Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Be Careful Out There

I am reasonably certain that all of us have enjoyed this mild summer. However, a couple things to keep in mind for the outdoorsman is that not only do us humans enjoy the mild summers but so do our 8 legged and legless co-inhabitants. I am speaking of snakes, spiders, and ticks. Most people are already conscious of snakes when in the woods or streamside. My experience has been that they tend to congregate alongside water sources, and this year there is plenty of water to go around. Also, the frequency of venomous snakes in the Smokies appears to be on the incline this year after two consecutive years of drought. However, the wild pig population is doing their best to reduce the population of snakes in certain areas of the park. Hard to imagine that wild pigs dine on snakes, that is just hard for me to grasp.

A couple of lesser considered threats are spiders and ticks. Spiders are much more easily avoided since you can see and feel their webs, so this lends them to detection more easily. However, ticks are sneaky little buggers. Not only are they sneaky, but they can carry serious infection with them. While not as immediately dangerous as some of their spider counterparts, their damage is more of a delayed impact. Two such infections are Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the latter of which my boss's wife just contracted after finding hundreds of seed ticks on her. All of these critters thrive in mild climates, and this past summer was the definition of a mild summer. Hopefully we will have a really cold winter to eradicate some of our creepy crawling friends, so that next year we don't have a population explosion.

Some steps to take to prevent potential disaster:
1. Wear long pants, hiking boots, and long socks
2. Wear a hat to prevent spiders and ticks from dropping into you hair
3. Spray your clothing with a tick spray like Repel Permanone
4. Watch where you are stepping, snakes typically aren't aggressive unless they feel threatened.
5. Be aware of your surroundings. If you find yourself in a tightly confined area take extra precaution. It is commonly said that you can smell a copperhead den, and that they smell very similar to a freshly cut cucumber or squash.
6. If rock hopping in the river, realize that snakes like to sunbathe just as much as we do. They like to lay on top of rocks, so please "look before you leap".

As summer comes to a close, I expect many people to get out and enjoy the typically wonderful East TN weather and scenery. However, the snake and insect activity will continue to be high until we begin to have consistent near freezing nighttime temps. So please be careful out there, and I hope some of these steps will help you prevent having a sour end to what began as an enjoyable experience. If you think of any other steps that I have forgotten, please feel free to add them in the comments section.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tremont Yesterday

Yesterday, I left work around 11:30 to meet a co-worker and fishing buddy to do some small stream fishing. Dave, who is also a ChemE and frequents the Clinch with me, had only fished the Smokies once before. So, we figured that with high water on all the tailwaters, we may as well give the mountains a chance. We took our time getting to Townsend and chatted with Byron in Little River Outfitters for awhile. While there we picked up Jim Casada's new book, which I will offer a review on at a later date due to the 400+ pages of information.

We arrived at our fishing destination above Tremont around 2:30, and surprisingly we only saw one other fisherman on the way in.

Dave Gearing Up

Middle Prong was not my first choice for a destination, but I figured it would provide much more opportunity in the event that the mountains were crowded on this holiday weekend. We got into the water, and I hooked up with a small bow on the first pocket I fished. This is one thing you don't see on the tailwaters, the very bright colors of these wild trout. Sorry for the lack of picture quality, but I left the DSLR at home and took along my el cheap-o Olympus 740.

First Fish

Dave was working a nice looking run across from me, but he was experiencing the same type results that I would for about the next hour or so. Dave was using a foam hopper pattern and I was using a yellow stimulator. We both were getting lots of strikes on the dry, but none were large enough to take it. Finally towards the end of the day, I managed to hook a little bow on the stimulator.

Green Weenie Bow

Fishing was a little slower today than I expected, but the green weenie did perform well for us. There were what appeared to be Tricos everywhere, but I did not have anything small enough to pass for one. I usually have that stuff in my tailwater box, and didn't take it with me yesterday. It is quite obvious that I need to work on my small stream skills.

Dave Fishing a Run

On the drive out, we saw three other fishermen. That is significantly lower than what I expected. The last time Amy and I drove up to the trailhead we counted around 13 fishermen from the Institute up, and that is way too crowded for my comfort. I do need to take advantage of this wonderful resource that we have so close to home. Not just the fishing, but the scenery, history, wildlife, and flora. It truly is a very relaxing experience, and I hope to take advantage of this resource more often.

19" Clinch River Brown