After a long harsh winter with virtually no fishing (mostly hunting), this past weekend offered an opportunity. My wife and I were attending a marriage retreat in Pigeon Forge (which is about the only reason I will enter that horrific area), and I had some free time on Sunday after it concluded. I had been looking at the weather and thought it looked as if it may be getting favorable for a Quill Gordon hatches to begin.
Once the retreat adjourned I had our bags and gear packed up and ready to go, but realized that I had not yet purchased my 2014 license yet. So, a quick stop by LRO was in order to pick that up and then off to the river it would be. However, upon arrival at the shop Daniel presented me with a very interesting proposition. They had recently gotten in a 7'-6" 4-wt Orvis Superfine Glass rod and he asked me if I wanted to take it out and give it a go on the river. Originally, I hesitated, but quickly caved as I thought about this opportunity. So, once Daniel had the rod packaged up we were off for a quick fishing trip, as I only had a couple of hours to spend before we needed to head back into Knoxville.
About the only time of year that I will even consider fishing roadside is in March during the Quill Gordon hatch, and most other times I prefer to be somewhere a little more remote to avoid all the tourists. When we pulled up to the spot I had intended to fish, the water looked excellent. However, there were some ominous clouds overhead and the wind was beginning to pick up.
I got the rod rigged up and chose to use my own Orvis BBS II reel instead of the one at LRO, and on the first cast discovered just how sweet of a rod this is. It is a medium action rod with a full flex that allowed for effortless casting.
I actually began to see a few QG's coming off in the first little run I was fishing, but the trout were showing no interest. So, I changed over to a QG wetfly with a BHPT dropper. That was the ticket as I got a strike on the very next run swinging the flies in an across and down presentation. Unfortunately, this approach typically gives me some difficulty getting a solid hookset, and that little guy quickly came unbuttoned.
Thankfully, just a few more yards downstream I managed to bring in the first trout of the day.
It was quite nice to feel a tug on the end of this sweet little rod, and get my first fish of the year to hand. At this point, I would have actually been content to just call it a day after only about 15 minutes of fishing. However, I chose to take advantage of the opportunity and continue on at least while the wind was still allowing me to fish some.
So, I continued on fishing downstream (my preferred approach when swinging wetflies), and managed to stick a couple more trout but once again they came off before bringing them to hand. Eventually, I came to a very nice long sweeping run with an undercut bank along the outside. I just knew there had to be something in there, so I carefully crawled up to it and presented my fly. I gave it a good long drift and then began to swing so that it kissed the edge of the undercut bank. That is when I saw a flash and set the hook into a much more hefty fish. The full flex glass rod doubled over and I saw a large shimmering body come near the surface but not out of the water. I quickly landed this guy and tried to snap a picture, however he had other plans as he managed to squirm free from my hand and drop into the water. The only shot I got does not display the coloring on him, but you can see most of his 10" length. Definitely the largest rainbow I have caught out of the particular stream I was fishing. Shortly after landing this guy the frontal system moved into the area and brought heavy winds that were making my casting a little difficult.
While the QG's were not popping in large numbers, they were beginning to make their debut when I called it quits around 12:45 to begin our drive back to Knoxville. In a little over an hour of fishing I managed to land two rainbows and let a few more get off while swinging flies. Plus the water levels looked awesome! Unfortunately the crazy winter appeared to have taken a toll on the trees lining the streams in the park as there were a lot more deadfalls in places that I typically have not experienced any. I don't know how this short cold snap is going to affect the QG and Blue Quill hatch, but it should be "game on" in the next couple of weeks.