By JOHN L. SLOAN
The fog lays close and thick. It is dawn but we can barely see. The forecast is for a high temperature of close to 100 degrees. I dont care where you are, we call that hot. But I shiver slightly and button another button on my long sleeve shirt.
Seldom do I start an article or column about trout fishing on the Caney Fork that I dont recall that opening paragraph or something similar. I wrote that somewhere around 1984, for Tennessee Sportsman magazine. I believe that article was the start of the influx of trout anglers on the river. I also recall July 4, 1974, when Harold Dotson and I floated from the dam down to Dick Samsons store. We had 17 fish, a mixed bag of rainbow trout, walleye, spotted bass and a smallmouth. We did not see another angler either in a boat or on the bank.
I cannot say that about the blistering hot morning, July 28 of this year when Mark, Big Bird Campbell and I hit the river. It was, as I said blistering hot but again I wore long sleeves and they felt good until close to 10 AM. At daylight, it is cold on the Caney Fork regardless of what the temperature is back in the world.
There was no generation and the water was crystal clear and bone aching cold. We caught some fish, enough I guess, a mixture browns and brooks. One rainbow-the lone silver bullet. I dont know what has happened to the rainbows. Maybe the rockfish ate them all. Maybe it is something in the dam repair work or maybe we just caught them all.
It was a good morning. The sun, as always, was slow to top the ridges and not a drop of sweat dripped until the sun was well up and coloring everything copper. The slow current moved us along and turkeys called in answer to my squeaky reel handle. No, I am not making that up. When it finally warmed enough for me to shed down to short sleeves, the fog still lay close on the water. I caught a fish that jumped and I could not see it in the fog.
It was a different river for me. This was the first time I had been down the Caney in three years. I just had not been physically able. However, I made this trip just fine, very little pain and as usual, I caught the most. But it was a different river for sure. The heavy rains and floods of the past two years have changed the gravel bars and the float pattern. New trees down, old ones gone.
There has been another change, a great one. It has been coming for some time and the movie, A River Runs Through It, broke it wide open. Fly fishing has proliferated to the point that time after time, Orvis clad figures, male and female and one unidentified, suddenly appeared in the fog. Standing waist or chest deep in the cold water, their upper bodies waving wraith-like in the fog, they presented yet another obstacle to avoid. All were obliging and friendly as we quietly slid past in the small float boat. Susan and her husband Bob, friends of Mark, even obliged by catching one from their top of the line kayak so I could get a picture.
One motor powered canoe, complete with well-tattooed fly anglers also smiled for a picture. Lots of people on the river even though it was a weekday.
It was not the non-stop action we have seen in the past and we did not boat any bragging fish. Bird did catch a bass, one of his best this year and strangely enough, we did not lose a single lure. We needed a little generation. The fish go on a feeding frenzy as the fresh water first water comes down. At Happy Hollow, our takeout point, we ran into a high-ranking TWRA employee who shall remain nameless just in case he should have been working. He emailed me later and told me just after we left; he caught a dandy brown trout of over 20-inches. That is what you said, isnt it, Steve?
Are you hot? There are still some hot days left this year and time before we finish our last minute scouting, pick up the bows, and climb the trees.
The Caney, early in the morning, offers a sure fire escape from the heat. Trout and rockfish offer plenty of action. Maybe the rainbows will return and I can write another story about the Silver Bullets of the Caney Fork.
Contact John L. Sloan at: firstname.lastname@example.org