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Thread: My Soho Report. Tough Day

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Kingsport, TN

    Default My Soho Report. Tough Day

    My in-laws have been in town for the last couple of weeks. they've been looking at houses as they intend to relocate to Tennessee.

    He is also the guy that taught me fly fishing basics. Early last week, I was telling Harry that I decided to get serious about the fly rod this year as I was tired of being an incompetent buffoon. I had put away the conventional gear and now chased trout, bass, and carp exclusively with fly rod, ugly casting and all. I then brought up the Soho. It wasn't hard to talk him in to going.

    We got on the water about 6:30 on Saturday. Armed with 6 or so fly patterns, in addition to the “in case of no fish” fly box to fling the kitchen sink. BWO’s were wrapping up. Sulphurs were in full swing. Black flies, mosquitoes, and Zebra midges. Oh and the nymph buffet. Pretty standard for our region. As always, the river was breathtaking.

    We had a tough time locating fish. No feeding. No rolling. No slurping. It was as if the trout had taken a vacation. At some point late in the morning, a guide on his day off passed by and stopped to talk to us. He explained that in spite of his best efforts, the fish were just not cooperating. I told him we were having zero luck. He asked what we were slinging and I told him. He told us to stick with it. He also said something profound which still has me chuckling………
    “While the river appears to be void of trout, know that no less than 500 trout are probably looking at your crappy fly, every single cast. There is so much food that they can afford to be picky.”

    By afternoon, we had no fish and only 2 missed opportunities after falling asleep at the wheel. But things were looking up. We finally found a nice section of the river with fish feeding on small back flies. Really small! You know it’s going to be a tough trip when you’re carrying sizes down to 20 and they are just too big !

    Watching the fish feed was amazing. They were sneaking up in to the shallows to slurp the flies. We saw some bruisers that were so big they had their backs and tails out of the water.

    We were finally on the fish. And then, the dam started dumping water. When you hear the siren, you get out quick. They push enough water to churn the river in to guide boat city. It was either wade and die, or sit down and eat a sandwich.

    We had a visitor. I think the name of this bug is the trout bacon double cheeseburger.

    As soon as the flow eased, we returned to the section of river we had found earlier. Sadly, we arrived to find a football team of fly fishermen there. Boo, I say. Boo! We fished another spot a bit more, then headed to the house. Skunked!

    On Day Two, hope was renewed. We were going to find feeding fish if it killed us. And we found a lovely spot early. Since Harry had foot surgery a few months earlier and this had bank access, the gentlemanly thing to do was leave him there and head down river 50 yards give or take.
    I found a fantastic section. Feeding lanes. Deep holes everywhere. Fingerlings rolling, but no big splashes. I saw a couple of deceased Sulphurs float by, so I tied on one.

    I was exhausted and having a very difficult time. Wind picked up to 10 mph or so and from a really bad direction. I about lost a testicle attempting to shoot cross wind with everything I had, only to make birds nests and string art.

    Line management? What’s that ?

    Because of the wind, I could not see my fly. By the time a fish hit the presentation, he had spit it and left before I could even attempt to set.

    Various water flow speeds were giving me fits. Nothing like a taut fly line!

    I had fish feeding all around me. I had incredible water and structure. You could use this spot on the river as a single source to write an entire book about trout habitat. And I couldn’t buy a fish!

    I decided to give it one last shot. I pulled out the kitchen sink fly box and stared intently. I was looking for something…..anything that would generate interest. And then I recalled seeing small black ants on the trail. Not a ton of them, but enough to know they had to stumble in to the river.

    I found a single, lowly wingless black ant tied up in a 20. It was a spec. At this point, it was combat fishing. I grabbed a hideous strike indicator the size of a soft ball. Frankly I didn’t care. It was do or die.
    I turned around so my back was to the wind. I was forced to throw directly up river. I saw a nice seam of mid speed water butted up against water that was cooking. It was so fast that I couldn’t imagine a trout being able to see my tiny fly. Still, I had to give it a go as it was the only area I hadn’t tried.

    I casted up river and immediately started stripping like I was fishing for Tuna. A couple of casts and nothing. On the third cast, I figured it was time to call it a day and head home. While I had been skunked, I learned a tremendous amount about the river. I would go home and devise a battle plan and return.

    And that’s when my strike indicator started ripping up river in the tumbling current. I got so excited that I had to remind myself to avoid yanking the fly on the set. Frankly, I didn’t care of it was a fingerling. Fish on!
    The fish was winning, I couldn’t turn him or get him out of the fast water without worrying about pulling the fly or breaking him off. But I had to get him out of the current or it was surely going to go bad. I could only keep as much pressure on him as I was comfortable with and hope for the best.
    He finally moved in to slower water. And that’s when he decided to charge down river. I couldn’t strip fast enough to keep a tight line. This was not good. He blew right by me and continued his jaunt down river. I then started flipping out about immediate pressure causing a hook pull when the fish tightened up. For a little fish, he was using every dirty trick in the book.

    Once again I had the rod tip high and started working the fish back to me. I wanted him in quick and released. I reached for the net when he got close. Jiminy. He was a respectable fish. He wasn’t a stinkin monster but clearly respectable. Keeping the rod tip high, I got the net in the water. And this is when it went from bad to worse.

    Mr Trout decided that he didn’t want anything to do with the net, so he jumped it……………and immediately swam right between my legs. I didn’t know what to do other than flip the rod upside down. It had to look ridiculous. Like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest.

    The trout then decided that my right leg was clearly a stump and took a couple laps around it. So know I’m thigh deep in the middle of a big river. I am holding my fly rod upside down with the tip of the rod jammed in the water and the reel waving proudly over my head like a CB antenna. I’ve got the ONLY trout of the weekend wrapped around my right leg. And I’m just waiting for him to break himself off.

    I needed a plan quick. The only thing I could think of was to slowly attempt to net him without scaring him in to running. So I grabbed the net and lowered it in to the water. It touched his tail and he once again did a hot lap around my leg, only this time in the correct direction of unwinding. A second attempt at netting created the same result. He was free and made a run for it again but I was ready. Flipped the rod back over and got some pressure on him.

    Thankfully he came to net quickly now! I yelled victoriously and I scooped up the fish. Well actually, I squealed in delight like a six year old girl. It wasn’t manly. And I didn’t care!

    I’m sorry I don’t have sexy shots. I snapped two quick ones and immediately got him going. Fish health always supersedes sexy pics. He swam off up river in less than five seconds. Apparently I was far more emotionally scarred than he was.

    My beautiful 15 inch Brown. Yes, I know that a 15 inch Brown is common and unimpressive. But this fish and I went to war. And I got very, very lucky and won.

    I moved back over to Harry's spot to tell him about my epic battle. He said he had a front seat but wasn't sure if I had a fish on or was having a seizure.

    I offered up our single ant, told him to tie up and have at it. He said that he too was whipped and would prefer to return the weekend prior to heading back home.

    15 hours on the water only to catch this single fish. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. And somehow, in spite of all my mistakes, I still managed to bring it all together. I have never had such a remarkable catch on a fly rod!
    "Casting a fly for carp is like dragging a piece of fried chicken through the local seniors' center. If it looks good and moves slowly enough, something will eventually try to gum it to death." - John Merwin

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Great report, you need to print it off & start a journal. I did the same many moons ago, i'm sure a lot of us did.
    Put it in a journal, go back & re-live the memory, the further you go, you'll realize it wasn't all about catching fish, that's just a bonus


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    That's a great report! And, a well deserved fish. Thanks for bringing us along.
    My posts are worthless without pictures

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Knoxville, Tennessee


    Great Report!

    The SoHo is an awesome tailwater, but can be very frustrating sometimes.

    I'm not sure what is worse: Fishing what appears to be dead water as you don't see a single fish rise anywhere as you dredge your midge for the 1,000th time; Or fishing a great hatch where it appears the water is boiling with trout rises, but they are so keyed in on what the real bugs look like that besides lots of Big Browns come up to take a look only to roll and let you see their large yellow belly as they swim away as they refuse all 6 of your yellow sulphur patterns that look "just like" the real bug to me

    I have found that when the trout are feeding on the small black flies, the only fly that I can see in size 20 or 22 is a CDC pattern. Those little black flies with the dot of white on its back work well enough, but I have a real hard time seeing it especially after you catch a fish or two. With a CDC fly I can even drop off a midge or sawyer's pheasant tail, or split case and really tear it up

    Your Brown is the reason I love that tailwater. While you always have a chance at a big fish here, to me it's the ready supply of naturally reproducing Browns in that 11-15 inch Range that are eager to hit a dry fly that keeps me coming back even with the drive

    Thanks for the report!
    Call me if you want to go fishing, boating, hiking, or if you want to buy a foamie

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Knoxville, TN


    That is a great report. Very well done and much appreciated.

    It's funny how a trip with one fish will be more memorable than those days when you catch 30+. It's like Grumpy said, catching the fish is just a bonus.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    East TN


    Great report!!!! As you said, at least you weren't skunked. Also, as others have said, this one fish day will be one of your most memorable. You defiantly earned that brownie!!!!!
    I am a fisherman for life. I will always be a fisherman. It’s not something I do, it is who I am. Fishing is not an escape. It is where I belong, where I’m supposed to be. It is not a place, but a lifelong journey. It is a passage my father showed me, and I will show others. When you understand all of this, you will know me, and we will fish together.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    Nice report, and that is a very special place.

    Do a search on the forum for South Holston and you will find numerous threads providing tips and tactics for that river, that many of us have learned over the years. One of my key tips is that when fishing that river during periods of high pressure (basically every Saturday and Sunday) I fish at least a 12' 6X fluorocarbon leader. Typically I prefer a 15' leader, I will use a 12' 5X and tie on 3' of 6X fluoro. It is amazing how much of a difference this subtle change makes in my hookup ratio. Also, when the blackfly bite is on I have yet to find anything that works better than a #22 Blake's Stripper Midge. Do a search on here and you will find the recipe for it. I have been on that river when the slightest variation in yellow dubbing makes the difference in a 40 fish day and getting skunked. For that reason I have a fly box specifically for the SoHo that includes three different shades of yellow sulfur dries in sizes ranging from 15 - 17.

    Keep it up, and better luck next time.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Kingsport, TN


    A huge thanks guys, for the info. I'm taking some serious notes.

    I love the SoHo. And I am well prepared to take my lumps and put in the time to learn it. That said, extremely grateful for the tips !

    I'm going to have to clean up my cast quickly. 9 foot leaders give me fits. a 12 will have me laying in bird's nests for sure.

    If it's OK, I'll organize my notes, then return to pick everyone's brain again.
    "Casting a fly for carp is like dragging a piece of fried chicken through the local seniors' center. If it looks good and moves slowly enough, something will eventually try to gum it to death." - John Merwin

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