|Dumping the Dr's Note.|
The first three miles of the float were pretty much a conga line of fishermen and weekend paddlers. We’d wait behind groups of boats in order to fish normally productive stretches that were now much less productive as a result of the pressure (and the noise) the fish had just endured. Seemingly always in the distance behind us, we’d hear the cackle of laughter and the dull thumps of paddles hitting plastic as another armada of boats made their way downstream and into our water. We’d let ‘em play through, then resume the game.
Just a couple of miles into the float, I managed to do something amazingly stupid. While floating and fishing a promising run, I tossed out my kayak anchor in order to slow my drift. There was a fair amount of current, but the river bottom was a snag-free section of rounded river rock. Or, so I thought. The anchor merely bounded along the substrate, allowing me to better manage my float and to nymph my way through some trouty-looking seams. Things went really well for about 50 yards until my anchor suddenly found purchase and snagged a submerged log. The anchor rope tightened, and my kayak spun sharply and hung at a sharp angle to the current. It also tilted starboard, and I began to panic. I back-paddled like a demon, but the push of the water proved to be a little more than anticipated. Making matters worse, a bevy of kayaks and canoes rounded the corner upstream, giving me an audience for my imbecility. I could not simply use the anchor rope to pull me back to the stuck anchor, as the kayak would have taken on water and possibly/probably capsized. So, I paddled. And paddled. Four attempts to get above the anchor proved fruitless, as the current continued to push me sideways. Eventually, with shoulders burning and sunscreen-infused sweat blinding my eyes, I got upstream enough on the fifth attempt in order to pull the anchor free.
Regrouping, I tied a hopper-dropper combo on my 5-weight, and took a swig from a bottle of lukewarm water. Barry was performing a similar operation about 200 yards downstream from me. Just beyond both of us, a swarm of swallows swirled above a tantalizing riffle, betraying a massive midge hatch. But, both of us were patiently waiting out the passing of an equally massive hatch of plastic watercraft, as 16 boats carrying at least twice as many people merrily — and loudly — made their way past us. They were all having fun, and at least at this point of the morning, doing so in a very innocent and sober way. We waved and watched them pass.
|The Roberts, the Reverend and the Barry.|
The stream was certainly alive, as we continued to hook plucky trout and observe various insect hatches. Midges were consistently emerging, but so were occasional rushes of small caddis and mayflies. Rises became more pronounced and frequent, and about three miles from the put-in, we encountered a distinct change in the species we landed. Just about every fish caught was a brown trout. And, almost all of them were the same, smallish size. We suspected a recent donation from the fish hatchery, and we silently thanked the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for their contribution to our angling excellence.
After bouncing through a scenic riffle, we passed under an old iron and wood bridge and noticed two men in olive and forest-green garb standing in the middle of the knee-deep river. Barry and I negotiated the final section of the shoal (both of us getting stuck on a gravel bar in front of our new friends), then cruised to the shallows where we procured fishing licenses and showed off our life preservers at the requests of two responsible members of the TWRA. I was reprimanded for not having my inflatable jacket on at the time, which I quickly snapped on and wore for the remainder of the float. The officers were amiable and appreciative and admitted that they had been busy all day. They also confirmed what we thought: a few thousand brown trout had recently been introduced to the river.
We tipped our hats to the guys in green and paddled our way toward the sun, which now peeked out among the trees and conceded an apricot glow to the river. Along the way, I hooked up on my big fish of the day — a colorful, 16-inch brown trout, which felt like a 10 pounder compared to the miniature versions I had been landing all afternoon. Barry and continued to leapfrog David and the guys, but the five of us continued to catch fish until we reached the take out spot. Rev. Jim and Roberts welcomed us ashore, and we stowed kayaks and boats and gear and drove back to the dam. There, we took a few photos and congratulated each other for a very successful float.
|Those who survived.|