It's been a while since the last fishing report, but that doesn't mean we haven't been fishing! Most of spring and early summer on the Cumberland river found water conditions to be a bit high to realistically nymph with much success. We did a lot of fishing in the beautiful Smoky Mountains during high water events on the Cumberland and caught a lot of wild fish, especially brookies.
Now, the rains have finally tapered off and generation schedules are quickly becoming optimal for 'tickling' the river bottom with nymphs to catch trout. The Corps of Engineers and TVA are currently giving a schedule which allows for nymphing and throwing streamers within the same day. In essence you can have the best of both worlds. Water color and clarity are also looking about as good as it can for this time of year. In all, right now is a great time to slam brook, brown and rainbow trout drifting the Cumberland. What are you waiting for, get out there and fish!
Tons of these guys out there right now, and they are hungry!
I guide anglers with wildly varied skill sets , but I usually get asked the same general questions about fly fishing and the river. I've come up with a top ten list of abbreviated "tips" that I use to successfully catch fish on the river.
1. Get your flies on the bottom. Drop shot, high stick, indicator fishing, whatever method you prefer to fish, get those flies down. The substrate of the river is where trout live and eat. It's where you should be fishing.
2. If you find fish, stay with them. I can't tell you how many times clients have gotten tired of catching fish in one run or seam so the decision to move was made only to struggle until the next fish producing area. If you find fish, pick them apart until the bite stops. The exception is that if you are hunting large browns and grow tired of catching dinks, keep moving. If you do hook into that monster, for Gods sake put it on the drag first thing.
3. Don't fish with the same fly all day if you aren't having success. Don't be afraid to switch flies from time to time. I have a friend that only fishes a zebra midge, even when another pattern is on fire. He's missing out on a lot of fish that might not be keyed in on that pattern. Have confidence in patterns which have been good to you in the past, but if it's not working, change.
4. Fish moving water. Stagnant water allows trout to fully inspect your fly quickly and reject it just as fast. Slow water also limits the life movement of many flies. Trout love to have their food come to them in the current as opposed to having to chase their meals down. Trout are biological masters of energy conservation.
5. If water is super clear, it's time to fish smaller flies. You might have to change tippet to a smaller diameter. You may want to go with Fluorocarbon instead of mono. That subject requires another report on it's own. On the other hand if water is dingy, you can probably go with a little bigger fly, but don't go overboard. Don't be fooled, trout can see unbelievably well, even in dingy water. In super clear water you may have to lengthen your leader.
6. Fish tandem nymph rigs. Fish tandem streamers too. Tie on your streamers with a loop knot. Stay focused and be careful if you are tossing sirloin. Articulated hook piercings aren't much fun.
7. Make that first cast count. Don't be sloppy with your casting and be sure to cast well above rises to allow your nymph time to drift into the strike zone. Casting directly on top of a rise will most likely yield poor results. You don't need 60' casts either. Keep your fly line manageable and limit false casting.
8. Fish when weather is nasty. There are several reasons why. First, most people don't like to get wet and often postpone fishing on nasty weather days. This really equates to less people on the river which increases your solitude and adds to your fishing experience on the river. Secondly, overcast and nasty days often trigger hatches. Lastly, browns are more apt to let their guard slip a bit when lighting is poor. Nasty weather and high water days are excellent for chunking streamers.
9. Get familiar with how to fish all types of water ( skinny, fast, slow, deep, bouldered, shoals, etc). The more accustomed you become fishing different environments the more tricks you can pull out of your bag when needed.
10. Lastly, don't stop fishing if your indicator isn't being dragged under every 10 seconds. The difference between a good fisherman and a bad fisherman is that a bad fisherman quits and a good fisherman doesn't. We've all had slow days. It's how you react to them that make the difference. Make every cast count, even that last one right before the take out ramp. Always expect a hit.
I hope you are able to get out and fish soon. Take advantage of the Cumberland as it's there for you to enjoy! Thanks to all of you for keeping up with Cumberland Bottom TIcklers on-line. It's been fun hearing from you all. If you would like to schedule a trip, please contact me as soon as possible!
Thanks and fish hard!