Thursday, February 24, 2011

TN Trout and Striper Trip

I wish I could say that my trout and striper pursuits were more fruitful than they actually were, but I can't lie.  I can however proudly say that no boat/improvised floatation was used in my endeavours.  After a day in the hills in East Tennessee on my home rivers, all I have to show is this one rainbow caught at the buzzer. 
     Oh yeah, and the obligatory "One That Got Away".  Said escapee was the closest to a striper catch we had.  Sidenote: If you happen to see my mojo run by please try and catch it and return it to me, because I have somehow managed to lose it and it is dearly missed.  I used to go out and tear up hybrids and striper all morning then change locations and slay trout till dark, but apparently I've managed to lose my touch since leaving the volunteer state.  Now I only had about half of a day to get back into the swing of fishing these rivers and figure out what the fish wanted, so I'll give myself the benefit of the doubt for now until I can return with more time to see if I've still got it.  Ok, It's time to focus on the positive aspects of this little trp down memory lane and quit moping...Glass half full right? *crickets chirp in background*

     This little adventure was fun even despite the outcome.  I got to hit the water for the first time in a long time with my good friend Zak, one of the only people in this world crazy enough to join me on my many half-baked fishing adventures.  Good company is just as key to a solid fishing excursion as the tackle itself in my opinion.

   It was also nice to visit my old spots again.  South Alabama and Florida's Gulf Coast have plenty of excellent fishing to keep me busy till the end of time, but I've yet to find any area that offers a trophy striper fishery and a phenomenal trout river within a rock's throw of each other. For those that are curious these two rivers I've mentioned are the Cumberland (for striper) and the Caney Fork (for trout).  I fish the Cumberland River right below Cordell Hull Dam, and I usually fish the Caney Fork River tailwaters right below Center Hill Dam but this time I changed it up and tried out a new spot (the surprisingly nice area accessible from the rest stop off of I-40 found just before exit 268 when heading East).  I'm a sucker for tailwaters.  The drive between spots is only about 15 minutes, so when one fishery isn't producing I change gear and move on.

                                                                  The Caney Fork River
                                                   Cumberland River looking at Cordell Hull Dam
                                                  Looking down river from the dam at "The Hull"

    For the striper, we tried just about everything we had on hand.  They wouldn't touch a thing.  My list of baits tried in the approximately 3 hour timeframe I was there is the following: Texas rigged Zoom Superfluke (White),  3/4 oz Krocadile Spoon (Silver),  1 oz Bucktail Jig (White/Silver/Green), Curlytail Grubs on light jig heads (Chartreuse/White), and finally some large live shiners fished in and around deeper holes and current breaks.  The only real taker came on a shiner fisher in deeper water on the bottom, but whatever took it never even seemed to know it was hooked (no headshakes or speedy runs).  In fact at first when Zak set the hook we were sure his line had gotten stuck in the rocks, and didn't even stop to think it could be a fish.  This cluelessness lasted for a good minute while Zak contemplated the unfortunate loss of one of our last good live bait hooks.  Then while I was staring at the tightened snagged line thinking of what strategy to try next, I noticed it began to slowly move up-current towards the dam.  Zak let whatever this beast was swim and chew the bait for a few more seconds before giving it a solid pull back, only to have this oversized triumphant bastard give him its first giant headshake. And it was with this headshake that the fish let us know we were no match, spitting the hook immediately...and alas, The Kraken was gone back to the depths from whence it came.
         This frustration was enough for us to decide to pack up and move to the Caney.  Afterall, I can catch striper in South Alabama, but I don't think I could find a trout stream down here if my life depended on it.  Before we got to the Center Hill Dam exit I decided to pull off at the rest stop just to see if I could locate a suitable fishing spot in case the dam happened to have both generators going (very common in the Winter months due to construction on the dam).  I had heard a while ago that there was a small fishable area a short walk down from the parking lot. What I found was a nice stretch of very hikeable shoreline with a deep cut rock bank on the other side of the river.

         Daylight was a precious commodity at this point so I decided to just go ahead and give this spot a shot.  All I had in my truck as far as trout tackle went was about 3 slightly oversized spoons (1/4oz I believe).  I didn't even have a rod that would fit in the ultralite category by any stretch or the imagination.  My rod selection consisted of a couple hardcore striper rods, a few various bass rods, and 3 surf rods.  So with my favorite soft plastics finesse rod and 2 Kastmaster spoons in hand, me and Zak began our trek up and down the shoreline trying to catch any trout dumb enough to not to notice my 12 lb line. 
ENTER STAGE LEFT: Bone-chilling torrential downpour.

         As the last glimmer of daylight began to slowly disappear, we found ourselves soaked to the core with only one curious trout that short-struck Zak's spoon and got off.  The realization began to set in that all this gas/gear money may all only result in a skunk and hypothermia.  I began the solemn ritual of taking the last cast (which usually means my last 10-20 casts if we're honest).  I think all of my frustration went into these last few casts, because for some reason these seemed to have just a hair more distance to them.  It was these extra couple of feet that helped me reach the deeper channel of the carved out rock wall of the opposite bank.  As I watched my spoon on its wobbly return from the other side, I noticed what looked like a fish following it closely.  Next thing I know, I'm setting the hook on my lures stalker; and in a bout two seconds I had him flopping on the bank.  I don't think I have ever been this excited about a fish this small in my entire life.  He was the day saver, the anti-skunk, and my justification for waking up early and spending more money than I needed to.  By my reaction you'd have thought I'd either just landed the world record or won the lottery.  A quick picture and smooth release later, both me and the fish were on our way. 

Even though not all trips end up turning out the way I had hoped, I can definitely say that it's always an adventure.
                Till next time,
                           Tight Lines

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