Road Trips

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  • 04/02/2013 11:56 AM | Anonymous

    Thar’s Fun in Them Thar Hills

    My school boy recollection of Tennessee conjures up memories of Daniel Boone, coonskin caps and an unexplored wilderness. It seemed to me a wild country with many opportunities to explore. For anyone with a sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors it is still a place of awe and opportunity. 

    Any visitor will praise the altwonder of its beauty; any hunter or fisher will praise the opportunity of its outdoor resources.

    Autumn produces unbelievably stunning color changes in the hills near Johnson City. The foliage season alone makes a trip to the area worthwhile. The leaves change from green to golden hues of yellow and orange interspersed with vibrant shades of red. Nowhere does Mother Nature do a better job of transforming simple leaves into brilliant and dazzling centerpieces of color.

    When the autumn colors line the banks of a lazy trout steam it produces a trout angler’s wonderland. To idly wade in the midst of the color, casting a fly to unsuspecting trout relocates anglers from the busy world they left behind to a peaceful time on the bountiful waters. 

    The South Holston River is such a place to leave the worries of work behind. It offers wade fishing or float fishing, depending on the generation schedule of the hydroelectric dam. A weir altdam below South Holston Dam provides oxygenated water to contribute to the success of the trout population. Add the cold water coming from deep below the dam and one of the best naturally reproducing trout streams on the east coast is created. The consistently cold water temperatures create by the release makes the waters productive for anglers all year long.

    When the generators are running it’s time to float fish. There are plenty of outfitters ready to accommodate anglers on a float down the South Holston. Rod Champion, Owner of the South Holston River Fly Shop names May through November as a superior time to float the river. “The Sulphur Mayfly will hatch everyday during that period of time,” says Champion. Scientists report that when the hatch is good it is an indication of clean water, another plus for the fish. Anglers tells us when the hatch is good its time to be fishing. Those little nymphs and flies attract most of the fish in the river and most of the anglers for miles around. 

    Champion names both soft titlehackle flyfishing and straight out dry fly fishing as a fun way to spend an afternoon on the river. There’s no better time to fool a few fish than during the hatch. He names the afternoon for a reason. “During the Summer TVA normally runs an afternoon generation schedule,” says Champion. “During that time period the Sulphurs are coming off and that is a mid-day to afternoon event. That is why we do afternoon floats.”

    If that sounds too good to be true, wait for the bonus. “I personally like to end the day by throwing streamers to the wild brown trout population. This is like icing on the cake after a good day of dry fly fishing.” Champion describes the takes and battles on the high water as nothing short of spectacular. The interesting part about the browns is that they are wild fish. Tennessee has not stocked brown trout for about 10 years. Those trophy trout that anglers are catching and photographing are from a self-sustaining population, thanks again to the health of this magnificent river. Plenty of fish over 20 inches are caught annually.

    Once the generators cease and altthe water returns to normal the wade fishers get their chance. The cold water requires anglers to use waders, so don’t think about entering the water without them. There are plenty of good guides on the river for the wade fishing too, but you can simply meander into the stream and catch rainbows and browns in the trailwater between the weir dam and the highway below the dam. There is more angling access along the next 14 miles of river before it runs into Boone Lake. 

    Caution is always advised, but the stream is characterized by a hard rock bottom for fairly easy wading. One thing to be careful of is your entry into the river. Remember, only hours before, the TVA was generating and the shoreline you will use was under water. It can be slippery.

    The trout are often spotted feeding on the surface. Dry flies work well for most anglers, but later in the day many switch to streamers. Either will likely give you some action from both rainbows and browns on this magnificent river.

    Plenty of trout are also caught from titleshore, or the footbridge just below the weir. A simple spinning outfit, small hooks, weights and a jar of salmon eggs will do the trick. It is simple fishing at its best. The result can be trout for dinner.

    Tennessee regulations require both fresh water fishing license and trout stamp. They are easily obtainable at local sporting goods stores, outfitters, Wal-Mart, or simply go online and purchase it directly from the state wildlife website.

    There are numerous other rivers in the area that deserve attention, but one in particular caught my eye. The Nolichucky River is a fast moving body of water, draining the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and east Tennessee. It is characterized by beautiful whitewater rapids and a name that is said to mean “Rushing Water(s) or Dangerous Water(s). Local guides refer to the more ominous title of “River of Death.”

    Anglers should interpret those names to mean caution. A fishing trip down the powerful river will yield plenty of excitement in the rapids and produce some outstanding smallmouth bass fishing in the process. Anglers up to the challenge should plan with the notion in mind that they could end up in the water, so dress appropriately and secure things accordingly. It can be a real adventure.

    A light spinning outfit will do just fine for floating the Nolichucky. Anglers armed with worm hooks and plastic bodies work the calm waters below the rapids, the eddy pools and the shoals along the drift to catch trophy smallmouth bass, some exceeding 4 pounds. The Nolichucky provides wild river fishing at its best. 

    One seasoned Nolichucky angler, Bob Parton, floats the river regularly in a two-man rubber raft. He prefers the raft over other vessels because of its stability in rushing water and the ease with which it goes over the shoals.

    Parton’s favorite bait for old bronzeback is a black, 5 inch Senko. He advises anglers to pinch off about an inch and rig it weedless. The healthy profile of the salt impregnated bait allows anglers to cast it further without additional weight. Given the rocky nature of the river the use of weight is likely to result in too many snags, so take Parton’s advice and fish weightless.

    Parton uses light line in the 4 to 6 pound test range, which adds casting distance and is virtually invisible to the bass. Make upstream casts with the bulky Senko and let the worm ride naturally in the current until a strike occurs. Slight wrist flicks can add additional action to the lure.alt

    If Parton had his way all his floats would be in August and September. “The river is low, the water warm, and the bass are in the shoals.” He has a distinct love for the river, both for the bass and for its inherent solitude. “Fishing the active water instead of the more popular areas has a certain attraction to me,” says Parton. “First, there is no feeling like having a 2 1/2 pound smallmouth on light tackle using 4 pound line in swift water. Secondly, you are there by yourself, no 42 dozen bass boats and pleasure boats going by you all day long.”

    For any traveler tuned in to nature a visit to Johnson City and the surrounding area should be on their bucket list. Go for the foliage, rainbows, brownies or smallies, but go. You won’t be disappointed. An added bonus is the people; they are some of the most friendly, down to earth folks you will find anywhere. If you are fixin’ to hit the highway, this attractive destination is “just down the road a piece.”

  • 03/27/2013 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    Fishing, beaches, wildlife, golf and the great outdoors: Destination Naplesalt

    Family getaways are often focused around an individual activity, maybe one that a single family member prefers. So, why not choose a destination for your next adventure that will please everyone in your party.

    Fishing is always number one in our family retreats and traveling to Florida's west coast is always an enjoyable event. A favorite destination is Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades.

    The fishing is great year-round and there are plenty of experienced fishing guides for newcomers to the area. Capt. Rob Modys charter fishes out of Fish-Tale Marina making trips both out in the Gulf of Mexico and in the backwater areas of the region. What a great opportunity to schedule a trip and know that if the weather keeps you off the Gulf you can always hit the backwater.

    Capt. Rob identifies one of the unique things abut fishing in his area as the diversity of species. “I've traveled and fished in many areas of the United States, along with Scotland and the Bahamas, and when fishing there you tend to go after only one or two species. On a stream in Kentucky it was smallmouth bass and not much else. In the Bahamas it was bonefish with the occasional shark. Here it's everything! You can hit a reef looking for grouper and get snapper, flounder, pompano, sheepshead, snook, trout and a mix of small fish. That's what I love about fishing in my home waters. You never know what you're going to hook up with.”

    altAnother easy option from Naples is just a little ways south to the Everglades. One example of great tropical hospitality is the Port of the Islands Resort. From this single location adventurous folks can fish, hike, paddle, go bird watching, photograph wildlife or just relax. Day trips with fabulous eateries can be made deeper into the glades to places like Everglades City and Chokoloskee. 

    Don't forget the beaches. The beaches in this area of Florida are fantastic, just don't forget the suntan lotion. If anyone in your party is a golfer their biggest decision will be where to go. One suggestion is to check out Greenlinks Golf Resort. Patrons can stay in a beautiful condo style apartment, swim or sunbath at the well kept pool, or just have a cool drink on the private patio. In fact, the family can stay here in complete comfort as the anglers in the group head for the Gulf, the backwaters, or the Everglades.

     There is an old adage that says “variety is the spice of life.” Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades fits that saying to a tee!

  • 03/22/2013 11:50 AM | Anonymous

    Crappie fishing and lodging at Lake Crescent, Florida

    Having been hooked by the crappie bug I have been venturing to places far and wide in chase of the spotted creatures. A recent trip came at the advice of some crappie pros. Several anglers from the Bass Pro Crappie Masters tournament trail suggested I try Crescent Lake in Putnam and Flagler counties of North Central Florida.title

    The allure to giving Lake Crescent a try was its reputation for having big crappie.

    The lake is about 13 miles long and 2 miles wide. Its crescent shape accounts for its name. At the north end it connects to the St. Johns River by way of Dunn’s Creek. On the other end a deep canal connects it to Dead Lake. That canal proved to be a great hiding spot from the wind and also produced some nice crappie.

    Although there were plenty of anglers having success while anchored up and fishing minnows under bobbers, the most popular strategy was long-lining jigs tipped with minnows.

    We fished six rods rigged with 1/16 ounce Road Runners. Colorful plastic tails in pink, orange, and yellowtitle were added for action. The hook was tipped with small lively minnows. A trolling speed of about .5 MPH produced the crappie in 8 to 10 feet of water. The largest measured 14.75 inches, a decent crappie by anyone’s standard. 

    First timers should just look for the boats. Those boats will have already found the fish. Move into the area and use your favorite crappie techniques and you are sure to catch a mess for dinner, and maybe one of bragging size.

    For lodging we were fortunate to find the Sprague House. A great little bed and breakfast located within minutes of the boat dock. Proprietors Amy and Jeff Haston are the ultimate hosts. Jeff even pulled out an extension cord so I could charge my trolling batteries for the next days fishing. They know how to accommodate fishermen and everyone else.  alt

    The Sprague House has served as a lodging establishment since 1902 when the wife of Dr. Guilford Sprague a physician and the town’s first mayor purchased the home for his wife Catherine. History reports that the home was opened as a rooming house to the sea captains and sailors from the steam ships. Guests are known to include Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington and William Jennings Bryan.alt

    Crappie anglers like to get an early start, but don’t go so early you miss a home cooked breakfast from Amy. That first morning’s offering of grits, sausage, eggs and pancakes (or toast if desired) was complemented with coffee and juice. What a great start to our fishing day.

    Don’t wait too long to give this friendly area of Florida your undivided attention for a day or two. You won’t be disappointed.

  • 04/30/2012 11:45 AM | Anonymous

    An outdoor writer’s convention in Huntsville Alabama led this old salt to think more about the freshwater fishing of his youth. I have to admit to being a die hard saltwater angler since moving to Florida, but visiting the beautiful area surrounding Huntsville brought back memories of crappie, bream and bass from my Kansas upbringing.

    Having left the seasonal color change of fall long behind since moving to Florida the hillsides outside Huntsville were a welcome site. The leaves were just beginning to turn showing that the promise of fall and the beauty of nature were close at hand.

    I was interested in the fishing around Huntsville and found there were many possibilities. Visiting with other attendees at the conference and a few locals led me to identify Lake Guntersville as a prime fishing location for visitors and locals alike. 

    Highway 431 that took us to Huntsville meandered through the mountains of the Appalachian range and the town of Guntersville about 40 miles south of Huntsville. I later learned that the town is described as a peninsula city. The charming town sits on the banks of Lake Guntersville. It seems that when the Tennessee Valley Authority created the Guntersville Dam it almost surrounded the town with water.

    When the lake filled with Tennessee River water there were 950 miles of beautiful meandering shoreline and 69,000 acres of water. Today, accolades for the Alabama town include "The Best Lake in Alabama" from Southern Living, "100 Best Places to Live in America" from Relocate America and the "Top 10 Fishing Towns in America" from Field & Stream.  

    The people of the area are unbelievably courteous, accommodating and friendly. The geography and outdoor environment of the area is nothing less then stunning. The more I found out about the area the more I wanted to find out about the fishing. Thoughts or returning, when I had time to fish, filled my head. One thing for sure, when you want to find out about the fishing in an area the best place to go is a local fishing guide.


    Captain Mike Gerry operates Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service and is a recognized expert on the lake. He describes the impoundment as, “The best of all the lakes in north Alabama for bass fishing and the number three lake in the country according to Bass Times.”

    He identifies bass, crappie, catfish and bream as the major species anglers seek. Captain Mike reports that the lake is covered in milfoil and hydrilla making it outstanding for fishing bass in the grass. Other prime characteristics of the lake are old roadbeds with stump lined edges, boathouses and underwater ledges.

    Milfoil is a feathery looking foliage that forms dense mats of vegetation on the surface of the lake. Hydrilla is a thicker looking plant with whorls of 4 to 8 leaves along the stem, giving it an almost rope-like appearance. Hydrilla also forms dense mats of vegetation on the surface, characterized by sporadic wholes in the mat. The challenge of fishing either of these grasses is getting the bait to the fish.

    The edges of these grass mats are the easiest to fish, but not just any edge. Captain Mike gives some great tips for fishing the grass in Guntersville that will work in other lakes too. “First thing I look for is bait activity,” says Captain Mike. If you pull up to a grass line and after fishing a few minutes you don’t see bait moving about, it’s time to move on.”

    The next thing to look for in the grass edge is structure. Use your sonar unit to watch for stumps or debris. “If there are stumps or debris on the break lines there is a good chance you will find bass.” Finally, look for grass lines that have definition in the form of points, indentations, or thickness. These characteristics give the bass an ambush point and increase the angler’s chances of success. “A straight edge on the grass eliminates the ambush areas and generally the bass aren’t there.”  

    Another favorite of Captain Mike are the stump lined roadbeds of Lake Guntersville. He groups the roadbeds in with other subtle structure that requires using scanning technology to locate. It can include deeper creeks, rock ledges, or deeper grass edges that bass use to migrate from one area to another. “I believe that as the number of fisherman increase the bass get smarter and relocate to the not-so-obvious locations to escape the fishing pressure!” He says the grass always looks good causing anglers to disregard the migration paths used by the bigger and smarter fish.title

    Boathouses provide an often overlooked source of some quality bass as anglers leave the ramp on plane running for their favorite grass beds. Captain Mike says all boathouses are not created equally, but a little research can identify the good ones. “The first thing I look for is water at the end of the boat house to be somewhere close to 8 feet deep. This means that there is sufficient depth for the bass to move deep if spooked in some way.” The next element of success is related to the age of the boathouse. Newly built boathouses have not had the opportunity to establish habitat for natural bait. The bait doesn’t stay around the cleaner, newer wood. No bait, no bass. 

    The final factor and maybe the most important is where the boathouse sets in relation to natural migration pathways. “A boat house that has close proximity to a creek and or an old road bed always holds bass. The proximity to these natural elements allows the bass to migrate from the creek or roadbed to the shade of the boat house.” Boathouses, according to Captain Mike, create cover where the bass can hide from the sun,especially if they have bait around them. Anglers should need no more convincing than that to make boathouses part of their fishing patterns. 

    Ledge fishing at Guntersville Lake is among the best in the country. The secret in Captain Mikes words, is to separate the “community holes” from the “difference makers.” Captain Mike studies maps and charts to determine the ledges he wants to fish. The difference makers can be subtle drops of one or two feet, a turn or titlegap in the ledge, or an old underwater pond near the ledge. Once the preferred ledges are found Captain Mike offers this advice. “Many times the key is boat position where things like wind, current and approach all enter into the equation. Anglers could very well be moving past the fish because they are fishing from the wrong angle.”

    So what is the right angle? “There is no clear cut way of knowing, but working structure from different angles by turning your boat and approaching from different sides does work. The next important thing is not to make just one cast and change angles, if the structure looks fishy make repeated casts to each side to prove that a fish is there or not.”

    On the topic of lure selection, Captain Mike recommends starting with baits you can cover some ground with. “Search baits like spinner baits or crank baits allow you to fish quickly and cover enough territory to find a key spot holding big fish and could very well be the sack you’re looking for.”

    Of course if you are fishing the matted areas of surface grass choose weedless lures that will allow you to move in close and pitch to the holes in the mat or use heavier rigs that will get you down below the grass mats.

    All this new information leaves my brain racing, my mouth watering and my feet itching to return to the Huntsville area and particularly to fish Lake Guntersville. My wife, on the other hand, is anxious to return for the beauty of the area, the relaxation it offers, and a reintroduction to the changing colors of fall.

    Photo Credits: Captain Mike Gerry
    Top: Capt. Mike with a nice Guntersville bass
    Middle: The grass line in the background produced this healthy Guntersville bass
    Bottom: Boathouses like the one shown in the photo line the lake shore and produce monster bass

    Editor’s Note: Captain Mike can be reached by phone at 256 759 2270 or emailed at

  • 11/30/2010 5:29 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    I had an opportunity to make a short visit to Florida’s West Coast in November. 


    Living on Florida’s East Coast has not given me much opportunity to learn first hand about the fishing opportunities on the “other side.”  I was pleasantly surprised with what I found and now I want to go back when I can actually spend some time fishing.

    The occasion was CB’s Saltwater Outfitters annual Fishing Extravaganza held on November 20, 2010 in Sarasota. The idea was generated in a conversation with FGA guide member Capt. Merrily Dunn. Merrily runs charters out of CB’s and has long been an advocate of Sarasota area fishing. She and another FGA member guide, Capt. Rick Grassett, who also runs charters out of CB’s were also participants in my book, Secret’s from Florida’s Master Anglers. To make a long story short, Merrily suggested that I come over to CB’s event and conduct a book signing.

    I jumped at the invitation because it also gave me a great excuse to visit the area. The whole deal was arranged through Aledia and Mason at CB’s and I was added to the agenda. As it turned out another FGA guide member and book participant Capt. Ray Markham was a seminar speaker. He gave a great seminar on fishing the tides. Capt. Grassettspoke on fall fishing in Sarasota and Capt. Jay Withers gave a seminar on fishing Sebile Lures. The seminar schedule included Captains Jack Ryan and Jim Kopfler with a tutorial for beginning anglers. Free flyfishing lessons were given throughout the day by Captains Kelly Stilwell and Ed Hurst.

    I demonstrated the new Sharkfin Reels from Castalia Outdoors, DOA Lures and RipTide Lures. The folks from Lasso Net provided a free net for a raffle which was won by a CB’s customer, Richard Fisher. Congratulations to Richard and thanks to all the other folks who stopped by to visit and sign up for the raffle. You can check out this unique net that telescopes into its own handle at

    Following each seminar a handful of great fishing products were given as door prizes. All you had to do was be there to have a chance to win. Free hot dogs and cold drinks were available at lunch time. If you missed it this year make your plans now to attend next year.

    The Spanish mackerel bite was off the charts during my weekend visit, according to many of the folks I talked too. Capt. Grassett verified the fact with a report from a day earlier where he was catching them on fly. Capt. Dunn also reported a great Spanish bite on her most recent charter.

    As I suggested earlier, this visit only made me want to get back to the “other side” of Florida and do some fishing. The area is blessed with about every type of fishing opportunity you can think of. Trout and redfish abound on the shallow water flats and there are plenty of docks that harbor snook. As I talked with visiting anglers I heard stories of pompano, tarpon, bluefish, cobia, kingfish, grouper, permit and mangrove snapper. There is beach fishing, pass fishing and reef fishing too. What else could a serious angler ask for?

    I also took time to stop by the Sarasota Convention and Visitor's Bureau to pick up some local information. Glad I did, because I ended up visiting the Mote Marine Aquarium. If you have not been there don’t miss it while in Sarasota. It is a true marine learning experience for visitors of any age. I want to thank Erin Duggan, Public Relations Director, for pointing me towards Mote for the educational visit.

    For lodging I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Siesta Key/Sarasota at 6600 S. Tamiami Trail. The location is less than a mile from CB’s and the beach. I liked the convenience of the location, the clean and spacious room and especially the complimentary hot breakfast they serve every morning from 6:30 to 9:30. The selections include biscuits and gravy, bacon, fresh fruit, hot coffee and more. It was one of the best I have ever had. This is fishing friendly lodging that should please every member of the family.

    I had a great weekend in Sarasota; talked to a lot of fellow anglers; had free hot dogs and cold drinks and signed a book or two. The only thing I will do different next time is bring the boat and plan to stay longer. Give Sarasota and her islands a try the next time you are looking for a relaxing get-a-way. 

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