Monday January 21, 2019 ……We had a great week last week both float fishing and wade fishing. Lots of fish were caught, and the unsettled weather that seemingly is ours now almost everyday we’ve fished right through. Our last float was one of the best I have ever had in any month, and we put a lot of large fish in the boat. It was great. But now the cold of winter continues, and its going to be that way for a while til spring arrives. So what do you do about it? Fish on…..that’s what we’ll be doing…..
We had some really cold weather to start the week, and snow on a few days. Mid week I guided a float trip with my longtime client and fellow streamer junkie Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, TN and met Ted on the upper South Holston. We decided to take advantage of the continued high but stable flows….as they normally produce great fishing if you know where, when, and how.
Our full intent from start to finish was to throw big stuff on big rods, and we were met with the TVA schedule showing variable flows due to unit testing. So , we were unsure as to whether or not we’d have floatable water all day, as they were changing the schedule from one hour to the next. Turns out though we had good water all day and we had another bannner day of chucking meat.
Some epic streamer eats, probably all total between three and four dozen including about a dozen or so large fish, picture worthy denizens ……. it was great, cold, breezy at times, and the damp chilly cold it feels like when its getting ready to snow. We had cloudy , low, gray skies all day…… which also worked perfectly too with our plan. We ended up at our takeout, as we usually do, right at dusk. It was a great day……plus had the river all to ourselves.
At week’s end I did some wade fishing guiding Rick Allen, Archdale, NC. It was a very chilly day on the river, met Rick bright and early and we were on the river before 8am. It was frosty, the air was cold (20sF) and there was a characteristic nip in the air…..that felt like snow. While there was a slight chance of drizzle later and rain later in the evening, we didn’t expect snow.
That’s exactly what we got. I keep telling folks you can’t trust a weather app on your phone, and that is why I don’t rely on them for forecasting. They are terrible. There was no mention of snow at all. But that is what we got. It snowed like crazy…..man do I love fishing in a snowstorm. And Im not kidding. It turns the fish on….
We fished double nymph rigs and caught a ton of fish, rainbows and browns, from the first stretch we waded. Probably three dozen fish and the last long deep green run we nymphed before breaking for lunch produced several quality fish, including the best fish of the day, an 18 to 19″ rainbow. We took a break for lunch and that is when the snow squall blew in.
For over an hour it snowed about as hard as it can snow dumping several inches (3-4″ ?) in that length of time. We fished another long stretch and caught maybe a half dozen fish more before calling it a day at 4pm, ending in a shower of sleet. A 40 fish day, and got to fish in a surprise snow squall…..my favorite fishing for sure. I love fishing in the snow. Great day though, our last group of fish were all rainbows. We quit and then headed back to a car wash I use a lot and used the bay there to take our gear off.
A cold weekend in the mtns also, we had bitter cold temps behind the front that brought the rain. Things changed quickly , a “flash freeze” where rain ends and everything quickly freezes up and high winds arrive and create an event of prolonged snow showers. “NW Flow” snow showers are what occur, and that is what went on and is going on this morning before it tapers off.
What NW flow is is when we get a large potent low moving through dumping a large amount of rain. That is followed by a cold front behind it ushering in high winds, usually 25 to 35mph with gusts up to near hurricane strength (65mph>). When the NW winds start, and blow over the just saturated ground, it forces the moist air upslope .
In our area, its a saturated East TN and Southwest VA that feeds this sort of thing. Moist air is forced upslope where the moisture content is magnified and the air is cooled further and it produces a prolonged light snow shower event that can pile up some impressive snows. This one won’t amount to more than 2 to3″ but the winds are fierce. One more day (Tuesday) of this and we are back to fishing. Winter weather isn’t an unusual or ‘Less productive’ time to fish….quite the contrary. Our last day out was really cold (Friday/Sat) and we put almost 50 fish in the net. Cold does NOT stop fishing.
For Monday 1/21, I had scheduled a trip with Matt Baldwin, N Platte, WY, but we ended up postponing due to single digit temps in the mtns…will be rescheduling. In low temps such as that you can catch fish, and I have done it, many , many times, but you are cracking ice off the rod every three to five casts, and everything freezes up. Boots, boot strings (making it hard to get the waders off), waders, you name it. A warm up is coming though.
After Monday 1/21 and Tuesday 1/22 we will get about a three day reprieve of decent fishing weather before the next cold shot arrives on Saturday 1/26. It will be a lot like the past cold blast. It looks like mid week or Wed, Thurs, and Friday will offer a good shot at getting out fishing. To anyone interested, I have availabililty on those days.
Stay warm…..spring is coming!
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Sunday, January 13, 2019…. Great and wade fishing, bet you haven’t heard that from me in a while. Actually you definitely haven’t. But I mentioned that we were headed in that direction and that while the water was high, and chilly, that things were improving steadily and we had red hot fishing ahead. Cold hands, feet, ice on the rod, ice in the guides, and lots of fish. Lots. Several 20 inch plus fish. Several.
That is exactly what longtime client David Carter and his son Adam had with me on our Friday wade fishing trip before the winter storm blew in. Temps to start were in the low to mid 20s, it was frigid. As I mentioned above, Ice in the guides, on the line, cold feet, cold hands, and red hot fishing. We did very well. Met the guys early and we did a wade trip, we arrived mid to late morning to give the sun time to get things moving.
We caught fish right from the outset. The water was high and chilly, and green like I love to see it, and the fish were more than cooperative. Actually, the nymph fishing was on fire. We lit em up on double nymph rigs, and landed probably 4 dozen rainbows, three of which were in the 22 to 25 inch range. Pigs….
The stonefly emergence is in full swing, and small dark patterns are catching a lot of fish as they should be. There are a host of smallish dark stones that hatch this time of year, collectively known as “little winter black stones”. There are several species of these, Allocapnia, sp., Amphinemura, sp., Leuctra mitchellensis, Sweltsa mediana, Neoperla clymene, Amphinemura nigritta, all contribute to this activity my entomologist friends tell me. They are often called ‘sallflies’, ‘snowflies’, ‘willowflies’, among others. The trout do notice them though, and at lower water levels we can fish dries to them. A great fly is a Griffith’s gnat size 18 and 20 with the hackle trimmed flat on the bottom.
Right now, the water is high making the nymph imitation a better option. They are size 18 and 20, and can often be seen crawling on the banks or on ice and snow. The fish love them, and you should too. You should have some in your box regardless of where you are fishing, they are great tailwater flies, small stream flies, and great for Delayed harvest and Hatchery supported waters. Patterns that imitate these are black copper johns, Skinny Nelson, Slim Shady, black pheasant tails tied skinny, etc.
We fished them yesterday all day, the rig consisting of a larger point fly (Y2K, Sucker Spawn, Bead Egg, Dirtsnake, etc.) and the small dark stone pattern as a dropper. 85% of our almost 50 fish ate the small dropper fly, even in the high flow. Two of the three big fish ate the tiny fly. Can they see the tiny fly in that much water? You be the judge.
We fished til 130pm, had a nice hot shore lunch in the sun on the riverbank, then fished til about 415pm and called it a day. This fishing will be great this week as we had minimal impact from the weekend’s ice and snow and rain and its going to be game on. Best part of it? We fished all day and not another soul on the water….had the river to ourselves. Today is solid proof that cold weather impacts fishermen more than fish. If you want to catch some fish and kill that cabin fever right now is an excellent time to do it, and both wade and float options will be good.
Small streams are fishing good, all the way around. The water is down to a fishable level and clear, green clear, the type that makes for excellent nymph and streamer fishing. The tailwaters are still blowing high flows, 3000 plus on the South Holston and 2400 – 2600 on the Watauga. Big water yes, but the fishing has been excellent. We have caught lots of fish on higher flows and some big browns throwing the big stuff. Projections show this higher flow continuing, in other words, high, steady, stable flow.
Stable conditions, especially high and stable, often produce remarkable fishing. The longer the river stays deep and swift the more fish stack up on bank structure, eddies, inside gravel bars, tops of islands, tailouts, seams, you name it. Big fish feed and grow in these conditions, and are very receptive to meaty offerings like worms, nymphs, baitish, and large, full profile streamers. But you gotta go to get in on it.
Going to be a great week and I do have a couple days that opened up, the most recent weather had almost zero impact from a negative standpoint in affecting water levels so its going to be a good week to fish. Highs most days will be in the mid to upper 40s F so good in that respect. Let’s go fly fishing!
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Fri. January 11, 2019 – At least that is the word for now, wade fishing is steadily improving with a few days of dry and mild weather. I guess we went a whole week without significant, measurable rain. We may be in a drought situation.
Just kidding, of course. Don’t worry, we have more on the way. A Winter storm watch which will include a mixed bag of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. So if you were worried we were slipping into drought conditions, take heart, we are fine…..lol.
On Thursday I guided a wade fishing trip, Dr Pat Burney, Dr Ken Karb, Greensboro, NC, and it was cold, quite chilly after the mild weather we had for weeks. The guys wanted to do some wade fishing, and close to home if possible, and so we did just that. Water is up everywhere, and that’s not all bad. Lots of new holes and runs in your favorite streams I can guarantee you.
We wade fished and got in the water mid morning, the water was high and relatively clear, “green like money” as I call it in the winter. Fish the green and make some bank, that is catch some fish. Right now, as is normally the case in winter, slower areas of the river, seams, seam eddies, deep bends, deep tailouts, slower pockets within runs , that is where you are going to catch fish right now….and that is exactly what we did…fish those spots.
It was a little slow to start, which I expected and you should too, but we caught a few in the morning and from midday til we quit around 4pm we had steady action landing a bunch of fine rainbows. Ken had the largest with a 20 inch plus rainbow. I expect we caught a couple dozen total, which I was real happy with and so were the guys, and particularly since we have had such limited wade fishing opps the past month.
Junk patterns teamed up with a tiny nymph (pick a fly, a midge, a small stone, small pheasant tail, brassie, etc) worked well, as they should. Takes were split half and half, with the hottest fly a Y2K in watermelon and flo peach. We fished til 4pm and called it a day. Good to do some wade fishing, we’ll be doing more this week. I will be doing a wade fishing trip tomorrow (Friday) with David and Adam Carter, Greensboro, NC, and it will be nice to do more wade fishing.
Looks like a mixed bag weather event coming for the entire area. I have a Saturday open but I suspect I’ll find no one willing to do some fishing. I had a potential float trip scheduled but we opted to postpone due to the threat of ice being a part of the mix. This time that is highly likely. Snow? If it were snow, business as usual. I’ll tow the boat or wade fishing up to and over a foot of snow on the ground. That’s no problem. Ice…? That is a different deal altogether and not something to mess around with.
Enjoy your Friday, have a great weekend. Might be a good time to catch up on your fly tying….
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Tuesday….Jan 8, 2019 ….. This week started off where last week left off. Big water, 3010 cfs…..and big fish. Multiple 20 inchers in the boat today. On Tuesday I did a guided float trip, with David Slaydon, of Reidsville, NC, and Bob Stanford, of Greensboro, NC. We have continued to have big flows as its continued wet patterns goes on ….but we had a few dry periods….even if we kept the ‘we got rained on ‘ mantra going into 2019. We did get a few periods of showers , enough to soak us and then it quit.
Bob and Dave and I did the entire South Holston to Bluff City, the ‘Long day’ so to speak. We floated the big water, 3010 cfs, as TVA still dumping lots of water to get the lake back to where it should be. Not a lot of folks on the water, we saw one boat and they were floating and duck hunting.
Fishing wise we had the whole river to ourselves. The weather was mild, cloudy, periods of rain, and we got some windy conditions later in the day as a potent front blew in late in the day. We caught a lot of fish early nymphing, we nymph fished the first third of the trip and caught some fine fish, the best one a fish of 22-23″ Bob landed on a Zebra midge.
Pretty impressive as we hooked up and pulled anchor and followed the fish downstream and netted it. Sometimes hard to keep large fish on lighter tippet in heavy flow with a smaller fly like that. But we got the fish in the boat and snapped a couple quick photos and released the fish. Halfway through the float we got out the big rods and decided to commit to streamer fishing the rest of the way.
As I usually say, put in the work and reap some rewards. That is exactly what it was…..the guys committed to it and hammered out a good afternoon throwing meat, and put several big fish in the boat. Some of the most epic streamer eats with fish hammering the fly in a boil a foot under the surface.
Had several like this, including a violent kill shot delivered by one of the best fish of the day, a gorgeous two footer that Dave got within 200 yds of our takeout. It was a crushing strike , or arm jolting eat, a move by a fish not going to be denied a great meal. We took a couple pics , released the fish and watched as it bolted away. We arrived at our takeout at dark. Great day, two great guys, its always a blast …. High water can be good to you if you let it be…..
This just further proves what I have been harping on for what now seems like an eternity. That is, you have to accept less than perfect conditions, put in the work, go anyway, and give it a full on effort. The past year has been, and the coming year will be too, one of those years where if you don’t go anyway and forget the weather causing issues then there’s a good chance you won’t be fishing. It rained on over 70% of my trips last year. That is, not drizzle, not showers, measurable rain. Downpours, thunderstorms, hurricanes, I mean flooding rains. Snow, wind, hail, you name it we fished in all of it this year. More is coming. This year won’t be any different. If you want to fish and catch fish, you are going to have to go anyway……I say that whether its on a guided trip with me or on your own.
We have been blessed with great fishing despite the weather. All these fish are just a few of the many that were landed when folks took my recommendation, forgot the forecast, mocked the weatherman, and went anyway. Proof is in the results….
Have some wade trips coming up and then a float at the end of the week if the upcoming winter snow doesn’t turn out too bad. Of course, we’ll probably take that one head on and keep fishing. The wade fishing is possible again now that our rivers have calmed down a bit.
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We used Sawyer exclusively, they make great stuff!
Jan 5, 2019 …..Wet, Wet, Wet, that is the continued theme. But we have a wet weather game, and its been really good. And if getting out fishing anyway is what your thoughts are turning to, take heart. We have been doing well, and catching a lot of fish despite the perceived “tough” conditions. For fish its business as usual, and lots of water isn’t unusual, undesirable, or unworkable for them. They thrive in it. You can too….want to fish? Message us and we can make it happen….
But the reality is, it has been wet. How wet? Wettest ever for most of the area. Never wetter. If you make extreme statements like “man, its never been like this”…..and “I have never seen it this wet….”….. this time you are right on the money. Below is a list of locations and precip totals for 2018. For every location it was the wettest in history of keeping climatological records, which dates back over 100 years, unless of course there is a parentheses…in which case the rank of wettest year is in that.
Laurel Springs 90.14″
North Wilkesboro 75.80″
Mt. Airy 69.00″ (2nd)
Hickory 62.26″ (7th)
Mt. Mitchell 139.94″
Waynesville 59.79″ (6th)
Wytheville, VA 56.94” (2nd)
Wet weather is a hassle, and an inconvenience, and a game changer. But you can still do well. And, it does not harm fish. They thrive in it. Bugs do well in it. Streams get cleansed, fresh nutrients are brought in, and that is great for the bugs which in turn provides food in great abundance. It is NOT the catastrophic or bad deal it is made to sound like. Perhaps most of all, its NORMAL. We have always had wet weather, we have always had and will always have flooding. Best way to look at it? Learn to deal with it.
Develop new strategies…..learn some new techniques. Stretch your skill set. Its all good. You will learn some tricks you can employ for the rest of your angling days. With all that said, here is a synopsis of the week for us, right on the heels of a great New Year’s day float trip with Anthony Hipps and Paul Gruver.
On 1-2-2019 I had scheduled a guided Trip with Curtis and Nathan Reeves, Archdale NC. We had planned a wade fishing trip, and decided to postpone and reschedule as water was still a little higher than I prefer. For wade trips we are just giving it an extra day or two to drop. We postponed and will be rescheduling to another day.
On 1-3-2019 I did a float trip with one of my frequent clients Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, we ended up doing a South Holston float trip and had a killer day streamer fishing. We fished the big water , 3020 + cfs , fished the big rods and the big stuff and landed about 25 fish, including several 20 inch fish. The river was up and rolling but it didn’t stop us from having a good day. Put in the work and the time, and you get rewarded. We forgot the forecast, mocked the weatherman today and won. Great day though, fishing was good even with record flows. Here are some pics….
On 1-4-2019 I guided Joe & Ian Craig, High Point, NC, we did a TN tailwater float, put in mid morning, flow was 3020 cfs, big flow, I knew we’d be able to drum up some fish nymphing, and we did just that. Water was up even above full sluice flow of 3020, and a little dingy, but we still did well. Forecast was for all day rain, and we had heavy rain overnight and in the morning but then things settled down a bit and we had a mostly dry day. Even a few peeks of the sun…..we caught fish on nymph rigs, double nymph rigs, caught a lot of fish on midge patterns in the huge flow. Fish can see better than you think they can….pretty amazing still they can find and pick out a tiny fly in so much water. We landed probably three dozen or so fish nymphing, then found an eddy 3/4 the way through our float where there were some rising fish. Nailed the first 3 dry fly fish of 2019. A pretty amazing river when you can catch dry fly fish in the dead of winter, incredibly high water, and its January. After catching fish on dry flies the guys wanted to head downriver and try their hands at throwing meat. Big rods, big flies, 300grain lines, and lots of slinging. But , as I always say, if you are willing to work for it and put in the effort and time, sooner or later it gets rewarded. The last mile of the float we got three fish to eat, all nice fish, two of them over 20 inches. Fishing has been good……simply good …..do we really care anymore if it rains? Nope. Here are some pics…..
Its been a great week, to put it plainly. Looks like more wet, then our next cold shot arrives Wednesday. Water will be shaping up for some wade trips, and of course, floating is always an option. You want to catch some fish, mock the weather, go anyway and have a great time then let’s git er done.
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Jan 2, 2019….. 2018 circled the drain and is under us and what a wet one it was. Historically, it was the wettest year on record for the Appalachian region. Not even close to any other year….1973 was a really wet one, but 2018 is the wettest year since climate records were first kept over 100 years ago. So how wet was it?
According to the TVA, the Tennessee Valley was the wettest ever with a basin average of 67.1 inches of rain. Previous record was 65.1 inches in 1973. Mt Mitchell, NC, the highest point east of the Rocky Mtns in the West, got 118.80 inches. Nothing even close enough to compare that number to. Its been wet, real wet. On our trips, we got at least some rain on roughly 70% of them. I cancelled almost 60 dates due to flooding, rain, some weather related stuff, missing large chunks of time. We , for the first time I can remember, missed an entire season of smallmouth fishing because of bad conditions. And yet, in many ways where we fished we had the best fishing I have ever experienced.
Sulphur hatches that were beyond mind blowing. Best dry fly fishing on the tailwaters I can ever remember. Epic streamer fishing that produced more 20 inch plus browns than you could count. Simply, if you could put up with the inconvenience of less than perfect weather, grabbed the raingear and fishing gear and went anyway, you were almost always rewarded with an incredible day. I lost count of the 75 to 100 fish days on the tailwaters. With the sluice flows on both rivers, we had the best dry fly fishing I have ever experienced, both personally and on guided trips with clients. It was the best. Ever.
So what is 2019 going to be like? Well, short term, its more of the same. Started wet, and we have more rain in the forecast for Friday. Potentially some 1/2 to 3/4 inch stuff. What does that mean? More great fishing where you can get on the water. Simply stated, if you want to fish you are going to have to forget , in the short term, about those perfect sunny , warm , blissful days and take the hand you are dealt. Grab the raingear and go make some bank. You might be surprised how good the fishing is….. Want to enjoy good fishing and few other anglers? As Nike would exclaim….Just do it.
On New Years day I guided Paul Gruver, Raleigh, NC, and Anthony Hipps, Lexington, NC, on a float trip on the South Holston River. I know its hard to believe but there was a big rain before the guys came up, and a big rain overnight but it didn’t stop us from fishing. Even with higher flows on both South Holston and Watauga we are fishing. I assured the guys we would still do just fine. High water on tailwaters means ‘normal’, business as usual kind of stuff. I told them, no worries, we’ll still catch fish.
And we did just that. Except for a brief spell of tossing a streamer, we nymph fished different double rigs and double rig combos and did really well. Caught a good mix of rainbows and browns, up to 15/16″ or so. I did not keep count but Paul and Anthony put probably between 40 and 50 in the boat, a good day anyday. Normal “high releases” are usually in the 2200 to 2400 range during normal generation or high flow sluicing.
Today’s flow was 3020cfs, and probably more like 3300-3500 given some of the extra inflow from feeder tribs. So, does high water eliminate the fishing? I’d say between 40 and 50 fish didn’t say that it did, let alone the two dozen or more that were briefly hooked that came off who didn’t get to speak on the matter because the fight ended early. Add those in and an already great day becomes an epic day.
So, again, does high water eliminate the fishing? Bottomline is if you desire to get out of the doldrums, go catch some fish in this historically wet period instead of waiting for what is “ideal conditions” (which isn’t how the fish define ideal) …. its a call, text, or email away. You know, just like Domino’s Pizza…where “one call does it all”. But we don’t supply Pepperoni. Wait, if you want to go fishing and Pepperoni would seal the deal then I’d be more than happy to bring it.
We have a ton of trips coming up. In keeping with the first of the month every month we make available a printable fly chart and fly recommendations for area fishing. Click here or click the image below and it will take you to a link where you can access and print a January Fly Hatch Chart.
Hope your 2018 wrapped up nicely and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.
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Thursday, Jan 18, 2018…. Another shot of cold and another big snow event that took all the weather folks by surprise. I had a feeling it was going to be a big one, it developed the way those always do, tons of artic air blowing in from the NW….a Low situated over the Ohio Valley….all moving to us and then another low forming just SE of Charlotte. What does that mean? Plenty of cold air in place, an already frozen ground, and lots of moisture to work with. Snow. Lots more than forecast. Which is great for our water levels everywhere…..even if it squelches some fishing plans here and there.
We ended up with close to a foot, 8 to 9 inches more than what they were calling for. I had a brief window of a few hours in which to get out and do a bit of local fishing at one of our lakes. One favorite spot in winter offers shots at sightfishing cruising largemouths, lots of them, as they bust bait balls of shad. I tie some special flies and 90 degree jigflies for this fishing and they are sometimes lethal on these fish.
Sometimes I catch up near the top, on top, sometimes deep….but often times you can see fish as they are cruising around waiting for the right moment to ambush the balls of cruising shad. Its a hoot…..especially in my own backyard practically and in any kind of weather.
The fish do this every winter. This particular lake has a warm water discharge from Duke Energy’s power station so the water in the main lake is absolute gin clear (you can see down 20ft) and its in the upper 60sF to around 70F…balmy for mid January. I like to fish where one of the main creeks enters the lake …..and the water is a little turbid or dingy. Where that stained and cold 37-40F water meets the main lake the shad hang out and hide in the turbidity while the largemouths cruise the mixing area where the bait is. Some times you’ll have eruptions on the surface with shad….and largemouths…some up to 6lbs going in all directions. Not a bad plan ‘B’ for fishing if things are nasty up the hill in the mtns.
Looks like the thaw happens slowly today. With lows in the single digits last night and teens in the nights to come it will take a few days to get rid of the snow and ice. River flows will be great in the high country and improving conditions and good fishing to come. Will it be by Friday or Saturday? I’d doubt it because its still so cold at night so the thaw will take a few days but certainly by Monday I’d say yes. Gotta go to know.
Our tailwaters do and will continue to be a good place to fish til then, after then, always. Period.
Have a great one…
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January 15, 2018 ….Our first post of 2018, its been a cold and slow time here in the Appalachians. We’ve been out some, probably more than a lot of folks, but its been very cold. Historic , in fact. We had one 8 day period that was as cold as anytime the past century. During those 8 days the night time lows were in the low single digits (0 to 4F) and highs below 20F. We have cold winter weather but we usually don’t see it quite that cold for more than a few days at a time. It was below average cold for two weeks before that period, and for a week afterward. We had a slight warmup, but another cold shot tommorrow coming and some snow too.
We have been fishing though….you can check out our most recent reports here on our website fishing reports page… Alot going on otherwise preparing for the 2018 season. No shortage of stuff to do, trip planning, making some repairs to boats and equipment, tying flies….any day we aren’t on the water we are doing tons of stuff. So much goes into a year of trips that there’s a lot to take care of.
Our son Ben recently fished a captains /guides tournament in Wilmington, NC, put on by the Cape Fear River Watch..it is a guides tournament and Capt Ben and his guys (Capt Jon Huff, Arlen Ash) won the event….and won all categories including largest fish, most fish tagged, and largest two fish aggregate.
Here is the scoop for local fishing….
For the most part winter has had a tight grip on us….we’ve had bitter cold temperatures, bitter wind chills, and all waters except our tailwaters (Smith/South Holston/Watauga/Clinch) choked with ice if not completely frozen over to the point of completely unfishable. In fact, that would describe most waters in the area. Simply no other way to state it. We had a couple days above freezing, and some of the ice broke up, and we got some rain, but waters are super chilly with a lot of ice floating in them. Common sense should be used fishing anytime its this cold, and if you have trouble with footing, or are less fleet on your feet than you used to be, wait til it warms up. One slip and in the drink and you could be chilled in seconds and be subject to hypothermia. But if that’s not the case, and many folks do fish in this weather and do fine, then take your time…plan your arrival time later, bring something warm to enjoy when you take a lunch break, and get out of the water and walk often.
Most of our mid and low elevation rivers are a mix of flowing riffs with pools that are a 1/3 to 1/2 frozen across. One thing you’ll notice, on rivers with fewer fast rapids/runs/riffles, and mostly gently water….those are the first to freeze and last to thaw. One of the challenges is finding enough open water where you can even get a drift….what makes it more difficult is fish are in slower water right now…and guess what water surface freezes up first? The slower water. Downsize your flies, tippet, and make slow, deliberate presentations. Where you find one fish you usually find more.
On our smaller and higher elevation waters wait for a warm up. Not even an ice ax or auger would do you good here. The smaller streams (wild waters) are the last place we recommend fishing in winter. Especially in bitter cold.
Our Delayed Harvest waters will fish well even in bitter cold, but like the above it depends on how much open water you can find. Front slope drainages thaw fairly quick, but be prepared to find one river fishable and another closeby not so. You have to search til you find open water. Stocked fish aren’t as lethargic, but they still hit slow and you’ll want to have some smaller flies and search for fish in slower/deeper water. Where you find one you’ll find more.
Tailwaters….business as usual. Nymphing with a few olives and midges.
Stay warm! Looks like two more days of this weather…at least through Wednesday/Thursday then we’ll get a significant warm up.
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Fri. December 15, 2017….Its been a while since I last posted. But catching up this week, we had a great fall of fishing and winter fishing is here, even if its not officially winter yet. Or at least that is what the calendar will tell you. December 21 is first day of winter, and also the shortest day of the year in our hemisphere…hence the name “Winter Solstice.” But I look at that as something created by man….its just a date, just a suggestion…not fact. Just like so many things. Truth is, we’ve had winter for some time.
We had deep winter this week….and I have been out in it everyday. I had a trip scheduled for last Saturday, and ended up postponing it….due to heavy snow in the area where we were headed. 14 inches of it, high winds, temps in the 20sF. We elected to do another day. I’d have done it , but not everyone’s cup of tea to spend hours driving in it, hours fishing in it, then driving back in it. I do it all the time, have done it all the time. It makes memories for sure and caught lots of fish doing it. Big fish.
Great week of fishing though. Started Monday 12-11-2017 guiding a friend and longtime client Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, and our plan was to fish the TN tailwaters and find some dry fly fishing and then also do some floating and throwing some streamers. Flows were reduced to the point (465) that we had decidedly more of one than the other and we opted to do all wading instead.
We also had more cold and snow, lots of snow in the high country, it started out really cold, and was chilly all day but bearable. We had hoped to get in some dry fly fishing, and expected to get in some in the afternoon with some olives, but we had rising fish right from the start. We caught fish on bwos, my cdc sparkle emerger, then caught a few on dry dropper rigs with midge droppers.
Then we switched back to dries and nailed a ton of fish , it was game on all afternoon….the dry fly fishing was so good we never stopped for lunch. It was incredible, as good as it can be in the summer. Ted probably landed 50 or more on dries, a lot of them quality browns. When the sun started sinking low at 445pm, we switched over to a double nymph rig, a tunghead caddis larva with a spawn fly fished below it.
Netted another twenty or so, many quality browns on the rig too. We fished til dusk and called it a day….it was a phenomenal day. There was more snow forecast for Tuesday, a quick shot clipper system, and I thought things could be interesting. Calling for cold and wind too, definitely ran most folks off the river. Not us.
On Tuesday 12-12 definitely more cold and snow in the forecast…and that is exactly what we got. Bitter cold, wind, driving snow and sleet, a bitter raw day and only one other person one entire section of river we were on and he only stayed 15 minutes. We fished to rising fish from the time we got in the water at 845am til the time we quit around 415pm. So good we never stopped for lunch. Either day.
It was outstanding dry fly fishing ….bwo spinners and then a blanket bwo hatch. At least 50 fish in the net and all on a couple of my tiny dry fly patterns….a CDC blue wing skinny and a CDC Sparkle tail. A great day to be sure. After fishing I headed back through moderate to heavy snow most of the way back. Quite a nail biter in traffic towing a boat… Another big shot of snow and cold for the mtns (East TN, SW Va, and NW NC).
On Wednedsay 12-13-2017 I guided a trip with longtime friend Brad Ball, Greensboro, NC, and we fished the NC Mtns, another bitter cold night and cold day today, overnight snow and temps were really chilly. Areas that didn’t get more snow last night (much of our mtns did) already had up to a foot/14 inches in spots. Couple all that snow lying around, temps in the teens and 20sF, and a stiff wind and it was really cold, ice in the guides, and on the rod tip such that you had totally quit fishing and deal with the ice.
Fortunately where we were a lot of the snow nearest the river had melted…which put water that was barely above freezing in the river. We still caught plenty of fish. We fished double nymph rigs, and where we fished is stonefly water and among our favorites as far as nymphs is a 20 Incher Stone nymph….plus other stonefly nymphs…simply put they work. We used a variety of caddis larvae, midge droppers, and eggs and spawn flies.
Put probably 35 or so in the net, we fished til 330pm and called it a day as it was getting really chilly again. Caught rainbows and browns, and some of the rainbows were fantastic. A couple were really nice fish. Good day in some not so great temps but hey, its winter right? A lot of the best fishing people miss because they don’t want to try it in the cold. Those who do try it are
surprised shocked to learn how good it can be. The standard response …”I had no idea….”.
On Thursday 12-14-2017 I guided Trip, Steve Krasicky, Greensboro, NC, and his client Tiaan Kruger, and for Tiaan, who is from South Africa originally but who lives in Raleigh now, it was his first time fly fishing. After stopping at two different spots and finding perfect winter conditions totally frozen conditions —we moved on to plan C. I mean where I’d planned on fishing was frozen bank to bank with the only free flowing water in the fastest riffles.
So we went on to plan C and it paid off. We found some clear water, enough ice free to fish and did very well. We nymph fished all day, as you’d expect on a day like today for the most part , at least on a small stream. We had cold temps, snow on the ground, a stiff breeze at times, but we put in the effort and were rewarded with over 60 fish in the net.
Landed several large rainbows over 20″….. Tiaan’s first day was a success I’d say, as he landed 36 fish and hooked or played many others that got off. That’s a great day anywhere. Fishing has been good the past week and today was no exception…..and as most of the week we had the water totally COMPLETELY to ourselves. Want to learn how to successfully fish in cold weather? I can show you how….We have a good many openings coming up…let’s go fly fishing!
Have another icebox trip guiding longtime client Jim Kramer for tomorrow ( 12-16) and we’ll hopefully still have clear water to fish. Looks like a brief mild up, if you can call it that, so a lot of that snow will be melting hopefully. That provides our water flows during dry or really cold spells and for that reason I’ll never complain about snow. We need it, it does a great job recharging groundwater.
Have a great weekend…..Merry Christmas!
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Mon. Aug 21, 2017 ….Just returning from Wyoming after two weeks out there. It was just as I left it last time. Wild. Wild as ever. Always amazes me even after over 25 years of spending a few weeks out there every summer its full of new experiences and surprises. This trip was no different. Well, it was a little different. In two respects.
One, I did a different type of trip focusing on wade fishing several areas I know of and have fished for decades. We covered a lot of ground. 2700 miles worth in fact, most of it through wilderness areas miles from civilization and any paved roads. It makes you realize how many wide open wilderness spaces we have. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We have plenty of wilderness.
Two, I did the trip without the backcountry horsepack part of it. As some may recall, the outfitter Josh Roth, friend and fellow guide/outfitter that I did trips with for the past decade died tragically in an avalanche back in February. An expert snowmobiler/pro rider with Rasmussen, Josh spent a lot of time in the backcountry and in the snow. We had record snows this winter, and a brief warm period followed by some rain destabilized the snow pack in many areas causing a record number of avalanches. One of them claimed his life. It was tough in that respect doing it this year without him. He is terribly missed. A great friend and guide, and he was a favorite of my clients.
We covered a lot of ground, here is a brief breakdown of our trip…..on the trip with me were Ted Linczak, Summerville, SC, and Dr Pat Burney, Greensboro, NC. Here is how our trip played out….
fished on the Jakey’s Fork and caught a few, then moved to the upper Wind R , which is also the Bighorn River (becomes it below Riverton) where we got into a good many Yellowstone cutthroats. Good dry fly fishing, landed about 30 cutts, one rainbow, one brown, one whitey. It was nice but we remained in a daily thunderstorm pattern and today would prove no different. Great fishing between downpours. Chilly as well when the clouds were over us, warm and nice when they weren’t. Had a great dinner at the Rustic Pine Steakhouse with a Wyoming steak…..the real deal. Great end to a great day. Fly of choice was a Hippie Stomper, a cuttie favorite.
Did some high mountain lake fishing for cruising cutthroats , we fished one lake right at the tree line and caught a few nice cutthroats on midge pupa and wooly buggers. There were a ton of cruising fish, some of them we caught fishing deep with a sink tip line and wooly bugger, a fly I have used for years called a Jeff’s Favorite…basically a weighted wooly bugger with a black pearl krystal flash body. The cruising fish we caught sight fishing them with the same midge pupa patterns I use on the South Holston and Watauga. If you could see a cuttie, cast ahead of him, we were getting almost every one that was accurately cast to. We then ended up taking a lunch break, and fished a high meadow stream in grizzly country (didn’t forget the bear spray) near Togwotee Pass, a small stream that tumbles off the meadow at around 10000ft. We had great fishing, even some rising fish, as the weather was uncharacteristically cloudy and cool and we got a Baetis /BWO hatch. Killed them on dry flies, caught a ton of fish and Ted the best one, a 17″ brightly colored Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat. We probably landed over 60 fish total and then hit one more spot, a different stream that comes out of Brooks Lake….a well known and fantastic cutthroat lake that lies right in the middle of grizzly land. With fading light we managed about a half dozen brook trout and one nice cutthroat and missed a couple of others. All on dry flies no less….. Ended up having a great meal at Cowboy Cafe in Dubois, WY, where some Blackberry BBQ Ribs and Country Fried Steak were the specials….and they were great. Weather was all over the place, nice and warm /sunny interrupted with chilly, windy , and wet periods. Weird weather for summer in Wyoming, even more when its in a high mtn desert like we were fishing in. Best flies were the Hippie Stomper, a tan Schroeder Para Hopper, and a double Adams rig with a 12 point fly and 18 rear fly.
Had a hearty breakfast Village Cafe and then headed up to fish the upper East Fork of the Wind drainage, an area I love for its remote location and very unusual beauty. It flows between the sagebrush covered mtns and hills to the southwest and the painted hills (red sandstone cliffs) that mark the beginning of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Once again we had great fishing fishing a small and little known trib of the East Fork of the Wind near Shoshone National Forest. The fishing was lights out, fantastic, with tons of quality fish up to 22.5-23 inches. Again, it was all dry fly fishing, every good pocket and run held a fish, and it was all Yellowstone cutthroats. Ted won the numbers with somewhere between 30 and 40 fish while Pat landed the largest one, a fish of 22-23 inches. Again all dries, it was stellar. We ate a late lunch, then headed to the upper end of the stream and caught a few more cutthroats, some good fish up to 16″. A downpour that was visible from a distance had dumped a good amount of rain on the headwaters and the water began to get incredibly off color. Eventually it turned dirty/muddy. We then hopped back in the SUV and headed back down to where we were but by then the dirty water had made its way downstream effectively ending the great fishing we had experienced. We ended up getting in the SUV and heading over to the headwaters of the Buffalo River, getting in a fishing a one mile meadow stretch. Fishing was great here, we landed another 25 to 30 fish or so. The Double Adams was the rig. Todays best flies were the Hippie Stomper, Adams Parachutes, and small red and tan para hoppers. We had another outstanding dinner at Nostalgia Bistro Restaurant , topping off a good day with a great meal.
After a hearty breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe, we headed out to fish the forks of the East Wind. Overnight we had some heavy rain so when we got to the river it was up and wading was a little tough. We fished a 3/4 mile stretch and landed several cutthroats, a brown or two, and several whiteys (whitefish). Decided to look at Bear Creek and it was high and dirty, as well as the Wind and East Fork of the Wind. We ended up going back up to the Brooks Creek and caught a few brook trout, then over to Blackrock and caught a few cutties….all on dry flies again. We had good fishing all the way to about 8pm. We left and decided to go have dinner, a great dinner at Grizzly Grill. Excellent again as we had steaks and salads…pretty good stuff after a long day of fishing. Best flies again today were the Adams, also caught a few on hoppers.
We rose early, and headed back to Jackson where we ate a great breakfast at the Virginian. Then we headed down and did a 25 mile trek across the Green River valley and fished about 2 miles of water on one of the Green River tribs in the Cottonwoods that flows out of Bridger National Forest. We caught a few cutts and brook trout on Hippie stompers, para hoppers, Adams, and PMDS. We fished til about lunch time and probably landed 15 fish, then headed over a few miles to the other fork and caught one cutthroat. Fishing was a little slow there, very suprising given the good fishing we found the day before. So we headed back to where we started and almost right away got into more fish, including several nice cutthroats and a bunch of smaller ones.. probably landed 35-40 total and Ted with the nicest one at 16″. We fished til about 7pm and called it day . One additional highlight was the moose we saw in the meadow where we were fishing. Saw lots of antelope as well, and they were all over. I don’t think there was a single day we didn’t see some antelope. Enjoyed another great dinner at the Bear’s Den Restaurant at Daniel Junction, some of which included Pork Schnitzel….and I sampled the Grilled chicken tortellini which was excellent. We then headed back to Hoback Canyon where we were staying. Pretty good day, and back to awesome weather Im used to in WY.
We got up bright and early, had a quick breakfast from the local market, then headed out to fish the upper portion of the same stream we started on yesterday morning. Fishing was way better this time, we landed a ton of fish, lots of cutthroats and a few brookies and all on dry flies again. Pat and Ted probably landed around 40 or more fish before we took a lunch break. The weather was great, the only hitch was the western hopper wind that was blowing to 25mph+ at times. But it didn’t bother the fishing, even if it made casting a little tough at times. We ended up hitting another lower stretch of the stream, and it was the same there. A good many fish and Ted topped it off with a stunning cutthroat of about 18 inches. We left there and headed over to the other fork of the stream and ended up catching another 20 brook trout on dries and a lone cutthroat. Same flies but the Adams was king today. Size 12 and 14 and occasionally an 18. Worked like a charm matching the gray “drakes” that were coming off. Had another great evening meal at the Bears Den at Daniel Junction and back to the cabin in Hoback Canyon pretty late. Ted packed up and had an early morning flight to catch.
Ted and I were up at 430am and to the Jackson airport so he could catch his flight home. Got there without a hitch and then I headed back to put lunch together and get stuff together for the day’s fishing. Gas up the vehicle, make sure you have plenty of water/drinks, ice, etc. (normal must haves out here)…that was what I did daily. I picked up Pat at his cabin and we had a quick breakfast from the market. Then we headed up the Hoback Canyon for the day. We started out with some of the same dries that had worked all week and just as the Adams had performed all week it did a fine job again, netting Pat many nice cutthroats up to 16″. We worked our way through several slide areas where spring avalanches and mudslides had occurred, and in some places had to rock hop and work our way slowly through tangles of downed pines. It was like combat fishing, but we did very well. I think Pat ended up with between 30 and 40 cutthroats, all on dries. In most places the Adams or Adams rig worked well, and in places where we had a large fish rise and we’d miss him or places I knew there were some good fish we’d change to a Schroeder Para Hopper tan. More often than not we’d get the fish to eat, and caught a bunch of good ones on the Schro hopper. We skipped lunch and eventually headed back down, hitting some of the better holes again with a different fly. Pat caught a handful more, and nailed one fish that was in the 18 to 20 inch range on a black Mormon cricket….a fish that had earlier risen to the fly but that Pat had missed on the hookset. He got another shot and hooked the fish but it shot under the willow undercut and got into the tangle of roots and broke him off. Easily the fish of the day if it had come to net. On that one we walked back , took a shot at one more spot, then called it a day and walked back. Walked about 3 miles over rough terrain and I think we were both exhausted. Good day though, and we ended it with a good meal at the Branding Iron Cafe with fish and chips and a shrimp basket. Great day, flies of the day again were Adams paras and tan Schroeder hoppers. The black mormon cricket also caught several fish.
This is an abbreviated report , mainly due to time and travel constraints. We also were “off the grid” to the point that most of the time we had no internet service, cell service, etc. We have ,many, many more pics on the main fishing reports page of the website here . You can also visit that report by clicking the link below….
A great trip, we’ll be doing two trips next year. If anyone is interested in joining me in 2018 in Wyoming now is the time to start planning. We start a year in advance with the trip and plan all year for it. 2018 should be another great year for sure.
Have a busy week with some float trips, one on Tuesday with Dr Ken Karb, Greensboro, NC. We will be floating the New R for smallmouth. Wednesday and Thursday I have two TN tailwaters float trips, and Friday I’ll be taking off. Saturday I round out the week with some lessons.
Great week in front of us, looking at a slight cool down midweek and some rain. Everything is pointing to a great fall. If we keep getting rain its going to be a great one for sure.
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