I have not purchased a hunting or fishing license this year in protest of the poor management by the TWRA of the Caney Fork, imo. I have several fishing friends who keep asking me to go and I turn them down, they tell me the river is doing well, but I think they are just being overly optimistic.
A colleague ask me to show him how I fly fish, I know he seldom gets a chance to go fishing, and he offered to pay for the license. So with a one day license and trout stamp in hand off I went on July 3rd.....yeah I know.
I showed up before dawn and before he arrived to work out the kinks of not having been on the river for 10 months. I had gotten some good information from a friend and off I went to scout prior to my colleagues arrival later in the morning. I was shocked to find myself alone on the water at dawn. Many small stocker rainbows and browns were jumping and I anticipated some fast action. I changed flies a few times looking for the magic one and started hooking fish. I broke off my first three not being used to 6x tippet. My last fish caught came on 80lb test.
After landing 3 stocker sized fish (2 brown, one rainbow) I started into a good stretch of water. I had several nice sized rainbows take my strike indicator and finally hooked a solid brown of about 18 inches that gave me one good jump and three nice runs.
Soon after it was time to leave and meet my colleague. I had only landed four fish in two hours and placed it on the thick fog hanging around the river and my rusty skills.
In the time I waited for my colleague the water filled up with people and off we went. I wasn't bothered by the number of people and had a few guys run down river in front of me, but I was more interested in teaching than catching. Oddly most guys ran through the best water, I mean RAN.
With the fog off the water and the river at a great level for fly fishing I expected some fast action and kept waiting for it to happen. It never materialized. My colleague caught some fish and so did I, but the tailouts of pools that once held dozens of fish now held one or two and the main polls had no solid rainbows. I caught another 17 inch brown in just about the same place I caught the 18 incher, and moved my fishing partner into this section as several fish were actively feeding. He hooked several and was doing quit well.
My colleague had to leave after only a few short hours but had caught fish and was rather proficient at using the strike indicator, so I felt he could go again on his own when his schedule permitted. I also left 25 flies that work on the river in various sizes for him at work this morning. I hope he gets to use them and catch fish with them. One got me three over 20 inches in one day.....it has lots of mojo.
The point of this post is my concern for the falling quality of fish in the river. In the past I could conservatively catch 40-50 fish per day from 14-18 inches without batting an eye. While I did catch around 20-30 trout for the half day all but the two browns and maybe one or two 12 inch brook trout were stockers. I saw one bait fisherman with a nice 18 inch rainbow he retained but not much else. I spent a good hour just walking through the river looking in the heads and tails of pools, I know well, for any trout. Most in the past held 30-40 fish each now I saw 1-5 fish total.
I acknowledge the rains and dam repair work are not helping the situation, but I cannot be led to believe that regulations if put in place on the Caney Fork, much like on the Clinch, would somehow limit recreation (for all users) and ruin the river. It saddens me to see this good water devoid of many decent fish. I honestly think some solid regulations could remedy this situation in one short season.