Category Archives: Tailwaters

Tennessee tailwater fly fishing information, reports, tips and tactics.

The Tennessee Tour

Let me first say how fortunate I am to live in an area that has such great and diverse fishing opportunities. East Tennessee has everything that a fisherman could ever want. From small mountain streams to tailwaters that fish like rivers in Montana and plenty of lakes in between.

Every year one of my really good friends, Wade, comes into town and we do a little fishing. The past couple of years we have always stuck to the tailwaters, but this year we realized that he had never fished in the Smokies. The streams in the Smokies are a true one of a kind experience, there is really no place that is just like them. So, this year we decided we would hit the Smokies. Day-One, we started on the Clinch and also got to fish with Doug (local east tennessee fishing legend turned corporate selling phenom ;-)). Day-Two we headed up to the Smokies for some small stream fishing and finally on Day-Three the South Holston.

The Clinch fished great. The water was slightly off color and there was a heavy fog on the water when arrived at 8am. We floated from Peach Orchard to Hwy 61. The fishing started off a little slow, but got good quickly and remained good until the 2nd generator caught us. Your standard rig of midges and pheasant tails produced as always under and indicator.

The Smokies, we woke early to find a band of really nasty storms rolling in from Kentucky. They were moving at about 60 miles per hour and looked really gnarly over the pleatau. Wade immediately thought the fishing would be done as he looked at the red masses on the radar screen. However, I had hopes that the storms would break up over the pleateu as I’ve seen happen on many occasion. So instead of rushing out to fish we hung back to see what would play out with the first band of storms.

What other way to wait out a storm than to spend the time cooking up some homemade biscuits and gravey. Let me restate that, this is no ordinary B&G, this gravey was made with Benton’s Bacon!, only the best ever, life changing bacon I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. When you cook it the smells will fill the entire house for days! It’s awesome!

First, wave of storms had passed and we took advantage of it and headed up into the Smokies. My original plan had been to take Wade into a special area that is tough to get into and fish. The only problem is once in this area you are basically stuck in the river until you come out at a trail crossing. When we got up there the water looked a little off color and it was starting to rain again. We knew that there was another storm on the way, so instead of betting our lives on fishing an area that would be subject to flash flooding, we opted for some high elevation road side fishing. We headed up to Walker Camp Prong. The fish cooperated wonderfully and we brought some really nice Rainbow trout to hand as well as a couple really nice brookies (however I left the camera in the car).  Para Adams produced all day as long as you got a good drift.

The South Holston, the fishing was just so so. They had been sluicing 250 cfs for the last couple of weeks and I had heard that the fishing was really good. However, we got there to find that they had completely shut the water off. I mean completely, nothing siltch, no water coming over the grates at all. It seems that they had decided to do a little house keeping on the wier dam. Fearing that it would take forever for them to get the water back on, we headed down to lower Big Springs road. When we arrived the water was about normal for low flow and we fished a couple of my favorite pull offs. There were a few sulphurs rising and the fishing was pretty consistent on dry dropper rigs. Later we headed back up to see if they’d turned the water back on and we fished up near the grates till the sun began to set.

Three full days of fishing go by so fast. It already seems like it happened months ago. There really isn’t enough time.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Clinch River Heats Up

The generation on the Clinch has not been the best this year due to very high water.  In addition to work, I have also been working on my MBA through Tennessee Tech, which has limited the amount of fishing that I’ve been able to do.  So this last weekend was a great treat.  I had worked all Memorial Day weekend, so I managed a five day weekend off.  Also my mother and father were going to come down on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The plan was for my father and I to fish on Friday, so I figured I should do some pre-fishing on Wednesday and Thursday, as a good son should.

We are also in the middle of heat wave so I opted to only fish for about six hours or so in the morning so that I would be off the water by noon and could get some things done around the house the later part of the day.  Oh the joys of home ownership and having a beatiful yard of clover!

On Wednesday I fished by myself out of the drift boat which is not really the easiest thing to do.  Trying to man the oars, control the anchor and cast to rising fish while floating down a moving river is somewhat complicated.  The best way that I’ve found is to cast way infront of the boat then drift with your fly while you have the rod proped up with your feet.  Also, of course you can anchor up in good riffles and fish them the way you normally would.  Just a note, but landing bigger fish from a boat with a 9′ 4wt. and 6X tippet by yourself is a little tricky, make sure you have the big net.

The conditions Thursday were going to be the same as the day before, but this time I had two friends that were coming along.  Mike and I had fished together before, but David the other gentleman had not fly fished in over fifty years.  I really wanted to get David on a fish, but it was great to hear his past fishing stories also.  I wish I could go back in time and fish some of the places I fish today before they ever became popular.  Some of them wouldn’t probably exist, but others would be lights out.

The fishing Thursday was pretty good and really heated up during a one hour pulse that came through.  I think that little bit of increased flow really makes the trout happy.  We landed some nice fish and lost even nicer ones, but that’s how it goes.  If I landed every big fish I hooked, what fun would it be.

On to the last day, Friday, again the conditions were pretty much the same as the last two days.  We opted again to fish in the morning as to get off the water before the heat set in.  My father has only done a little bit of fly fishing and not caught much.  Today however was a little different.  We caught some good fish early in the day, but the highlight was the one that got away.  Towards the end, my dad hooked a monster Rainbow Trout!  We fought it for a good bit, but right at the end the big Rainbow  made one last ditch dive under the boat and spit the hook.  So goes it, but I’ll be back.

The Clinch is fishing good and the river really seems to have some great fish in it right now.  We caught all of our fish on Split Case Sulphurs size 16 and 18, Black Zebra Midges size 18 and 20 and Bead Head Pheasant Tails 14 to 18.  If you are needing a guide for the Clinch check out the following CR Outfitters and Smoky Mountain Gillies.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Size doesn’t matter with a skunk on your back

Okay…go ahead and admit it.  You’ve been guilty of wishing for a small fish.  Sure, we all hop in the water with visions of one of those grip and grin laviathans that will make us the envy of all our angling buddies.  We picture the perfect hookset, the admirable fight, the headfirst guide into the net, a smattering of accolades from angls who saw the whole thing and were impressed by your skill.

Then the real world hits…

You’ve been fishing for four hours and haven’t got so much as a twitch.  Nada.  Nothing.  It is around this time, when you can see the end of your trip in the distance, that you are just wanting to get the skunk off your back, just one fish to justify the trip, just one fish to put a bend in the rod; even if the fish is so small that the rod only bends a couple of inches from the tip.  It is moments like that when you don’t really want to impress anyone, you just don’t want to be the poor schmuck who leaves without anything.  This usually occurs when those around you are catching a few.  Pride has a way of making us ruthless in our desire not to be odd man out.

Recently, I was on such a trip, in this exact set of circumstances.  I was fishing with my ol’ buddy Jermz, who by the way is one of the most prolific anglers I have ever seen.  I’ve even seen him catch fish literally right on top of his boot in six inches of water.  Love the guy, but sometimes I just wish I’d see him get skunked.

To continue with the story…I got to the river at around six, full of the aforementioned thoughts of glory.  He showed up about fifty yards down stream three hours later.  I had yet to get a bump.  Not fifteen minutes later and he has an impressive bend in his rod.  So, in line with these modern times, I broke the anglers code and called him on my cell phone.

“Hey man!”, he says full of glee.
“What did you catch that one on?”
“Pheasant Tail”
“Thats what I am using and haven’t caught any.”
“C’mon down!”

So, with my tail between my legs, I wade downstream.  He caught three more by the time I arrived.

Two hours at least pass and I reached the point where I was just hoping for a minnow.  Then I notices a healthy Sulphur hatch.  Of course, I had no Sulphurs.  The only thing I had close in color was a size 14 Yellow Humpy.  Not exactly matching the hatch.

Three or four unproductive casts, and then it happened.  WHAM!!!! A trout that we both agreed would go t least 24 inches came roaring skyward with my fly in its jaw.  I set the hook and the fight was on…for all of about five seconds.  That beast snapped 5x tippet without slowing down.  Never even got him turned.  He felt the hook and just took off.  I was left shaking and empty handed.

“My God that was a monster!” He says.

“I never had a chance.”

“He was so big he could hardle get airborne.”

“Yep.”

In the next two hours, neither of us got another hit.  Storms rolled in.  The day was done.

No, I didn’t catch a single fish.  I left with the skunk I rode in on.  But that morning, I hooked a fish of impressive length and girth in full view of one of the most respected anglers in my circle of friends.  If only for five seconds, I was on top of the world, and I had a story to tell.  A story to tell with a witness.  Sometimes that is enough.  Even though the smell of fish was absent as I slid into my ride and headed home.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Holston River and Caddis Hatching

It has been hard to get on the water this year.  The addition of grad school to work has taken up much of my free time.  I have finished my first semester and it feels great.  So, I was really happy to get on the water and do some fishing with some good friends.  Because, Brad and I work together, we rarely get the opportunity to fish, but when we do it is a real treat.  Brad is a great person and is great to work with.  Jeremy also met up with us and I don’t think he had been able to fish much as he has a new photography business that is beginning to take off.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather of fishing conditions.  The temperature was in the high 70’s sunny with some cloud cover and a nice breeze.  To top it all off there was a small caddis hatch going on when we got on the water and the fish were rising.  There was a large tan caddis hatching and a smaller grey caddis.  The fish were willing to eat either one and as Brad found out they’d also eat a parachute adams also. 

We all caught some great fish, but the big fish of the day goes to Jeremy with this nich beauty!

facebookmailfacebookmail

Spring Fishing Report Southeastern Style!

Spring

                       Fishinghttp://i686.photobucket.com/albums/vv230/woolly_bugger/jpeg1-1.jpg

                                             Report

                                                                       Southeastern Style…

Hiwassee River Update…We have a great spring situation occurring on the river now. TVA is doing some work to the penstock in Apalachia Lake so we are getting a constant flow from the dam which is the equivalence of between one and two turbines. This should persist through April and is a perfect flow to fish the upper river from the powerhouse to Reliance and the middle section. We very rarely have these flows. I believe it has been about eight years since the last opportunity. What this means is we get to fish the upper and middle sections from the drift boats and that is where the best mayfly action occurs. We have Hendricksons with caddis mixed in turning to Sulphurs late April into May.

http://i686.photobucket.com/albums/vv230/woolly_bugger/jpeg1.jpg Bottom of the World Almost…Our Patagonia trip this past February was fantastic as always. The fishing is always epic, but what makes it so special are the people and the place. We have a great group go every year and this year’s group from across the country was no exception. Our Chilean hosts and local guides are some of the most hospitable on earth and the country is mysteriously enchanting with another stream or river around every corner.

Chile is home to some of the world’s best and least explored trout fishing. We continue to fish new water every year. Plans are already underway for our 2012 trip which happens to be the big hatch year for the Cantaria beetle; a fierce looking but harmless insect, up to 4.5 inches in length and a favorite meal for the rainbows and browns. Join us for the fun next year.

The Crystal Ball -Trout Fishing in the Southeastern U.S….Every year about this time people start asking, “How is the fishing going to be this year?” Well, one thing is for certain – every year is different. But based on our winter and early spring weather summary, we are set up for one of the best seasons in east Tennessee and north Georgia. We had a good cold winter with rain and snow which provided us a stable supply of cold water for our mountain trout streams and a cold water reserve in our reservoirs. We have had an extremely wet March which has given us quick lake fill in the TVA reservoirs. So, we should have good stable and predictable flows for spring into summer. Combine all of that with the fact that our trout went through minimal stress last summer and fall and it all adds up to some good rod bending in 2011.
Southeastern Anglers Update…We are celebrating our 12th year as the premier drift boat guide service in the Southeastern USA. We are proud to be able to say that we have been around for a while. It all equates to experience and knowledge on the water and a high quality experience for you, the angler. Take a moment and visit our new website www.southeasternanglers.com. We have added some new services and faces, all without increasing prices for 2011. One great new feature is our new PCI compliant credit card processing system. For only $15.00 per transaction you can be assured that your trip payment via MasterCard or Visa gives you full identity theft protection. The Fishing Reports tab will be updated weekly with “what’s going on.” You can follow us on FB, twitter, or as an RSS feed to stay in the know.

Captain Dane Lawhttp://i686.photobucket.com/albums/vv230/woolly_bugger/png1.png

423-338-7368 / 770-655-9210 (cell)
danelaw@southeasternanglers.com
www.southeasternanglers.com

facebookmailfacebookmail

March Madness!

Saturday started out like what seemed to be any other day on the South Holston. As my best friend and fishing buddy cruised from Greeneville towards the river, we were full of excitement and nervous energy. Knowing that all the other streams in the area were gonna be off limits for the day, the South Holston offered two trout bums the chance to float high water, deep nymphing the clearer upper river then swapping over to big nasty streamers in the deeper darker water.

When we got to the launch at Emmett Bridge our hearts sank. There were so many boat trailers in the parking lot that after we launched I rowed across the river to pick up Jake Mullins, from the parking lot at the grates.(which itself was nearly full of raft and drift boat trailers) Once on the water Captain Jake guided his Clacka in and out of boat traffic. A lot of our prime spots already taken and boats waiting to take them again. So I was forced to nymph fish other seams and holes that weren’t as familiar to me. I was running a 9ft 5x leader with a huge SG shot nearly 10 inches above a Cream colored caddis larva. Below the rock worm hung a SZ 18 pheasant tail, which seemed to work well in the upper part of the river. Pulling a few fish on board and watching countless others disappear as they flashed as if to say “goodbye boys you should have been watching that indicator, instead of telling that tale”.

After we floated past the cul-de-sac my streamer itch just had to be scratched. So I asked Jake to hand me the “big stick”! The 7wt Hydros was ready for deployment. I had chosen a super nasty Kelly Galloup pattern, that we had picked up last July in Wyoming. After the Galloup’s TA Bunker went to work, Jake and I were back where we seem to be every weekend, chucking big nasty streamers to our East Tennessee brown trout. And within minutes it paid off! Two fish swirled and refused the pattern before a nice, solid browny took the fly. We were like two little kids with a new toy, and the dark deep streamer water had just began. A nice 18 incher inhaled the Bunker just off the bank above Rivers Way. After a 20 minute fight in heavy current, and a boat chase that ended just upstream of Hickory tree bridge, we had another but quite a bit larger sample of the South Holston’s brown trout population in the net.

After floating past Jack Prater’s house, Jake couldn’t take it anymore. He gave up his seat at the oars, which I gladly took, after my morning I was perfectly content to row the Clacka the remainder of the day. He swapped the fly for the soon to be famous “trashy pole dancer” patent pending. And we were amazed as brown trout gave chase to this brain child of Jake’s that had worked beautifully a few weeks before on the Watauga river. After a few short strikes, and tons of interested but wary fish, Jake went back to the bunker. The solitude of pre-spring on the river was shattered by a shout from the front of the boat. “HOLY @!#$”, I sank the oars deep and pulled back hard to try to slow the boat as the hydros bent double! No sooner than we realized what had happened….. the leader snapped. And we stared helplessly as one of the largest brown trout I have ever seen, slipped backwards into the depths of the dark water. Shaking his head side to side with the Bunker inside his mouth. Jake quickly said “Hurry dude I need another one”! I replied, “Man I think that was my last one”. After a desperate gear search we managed to find one more Bunker hidden in a secret stash, well used to be secret stash in my boat bag.

He fished the Bunker hard for the rest of the float. Fighting the strong wind and the nagging taunts from his oarsman that kept reminding him of the one that got away. A couple of very nice brown trout later, and countless curious fish that wouldn’t fall for the bunker, we arrived at Rock Hold. Which was our scheduled take out for the day. However the excitement was far from over! A snapping turtle had decided to make the ramp his place of choice, to soak up the last few rays of sun, before the shadows took over the river bank. After a few fun snapshots and stories of the monster still lurking in the depths, we decided that it was time to travel back to Greeneville.

Days on the river are always an adventure. Whether it be mother nature or swarms of fishermen instead of flies. Sometimes the obstacles that we look at as a challenge, force us to explore other sides, seams, and parts of the water. A beautiful day with a friend like Jake, will always be a joy. And a friend as crazy about the sport as I am makes it easy to always find a reason to hit the water. I am reminded of a famous quote that seems to sum up all the excitement and wonder that March Madness on the South Holston brings. “Perhaps fishing is, for me, only an excuse to be near rivers”. -Roderick Haig-Brown-

facebookmailfacebookmail

Are we Old School!

Man, I recently had my computer crash.  I had everything on that machine. I was shifting through some you tube videos this evening and wouldn’t you know I found an old video of some buddies and myself. Boy do we look look young and it’s only been about four years. We fished a lot back then and fished hard. Not sure if I could hang today. Check out the vid and enjoy.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Watuaga Rain Day

Not every day on the water can be great.  Some days it is just nice to be out in the sun, floating down a river.  Other days you can have horrible conditions and the epic fishing makes it unforgettable.  Those are the days that keep us going back.  Sunday was one of those days.  It rained virtually all day.  It was a classic Blue Wing Olive day, overcast and rainy.  Not too much rain that you couldn’t fish but just enough to keep things interesting.

 The day started out with a little nymph fishing.  We were using  a big pheasant tail and midge dropper under an indicator.  The water was a little stained so we went a little larger on our fly size than we would have normally.  Once the rain started, the blue wing’s began to hatch and we switched over to dry dropper rigs, using a split case bwo as our nymph.  It was pretty easy picking off fish and the rain allowed us to get fairly close without spooking them with the boat.  Jake and Clay had good luck using a san juan and midge I believe.  They also threw streams and picked up some good fish. 

Towards Afternoon we watched Jake land a pig on a new streamer that he tied.  It looked kind of girly to tell you the truth.  Soon after the rain really started to pour and we all hunkered down under tree  while enjoying a few beverages and telling too many lies.  Upon starting to fish again I asked to borrow one of Jake’s girly streamers.  Then wouldn’t you know the darned thing worked like a charm!  I guess he might be on to something.  No, really Jake is a pretty darned talented fly tier and fisherman.  I am envious of his upcoming summer job also.

To sum things up, it was a grat day despite the rainy conditions and  we had a blast.  I wish every trip could be that good.

facebookmailfacebookmail

A taste of spring

I made it out and fished the Clinch on Friday with a couple of friends. The fishing was not great to say the least but we had a great time anyways. I was just happy to be floating down the river again.

We only landed a dozen fish, but a couple were really nice. The highlight was when I stuck a little rainbow and this huge brown trout came after it like he was gonna eat it!

Flies of the day were red and black zebras in size 18 to 20. No real surprise there.

It’s gonna be a great weekend so I hope everyone has the chance to hit the water.

Tightlines!

facebookmailfacebookmail

How it all started

On the Clinch River in East Tennessee, west of interstate 75 as it bridges the water at breakneck speed is a mass of T.V.A. power lines that keep the City of Knoxville and points beyond supplied with electricity.  The water beneath these lines is deep and clear, full of large rocks and twisted deadfall.

Wading isn’t an option in this stretch of the river, but the bank is often cluttered with corn cans that linger until high water flushes them further down stream.  If you want to work the river from the bridge to the power lines a water craft of some sort is mandatory.

The Clinch isn’t a world class span of water, but it does hold a respectable population of browns, rainbows, and recently they added brooks to the foray.  The size of the fish caught is usually in the mid sized variety though an occasional leviathan is spotted.  This river in all its normalcy is special to me because it was in this place that I discovered my love of fly fishing.

It was the summer of my 40th birthday.  Up to that point in my life I had been a basic bank fishing worm dunker.  The most exotic angling I ever ventured to do was cast a Jitterbug or Hoola Popper to pond bass.  The overall vision of river fishing in my mind was sitting on the bank pitching chicken liver for catfish.

My best friend had been fly fishing for a while and despite his persistent urging that I give it a try, I remained resistant.  It seemed like to much work to catch a tiny fish, and frankly it just looked to hard to be fun.  His consistent assurance that I would love it was respectfully dodged till my birthday.

With some money I had been given as a gift, I bit the bullet and purchased some gear.  The rod was a nine foot five/six weight Phlueger combo with double taper line that I got for thirty five bucks at Wal-Mart.  This seemed to me like a total waste of money, but I guessed that I could put a spinning reel on it and bluegill fish.

When I got home I called my buddy and set the fishing trip for the following Saturday.  He told me to pick up some flies, we set the time, and my fate was sealed.

Selecting flies for my first trip was the equivalent of trying to translate the Magna Carta into Mandarin.  The Friday before my trip, I went to a fly shop on the west end of town.  It was a small place tucked at the very back of an old strip mall.  Several trucks were parked out front, I pulled in along side them and peered through the mosaic of stickers adorning the window. 

Gathering my nerve, I walked in the door and was immediately greeted by and old black lab who bumped me with his graying muzzle.  I rubbed his head and walked on in, trying to look like I knew what I was doing.  I am quite sure that I looked as lost and out of place as a Nascar fan at a performance of Swan Lake.

“Can I help you?”, the guy behind the counter asked.  He was polite enough, but his voice held a hint of indifference which implied either I had walked into the wrong store, or I was as lost as a ball in high weeds.  It didn’t take him very long to get me figured out.

“I’m heading up to the Clinch.  What are they hitting?”  Let me just state now for the record that if you go into a fly shop and ask that question, you might as well have a red flag dangling over your head.  I am sure the guy behind the counter could see the donkey ears and buck teeth protruding from my face.

“Pheasant Tail”

  He may as well have said Pig Ears.

“Do you have any?”  Oh, this was getting bad.  By now the donkey tail had emerged from my back and a Hee-Haw was welling up in my throat.

“Over there in the flies.”

“What size?” 

“Twenty.”

I looked around and found the tray that said Bead Head Pheasant Tail size twenty.  It was the only slot that was nearly empty.  Just a small was of very small hoods with tiny gold beads.

At this point I was sure that this guy was playing me.  I could hardly see the eye of the hook let alone try to fish with this thing.

Embarrassed, I picked up a few, put them in a cup, paid my money, and walked out with my donkey ears drooping and my fly swatting tail tucked meekly between my legs.

The lab looked up at me sympathetically from his spot by the t-shirt rack.  I felt like he had seen this all happen many times before.

To be continued…

facebookmailfacebookmail