What they don’t tell you about owning a raft

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 10.19.18 AMA lot of people have been asking me about my fishing experience with the Stealthcraft Hooligan XL. I’ll start by saying that this is by far one of my favorite fly fishing rafts on the market. The high PSI floor makes it seem like you’re fishing out of a hard-bottom boat and its self bailing feature means you never have to worry about swamping the boat. Storage is limited, but dry boxes house all of our extra equipment and slide nicely under the seats.

Being a first time raft owner, there were several things I wish I would have known ahead of time…

  • Wind is not your friend. Flat stretch? Blown backwards. Fishing the bank? Blown into it. Anchoring? Have fun fishing sideways!
  • You have to wash them… a lot. That high PSI floor I was talking about sits snug into the center of the raft while it’s pumped up. Bugs, sediment, and other river junk also build up in that crevice. Over time this can wear tiny holes in your raft.
  • Buy the nice pump. You don’t want to know how much time, blood, sweat, and tears have gone into pumping up that beast. It’s going to cost you, but trust me, buy the nice pump. (I use an NRS 5″ barrel pump)
  • Catch points. At least half of your casts will snag. You will snag things you didn’t even know were possible to snag.
  • You feel every rock. If the raft bumps a rock while you’re hyper-focused on fishing, you’ll likely be going for a swim.
  • They’re heavy. Not as heavy as a drift boat, but they’re not quite as easy to move around as raft companies lead you to believe. “You can put it on your car!” …Not as easy as it sounds, especially if your car is substantially taller than you are.
  • They’re big. My raft requires a full size trailer and takes up over half of my two car garage.
  • Temperature fluctuations & air pressure. If it’s cold, you might find yourself fishing out of a squishy boat. Keep a K-Pump on hand. If it’s hot, you’ll have to let out some air or you could put stress on the seams.

There are many benefits to owning a raft, which is ultimately why I chose one over a drift boat, but knowing a few of these from the beginning would’ve saved me some headache! Raft owners, do you have anything else to add?

 

 

South Holston Spawning Regulations

I wanted to write a blog post about the spawning sections on the South Holston River  since finding this information can be difficult. The signs on the actual river are hard to find and even harder to read unless you’re within three feet of one, and every time I try to pull this information up online I can never seem to easily find it. Make sure to plan your trips accordingly during this time.

Spawning season begins at the South Holston River on November 1 and ends February 1. During that time, you are not allowed to drop anchor or fish in two sections. If you are caught fishing in these sections it will result in a heavy fine and appropriate shaming by anyone around you.

To make this easier, you can use a phone map application to allow your map to find your location on the water. A pin should drop wherever you are and show where you are in relation to the graphics below. I am also providing approximate GPS coordinates of the beginning and end of the sections. These can also be typed into your phone map.

The first closure begins on the upper section, starting at bottom creek (GPS 36.504400, -82.110581) and ending at Hickory Tree Bridge on 44 (GPS 36.515955, -82.136200).  

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Upper closure – Bottom Creek to Hickory Tree Bridge 

The second closure begins on the lower section, starting at the tip of the island above Webb Bridge (There is a beautiful house that sits on the middle of this island that’s hard to miss, GPS 36.488261, -82.195197) and ends at the bottom of the island below Weaver Pike Bridge (this one can be trickier if you don’t know the names of the bridges, but just pay close attention to where you are on the river in relation to this image. GPS 36.482244, -82.205116)

lower section spawn.jpg
Lower closure – Bottom Creek to Hickory Tree Bridge 

Finally, I wanted to show you an image of the entire river in relation to both spawning sections. If you are floating the upper section (grates to big springs) you will run into the upper spawning section. If you are floating the lower section (big springs to rock hold or bluff city) you will run into the lower spawning section.

full spawn
Upper and lower closures in relation to the entire river. The pin at the top indicates Holston View Dam Rd near the Weir Dam.

I hope you find this information helpful while planning your trip to the South Holston!

For the love of the sport… or for the gram?

This subject has been weighing heavy on my heart for quite a while now. I frequently get asked for advice on how I grew my following in the fly fishing/outdoor industry, and for that I don’t have a simple answer.

So here goes: I never intended on having a “following.” I never dreamed of being an “influencer.” My purpose in fly fishing has never been to entertain.

I started fly fishing long before it was trending on Instagram. My main purpose was to get outside with good company, catch fish, and learn as much as I possibly could.  I was on the water every spare second I had and didn’t have a thought in my mind about my social media presence.

I took an occasional picture and didn’t question if it was good enough to post. It simply started as a burning passion that I wanted to share with others, and I used Instagram to learn from other anglers and to dream about all the different things I want to accomplish as a fly fisherwoman.

How did I grow my followers? The only thing I can boil it down to is passion.

If you need affirmation from the amount of followers you have or how many likes you get on a picture, you probably need to find a medium other than fly fishing to do it. Using fly fishing as a way to promote your own agenda is disrespectful and objectifying to everything this community stands for.

In the end, the amount of followers you have in this industry doesn’t make you a better fly fisherman. It doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean you know more about the sport.

Every day I see more and more accounts trying to grow their following, whether it be for free gear and sponsorships, getting paid for posts, or maybe for their own personal affirmations. If this is all your signed on for, all I’ve got to say is that you sure are missing out.

Put down the phone and enjoy your time on the water.

 

Swing and a Hit

I first tried my hand at streamer fishing during the summer of 2011. At first it felt awkward after years of nothing but dry flies and nymphs, but it quickly became one of my favorite types of fishing after experiencing “the tug.” It really is the drug, as they say.

In 2018 I streamer fished more than I ever have, and it definitely paid off since it rained almost non-stop with generators on full blast at the Watauga and South Holston most of the year. The skies were typically overcast and the water stayed on the murky side – perfect for streamers.

While floating I always keep my eye downstream to anticipate when I need to cast to target where I think the trout are sitting. I make my cast about 10 feet ahead to give the streamer time to sink and make sure it’s at the perfect spot for the swing.

Here’s what I look for before making a cast:

  • Eddies – Eddies are slow moving bodies of water that lie behind rocks and other structures that obstruct the current. Cast far back into the eddy and pull the streamer across and into the current.
  • River bends – Cast at the bank (hit it if you have to, but beware of trees) and pull across the bend.
  • Low lying trees – Trout sit underneath these to sip bugs falling out from them.
  • Depth Changes – Cast into the shallow water and pull it across the deeper water. Big trout sit and feed on prey coming off the shelf.

 

My setup:

  • Redington Crosswater 9 ft 8 wt
  • Redington Crosswater 7/8/9 wt reel
  • Scientific Angler Sonar Sink Tip 8 wt line (4″ per second sink)
  • Cuthroat Streamer Leader with approx. 4′ of 3x OR 4x tippet (Depending on water conditions – If it’s murky I use 3x but if its clear I’ll use 4x)
  • My go-to streamer for the Watauga and South Holston is an olive sculpin

 

Boat control is a very important part of streamer fishing. Having an experienced oarsman to keep the boat at a proper angle (I prefer to be slightly angled with the front of the boat to the bank so I can cast behind the boat and get a better swing,) an appropriate distance from the bank, and slightly slower than the speed of water is just as important as your fishing and casting techniques.

Most of my success in streamer fishing has been made on the swing followed by a 6-inch strip, meaning I cast my streamer out, throw out a big mend, let it drift while keeping the line tight, and strip it in at the end of the drift. Depending on the time of day and water conditions I vary the speed, but this is usually trial-and-error until I figure out how aggressive the trout are eating.

Thanks for reading and tight lines!

 

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Douglas Outdoors: The Beginning

I’m no stranger to receiving inquiries from companies about becoming an ambassador for their products.

A lot of these requests ultimately get turned down because I feel like it’s an easy way for companies to get free user-generated content only at the cost of sending their products. I can see the appeal; small investment, big return. My personal problem with this is that in a lot of cases it just makes me feel used, and that I’m only valued by the number of followers I have.

I have held off on getting involved with a rod company because I didn’t just want to be another notch on a company’s long belt of “ambassadors.”

When Douglas Outdoors first contacted me, it was through a direct message on Instagram. For the first time ever, I was asked if I wanted to TALK… yep, like actually have a conversation on the phone rather than sending emails, texts, or direct messages back and forth.

When I answered the phone, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of another woman. Up to this point I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with a fly fishing company that is partially woman-owned and operated, so this was something that really excited me.

We discussed our goals and she told me a little bit about their company, and she actually wanted me to try their products out before I agreed to work with them. Most companies expect a done-deal when they send you their products and immediately expect content. Unfortunately when you receive gear you don’t like, you’re sometimes stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I received my Douglas Outdoors SKY Series 9′ 5wt rod and Nexus 5/6 wt reel in the mail within the week. When I picked up the SKY and cast it for the first time I immediately knew this company was the real deal and not just another company buying rod blanks from china and slapping their logo on it (which is something I’m always on the lookout for, you should be too.) Their philosophy is to avoid mass produced, high volume, low cost rods and reels.

Working with Douglas Outdoors has been one of the best decisions I’ve made because they are truly invested in my success and not just their own. When you buy products from Douglas Outdoors, you aren’t lining the pockets of corporate executives, but fueling the passion of a family that wants the best for the fly fishing community.

There is a lot more I have to say about Douglas Outdoors and their products, so stay tuned!

What you don’t see.

Today I wanted to write a short blog post to tell you all a little bit of my fishing habits and what I do to make sure I am always practicing the best catch and release techniques.

When you see a still shot on my Instagram page, I know what it can look like – the fish is far out of the water and being held up in front of a camera. Here’s what you don’t see – holding the fish in the net, submerged in water, until the very last second that I am ready to take the picture. After I take a shot, it goes right back into the water. I’ll do a quick review to make sure I like the image (while the fish is still in the water,) maybe do a retake, and then make sure the fish has fully regained it’s strength before it is released. The fish is out of water no more than a few seconds before it is released.

I never fish during spawning and make sure to alert other anglers when they are too close to the redds.

I have been a member of Trout Unlimited for many years, and have spent countless hours making sure my waters, trout, and ecosystem maintain the highest integrity.

Before you make assumptions and write hateful comments on my posts, just know that Instagram will never be able to show the whole picture. If you ever have a question about my pictures, feel free to send me a message. 

 

Hateful comments will not be tolerated on my page.

 

Behind the scenes

It’s easy to watch a well filmed video and be inspired. The scenery is beautiful, the action is dynamic, and it seems like all the pieces fit together perfectly.

While filming my first professionally produced video with Cumberland Marketing, the goal was to capture the beauty of the South Holston River and talk a little about my passion for fly fishing. What I didn’t realize is that it is nothing like what you see in movies and there were a few challenges we faced throughout the day.

-Dancing around each other in the raft

My StealthCraft Hooligan XL has room for three people, fishing gear, a cooler, and two dry boxes that fit nicely under the seats. What it does not have room for are three people, all of the other aforementioned gear, AND large camera boxes and equipment. We would have to switch places often for me to get in the back so I could fish, and juggling camera equipment around water is scary.

-Rowing shots

To get footage of me rowing the first time, the videographer in the back seat had to hunch over and hide behind me for an extended period of time.

The second time, I let the videographers out of the boat (who almost fell getting out) down the river and rowed back up the river in the current. After that I was hot, sweating, and out of breath.

-Hot, sweating, and out of breath

The combination of playing musical chairs, excessive rowing, retaking shots, and being out in the 85 degree burning sun was quite the experience.

-Bad interview skills

I haven’t done many interviews in my life, and you could tell. I didn’t know it would be so hard to talk about my biggest passion in life, so it was easier for me to show it. Luckily Cumberland Marketing’s video production team was phenomenal at picking out the good parts and left out all of the screw ups, curses, and other mishaps.

-The Blooper Reel

Enjoy the blooper real here for a funny look behind the scenes.

 

To see the finished version go here.