Guided Trips

I am currently booking trips in the Great Smoky Mountains and on the Caney Fork river into the spring 2015 season. If you are interested in a guided trip with me, please visit my guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, call or text (931) 261-1884, or email me at troutzoneanglers@gmail.com.

Photo of the Month: Hiwassee Brown Trout

Photo of the Month: Hiwassee Brown Trout

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ice Storm 2015: Abbreviated Version

Just a heads up to those of you who have noticed a lack of posts but we are in the midst of the ice storm of the century here in Crossville or at least something like that. Power is out across the county so I just came in town to get internet where power was finally restored sometime yesterday. We have numerous power poles and lines down on our road and the yard looks like a tree company pruned all our trees and then forgot to clean up but otherwise we are doing great. Thankfully we have both a gas fireplace and a wood stove so we are warm. The gas hot water heater is a life saver as I really appreciate my nice hot showers.

Anyway, I won't be checking here as much nor will I be able to check my email very consistently until we get power and phone service back up so please be patient if you do not get an immediate response when contacting me about a guided trip. I'll be back in to check email sometime in the next couple of days if we don't get back up and running and possibly as early as tonight.

Until then, please be patient and know that I will be back soon!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How Did He Know?

A few short weeks ago (or was it months now?), I was doing my usual daily routine of surfing the Internet to see what my fellow fly fishing bloggers had been up to. Coming across a blog that is probably on everyones list of favorites, I was happy to see a giveaway going on. You know the type, you have to accomplish some small task like commenting on the post or sharing it with your friends and you are entered to win something. Now, I never win these things, but hope springs eternal so I left a message.

Shortly after, imagine my surprise when checking back in with Windknots &Tangled Lines to discover that I had indeed won something. Howard Levett, author of the famed blog, had somehow pulled my name out of the hat, or something along those lines. Even more amazing, he had picked me to receive the Korkers Ice Cleats.

Now, we don't have to use Ice Cleats or anything similar very often around here in Tennessee, so I knew something was up when he sent them to me. Clearly he knew something that I didn't know. Fast forward just a few short weeks after they arrived, and Tennessee is bombarded with an epic ice storm. While we see some snow and an occasional thin glaze of ice, it is not every year that we get massive ice storms. In fact, I was in high school the last time we had anything close to this ice storm. This ice storm is so incredible that I can go outside and skate across my yard, and no I don't have a pond out there.




What I want to know is how in the world did Howard know that I would need ice cleats weeks or months before the big weather event? These forecasters around here were changing their forecast from rain, to snow, to sleet, to freezing rain, to snow, and so on and so forth in the days leading up to this big storm. Somehow or another it seems Howard has the inside scoop on the weather.

Really, all I'm saying is that it would be convenient to know the weather so far in advance. This small gesture of kindness by Howard kept me from breaking any limbs. Instead of skating around on the ice, I was able to move confidently on the Korkers Ice Cleats and never once slipped or felt in danger of falling. If Howard knew we would have an ice storm more than two months ago, I want to know how to get him to cough up this summer's forecast and maybe even next fall's.

Imagine how convenient that would be when planning a fishing trip. Hate rainy weather and prefer sunny days for hopper fishing? Just ask Howard when to go. Want to fish under drizzly gray skies during epic emergences of your favorite mayfly? I'm guessing Howard has a way to figure that one out also. After all, he nailed this ice storm.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Call To Action: Protect Our Waterways

Just a few days ago, I shared Transboundary, a new short film highlighting the concerns with large scale open pit mining in the border region between Alaska and British Columbia. First of all, if you have not watched the film please do so before reading the rest of this by clicking the link above.

Once you have watched it and understand the challenges currently facing the pristine watersheds in southeast Alaska, please consider signing this petition. From mountaintop removal coal mines in the eastern United States to large scale open pit mines for copper, gold, silver, and other metals in the western part of the country, I have seen first hand what happens during the mining process.

The land will not be the same for a long time, much longer than our own lifetimes. Sadly the Canadian government seems comfortable making the decision to allow these mines to go forward, even with clear historical precedents showing the disaster that can occur when the mining process fails. This petition is short and to the point and encourages Secretary of State John Kerry to use all forms of diplomacy available to bring pressure on the Canadian government and companies choosing to go forward with the proposed mines in British Columbia.

At stake is not only pristine wilderness and clean waterways, but huge anadromous runs of fish that provide the basis of the local economy in southeast Alaska. Endanger those fish and the economy they support, and you endanger peoples' livelihoods. Sign the petition today to encourage Secretary Kerry to do all that he can to protect these waterways.

Floating the Caney Fork River Before the Cold

Last week, with the cold weather on the way, I wanted to get one more day of fishing in. After checking around, I discovered that my buddy Tyler was free and we agreed on a float of the Caney Fork River. With forecast temperatures supposed to rise into the low 50s, we were excited about one last nice day on the water before the arctic air plunged into the region.

Timing our arrival to coincide with falling water, we launched shortly after the last generator was turned off. Fish were rising all across the dam pool when the wind wasn't blowing but unfortunately there was more wind than not.

We started drifting with Tyler in the front casting brace while I enjoyed some time at the oars. It wasn't until we passed the second ramp that Tyler got in the zone with his casting and mending. The water was slow to fall out, probably due to the fact that they had been running two generators for several hours. That is a lot of water to drain down the river to the Cumberland.

About the time that I felt water levels were improving, Tyler made a nice cast and mend that set up a long drift. Right at the very end of the drift his indicator dove and he set the hook. A nice big golden flash got both of us excited but the fight was over as fast as it started when the fish threw the hook. Shortly after, Tyler made a long cast to the bank and after a short drift, the indicator dove again. This time everything worked out and we had our first little brown trout of the day in the boat.


I continued rowing and it was not too long before Tyler caught some more including a nice rainbow trout.



This fish was big enough that I decided to do a quick throat sample. While I do not recommend doing this with every fish, it is a good way to find out what the fish are eating. Thankfully this one seemed to handle it pretty well. Here is what was on the menu that day.


We continued down the river with Tyler catching a trout here and there but none of any significant size. Eventually, when we were a good third of the way into the float, I decided to let Tyler row. He willingly took a turn at the oars, proving to be a quick learner as it was only his second time rowing.

I got into some fish in an unlikely spot that I will remember for future reference, as well as some spots that I usually expect to find fish. Late in the float, I finally hooked the big fish of the day. This rainbow really wasn't a large fish, but I wish you could have seen its girth in person. The pictures do not do it justice. I guarantee it weighed at least double of what other fish of equal length weighed. Either this is a female full of eggs, or it has been eating a bunch of shad lately. I'm guessing the first one is correct based on where I caught this fish, but of course the shad hypothesis is a bit more interesting.


Two Photographs above by Tyler Debord

With forecast overnight lows expected to drop below zero in the upcoming nights, the shad kill likely is on the way. I'm already planning another trip to the river, and hopefully I'll be throwing streamers again next time. Until then, I think I'll try to stay warm.

If you are in the Huntsville area, I will be speaking to the Tennessee Valley Fly Fishers this upcoming Thursday evening about fly fishing in the Smokies. I'm looking forward to meeting a bunch of new friends! Come out to learn more about the excellent fly fishing we have here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Is a Shad Kill?

Since I keep talking about the shad kill, many of you have been wondering what I am referring to. Here is a little more information on the phenomena and why it should get you excited as a fly fisherman!


Many years ago, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) started building dams throughout the Tennessee valley and its tributary streams, numerous warm water reservoirs were formed. Each of these lakes boasts incredible diversity when it comes to fishing and a few even offer trout fishing.

The unintended by-product of these lakes was the cold water fisheries that prevailed below each dam. Within just a few years, many of the rivers were being stocked with trout. Not all of the TVA lakes have a trout fishery downstream because some are too shallow, but in the lakes that are deep enough for stratification to occur, cold water settles to the bottom of the lake. During the summer months, the bottom draw reservoirs are dumping cold water through the generators in their respective dams and create fantastic tailwater fisheries downstream. Rivers like my local tailwater, the Caney Fork River, as well as the Clinch, South Holston, Watauga, Holston, and Hiwassee are all known as great fishing destinations.

What most anglers do not realize is that these tailwaters fish great through the winter. Most anglers prefer to come fish during spring through fall when it is warmer outside. However, the winter can produce phenomenal midge hatches, and on a few rivers, blue-winged olives and winter stoneflies. The big event each year happens in late winter, if it is going to happen.

Each summer, in the reservoirs, the various species of shad (especially threadfin) proliferate in the nutrient rich waters. The shad in turn provide a great forage base for various fish including smallmouth and largemouth bass, stripers, white bass, and many other species. However, the shad need relatively warm water to thrive. In the winter, when the surface temperature on area reservoirs drops into the low 40s, shad start dying en masse. When this occurs, the current from the generators in the dams slowly draws the dead and dying fish. Eventually they get sucked through and come out below the dams into the tailwater fisheries.


That is when the real fun begins. When shad are coming through a given dam, the fish in the river below go on a feeding binge. In fact, this phenomena is one of the secrets of the fishing I do for large stripers. Generally, you can expect the best shad kills to happen in late winter during the months of February and March. It is during these times that the lake surface temperatures normally reach their lowest points of the whole year.

Even better for us fishermen, when a shad kill is on, fish will often hit just about anything white as they eat as much as they can and then some in an effort to pack on the pounds. Fish grow fat ridiculously fast on this high protein diet.


This year, I'm forecasting a good shad kill on the Caney Fork River. If it happens, it will be in the next 1-3 weeks. We have already seen some limited numbers of shad coming through the dam at Center Hill but so far the fish have not keyed in on the shad in a big way. If you are flexible with your schedule and want to experience some incredible fishing, call me as soon as I announce the shad kill has started to book a float trip to throw streamers. You may catch the fish of a lifetime...

There is a good chance that we will also see good shad kills on the Clinch and Holston Rivers. Additionally, even though it is a warm water fishery, I have had good luck fishing the shad kill on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga below Chickamauga Dam. The white bass and hybrids seem to like the shad as well as freshwater drum and of course the stripers when they are around. If you are interested in learning how to approach this fishery as a wade angler, please contact me for more information or to book a guided trip.


Over the years, I have developed 3 flies specifically for the shad kill. Two of them are ones you have seen or heard about before, the PB&J and my recent floating shad creation. The PB&J is best when you need to dead drift your patterns.


In addition to these patterns, white Wooly Buggers work as well as just about any other white streamer. I'm partial to Kelly Galloup's Stacked Blonde in all white.

Regardless of what flies you fish, make sure that you are using a strong rod and heavy tippet. I fish the shad kill with a 7 weight rod or heavier and fish no lighter than 10 lb. tippet but preferably 12 lb. The fish can be large at this time and the worst thing you could do is to hook the fish of a lifetime on too light of a tippet.

Stay tuned here for more on the shad kill. Once it is on it may last for days or it may be over within 48 hours. In rare years it may drag on for a few weeks but don't hold your breath for that one. However, as long as it stays unseasonably cold here in Tennessee, we have a pretty good chance of an awesome shad kill!

If you have any other questions about the shad kill or want to book a guided trip, please reply here and let me know or contact me

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Storm Warning

Here in Tennessee, we are under a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service. I'm excited as we really haven't experienced much "winter" other than cold temperatures so far this year. I love snow and really any frozen precipitation although I would rather avoid freezing rain as that tends to cause the power to go out once trees start falling on the power lines. Anyway, tomorrow should be a fun day. I will be out and about with my camera enjoying the white goodness!

Why I Love the Gunnison River

A nice Gunnison Gorge brown trout I caught back in 2009. Photo by Trevor Smart.

Those of you who have read my blog for a few years know that I love the Gunnison River. My favorite stretch is the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge but even the freestone water above Blue Mesa Reservoir is awesome.

Now, there is a great short film out that highlights why this river is so awesome. Check out my video post on Wide Open Spaces (WOS) to see this river. Here is just a quick teaser: all the big fish were caught on dry flies!

Also, please help me out with my freelance writing by clicking on the "share" buttons on the article (not the ones on the video but the ones on the WOS page just under the featured image at the top) and sharing them on your social media. Thank you for the help and support. Enjoy the video!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Frigid Temperatures and the Shad Kill

This week it looks like we will actually get some good winter weather. The main question right now is how much snow will we get, but overall things are looking good for some extremely cold air. That means I'm thinking about the shad kill. David Perry over at Southeasternfly saw some coming through a week or two ago, but so far the fish have not seen enough to be keying on them real well.

Besides, when it is truly on, the fish look like little footballs and the largest fish in the river start feeding on the white morsels. With at least the possibility of low temperatures below zero but Wednesday night this week, I'm expecting a full blown shad kill by next weekend if we are going to get a good one this year. That is always a big if.

Depending on whether the temperatures continue to be unusually low or not, the shad kill could go on for a couple of weeks or even into early March. The best year I remember had a good shad kill into March so things could be awesome for a while now.

Even if the shad kill does not get particularly exciting, the nymph and midge fishing has been good recently. When we can get good flows to float (0 or 1 generator), then it is worth getting out on the water. Things should get even better in March so if you are looking for a tailwater float on the Caney Fork in the next couple of months, please contact me and I would be glad to help you get a trip set up.

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