Hiwassee Angler is the only full service fly shop in the area. We are located in the heart of some of the best fly fishing that East TN has to offer. We offer guided fly fishing for trout, smallmouth bass and striper. We also offer fly fishing classes. Visit our website by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pre-Spawn Smallies (Part 3)

Now that we have reviewed almost everything else involved in the taking of smallies on the fly, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the flies that we should be using. Not only the flies, but also how to fish them. This is one of the most misunderstood areas of fly fishing for smallmouth. People are familiar with the flies, but they have no idea how to properly present them. I hope this quick review will clear up some confusion for those of you that are new to the smallie game. We will start from the bottom of the river and work our way up.
As I said in Part 1, when we start fishing early in the morning the water temps have not had a chance to warm up yet. For this reason the smallmouth are still going to be holding in the deeper water and they will still be somewhat lethargic and resistant to chasing a fast moving fly. They are going to be looking for a crayfish pattern that can be fished slowly along or near the bottom. I say crayfish because it is a big, rich, high calorie meal for them. They are coming out of a dormant stage and are preparing for the rigors of spawning. They have no choice, they have to pack on some calories. A big crayfish, fished along the bottom, is the perfect meal for them when they are holding that deep. This is what we mean when we say that we are "dredging a fly".
When choosing a dredging fly, it is very important that you use a heavily weighted fly that sinks quickly. It has to get down fast in order to cover the water quickly. A good retrieve is erratic with lots of quick, sudden stops that portrays an injured or weakened form of prey. They will take it when it stops about 90% of the time.
As the water warms and the fish start moving up into the water column, they will start moving toward the more shallow water. This is when we would throw an intermediate type fly. These flies are usually unweighted streamers that will suspend in the water column. Naturally, you can use a weighted streamer or throw it on the sink tip line if needed in order to get it into the strike zone. This is when we would use the count down method to judge the depth at which we need to be fishing. Once the fly hits the water, let it sink to different depths in order to find the holding depth of the fish. You could start by letting it sink for a count of 4 before you begin the retrieve. Continue to mix up the count and the delay until you find the magical depth.
When it comes to choosing a streamer, we want to choose a big one that has a large silhouette. This will increase its visibility in the water. This is important because the name of the game is to cover lots of water as quickly as possible in order to locate the holding areas of the fish. As a general rule, the more stained that the water is the darker the fly that you should be using. This will also increase the silhouette of the fly.
The retrieval speed of your fly should vary in order to find the proper speed and depth that the fish prefer. The retrieve should be erratic with lots of sharp, crisp movements, including many stops. We are imitating a wounded bait fish. They will attack the fly when it stops 90% of the time. DO NOT become complacent on your retrieve. I know it's hard to do, but you must stay focused and really "sell" it on your retrieve.
Now for the fun part. As the water warms and the fish move into the shallows, it's time for some topwater action. We get to throw poppers! If the thought of a big smallie crushing your popper doesn't excite you, take all of your fly fishing gear and burn it right now! There's nothing that can be done to help you. Sorry!
When choosing a popper, choose one with a big head that pushes alot of water when "popped". It can be made of deer hair or foam. It doesn't matter at all. However, losing a foam one doesn't hurt near as bad as losing a nice deer hair one. Especially if you tied it yourself!
When fishing a popper, cast it near the bank and let the rings on the water settle before giving it any movement. Once they settle give it a pop. Let it sit again for a 4-8 count, then give it another pop. Continue this type of retrieve until time to pick it up for another cast. Lots of people do a series of fast pops during the retrieve. This is NOT the way to fish a popper. As with the other flies, the fish will strike it while it is sitting still 90% of the time. Sometimes you can actually see them settle in below or behind it as they stalk their prey. The pop will attract their attention, but they will strike as it is sitting still. This is very important and often misunderstood. This one little piece of info. is worth the price of admission for those that were not aware of it before. It can make or break your day out on the water while fishing for smallmouth.
Well, there it is. Smallmouth fly fishing 101. At least to the best of my knowledge anyway. I hope you have enjoyed the series. And if so, let me know and I will try to write more informational type articles on the blog. And as always, feel free to contact me or leave a reply requesting any other articles that you would like to see written here. Sometimes you just run out of ideas about things to write about and any help is appreciated. Until next time, Tight Lines!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pre-Spawn Smallies (Part 2)

For the second installment of this series I thought we would go over some of the equipment that is used for smallie fishing. Not alot different than trout gear, but still worth a mention.
Fly Rod - I like a 9 foot rod in anything from a 6 to 8 weight depending on how heavy the flies are that I'm throwing. Also depending on whether I'm using a sink tip line or not. These fish fight with everything they have. Use a big enough rod so that you can land them without having to play them to exhaustion. We owe it to them to release them in a survivable state. Playing any fish to exhaustion causes unnecessary harm to them. And remember, we want them to be able to spawn!
Fly Reel - Not really a huge deal, believe it or not. Most of the time you will be stripping the fish in versus taking him to the reel. The reason is that they don't make the big, long runs like a big trout will. They try to go deep or they may fight by running from side to side in front of you. They will make a jump or two, but they mostly fight in close to the boat versus making a long run. You will lose alot of smallies by trying to take them to the reel, especially if fishing with barbless hooks. I see this alot because the fish will often make a run toward the boat and the angler can't reel fast enough to keep pressure on them.
Fly Lines - I use either a weight forward line or an intermediate sink tip line. The specialized lines with the bass tapers on them will help to turn these big flies over, but they are certainly not a necessity. The clear "ghost tip" type sink tip lines are nice as well. This is due to the fact that you don't want to use a long leader when using a sink tip line. The clear tip gives you a little more distance between the fish and the visible part of your line. Any advantage can help, right?
Leaders - Smallmouth bass are not usually leader shy. I will use a 10 pound test leader and tippet most of the time. You should not be breaking smallies off! Don't be afraid to use a strong enough leader to get the job done. After all, he will not be sipping midges out of the surface film. He is going to attack and explode on your fly most of the time. A light leader will often break during the take. If that happens, so will your heart! Also, as mentioned above, you don't want to use a long leader when using a sink tip line. Using a 9 foot leader defeats the purpose of the sinking tip because the fly will not be getting into the strike zone, only the leader will. The fly will still be hanging out above your line and not pulled down to where you need it. In general, a 5 foot leader should be plenty long enough when using a sinking tip line.
Well, that's it for part 2 of the series. Stay tuned tomorrow for the third and final installment of the series. We will discuss the flies used and how to properly present them to a smallmouth bass in order to entice an explosive strike. After all, if he won't take your offering, none of this other stuff really matters does it? See ya next time!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pre-Spawn Smallies (Intro.)

I have had several requests lately to post on this blog more (LOL...inside joke) and to post more educational type info from time to time. In response to this I have decided to do a 3 part series of posts about fly fishing for pre-spawn smallies. We are approaching the time of year for this phenomena to begin and the interest level that fly flingers have in fishing for smallmouth continues to grow, noticeably, each year. So I thought that this would be the perfect topic to start with. I plan on posting 1 part a day to cover the 3 part series. Hope you like it!

Pre-Spawn Smallies (Part 1)

Anyone who knows me in the fly fishing world can attest to my love affair with fly fishing for smallies. That is what I truly love to do. I love trout fishing too. However, the hunt for smallies, especially big smallies, has an irresistible charm to it. I like everything about them from the way they fight to their overall personalities. They are considered by many to be the hardest fighting freshwater fish, pound for pound, that exists. How could you not love that? They give it their all every time you hook one. You can't ask for anything more than that.
To begin the series we'll discuss their behavior during the pre-spawn period. As the water temps approach the 50 degree range the smallmouth begin to move from their deep water haunts where they spend the winter months. They move up to feed and to begin looking for spawning grounds. These fish have been fairly dormant over the last few months and they need to feed due to their metabolism increasing. They also have spawning on their minds.
The fish will hold in areas that offer deep water with current breaks and shallow water access. Preferably a long, sloping type bottom versus a steep drop off. They don't have the energy to fight the currents like they will in a couple months. Early in the morning they will be holding deep and will progressively move to shallower water to feed as the day progresses and the water warms. Obviously, the more shallow the water the quicker that it will warm up.
If fishing early in the morning before the water has had a chance to warm, you will have to dredge a fly down deep to have a chance at tempting a smallie to bite. As the water warms he will move up and so should you (we will cover the flies to use during the different parts of the day in Part 3 of this series). You will be covering the entire water column throughout the day. The standard approach is to cast near the banks and to retrieve your fly at a speed that will allow it to cover the portion of water that you want to cover. If you are fishing a crayfish pattern, you want to fish it slow in order to crawl it along the bottom. The fish are still lethargic due to the colder water temps in the morning and they won't chase a fast retrieve. If fishing a suspended streamer pattern, you would use a retrieve that would allow it time to sink to the proper depth, and so on.
This is a constant trial and error type of fishing. From fly selection to retrieval technique, it can change several times throughout the day. Most fly fishing is like this though, so really nothing new to the smallie fishing. With the exception that we are not concerned with insect activity changing throughout the day like we are when fishing for trout. Here it is more about concentrating on your preys movements in relation to water temps and water depth. They can really keep you on your toes!
Well that's it for Part 1. Hope you enjoyed the read. Tomorrow I will post Part 2 which will cover equipment needed. See ya then!

Cool Footage

Saw this video on The Trout Underground blog and thought I'd share. Check it out by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good News for the Brookies!

Great info. on the only successful Southern Strain Brook Trout hatchery in the world. Check it out HERE and show your support for our only native trout species!

Fishing Report

Well, after much delay and criticism from people who apparently do read this blog, I have discovered that it has been a very long time since I've updated the fishing report. This was an honest oversight and I thank those of you who brought my attention to it. Thanks for reading! Here it goes:
The fishing on the Hi has been nothing short of spectacular lately. All area trout waters are fishing great right now due to the spring like weather that we are experiencing, along with the overall lack of winter weather that we have had so far. Hope we can keep it up!
The Hiwassee DH has fished good throughout the whole DH season. The river is absolutely full of hungry fish right now and they are seeing some of the spring hatching activity very early this year. We have some little black winter stones, brown stones and a few quill gordons on the water right now, not to mention the BWO's that can make an appearance any given day on the Hi. The sub-surface action is dominated by the old standards: princes, pheasant tails, hares ears and black and olive buggers. Also, very important, don't forget to swing those soft hackle emerger patterns. That one simple technique can often save the day on the Hi when the trout may be very selective and you've tried almost everything in your fly box. Hiwassee trout are suckers for a swung fly. Any type of fly.
Again, thanks for reading and for keeping me on my toes about updating the fishing report. Also, don't forget to LIKE us on facebook. Some posts show up there instead of on the blog. I usually post the same stuff on each of them, but the little quick updates are mostly done on the FB page. See ya there!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Generator Down

Looks like 1 turbine flows until sometime in May on the Hi. TVA took 1 generator down for maintenance. They can still spill along with the 1 generator flow of course, but we should see much lower flow rates during this time. This should also make for some good fishing as well. We like fishing it on a 1 generator flow. Good things happening on the Hi!