Guided Trips

UPDATE:8/23/2015 -- The Smokies continue to fish well. Bugs are fairly plentiful with little yellow stoneflies, big golden stoneflies, a few caddis, and even some mayflies making appearances. The fish are obviously eating well but still seem to always be hungry. Now is the time to fish the higher elevation waters and enjoy rainbow and brook trout. This week will see Little River come back into play with cool overnight temperatures forecast. Last week, I fished Little River one evening and had my best dry fly fishing of the year. I know that sounds incredible. It was and you should have been there!

The Caney Fork is fishing well this year. The streamer bite has been good on some high water days but on other days the fish seem to be stuffed full already despite plenty of forage around. On low water, terrestrials, nymphs, and midges should keep things interesting. Contact me about a float trip if you want to get in on this great fishing at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.

Cumberland Plateau smallmouth fishing is good when the water levels cooperate. The terrestrial fishing continues to be excellent. There is very little reason to throw anything other than topwater right now. Ever caught a Coosa bass? That is a possibility right now as well!

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Photo of the Month: Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Brook Trout

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Time in the Woods at Cumberland Mountain State Park

Growing up in Crossville, Tennessee, trips to Cumberland Mountain State Park were frequent. We would often hike around the lake or even tackle some of the longer trails that the park offers. In fact, it was the very first place I ever went fishing at the age of maybe 5 or so. I've come a long ways in my career as a fisherman since the days of a red and white bobber and night crawlers but still enjoy heading over to Cumberland Mountain State Park to fish or even just to hike whenever I get the chance.

A couple of days ago, I made the short drive over and after rigging up a 4 weight, headed down the trail. These trips are not so much about fishing, but of course, as a good angler, I must carry a rod. On most trips, I make it a good distance down the trail before I start to slow down enough to notice my surroundings. This trip was no different. Trailside flowers eventually got my attention enough to stop and dig out the camera.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Moving on, I contemplated a favorite fishing spot, but seeing it grown up with weeds decided to skip it until colder weather when Mr. No Shoulders would hopefully not be around. Later, the trail dipped down close to the water and there were enough bass and panfish cruising to get me interested. A couple of fish as well as several rejections later, I moved on. Again, my camera was brought out. By this time I had slowed down enough to notice many things around me and enjoy them for what they are. Sadly, life moves along quickly enough that sometimes these small blessings go unnoticed. Time in the woods usually corrects that problem.

The hemlock and pine trees grow tall in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Along with a camera stop, I also observed the water enough to spot a good sized sunfish. Getting it to eat the fly was not difficult, and my camera was then employed in a quick shot of the nice redear sunfish.

Redear sunfish from Byrd Lake at Cumberland Mountain State Park

By now I had caught just about all of the fish I really wanted or needed to catch and my eye increasingly wandered across and through the forest. Where I had caught the fish looked just like a jungle although, to be fair and for full disclosure, I've never actually been to a jungle.

Far upper end of Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park


 The flowers are around all spring, summer, and fall if you know where to look.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Like all good times, this one had to end so I headed down the trail and back to my car. Living close to Cumberland Mountain State Park means I can go back again soon though.

Trail around Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Talk To Me About Yellowstone In September

So there is a chance, nothing definite mind you, that I will get to take a trip out to Yellowstone the last two weeks in September. Originally, I dreamed of a long trip covering the better part of three weeks or maybe even a month. Colorado, Wyoming, Yellowstone of course, Montana, maybe even the Green River in Utah, just me and the most wild places I could find, preferably places that were blessed with numbers of quality trout.

The more thought that I've given to this possible trip, the more I realize that I mostly want to just visit Yellowstone. I've never had the good fortune to fish it in the fall but have long wanted to. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I'm never always quite certain, there is nothing to take me to Colorado other than the fishing and those rivers will be there for a long time still. In Yellowstone, however, while my favorite stream will be there for a long time to come (unless the super volcano blows that is) the very thing that makes it my favorite Yellowstone National Park stream is in danger of being destroyed.

So far as I can tell, the Park has not yet implemented their ludicrous plan to remove the browns, brooks, and 'bows from the Gibbon River, but knowing how such things work, it is surely still in the works. While a good number of people seem to be in favor of the change, they clearly have little knowledge of both cutthroat and their habitat preferences (the meadows of the Gibbon get way too warm for cutts) and also very little knowledge of the gem of a stream that the Gibbon is as is. I'm okay with people not understanding this beautiful stream since it leaves the lunker browns for me and a few select others to hunt, hopefully in a few more weeks.

A trip across several states and nearly across the country just to fish one stream may sound a bit extreme, and that is where I was hoping for some advice. I'll spend an inordinate amount of time fishing the Gibbon but would like to do more while I'm in the area. I've already fished Yellowstone National Park several times so need more info on how various waters fish during the last two weeks in September than anything. Will the Firehole be back in play yet? How about the lake run fish out of Hebgen on the Madison, lower Gibbon, and lower Firehole? How does the Madison outside of the Park fish at that time of year? Northeast corner of the Park such as Slough, Soda Butte, and the Lamar? How about the Yellowstone in the Grand Canyon or the Black Canyon? Backpacking that time of year would be pretty sweet, but since I'll be solo I doubt I'll tempt the bears too much. Day trips are risky enough by myself I suppose. I've never fished the Gardner. Would it be worth hitting for runner browns in late September or would I need to be out there later in the fall?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. I prefer catching brown trout first, cutthroat second (I would be in Yellowstone after all), and any other trout are just nice bonuses. Since there seems to be a war on browns, and I know the cutts will be there in the future, I'm not as concerned with finding and catching cutthroat even though I'm sure I'll fish for them at least some. Finally, I fully recognize that fishing advice is rarely if ever best shared through the Interwebs for all to read. Feel free to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com if you prefer that to answering on here.

Thank you in advance for any and all advice!




Monday, August 17, 2015

Fishing Stays Steady but Conditions Are Improving

Over the last couple of weeks, I've spent time on both the Caney Fork tailwater and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fishing in the Park is anywhere from average to very good depending on where you are fishing. In fact, for those willing to put forth some effort to hike a ways, this time of year can produce some fantastic numbers of rainbow and brook trout on dry flies.

The roadside streams should be improving with the cool and cloudy weather this week. In fact, this weather is about the greatest thing we can get in the middle of August. Hopefully September will bring cooler temperatures and maybe even an early fall.

Last week, I had several trips. We had a good time on all trips but one had the added bonus of being on water that had brook trout. Here are a few shots from that trip with Charlie.

Brook Trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains
Prospecting a nice pocket with the dry/dropper rig.

Charlie with a nice rainbow trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Charlie with a nice rainbow trout.

Fall colors
Fall is coming!

Brook Trout from the Great Smoky Mountains
A Great Smoky Mountains brook trout.

A remote brook trout stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Remote brook trout water in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tomorrow it is back to work with a trip in the Park. Later in the week I have some days available as well as some time the following week. If you have been waiting for empty streams and willing trout, this is a great time to book a trip. Most of the summer vacationers are gone since school is back in session. If you want to have the water to yourself, this time of year is second only to the cold of winter for solitude if you go midweek.

If you would like to book a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Caney Fork River, please contact me (David Knapp) via call/text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Sunday, August 09, 2015

August 2015 Newsletter



Despite staying fairly busy, I finally found the time to finish the August 2015 Trout Zone Anglers Newsletter. Check it out, and even better pass it on to your friends. Thank you for reading.

If you wish to subscribe but have not yet done so, you can fill out the form below and you will be good to go. If you like what you see on the newsletter, then please sign up. I won't be using your email for any purpose other than for newsletters and occasional special guide trip offers and tips on great fishing when it is happening and will never sell your email to a third party.



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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Low Water

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Wading a likely looking run on the Caney Fork River.


Floating on low water is usually the preferred method for fly fishing the Caney Fork River. In addition to being much safer, the low water concentrates the fish and allows anglers opportunities to sight fish and also normally to catch good numbers. Last week, day two with Nathan and Frank was scheduled to be a low water float. We would have a hard time following up the big fish excitement of the previous day but hoped to find a few more trout. Then, in the afternoon, they had to take off, but I was going to do another section on high water again to see if the streamer bite was still on.

We met early and were soon at the river dumping the drift boat and getting the shuttle taken care of. With everything ready to go, we soon pushed off and were floating downstream. Early on, we experimented with some patterns and tried a few different spots. A couple of fish hit but came unbuttoned quickly and we moved on to look for more willing candidates.

Soon we were drifting over a favorite shoal that normally has a good number of trout. Sure enough, there were fish taking midges up and down the shallow gravel bar. I pulled the boat over and both Nathan and Frank jumped out to work the water more carefully. Caney Fork River fly fishing often entails sight fishing to steadily feeding trout and this day was no different.

I grabbed my camera to record the fun.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Frank working a good stretch right before hooking up with a feisty brown trout.

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork River
Nathan prepares to land a healthy rainbow trout caught on a midge pattern.

Frank had been wanting to find a fish willing to eat a dry fly. A friend of his had given him a handful of flies and he wanted to catch a fish on them and get a picture. That mission was soon accomplished.

Caney Fork brown trout on a dry fly
Caney Fork brown trout caught on a dry fly.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork brown trout
A happy angler with a Caney Fork brown trout.

After the excitement, we were back in the boat and floating again. Some more fish were missed and then the action slowed. It became apparent we were following another boat so we passed them and rowed well downstream to not encroach on their water. Our time was running low but there were still a couple of big moments during the float.

Nathan was the first to score. I had pointed to a spot and requested that the anglers drop their flies in a small section of moving water. Nathan used pinpoint accuracy to get the flies drifting exactly where they needed to be, threw a nice upstream mend, and then set the hook as the indicator dove under. Soon the healthy holdover rainbow trout was in the net and we took a couple of quick photographs.

Caney Fork rainbow trout
Caney Fork rainbow trout.

Downstream a bit further, we had our last big moment for the day and it was really the highpoint of the whole float. We were drifting down on another good spot, and I directed the anglers to place their flies right on the current seam. Almost immediately both indicators went down and the guys got good hooksets. Soon the net was filled with trout and we had two happy anglers on board the boat!

Two happy anglers with a Caney Fork brown trout and a rainbow trout
One rainbow trout, one brown trout, and two happy anglers!

Soon we arrived at the takeout and quickly hauled the boat out before the generation caught up with us. A good morning fly fishing the Caney Fork had been had by all. The guys had a long drive back to Georgia, and I needed a break to eat lunch and rest before the afternoon streamer float. More on that to come soon!

If I can help you with a guided fly fishing float trip on the Caney Fork River or a walk/wade trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams, please call or text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Change of Plans

Caney Fork River brown trout
Nathan's 16" Caney Fork brown trout. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

Life rarely turns out as we planned. Jobs come and go and so do friendships unfortunately. Family is a bit more of a constant although even then we have no guarantees unfortunately. Many surprising twists and turns have come along for me through the years, some of which have been great while others are best forgotten. Earlier this week, a rather unusual change of plans was forced upon me that I did not particularly like, at least not initially. I never dreamed that it would lead to a great Caney Fork brown trout.

This story, like most, needs some background information. My cousin Nathan, who is one of my oldest and best fishing buddies, had made plans to bring his father-in-law Frank up to fish the Caney Fork with me for a couple of days. The trip was all about relaxing and having fun. After last summer's fishing extravaganza that saw a fantastic Caney Fork brown trout caught on a hopper, Nathan was eager to get back out on the river. This time we wouldn't follow up the float with camping in the Smokies but would make the most of our time floating.

For day one, generation was scheduled to start early so we planned on a late day trip to catch the falling water. Originally, when we checked the generation forecast on Sunday, the plan was to run from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. That would be perfect to get out on the water and float down the river with just enough extra water in the river to keep us moving. We dumped the boat in around 2:30 p.m. to try and get downstream a bit before the water cut off and then leisurely drifted and messed around with some larger flies. By the time the generation was supposed to cut off, we were right where I wanted to be. The only problem was that the water just kept on coming.

We continued to float and I tried some streamers which brought one Caney Fork brown trout to the boat and showed me some much larger fish. A bit further downstream, I finally made the decision to head for a bank and anchor up. Surely they would cut off the water soon. A quick check of the generation schedule told us that the cutoff time was pushed back to 4:00 p.m. Okay, no problem, we could wait a bit. You guessed it, four o'clock came and went with the water still rushing downstream. Finally, I apologized to the guys and said that we really needed to keep moving unfortunately. Streamers were strung up on the 5 weight Orvis Helios we had brought for dry fly and nymph presentations and we started drifting.

At one point, we switched over to some nymphs and promptly caught a couple of trout but overall things were very slow. The forced change of plans was not looking particularly great and we were already anticipating the next day's trip on lower water. Finally, late in the float, I handed Nathan the streamer rod and instructed him on exactly where and how to fish it. That's when the madness started. Within just a short distance, he soon nailed two very nice trout on my PB&J streamer. The coolest thing about both is that he saw the streamer eats very clearly which is about as much fun as you can have with a fly rod. The 17 inch rainbow and 16 inch brown trout were Nathan's first ever streamer fish so you can imagine how happy he wa

Caney Fork rainbow trout
Nathan's 17 inch Caney Fork rainbow trout

Caney Fork brown trout
Nathan's 16 inch streamer eating Caney Fork brown trout

David Knapp's PB&J streamer
David Knapp's PB&J Streamer does a fantastic job of imitating a shad

After the second nice fish, a 16 inch brown trout, Nathan asked if I wanted to give it a shot. "Of course," was my answer. He had barely settled behind the oars when a large swirl appeared downstream and to our right. "Do you want me to row over there?" Again, I responded with "of course." On the very first cast, my fly had barely hit the water when a big chunk of golden brown was all over the fly and my 5 weight Helios was immediately being pushed harder than I had imagined would happen on this float.

Before the stress levels got too high on the boat, Nathan slipped the net under the big Caney Fork brown trout, and I let out an ecstatic whoop that probably could be heard all the way downstream to the Cumberland. The fish stretched to 21 inches on the tape on the side of the boat and is an early candidate for my personal "Fish of the Year 2015."

My big Caney Fork brown trout that ate a PB&J streamer
My big Caney Fork brown trout that ate a PB&J streamer. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

The fishing was so good, that I contacted my buddy David Perry about floating with me the next day after the morning low water trip with Nathan and Frank, but more on that next time. The change of plans ended up being the best thing that could have happened. This lesson is definitely more broadly applicable in life...

If I can help you with a guided Caney Fork float trip or a guided Smoky Mountain fly fishing trip, please contact me via call or text at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com. I have some days open right now in the upcoming weeks so contact me soon about getting a chance at a big Caney Fork brown trout.


Releasing Nathan's fine Caney Fork brown trout
Releasing Nathan's fine Caney Fork brown trout. Photo credit, Nathan Stanaway.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Almost There

Are we there yet? If you've road tripped before you have either uttered these words or answered the query. In my case, as I mentioned a few weeks back, I'm getting antsy for autumn. Every time I see leaves with changing colors, I get a familiar surge of excitement.

Today, even with air temps in town pushing 90 degrees (shoot, even here at the house it got up to 84), there was something different. I'm sure the calendar turning the page helped at least on some vague psychological level, but the days are noticeably shorter. The sun is setting around 15 minutes earlier than the latest evenings in mid June but there are other indicators as well.

A dry frontal passage sometime this past Thursday ushered in slightly cooler temperatures, and much more importantly, at least in my book, drier air. In fact, one of the things that excites me about fall is the dry airs, crisp cool evenings, and yes, camping and fishing trips complete with cheerful campfires. And colored up trout.

It would be my favorite season even without the fishing, at least that is the story I'm sticking to. Fired up brookies and browns are hard to beat though. On some of my favorite drainages up in the Smokies, the fish are already starting to get that look and have been for the last 3-4 weeks. The signs will only grow stronger through this month and into September. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy sights like this that reminds me we are almost there.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Camping in Cataloochee

Bees Balm along Rough Fork in Cataloochee Valley
Bees Balm along Rough Fork in Cataloochee Valley

Some of my favorite experiences in the Smokies over the years have involved camping trips with a healthy dose of fishing thrown in for good measure. When some time was freed up a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a last minute run to the Park for my first camping trip in quite a long time. The destination was Cataloochee Valley, one of the places where elk are again roaming wild in the Park after their successful reintroduction several years ago. The elk are just one of the reasons I love camping in Cataloochee although I must say that they have increased the crowds there a lot.

When people ask me where my favorite place to fish is, I always have to pause and think. Little River would probably be at the top of that list, but the rest would shake out differently each time depending on the day and my mood. Cataloochee always deserves a place near the top of that list. The reasons are much more complicated than great fishing and in fact if fishing was the main goal, I probably would not choose Cataloochee for a trip. The fishing is just about as good as anywhere else in the Park but certainly not better. The remote nature means there is more water available per fisherman which is beginning to come closer to the truth of why I love Cataloochee.

For my most recent trip, I decided to take the scenic route and drove in from Big Creek which is a good enough fishery in its own right. On the drive over, I stopped to sample a couple of small tributaries ranging from very tiny to just barely fishable. I was happy to discover brook trout just where they were supposed to be although getting a fly to these fish was challenging to say the least.

Continuing my drive, I arrived at the campground and quickly ate my lunch. I headed back out to fish again and stayed close to camp. In a couple of hours of fishing, I didn't catch anything particularly noteworthy or memorable but did experience one of those moments that seems to always happen and make my trips to Cataloochee exciting.

I was headed down to the creek and was close to bushwhacking but had found a faint path to follow. When the sound of water grew louder, I looked up and realized the path I was following dipped under a bridge. A flicker of movement soon materialized into a doe which stared back with little apparent fear. A brief moment of anxiety over whether she had a fawn close by caused me to quietly talk to her while moving slowly around to give her plenty of room. She watched with big dark eyes but soon couldn't stand the close encounter any longer and bounded off through the rhododendron. The same rhododendron that would take me hours to navigate I might add. I watched as she contorted her body in each jump to slip between the branches and was amazed at the body control she was displaying. The moment was fleeting, and soon I was staring at an empty spot where she had disappeared.

That is why I like Cataloochee. Special things always seem to happen there. Being a good fisherman, I was there to fish as well. It was time to quit staring at the brush and try to catch some trout. As it turns out, the fishing was good just like I remembered it being. Could I have caught just as many fish closer to home? Probably, but it was nice not competing with other anglers and don't even get me started on all the swimmers and tubers on Little River right now.

The fish seemed keyed in to terrestrials with the best action being on inchworm imitations and beetles. Caddis were also out and about and a caddis pupa was like candy to these fish. In fact, on day two, the caddis pupa worked even better than the terrestrials for the most part.

Soon enough, my time came to an end, and I had to head back home to the responsibilities of life. I was refreshed from my time camping in Cataloochee and ready for the six straight days of guiding fly anglers the next week.

Here is my stay at Cataloochee in pictures, which to me does a better job at capturing the essence of the fishing there than words ever can.

Cataloochee brook trout closeup
Brook trout from a high elevation tributary 

A tributary of a tributary to Cataloochee Creek
Tight quarters but willing brook trout 

Rainbow trout were eating terrestrials in Cataloochee Creek
Green Weenies were on the menu

Cataloochee Creek in Cataloochee Valley
Cataloochee Creek is a gentle, largely low-gradient stream. 

Rainbow trout were eating beetles on Rough Fork in Cataloochee Valley
The trout liked beetles as well... 

Brook trout liked beetles too in Cataloochee
...including the brook trout...

Even this little brown trout ate a beetle in Cataloochee
...and this little brown trout. 

Bees balm in Cataloochee Valley along Rough Fork
Bees Balm was seemingly everywhere... 

Bees balm close up in Cataloochee Valley along Rough Fork
...providing bursts of color upon the stream banks. 

Morning rays on Cataloochee Creek
Morning in Cataloochee breaks forth on Cataloochee Creek in blinding shafts of light.

Rainbow Trout from Palmer Creek in Cataloochee Valley
Some of the rainbows were nice sized. 

Rhododendron blooms along Palmer Creek in Cataloochee Valley
There were even a few rhododendron still blooming along the streams.

For now I'll have to wait, but I'll be eagerly looking forward to my next adventure camping in Cataloochee.

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