Tag Archives: smoky mountains

Gear Review: Simms Rivertek Boa Boot

The new Simms Rivertek Boa Boots

I’m that guy. With the Simms gear from head to toe, even I would think I look like a dick. But their gear has proven to me to be one of the best product lines in fly fishing. I have had everything from hats to waders and have never been disappointed.

I bought my last pair of Simms boots a few years ago with felt, and after a couple of years, and countless days on the water, they were starting to wear down. When the new Boa lace system was coming out, I decided it would be between Simms and Korkers. I’m that guy, so I  went with Simms.

The boots have a great fit, and the Boa lacing system really is awesome.  You hate to think yourself so lazy that you can’t tie your laces, but it is so simple and easy.  On cold days with gloves on, or just after a tiring day hiking and bushwacking through the brush, popping these off by just pulling the tab up is extremely nice.  The boot is very light and so far I have not had any comfort problems at all.

The Vibram rubber is another situation all together.  I have never been without felt, and the first trip with these I went sans studs.  Bad idea.  I fell down a lot, and got wet a lot.  Luckily I didn’t hurt myself, but the rubber alone in the Smokies is not a great idea.  The studs were promptly put in, and I still fall. Just not as much.  I’m not sure if this is a byproduct of all rubber soled boots, but I certainly miss the felt on slick rocks.

This is also my second pair of Rivertek’s.  The first pair came up north for a trip to Maine for their inaugural big trip run.  During that trip, I noticed that the Vibram rubber soles had begun to separate at the toe.  Rocks were getting lodged in the gap and you could immediately tell it was a defect.  Needless to say I was a little disappointed in my new fancy boots.  I opened up a warranty complaint with Simms and the entire process was easy and pain free.  Two weeks later I had a brand new pair, and no problems since.  As usual, great customer service from the folks in Montana.

Overall I am very satisfied with the new Rivertek boots, despite of the defect first pair.  I walk a little more carefully and haven’t had any big falls with the studs drilled into the soles.  It’s nice to not have the laces come undone, and get snagged.  I think these are going to turn out to be another great buy!

Thanks for reading!


When in doubt, whip the thunderhead out

Fall if officially here, with summer ending on Friday. Almost as literal as the date, the weather has cooled, some rain has moved in, and hopefully the fishing starts picking up with some fall spawning preparation. You have to love fall fishing coming out of the dog days of August and early September. The last time I fished, I saw barren stream beds and very spooky fish.

With some other things swirling around in life, I hit a familiar stream to get out of my own head and relax. I wasn’t looking for numbers, but for a large brown. I read a lot of blogs and see some very big pigs, but can’t seem to find a 20 incher for myself.  I know they’re out there and I’ve set a personal goal to snag one!

Hitting the stream early I started with a small orange stimulator and got a few hits. Not much after that, so I put on a large orange fly similar to a royal wulff. This got the fish moving, but couldn’t keep many on the line! Was able to land one small fellow that prevented the skunking.  Also, had one very big fish (maybe my fish) follow it, but left it alone.  Pulled out the 4wt with a big streamer on it, but he wouldn’t come back out to play.   After that, nothing.

This little guy prevented the dreaded skunking

Moved up river and still nothing moving much. Looked in the box and found an old friend. Thunderhead. Put her on and finally started catching a few trout. Not many, but a few small browns to get the fall started.  Fish or no fish, the fall weather and falling leaves make for a great experience. Time is running out for fishing, and soon the cold weather will be here, maybe even more cold weather for me than anyone even knows.

Video of that day’s fishing

Thanks for reading!

Low flow fo sho

I don’t listen well. I also have a terrible short term memory. That may help explain why I heeded no warnings of low water that I had read everyday for the last week. So I went to a spot Saturday morning that was smack dab in the middle of this low water talk. The water wasn’t just low, it was gone. I tweeted a pic I took when I got out of the car in Tennessee. Bad. Real bad. So after passing a black bear chewing on a bag of concrete (weird I know)where they are doing construction on 441, I turned tail and headed back to the Carolina side.

low, clear water in the Smokies

The water was a little better, but not much. Fished a section of water I always don’t like and picked up one little rainbow. Decided to move on and the water was still the lowest I’ve seen in years and super clear.

A bad day fishing is still better than a good day working, so I found a small stretch of river I really like and tried not to spook the fish. I ended up missing a few fish on an emerged and left two fish with the emerger pattern stuck in their lips. Picked up a few fish and even got my first fish strike and land on video. Not that good, but still having fun with the GoPro.

Here’s the video of the small rainbow taking the fly

Thanks for reading!

A Taste of Fall

It’s amazing how fast the fall always seems to creep up on us here in the highlands of North Carolina.  I think it’s because it’s not as hot and humid as the other parts of the state, where the summer seems to linger longer, and just feel hot.  I’ve been fighting a little insomnia lately and wavered about going fishing Saturday, but decided to go out as the mornings have been cooler and a little more pleasant.  I went to a spot that to me is one of the closer locations of The Smoky Mountains National Park, and usually takes less than an hour to get there.  I was up early, and on the stream around 7am.

first fish of the day

This portion of the park has a major stream running with two main tributaries.  I usually always fish one of the tribs, as I always assume there is less pressure.  Lately I never see anyone on the main stretch, and I think that people assume the lower sections get a lot of pressure.  Sometimes this is true and sometimes I think that everyone starts walking up stream and it creates less pressure on these lower sections.

I put in at an easy spot and started to get hits right away.  Started with a beetle but quickly moved to a yellow elk hair caddis.  This started to move more fish and got a rainbow at the first hole.  I stayed on the main stretch and hit the main longer runs, as I was looking to try and pick up a larger brown.  I started picking up fish pretty consistently and they were mostly bows.

Came around a bend and there was a nice pool with a large tree down.  There was no hatch, but two or three fish actually rising!  It seems so rare after spring to see fish rising, or maybe I’ve been unlucky.  It was exciting and I love trying to catch a rising trout!

Put a perfect cast after a rise and a nice brook trout slammed the fly.  Looks like the brookies are getting ready for the fall, as his color was starting to get very bright.  Picked up a brown trout at the end of the pool and completed the Smokies Slam!

Brookie to help make the Slam

Got to another larger pool and got a couple of nice browns and another beautiful brook trout.  Ended the day with 30 or more fish and lost a couple of nice ones.  The stream really surprised me today.  It’s great when you don’t expect the fishing to be that productive and you pick up a lot of fish.  There were thunderstorms the night before and the weather has been cooling, and that probably had a lot to do with the good fishing.  I also did not run into a single person fishing this stretch, so that was an added solitude bonus, and I slept like a rock at night.

Thanks for reading and here are a few more pics:

‘Ol Faithful

Butterfly on the stream

After experiencing the Tennessee side for a few weekends in a row, decided it was time to go visit an old friend of a stream on the NC side of the Park.  When I moved back to NC and started exploring around the smokies, it took a little while to start making some connections and putting the things back together on how to fish these streams.  I first read about the Davidson, Mills River, etc, but soon found I didn’t care as much about the “blue ribbon” streams as I did for the wild fish of the park.  It also became apparent there was still quite a difference in the quality and configurations of some streams in the park, how they should be fished, the pressure on some.  After visiting one of the local fly shops that is always very, very gracious and accommodating, and spending most friday lunch hours shooting the bull, I got a really good tip on this stream.  I’m always thankful and that shop has my business for life, especially after a 50 fish day one spring.

First fish of the day

Another rainbow or the same one?

Although a little further out than most, it is worth the extra gas and early start time.  It was a little cooler than it has been and the stream stays shaded most of the time.  It’s broken up pretty similar to many other streams; Bigger pools and bigger fish at the bottom, more action and smaller runs in the middle, and headwaters with brook trout at the top.  After clammering around boulders and crawling under tree limbs the last few weekends, I started fishing the bottom to actually get some casts out there.  Started with a Yellow Parachute Adams and got a small rainbow in one of the first pools.  The water is very clear and a little low, putting me down to 6X tippet.  Caught another rainbow, and I swear that it was the exact same one I just caught.  It had a scar behind its head that made me think it was the same.  It really liked the Adams I guess, or was a little slow.  I then raised, briefly hooked, and lost a nice brown that slowly raised out of the pool and took in the fly.  Would have easily been the best fish of the day, but couldn’t keep him on the line.  I’m missing big fish lately, which is starting to get a little annoying.

One of three browns from one run

Brown taken on Tan Caddis

Caught a few more fish and then the fishing turned off.  Went up to the middle portion of the stream and started picking up fish again, but a Tan Cinnamon Caddis was the fly for this section.  Caught 3 really nice brown trout out of one pool.  Picked up a lot of fish in the choppier runs, and I figure they must be looking for more oxygen and cooler water?  Or feeding in the middle, not sure which, but that’s where the majority of the fish I caught were.  I quit fishing around noon as the temps started to rise and a storm was blowing in, and maybe that’s why the fishing was picking up a little bit.

Another of the browns from one pool

This stream produces more than it disappoints.  It’s comforting, and easy to navigate, making it one of my favorites.  Like an old friend, you know most of their secrets, but they are always hiding a few gems here and there.  It’s not a secret stream, I see many other anglers, but it’s not as well known as some others.  With summer turning to fall sooner than we all realize, I hope to be able to fish it a few more times before winter.

I’m also still fumbling with recording videos and was hoping to maybe catch a strike and land a fish.  Like a watched pot boiling, this didn’t happen.  I did get a nice three minutes of the stream, and at the 2:28ish mark, a little left of center of the stream, you can see the fish strike the caddis, but a missed hookup.  Hey, you gotta crawl before you can walk.

Video of me missing a fish

Thanks for reading!

It’s too damn hot for a penguin…

I don’t care what your political views are, the globe has to be warming for every day for the last untold days to be this hot.  I got up at 5:00 am to go fishing and it was already 80 degrees (I’m not 100% sure but it definitely felt like it).  I had the opportunity to get out, but knew that I would have to get up high to find some shade and cool water if I was even going to have a small chance of catching fish.  I like how even when you know the odds are slim that you can catch fish, just getting out and fishing can be rewarding enough.  You can’t catch anything without a hook in the water right?

Pretty TN creek on a hot day

So as the huge street festival of Bele Chere was going on downtown, I got over 5,000 feet and tried to fool some brook trout.  I was so impressed with the water and eager fish on my last trip to Tennessee, that I decided to do it again.  The water was still cool, but not as cool as before.  I put in and started with a small yellow elk hair caddis.  I missed a couple, and then caught a very small brook trout.  The rest of the day turned into a very frustrating ordeal. With the warm weather, the trout appeared to be very lethargic, and were making very lazy strikes, if they got to the fly at all.  I missed fish all over the place, and moved to a smaller fly.  Still got misses.  I hooked a good sized fish, which may have been a rainbow, and had him for a second and lost him.  This continued for hours.

Little under water action with the crystal clear water

At a large hole that had “Fish Here!” written all over it, I was patient and even saw a small black stonefly.  Changed to a black parachute with no luck.  Put on  #16 black elk hair caddis.  Hooked and lost a fish (big surprise).  Reloaded and put a nice drift through the pool, when a very large brook trout followed the fly for what seemed like forever.  It was 11 or 12″ if it was an inch.  The water was clear and I could see him plain as day.  I knew the fly was going to drag in a cross current, and I was lifting line off the water.  He followed it until the fly began to drag, and lazily went back down.  I tried a larger black caddis thinking that may entice this big guy, but all I could do was get him to roll.  Tried a few more flies, big and small, with no luck.  It would have been a trophy brookie from the smokies for sure.  Oh well, I’ll come back for him.

There's a sulphur in there

Ended up picking up a few fish on Yellow Sallies and a Yellow Adams.  Couldn’t get any pics as every time I got one to hand, they got off before I could get the camera.  By noon the water was warm and the weather was getting really hot, even up high.  I decided to not pressure the fish and would join the revelers at Bele Chere for a little bit downtown.  This weather has go to break for the sake of the fish, and for the fisherman.

Thanks for reading!

Tennesseing is Tennebelieving

A new stream in Tennessee

The temperature dropping by close to 20 degrees is almost like a snowfall around the mountains of North Carolina.  I saw jackets and puzzled faces downtown from tourists and locals alike.  It started getting my mind thinking about the water temperatures and what was happening with the trout.  I was out of town this past week and didn’t think I’d get a chance to fish this weekend and thought it would be too hot anyways.  Was I ever surprised!

I wanted to fish my favorite stream and figured with not a lot of rain that everything would be fine.  When I got there a little after seven, the stream had other ideas.  It was very high, very muddy, and obviously a big storm or flash flood had come through in the last few days.  I got out and poked around the stream and realized that fishing here was not in the cards.

I decided to head back to another stream in the Park, and wasn’t too excited.  This stream “hides in plain site”, and every book says it’s full of fish and excellent fishing.  I never have any luck on it, but it always seems like a challenge.  I hooked and lost a fish in a nice pool and run down low, and then nothing for an hour or so.  Then hooked a couple of very small browns.  River wins again.

Little brown trout made the am unpromising

So I did something I’ve never actually done.  I got in the car and decided to go through the fog, and drove over the top to the Tennessee side.  I always like exploring new fishing, but that sometimes means no fish caught.  When I got to the other side, I found a nice stream and just put in.  I had been using a yellow Elk Hair Caddis and it had been working, so I left it on.  I cast a few times and really nice sized fish missed my fly.  This was a tiny stream and this fish was big!

Bow from the TN side

I kept moving up pools and started really catching some fish.  A few beauty brookies that looked really healthy.  Saw a couple of sulphurs coming off, but no hatch, so I left the EHC on and it kept working.  Got a really nice rainbow and lost a good sized brookie that wrapped my leader around a down branch.

Get skinny!

The weather was very cool and a light rain was keeping me slightly cold, but well worth it.  Ended the day with 8 or 9 from this stream and it was a great spot that I definitely want to explore some more.

Gorgeous TN brookie

Great Smoky Mountains National Park consistently amazes me with how good the fishing can be when you hit it just right.  I obviously need to keep trying new spots when the old haunts are blown out or not producing.  There are enough fish to go around for sure.

Thanks for reading!

Fishing for Freedom

It has been hot in Western North Carolina the last few weeks. Not egg on a sidewalk hot, but definitely I don’t want to eat your dry fly right now hot. I haven’t fished much lately, except for a lightning filled après work excursion that was a disaster with forgotten boots and sopping wet clothes. There’s no report because I threw probably 10 casts, with 4 being in the trees.

A new stream in the park

So with the 4th of July weekend, my father in law was in town and we decided to fish a stream I have never tried in the Great Smoky Mountains. I told him it wouldn’t be as exciting as us almost getting killed in Maine (see previous posts), but it could still be better than shopping.

We were up early and on the stream by 7:30. With the Holiday, there were already cars there and a couple of folks geared up and walking in. Luckily, this stream has a path that follows it for a few miles.

We started low and started getting hits right away. I was still using yellow and fish were moving. We worked our way upstream and I caught a nice little brown. Moved up and saw the FIL putting back a nice 10″ rainbow. He showed me a spot where he wasn’t having any luck, and said “I know there has to be a fish in there, give it a shot”. One cast and I had a nice rainbow to hand.

First fish of the day

Moved up a few pools and I watched a very skittish fish dart and refuse my fly. Cast again and two fish did the same. On the third cast a good ‘bow slammed my fly hard. I guess he was sick of watching the other fish be indecisive. Had him in my hand and lost him before I could snap a pic.

As the water heated up the fish got spookier and spookier. They really were anxious and would dart around the pool. There was a nice run with fish rising and I managed to put every one of them down. Pretty embarrassing.

The F.I.L getting into fish

It was a nice day, even as it got very warm. This is a nice stream that I will hit again in the fall and I think there may be some big browns in there somewhere too.

Thanks for reading!

Why we can’t all be Troutbums

First of all, no work would get done anywhere. Ever. I have been contemplating more lately about how I missed my window to be a Troutbum. I get to fish, a lot actually, and spend way to much time doing things that are directly related to fly fishing like this blog, or tying flies. But I don’t consider myself to be a real Troutbum.

I get to live here

I figure to be one you need something and have to lack some others. If you are a real Troutbum you are probably in or on the fringe of the fishing industry. If you are a guide you are already in. If you are a rep or somehow involved with the big companies or rod building you are probably in as your passion has turned into your job. The line had blurred between your professional and personal life.

I think for the rest of us, too many other things have gotten in the way. A job, or a kids have a detrimental effect to being a Troutbum. I also realized that youth may have a little something to do with it. When I was eighteen I could have packed up everything I owned into my truck and beat feet out west. But my youth also made me stupid. I was so caught up with other things, that I couldn’t see the trout for the hatch of co-eds and college parties. I thought fishing a few times a year made me a “fisherman”. I was wrong.

Time is also a cruel mistress for becoming a bum in two ways. As time moved on, jobs, student loans, family gets you farther away from getting that goal if you really want it. I also wasn’t as learned in the ways of fly fishing as I am now. And even now I still have tons to learn and enjoy learning more about fly fishing then I ever have, but at that point I wouldn’t have even been a successful bum.  I surely couldn’t have guided anyone, nonetheless have succeeded at trying to live that life.

The window may be closed to become a true Troutbum for some of the reasons above. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my semi-bum kinda life. They say too much of a good thing is bad, and maybe that’s the case here. Some guides burn out and hardly ever fish again. At some point, the 18-year-old Troutbum turns into the 30-year-old that ponders family and retirement. I still dream of fishing and have butterflies when I go fishing somewhere new. Maybe that wouldn’t be there if I fished every day and was guiding some jerks from back east. I think this balancing act has turned out well. I fish a lot every year (for me), and am lucky enough to live somewhere with gorgeous views and lots of wild trout. Someday I may even get to retire and become a true Troutbum. For now I consider myself blessed and I get to have my 3-weight and fish it too.

Into the Wild and on to the Stockers

I had a great opportunity to visit with one of my favorite fishing buddies who lives at the beach, but was in Avery County camping and fishing with some other old friends from the Raleigh area.  When I first moved to North Carolina, this group of guys invited me to their annual Trouttrip where they had competitions for horse shoes and fishing.  I was completely unprepared the first year I went up there as I was not much of a camper at that time.  I grew up spoiled rotten (as I quickly realized) with a fishing cabin my grandfather had on a salmon river.  I didn’t know anything about what that first weekend had in store.  I was quickly initiated, both figuratively and literally to the ways of the trouttrip.  I also found out that me and my buddy from the beach were the only fly fisherman and quickly became quick fishing partners.

My first NC fishing buddy - Big T!

It’s been a few years since I made a trouttrip and I was excited to get back there and fish some of the wild streams.  I left Asheville early and was in Avery Co. by 7:30 and ready to fish.  The water was not so accommodating.  It was the lowest I had seen it, and with temps in the 90’s the last few days, I could believe it.  The stream by the campsite did not look good so we headed down river to fish another wild stream.  With Delayed Harvest opening up, we had a whole lot of company, but the wild stream was pretty bare.  We walked the stream and missed some good looking fish right off the bat.  At the first good hole, I was missing fish on top with a yellow adams, and switched to a fly with some antron that I could strip underneath.  That did the trick and I caught the fish that was missing the other fly.  A nice sized brem.  Oh well, he was a good fighter.

I always catch one a year

Check out that red fin in the back

We made our way upstream and the fish were spooky with the low water and hot temps.  I caught a nice little wild brown with great colors and a nice red fin.  I missed a really good fish in an undercut run across the stream but couldn’t get him to rise again.  It was nice water, but it was getting really hot.

Lettin him go

We then decided to do something we rarely do.  Chase stockers!  We went down to the delay harvest section to this one run we both really like and we have always had success at.  These fish were getting the snot pounded out of them by the corn and worm crowd, so I didn’t think we would hook anything.  Thinking that maybe there were some hold overs, or some that were figuring out the eating of the mayfly, I tied on a big Adams and went at it.

To my surprise I got into some browns holding below the large pool.  I caught 4 or 5 and lost a few more.  They were a good enough size on my 3-weight to bend it over and peel out a little line.  They were fun to fish.  We moved up to another pool and I caught an average size rainbow for an ass backwards kind of smokies slam when you throw that brem in there.  The stocked fish also get a reprieve, as I didn’t put them on a stringer and they probably didn’t take anything again that day.

a stocked brown in low, clear water

It was a nice day and a nice drive.  With the weather heating up, it will probably be a little bit before I get some more fishing in.  Maybe a day for some brookies higher up.  It’s tougher now that the big action of spring is over, especially since I had such a good spring.  You also have to look ahead though to the next trip and that next big trout.

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