Sat. August 9, 2014….. August has been busy so far, quite so, we’ve been busy with trips, flies, and getting ready for upcoming time in Wyoming and Idaho. Had some good days the past week or so, the mantra lately has been ‘sorry for the late post’ ….and ‘just catching up on posting…’….so in that vein, let me say that again. Its been a busy time, and I am thankful, but this report is tardy as it has been a lot lately. Here’s what’s been going on….
Have been on the South Holston a fair bit this summer, and had some really good days lately. Our latest post went like this….Out early guiding Kelly and Joseph Harrill, Jack Harrington, Greensboro, NC, TN South Holston, early start and another cool morning in the hills……49F in Boone this morning… We had a great day on the SoHo, netting around 50 fish, a mix of browns and rainbows but mostly browns…..to 16″. It was Joseph’s first day fly fishing, I showed him a few casts, some line management techniques, and within 10 minutes he’d caught 4 fish. So, we moved on to one of my favorite spots…..
Folks say “you don’t take a beginner to the SoHo…”….nonsense. We did what I have been doing for almost 27yrs now on that river, that is short but accurate and careful casts, sight fishing to fish only that we could see. Bag the nonsense of just scatter casting the water. That type of hotspotting works when the fish are real active and a hatch is coming off…but is the main reason folks don’t catch a lot of fish when its not like that. A sulphur hatch and rising fish , they catch fish. No sulphur hatch, they are having a tough time and barely eek out a fish or two. The answer? Quit spraying the water with a million casts…..find a fish, or group of fish. Watch them, study them….notice I haven’t said a word yet about making a cast. That’s the secret. Don’t flail the water with casts everywhere …..that’s the main reason the fishing is tough. Within a few throws most fish within the length of the cast are gone. Then measure out a length of line, make a presentation…not a cast, a presentation. A cast can go anywhere, a presentation is put right where the fish are, goes only over the fish, and ends the moment it drifts over and by them. STOP. Now, evaluate what just happened. Did they look at the presentation? Did they ignore it? Those are the questions that need be asked. And that is the difference a guide can make. When its tough, challenging, those are the little details that make all the difference. Actually, they make THE difference.
So, how did the above shake out when we did what I am talking about? Joseph landed one short of 25 fish, and had one on that was a beast……a 20 in plus wild South Holston brown trout….the kind of fish that is streamwise and you don’t ever catch by accident. And he was a total beginner, never been fly fishing, but when he intentionally applied , carefully applied what we went over, magic. He landed half of the fish the party of 3 anglers caught today. We fished the first area and did quite well, no sulphur hatch, but as usual you could find the occasional riser here and there and about one out of 4 of those would eat a sulphur. We smoked them on midge patterns using my summer stalk and sight fish approach. Jack did well on terrestrials, he and I covered several places and shall we say, “enjoyed a rather pleasant terrestrial bite…”…..and no, not on beetles. When the midday pulse came through, I put Kelly in a spot and he nymphed a small run/channel and quickly nailed about a dozen fish, mostly browns from it, on a variety of nymphs, including one of my summer favorites called a ‘Turd’…..(local name). It was then time for lunch but when I asked the guys they said, “no, we’re good” we can just keep fishing. I noticed a dark cloud building up, strange since the weather folks said 10 percent rain chance and the radar was clear. Well, don’t always trust your weather app. Kelly’s phone and my phone both indicated nothing significant on radar. Then the bottom fell out…..the storm basically developed right on top of us, we got close to 2.5 inches of rain in 30 minutes. All drenched. First time ever I have been knee deep in water INSIDE my waders. And one of the only times I haven’t had the rain jacket on me. You never stop learning lessons…….We went back up to the car and had lunch and then went downstream to another spot, and Jack caught the last 3 fish on terrestrials before we called it a day. Good day, I was so proud of Joseph and how he did. Needless to say, he’s a convert…..
Over last weekend was supposed to do a float with Bernd and Nicole Druebbisch, Greensboro, NC, VA smallmouth float trip, but we had all day rains, some of them heavy bumped up flows where we were going to float and things are high and muddy, we did a lake /boat trip instead…..It was a chilly, windy, drizzly morning and the temp was 59F….this is August right? I met Bernd and Nicole here and we put the boat in and were on our way. Fortunately we did not have heavy rains, or steady rain, that would have been miserable. It was tough fishing, to be quite honest, we worked for our fish and put maybe 15 or so in the boat, had several others on that came off. Mostly bluegills, and we were fishing deep. The rains of the past day and a half raised the lake level 3 inches or so, which takes a lot of water to do that, and the water was quite dingy, much different than the conditions I have enjoyed all summer long where many times sight fishing were possible. We fished deep, very deep, 12 to 14 feet, which is tough to do on flies, but we did it. Bernd used the fly rod, Nicole used both fly and spinning stuff……Caught some nice gills, had one huge shellcracker on that came off, and finished the day with one very nice fish. Nicole and Bernd were troopers, we still had a great time…..
Early in the week I did a Bass/panfish Trip with Adam Harman, met Adam mid afternoon and we were off….we fished some main lake points and deep flats, and caught some huge bluegills, shellcrackers, and finished up with a nice crappie. Lake Levels have come down since the rain, and the water is clearing again. Fishing was good, was testing out some custom sink tip lines I have created, and they worked well, catching fish consistently beyond the 10 to 12 ft range. The RLD flies worked great as usual, its the best panfish fly there is……it was fun, and proved yet again you can fish large panfish all summer long if you are willing to fish deep with a sinking line.
Did another Local lakes trip mid week with David Carter, Greensboro, NC, we landed about a dozen to 15 shellcrackers, longear sunfish, and bluegills…….wind shifted to the North and with a front is on the way in it really shut down the fishing. Had been really catching a lot of fish but not this afternoon…..David worked for them. Some significant wet weather moving in for the weekend, we could be in for another round of heavy rains.
Ended this week with guiding a Va float, Greg & Alexander Adzima, High Point, NC, Boone, NC, VA and we did a smallmouth float trip, the rains will held off…for about two hours in the morning, looks like we are in for a mighty wet weekend…..Out early 430am, trying to beat the weather moving in. Picked up Greg and then we met Greg’s son Alexander in Lambsburg, VA and headed up toward Pearisburg, Va. We dropped the boat in and were on our way. We knew bad weather was on the way but were ready for it…..and I looked forward to a strong smallie bite as the weather change occurred which will often happen when a front moves in.
That is exactly what happened, it didn’t take long to get into a few fish, we caught a few right off, then floated through some water to get to one of my favorite stretches. We did pretty well, and as the rains came on, the fishing was steady. We didn’t get heavy rain til 11am or so, but when it came, it came. Steady the rest of the day. We stopped at a mid river ledge /foam hole and had lunch, and caught some nice fish there. We floated past one of my favorite strings of islands, and floated through one of my favorite musky spots. Spotted one large fish, over 40 inches, cruising through some deepwater slackwater weed beds, he saw us, never fleeted, but slowly cruised away. Shortly thereafter saw him again, and another fish, I had Alexander make several throws to the fish, he made some good throws but we could not get him to eat. I suspect we were minutes away from getting one of them to eat…dark day, low sky, rain….perfect conditions for a big predator to eat something. We fished to them for about an hour, then decided to float on through as there was still a lot of great water to fish.
We did well, and caught some really good fish too…….we spent about an hour in the treacherous “Ledges” rapid upstream from the boat ramp/takeout pick pocketing the holes and caught several really good fish, probably the best two or three fish of the day. This spot doesn’t get a lot of pressure because it is tough to get to and get through. After picking some fish from the rapid, we floated on to the takeout. It was a good day, no one else on the river….not surprised, low 60s and heavy rain keeps a lot of folks home. We boated 45 t0 50 smallies….Good fishing will cease here for a few days, as runoff and a big release from Claytor Dam yesterday afternoon (flow shot up to 5000cfs +) and we finished up just before it arrived.
Its August, and here in Dixie that means terrestrial time…..Better have the ant, beetle, hopper, and inchworm box up to snuff. This time of year is when some of my largest fish are caught on those flies. Stalking big browns on the South Holston is one of my favorite types of fishing of all….and if I were relegated to one type of fishing with one type of fly I’d say a big brown, cruising in only inches of skinny water, in the low light of morning, fog still on the water, mist in the air and tossing a terrestrial would probably be it. Seeing that white, triangular snout poking up through the surface to pluck the fly makes my heart skip a beat…… How about you? Anyway, sorry to get you worked up. We put out a Hatch chart that is free and printable , it covers the month of August, you can get it here . Actually, we do that every month on our ‘This month’s fly box page.’
Plans are pretty much complete, most of our flies tied, and all gear shipped out to Wyoming ahead of my arrival mid week next week. Will spend pretty much the rest of the month out there doing our trips. Have a full group this year, David Carter, Ken, Ben, and Dan Karb, and Pat Burney. We will be going in 20mi into the backcountry to the very remote South Fork of the Buffalo where we will fish the South Fork and numerous alpine lakes for some of the most beautiful big and WILD Snake River finespotted cutthroats you have ever seen. This trip has been very popular, enough so that one trip for next year is already full and we are about half full on a second. If you are interested and want to get in the loop please let me know. Its an incredible adventure. Below is one of my favorite photos from one of our past trips…taken early one morning from the side slough at Swabacher Landing access on the Snake.
Also, on a different note, there’s an upcoming event you might find interesting….Byron Begley of Little River Outfitters of Townsend, TN will be doing a Fly Tyer’s Weekend in November, November 8 and 9 at Tremont Lodge in the Great Smokies. Join us for a fantastic weekend where you can see/watch some of the big names/best fly tyers nationally and regionally demo their tying skills. I will be tying at the event, it always is a blast and brings forth a nice crowd. Great time to be in the mountains, you can miss the hustle and bustle of the tourist season, take in this great event , and sample some great fishing too….all in the same weekend. I’ll be tying, then probably fishing as well…..the Clinch below Norris Dam for one, as well as countless WILD streams in and around the Great Smoky Mtns National Park. Will have all the info next week including the tyer lineup and more .
Thanks for taking the time to read…….hate it was late in getting this report out. Just too many places, too many waters….too little time. Good problems to have I guess, except the time part. Could always use more time. My wife says ….”You just need to manage it better.” Sound advice. Right on the mark. Have a great weekend…..and good fishing
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One of my many winged visitors this week…………seeing a lot of these on the water this week on our local lakes……