Steve Dally of Dally's Ozark Fly Fisher is bringing his much ballyhooed Streamer Lovefest on the road and he's making a stop at 3 Rivers Angler on Saturday, July 9th. The Lovefest kicks off at 10 AM with a overview of the White River System in Arkansas' famed Ozark Mountains. If you haven't fished the White, or the Little Red or Norfolk for that matter, you don't know what you've been missing out on!
Following the overview, Steve is going to lay some serious education on us with a presentation on Streamer Tactics for Southern Tailwaters. Whether you're a streamer junkie or simply steamer-curious, Steve is the man with the plan to fill you in on sink rates on fly lines, streamer rods, the best flies, and simply effective streamer tactics. One thing is for certain, if the tactics work on the White, they're going to work right her in East Tennessee on the Clinch and Holston as well. We'll wrap up the morning session with a viewing of Chasing the Donkey.
In the afternoon Steve is going to get on the vise for a few hours demonstrating how to tie meaty streamers that work. If you're interested in upping your streamer tying game, this is the demonstration you'll want see. In addition to learning general tying tips like how to manipulate streamer weight to get different actions, Steve will be tying three of his proven patterns: the Tiny Dancer, the Big Butt Baitfish, and the Twerking Minnow.
There will be plenty of time to pick Steve's brain, tell a tale, and just avoid the July heat. Save the date and come on down to 3 Rivers Angler for this summertime extravaganza!
Summer has officially arrived and the temperatures here in the Valley are certainly driving that point home. Despite the high temperatures and lack of rainfall, the tailwaters in the valley are fishing very well and TVA is seeing fit to give both the wading angler and boating angler some water they can work with at the moment. I assure you that's not something that happens very often. It's happening now in part due to the fact that we've all got our air conditioners humming and TVA needs to generate electricity. I'm sure they'd love to have a surplus of water in the reservoirs at this point in the summer but they don't. It's dry here and it doesn't look like we are going to get any significant rain anytime in the near future. The mountains are bearing the brunt of the dry weather with flows on Little River at about half their daily mean (143cfs). If you are headed to the Smokies you'll want to head up to the higher elevations to find cooler temperatures and happier trout. If I were you, however, I'd stay here in the valley and opt for one of our tailwaters.
The Clinch river has had a favorable one generator schedule most afternoons for the better part of the month. TVA has been running one generator during the afternoon hours with it off all morning long. This gives the wading angler some morning water and the boating angler the afternoon and evening. I've been bemoaning the lack of bugs on the Clinch the last few fishing reports but I finally got into some decent dry fly action on the Clinch earlier in the week. I would call it a blanket hatch but there were plenty of sulfurs on the water and the fish were eager to eat them. Plus, with a slight breeze, the cold water on the Clinch is a great place to be on a hot June day.
The Holston River has still been fishing very well with a mix of sulfurs, caddis and midges popping off. I was on the river the past two days and while the fish were primarily still on the caddis (size 18, olive), there is a lot of midging activity going on as well. We had great success today (despite the wind) with either an X-caddis or Henryville Special dry with a Turnblazer Miracle Midge dropper. Further down on the Holston the top water bite for small mouth bass is going great. There are plenty of June bugs and Japanese beetles in the foam lines and the fish are happy to be looking up. The French Broad hasn't had the most favorable flows on it over the past week but I expect that TVA will give us and the fish a bit of a break over the weekend. With hot dry weather forecast through Sunday, you'd be silly to not get out on the water and cool off a bit.
It has been fry an egg hot here in East Tennessee for the past couple of weeks but the weatherman is calling for some slightly cooler temperatures this weekend and into next week. With the advent of the hot weather we've had a transition to a more typical summer fishing pattern. While the Holston River is still experiencing good hatches of caddis and sulphurs, most anglers are still holding their breath waiting on the same from the Clinch. The absence of appreciable sulphurs on the Clinch means we are still fishing bead heads and zebra midges. While not ideal it's not all bad as the condition of the fish is fantastic.
Small mouth on the lower Holston and the French Broad rivers got a bit of a jolt in the last couple of weeks. With everyone in the valley running their AC units, TVA finally started to run some water through both Cherokee and Douglas Dams. While the colder water decidedly benefitted the trout on the upper Holston, it depressed the small mouth bite on the lower portion of the river. Fear not, this happens every year about this time and the small jaws will settle down to the cooler temperatures in a short amount of time and the bite should get back to where it was pre- dam release.
The Smokies are suffering from the high temperatures as well with the Little River through Townsend bumping up into the danger zone for the trout. If you're headed to the mountains this weekend get up into the middle and upper reaches in order to find the cooler temperatures. The trout will be looking up and terrestrial patterns should be just what the doctor ordered!
As we close out the month of May the temperatures are hot and so is the fishing. From tailwaters to free stones all of East Tennessee's rivers have plenty to offer. The Holston River below Cherokee Dam continues to please anglers with some incredible dry fly fishing. While the caddis of April and May are still around they've been joined now with a healthy dose of sulfurs. I've been having the best luck in the dry fly department with Henryville Specials and and X-Caddis, both in olive and both in a size 18. If you need to fish subsurface, an emerging caddis is the obvious choice but don't hesitate to throw on a size 16 red zebra midge (silver bead and wire) in the flat water. I'm not sure why the fish are eating them but they definitely are...
The Clinch still has most anglers holding their breath. While it is fishing well there has yet to be a definitive hatch. Sporadic sulfurs are coming off but not in large enough numbers to qualify switching to dry flies. With that in mind, the best action is coming on Split Case Sulfur nymphs and bead head pheasant tails.
The small mouth bit is on and in full swing. I spent Saturday on the middle stretches of the Holston River with clients and we fished Stealth Bombers from dawn till dusk and the top water bite never really let off. Likewise, the French Broad has been producing some significant fish on streamers with the early morning top water bite being solid. There's also still plenty of Skip Jack Shad in the main runs to keep any streamer junkie happy.
The mountains continue to please despite the flows being slightly lower than average for this time of year. If I were headed up there this week I'd be tossing a yellow sally imitation with a dropper underneath it. I'm not sure that your fly choice will make much of a difference but your presentation sure will. Stay hidden and stay out of the water until you've spotted a fish! Where ever you decide to go, be safe and have a great day!
Departing Chatham Bend*
Arrival: After a quick cattle-car flight down to Orlando and a meaningless drive to Melbourne, I materialize in the humid Florida air sometime after midnight. The wind is whipping the palm trees into raucous frenzy while the Palmetto bugs and lizards dance in the disturbed night’s air. We discuss the week’s activities; the mood is as light as the air is thick. As I tuck myself in with whatever remnants of whiskey I can find above the stove Steve shouts a reminder to shut the door to the night air as the peacocks will invite themselves into my room with the morning light.
Day 1: First light and we are up hooking the skiff to the truck headed over the causeway to meet Rick at Harry Goode’s before heading south through the chaos that is South Florida. After sometime on the turnpike, a miscue lands us at the Whole Foods in suburban Coral Springs where old Jewish women ferry their older Jewish mothers across a vast parking lot for a bite to eat before a quick sweep of the Stein Mart and the afternoon’s nap. Somehow I’m blamed for our misadventure, my alien body struggling to get into the regular grid pattern of this completely manufactured world. The traffic and the boat conspire to whip Steve into a frenzy as he hunts for the last gas before we brave the seventy odd miles of across the tip of the state. As we cross Alligator Alley Pastel Porsches and ‘blu’ Maseratis whip past us in a race to poor taste.
Some four hours later and we arrive at the end of the Earth, on a centuries old shell midden, sits Chokoloskee, enveloped by the only thing left that is real in the whole state of Florida. Contrary to what others may claim, there are no ghosts in modern Chokoloskee, only lizards from the North who arrive two by two in their giant Airstreams pulling bay boats. After finding our bearings, the rental house, and the marina, boats are launched and rods are strung. In light of the low tidal situation, we make our way slowly across the bay. I throw gurglers at oyster bars. Red fish oblige but do not come to hand.
Day 2: The others are up early pouring over charts and maps. I’m less concerned, not having a piece of fiberglass in the mix, I’m happy to be along for the ride. Flats boats are fantastic right up until that moment when they are not. In the early dawn light, up on plane, their hulls chatters rhythmically with the light chop of the protected bay where the winds are still relatively light. Winding our way through a corridor of mangrove and the black water of the backcountry we find our route through to the gulf, up the Lopez River and back down the Chatham, a vacuum of time.
The winds are up and the gulf is awash with white-tipped waves. In the lee of Pavilion Key, off her southern point, shadows are spotted swimming precisely where one would expect. Hugging the key’s western shore, protected from the eastern wind, reds and snook patrol the wood, visible only when it’s already too late. We seek new water, new keys, on borrowed time. The tides, influenced by a waxing gibbous moon and a strong easterly wind, come four times a day. There is no time to ponder or linger, in an hour the tide will be moving again.
Day 3: The winds have laid down, the gulf is flat, the lizards from the north are out in numbers encouraged by the calm, we cross their wakes and run south in search of fish. With one boat on the point looking for silver the other slides into the back of a bay on the interior of Mosquito Key. With the water falling back out of the mangroves, we spot our first snook, and then another. They are set up in pairs and trios. On points, hidden by the mangrove roots and milk white water, they pivot, snout facing out, searching, like us, for fish. The other boat has had success as well. Tarpon and reds off the Clam point. Embolden by our discoveries we make the run back through the maze. White Ibis dot the wall of green having found their roost for the night in the still setting sun.
Day 4: The winds have returned. Our glory from yesterday slides beneath the waves. Aquatic landmarks from just the day before are nearly unrecognizable. We push back into the southern bay on dead low and to our surprise, a laid up tarpon, with its back out of the water, explodes off the bow of the boat. The boats split, one poles the mangroves in search of snook, the other poles south and finds a tarpon that refuses the fly. The snook are there, in the back of the mangroves, an unimaginable ecology illustrated only by the sounds of their attacks. The east wind builds. Our bay is unprotected. Searching for the familiar, we return to the lee of Pavilion Key with little to show save for a few snook and salt incrusted hair. Like the tide, spirits have fallen. In the evening, there is a sickness and packing.
Departures: In the morning there are just two of us left, the others having departed for home. The winds are sustained and persistent; despite them we make the run to the gulf. There are no other boats out on a day like today. The point where the skiff has become a misery has been achieved. There is no angle we can run to keep the spray off of our faces. There is no loud talk, Mr. Watson’s now gone from Chatam Bend and I have found Rick’s sickness somewhere during the night. The desolation of the surroundings has inhabited us, it is time to go.
*Appears in the Southern Culture on the Fly, Issue 19, Spring 2016
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