Sunday, May 27, 2012

Plunge Pools

My brother-in-law showed me some water he had heard about from a neighbor who is a biologist.  The neighbor periodically shocks streams and does surveys of wildlife.  This water was supposed to have surprisingly good populations of wild fish.  We first hit the water about an hour before dark.  The canopy of trees and the stream running through a valley made it even harder too see.  The caddis I cast would disappear into the currents and lines of running water.  I ended up switching to a nymph and had a little success.  Bugs started to come off the water pretty steadily and I could see fish splashing hear and there.  It was so dark I couldn't make out what the bugs were.  Our safety became an issue and we decided to pack it in and hit the stream in day light. 

The anticipation to hit the creek was pretty high.  We knew there were fish in there and the water seemed to have hardly any fishing pressure.  There wasn't any foot prints or trash that give away signs that a place is visited often.
Usually the water close to where you get in isn't that great.  I figured this water would be the same.  My brother-in-law was able to hook up right away in a small pool.  The fish was a nice brown and a lot bigger than fish you'd expect to be in water like this.

The stream stayed pretty skinny. We took turns at pools and there was one plunge pool in particular I kept sticking with. I have a history with plunge pools. It seems that most of my biggest fish have come from them and they are magical places. The water is always broken and blurred. The bubbles make it so you can see the bottom but can't quite make it out. No matter what angle you look at it. There could be anything under there and that's what makes them special. I believe big fish hang out in these places because there is a constant conveyer belt of food being dumped in. Usually the bottom of the pools is dredged out and the depth allows for fish to grow larger. This is my theory any ways. I kept working the plunge pool with purpose and almost when I was about to move on my line shot back up current sharply. The fish was plump and it was quite a tussel with the 3wt. I was glad I had my net and when the fish came splashing in I was elated to see it was a brown. I don't catch many browns and almost never wild ones. The browns coloring was the mood of the season. The temps are August like and way too early to be in May.
The fish was still beautiful and had a buttery yellow and varied spots you usually only find in wild fish.
When I released the fish it disappeared back under the white bubbles of the plunge pool. It's always amazing the size of fish that can live in shallow water. We fished on taking turns at various pools. The water gradient started to get steeper and the hiking started to get a little intense. There was a lot of rock hopping and log crossing. Many times you would be crossing branches and logs just hoping they didn't move as you crossed.
The hiking and competitive nature started to make us branch off and fish pools by ourselves. I came to a pool where I lost a fish the night before. A fished leaped for whatever was hatching but I couldn't get anything to hit. Today it was different. After a few casts the fly was slammed and the fish kept tumbling in the middle of the pool. It fought hard for it's size. The colors were striking. It was one of the prettiest rainbows that I've ever caught.
The views started getting better too. A bunch of times I let out a "ooooh yeah, there has to be a fish there" when viewing a section.
Most of the time we were right and even if we didn't catch a fish I knew there had to be one there. They just didn't like my fly.
The pools started to get deeper and my imagination started to go crazy. I kept imagining 20inch bows lingering at the bottom just waiting for the right morsel to drop in. One in particular I hung with for quite awhile. After a Indiana Jones moment of sliding down a wet rock I was able to find a place between the trees to cast. I worked the whole pool with a dry and had zero interest. I had been wanting to run a big fly deep all day and I figured this was as good as any place to try it. I put on a two flies and an indicator and cast near the plunging water into the pool. The indicator stopped I set the hook and had the familiar feeling of a snag. I thought for sure the fly was going to come off but miraculously it came free. A few more casts yielded no results. I wasn't giving up I knew a fish had to be in this pool. I cast into the cascading water fall and before I could even grab the fly line my indicator shot under the water. This kind of strike usually means a big fish and this was the case. The fish didn't even come up near the surface it just fought deep in the pool. The depth of the pool made it hard to see the bottom and I wasn't sure if the fish could wrap on a submerged log or tree branch. I tried pressuring the fish near the surface but it was giving the 3wt all it could handle. Then the fish followed the pressure and shot out of the water then it did what trout often do in an impossible arial display. Once a fin touched the water it jumped instantly again. My main focus was just landing this thing. It was one of the few times I was happy I had my net. When the fish finally tired I was almost shaking because this fish was really large for a small wild stream. The icing on the cake was that it was a brown. I tried to get a great picture of it but it kept flopping around and I didn't want to harm the fish.
I snapped this quick one then let the fish free. It was time to leave and honestly I couldn't see it getting better than that. The two trout trips I've had recently have been some of the best fishing experiences I've had in a long time. I'm really getting fond of this wild water thing. I'll continue hunting them out and being enamored with plunge pools.


  1. Nice fish! Looks like a blast. I got some wild fish today, but they were warmwater ones on my new tenago rod.

  2. Loften, I saw that on the meetup. Not bad.

  3. Thanks. I didn't post the photos of the small wild fish I caught on my tenago rod. I caught some stripped shiners and eastern mosquito fish.

  4. Kevin, I enjoyed that almost as much as if I had been there. Good looking fish and beautiful water. I'd be going back soon if I was you.

  5. Kevin
    Great post, do you get the feeling that wild trout put up more of fight than tailrace trout? What length fly rod was you using? Those were some great looking spots to land some colorful trout. Glad you guys connected.

  6. Howard, I will definitely be back there again. Hopefully my brother-in-law can get some more beta from the biologist and we'll have more water to check out.

    Bill, If you're asking whether these small stream fish fight more than the wild fish of the South Holston I'd say that's hard to compare. The small stream fish have hardly anywhere to go really once they are hooked. They do fight harder than stocked fish but I don't think they fight harder than fish that grew up in a river. Which makes sense. A fish fighting against constant current and other river events I imagine would build up more muscle than a fish confined to a small pool with very little current.

  7. Plunge pools on small streams equal trout.
    Wonderful photos.

  8. Thanks for the post! It makes me want to grab my 3wt again and head for the hills.