What A Week!

Over the course of the spring Charity and I have felt like the fishing was a little more difficult than usual. There were more days than usual when trout in the Smokies wouldn’t rise to a dry fly very well and the number of fish taking a fly on the tailwaters seemed light compared to previous years.

My best friend and occasional fishing buddy Doug Sanders recently wondered out loud what our definition of “pretty good” is after hearing our fishing reports first hand and looking at our pics from the river. We have to admit that the past week has been nothing short of phenomenal both in the Smokies and on the tailwaters.

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Phil Reiger lands the ever elusive 20″ trout and does it sight casting to a riser with a dry fly!

No matter where you fish a 20″ trout is pretty special. If you ever check things against a ruler there are very few fish in the net that reach that size. Put some small flies and light tippet into the equation and things get even touchier. Phil Reiger really did a great job handling this fish and did everything right. Phil has been fishing with me for several years and seems to hit a new milestone each time, but he’ll have a tough time beating this.

Phil with his hands full while I wait out in the water for the best moment to net the fish

Phil with his hands full while I wait out in the water for the best moment to net the fish

Jeff McSwain Rainbow trout

I have to give equal time to Jeff who put together some nice angling as well

It’s been a physically demanding week in the “R&R Floating Command Center”. Not only have I been rowing like a fiend, but with several of the fish being so strong and melting line off the reel (out to backing in one instance) I’ve have to run them down on foot to get them in the net. When someone has the best fish of their life hooked on a #18 fly with light tippet I don’t want the angler to pull the fish through swift current if they don’t need to. The odds are pretty long anyway so there have been a number of times when I’ve dropped anchor and gone overboard with the net to increase the odds.

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Another one of those fish I had to chase down with the net in the swift water. This time for Maryville local Harry Macintosh

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I had to jump out of the boat to chase down this sprinter with the net for Jeff McSwain since it wouldn’t come anywhere near the boat after several minutes on the line.

Seth Judd dry fly rainbow in boat

Seth Judd rocks the dry fly

And believe it our not, these aren’t all the pics of hefty trout from the week. There was even one moment when I unhooked one hefty fish for Harry Macintosh and released it after some reviving in the current. I couldn’t help but notice no one had pulled out a camera. “So… I guess it’s a pretty good day when we release a fish like that and don’t even think about reaching for the camera.”

But wait! There’s more!

The Smokies have been fishing really well too. Charity has been working the streams this week and we’ve got some good stuff to share from the mountains.

Ben & Ken Savitz have been fly fishing around the Smoky region long enough to catch fish on their own but wanted some more instruction on finding brown trout in the mountain streams.

Land some wild brown trout in the Smokies… Check!

600px.Ben1stBrown.IMG_3899 600px.KenDryFlyBrown.IMG_3906Charity reports that dropper rigs have been the overall best fish catchers this week, but anyone who wants to fish either a dry fly or nymph will catch fish. The nymphs have been better on the bigger, deeper water while the dry flies do just fine in the typical pocket water and shallow riffles.

And the scenery is top notch right now as well with blooming laurel lining the stream in many areas.

Fishing Blooming Laurels

Tessa and Mitchell also got a productive tutorial in Smoky Mountain fly fishing techniques. Anyone who catches trout in the Smokies on a regular basis will agree that they have it down!

Mitchell Stalking Trout

Mitchell puts the sneak on wild trout

Working the high stick for a perfect drift

Tessa working the high stick for a perfect drift

Fishing over the holiday weekend

As you would probably expect, all of the most accessible locations will be pretty crowded this weekend. Don’t be surprised to find crowds at Miller’s Island on the Clinch and plenty of folks wading on Little River and Tellico River. This isn’t a good reason to stay off the water though. Any time you invest 10-20 minutes of walking up a trail on a mountain stream you will probably find plenty of water for yourself.

If you feel the need to get on big water you’ll have a tough time finding privacy where there are trout, but you might consider fishing for smallmouth since they’re mostly overlooked by people who prefer to fish rivers. Lower Tellico River is a prime example of large water full of eager smallies who rarely see a lure let alone a fly. Other places to look for smallmouth are lower Citico Creek, the Nolichucky River, the French Broad, and many areas of the Holston River above and below Cherokee Lake.

The weather has warmed up enough so you can start fishing the poppers, so don’t feel like you need to stay home just because all the good trout water will be crowded.