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Two rivers, one day

By Tom Chandler 5/4/2006

According to Ian, the Tennessee trout fishing universe tends to fall in two hemispheres; the tailwater specialists and the small stream folks. Obviously, plenty fish both, but it's a rare fly fisher that doesn't lean towards one to the exclusion of the other. On Wednesday - after a day in the park - it was our turn to chase the glittery, Hollywood-style fish of the tailwaters.

Ian Rutter launches his drift boat
We had a name for this launch ramp: dirt.

This was our "can't miss" day on the Holsten; Ian's clients absolutely whacked the trout the prior week during an hours-long caddis hatch - the same durable, six-week long hatch that I hit twice last year. The Holsen is the same "new" tailwater I wrote about then, and like all the Tennessee tailwaters, it's under the thumb of the TVA, whose decision to alter flow regimes and generate electricity can make or break your sporting day.

Ater launching at a ramp that didn't even achieve "primitive" status, we did the usual "waders/boots/rods/vest" fire drill and floated downriver, visions of trout-shaped sugarplums dancing in our heads.

Fishing started that slow build you often associate with a long hatch, but after I landed one chunky 13 incher and Rich and I both missed several, Ian was scratching his head and looking at the water with concern. I know that look. I don't like that look.

At the last minute, the TVA had altered its generating schedule, and we were on the front edge of a rising wave of water that basically doomed our fishing.

Rather than stay and listen to me whine incessantly about how much better it was last year, Ian choose to trailer the boat and head for the Clinch River, hoping to stumble on a decent Sulphur hatch in the afternoon.

It was a bold decision - the kind that usually leads to wild stories later - but sadly, the Sulphurs let us down too. The Clinch is big brown territory, so in the absence of rising fish, I stood up front and pounded the banks with a huge, gaudy streamer while Rich Margiotta took pot shots at the rare rising fish. He got a couple, and I had a couple looks from big brown trout, including one from a fish that Ian described as a "zero to hero" specimen.

The other fish provided us with our best Keystone Cops moment of the day; a small trout followed my streamer, wheeled off, and while I was pointing at him for Ian's benefit, an arms-length Brown sauntered up to my now-stilled streamer and stuck his nose on it. Ian was going beserk about the size of the fish while I kept pointing to the little guy and saying "silly, he's not very big at all." Not exactly one for the anthologies.

Of course, it's this level of detail that's often lacking in other fishing reports, and I probably won't need to point out to my "friends" that my mere presence killed not one, but two hatches in the same day.

Tonight, it's more fishing in the park. Today, I'm resting up and trying to get rid of this lingering cough. Fat chance. See you on the river.

p.s. - I didn't take many pictures yesterday, so here are a couple more from Tuesday's trip to the park:
Ian Rutter Little River

Ian Rutter


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

The TVA is indeed a dark, malevolent force...
Funny, I get the suspicion that the TVA may be responsible for flows on the Upper Sac about now. Well at least your day on the Holsten was in a real boat rather than the rubber raft you'd need here. BTW, there's a fella' by the name of Jack something or other, there in Tennessee what makes a pretty decent sippin'-style cough remedy. Not as good as what they got up north in Kentucky mind you, but it ... more oughta ease your troubles a bit. - Dave

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