It was a cold day yesterday, but in between frozen guides and finger warming sessions, in the afternoon I was able to catch 9 browns. Most of which fell subject to a Oregon cheese colored egg. The others where happy to take a small blue wing nymph. I was fishing falling water, and I was by myself on the South Holston in 22 degree weather with the wind blowing 25mpg. I feel it was a pretty successful 90 minute trip. Snow was falling the whole time. I just love to fish in the snow regardless of how the fishing is. It’s somehow even more peaceful. I did make it out with my newly acquire MK Lanyard yesterday. It was very useful to have everything I need at the ready. I’ll give it a full review and how I set it up on a later post. Until the next time, Josh McFadden
Category Archives: Trip Report
Kevin and I made our annual trip to fish New Year’s Morning. We headed over the mountain to do a little small stream fishing. The first few hours didn’t yeild much as it was still cold. It started to warm up a little before the storms moved in. This was the prettiest wild rainbow of the year that was more than happy to take a blue wing olive nymph. I landed 9 fish this morning which is a great morning in the mountains. There were some small winter stones coming off. The South Holston had been very busy yesterday so it was nice to get out away from the madness of the tailwater.
Happy New Year
I owe you folks an apology. I’ve been so caught up in the happenings of the past few weeks that I’ve completely neglected knocking out this trip report from the Big Easy. I’ve told and retold the stories to friends and family countless times, so it’s time to share with the rest of you.
With that said, I’d been looking forward to this trip for quite some time. I’m originally from southwest Louisiana, so that automatically means I’m Cajun, except for the people that know better Honestly, my hometown is about 20 minutes from the Texas border, so I’m closer to Texan than Cajun, but I always crack a smile when I mention where I’m from and people jump to that conclusion.
Regardless of the exact logistics, a return to The Motherland was originally planned by my wife and I as a one-year anniversary trip, but due to a change in job, she wasn’t able to make it this go-around. I decided to make the best of it, and planned to drive over and spend some time with my little brother, who’s currently a junior in the architecture program over at LSU.
I drove the 9 hours or so east on I10, which happens to be one of my favorite drives in the country. Once you get right east of Lafayette or so, you end up over the Atchafalaya Basin, which is the largest swamp in the country.
Plus, you get to drive over places with cool names.
Little bro and I arrived in town right smack during rush hour, which was surprisingly tame compared to local traffic here in Austin. We checked in to our room, headed out for some fresh seafood, and called it an early evening, as we both knew what awaited us the next day.
Our guide, Captain Greg Dini, picked us up before daybreak the next morning. Captain Greg is considered to be one of the best redfish guides in the area, and has been getting some great exposure recently with some of the filmwork he’s done. You may have seen his video Riding High from the Drake 5 Minute Films back at IFTD in August. He was a fantastic guide, and we really enjoyed spending the day with him out in the Venice Marsh.
This was Kyle and I’s first time fishing out of a skiff, so we only had a vague idea of what to expect. What I personally didn’t expect is how fast things happened. As soon as we poled into the first area, we had two 30+ pound fish cruising right at us on top. By the time I picked my jaw up off the casting platform, those jokers were well out of casting range.
Now, the weather was supposed to be ideal. Supposed to be, being the key phrase there. The forecast called for mostly sunny skies, but it ended up being overcast for the majority of the day with a pretty stout wind. This made it really tough to spot fish, even in the crystal clear 4′ of water they were in. We spooked a ton of fish with the boat that we just couldn’t see until it was too late.
Finally, after a few unproductive hours, we were cutting through cane-surrounded inlet, and I spotted a fish right in front of the boat.
I don’t remember casting. I don’t remember setting the hook. All I remember is my reel screaming like a stuck pig as the beast of a fish cut right through the cane into the open water beyond.
“You probably shouldn’t let him get in the cane,” my brother advised.
Thankfully, I was able to get my line untangled from the cane as Greg poled us back out into the open water. I was halfway into my backing at this point, as Mr. Redfish headed out towards the horizon. As I finally was able to put the rod to him, I realized this was the first time ever I felt under gunned gear-wise. Luckily, the whoopin’ stick held out, even though I was sure it was going to break.
After an epic battle that left my little girl arms convulsing, I finally had my first redfish. And oh what a redfish she was!
I love the spots on these fish. Each fish is different and unique in the way they’re spotted. I think that’s really cool.
After a bit of celebration, it was Kyle’s turn on the casting deck, and it wasn’t long before he got his first as well.
We continued to swap back and forth, each catching a few more fish. I lost another bruiser right at the boat, and had another “small” 8-lber, while Kyle ended up a with a couple more as well. The conditions made it tough, and my casting certainly wasn’t up to snuff, but we’d get a few shots every time the sun would peak out from the clouds for a few seconds.
I’m pretty sure the last fish of the day will be something that will live on in my head forever. Coming around a corner, Greg spotted a nice fish a ways out. I made a terrible cast that was short by quite a few feet. I was about to pick up and recast, when the fish barreled over so fast, it pushed a rooster-tail wake of water out behind it. It crushed my fly, and took off. It was like being hooked to a battleship, but after another tough fight, we got her in as well.
We called it a day on that note. It was around 4:30, and we had a decent ride back to the dock, and all wanted to make it back to town before the big LSU-Bama game that night.
Honestly, this trip lived up to all of my expectations. It was great to get to spend some time with my brother out in the marsh. Captain Dini was a great guide, and while very patient with our casting, was always eager have a bit of fun with us when we blew a shot completely.
Pretty sure I’m ruined now. Trout be damned; I can’t wait to get back to the salt.
Like most days when I get a chance to head to Virginia to do some fishing this one started out with the alarming going off at 0330. While stammering around looking for the remaining gear to toss in the truck, barely able to keep my eyes open from the lack of sleep, the thought of crawling back into bed crossed my mind. Not because I didn’t want to go fishing, but simply because sleep was becoming more and more valuable. After all, this was my fourth day in a row of being up while the clock was still in the 0300 hour. But today was going to be little different from my other trips to Virginia. Well not a little, a lot different actually. This day would be the first day I was headed out to exclusively introduce someone to fly fishing without actually getting to fish myself. Having finished getting dressed and gathering gear I headed out the door to load up the truck. My first breath of the cool morning made me pause in my tracks. It is going to be a great day of fishing I thought to myself. Still standing there taking in the cool start to the day I thought about how excited I was the first time I went fly fishing. Realizing there were two people that were having those same feelings this morning made me realize sleep is highly overrated, we have fish to catch!
In my stammer I didn’t bother to make coffee as I knew I’d be passing Starbucks on my way to the shop. But of course, like every other time I stop this early, Starbucks was still closed. They should really reconsider their hours. I was safe though, I knew Dave would need to stop for coffee too. Arriving at Casters Fly Shop I discovered that I was the last of the four to arrive. The two that were fishing, Julie and Corey appeared to be eager to hit the road. After a brief stop at Starbucks from a cup of java we hit highway 321 north towards Boone. With only an hour left in the trip the pre-cast briefing started, do this don’t do that type of thing. While it sounds easy without a rod in your hand putting it to practice your first time isn’t so easy.
Arriving at the waters edge I could sense the excitement of the lucky two that for one would soon try his hand at fly fishing for the first time and for the other face trout the size of the ones in Big Cedar. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for them to get geared up and headed to the water. My first observation of the water was low, slow, and gin clear. This may not be the best of combinations for first timers.
Didn’t take long before the trout showed their lack of concern for the water conditions.
Corey, who happens to be the engineering brains behind MooseKnuckle Lanyards Universal Tippet Caddy ™, was not to be outdone. He hooked up with his first fish on a fly rod soon after.
They continued to catch fish all morning until they worked up a good appetite. The fish ranged from two to three pounds and Corey hooked a couple that would have likely went five or six, but instead landing them he learned to very valuable lessons. First, know how much further you can reel before the leaders enters the first guide. If you reel the leader into the first guide and the fish runs it is likely never to be seen again. Well maybe not that extreme, but the chance of the fish breaking off increases ten fold. Secondly, if you get a big fish on and it runs, stay off the reel. Right Corey? So much as a mere brush up against the reel could create plenty of drag to allow the fish to break off, especially if the reel is singing. As always, Dave put on an amazing stream side lunch that would make most five star chefs envious.
Fishing was even better following lunch with one hole producing easily ten to fifteen fish between the two. Julie’s confidence using Squirmy Wormie was to the point she was pointing out fish in the pool that she specifically wanted to catch.
With all the fish being landed Corey and Julie were compelled to show their gratitude with a planting of the lips.
At the end of the day I realized why guides guide. Fueling the excitement of Corey and Julie by hooking them up with fish was enough to make me want to do it all over again soon.
“First Cold Day”
A cold front blew in yesterday evening and carried on through this morning with some rain and good cloud cover. I met my clients up at the fly shop for a day out on the river. We had a wade trip today starting at 9. There was an early morning pulse this morning on top of a 340 sluice to give a cool burst of water for the morning fishing. We arrived at the river with several layers packed on a piece. You know that first day that it really gets down cold, it seems much worse than even the coldest days of the year. We had rigged up blue wing nymphs and midges to start out. It didn’t take an hour before blue wing olives started pouring off. You could get away with a size #20 CDC comparadun or a simple cripple. For a little while there were sulphurs coming off as well in the mix when we had burst of sun. A good tandem rig ended up being a sulphur up top with a smaller olive simple cripple on down below. The blue wings continued hatching off strong all afternoon. Just about everywhere you looked there were fish popping blue wings on the surface. It was a dry fly fishing day for sure. I encourage everyone who’s considering taking a trip to the South Holston to spend some time out in the yard on some casting practice a few days before your trip. You really do have to bring your A-Game on casting. You really do need to be able to hit a pie plate at 35-40 feet consistently to put numbers on the board in the dry fly fishing game. The South Holston is definately if nothing else, a year round dry fly fishery. In the CDC dry fly game there is two products that every savvy Soho angler needs.
The first is some preen oil ( Pictured on the left). The preen oil is a pretreatment to use on your CDC flies. The second necessary evil is a few bottles of frogs fanny. Not all dry fly dust is created equal. Frogs Fanny is in my opinion a far superior product than any of the dry shakes or the like. You do need to take some time and really work the powder into the fly. Not only does it do a good job of getting your flies floating high again. But it also changes the color of the wing. It gives gets the color of the wing that natural light dun color like the naturals have making the patterns look even more realistic.
There was some good size fish out eating today. The rain kept a lot of fair weather fishers off the river. A good dry fly fisherman could have racked up today and cleaned some clocks. Everyone in the group had fun and caught their fair share of fish but admitted to needing some more casting practice. It was very cool to hang out with this group of long rodders. Everyone had their own 10 footer which is a perfect fishing tool on the big river.
As a reminder to those of you to fish the South Holston you’ve got a month before the the two spawning sections of the river will be closed. Now is the time to get out and have a chance at some good sized fish as they fatten up pre-spawn. I didn’t manage to take any pictures today as my finger weren’t up for the challenge of digging for the camera. A moose knuckle lanyard would be the perfect tool for a rainy fall day keeping all of your important tools at bay on top of your rain gear.
Until the Next Time
Josh McFadden – Contributor
One year later, and with the world a much different place, we headed North with a StreamTech Boats Green Drake in tow, for delivery to Woods Bay, MT. Brenco finally pulled the trigger, and happily took delivery of a sweet boat with nice amenities. Unexpectedly, we came into a demo boat from a fly shop in MT that needed a little TLC and what better way than to take it across the border and pursue big trout on dries, and aggressive pre-spawn Bull Char. All things aligned for the good of all.
Fernie was as welcoming this year, but colder and the Elk was running lower. Fall is already in the air, the black bear already making appearances in town, prepping for winter. We’re told that there are more than 100 RCMP in town for a conference, so instantly the flashbacks to last year http://flyfishtheyakima.com/2010/09/08/fernielicious-with-a-twist/ didn’t feel as ominous. Well, at least this time it would be bears, not meth heads, but where did the chocolate-covered raisins go…
Day one was uneventful; a late afternoon float throwing big dry flies, a copious Fall caddis event which the YakCaddis came in handy for, Chubby’s, streamers of all sizes – it all worked. The only reason to change flies was just to see what wouldn’t work – it’s that good of a fishery. A few small Bulls come to hand, but nothing like what we’re expecting. Dark came quickly, and we high tailed into town. There were four of us, but like the Three Wise Men we were drawn to Fernie to find no rooms for the weary. Apparently the economy in Canada is much stronger than in the US, as there were plenty of workers in town occupying every available room – but for one. Kyle from WI makes the call and finds a kitchenette not far from where we stayed last year, and we settle in. I’m pretty sure everyone snores, although I’m the only one called out for it – and Brenco’s dog licks himself all night. Insert your dog jokes here, but damn son give it a rest.
Day two and we’re floating a different stretch this year – no improvement in launch facilities, so I’m still left to wonder where exactly the $20/day that tacked onto the “special waters” permits goes. We’re met by several other boats, so the locals are onto something and we’re in on it too. Big pools are accessed by football (US, not Canadian) sized runs that run shallow and are no match for the Green Drakes. These boats pull very little water, don’t bang around like glass or wood boats, and even when portages were necessary, at 165 pounds (what’s that in Canadian?) very easy to move around. We don’t draw the attention of many fish to start – it’s earlier in the day, colder, and overcast. We mutter that it’s an olive day, but that would take all the fun out of throwing chunky foam dries. So, I dig deep into the box and out comes the Mouse. I tied the pattern above earlier this year, and have only fished it on the Yakima once. I got a few followers, so in the face of adversity (meaning, each cast didn’t move a fish) I suggest we go rodent to get their attention. And it worked.
Day Three is the day of the Bull. The big fish aren’t showing themselves so it’s back down to the lower stretches of the river, and a quick stop at one of the many fly shops there in town. Where’s the 2/0 bunnies, please? Depth charge line, the 7wt lined up for the battle and it stood to be a good one. We don’t leave this system without big Bulls, and it’s down to the last day.
Three Wise Men or The Four Horsemen?
Fishing with even your best friends after three days can be challenging – the bottle of whiskey is running low, the Pabst is warm, and there’s a nervousness among us. Whose going to boat it? The jockeying intensifies, with normal decorum taking a break as we drift down further, light fading..
We wonder if there is a curse. While casting mouse patterns, Hayes witnesses a large cutthroat take this fly right off the line without even a ripple – staring back at me, as if to rewind time, the silence of the bank robber sends a chill down our spines – the mouse pattern that’s been so effective is now gone – I only tied one. Hayes doesn’t give up easily, so we wait a minute on anchor – and the mouse appears. Popping out of the water a few yards downstream, I quickly unseat us from the cobbled river bottom and the chase is on. Recovery comes quick, and without hesistation he ties it back on. Five minutes later, we veer left at a shallow braided fork in the river – we’ve not floated this side yet, and with Brenco and Kyle ahead of us, may have just pulled a coup.
We’re headed left.
And then it happens again. Only this time, a strong cutty makes a strong shake of its head, and the mouse is gone. We watch in horror as it swims away. Wait, did I tie another one? There’s another mouse in the house, only this one is tied a bit differently and doesn’t sit as nicely. Remember the tail in the first photo? That made Mouse #1 swim so lifelike that we narrated each cast – “it’s just me, little ol’ field mouse walking down the log towards the river for a sip – oops, I’ve fallen in and need to swim away from these big fish so that I don’t get GULPED.” Brenco and Kyle have witnessed us take two large cutts on the mouse, and can’t believe it. Mouse #2 doesn’t have the mojo, and it becomes apparent that perhaps we are cursed – Hayes casts it into a log jam and we’re done.
Switching from oarsman to caster, I take the front seat and try a Chubby Chernobyl – it’s worked already, it’s easy to see, and at this point, hoping it’s a curse buster. “There’s a nice undercut over there, Hayes – put me on it” I ask and make haste with casting. Then, the curse rears itself again. I’ve hooked a bird in the leg, and it’s making havoc with my line. Diving and yelling like mad, it’s trying to drown itself it seems as I pull it closer towards me. We are cursed, indeed. It’s quick but messy, bloody work but the bird comes free, flying off into the trees. I’ve taken the rod down, and stored it away. We consider the events of the last 30 minutes, break for lunch, and as the wind picks up, make for the takeout. Half of the float remains, we’ve hit a rough patch, but press on.
It’s time to change strategy and tactics – the big bulls will come with time we say, and float over gin clear water from deep pool to deep pool. There’s less jockeying for position now, as deep holes become treasure troves that require time. Fish it all the way, from top to bottom, they’re in there.
And then the curse is broken. Kyle and Eric are 40 yards downstream, at the tailout of the last big pool with any promise. I can see Kyle’s fly rod bent towards the water and he’s shouting about a bull char. I’ve cast 60 feet to my left, behind a car-sized boulder, and let it sink. Then a strong pull, and a flash at a big Bull. It took three days, but within 10 seconds of each other, we’ve each hooked a fish and the work begins.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to fish these great waters with great friends, and this year’s trip is a welcome change from last years. Concerns about locals removing the air from your tires, wondering if vandals will strike again (I didn’t bring the bag of chocolate-covered raisins to appease them) go away quickly as the riches of the experience overcome the worry. A curse that is broken.
“Blue light rain, whoa unbroken chain,
Looking for familiar faces in an empty window pane.
Listening for the secret, searching for the sound
But I could only hear the preacher and the baying of his hounds.
Willow sky, whoa, I walk and wonder why,
They say love your brother, but you will catch it when you try.” -Robert Peterson and Phil Lesh
The author, Derek Young, is the owner of Emerging Rivers Guide Services (www.emergingrivers.com) in Washington State, a member of the MooseKnuckle Lanyards ProStaff, and the 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Of The Year.
“The Crisp of Fall”
Finally, the temps have come down at least for a few days. There is a crispness to the air, and wild fish on the rise on the South Holston. I got a late start today, I was up most of the night with a fevered 1 year old, I was due some quality fishing time. Most of the upper stretches of the river were already covered up. So I headed downstream to my favorite place to fish. I think that there are two different kinds of trips that we take in our angling pursuits. There are those times when we try to have a brand new experience. Whether it’s trying out new fly patterns, or exploring new waters to fish, to have the thrill of it all being new again. Then there are those trips like the trip I had today. Where you go to one of your favorite waters or favorite spot you’ve been so many times before and try to tap into some of your past angling experiences. The water where you find yourself the most comfortable. The place where you’ve caught fish and had many memorable experiences. In our angling pursuits we are at times the sum of all of our experiences both situational and conditional. I was definitely in need of some solitude today. I was fortunate enough to find just that today, which is not an easy feat on a busy Saturday
There was more flow on the river today, due to the sluicing that’s been going on. There’s nothing like fishing the sluice water. It’s just enough extra flow to get the fish fired up and eating very well. I got down to the water and rigged up the 4wt with a double nymph rig. A pheasant tail nymph dropper and a small blue wing olive nymph on point under a yarn indicator. I was working my way up the first run and hooked up with 3 fish on the pheasant tail in short order.
There were some really nicely colored wild rainbows in the mix. These fish get so strong fighting this extra current. Even an average sized fish will give you a run for your money. I picked up several more fish on nymphs before making my way up to some good dry fly water. It was about 2pm at this time and there was a decent little hatch of blue wing olives going on so I tied on a bwo puff daddy and began picking of some more risers.
I made my way up around the bend to find another pod of fish working over some late season sulphurs. I swapped out to a Sulphur Puff Daddy and picked up several nicer fish from this run.
There’s nothing quite like watching a fish take in a dry. It’s during those moments when that split second of time slows down and it all comes together as the fly disappears back underneath the surface and it’s fish on.
This run has been so prolific for me and clients in the past. I’ve had people stand in this same spot for hours on end railing fish one after another. The dry fly fishing was on in a big way this afternoon. It was a simple formula really. Cast-Drift-Sip-Set-Release-Frogs Fanny- and repeat as necessary. The fish were acting like someone shouted out last call on sulphurs and they were picking off every natural that floated by. When the hatch began to slow down a little I took a break to contemplate my next move over a pack of nabs and a water.
The angle of the sun had changed quite a bit and seeing the puff daddy became more difficult. So I tied on CDC Sulphur Comparadun “Old Reliable” up top and dropped the puff daddy off the eye. I picked up several more as I worked over the end of the hatch, including this nice rainbow.
I This last fish on the dry had fouled up my dry rig, so I swapped back out to the nymph rig to finish out the afternoon and nymph fished my way back downstream to the truck. What an afternoon. No monster fish or anything but healthy wild rainbows and browns giving me a good tug on the end of the line. I’m ready to welcome fall with open arms.
Josh McFadden – Contributor