Guide Talk

Pteronarcys californica…. two words that strike excitement in the minds of avid fly fishers everywhere…. better known as….salmonflies!  In our fly fishing adventures, we’d yet to really hit a true salmonfly hatch on any of the rivers we fished.  Even before we started our River Ramble, we’d ventured to a couple of Montana Rivers in search of these creatures, but had never quite timed it right.  So when our good friends Sue Doss and Dud Lutton invited us to go fishing with them, on the Henry’s Fork, at the very beginning of the salmonfly hatch, we jumped at the opportunity.

Our first stop was TroutHunter Lodge and Fly Shop on the banks of the Henry’s Fork in Island Park (ID).  Sue’s dog Solomon, as usual, was greeted warmly by everyone and made his home at the front door, welcoming everyone as the came into the flyshop.

After we’d secured our Idaho fishing license, we met our guide for the day, Chris Andelin.   Chris had already picked out an assortment of bugs for us to use for the day and we were thrilled that included in the mix of bead head nymphs and Pat’s rubber legs were an assortment of salmonflies.  Game on!

Barb and I loaded into Chris’ truck and headed for our put in spot near Ashton (ID).  When we pulled into the lot, there were about 6 other guide boats in various stages of “rigging up” in the lot.  While Chris found a spot to park and began getting the boat ready for launch, Barb and I explored the bank and immediately started finding the stars of the day hanging on bushes and blades of grass everywhere.  While it was still early, we knew it was going to be a great day fishing using these giant salmonfly patterns on our lines.  Chris started Barb on a “dry/dropper” rig with a salmonfly on top and one of the nymphs below…. for me, just the salmonfly.

We started off downstream with Chris explaining various highlights about the Henry’s Fork and forewarning us to “be ready” as you never knew when a big brown or rainbow would rise to eat that big bug off the top. Every so often, Chris would pull over to the side, hop out of the boat, and literally pull us back upstream to fish a certain spot where we’d noticed a rising fish or two.  We took a few opportunities to ask Chris questions along the way (edited into the video above) about these amazing bugs, their lifecycle and fishing the Henry’s Fork hatches in general.

As we continued downstream, we’d hit into a few really nice fish, all on the Salmonfly pattern.  This caused Chris to take off the “dropper” flies from Barb’s rig and leave her with just the one salmonfly.  A moment later, my fly disappeared in a flash… I raised my rod high and what I could only surmise was a very big trout had been tricked by my fly.   Several times it took me on a ride, making runs away from the boat.  Chris’ advice was “take your time…. we want this one”.   Chris even rowed downstream and upstream chasing the trout. Barb even had to put her rod down when it made a run back in front of the boat.  When it finally showed itself to us, it was a solid 20+ inch brown trout.

As we continued downstream, a storm looked to be brewing, so, Chris parked us under the Vernon Bridge for protection.  All over the concrete wall of the bridge were salmonflies and the shucks of salmonflies.  The adult salmonflies were everywhere, on our clothing….  on Barb’s hat…. everywhere.  We tried to do a bit more interviewing of Chris, but the wind howling beneath the bridge washed out the audio (although I included some in the video above…. apologies for the sound quality) of our impromptu interview.

After the storm passed, we headed downstream picking off a fish here and there although the storm seemed to put down the number of salmonflies we saw in the air and on the water.  We reached the takeout and caught up with Sue and Dud who’d had a very productive day on the water as well.

We made it back to the restaurant at TroutHunter Lodge where anglers from around the world who come here to experience the salmonfly hatch were busy telling tales of the day’s fishing.  We did our best as well, enjoying a few cold beers and a burger before jumping in with Sue, Dud and Solomon for the drive back home to Bozeman.  And yes, we’re already planning to head back to the Henry’s Fork VERY soon for salmonflies.

When we met our guide for the Little Red River, Jamie Rouse of Rouse Fly Fishing, we were experiencing conflicting emotions.  It was the last river of our River Ramble adventure in the lower 48 states we were to fish.  We were happy we’d made it this far but sad that this part of the adventure was coming to an end.

Like the Norfork, they’d not been generating at the dam, so, the water levels and flow in the river were low.  However, Jamie had just the spots for us to explore.  We jumped in his boat and headed upstream, fishing around weed beds, trying to lure hiding trout to our flies.  He asked us if we wanted the day to be “silly great” and given it was our last guide trip in the lower 48, we said “ABSOLUTELY!”  Hence, we started fishing with egg patterns which drew rainbows one after another to the boat.  Later, we jigged a bit, and threw streamers and hooked into some nice browns.

As we left the river, we chatted with Jamie on the ride back to our car.  He is one of the most knowledgable and fun guides you could ask for.  He kept us laughing all day, of course “silly” fishing and having tons of fun.  We’ll be back to fish with Jamie in the spring when the river comes back into good shape, but for now, we hope you enjoy our “Guide Talk” with him…. truck style!

We had fished the White River before, a couple of times, but, really looked forward to fishing it again with some of the team from Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher in Cotter, AR.  Cotter lays claim to being  “Trout Capital USA”.  While Roscoe (NY), Bend (OR), Asheville (NC) and Craig (MT) might argue with them, Cotter is definitely a contender.  Indeed, there are two rivers nearby with some of the most and biggest trout in the lower 48, the White and the Norfork (the North Fork of the White River).

We first fished the White River with Larry McNair, who is a retired teacher and head basketball coach at Cotter High.  The other guides referred to Larry as the “Godfather” of the White because of the number of times he’s fished and guided on it.   We put the boat in at the Rim Shoals access point and proceeded to go upstream just a bit, before fishing both sides of the island at the boat ramp.  Barb caught a nice brown and we both hooked into numerous nice sized rainbows.  Throughout the day we talked fishing and basketball which was right up my alley.  As the day progressed, we caught several more healthy browns and a bevy of rainbows.  The White River was really good to us on a cold, rainy day.

The next day, we went to try our hand on a section of the Norfork with another Dally’s guide, Gabe Levin.  It was only a small section due to conditions in Norfork Lake which were producing off-color water and very low flows below the dam on the river.  It really wasn’t an ideal time to fish the Norfork River, but it’s a TU Top 100 stream, so, we were obliged to wet a line and see what we could do.  On our first drift down, we both hooked into a couple of small rainbows before Barb landed a beautiful Fine Spotted Cutthroat….. gorgeous fish!  At this point, realizing we could fish this small stretch longer, or, we could head back to the White and fish a different section, we made a no brainer decision, bring on the White again!

Gabe took us to several different spots both up and downstream of the confluence of the Norfork and White Rivers, including Buffalo Shoals.  We stopped counting pretty quickly as to the numbers of fish we’d brought to the boat.  While we didn’t find any of the big browns, we did just fine seeing a variety of sizes of colorful rainbows.

We chatted with Gabe over lunch on the river as eagles soared and squawked above us.  We only saw a couple of boats upstream where we’d gone to fish and have lunch.  His “guide talk” is a “twofer” combining the White and Norfork, with pics from both days sprinkled in.   Please take a look at the video to understand fully why Cotter is “Trout Capital USA”.

Rocky Tops!

By TB

Our last stop in Tennessee brought us to the Knoxville area to fish the Clinch River.  The chapter in the TU book regarding the Clinch didn’t paint a particularly positive picture of the river, so with some trepidation, we met our guide for the day, Michael (Rocky) Cox of Rocky Top Anglers at the boat ramp and prepared for our journey.

It was a foggy and very cold 27 degrees at the boat ramp when started the journey downstream on the Clinch.  However, the bit of gloom written in the TU book was very quickly dispelled as we started catching fish on a regular basis.  Beautiful rainbows abound in the Clinch and Rocky put us on them all day.  In the afternoon, the weather warmed up considerably…. as did Barb.  I don’t think Barb let a fish go by all afternoon without hooking and landing it.   When she was netting her fish, it was my chance to hook one;  she was on fire!

We had a blast fishing with Rocky and did a very unique interview with him.  While we’ve done interviews in boats on the banks of streams, we’d never done one while the guide was actually rowing… until now.  Please click on the video above and enjoy Rocky’s wit and wisdom as he rows us down the Clinch in Tennessee.

We had the pleasure of floating and fishing the Hiwassee with Jeff Sharpe of Southeastern Anglers, and we were about to meet up with him again, this time to fish the Tellico.  Our meeting spot was the local Hardee’s in Tellico Plains, which was really hopping on a Sunday morning at 9am.  We grabbed biscuits for breakfast and headed up the Cherohala Skyway along the Tellico River.  At River Road, the Tellico splits off the Skyway, so we did as well, traveling up River Road right beside the river.

This is a “creek stompin” kind of river, with boulders strewn about, small pocket water and some deep plunge pools.  We hit a spot where the North River joins the Tellico, fishing some of the swift pockets before heading upstream.  We stopped at a gorgeous plunge pool and on one of my first casts of a nymph rig, my strike indicator went down.  When I pulled on the line to see if it was a fish or bottom, it just stuck there.  I assumed it was bottom and tugged it a bit more and it came out… Whew!  But not so fast Jeff said… and of course, when we ran it through that exact spot numerous times, it never got stuck again… so… it was likely a very big fish.  I would love to have seen it, but not this day and off we went.

The road above us was closed near the fish hatchery due to a plane crash that had occurred in early October.  A Navy training plane with two aboard had crashed near the hatchery and the road we were on was closed about two miles below it along the river.  We came to the barricade in the road and decided to park and walk up a ways to check things out.  We again found some nice pocket water and began to pull a few fish out, nice ones too.  Jeff had a glimmer in his eye when he recommended we go have lunch and come back up above the barricade after lunch.

As we were walking out, just past the barricade, a couple of guys pulled up beside us and asked us how fishing was going.  Jeff told them that the fishing up above the barricade wasn’t going well but down lower on the river was good.  He was trying to control his smile as he gave this advice to the two guys in the Jeep, knowing that fishing upstream was turning on.

After a great lunch of smoked chicken, potato salad, beans, and, yes again, Apple pie, we headed back to the barricade, parked, and started walking upstream.  This time, we walked further than before and found a long run below a patch of swift water.  Jeff indicated he wanted to go down and look at it first, but Barb and I couldn’t resist and followed him down.  As we all peered out into the water, we saw several fish, let’s say three or four, hanging out right below where we were standing.

In our best stealth mode, Jeff and I hiked about 30 feet below the fish, carefully stepped into the stream, crossed it and very quietly slid back upstream to a spot where we could cast to those three or four fish.  After getting our dry/dropper rig set…. a parachute adams with a tactical pheasant tail dropper, I started making casts toward the fish.  BOOM… fish on… next cast….  BOOM fish on… next cast…. well, you get the picture.  The run we were standing in was full of fish.

I fished the hole for a while before coaxing Barb out to fish it a while as well.  Amazingly, we fished the hole for quite a while using only that same parachute adams and same pheasant tail nymph.  We caught one on the adams and as folks in certain parts of Georgia say…. “I don’t believe I said” how many fish we caught on the pheasant tail.  Put it this way, it was enough that we used the “E” word to describe the day…. “Epic!”

When finally, the pheasant tail nymph was a down to a bead, a hook and a few scraggly strands of fibers, a fish took it and we broke off.  It was a sign to call it a day.  When we got back to our cabin, we sat down with Jeff to chat about our day on the Tellico.  You won’t want to miss this video which details our “E” day on the Tellico.

When Barb and I arrived at our meeting spot to fish the Hiwassee, we met Charlie, who was running the shuttle for our guide.  As we were sharing stories about the river, Charlie said, “Do you hear it?”  In this case, the “it” was a train coming our way.  Our meeting place turned out to be a boat launch located under a train bridge.  As the train was passing by, my attention shifted to the river.  I’m not really sure what I’d imagined for the Hiwassee, but I was surprised at how wide it truly was.  What I wasn’t surprised about were the rapids that could be seen upstream and downstream of  the boat launch.  I’d read about how much fun people have whitewater rafting/kayaking on the Hiwassee, but we were there to fish.

A moment later, our guide arrived pulling a drift boat behind which made us happy.  We’re much more comfortable in drift boats than in rubber rafts.   Out popped Jeff Sharpe, our guide for the day from Southeastern Anglers, an outfitter based in Reliance, TN.  After introductions all around, we drove across the bridge and dropped into Reliance Fly and Tackle, a great little fly shop, deli, market and gathering place for local anglers.  Of course, Jeff and Charlie knew everyone inside, including a small group in a back corner enjoying coffee and conversation to start their day.  Jeff grabbed a few flies and off we went, upstream toward our put in spot.

As we drove upstream, along the bank of the Hiwassee, we couldn’t help but notice all the whitewater “stairs” of rapids.  Jeff talked about the rock structure that lines the river and how it produces the unique “challenges” to rowing the Hiwassee.  We dropped the boat in the water and waved goodbye to Charlie who was shuttling Jeff’s truck and trailer down to the Reliance boat launch.

As we started fishing, Jeff had Barb on a streamer rig and me on a nymph rig.  After Barb had landed a couple of fish and continued to get more bites, Jeff switched me onto a streamer/dropper rig as well.  There was only one generator working at the dam upstream as we started our day, but it was supplying enough water for us to fish the upper section of water.  We were having fun picking up a fish here and there as we dodged rocks, found good runs for fishing and went through some good rapids.

When it was time for lunch, Jeff rowed us back into a small creek that fed into the river, back to a picnic area tucked back in a beautiful spot.  Lunch with Jeff was a real treat as he personally had prepared a rotisserie chicken for us to enjoy.  He coupled that with hot backed beans, potato salad, various pickles, rolls and drinks… and then, apple pie for dessert.  We rarely eat this good on the river and really enjoyed it… and…. Charlie even stopped by to grab a quick bite with us.

We decided to do our “Guide Talk” with Jeff on the bank of this small creek and setup our tripod and camera to get ready.  When we finished the “Talk”, I noticed that the tripod legs were now underwater!

Jeff had told us that we were not just having lunch, but letting the river rise and catch up to us, as a second generator was turned on at the dam.  Sure enough, as we rowed back out to the main channel of the Hiwassee, it was a totally different river… LOTS more water, moving faster now.

We drifted downstream and noticed that Jeff was working even harder, navigating the river and putting us on fish.   As we continued fishing we spotted eagles soaring and fishing along with us.  We learned the most difficult of the rapids Jeff had to run were near the end of our float… Stairstep, Funnel and Devil Shoals Run.  We’d caught plenty of gorgeous fish, so we just sat back and enjoyed our run through these whitewater challenges.  Jeff did a great job of keeping us upright all the way to our takeout.

It was so much fun fishing and floating with Jeff on the Hiwassee that as we got out of the boat in Reliance, we were thrilled we’d see Jeff again in two days to fish the Tellico.  For now, enjoy our “Guide Talk” with Jeff on the Hiwassee River.

Our first stop in Tennessee brought us to the Bristol area, home of one of the most famous NASCAR racetracks, and, home of two of the TU Greatest 100 Trout Streams, the Watauga and the South Holston.  Both rivers are tailwater fisheries with dams that generate power for the area.  The scheduling trick for the gang at the South Holston River Fly Shop / Champion Outfitters & Guides was which river would be generating, and hence, pumping water downstream, that would allow us to best float the river on which day.  Turned out, we hit the Watauga first.

We met our guide for the day, Matt “Scooter” Gwynn, at the fly shop on a foggy morning and headed for the river.  We put in at a spot where a couple of guys were trying to corral a bunch of leaves that had littered the boat launch.  We didn’t realize that sight was a harbinger of things to come.

We had a great morning fishing, catching several beautiful brown and rainbow trout.  As we broke for lunch, we noticed the weather changing as the wind picked up and the temperature cooled a bit.  The cooling was fine, but the wind began to blow even more leaves off the trees into the river.  As we set out after lunch, you could see leaves not just on the surface of the river, but, up and down the water column as well.  It was difficult casting and trying to keep our flies from  hooking leaves.  More importantly, it was equally difficult for the fish to even see our nymphs as they floated downstream  among the leaves.  Needless to say, fishing, or the “bite” as it’s called, turned off in the afternoon, but, we still hooked into a few fish.   The Watauga was a beautiful river with high cliffs and lots of fall colors (and did I mention…. leaves?).

We decided to try the GoPro in the truck “Guide Talk” with Scooter as we drove back after a great day on the Watauga.  We hope you enjoy his insights on the river, fishing and tips for a great day.

When we asked a few of our earlier guides who we might contact in Maine to fish, they all said we had to contact Bob Mallard…. so we did!  Bob is one of the true leaders in the fly fishing community having advocated for fish, clean water and better regulations for many years.  Additionally, Bob has written numerous books and articles in the fly fishing world and serves as Publisher of Fly Fish America Magazine.  His Stonefly Press books, “50 Best Places Fly Fishing the Northeast” and “25 Best Towns Fly Fishing for Trout” are among the best in the field.  His current project, the Native Fish Coalition, is “dedicated to the conservation, preservation and restoration of native fish.”

We had the pleasure of floating and wading the Kennebec River with Bob and had a blast chunking streamers to the banks, talking fishing, politics, conservation and history.  His “Guide Talk” is full of insights and thought-provoking ideas.  If you ever get to Maine, you must make sure to call Bob at Kennebec River Guides and prepare yourself for an incredible day.  We’ll be going back as soon as we can to fish the Kennebec again, but also the Rapid and several others spots Bob highlighted during our time with him.  His passion for native fish and the opportunity to fish with him for these special species is already pulling us to return.  In the meantime, please enjoy Bob’s “Guide Talk” with us on the Kennebec.

When we originally planned our trip and saw where Grand Lake Stream was located, we really weren’t sure what to expect because it’s in a fairly remote part of Maine with no campgrounds.  We booked a cabin along the “Canal” at Canal Side Cabins with John and Mary Arcaro.   John is a Master Maine Registered Guide, which is an official designation for Maine guides.  John is a “Master” because he holds guide certifications in fishing, hunting and recreation.  It turns out there are written tests, interviews and experience that factor into getting Maine guide certifications in each area.

When we told people we were headed to Grand Lake Stream to fish the river of the same name, we heard things like:  that’s really “out there”; there are 82 residents and over 50 are guides; and, make sure you go to the Pine Tree Store.  We turned off US 1 onto the one road that leads into Grand Lake Stream and drove about 10 miles to an intersection in town.  There are only 5 streets in Grand Lake Stream, all of which are dead ends.  In the middle of town sits the Pine Tree Store, which is part general store, part gas station and part diner.

When we booked the cabin with John and Mary, John told us he had a spot to park our RV while we stayed in the Spruce Cabin at Canal Side Cabins.  Our cabin was absolutely perfect for us as we settled in and got ready to fish the next day with John.

We met John around 8am and headed for a spot behind the fish hatchery in town and began our day on the Stream.  I was fishing a caddis pattern when I decided to mend my line and POW, a fish attacked my fly.  I set the hook, had a big, landlocked salmon on, and after a short battle, he broke me off.  I just shrugged as I looked over at John and Barb, who were looking out at the water and laughing.  What I didn’t realize was the fish thought it was still hooked because it still had my fly in his mouth, and was putting on an aerial display.  Barb and John had a good laugh since I never saw it.

We fished several different holes and spots along the Stream during the day, and for lunch, John took us to the counter at the Pine Tree Store.   After lunch, we landed some smaller landlocked salmon and had such an incredible time fishing, learning tips/techniques from John and listening to the most hilarious stories you can imagine.  John had us in stitches all day long.

The next night, we went to John and Mary’s home near our cabin, shared a beer or two and did our “Guide Talk” with John.  John and Mary are the most friendly, hospitable and fun people you could ever meet.  We get a lot of our guides saying “won’t you adopt us and take us with you on your ‘Ramble'”,  but for Barb and I, we wanted John and Mary to adopt us and let us hang out with them in Grand Lake Stream.

We will certainly be back to fish GLS again, and for sure, stay at Canal Side Cabins, fish with John, and share more time with John and Mary.  For now, we hope you enjoy a very funny and informative chat we had with John in the basement of their home.

 

We’ve been looking forward to fishing Maine during the fall since we first started planning our “River Ramble”.  We experienced New England, already fishing the Battenkill and White in Vermont as well as the Upper Connecticut in New Hampshire, but this was Maine.  Furthermore, our first stop in Maine was the West Branch of the Penobscot River, famed for its landlocked salmon.  But first, we had to get there.

The SaraLinda has taken us over 25,000 miles around the country almost twice now, but she’s never been on a road like the “Golden Road” from Millinocket (ME) to our campsite at the Big Eddy Campground.  You know you’re in for a ride when the address of the campsite is “Mile 28.5 of the Golden Road”.   We talked with Don at the campsite about the road and he alerted us to the fact it was somewhat potholed where it is paved and a washboard when it’s gravel.  The RV sites we’d read indicated that you’d better be ready for repairs after taking your rig on this road.  However, our guide, Greg “Boz” Bostater repeatedly told us we HAD to stay at the Big Eddy Campground.  So… we left Millinocket on a wild ride to our campsite… logging trucks beware, the SaraLinda was on the road.

When we arrived, the campsite was in the most spectacular area you can imagine.  Right on the West Branch, beautiful surrounding forests, the Big Eddy Rapid making itself known by the sounds of crashing waves and fishing right out our back door.  We were in fly fishing heaven for sure.

We met Greg, the owner and head guide for Maine River Guides right at the campground and proceeded to get in his drift boat right at the campground.  We fished the Big Eddy Pool until lunch, which was a great stream side lunch cooked by Greg himself.  Before heading downstream, we took the time to do our “Guide Talk” with Greg right in our campsite with the Big Eddy Pool in the background.

It was a great day of fishing with Greg who was not only an incredible guide, but also knew the history of the river, especially its rich history in logging.  We hope you enjoy our “Guide Talk” with Boz as much as we enjoyed our day on the river with him.  And yes, if you plan to go to this area, take the Golden Road to mile marker 28.5 and stay at the Big Eddy Campground.  Your teeth will eventually stop chattering from the bumpy road and you’ll have an incredible time.