Thanks for all of the help everyone on this board gave to me last week pertaining to floating the Watauga.
I went up to the Watauga this weekend to try out my new boat and managed to catch a few fish. I got the free hall pass from Natalie by telling her I would transport three dogs all the way to Bristol, TN but I would have to fish the rest of the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. My wife does a lot of animal rescue transporting animals to rescues.
I left Birmingham about 7:00 and drove two pointers and an American Bulldog puppy to Johnson City where I left them with a lady who was driving them further towards Maryland. A quick run to the local fly shop to get some local flies and off to the put in. On the way to the put in, I called Kelly Reep, who runs shuttles all day, and set up my shuttle. I put on the river about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and promptly caught my first fish on my first hex. It was a nice little brown that took a soft hackle. I celebrated with a little whiskey and diet coke that I found in my fishing pack, thanks whoever left that in there.
It rained most of the day but I ended up catching plenty of fish all between 10-14 inches or so. The float went pretty easy except for some dragging in places with low water. There wasn’t any water that I felt nervous about running so that was good. I was off the water by around 7:00. A little more bourbon and then off to a Mexican restaurant for a good meal, a tall beer, and a roof over my head. After dinner I drove around trying to find a place to camp but ended up in a hotel by about 11:00. It’s a long story.
I woke up about 6:00 and was the first person in the parking lot. I was on the water by 7:00 just as the first car was pulling in with a raft. I fished my way down to the first big pool that I wanted to fish and landed quite a few fish on a small zebra midge. After arriving at the pool, I anchored the boat and hooked something I didn’t even get a chance to see. I had the fish on for a few minutes before the zebra midge pulled loose. I figured I had just lost my chance at a big Watauga fish. A couple casts later I hooked up with another fish that took me up and down river a half dozen times before I finally got a look. My heart was racing as I fought the fish. My bamboo rod was doubled over and doing everything it could to protect the fly and leader from his sudden bursts to the deep. Not having a net really made it hard to land this fish, but I finally did. I can’t say how long it took to land the fish but it seemed like forever. A quick shot with a disposable camera and I put him back in the water. Measuring him against the rod, I’m guessing 22”-23”. From the real seat to the handle is close to 12" so you make the call.
He was a little slow swimming off so I snapped a couple of shots of him underwater.
After I released the fish, I celebrated again. All of this had happened within the first hour of fishing and I hadn’t even gotten to the quality trout section of the river with special regulations. I fished pretty leisurely the rest of the day knowing that my day was already done.
I caught plenty of fish the rest of the morning on the zebra midge and finally changed over to the biggest wooly bugger I had with me when I got to the last big pool befor the take out. I probably caught another 5 fish between 12-15 inches on it including a decent brookie. It’s hard to see the big green wooly bugger hanging out of his mouth but you can see the black cone head laying in the grass beneath the jaw.
I was off the water by 1:30 that afternoon and headed back to Birmingham.