With warm water action winding down here in East Tennessee my angling options are dwindling. As per normal my attention has begun to shift back to trout and the areas coldwater fisheries. And so it was last Thursday when I gave a buddy, Kevin, a call to see if he wanted to cut out a little early from work on Friday to go and see what was happening on one of our local tailwaters. My intention for the trip was to fish and review a new rod a manufacturer’s rep had recently sent me. As a result, my expectations for the outing were minimal since I expected it to be more about the rod than the fishing, what I found, however, was something entirely different.
Upon arrival the river was empty with the water still a bit high but falling fast. I gave my compatriot the lay of the land and told him of my game plan which consisted of wading down to the run below us while throwing a tandem nymph rig and then to make the turn at the bottom and make my way back up to the truck. As we parted ways and I set my plan to action. En route to the run I noticed a number of chubs producing splashy takes on the surface in miniscule pocket water too skinny to hold trout. At the top of the run, while pulling line off the reel, a trout rose immediately in front of me in a lie that historically holds big fish. I ran my nymph rig through the spot and was immediately rewarded when my indicator disappeared and I reacted peeling a rainbow out of the depression in the run. Another cast further upstream produced a larger rainbow intent on inhaling my foam indicator.
With the water still a touch high but dropping fast I continued to ply the waters with my deep nymph rig and managed to make contact with a more significant brown trout that thought he was a rainbow. After four leaps from the water he managed to come unbuttoned and on the next cast I had to settle for his little brother. Had I stopped fishing now, a mere forty-five minutes on the water, I would have been completely satisfied. But a plan is a plan and as I rounded the bottom of the fast water at the lower end of the run the late November sun had been on the water long enough to entice a moderate hatch of size sixteen caddis.
Given the amount of surface activity as well as the early incident with a fish hitting my indicator, I made the switch to a size 10 yellow caddis (the largest I had in my box) with a beadhead pheasant tail dropper and made the turn to begin fishing back up the run towards the truck and Kevin. Now, when I said my expectations were low as to the potential of the afternoons fishing, I probably should have qualified it somewhat. I’ve been fishing this stretch of river for over 15 years. I’ve seen it go through its ups and downs, good years and bad, and whether I was conscious of it or not, I was fully aware that while it is a tailwater fishery it fishes much more like a freestone and some of my better catches on this stretch of river have come late in the year while methodically covering the runs and holes with a large searching pattern and a dropper nymph. While we often don’t like to admit it, we are all creatures of habit and I suspect that my own circannual rhythm dictated that I show up in that spot one more time before winter weather officially hit.The first fish, and arguably the largest, came at the very bottom of the run after I had turned my attention back up stream to locate the next spot to place my fly. While I didn’t see the take I definitely heard it and knew exactly what it meant. I fought the fat rainbow for several minutes before he came to hand and then began what must have been the most productive two hours of fishing I’ve had in several years. As I slowly and deliberately made my way back to the truck I could do no wrong. In fact, in the two hours following the turn, I would wager that there wasn’t 15 minutes that saw me without a fish on. Further, and perhaps the best news, nearly every fish I caught was in the 15 to 20 inch range, fat, healthy, and full of steam. Whether intuition, luck, or low expectations. I found precisely what I was looking for in the sideways golden southern sun on that late November afternoon. I remembered precisely why it is we fish.
December 15th, 10 to 2: Top predator fly tier Brad Bohen will reveal his World Record producing tricks at Three Rivers Angler in a rare fly tying class!
3 Rivers Angler is officially One Year Old. In honor of this remarkable achievement, please join us for drinks, treats, and an exhibition of Brent Golden's haunting infrared photography on Friday, November 30th from 6 to 9.
All Patagonia apparel will be on sale, 15% off.
Enjoy snacks, treats and drinks!
Hang out with new and old friends!
Shop early and local for the holidays!
The fog of the last week has yet to lift in large part due to the perils of modern air travel. I've just returned from a whirlwind trip to the Big Rock Candy Mountains of west-central Montana on the banks of the Missouri river. At the invitation of Rio Fly Lines and her parent company Farbank Enterprises, I was invited to join a couple of their execs and some other industry types for a couple days of fishing and R&D. Skeptical at first, fearing that they might ply me with booze, gifts, and miles of tailwater trout, I hesitantly agreed to their terms and hastily packed my backs and boarded a big ole plane headed that way.
Much to my chagrin (as I'm sure you can imagine), upon arrival I was greeted with a horrific site; a wall of new Sage and Redington rods sitting next to empty Sage and Redington reels, boxes of unopened Rio Fly Lines, and a rack of Rio tippets and leaders. What's worse, on my bed (soft, puffy, and devoid of any four and/or six year olds) were stacks of new product for me to try including a pair of Redington Sonic Pro Zip Waders, a Sonic Pro wading jacket, and Skagit sticky rubber wading boots. Despite my protests, they informed me I was to fish any or all of the product to my heart's content. Because they paid my way I felt obligated to do just that.
The Missouri River running through Craig, Montana, a place that oozes fishing culture with such credible circumstance one is forced to believe that it is the genesis of all things trout, is the ideal place to put new product through its paces. With three drift boats at our disposal and 34 miles of trout water containing 4000 fish per mile, the other invitees and I were left with nothing left to do but pick our poison and fish, eat, and drink ourselves to exhaustion. For three days that's just what we did.
The take away from the whole affair (other than a few extra pounds, jet lag, and a general foggy disposition)? First and foremost, Far Bank Enterprises, despite being a juggernaut in the fly fishing industry, is composed principally of individuals that are devoted and passionate about the sport and the industry within which they work and it shows in the products that they produce. Secondly, the new face of fly fishing retailers is thirty-something, well-educated, business savvy, and equally passionate about what they do. At the end of the day, while the industry as a whole is desperately attempting to remain viable via whatever means necessary, the group of individuals at the core largely remains the same despite their constantly changing role. You, however, as the consumer, hold the cards to how the fly fishing industry moves forward and which products are ultimately retained.
If you're looking to me for advice on product from me (hopefully you are) then here's the skinny. I finally got a chance to really put Redington's new Sonic Pro Zip waders to the test over the last week and I can't find even one fault to mention. They fit well, are comfortable, and the price is right. What's more, as the cold weather draws closer, the advent of a sub-$400 wader with a zipper becomes even more appealing. We're pretty fortunate here in East Tennessee to be able to fish year round and not having to come out of layer upon layer when nature calls is a more than enticing concept.
Next, and somewhat of a confession, Sage's latest offering the Circa is not what I was expecting it to be by a long shot. When one conceives of a modern 'slow' action rod I immediately default back to Sage's LL (light line) line of rods which was and remains to be one of my favorite. The Circa's action is more akin to bamboo or fiberglass, bending deep into the blank, while not sacrificing accuracy. While it's definitely not a rod for everyone, particularly those who have come to love Sage's fast action offerings, the rod's potential in our mountain fisheries is tremendous. It was a joy to throw in Montana during a blanket pseudo hatch when the fish were hovering bugs off the water and your fly was getting lost in the mix. Put it in their mouth, literally, and they'll eat. That's exactly what the Circa's delicate touch and accuracy grant you.
Finally, the other product which really stood out for me was Rio's new Suppleflex presentation tippet and leaders. Small technical flies to picky fish sound familiar? Suppleflex is Rio's solution and I absolutely loved it. It casts likes a dream, lays out like it's suppose to, and drifts likes the bee's knees. You can expect to see it in the shop soon and just in time for fishing the Clinch's midge hatches through winter. Designed to aid in a 'more' natural drift, Suppleflex is a great product for east Tennessee's dry fly fishing as well as our small technical nymphing.