Friday, January 31, 2014


It appears as though the deep freeze is over and the return of tolerable temperatures is on the way.  Although the morning was very cold, noon saw near 40 degree temperatures with sun and tomorrow is to be near 60 degrees.  That's the old Tennessee I remember.
I chugged along on the narrow road that followed the river and kept my eyes open for critters in the fields and trees.  I did see a beautiful skunk scurrying along a field break but it was too dark to take a picture.  
A couple of lonely looking deer were leaving the meadow and entering a wood lot.  I don't know why I keep photographing deer as I have so many average shots.  Just can't resist the temptation I guess.
I saw a blond colored red tail hawk far out in the meadow on a tree limb and zeroed in on him and as I pushed the shutter down, a second hawk flew from the ground to the tree as the shutter closed.  These hawks are normally darker in color but there is a blond or buckskin version.  I've seen this lighter variety up on the Holston River and Beech Creek but never down here in the valley.  No big deal.  Its just a unique sighting for me.
There were many different species of hawks out this morning, the red tail most prominent.  The past week has been absolutely frigid for these parts and food sources have no doubt been thin for hawks.  The much warmer temperatures encountered this morning will bring out all varieties of wildlife and the hawks surely will be filling their stomachs.
I didn't go far before I came upon another red tail.
I was approaching a long section of narrow road that leads to the access point at a place called Nance Ferry where there is a decent parking lot and a concrete boat ramp of sorts.  I pulled over to check some paperwork for the morning and prepared to move on when I saw an eagle dead ahead in the top of a tree.
You would have laughed if you'd have seen me trying to get hold of the camera. 
He was beautiful and he kept turning his head and assuming interesting poses so I posted some of the most interesting ones here.  This spot is about a mile away from the huge nest I found that sits in a wooded area next to a meadow that touches the river bank.  I'll bet he is one of the pair that uses that nest.  This is just a spot of luck to find him posing like this.

The only thing missing is that deep, rich blue sky for a background.  Its getting better though as he isn't back lighted by white or bright gray sky.

I really miss that 500 millimeter telephoto for shots like this.  The eagle is not real close and the 400 millimeter lens I'm using just falls a bit short of what I'd like to achieve at this distance.  The 500 is inoperative and there's nothing I can do about it.

I guess that's enough photos to post of this guy.  Seeing him makes me wonder about the population of all the migrant bald eagles on Douglas Lake.  I'll be on that lake very frequently starting next week.  We'll see what the counts are then.

A very odd thing occurred today, at least it was odd for me.  I noticed threadfin shad floating down the river in large numbers yesterday, and today I was startled to see enormous numbers dead and floating.  I questioned my learned colleagues about it and they set me straight on the issue.  Threadfin shad are susceptible to prolonged frigid water temperatures and the temperatures in the reservoir as well as this tail water have been holding steady at 37 to 38 degrees for the past seven days.  The results is what we call a fish kill and it is a big one.
They have collected dead in this crook in the river and every other crook in the river.  Their reflections from the sun create thousands of shiny, silver sparkles as their bodies stretch across the entire river on their journey downstream.
Theres nothing to be done about it.  Ain't nature amazing?  Bet there will be some hungry bass in Cherokee Lake shortly.  Threadfin shad is the primary food source for black bass as well as many other sport fish.   Is what it is I guess.

That is how the day went.  Tomorrow is an off day and I'm thinking of taking the Gheenoe up to Beech Creek and running the Holston River to see if the trappers left any beaver and otters alive.  Damn trapping!  I'd love to take the canoe but I fear the water current may be faster than I care to deal with.  We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


My treasured 5 wt, 4 piece graphite Winston Fly Rod with Lamson reel

It's been over 13 years since I've revisited a passion I've enjoyed for much of my adult life and it's only recently that I've had an impulse to search out all the necessary components required for a trip to the trout stream.  The rod and reel in the photo above is a high quality system that at one time allowed me to achieve a level of skill at fly fishing that I never dreamed I could acquire.  I've had several different fly rods and have enjoyed them all but this Winston, to me, is the most useful trout weapon I've ever held in my hands and that includes hand made Scotts, Powells, Orvis and a few bamboo rods made by private rod builders from the up state New York region where it is said fly fishing had it's origins. 
Tennessee's trout fishing is very different than that of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Wyoming or Montana to name just a few states I've fly fished in.  The aforementioned states have cold mountain as well as meadow spring fed creeks and streams, most of which contain wild rainbow and brown trout that grow quite large.  The western states are famous for their cut throat trout, a trout that grows to good size and is recognizable by a brilliant red slash under it's neck.  Oh, I could tell some stories about Wyoming trout fishing.

Tennessee on the other hand has decided to dam up all it's rivers thereby affecting the fish habitat on the streams and creeks that flow into the created reservoirs interrupting the natural ebb and flow, so to speak, of any trout residing in water cold enough to sustain them.  Trout require cold water and natural Tennessee trout can only live in the mountainous areas where icy cold water is the norm.  That would place most native trout in the Great Smoky Mountains and the (Appalachian) Blue Ridge mountain chain.  Tennessee Wildlife Resource's Agency, however, stocks trout in the tail races of the dams that are capable of maintaining a cold enough flow to sustain trout for sport fishing.  Our neighboring state of North Carolina and even Virginia have numerous mountains that allow an elevated trout fishing experience.

My almost daily visits to the tail waters of Cherokee Dam (Holston River) has ignited some sort of spark in me to give fly fishing a try here in Tennessee.  Visually, the water on that tail race looks like prime water for trout with innumerable pockets and water seams that trout love so well.  I went home after a trip to that part of the river and started searching for my trout "stuff".   I found it in several boxes that I mentally  labeled nonessential when I bought this place and pushed them off into dark corners of the house.  Those boxes contain a life time collection of all the equipment necessary to tie (create) any trout fly imaginable.  Yes, tying trout flies, to me, yields as much or more enjoyment as the actual fishing experience does.  I needed a table to organize the tying equipment on and place the thread spools and tying tools in their proper places.  I already had the hand made wooden boxes from another era that would hold the necessary feathers and other tying accoutrements.  This set-up operation would take awhile, but what the heck - its snowing out and zero degrees.
The table would also allow Douglas a more prominent place to rest where he could be close to me and I could enjoy his company.
 The operation was off to a good start.  Everything was dusty and each tool had to be wiped clean and rubbed with a silicone cloth.  Many feathers were totally useless - eaten by bugs over the past 13 years but many were untouched and like new.
It was necessary to lay out all the tying components including feathers, hooks, artificial furs, plastic this and that's and tools to include the three premium fly tying vices that were so enjoyable to use.
 Above and below are just a smattering of essential components required to tie flies with.
The drawer below contains plastic bags filled with synthetic artificial fur of many colors used to create and bind fly bodies onto a fishing hook.  It's no longer necessary to use the fur of live animals.

The above shot shows colored fabric as well as turkey and duck feathers along with peacock herl and a myriad of other essential tying materials to include deer hair.  Isn't this fascinating?
After inventorying everything, I placed it in drawers or on top the boxes while I decided which drawer I wanted to place each item.  This is turning out to be a lot of fun as well as whetting my appetite to go fishing.  And, finally the tying vices were cleaned and placed on the tying table ready for use.  These are very high quality vices I selected years ago due to their simplicity and ease of use as well as durability.  They are lifetime built and could easily be handed down from generation to generation.  Trouble is there is no generation to hand anything down to. 
The shot above shows the three precision tying vices used to hold the tiny hook while the fly is built upon it as well as the foam blocks holding the many tying tools necessary to complete quality fly builds.  You'll note a large plastic box to the right side of the table that contains many spools of colored thread used to wrap and secure the materials to the fishing hook.  It's a lot of stuff but necessary to create quality trout fishing flies.  Below is an example of trout flies created with the equipment above.  They are delicate and tied using the Catskills method of tying that I learned many years ago in another life.  I doubt many anglers use that method today, and that's ok.  It's whatever works for you.  Many of the flies in the box are not traditional although I enjoy tying traditional trout flies more than any other build.
Above is a small box of tiny trout flies suitable for fishing spring creeks in Pennsylvania or Maryland.  They'd probably work on North Carolina mountain streams.  I'll have to check out the insect life over there.  Incidentally, the flies in that box were tied 15 years ago if I remember correctly.
The flies in the shot above are delicate and indicative of the skill required to produce these intricate pieces of fluff.  Note that the hook has no barb.  I shall harm no trout.
 The flies below are termed wet flies meant to fish sub-surface
 These tiny flies have caught many 18 inch brown trout as well as countless rainbow trout in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  They are good Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia flies but they won't work here in Tennessee.  A larger fly is required here due to the wide, fast tail waters exiting the dams.  There are other rivers famous for trout in Tennessee but I've not fished on them and know little about their fish resources.  And then ya got the bass fly.  Below is a deer hair surface fly used for bass.  It does not require the skill level to create as delicate trout flies because it is created from deer hair that is tied to a hook and shaved and trimmed with razor and scissors.  Bass are a whole different critter than trout and the flies required to catch them are designed using an entirely different tying method.   Maybe later I'll do a step by step procedure on the creation of a trout fly for you if there's an interest out there.
I realize that this post won't interest many folks who read this blog but maybe there is a fisherman out there who would enjoy it.  It's a cold night and I had nothing else to do.  Hey - its a blog..


Everyone knows I humorously malign Douglas Lake calling it a mud hole, drainage ditch for the French Broad River and more but, this morning it was one of the most beautiful places I ever saw, thanks to the disguises provided to the lake by winter.

These pictures are a poor replication of this morning's brilliance and I doubt any camera capable of capturing nature's perfection as perfection is only achieved in nature and impossible to achieve by mortal man.

The shots above were taken facing upstream from the campground and boat ramp at the dam.
The shot above and below were taken "at" the Route 25/70 bridge that crosses over the lake.  They show that ice is covering the lake from the right shoreline almost all the way across the waterway, only allowing a narrow band of water free from ice on the opposite shoreline.  These pictures are unique as extreme lake freezes such as this are rare and few residence of East Tennessee can remember if and when it has ever previously occurred on East Tennessee Lakes.

Well, there's no access to the lake here.  I drove to the Dandridge boat ramp to see if it was iced in.
There are no tracks leading down the ramp to the lake.  I grabbed the thermometer I use to gather water temperature and started to walk down to the water on the boat ramp and my feet suddenly slipped out from under me due to ice.  Believe it or not, I actually couldn't stand up to walk.  I had to roll over onto hands and knees to crawl to the edge of the ramp where snow covered gravel would allow me to get enough traction to stand and walk back up the hill.  I guess this ramp won't work either. OK - I better drive up to Walters Bridge and see what conditions are up there and maybe talk to some fisherman foolish enough to attempt a boat launch there.  I had to pass by Swann's Marina, a favorite place anglers launch boats, and saw instantly that the entire area surrounding the marina was solid ice.
It was odd to see boats surrounded by a blanket of snow covered ice.  I thought of Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance.  If you don't know that story, you are missing an adventure that is unbelievable yet true. 

The view of the ice and snow covered lake from Walter's Bridge was spectacular and beyond my expectations.   All traces of muddy shorelines were gone and replaced by winter snow.  The tree tops across the lake were flashing in the sunlight, sparkling brightly against the backdrop of the blue mountains behind them. 
Countless birds were skimming over the ice choked river swooping down often to pick up tiny, dead shad that were floating on the surface due to their inability to cope with the extended super cold water temperatures.
Above shows a view across the snow and ice covered lake.
The shot below is at the bottom of the boat ramp at Walter's Bridge access area.  The icy water is raging and much broken ice is being carried downstream.  I wonder what will happen when all these ice sheets flow downstream and jamb up against the thick, unbroken ice far downstream on the main lake.
The shot below is one of my favorites.  Douglas Lake never looked better than it does this morning.

Below:  I couldn't help but mess with the picture.
OK - so I like mules, burros and donkeys ---- allot!  No, he wasn't on the lake.
It was 6 degrees above zero when I got up this morning and 40 degrees is predicted for this afternoon.  Tomorrow will be mid 40's and Saturday is scheduled for 55 degrees.  Hopefully the deep-freeze conditions are over and I can get back to what I like to do most, and fishermen will return to the lakes.  I am still curious what the result will be when all that loose upstream ice flows downstream and jambs into the solid ice on the main lake.  I'll keep my eye on it.