Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Washed out on the South Holston

Alright folks time to disappoint! Kris and had planned a days wade on the South Holston. Kris made a phone call and plans changed to what anyone woulda dreamed of. Now, the plans were to hook up with a fantastic guide from the Johnson City area who has been on these waters fly fishing since he was about twelve years old. Then spend the day in his high side Hyde for a legendary float down the SoHo, chunkin' big streamers head hunting pig trout all day from the weirs to the Boone lake launch. Steven "Bubba" Dark, is his name. Kris nor I received little sleep before calling one another, around 3:50 in the morning. Remind me again why it is we do this to ourselves!?! Any who, we hooked up at the Creel fly shop, to give it our farewell, around 4:30 and shipped off pointed noses pointed towards Bristol.

We hooked to Stevens boat promptly around 6:30, locking hitch and flooring the right pedal all the way to the weir. We were all now itching looking at the water flow boiling over the weir. We saddled up and shoved off.

I think we managed to float around 10 minutes before realizing it was going to be a bad day! As we peered over the edge of the boat, all one could see, was enormous clumps of didymo accompanied by a years worth of settlement from the rivers bottom. This being the first major generation of the new year, everything was set afloat. Extremely dinged bottom, accompanied by severe cloud cover made chucking steamers a "bad" idea! Steven rowed us downstream in some unsettling record breaking pace. The kid is just as amazing behind the oars as he is with a fly rod in his hand. We managed Jacks place in under 2 hours from shoving off. Were we decided it be best we take the boat out, grab a bite and try back at the weirs after they were done pumping around 11:00am. Hooking to the boat, off yet again, with time now needing burned. Webb's Market? Yes, I do say so myself!

Here's a few shots of the weather conditions. Pay close attention to the awful cloud cover looming over head. Also keep in mind the forecast stated 60 degrees clear skies!

Here's a shot of us coming down by the church just before crossing underneath the steel bridge.

After nabbing some pumpkin spice pancakes drenched in cinnamon syrup, of course with a side of bacon I was fit to be tied. Kris, a non pancake lover, decided to try a bite of what I had left on my plate. Well, lets just say my plate left with little needing cleaned. Not to stay away from fishing but those guys at Webb's can make you like your most disliked food. They are truly master's of the culinary in my book! That's right folks, you all get the whole experience from a days fishing with me food and all!

Now rolling our stocked bellies back to the car, we headed off back to the weir to manage some wade fishing. We arrived just in time as the water had been down for around 15 minutes or so. Both Kris and Steven stood atop the weir while I strolled on off to fish the first bend just down from the weir. I struggled with re-rigging my flies and adjusting to wading with a bunch of new equipment. After a few fly changes I managed a take on a split back sulfur nymph. Nice! Now, I officially have a four hour skunk off! Was starting to break a sweat. One, for just being nervous about getting skunked and two, for consistently changing flies for about 10 minutes. I'm a firm believer in changing flies.

Trout will always eat a meal that they want. Explained. It's just a matter of finding out what they want, or simply just finding the hatch, then find out how they are taking the hatch. Do they want a ripe nymph, an emeger floating to the surface, an emerger on the surface, or simply just a dry? All of which may change depending on what kind of water your fishing it in..It can change several times within a few short steps! Faster water, for me, is the best place to throw a nymph (this will generally produce better fish as well/faster water equals cover). Emerger's in a tail out and slower water, and dry's in between! None of which is set in stone! Water depth always comes into play.

Here is the skunk off fish of the day! He took to a bottom bouncing sulfur in skinny water of around 6".

Kris and Steven wandered off of the weir, after managing a couple of fish a piece, down below where I was standing. I stood in frustration, struggling to find the right fly. I had caught and landed around 4 before moving downstream where Steven and Kris were. I passed a gentleman spin fishing from the bank who had just spilled his freshly caught trout out of his 5 gallon bucket. He said to me "I believe I'm done for the day" as he smiled and threw his days work back in the bucket.

I put in just down from where the old man had been, and watched another older gentleman getting frustrated with Steven. He was standing with a spin rod in his hand watching Steven intently, while Steven rolled in the fish. It was a sight. The guy didn't need say a word, it was written all over his face! I started working across and upstream of this gent, slowly landing fish until he became disgusted with his spin outfit and decided to spend the day at home.

I managed to constantly catch about 4 or 5 more fish on my sulfur nymph before heading down to Kris to give him one to try. It's now around 1:00 in the afternoon and the sun is about another 15 minutes from poking it bright little face out. I was intently watching the cloud cover wishing I could speed the process up. Knowing when it popped out the sulfurs would make a "dry" appearance! Well, needless to say 15 minutes later I was right, but completely wrong on thinking a fish would eat what I had to offer. Steven was taking fish on a BWO dry pattern consistently, while Kris was also managing decent numbers on a similar pattern. When the stray clouds covered Mr. Sun the BWO hatch would go into full swing and teeter off when the sun came back out bringing the sulfurs back to surface. It was frustrating! No, sooner would you tie on then have to go and change again! Thinking back on it I should have fished a tandem nymph rig with both a BWO and sulfur pattern on. Live and learn! I believe I managed a meager 10 while Kris and Steven managed about 30 a piece!

Shortly after we decided to try and hit the church access just off of Sand Bar Rd. I'm still, trying to fight off the effects of that section of water. Miserable! It's a gorgeous section of water that normally produces very well! Steven set off tagging fish with regularity, while Kris and I struggled to bring a fish to hand. Kris managed a few while I was getting skunked in this section. We made it about 300 yards upstream of the bridge, where I decided I was going to find the ticket. Sadly mistaken yet again. Kris and Steven wandered upstream while I set pouting, looking intently at my fly box and watching the water for bug activity. I watched some amazingly large sulfurs come off as the light started to dwindle. Sulfurs ranging from a size 20 up to a size 14. Smaller trout were sipping and practicing there acrobatic skills while the other grouchier more selective trout sat eating away on something entirely different.

With about an hours worth of light left I decided to re-vamp my entire method of fishing which took about 10 minutes to re-tie and re-work my leader! First cast, snap, that son of a gun (much profanity was used here) took my double surgeon and made a fool out of me. Now, thinking I've got you figured out big boy, I re-tied in an attempt to get my flies back. You can try, but it never works! No, repetition doesn't pay off if your asking yourself! Nor does persistence in the same hole. If you find your self frustrated, move to different water. One day I'll remember that when I'm not trying to out do myself! I looked at the same "hole" for about another thirty minutes or so before heading just slightly back down stream.

After watching some activity along the bank, I though I'd try something a little different. Moving proved to pay off when I hooked into a really nice brownie laying right up against the bank. He rolled and I decided I would long distance release him, you all believe me! I played the bank for a few more minutes finally bringing this absolute beaut to hand. Rosy red, and beautifully colored and a dorsal fin that just wouldn't lay flat. This trout said, he wanted his picture taken. I obliged him! I set him back in the water, revived him and then proceeded in finding out exactly what he had been eating.

Here's a few shots of the coloration I'm talking about!

Now a mention of the trouts stomach contents. Let me add a few things about pumping one's stomach. I always pick a decent size fish usually around 12", I try not to take a picture of the fish and pump it's stomach. You have to really watch how quickly you manage your fish. I felt confident in being able to pump this fishes stomach and release it back to be caught another day! You can gain a tremendous amount of knowledge from pumping but I recommend it as a last resort. I certainly wouldn't go buy a pump starting off fly fishing. It's a tool that helps us learn on days such as this. Tools are great but sometimes yield us away from the obvious! There were two obvious things going that day...Sulfurs and BWO's! Neither of which really seemed to produce for me! One good pump and this fish was sent on his merry way, splashing a bit of water in my face as he made waves back to his designated hole to fill his belly back up!

Here's the result and here is what I learned! Out of about 25 flies pumped out of this fishes stomach most of which were BWO nymphs in about a size 20 with some around 22. One gorgeous specimen and friend of mine, the black fly! This lil guy was around a size 24 and alot different looking than the pattern I normally throw. Hmmm? I also retrieved what I believe to be is a very small Sulfur nymph (though I'm no expert entomologist). Accompanying it were several size 24/26 green midges. The star of the day was a cress bug, the picture is a little fuzzy, and I forgot to mention around a size 18. This I didn't expect, but should have. Seeing as this fish was lying right up against the bank, right next to a clump of grass. Knowledge gained! Now, off to the vice with this knowledge! Now maybe the next time I'll be armed with something they will take a little more liking too! Either way here's the pics!

Black Fly Adult

A definite black thorax, but an olive green/brown abdomen! Hmmm?

Another good hatch to fish, if you can understand what's going on! The Midge! On top you will see the adult Midge and just below you will see it in it's larval form. I begin to wonder if this midge broke it's shuck in the trouts stomach. Some things just make you wonder.

I'm still not sure why I decided to pair these two. I'm not positive on what's up top...I'm going out on a limb here and I'm going to say midge. But with those big crumpled up dun colored feather's I'm hesitant to say that. Possibly a BWO, but where are the tails? Beneath is definitely a BWO shuck which proved to be the vast majority of what the fish had digested.

Yes' that is a knife and there is no such hatch. However that pretty little guy attached to it is a cress bug! Olive/brown and probably one of the bigger meals of the day for this fish!

Here's one of the best shots of the day. I'm not 100% sure of the id but I'm going with BWO. Three tails it's what's doing it for me. It did have a very yellow appearance when photographed, and appeared pretty big for a BWO. I've been playing with this picture adjusting the lighting on it and I've come up with some pretty interesting colors when tweaking the picture.

So once again knowledge gained, and off to the vice I go to better prepare for a bad day on the water. All said now, I had a great day! Spending it with and meeting new friends. Steven seems like a great guy and for certain a fantastic guide. Look him up, though I hear he's booked solid for about 2 months, starting in the spring. Though you never know when a client just can't make his water date! Tough conditions, and tough days on the water make us better fisherman. It's all about learning and catching a fish or two while your at it! As always remember that a bad day on the water beats a good day at the office!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clinch River 2/20

It was Wednesday, and presumably the nicest day of the week, so Sean and I decided to do some afternoon fishing on the Clinch. I must admit, that since moving to Tennessee, I have not given the Clinch its due. I used to live a half-mile from Twin Bridges on the South Fork of the Snake, and a 35 minute trip to the Clinch seems like quite a step down. I usually head to the National Park since it is only about 15 minutes farther away and I am a sucker for wild trout. Plus, since fishing in the Smokies is such a radically different style of fishing from western tailwaters, it can be judged on its own merits- and is a world class fishery in its own right. Comparing the Park to a tailwater is apples to oranges.

The weather wasn't super cold, it was windy but the water was off. We started the afternoon at Miller's Island and to our surprise there were only 2 other fishermen (another thing I like about the Park is the solitude if you are fishing more than a 1/2 mile from a parking spot).

There were fish rising on midges, but the wind was making casting 7x and midges difficult. The numbers of rising fish seemed low compared to calmer times, but we managed a couple of hookups. I was using a Griffith's Gnat with a green midge dropper. Sean went double nymph.

I caught one of the prettiest brownies that I have landed in months. It wasn't huge, especially by Clinch standards, but the colors were wonderful.

Sean caught a couple as well. When the wind really started to howl, we decided to pack it in. We drove up the the Weir Dam and scouted around a bit, but decided to roll back home ahead of the traffic.

It was nice to fish for just a couple of hours. I miss doing that, since when I head into the National Park it is usually for 6 hours or more. I know that there are more and bigger fish to catch on the Clinch and Holston, and as the spring progresses I am going to spend more time getting to know these two river that are so close to home.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Watauga 2/11/08

Made to the Watauga two weeks in a row. I had a regular customer, Ken, who had just purchased a new Orvis Zero Gravity Helios, this rod has been getting crazy reviews. Ken had never fished the Watauga or out of a boat. He purchased the rod to take out west this summer. I didn't think the rod should sit in the closet until his Montana trip, so I invited him to go fish the Watauga from Dong's drift boat. Also along for the ride was Clay Aalders Owner/Guide of Smoky Mountain Gillies. Clay hasn't been guiding much because of the weather, so we've had the opportunity to fish together quite a bit.

The day started out really cold and unfortunately stayed that way. We were busting ice off of the guides untill about 1pm. Luckily the wind wasn't howling and the sun would poke through the clouds a little giving us a short burst of warmth. We started fishing around 9:30am and I worked the boat fairly quickly down to the the old River Ridge campground, so that we could get out and do a little wade fishing.

Once down to the River Ridge area, Clay and Ken quickly began picking up fish on caddis pupa patterns. Fish ranged from 10 to 14 inches. We all consistently hooked fish for about 2 hours before moving down stream a little to the Caddis riffles. When we got down to the Caddis riffles we noticed one boat parked on top of them. Not usually a bad sign, but this boat had passed us almost 2 hours prior, so I'm sure the hammered the fish. All the same we stopped to fish it anyways.

I didn't expect the fising to be off the hook, but to my surprise we all started catching fish. Both Ken and myself caught our biggest fish and we had a double. To add to the excitement, Clay completed his slam. I guess the group before us hadn't spooked the fish as bad as I and feared. Fishing the rest of the day was a little slow, but I think everyone had already had a banner day and the rest was icing on the cake.

The flies of the day were Rubber Legged Copper John, IKO Caddis Pupa, and Cased Caddis. Fish to boat were in the 60 range and 10 to 16 inches. Another good day on the water with better friends.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Watauga 2/02/08

I got the opportunity to go back with Doug and Kris for another day on the water. We got started around 8:30 am and floated from the Elizabethton Launch. The day started at a bone chilling 24 degrees as we shuved off and started the float. There were a few trucks at the launch and 3 boats launched all around the time we started our drift. We knew it would be a good day, seeing as the high temperature was supposed to reach 55 degrees with clear skies.

The day started off the same as the last time we floated, maybe even a little slower. It started off slow but picked up rather nicely. We snagged decent fish at a moderate pace until making it down to the caddis riffle. Kris finished off his grand slam (a bow, a brown, and a brookie) just before coasting in. We anchored the boat and set off to wade in knee high and make waves in a different way.

Here's some of that early action!

Here's some of Kris's handy work with the net!

Kris offering the fish a moment of peace. What dreams are made of!

Doug and Kris ventured downstream killing fish as fast as they could while I ventured upstream of the boat towards a slower moving but promising looking riffle. This seemed to pay off upon loosing half of my leader to a brute of a fish. I was a little disgusted, after losing my flies and having to wade into the hole to retrieve my indicator. After retrieving my indicator and re-rigging I made a long cast above the riffle and floated it through. I felt the tug and on pursued a good fight. I brought to hand a solid and extremely fat 15, or so, inch fish.

Now, after making the initial probe with a hook up, I knew it was time to get serious and make the cast I wanted to take. The seam of the riffle where I knew a big fish would lie. The cast was made, a steady drift followed, then a very abrubt stop with a dissapearance of my indicator followed. Hooooook settt, I believe I murmurmed to myself. This 18'' fish, set of with an arial display, followed by several rolls, and consistant dives to the bottom and back into the current. I yelled down to Kris "This is a good one!" Kris started towards me, as I brought the fish to net. In the process of landing and hook removal my camera decided to make a sacraficial leap of faith. Damn! Luckily the camera strap somehow managed to land on my pinky finger but didn't manage to prevent the camera from taking a bath. Damn again! Kris came to my aid, and was also kind enough to snap a picture or two. Though I will say the picture is a less then desirable picture of myself. But that's not why where here and I'm not posing for PlayGirl anywho! No, I wasn't sneezing, I believe I was saying "Huh?''

Either way here's the fish porn.

We settled back into our slots. All three of us had a section of water we were working when it happened. TRIPLE! I beleive Doug shouted when I hooked up on a fish. Doug and Kris were both in mid fight when I hooked into another fish making Doug shout "Triple!" That's a good feeling and I would imagine that it doesn't happen all that often on the Watauga in 30 degree weather. I managed around 8 to 10 fish from my little honey hole, and I believe they both managed at "least" 10 fish a peice, from their little section of river. By this point and time I've witnessed a grand slam, a fish over 20, and now a triple. Not much else to do now but enjoy the rest of the float downstream!

I did get to enjoy the rest of that float and even got the opportunity to row Doug's new Hyde Low Pro. I will say I had an idea of rowing and thought I knew how easy it would be. I started off just trying to move the paddles in sync, a feat in itself! I never moved the boat in circles and it's definately something that takes a little muscle memory. It's alot more sensitive than it looks like it would be and takes a little coordination. It was nice to get to sit down and give it a try. Now, I just have to work on getting one of my own. I managed to row in a straight line for about 100 yards before finally kicking the boat around to float forwards and anchor off. We stopped at a good riffle that was already tied up with another boat and it's fisherman. Doug and I stayed in the boat, while Kris got out and worked down to the other guys. Doug's ankle was hurting, and I was just completely satisfied with what we had already accomplished. Kris worked the riffle where the other two guys where and we floated down to pick him up. We worked another good section of water, picking up a few more fish before settling down on another good spot while in the boat.

Kris and Doug managed quite a few nice fish in a sweeping, slower, deeper run of a riffle. I managed myself out of the boat and downstream of the guys. Something I forgot to mention, is somewhere between the campground and my current location I had lost my only working fly. I got a few hits the rest of the day but nothing seemed to locate fish the rest of the day, at least for me.

Here is a pic, courtesy of Kris, of Doug's fish.

We floated on down through the last sections of water picking up another fish or two. We passed two anglers hooking up on every cast. We anchored off about 50 yards past them to see if we could manage the action ourselves. I re-rigged while Kris hooked up on a few more good fish and I believe I even managed one or two more.

Here's a picture of one of my last fish of the day.

We anchored up and floated down to the steam plant to pack in for the day. I believe we pulled the boat out around 6:00pm, and talked to a few guys about their day on the water. No one really complained and there was three smiles on three individuals faces for sure. Over all, it was an excellent winter day on the Watauga. One that won't be soon forgotten. Everyday that I get to spend on the water, is building a lifetime worth of memories and something to pass on to my friends and family.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Caney Fork 2/01/08....This time it worked.......

Alright, so if you read the last post our previous trip didn't go so well, but it was a good learning experience. I'm not sure what I learned though. Clay and Sean proably learned not to go on wild goose chases with me.

So I've had some really good days on the Caney Fork the last couple of months and in talking with Clay, he was wanting to check it out for himself. With that we decided to hit up the Caney Fork. We left Knoxville around 7am and got to the Caney around 8am, due to the time difference. I missed the exit for the dam and proceeded to the next exit. We took the round about way and I showed Clay the Betty's Island access along with a few others. We took a tour of the dam and looked at the crazy leaks coming out of the bluff, which always makes me a bit uneasy, untill I start thinking about the fishing and forget about the possibility of being washed away.

We stoped first at a pull off along Lancaster Road that I had never fished before. As we were rigging up we could see some fish rising on the far bank. After climbing down to the river we saw that the fish were rising to some very small midges. We both tried some nymph rigs to start with, but that produced no results, so we switched to some small Griffs Gnats and began picking up a few small fish. About this time it started sleeting and the hoods came up. A little while later I switched to a dry dropper rig. My dry was a large Parachute Adams and the dropper was Bead Head Pheasant Tail type nymph tied by Steven "Bubba" Dark. I think he calls this one Just Add Water and that is about the truth. I stuck a few more small bows before heading off to another location farther down Lancaster Road.

Our day almost came to an abrupt end as we had placed our rods in the back of my truck with the bed topper propped up. I thought it would stay in the raised position as we drove down the road a few hundred yards, but due to the high winds I was wrong. I looked back to see that the bed cover was no longer in the up position and for a second I thought of not even telling Clay and just driving home, as I envisioned our rod tips dangling by a bit of fly line and leader. I gave in and pulled over very quickly, we both expected to find two broken rods, but to our surprise they were both okay. I guess the fishing gods had blessed us this day.

Okay, disaster adverted and on to the fishing. This second location is a spot that I had witnessed some very large browns spawing back in the fall. After getting into position we found some very nice sized fish rising to emergers and small midges. Rigged with dry dropper rigs we began to pick off fish after fish. At times they were rising all around us. Nothing gets my heart racing more than seeing fish sip dries off of the surface. We both caught some very nice fish during the small hatch. Afterwards I started getting a little creative and swung a Wiggle Minnow down the entire run. I didn't get any firm hook ups but I did get five or six very aggresive follows. Oh I also didn't mention the twenty mile per hour wind gusts, the fish didn't mind and we didn't mind as long as they were on the end of our line, but it did make things difficult at times.

This trip turned out the be very successfull and I'd say we landed around fifty fish toghether with a few really nice ones tossed in the mix. The Caney Fork surprises me every time I go and I always leave planning my next trip.