Friday, May 30, 2008

Clinch River May 30th

Got an afternoon pass from the wife today, and headed out to the Clinch to try and fish the last of the sulphur hatch. I got to the river around 1:30 and once again there was no hatch taking place. Started fishing a double nymph rig of a bead head pheasant tail and an improvised split case nymph. I tie mine using ostrich herl for the thorax to give it a slightly buggier appearance. Picked a couple brookies right off the bat, and chose to head downstream to work some new water and look for some browns. I have been to the clinch 5 times this month, and am yet to catch a brown.

It was a wonderful day for fishing. It was mostly cloudy, no wind, and the flow was perfect. The temperature was a little warm, but moving to stand in slightly deeper water remedied that quickly. Found a very nice run that emptied into a deep broad pool with a log jam along the bottom. I had strikes on the nymphs the first three drifts thru, but missed them all. The next two consecutive drifts I hooked up with a piggie bow and each time I got broken off. I guess that is the price one pays for using 7x to maximize strikes. Finally managed to pull one out of this pool and chose to leave it for an hour or so to see if the pigs return. Worked downstream fishing every pool and run on the way, and managed a few more bows. The best fish of the day was the 14" bow at right. Around 4:00 the sulphurs started to hatch, so I went back upstream to find some smoother water where I could work to some rising fish. Landed a couple more in the smooth water on some emerger patterns, but not much luck on the comparadun. Most fish were in the 12" range, but all were very brightly colored and chunky. Caught one that only went about 4", but was the most brightly colored rainbow I have ever caught on the Clinch, even looked like a possible successful spawn fish. At the end of the day, I still lack a brown trout for the month of May. Maybe next time I will focus on stripping streamers deep.

I lost multiple fish today, and I believe I have identified the primary culprit. I have found that my success on the Clinch is much higher if I use an across-and-down drift. Doing this typically allows me to let my line swing directly downstream of my location. If the fish strikes when the fly is downstream of my location a traditional directly overhead hookset finds its mark with much less consistency. I have started doing a sidearm hookset when the fly is directly below me. My theory is that since the fish are facing upstream when they take the fly, pulling upstream is not maximizing the potential for the point to contact flesh. It is hard sometimes though to remind myself not to jerk overhead, especially if the strike was sudden and it surprises me.

With two weeks to go until the wife's delivery date, I think I am going to take the next month off fishing to help her with things. I also need to replenish my fly inventory after the number of trips this month and losing some flies to fish and logjams.

Still another wonderful opportunity to get out and enjoy God's creation. It was a beautiful day, and as always it beats a day at the office.

Tight Lines and God Bless

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sulphur Patterns

This is a brief rundown of typical sulphur patterns and when each should be employed.
The Ever Popular Bead Head Pheasant Tail is the most common sulphur nymph pattern.

When a closer match to a sulphur nymph is necessary, a Split Case nymph is a good choice:

When sulphurs are emerging, a CDC wing emerger pattern is a good bet:

Another pattern that is good to use if the trout are taking emergers is a biot bodied sparkle dun. The hairwing allows for good flotation especially in slow moving waters, and is reasonably visible from a distance.

Sometimes the trout target the duns, and when this is the case a CDC comparadun is a very good choice. The CDC wing is easily visible and floats very well. Treating the wings with a floatant allows the wing to stay above water, but the body floats flush with surface.

Finally, the last stage of importance during a sulphur hatch is the spinner fall. Only once have I fished a spinner fall, and I was completely unprepared. Now, I have developed this spinner pattern. The body color is actually tan since the spinners of E. Invaria and E. Dorothea commonly turn a tan color before falling spent on the surface. I do not have a picture of this pattern, but there are pleny of them floating around on the internet.

Sulphurs are a key food source for trout in the late spring in the Tennessee Valley. Understanding the differences between the two species of sulphurs present on East Tennessee tailwaters, and the flies that best imitate each phase of the emergence will be a good start in finding success during this very common late spring event.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Understanding Sulphurs

Since I spend the majority of my time fishing on East Tennessee tailwaters, the primary summer hatch I experience are sulphurs. In order to have greater success when fishing sulphur hatches I feel that a deeper understanding of the insect is necessary. So for my own benefit I did some research.

Sulphur hatches are common on the South Holston tailwater from late April thru October and on the Clinch tailwater in May and June. Two species of mayfly are typically lumped together as sulphurs, Ephemerella Dorothea and Ephemerella Invaria.

Ephemerella Dorothea typically hatch when the water is between 60 and 65 degrees and are around a size 16 to 18. Nymphs are commonly found in slower currents and pools, and can ocassionally be found in shallow riffles and are best imitated using pheasant tail and split case nymphs. They emerge in slow pools and tend to congregate in eddies. Emergence takes place just below the surface film and can be imitated using various CDC wing emerging patterns. After emerging from the nymphal shuck the dries drift for an extended period waiting for their large wings to dry. Dries are best imitated with deer hair or CDC wing comparaduns. Adding a bright red head to your fly can help to imitate the big red eyes found on this species. Sometimes the trout can become selective and feed only on the females that have a little green egg-sac on the rear. To date I have only fished one spinner fall, and was not very successful in matching the pattern. The photos at right are of specimens caught on the Clinch River.

Ephemerella Invaria typically hatch when the water is between 52 and 60 degrees and are usually found in slight faster flowing water than their Dorothea cousins. Invaria is also slightly larger than Dorothea at a size 14 to 16 and lack the bright red eyes. Fly patterns for both are similar with exception to the red head on the duns. The spinner is a darker color than the dun and patterns should be chosen accordingly.

Color variation is another issue. The specimens I have found on the South Holston and Clinch vary slightly in the depth of yellow color. South Holston duns appear to be more of a creamy yellow color and Clinch river duns are more of a mix between orange and yellow.

Information for this piece has been compiled from the following websites:
Next up: Common Sulphur Patterns
Tight Lines and God Bless

Clinch River Again

I took advantage of another opportunity to hit the river again. We were having a birthday bonfire for my mom and on the way I stopped by the river for a few hours. In recent trips there have been heavy sulfur hatches, but today not a mayfly was seen. So, the number of rising trout was also non-existant, and I needed to rethink my approach. I chose to head immediately to some previously productive slow runs and fish nymphs. After fishing hard for 30 minutes without a strike, I saw something that concerned me. While fishing one of the runs, I saw a whole school of carp swim past heading upstream. Taking from memory, I don't recall ever having much success with trout when carp were present. This made me change my tactic, so I tied on an olive slumpbuster and started stripping it through fast moving runs. I immediately started hooking into fish, but was having difficulty landing these fish with the added force of the current. About 2 hours into the morning and I was still fishless and started to get frustrated. I chose to rethink my approach and tied on a double nymph rig with a balloon indicator and fished deep moderately swift runs. I instantly hooked into the chunky 16" bow seen at right. This fish with the assistance of the current and 7x tippet almost took me into my backing a couple of times before finally slipping him into the net. Only managed one more 12" bow before the wife radioed saying she was getting uncomfortable and ready to leave. In summation it was a much slower day compared to my other recent trips, but that one big bow made the day. Any trip between now and delivery day is just a bonus, and then after the baby comes it will give me time to replenish flies lost during these last few weeks.

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 16th on the Clinch

Made it out again this afternoon with the wife. Got to the river around 2:00 and fished until 4:30. There was a steady breeze all day long, and it was cloudy and cool. My thermometer was showing 64 degrees when I got there. The pulse was just coming down when I entered the water, and I could see the occasional rise. So, I tied on my usual sulfur wulff and a flashback pheasant tail and went to work. Almost instanstly I hooked up, but it got off. I immediately thought, "it is going to be a good day". Throughout the next 2 and a half hours I managed to land 6 fish between 10 and 12 inches, which is a bit down from previous trips. I could see some large bows and browns rising to the sulfurs as the hatch intensified, but I could not get them to take any of my dry offerings. I managed to snap a picture of the dun to the left, and it appeared to be different than the ones I saw on Monday. The large red eyes are absent on the specimens caught today, so there may be multiple species hatches ocurring concurrently. I am on a mission now to create the perfect dry fly match to this fly before the hatch tapers off in the next couple weeks. Depending on how my wife does, I may try to get back out again next Friday. I really should get a picture of her setting there on the river bank with her belly sticking out. It is quite the sight to see, it is amazing watching the transformation her body has undergone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Evening on the Clinch

I made it out to the Clinch yesterday evening with a fishing buddy and co-worker. We were the only ones on the water, and were greeted with a nice little sulfur hatch. I guess the forecast kept some people away. The fish were rising and I picked up right were I left off on Friday. They were once again eager to take the flashback pheasant tail. My best fish of the day was a hard fighting bow that measured on the water at 16" using my "MeasureNet". However, once I got home I checked the markings on the net and found that they were 1" short, so it was actually a 17" fish (shown pictured at right). Managed to bring a dozen to hand in the first two hours. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing such a loop in my line during my drift that I was having some difficulty with my hookup consistency. I probably missed as many as I landed if not more.

At approximately 7:00 the hatch ended, but the spinner fall started. I had no answer to this. It was the first true spinner fall I have ever fished and I was completely unprepared. So, I need to develop spinner pattern to match. As seen in the picture at right, the sulfurs change colors during the fall from the traditional sulfur color to this reddish-orange tint. I could look down around me and be surrounded by spinners, so the fish had endless options for which fly to take, and mine wasn't one of them. Oh well, it is just something else I need to work on to develop my fly fishing resume along with dry midge fishing.

I will continue to have a steady diet of the Clinch until my son is born. It has been a great early fishing season already. God has really blessed me with a wife that enjoys going along with me to the river, so my opportunities are probably greater than they would be otherwise. I have also started enjoying the moment more so than before. I used to approach the water with pre-determined limit in mind that I needed to catch for it to be a successful trip. I no longer do that, and my fishing success has greatly increased.

God Bless and tight lines.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Awesome Afternoon on the Clinch

On the way to my parents this afternoon for an early mother's day dinner, the wife allowed me to stop by the river for a while. I was greeted by a thick sulfur hatch, even heavier than what I witnessed last week on the SoHo. Fish were rising everywhere, so I chose to go with my sulfur wulff and drop a size 16 flashback pheasant tail off it. It was the ticket. In about 90 minutes of fishing I brought 13 fish to hand, 2 brookies and the rest bows. The brookies were the smallest, both at around 9 inches, and the bows were all between 13 and 16 inches. I also had one break me off, and long distance released about 5 others. There were a couple of other guys fishing around me who my wife could see throughout the afternoon, and she said that they were having a very difficult time. All I can imagine is that they were focusing on the surface feeding fish, while I was trying to target the most active fish. It was quite possibly my best fishing afternoon ever considering the quantity and quality of all fish caught. I am going to make another trip there on Monday evening after work and see if I can pintpoint some of the larger fish. They were very predictable today, every eddy and current break I saw and cast to immediately resulted in a strike. Most of the bows were fat, and they put on quite an aerial show for those around. My wife who accompanies me frequently said that it was the most amazing fishing she has ever seen while with me, and I have to agree.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

South Holston May 2nd and 3rd

What a wonderful weekend for a camping/fishing trip. I have been wanting to take another trip to the South Holston for a long time now, and this weekend presented the perfect opportunity. I have access to some semi-private property on the river where the land owner will allow access and even some camping for a small fee. I try to keep this property somewhat of a secret, but this weekend I had more company there than ever before. Apparently the word is getting out about this access. This is 85% slick water, and is typically very difficult fishing unless you know what you are doing. We met 3 guys from Atlanta there who were also camping out, but they were not having much luck. They were using the correct flies, but I believe they were using slightly larger versions and too heavy of tippet. I found that 6x fluoro or 7x mono are a must in this water to maximize hookups. Using this small of tippet in such big fish water lends itself to frustrations, and I had my share this weekend. Twice I hooked into a very large fish to watch it bolt upstream and snap my line. Most of the fish we caught this weekend was in the 10 to 12 inch range, and most were very beautifully colored browns. The fish on this river fight harder than those on any other I have fished.

The fly of the day by far was a flashback beadhead pheasant tail in size 16. I fished this fly in tandem with a sulfur wulff for maximum floatation. The fish were hungry, and they absolutely loved the FBPT. Friday saw lots of sulfur hatching and rising browns all around, but I could not get them to take my offerings except for the nymph. Once the sun got low in the evening I managed to trick a few using a CDC sulfur comparadun. We fished until we could not see our flies any longer and called it a day. Normally, I don't look forward to the evening after fishing, but on this trip we brought along deer steaks and potatoes for dinner. It was a nice little treat instead of the traditional hot dogs.

We woke up Satuday morning to much of the same with the nymph still slaying the trout. Another guy who was fishing there near us did something that I could not believe and have never heard of before. While false casting he hooked a swallow that was flying near his dry fly. I don't know if he just snagged the bird, or if it actually tried eating the fly. The bird was released safely and finally flew off after a quick recovery.

One thing about these fish is that an absolutely perfect drift is necessary. You must know how to mend correctly, and quickly after your cast. Most of my takes came within the first few seconds of the fly hitting the water. I don't really know what that was about, but they were really keyed in on this nymph all weekend long.

Until after the baby is born I will be hitting the Clinch regularly. It is closer to home and I have heard positive reports from the new slot limit. People are reporting more and larger fish than in previous years, and I look forward to finding out for myself. This trip has me dreaming about my next venture to the South Holston, land of the sulfur hatch and beautiful, large browns.

19" Clinch River Brown