Beating Cabin Fever

Winter fly fishing in Tennessee isn’t that hard to endure compared to Michigan, Montana, and Maine among other places. That still doesn’t mean that it’s not cold though. We’ve had a string of days when the thermometer barely cracked 30, so needless to say, if you’re going fishing you’re gonna get cold.

Earlier in the week the weather forecasters were pushing the idea of a 55 degree sunny Saturday so Charity and I planned our week around fishing on that day. No sooner had we lined up a baby sitter than the forecast declined to 50 and overcast. OK…. Not bad. A day later we’re looking at 45 and overcast, but clearing by afternoon. Hey, that’s tolerable.

We pulled the drift boat out of the driveway Saturday morning with scattered snow showers and the same temperatures in the 20’s we’ve grown accustomed to. As we headed to the river Charity reminded me in her typically upbeat fashion that this was supposed to “blow out” by the afternoon. She was right. It blew a stiff breeze all day that cleared the skies as we were driving home in the evening. I think it might have hit 40, but the wind chill didn’t make it feel that way.

Rising Trout, Holston River, Tennessee

Nothing like a rising trout to warm you up!

We were still excited to get out on the water and the anticipation only grew as we saw rise rings on the water as we drove up the river. I had to double check everything while launching the boat because I spent more time watching trout rise than pay attention to what tackle made it into the boat.

Midges were hatching in profusion and trout were rising in all the regular spots. True to for, Charity rigged a streamer on the boat ramp and worked that while we float to the prime dry fly water. She picked up three before we covered much distance.

Ian Rutter rows the Holston River in Tennessee, January 2008

A little chilly but happy to be out of the house.

I can’t remember how many trout we caught, so it was a pretty good day. I do remember that we caught fish on dry flies, streamers, and nymphs which certainly indicates the fish were eager to eat. We had far more refusals than takes on the dry fly, but had more fun doing that than anything else. We used a #18 Hi-Vis Parachute Olive that fooled enough fish to keep using it even though it was obvious that only the most aggressive feeders were taking it.

A #20 midge pupa accounted for most of the fish hooked. We fished this under a dry fly as a dropper rig. The dry we used was a #16 Elk Hair Caddis that we didn’t really expect the fish to eat, but one did.

A #10 Black Woolly Bugger accounted for the fish that ate streamers. We fished this on a 5 weight rod and floating line, so we weren’t really serious about fishing streamers. Plenty of fun anyway.

Rainbow trout caught while fly fishing the Holston River in Tennessee

Typical of the fish we caught, 9 – 12″

In short, we more fish than we could remember. None were too big but all were big enough to make it fun. They were feeding well, but weren’t suicidal. They still kept you going back to the fly box to experiment. Pretty good for a cold day.