was able to apply previous fishing technique with new fly fishing skill. Mark has been around for a while and already caught his share of fish. He has one of the best and most subtle mends I have seen and it served him well several times throughout the day. The guys fish all over the southeast and hopefully they will share some of their successes when they return from future adventures.
Clear Cool Water  You're Welcome-  Springtime

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tennessee River Bass

After fishing in the snow storm on Saturday another member of my family commented that I am as crazy as my Dad, when it comes to fishing. It just so happened my Dad was out on the Tennessee River a couple days later, fishing gear, in the same weather. He is also a catch and release angler who is dialed in when it comes to crappie. Below is a quote from his report and a photo of his largest bass (7 lbs. 6 oz.) to date. The fish below still swims in the Tennessee River somewhere...
(Report) Got a late start today and put in at the ramp about 8:30 AM and went crappie hunting. The day started out slow and only had 8 small ones and 1 small bass by 10:00 but as I scanned a different place I spotted a really big school of crappie on a ledge going from 10' or water down to 21' of water and these proved to be some hungry fish! I had 19 catches in a row and could have continued the string if I hadn’t had a bad, short cast and didn’t get the jig where the fish were. On the 21st cast continued the string with 5 more straight before missing a fish. That’s a lot of fun when you can get a string like that going! I wasn’t keeping fish today so didn’t even have the net out of the box when this big fish hit which I thought, at first, was a stripper but finally got him to the boat and then the scramble was on to get the net out of the box. Of course the net was under everything in the box and I thought for sure that the fish would get off before I could get the net out but got lucky. Dipped the fish up and brought it in to the boat ...

...I quit fishing at 4 PM with a total of 2 bass and 85 crappie....All in all a great fishing day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

...of Trout and Pepper Jelly

Anyone following this report will recognize Howard. He is a member of the 20+ Club, a fine angler, and we make a good team, if I do say so myself. What may not be apparent is, we are both aficionados of fine pepper jelly. That's right one of the snacks for the trip was cream cheese smothered in pepper jelly. I am getting a little ahead of myself here so let's start at the beginning.
Slow Flows
Howard and I pushed off for another trip. We have fished together for a couple years and all the trips are fun and for the most are relaxing. When the drifter left the gravel bar it gave me the usual feeling of leaving any worries on the bank. We rowed through the first part of the float to hit what is usually a productive pool. The pool is slow moving with plenty of structure including a bottom full of ups and downs. We fished nymphs and dries to sparsely rising fish. The pool is usually good for a couple fish, but on this float it was a wasteland of, well you get the picture it was unproductive. The only wildlife present was an otter (part of the problem) and a big beaver looking for a tree to drop.
The First Fish of the Trip
After we covered the fishless pool, I changed the complete rig.  We entered a run on fresh tippet and a fresh, well trained fly. Howard dropped the nymph in the feeding lane and gave it a good mend. Right on queue the indicator dove and we were hooked up with our first fish of the float. I stopped the boat and got the fish in the net, then took the appropriate photos.  By the time I raised the anchor Howard was into another fish. This time a rainbow came to the fly and took the indicator for a dive.  Then it was on.
Some Middle Tennessee Brown Trout Goodness
The fish continued to respond. Most of the flat water was unproductive and the majority of the faster moving water would produce a fish or two. The weather for the day was cloudy with short periods of sun. The wind was light for most of the day which made the mid 50's quite comfortable.
So we slipped into the gravel bar for lunch within eye-shot of what should be a productive run. Cream cheese and pepper jelly waited. Howard is a knowledgeable guy and he gave me some information on the finer parts of pepper jelly. (Hey we aren't all about the fish, but dang close to it). There are many different types of pepper jellies with many different ingredients. We had a couple different types and with cream cheese it was an excellent way to spend our lunchtime. Then it was back to work. 
Hard at Work on the Long Rod
A front was moving through and the fishing slowed after lunch. The action was actually at a crawl. For a bit we could not fool a fish with any of the nymphs we tried and nothing was rising. Finally we started getting a take here and another take there. The fishing was tougher as the skies were growing darker. We ended the day in a long slow pool. When the drifter slipped into the gravel bar all those troubles weren't that big of a deal anymore.
Just Missed the 20+ Club With This Healthy Rainbow

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fly Fishing Near Nashvile

A Snowy Morning in the South
Our friends who live up North and out West may barely consider this a snowfall and in reality it was just a dusting. In Middle Tennessee we take what we can get and make the most of the situation. When it snows it is a good day to fish, heck when it doesn't snow it is a good day to fish. We tried several different techniques this week and ended up finding some things that had value. As usual some we kicked the duds to the curb in quick fashion. 
Nice Hat
The Caney Fork River and Center Hill Dam have received a lot of press over the past few months. It is a good thing no one told the fish. The release from two generators is finally cutting back and we are seeing some windows of one generator releasing water and periods of no generation. 
The Calm Before the Storm. Notice the Snow on the Grass
The water temp on the Caney Fork, two miles from the dam, is 44 degrees by our thermometer. That temp is just a bit cold, but the trout are still eating and putting a bend in the rod when hooked. There has been a small number of shad coming through the dam. Fish are responding lazily and with no regularity. Watching the birds patrolling the dam pool tells me there have been some shad coming through, maybe not lately and not in large numbers. But, when we caught a nice brookie this week, on a slowly fished floating shad pattern, and found a half eaten shad hanging out the brook trout's mouth it made us stay on that pattern a bit longer. 
The water is falling out slowly with the current generation. As it levels out and the water settles streamers are getting some looks, but nymphs still bring the most fish to the net. Fishing soft hackles over the shoals works best when wading. The future generation forecast is showing there may be additional windows for wading and floating this week.
That's Got to be a Good Feeling
The Elk River is finally back to a normal flow of 100 cfs. Fishing at the access points is tough. The river bottom has been scoured and most of the vegetation that grows over the Summer has been cleaned out. For all the anglers worried about bugs and how they need weeds to hang on to, grow big under, and generally have a good place to hang around with other bugs, don't worry there will be weeds in a couple months. When the weeds come back, all will be right with the world and the bugs will rejoice and be happy once again. 
Speaking of weeds, river bottoms, and bugs, oh and fish, the fish on the Elk are healthy and colorful. Nymphs are a good way to bring them to the net. We haven't seen a brookie in several months, so maybe my prediction the Elk would be a good place for them could be wrong. We are spending some time on the Elk this week and if there is a holdover brook trout hopefully it will be as nice as the one we caught on the Caney this past week. Speaking of catching fish, cause this is a fishing report, fishing small streamers is a good way to catch'em. Just any old color might work, but white is best. Hey it's still Winter and we all know Winter means white streamers right? Right. 

There we have it, one fishing report. Now is the time to get out there and fish. The crowds are thin and it is easier to find some solitude, while feeling a rod load. My suggestion is to get out there, stand in the cold water, find what works and kick the duds to the curb in quick fashion.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Army Corps to Close Fishing Below Cumberland River Dams

Doug Markham has been doing a very good job of keeping everyone informed about the Army Corps. efforts to close fishing below the tailwaters on the Cumberland River River. Senator Lamar Alexander introduced legislation to block the closing. Below is the video of the Senator. I recommend watching and listening to his words. Thinking this isn't your tailwater so not your problem?  Think again, it could be coming to a tailwater near you...