Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tennessee Tail

Brandon's rod loaded

Bojangles biscuits and sulfur mayflies were on the menu Wednesday morning. I was a sucker and easily fell prey to the saturated goodness of the cajun filet like a newly stocked trout devours power bait.  Unfortunately, much like that newbie trout, my eating habits will likely lead to my demise. The Watauga trout didn't throw themselves at my sulphur imitations with the same abandon that I attacked my biscuit, but with 40 to 50 fish in the boat after a days float, I left the river smiling, tired, and still a little gassy from Mr. Bojangle's.

My buddy Brandon and I decided to throw down some cheese for a farewell tailwater guide trip before my departure to Okie country. Brandon is a crazy Cajun friend that loves to fish too. My guide selection was a fairly easy one for me. Ollie Smith helped me learn the Boone area streams when I was fly shop lurker in college at Appalachian State. He also taught me and two other buddies to ty flies in his shop on Wednesday nights during those brutal High Country winter nights. Ollie has been on several TV shows and has been recognized as 1 of 5 "legendary guides" in North Carolina.  He knows how to fish, knows hospitality, service, enthusiasm, and is just stinkin' fun to be around. He's more colorful than a bin of thing-a-ma-bobbers, and listening to him and my coon ass Cajun friend shoot the breeze was almost reward in and of itself. I also knew Ollie's lunch spread is killer (tasty killer, not just literally killer like Bojangle's) from a previous group trip he lead on the South Holston last fall.  Apple slices dipped in Heath laden "bossy sauce" can raise your spirits like Lee Greenwood on the Waffle House juke box.  I'm proud to be an American, and God bless the bossy sauce.
Guide Ollie Smith
Less than 45 minutes into our float, we had landed several fish and I had hooked into a 20 inch rainbow that came unbuttoned after some fierce head shaking. Ollie knows the river, and he flat out put us on fish.  It was the best dry fly fishing day I have had in years.  The sulphurs sporadically came off all day, and at times we were casting to rising fish and regularly getting eats with a sulphur dry/emerger combo. We even go a few terrestrial takes.  Brandon had a slab of butter brown swipe at his beetle early in the day, but wasn't able to hook up. Probably cause he was daydreaming about crawfish gumbo or nature.  When the fishing would slow, Ollie would switch our rigs out and we would start prospecting for fish in a different fashion, often on pieces of water I never would have concentrated on if left to figure the river out myself. Soon, these Ollie described "unsexy" pieces of water would be putting bends in our rods and fish in the net.We never had a long spell with out fish.

My favorite fish of the day was a in a channel before the river narrowed.  Ollie anchored the boat and gave us a little pep talk about the spooky fish we were about to present our flies to.  He turned the boat side ways, and we then drifted, fly first, into the run these big, spooky fish inhabited.  Moments later, I was into my best fight of the day.  I fat football made my reel sing and made us work to land it.  Ollie instructed us to stomp the boat floor when the fish would make a run under the boat to spook him back out.  We had to do the river stomp three times before finally landing the rainbow. Those cold waters make for some HEALTHY fish.

I left the water that day a better fisherman because of Ollie's guide work. I learned a lot of technique that will carry over into my future fishing.  If you are wanting to float the Tennessee tailwaters, give Ollie Smith a call at his guide service, Blue Ridge Anglers. If your lucky, maybe you can bring along a Cajun to sweeten the day.