Well, I can’t think of a better way to start the year off than by hitting the river with new and old friends. The day started out before light, hitching the boat up and heading out towards JC to hit the Mighty Watauga. The generators were off and reports had been coming in all week of pigs being caught…nuff said. Kris and I had planned on fishing all week…something that doesn’t happen very often anymore with our conflicting work schedules. And after some arm twisting, new friend Romer agreed to come along. I’d met Brett sometime ago while working at Orvis and was more than happy to have him along. Since the recent closing of the campground at the start of the “quality zone” the usual half day trip from the campground to the bridge is no more. So, we decided to put in at the TVA access and float down to Persinger Bridge. Although I’m pretty sure that this spring with hold some insane fishing due to the closure and lower wade fishing pressure, I liked the old way, being able to fish the lower section more thoroughly. But anyway…we’ll see. Back to the fishing, it was alittle slow at first. We spoke with another drifter and he said that the day before was slow until the sun hit and warmed the water alittle. He was right on. We really didn’t catch much of anything until things warmed up and even after than it wasn’t the typical “knock your waders off” type of action usually found there. Kris had a nice catch site fishing a slower section. There were a couple nice fish probably 18 and 20 inches respectively feeding at the bottom just behind a small shoal. Brett and I both saw the fish and the take. Kris saw the fish but has learned to just watch the indicator. Things went slow-mo, then…fish on. I had my shining moment when we anchored up just below smallings bridge. I probably caught 8-10 fish in a matter of thirty minutes. Just had the right combination at the right time. One of those times where you just, “act like you’ve been there.” Romer tied into several nice fish throughout the day and really started to figure ’em out through the shoals. Romer is a great caster and a hell of a fisherman…and welcome in my boat any day…Just have to get him up to speed at the oars.
I don’t care what anyone says…fishing from a drift boat is a different ball game. Yes, it is (imho) more fun and you can more easily fish the entire river, but everything from your length of cast to mending to constantly changing flies due to the constant changing river bottom can be alittle over whelming the first time out. That being said, when everything comes together it’s a beautiful thing. Just one more facet of this addiction we call flyfishing.
One side note:
Kris actually stayed awake the whole ride home!!!
Sometimes getting out to the river is not about the fishing. Yesterday, Sean “Fish Pimp of the Year” McKay and I had a couple of errands to run down towards Seveirville and Gatlinburg.
I am not sure about Sean, but I know that I haven’t been on the water since before I left town at the holidays. After we finished our errands, we grabbed a couple of beers and went off in search of some “River Chicken”, stocked fish on the Gatlinburg Public water.
The scenery isn’t great, when compared to fishing in the National Park, but the doughbellies are more prone to eating when the water is 38 degrees. We tried a couple of spots where we had seen fish in years past. We spooked 2 or 3 fish in the time we were out, looked at the fish in the children’s section of the stream as we walked back to the car, and rolled on home. Who knows if Gatlinburg stocked as many fish this year for the catch-and-release period, or if locals are keeping them anyway, or we were not looking in the right places.
The bottome line is that a day on the river with a buddy is always a good thing, regardless of what the fish are doing.
Sundays in the park with a fishing buddy… what could be better? I went fishing with Caleb Abramson this past weekend on a clear and crisp day.
Fishing in December has its joys. Water temperature is not among them. The water was a balmy 38 degrees near the Sinks, and consequently fishing was a grinding ordeal of high-stick nymphing.
I have a fair amount of experience with high-sticking, dating back to my Steelheading days. However, I am not in the same league as Caleb. Local guide Tim Doyle refers to Caleb as the “Jedi of the Wet Fly”. Caleb grew up fishing in the park with many of the old timers, emulating their favored technique.
There were many subtle differences in Calebs style of high-sticking. Most notable was the lighter rig he was using. I am used to using a great deal of split shot, actually bouncing it across the shale bottom of my Ohio home streams. Caleb uses little or no shot, relying instead on the weight of the nymph to get his rig to the bottom. He also favors a 3-4 cast and move on approach where I am used to repeatedly dredging the same slot until I am convinced it is a futile gesture.
I learned a few other things Sunday. I learned the Little River is one slippery stream. I learned that when you combine a cold stream with a slippery bottom, you can end up shipping a bit of water and are left with some very cold feet. But I also learned that with patience, high sticking can be a very effective way of taking fish in the park when there is no hatch activity to speak of.
In the end I caught 5 fish including an 11 inch rainbow, but I am not yet a Jedi. Caleb, at home on bith the river and with his chosen technique netted just under a dozen.