Monday, June 14, 2010

A Visit to the Volunteer State

My good buddy Cronin had the rare chance last week to sneak away for a few days of fishing and even though I had way too much going on at work to take any time off, it was not an opportunity that could be missed. We decided that a little East Tennessee tailwater action was in order and we loaded up his new pickemup truck with camping and fishing gear and headed Southwest on Thursday morning. Our plan was to pack in as much fishing on the South Holston River as we could muster between Thursday and Sunday and be back in time for work on Monday.

Based on a tip, we secured access to some private water and camped at Judd's place right on the river. Judd couldn't be a nicer guy and gave us the run of the place for 4 days. We also met some other new friends named Blake, who took us out on his fishin' boat, along with the dogs Andy and Tater, who were our constant camp companions. I knew I was in the right place on the first day when Judd lassoed a huge snappin' turtle which ended up as dinner for one of his buddies.

The weather was "unsettled" most of the time - with threatening skies and frequent showers and storms mixed with enough sunshine to give me a nice new sunburn that gives new meaning to the term redneck. We were either hot or wet most of the time but the fishing more than made up for any discomfort. The sulphur hatch (regular yellow ones) was in full swing and we caught fish on a variety of nymphs, dries and emergers. I wouldn't call the fishing easy but once you got dialed in to the stage of the emergence the fish were keyed into, you could nail 'em. We didn't catch any huge fish but plenty of fat, healthy browns and bows kept the action hot.

The first 2 days we fished the low water from morning through midday and then at 3:30, the water would rise from generation at the dam. The current is too strong to wade the river when TVA is generating so the only effective way to fish the river is from a boat. On the first day, Blake was nice enough to take us out and show us what the high water fishing is all about. For whatever reason the bugs really come off strong on high water and the fishing was as fun as it gets. Blake taught Cronin how to swing a soft hackle pattern and taught me some new tricks as well, even though I thought I already knew how to fish a fly on the swing.

On the second night we were confident enough to try it on our own and Judd let us use his aluminum john boat. Did I mention that Judd is a nice guy?

Marty joined us Saturday and Sunday for his first trip to the Holston. I think he finally got tired of listening to my stories about our past trips here and decided to experience it for himself. I knew Marty was a good fisherman and he caught fish like an old pro on this river as I watched him bomb out casts and catch fish one after the other. I'm going to chalk it up to all of the advice I gave him about fly patterns and tactics...

Cronin ended up leaving early on Sunday (something about a wife and kids) leaving Marty and me to wreak some more havoc. Fishing was good again in the morning with fish rising to midges.

And the afternoon sulphur hatch brought some pretty, wild bows out to play.

I finished off the trip in style on Sunday afternoon by falling in over my waders and drowning my camera in the process. Luckily, I was able to save all of the pictures from the memory card even though the camera itself is toast. We decided to call it a trip and head back to real world, where jobs, bills and everything else was waiting. 'Till next time my friend.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Parking Lot Surprise

Marty was able to sneak away for a half day adventure today and we decided to revisit our mutual favorite mountain brookie stream in the SNP. In an effort to beat the heat, we met up at 6:30 and made our way to the Park. After the hike in we fished the lower stretch between the two big waterfalls and each caught a few decent fish. One funny incident happened as I was fishing a shallow spot between 2 pools. Just as I was picking up for a back cast something grabbed my strike indicator and went for a ride it never expected. This thing sailed through the air behind me and then forward again as it splashed into the pool in front of me. Pulling in the line to inspect, I found one very shaken up crawdad, still clinging tightly to my indicator with one pincher.

Since Marty had to leave around 1:00 we decided to get out and head up the mountain to the ultimate brookie hole. There wasn't much going on when we got there, so I decided to tie on a "secret fly" and do some prospecting. On the 2nd cast I hooked the biggest brookie of my life and managed to get him to the shallows at my feet where we both got a good look at his broad back before he bolted and pulled free from the hook. Needless to say, I was crestfallen about playing the fish like an idiot and losing my biggest brookie to date. We estimated that he would have gone a full 12 inches - a true monster of the mountains.

The pool went dead after that and it was time to leave anyway, so we made our way back down the mountain to the parking lot. The last time I was there I had noticed a good fish in the little pool next to the road into the upper lot, so we stopped by to take a look on our drive out. This time, there were 2 good fish in the pool and since my rod was still rigged up...

A solid 9" fish, with outstanding colors, from the parking lot pool. It almost makes me feel better about that bruiser from the honey hole - but not quite.