Guided Trips

UPDATE: 11/25/2015 -- Smokies Fly Fishing Report: The streams of the Smokies have dropped back to great levels but water temperatures have been chilly. Things should improve over the next two days as both days and nights should be warmer. Even on the colder days this week, fish have been active during the warmest hours. Midges and sporadic caddis activity are even bringing some trout to the surface. When you do get out, note that brown trout are spawning and should be left alone when on redds. Please avoid walking on and near the redds this time of year. The ability of the brown trout to successfully reproduce is essential to the future of the fishery. If you do not know what a redd looks like, avoid walking on the fine gravel (golfball and smaller) in riffles and the tailouts of pools. Fish that are paired up in these areas are probably spawning and are best left alone.

Caney Fork Fly Fishing Report: The Caney Fork is fishing well at times but only average during others. The good news is that you may get a shot at some better than average trout. Recent floats are giving us approximately a 50/50 mix of rainbows and browns so that part is nice. Float or wade trips are best done as 1/2 days this time of year with the current flow regime. Contact me about a float or wade trip if you want to enjoy this fishing at or call/text (931) 261-1884.

Cumberland Plateau Fishing Report: Smallmouth bass fishing is about done for the year and I'm transitioning towards fishing for the big toothy critters. Yesterday we moved 4 fish and had one eat from a solid 40"+ fish that came unbuttoned. Stay tuned for more on this great fishing as we head deeper into the cold season.

Help support the Trout Zone and purchase your 2015 Tennessee fishing license using this link!

Photo of the Month: Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Brook Trout

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Black Friday

Caney Fork River Black Friday
Tranquil Black Friday on the Caney Fork River

For as long as I can remember, I have chosen to be outside on Black Friday. Now that the #optoutside campaign from REI has gained momentum, it appears that spending the day outside is now the "cool" thing to do. I truly believe that the best deal you can get is spending extra time outside. For society at large this is probably for the best, but I must say that I hope there aren't too many extra people out on the streams. Yeah, it is selfish I know.

Anyway, my Black Friday will be spent guiding a new angler, hopefully to their first (and second and third...) trout. You never know for sure how a day of fly fishing will turn out, especially this time of year, but the conditions are definitely in our favor. The water temperature has been warming steadily for the past 2-3 days and should be as good as can be expected while we are on the water. I'm quite optimistic about our chances. Once the trip is done, I might even sneak in an hour or two of fishing for myself.

So, what are you doing for Black Friday? Are you chasing after deals or fish or something else entirely?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

As we take a day to be thankful, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read my blog. I have been blessed beyond measure this year and appreciate all of you who have contributed through your friendship and kind words.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gone Fishing As Usual

I've been really blessed to experience a lot of time on the water lately. In addition to taking people fishing, I've also had time to fish a little for myself and that trend will continue for the next couple of days. I'll be somewhere deep in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hopefully standing knee deep in a trout stream. Until I return, here is a picture of one of the prettiest rainbows I've caught this year, a nice holdover on the Caney Fork River.

Much more to come on my recent adventures in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Found Fly Rod on the Caney Fork

Last Friday, I was at the parking lot below the dam gearing up for a "Fishing the Caney Fork Seminar" that I was doing with the help of David Perry for the Fairfield Glade Fly Fishing club. A nearby gentleman who was also gearing up started asking around if anyone knew of someone who had recently lost a rod. It seems that in the recent past, he had been speaking with a fellow angler at the end of a day of fishing. Eventually they parted ways. As the other angler was driving off, his nice fly rod that had been on top of his truck clattered off onto the pavement. He didn't notice it so the guy I spoke with on Friday picked it up and currently has that rod. He would like to reunite it with its owner. If you or anyone you know of has lost a rod on the Caney Fork recently, please email me at and provide a bit of information, and I'll put you in touch with the gentleman who has the rod if it sounds like you are the right person. Thanks!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Goodbye Fall

Just like that, fall is nearly over. The majority of the leaves have already fallen. Today's high water in the Smokies is going to clean the streams out. The early spawning brown trout's efforts were most likely in vain, although time will tell how high the water does get. We still do not have any true winter weather in the immediate future although certainly by Thanksgiving we'll experience much colder temperatures.

The thing I will miss the most about fall is the brilliant fall foliage we enjoyed this year. Of course I will not miss all of the leaf viewers that came with them. Winter is a very close second in the running for my favorite season and a big piece of that is the solitude that can be found during the cold months.

To celebrate the beautiful fall season we experienced, here are a few of my favorite fall color shots. Some I have already shared here while others are showing up for the first time on this blog. I'll be sharing some more over the next days and weeks.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Diversity: Yellowstone Day Three

Gallatin River, Yellowstone National Park

After being fortunate enough to catch a big brown trout which was the fish of the trip, I knew that I needed a day to just explore. While I would like to think that my skill helped me to have such a great day on day two, in reality I'm just an average fisherman who was blessed to experience near perfect conditions and everything came together for that magical day. Not to mention that I have some great friends who have taught me a lot about chasing the large brown trout in places like the Gibbon River and even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again. Thus it was that day three was as much a break to return to reality as anything. To fully appreciate the great day I had, I needed a normal day of fishing.

By this time, my friend Kevin had arrived for a couple of days on his way through to Montana for guide school. He needed to get into town for a couple of things so we decided to hit West Yellowstone for some Internet and errands and then roll up the road to the Gallatin. The good folks in Blue Ribbon Flies gave us an honest report. That is to say that they didn't act very enthusiastic and suggested that it was a bit late in the season for this river to fish well. However, the gentleman we spoke with also mentioned that he would be curious to hear how we did which suggested there was at least a little hope.

Undeterred, we headed north and soon found ourselves rigging up alongside highway 191 which runs through the far northwest corner of Yellowstone. I found myself ready before Kevin, probably since I had already been fishing for a couple of days and had two or three rods rigged and ready to go. Anxious to see what was happening, I headed down to the water. It didn't take long. A nice rainbow trout hammered a large nymph I was fishing. This is going to be good, I thought.

Remember that whole thing about a normal day of fishing? Well, in a normal day of fishing, a fish right off the bat is usually a bad sign. Turns out that it was a normal day of fishing. We worked very hard for a handful of fish. I did have the enjoyment of catching a cuttbow and whitefish to add a total of three more species to the list for my Yellowstone trip thus far.

Kevin needed to head on up to Bozeman for a bit so I headed back towards camp. Another late evening brown trout hunt yielded my fourth species for the day which was definitely awesome.

As day gave way to night, I had to pause and take it all in. The moon, approaching full status, reflected in a lazy meander of the Gibbon River near Norris Campground. The tranquility is something I would not have traded for anything. In the end, big fish are a blessing to be appreciated, but just as much so is the whole experience. All too often, I find myself so caught up in the effort to be catching that I forget to be fishing. As many of you already know, fishing is about a whole lot more than catching fish. I paused to thank the Creator for allowing me the opportunity to enjoy such a magnificent place.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Day of Days Continues With a Large Brown Trout on the Gibbon: Yellowstone Day Two

Gibbon River brown trout in Yellowstone

As with most fishing trips, my journey to Yellowstone was the result of months of pre-planning. Unlike those last minute decisions to hit local water for a couple of hours, driving 30 or more hours across the country is something that must be deliberated on, planned for, and researched. Oh and do not forget those hours and hours pouring over satellite views on Google maps. Ultimately, this trip was the result of one wish in particular: to fish the upper Gibbon River where large brown trout dwell in some of the most perfect meadow water you will find anywhere. The Park's plan to eradicate these amazing fish convinced me that it was now or never.

Fast forward to my second full day in Yellowstone and you'll find me completely content after several hours the previous day on the Gibbon and an already full day fishing the iconic Lamar River in Yellowstone's northeast corner. Native cutthroat trout had rose all afternoon to my hopper offerings. Now, with the sun sinking towards the horizon, I was nearing my camp alongside the Gibbon River at Norris. Approximately one hour remained to me before legal fishing hours were over and the chill of night would send me looking for a fleece jacket. My gear was ready to go from the previous day's fishing, so there was nothing left but to walk down to the meadow and get started.

Gibbon River at Norris

The evening got off to a quick start with a couple of nice browns. The moon was already in the eastern sky, rising before sundown since the full moon was still a few days away. A large male bison grazed nearby. I suspected that the traffic stopping and all the cameras clicking along the road nearby were probably more because of him but still did my best to put on a show. Of course, I needed a good fish to cooperate for that to happen.

Working slowly through one of the prettiest bend pools you can imagine, I was surprised to not get any strikes. The deep heart of the pool, larger than most on this stretch, seemed devoid of fish. So did the undercut bank that seemed to go on forever as it curved towards the slot at the head where the shallow riffle poured in. Reaching the riffle without any strikes, I figured it wouldn't hurt and tossed my fly into what looked to be inches deep water. Almost immediately, the line stopped.

When I reared back, I was positive I had snagged a stick or log that had somehow gone undetected because there was no give at all. That only lasted for a fraction of a second though, mostly because the "log" started swimming downstream in the most convincing manner. Onlookers were probably amused to watch me running backwards as I tried to keep everything tight between me and that fish. As it rounded the bend into the deep still water of the main pool, I breathed a sigh of relief before remembering that the hook was barbless. The barbless hook requirement is one of those well-intentioned rules that I applaud for providing some measure of protection for the trout of Yellowstone; however, I'm fairly sure it was actually made to give fisher people like me heart attacks while fighting trout.

Through a series of minor miracles, not the least of which was the fact that I didn't screw things up, the fish somehow came to my net. The fly slipped out of its mouth before it even hit the bottom of the net, but it was in there so I breathed a sigh of relief before taking a moment to just stare at the gorgeous fish now my net. I got a couple of pictures (see top of post) and a fellow angler stopped by and snapped a couple more for me.

Gibbon River monster brown trout
Thanks to Tom Stout for taking this picture for me!

With this fish, both my day and trip were complete. My favorite meadow stream had produced a fish to remember. Everything after this point was just a bonus because this was the fish I had come to catch.

I definitely hope that I get another opportunity to fish this water with brown trout inhabiting the undercuts, and perhaps the fisheries department in Yellowstone National Park will even change their mind on eliminating these amazing fish. The habitat in this stream is definitely more supportive of wild brown trout than it is of wild cutthroat trout. Even more importantly, I hope some of the local misguided support for this project will be reevaluated. The cutthroat were not native to this section of stream so why trade one invasive for another?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stream Etiquette Done Right and Then Some

Fall Colors on Little River above Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A while back I complained about a lack of stream etiquette on a local stream in the Smokies. Since I complained about poor etiquette, it is only fair that I commend exceptional stream etiquette. A week and a half ago, I experienced two examples of perfect stream etiquette in one day.

The first came after I had been fishing hard for a couple of hours and was getting hungry. I had camped the previous night at Elkmont and had got up at first light to take down camp and hit the stream. Finally my hunger caught up with me so I headed to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area to enjoy some delicious chili and chips. A hot meal is always a treat so I fired up the camp stove and was working on breakfast.

When I had pulled in, I noticed what appeared to be 2-3 anglers gearing up further down in the picnic area. After heating up my food and starting to eat, I noticed one of the anglers walking my direction. It turned out to be guide Charity Rutter of R & R Fly Fishing (which she owns along with her husband Ian). I already knew that both were great anglers and guides and of course good people in general. What I didn't expect was the incredible generosity and politeness. She inquired whether I was planning on fishing since she didn't want to get in water I intended to fish and asked if I was planning on fishing there, with or without clients. Mind you, she and her clients were there first so in any reasonable understanding of stream etiquette, they had first dibs, the right of way, whatever you want to label it. That is what I call stream etiquette done right and then some. If you know Charity, then this won't surprise you probably as she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, but it is always a pleasure seeing and experiencing such politeness out on the stream. Of course I told her to fish the whole section. Not only was she there first, but I was just fishing for fun and she was earning a living. I hadn't intended on fishing there anyway, but even if I was, I would have found a different spot.

The second case of good stream etiquette occurred on the same day. After my delicious brunch I hit another spot before heading up to Elkmont to combine my loves of hiking and fishing. There was a section of stream I had been wanting to hit ever since returning from Yellowstone. With a beautiful sunny day, I knew that I wouldn't find a better time this year. After a good hike in, I stopped and was working on rigging up while sitting alongside a popular pool. Mainly the pool is popular due to its proximity to the trail but it does hold some nice fish and offers the chance to fish dry flies. I had yet to decide whether to fish that hole, but to all appearances I was preparing to do so.

Just as I was finishing rigging up after a minor mishap of spilling my dry fly box, I noticed two anglers coming down the trail. One was guide Rob Fightmaster ( and the other was apparently his client for the day. We chatted for a few minutes and Rob asked about my Yellowstone trip. I of course asked what water they had fished above me so I wasn't fishing used water. Then I asked if they were fishing their way back down the trail. Rob confirmed that they were and mentioned that they had thought about the pool at our feet but would leave it to me. Again, great stream etiquette. Rob could have justified jumping in because he was making a living or even because I was sitting at the head of the pool, but he did not. Naturally, I told them to jump in and fish it. Rob was making a living that day while I was just fishing for fun, not to mention that my real goal was the stretch upstream from there.

Probably it is a bad business idea to promote companies and people who are technically my competition, but good deeds should be rewarded. Of course, I hope if you need a guided trip in the Smokies that you will contact me, but I can honestly say that I'm very confident that you would have a great day fishing with any of the guides listed above.

Ultimately, these two cases illustrate one of the most important aspects of stream etiquette: when in doubt, ask. Talking to fellow anglers will usually make your day better. Asking where they plan to fish and then choosing other water will go a long ways towards making new friends on the stream. My reward for giving up that pool? I had one of the best days of dry fly fishing I've had in a long time.


Subscribe to the Trout Zone Anglers Newsletter!

* indicates required