Sunday, July 6, 2014

slow on the clinch, at least for me

i had the rare chance to fish twice this fourth of july weekend. originally i planned to fish chilhowee lake friday and the clinch saturday. brookfield energy now owns most of the dams along the little tennessee river, the ones formerly owned by alcoa. with the change in ownership the tva generation schedule website is no longer listing the release schedules for the new owners, or for those of us who use the lakes they create. or in my case, the river below the dams they operate. i emailed brookfield and they replied...

Thank you for your email.

We are working at putting the information on our Smoky Mountain website ( We need to go through some IT details but the water release info should be available in the next 10 days.
Thank you for your patience,

Best regards,

thanks vanessa!

so i decided to double dip on the clinch instead. friday morning i rolled into the ramp above the weir before sunup. i unloaded the kayak and threw my gear in, first to hit the water. its a little eerie paddling the foggy river in the dark, you have to use the ridge tops and know the tree line to navigate the river. the sound of the weir helps keep you oriented as well.

as soon as there was enough light to see my strike indicator i started casting a double zebra midge rig. i was getting bites almost right away but couldn't seem to sink the hook into any meat. i changed spots and finally got a little fight.

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after landing the rainbow not much else was happening. there was an occasional rise but the water around me seemed to be pretty dead. i paddled upstream and switched to a dry/dropper rig. the wind had picked up so i chose the smallest parachute pattern i had, a size 20 BWO. i didn't expect any topwater action, the fly selection was for the wind, not the trout.

soon after the switch i picked up a nice brown near some submerged logs. this would be my last bite of the day, the river seemed to die once the sun hit the water. i tried in vain anyways.

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saturday morning i decided to try a different spot downstream. once again i was the first on the water. while paddling downstream to my intended spot i saw several fish rising. i had seen people anchored in this spot before and wondered why. i didn't look like much, but there was some action so i decided to give it a few drifts. my #16 parachute sulphur went under and i had a fight on my hands! soon i landed a fat rainbow that looked like it had been recently attacked. i suspect it was a bird, there were several different species hanging around.

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so i said i was using a sulphur. the biggest part of the sulphur hatch seems to be over with but i am still seeing a few floating on the water. i heard the afternoons are better but the flow schedule didn't jive with me hanging out that long.

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i fished my way down to my intended spot with a couple of bites along the way, usually resulting in a new midge needing to be tied on. when i got too my spot not much was happening there, except for people showing up that apparently had it in mind as well. i fished there for a bit with no action so i paddled back upstream and spent the rest of the day ignoring the riffle and fishing the flat water above it.

on my next drift i saw my sulphur once again go under and i set the hook. instantly out came a trout, with an orange belly, 3 feet into the air. i had over 40 feet of fly line out that wasn't fully tight yet. it was a pig, and i never had a chance!

down to the last of the midge that had been producing bites, i decided the 7X tippet clearly wasn't up to the task and switched to 6X. i believe it was too late however, once again the sun hit the water and the bite went dead

Saturday, July 5, 2014

June 28th with a coworker

A coworker of mine, Action Jackson, is new to fishing. I mean really new, as in he just started a few months ago by stringing up his new ugly stick with the line through the hook keeper. so far he has had some luck fishing his home water, the holston, and caught a few white bass, red eye and smallmouth. he has also had an interest in fly fishing, and far be it from me to deprive anyone from indulging themselves. i told him i was planning to fish somewhere in the mountains and he was welcome to come along and use one of my rods. i didn't have to twist his arm.

the water has been low for the last couple of months so i spent some time some time studying the flows on the various watersheds, of which we have many here in east tennessee. the tellico looked like it had the best flow, and also has several stream options so we chose to head that way. we met up in vonore and packed like sardines into in my brother in laws (stu) truck for the duration of the ride. a quick stop at hardees in tellico plains for a frisco sandwich, the breakfast of fly fishing champions, and up the river we went.

we decided to start out on north river, it is a relatively easy going stream with plenty of room for a beginner to learn the short casting techniques required on the smaller mountain streams. the water was a little stained but barely noticeable until you looked at the deeper water. we began in a riffle flipping rocks, showing AJ the bugs that live there that the trout eat, and that we would be trying to imitate. there were plenty of mayfly nymphs present, which was a good thing because i had tied up a half dozen BH pheasant tails the night before. next i showed him a couple casts, the bow and arrow and just a simple flip. a fish grabbed the dropper and soon i was stuck in a tree and explaining what i had done wrong. a little retying and i turned the rod over to AJ and played guide for a little bit. he picked it up quickly and soon had his first ever rainbow trout. it looks like he's trying to pop its head off, but i assure you it swam to fight again.

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i tagged along staying out of the way while helping him fine tune his casting, and especially with reading the water. after he had a better grasp on where the fish would be found we split up a little more to allow me to make a few casts, but still staying close.

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it wasn't long before AJ came to me needing a new pheasant tail. i made a joke about "those damned tree fish get ya every time" but he said it was no tree. a trout was the culprit he replied, and held his hands about 13" apart. i believed him, i have had a few in that size range take my offering on that stream, and most got away with it. however to my surprise, that would be the only fly he lost for the whole day.

the trout were a little slower than most days i have had on north river. i managed to get a nice rainbow to eat and missed a couple more, including a nice brown that managed to unhook himself in mid air. we were catching alot of creek chubs, horny heads or whatever you prefer to call them. when we caught up with stu he said he had caught no trout yet, but if it were a creek chub tournament he'd be world champ. we jumped back in the truck and weighed options. further upstream, or sycamore creek?

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sycamore creek it is! last time the trout were frisky so that sounded good to me.

 i have read an article that was a couple years old on sycamore creek. it talked about the conservation strategy there being a bit different in regards to the brook trout. most streams they try to completely remove the non native rainbows using antimycin, a toxin that supposedly doesn't affect anything but trout, then replace them with brookies. here the thinking is that the bows and specks can coexist, so the rainbows are thinned out by electro fishing them then placing them in the main river, the tellico. they take brookies from higher up in sycamore creek, breed them at the nearby hatchery, and then place the little guys back where the rainbows were removed.

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a short ways up my brother in law started catching the specks. in fact i don't think he landed a bow the whole time on sycamore. Action Jackson was doing well, with three rainbows caught in the same plunge pool. myself, for some reason i was struggling. the water was a little lower than last time, but that often works in my favor. being 5'7" has its advantages you know... i like to say i'm gravitationally suited for the terrain. being short means its easier for me to stay low, and when i fall, i don't have as far to fall as you.

a little further up i finally started picking up some rainbows, but not until i changed droppers to a barbie bug, or pink weenie if you prefer. with three of us leap frogging one another to keep our flies in fresh water we moved up the stream pretty quickly, and soon we were standing in the second campsite up the trail. just above that the trail left the creek and we had to bushwhack our way to the water. the stream was much smaller and looking at the map we may have landed on a tributary. i have been planning to get a gps to help solve these riddles but i'm quite a ways from buying it yet. and it didn't matter much, the smaller stream had smaller fish and they were plentiful.

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after a little bit of hardcore stream climbing, rhododendron covered water, and tiny rainbows it was time to bushwhack our way back to the trail. looking at the map later on, we were lucky it was still there and hadn't started the switchback yet. another reason for me to get a gps...

so far i still haven't caught any brookies on sycamore creek, but i will eventually. it is a great little stream, scenic plunge pools and pocket water, and easy to access. i plan to spend alot more time crawling along its beds while stalking my prey

Sunday, June 22, 2014

big creek

i have had my eye on the midnight hole for some time. i first heard about it when i moved here back in '97, but had no clue for years where it was. last year while spending an evening gorging myself on the great smoky mountains landforms map i finally found it and spent some time doing my homework.

yesterday the kidd and i finally made our way to the big creek section of the smokies. having never been there before we had no idea what to expect. the parking lot was already full and finding a spot was a little difficult. we pulled in at 11:15 am and made our way to the trailhead. it wasn't hot but it was humid like it had just rained, so we started sweating immediately.

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the trail at first follows the side of a ridge overlooking the creek in places, but for the first 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile the water is nowhere to be seen. soon enough the trail found its way back to the stream and it was a sight to behold. big boulders often bigger than a car, lots of pocket water, some small runs and hopefully lots of trout.

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we stopped and checked out a couple of spots along the way not knowing if the midnight hole was marked or how close we were. the water was low so i wondered if it would look anything like the pictures i had seen on google. we found a spot with a little waterfall and a fairly deep pool and the kidd spotted a bird nest under a rock overlooking the water, with a few trout feeding in the pool below.

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we hit the trail again and within a few minutes i spotted something familiar through the trees. the water was just as blue as the pictures i had seen and there were several trout visibly feeding in the pool in front of us. we weren't alone but were fortunate enough to get a good picture before the hordes showed up and it turned into a swimming hole. i was amazed that the trout didn't hide when everyone started jumping and swimming. they were apparently used to it and kept feeding, never more than a few feet away. one hung out so close to shore i was able to get an underwater shot of him.

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well that looked like fun so i decided i should jump too. the kidd wanted no part of it, and was content to mostly hang out and avoid the cold water.  but me, first time here, and not knowing when i'll ever be back, i had to do it. the hard part was climbing the big rock (not visible) on the left. the 10 year olds were practically running up it compared to me at 36, i slipped and scraped my right shin a little making the short climb up.

after i got that out of my system some lunch was ate, some drying out, and then we were off to find mouse creek falls. its just a short half mile past the midnight hole and there were some really good views of the creek along the way.

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at the falls i found some weird fungus growing on the side of a tree. there were alot of people down the trail to the falls and we had enough of being in a crowd for the day so we hung back and looked on from a higher perspective

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i have read don kirk's book "smoky mountain trout fishing guide" from cover to cover and still refer to it when i go someplace new. occasionally i have found his assessment of fishing quality to be understated. on big creek he wrote, "the quality of fishing on big creek does not quite match the scenery" but the multiple trout i saw earlier said different. i brought along a fly rod and wanted to test the fishing once we passed mouse creek falls. my theory is that 60-70% of people turn around from there and head for their car, and the water above would be less crowded. we found an empty spot just a few minutes up the trail and i strung up the ol temple fork 4wt with a poor mans stimulator and a bead head pheasant tail dropper.

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don kirk was partially right, this is one of the more scenic streams i've been on considering proximity to the car, but the fishing i found to be awesome! in two short runs i missed three trout on the PMS and landed three on the BHPT. i only fished for around ten minutes before the incoming clouds went dark, and we thought we heard a little thunder. not one to test fate while holding a 9ft lightning rod, i kept the tip low and we started our way back towards the truck. i hope to make it back soon to pierce some more lips and see what else this little big creek has to offer