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!