Panfish and the Trout Slayer

Yeah. So, that’s my husband’s thumb pointed right at the camera. Hand model he is not, but he makes a pretty good fish holder while I try to take quick photographs of my tiniest catches before we release them. It’s a true team effort.

This fall, when water levels were higher than usual and we could not get out on the kayaks, we decided to try our hand (no pun intended) at bank fishing.

We decided to go to one of our favorite bank fishing spots, Rock Island State Park. Not only did we get to enjoy beautiful scenery, but we also managed to catch a variety of small and uniquely colored fish.

In mid-summer, James and I had taken a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where we visited a small outfitter near the Little Pigeon River. We were introduced to something called a Trout Slayer. It is made by Trout Magnet, and is a small, naturally colored plastic bait paired with a very tiny hook.

We were initially told that Smallmouth Bass really like the Trout Slayer, but I have since discovered pan fish find this little bait irresistible.

I have been using 4 lb SOS line on an ultralight spinning rod and tossing the Trout Slayer without a float. Trout Magnet suggests you use a float, but my custom made rod has more than enough sensitivity so I can feel each nibble, no mater how tiny the fish.

Rock PerchRock Perch

One of my most interesting catches while using the Trout Slayer was this Rock Perch. I was not sure what it was at first, I actually thought I had caught a small stick when I first pulled the line up out of the water. To be so tiny, this little guy really went after the Trout Slayer.

Not only do the Rock Perch enjoy the little Trout Slayer, but so do it’s aquatic friends.

Me holding a small Rock Bass

All in all, bank fishing at Rock Island State Park is always fun and something we both look forward to doing when we have the chance.

An Awesome End to 2018

2018 started out on a great note. Spring fishing began early in February with some fabulous Trout fishing in rural middle Tennessee.

I was hopeful the great start of the year would signal a stellar season on the water. The spring quickly transitioned to summer and then suddenly, I found myself recouping from a leg laceration that I suffered in a freak accident. My shin had been split to the bone (I could literally see the white)! I was told I would be off the water for a minimum of six weeks! Six weeks!

My wound was closed with something called Dermabond. I’m sure Dermabond is less painful than stitches, but I was left with a longer healing time and some complications. I received a Tetanus shot as my laceration came from rusty metal (I mean, go big or go home, right) and I also had to take antibiotics for seven days not once, but twice! I would show you all my leg injury, but let’s just say some things are better left to the imagination! So instead of the blood and gore, here’s a pic of something equally gross. Liquid Bactrim!

My leg injury didn’t come at a very opportune time. It was summer and fishing season was in full-swing. Not to be totally outdone, I finally convinced my husband to take me out on our skiff. He agreed as long as I kept waterproof bandages on my leg and wore a neoprene boot. Talk about being hot! Nothing like wearing a neoprene boot in 98 degree weather. The positive in it all, was I had some success on the skiff. I landed a variety of smallies using mostly the Trout Slayer or the Trout Magnet on my Ultralight rod. It was enough to hold me over until my leg healed.

In September, I finally made my way back into my kayak that I had seldom had the chance to use since I had purchased it. And what a shame it was to have it setting on its perch in my garage. Prior to my accident, I had purchased a custom color Jackson Kayak Coosa HD.

I had my eye on a Coosa HD for several months when by chance, I got a message from a local dealer who had gotten this particular kayak on a recent trip to the Jackson factory. I was over the moon when I saw the “Pink Acid” layup. I knew I had to have it!

My husband, who has always supported my love of the outdoors, purchased a new set of Bending Branches Angler Pro paddles for me in Radiant to match my kayak. I was so excited!

The Coosa HD has by far been one of the most stable kayaks I have personally ever owned (and that’s been quite a few, maybe a few too many if you ask my husband). I love the ability to trim the seat to match my paddling needs on the Coosa HD. Push the seat back and get ready to handle some rapids. Move the seat forward and paddle at your own pace on the flats. The Coosa HD is so incredibly well rounded, in that it handles any situation famously! The Coosa HD also allows me to carry my photography gear and my fishing necessities and never be left wishing I had more space. I use a Jackson JKrate Low and it fits perfectly in the rear tankwell. The Coosa HD also has a nice center hatch that is perfect to mount a depth finder or just to carry some gear.

In late October I was able to land one of my largest fish to date while using my Coosa HD. I hooked a 22″ Largemouth Bass. It was an awesome way to close out a fairly rocky fishing season.

But, my biggest accomplishment came on December 21, 2018 when I opened my email and saw a message from Bending Branches. It was an invitation to serve as a Regional Ambassador for Bending Branches for the 2019 season. I was so ecstatic I started jumping up and down in the middle of my kitchen when I read the email!

When I first started kayak fishing five years ago, the first set of paddles I purchased was a set of $50 Bending Branches Whisper paddles. I cut my teeth on those paddles and learned how to control a kayak and how to handle mild rapids. I eventually worked my way up to the Angler Pro in chartreuse which I used for three seasons. I put many miles on that first set of Angler Pro paddles and they never once cracked or left me stranded. I still have them and still use them when I am teaching someone to fish from a kayak.

Having a lightweight paddle is so important in that it helps you better control all of the things a kayak angler has to manage when landing a fish. Unlike in a boat, a kayak angler must juggle the paddle, rod, and usually a net all in a matter of seconds.

Despite a slow start to my season, I have really been blessed over the course of this past year. I am so thankful and humbled to be able to participate in this sport. I have met some amazing people along the way.

I hope everyone has a blessed 2019. See you on the river!

Impromptu Trout Fishing

My husband and I were supposed to be on vacation this week, relaxing in our beautiful hotel situated ever so perfectly on the beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia. We had planned a fishing trip where we would be fishing the marsh for Redfish. Even though we had dreamed of this trip for several months, Mother Nature had other plans this week.

On Sunday, we made the decision not to fly on Monday to Jacksonville, FL as there were several weather reports indicating a high risk of tornadoes, hail, and high winds. This wasn’t just in the forecast for one single day. It was forecast for Monday and Tuesday, with lingering windy and cold conditions on Wednesday. We had planned to fly to JAX and then drive a rental car along the coast, stopping in Amelia Island for lunch at a favorite spot, and then head on over to Jekyll Island. Somehow the thought of traveling through all of that in some serious weather conditions didn’t sound too enticing.

My husband phoned the fishing Charter company on Monday morning and told them we had not flown down and asked could we reschedule our Redfish trip. The lady at the charter company indicated that she was actually about to call us and tell us due to the weather, the Captain could not take us out as the marsh would be so muddy and the fishing would be terrible due to the weather system. In a weird way, our decision not to go on vacation worked out for the best as we would not have been able to have fished even had we pushed on and made the trip, which is one of the main reasons we were going back to Jekyll Island.

After we rescheduled our trip, my husband and I did some projects around our house. We painted our laundry room, did some yard work, and caught up on some sleep. I had forgotten how much I loved sleeping in, especially on cooler days! Our weather has not been very spring like at all here in the middle Tennessee area. The wind has been very cold and with temps in the mid 40’s, it has felt much colder. Our rose bushes and other shrubs have been draped in bed sheets each night this week. I’m so ready for spring.

This morning, my husband and I slept in. We needed a break after a ten hour day of renovating the laundry room yesterday. I woke up, put some chicken in the crockpot for buffalo chicken sandwiches for supper, and then I heard my cell phone ding.

(Pic of the final product- Buffalo Chicken aka Kickin’ Chicken at our house)

I got a rather magical text.

Trout had been stocked in one of the skinny waters near our home. Our lazy morning suddenly got a lot better. My husband and I got in motion and quickly donned our wading gear and in a dash, we were out the door and headed to Trout heaven.

We loaded our trout rods that we keep set up for when we are in the mood to use our spinning reels for those buttery soft Trout and off we went. I wasn’t sure what bait I wanted to use. The last time I had fished for Trout, I used a fly that I would normally fly fish with on my spinning rod. Today, however, time was of the essence. I grabbed a Trout Magnet worm and tied it to the end of my fishing line and off we went. My husband used the same set up.

We waded through the crisp, clear water and found our spot. We began to cast and within minutes, my husband had landed his first Trout. It was a pretty Rainbow Trout. What a great start!

I continued to fish just off a pier of a nearby bridge, and finally felt the tug on the end of my line indicating I too had landed a Trout. My first Trout of the day was a pretty Brook Trout, approximately ten inches in length.

The Trout Magnet had paid off. It was the first time I had used it, and I don’t even think I had correctly set it up on my rod. I didn’t use a float or a weight at all. I hadn’t taken time to set up my Mini Shy Bite as I had planned. I had a plastic worm on a hook and that was all it took today to be successful. The fishing Gods had smiled for sure.

My husband continued to fish near me and found more Trout of his own.

We are catch and release only, so all of the Trout went back into the chilly water to swim off and either be caught by another fisherman or live a long and productive life spawning with other fine Trout specimen. I prefer to think the latter of the two options.

This wasn’t the week we had planned by any stretch of the imagination, but its been a good week of togetherness. No matter what we do, we always have a good time just being together. Now our sites are set on our Redfish hunting trip that we have rescheduled. We will begin planning and prepping for that. It gives us something to look forward to doing together.

The next adventure is always right around the corner.

Fall Creek Falls Adventures

My husband and I had a small window of opportunity to fish one day last week. The weather was semi cooperative, with warmer than normal temperatures in the low 70’s, and finally…no rain. The wind was whipping, and the sky was overcast, but we had a feeling we might be able to catch one or two fish.

We loaded up our Land Cruiser with a few essentials and we headed out to Fall Creek Falls State Park. We had a nice drive up, talking and enjoying a dry day. We have had a tremendous amount of rain over the last few weeks, so any day without rain is a welcome site.

Fall Creek Falls State Park has several launch points for a kayak. There is a new rule in place now that you must pay a $5.00 fee prior to launching. You may purchase your day pass at the boat ramp.

Once you have your pass, you are free to launch you yak. Even though the sign doesn’t clearly say it, you are not allowed to bring a boat even if it doesn’t have a gas motor. FCF rules are that if you use a boat on the lake, you must rent one of their boats. The only boats they offer for fishing are tiny jon boats (that honestly do not look safe nor stable). I will take my trusty kayak any day over a jon.

I took out my McCain MHP 6’8 Medium/Fast Action spinning rod coupled with a Diawa Legalis Spinning Reel with 12 lb mono line and attached one of my most favorite soft plastics…a 412BaitCo Free Worm. I like all their colors, but the Salt & Pepper color is a winner most every time. Especially in cloudy water conditions such as we experienced at FCF.

I made maybe four casts and felt a bite. The fish hit the worm around some rocks near the shore line. I got to see it bubble up and take the bait. It wasn’t a huge Bass, but it was still fun catching it. Each time I catch a fish, I’m anxious to see what it is, and be able to look at it and appreciate its beauty before I release it. I am totally catch and release only. I don’t keep anything I catch, no matter how large or panfish perfect the size.

During our fishing excursion, my husband and I saw a Bat flying. Yes, flying in daylight. The Bat was just over our heads. It appeared to be hunting bugs. Our guess was the Bat had been disturbed off its roost due to the wind. I had quite the fright from the Bat. As I walked away (OK, I straight up ran) from the area it was in, it seemed to follow me (or I was just in it’s flight pattern). Either way, it was scary for me! My husband watched me and assured me the Bat never touched me, but I did call my general doctor to inquire as to what if anything I should do. My doctor is super thorough, and he made a few calls to both the health department as well as to a TN Wildlife Resource Agency environmentalist. The message he relayed to me was that simply seeing a Bat flying in the day time does not mean it’s sick. The TWRA indicated they had several reports of Bats being seen in daylight due to the unseasonably warm temps. The Bats were apparently coming out of their hibernacula early and hunting bugs.

Rabies is always a big concern with a Bat, you should never approach a Bat laying on the ground, and definitely never attempt to pick up a Bat. You could be bitten and have to take a series of shots to keep yourself from getting sick. Since there was no evidence to suggest the Bat touched me, I was told I would not have to take shots. I’ll admit to being quite nervous the rest of the day after the experience of the Bat over my head!

For some interesting Bat facts, check out The Nature Conservatory: Spooky Science-Interesting Facts about Bats.

As always, be safe when you are outdoors and watch your surroundings. It’s the time of the year for hibernating wildlife to wake up which may include snakes as well as Bats.

Keep it safe out there!

February Trout Fishing

February is one of those months that can either be super cold, or it can be just warm enough that I inevitably want to get out of the house. Yesterday was one of those days. I woke up early and made pancakes for James and I, then we sat briefly at the kitchen table and discussed the age-old question of, “What would you like to do today?” After a few minutes, we decided we should go Trout fishing.

James and I are fortunate enough to live near one of the best Trout fisheries in the Tennessee. Center Hill Dam, located in Silver Point, is the starting point for one of the most picturesque tail waters in our state. The Caney Fork River is a river that flows through central Tennessee and drains a substantial portion of the southwestern Cumberland Plateau and Highland Rim regions. If you plan to fish below the dam at Center Hill, please always check the TVA generation schedule prior to your trip.

After checking the generation schedule, James and I packed up our truck and made the hour and twenty minute drive from our house to the dam. During the time we were there, there was no generation at the power plant which meant the water was calm and safe for fishing.

The weather was just right, with temps in the mid-40’s and no rain. We saw several people either wading or on the water near the dam in kayaks or small vessels such as drift boats. It was the perfect day.

We prepped our spinning rods and made some adjustments as we would be using some of my flies. I don’t always use a fly rod when fishing for Trout. I like to mix things up a little bit on occasion. During this particular outing, I used a Lews Mr. Trout spinning reel, paired with a custom built 6’0 medium light rod built by Osprey Rods of Huntsville, Alabama. I have several Ospreys and they are flawless in looks and performance. I would recommend them without hesitation to anyone looking for a rod that can truly go the distance.

James and I fished around what is known as “the pond” at the dam. We started out wading out around the edges and eventually, we worked our way across the side to the left of the dam. We moved into position and began casting toward a deep spot between the launch ramp the outcropping of rocks.

The chartreuse Wooly Bugger was the golden ticket to what would be several Brook Trout hook ups for me. The Brooks were like darts hitting my fly under the water. I felt several hits before one hit and took the bait. I quickly reeled the Trout in and was rewarded with the experience of briefly holding such a beautifully delicate fish before I released it back into the water.

James and I fished a few hours and had a great day together. We decided to return to Center Hill and bring our kayaks on the next trip. We plan to fish in the pond area again. Who knows, I might even use my fly rod.