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Today I received an email from a friend and client who has purchased and fished the Blackbird for some time. He sent pictures of some nice wild fish that he had caught with this great fly on one of his last trips. After looking at these nice fish I asked him if he would do a report in his own words about this trip and he agreed to do so. When I receive it I will place it with this opening that I have done. How nice it is to see these beautiful wild fish that he has taken.


Fishing the Smoky Mountain Blackbird
The past few years, Hugh Hartsell's Smoky Mountain Blackbird has been the primary producing fly in my fly box.   This fly produces for me throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee in terms of quantity and quality trout (and even has produced on smallmouth bass).  I cannot imagine going on a fishing trip without my beloved Blackbird.  The fly is fabulous on rainbows, brooks and browns and especially on larger trout.  My belief in this fly was reconfirmed on a recent trip in Western North Carolina where the Blackbird was nothing short of outstanding.   
My day began at daybreak on a medium sized stream on August 1st.  The water was low and I was concerned that fishing would be difficult.  I rigged up the Smokey Mountain Blackbird as a dropper fly to a standard elk hair caddis.  I usually fish the Blackbird in a dry/dropper combo so that I can fish and cover different sections of the water.  However, the Smoky Mountain Blackbird can be fished in a variety of methods, as a nymph, an emerger and even as a streamer. 
Since the water was low and a tad warm on this summer day, I focused my attention on well oxygenated water that still provided good cover for the trout.  Only a few short distance from where I started fishing, I hooked and caught a nice eight inch wild rainbow.   I caught two other small trout when I noticed a large rock in a nice flow in a deeper run.  I cast over the rock and hardly before the flies had time to settle, my caddis jerked and I knew something had eaten the Blackbird.  I erratically jerked and saw a long bar of thick, bright lemon yellow at least sixteen inches long appear.  Unfortunately, this large trout was only on a few seconds due to my erratic hook set.  Nevertheless, I was reassured that there were large trout in this river and knew I had the right fly.
Pressing on, I connected with more trout and the size began to increase.  I caught one nice stocked brook trout around eleven inches that had run up into the non stocked water and three more wild rainbows around ten inches, all on the Blackbird.  Looking to my right, there was a nice pool, with water circulating under a large mass of overhanging limbs.  I crept down and let the flies completely drift under the limbs and immediately the caddis went under.  This time, my hook set was fine and after a spirited battle, I brought a chunky thirteen inch brown that had devoured my Blackbird to the net.
My fishing slowed a bit as I came to a series of long flat runs.   But, I then came to group of runs and pools.  I missed one trout, but soon caught another nice wild ten inch rainbow on the Blackbird.  The next pool was quite deep and I was a bit surprised to see a thick 11 inch rainbow come from the depths to hit my Blackbird and I had some difficulty moving him out of the crevices of a large rock.  But, he was eventually brought to hand.  Moving up a bit more, I came to a nice run and connected with a strong wild 12 inch rainbow, again on the Blackbird.  The fishing was hot!
However, the course of the river changed and not in my favor. I came to another series of long flat runs that were unproductive and decided to eat lunch.  I had already had a great day for me and almost called it a day.   But, I persevered and am glad I did.  The best fishing was in my future.
Continuing my way up stream, I came to several shallow sections that contained a large number of yearling trout.  I caught several of these three to six inch wild rainbows and was thrilled to see these young trout doing so well.   I then saw what I was looking for;  a long, deeper run with a undercut bank on the left.  I knew this was a haven for a nice trout.
I cast to the back of the run and caught another wild ten inch rainbow.  Casting a bit ahead, I had a nine inch bow hit the caddis while an eighteen inch rainbow simultaneously hit the Blackbird.  Two trout on at once!  Unfortunately, the trout ran in different directions and the large rainbow broke my 5X tippet.  While I landed the smaller trout, I was a bit frustrated at losing such a magnificent fish in such unusual circumstances.  I went back to my fly box and pulled a used Blackbird, somewhat frazzled, just to see how this would work. 
I had my answer immediately as a sixteen inch wild, heavy rainbow nailed the Blackbird and ran first up and then down the run.  After a long hard fight, I brought the trout to hand.  I took a a couple of photographs and then gently released the trout as I had with the others.  I celebrated watching the trout quickly move back into her lie and catching one of my largest freestone rainbows in several years.  The celebration soon ended as another wild rainbow approximately fourteen to fifteen inches again hit the Blackbird.  After another battle, I took the photograph of this white tipped finned beauty and released it back to the pool.   My hands were almost shaking due to the exhilarating experience.
I gradually moved ahead and I caught a few eight to ten inch trout shortly thereafter and then had eight inch smallmouth hit the Blackbird.  I wondered what he was doing there?  But, it was remarkable to see again how the Blackbird produces on such a variety of fish.  Fish absolutely love it.  I decided to end the day on such a good note and headed back to my car.  It was an unforgettable and God blessed day.  It was also a moment made special by the Smoky Mountain Blackbird.
Michael B. Bridges, Esq. 
Dobson, Jones, Ball, Phillips & Bridges, P.A.
Attorneys at Law
1306 South Church Street
P.O. Box 1923
Greenville, SC 29602
Phone:  (864) 271-8171 Ext. 206
Fax:  (864)


  I hope that everyone enjoys Mike's report and it feels good to let others tell their story in their own words. You did a great job Mike and good luck with the Blackbird in the future.


This will probably be our last report for a few weeks. We are heading for Bozeman, Montana on the 6th of September and from Bozeman we plan to fish and sightsee northwards. We hope to make it all the way to Calgary, Alberta, Canada and fish the Bow River. Other possible stops are the Beaverhead and Flathead Rivers as we move toward GLACIER NATIONAL PARK. You can still contact us at 865-712-0407 while we are on the road. Our sons will be at the house while we are away. Our thanks to everyone who has supported us this season and we look forward to being able to show lots of the things we encounter while we are on vacation. Good fishing to you and we'll see you again in a few weeks.

   Hugh and Carolyn

Gail and Bob drove to my house on Sunday morning and we were off to the South Holston River by 8:45AM for a 1/2 day of wade fishing and 1/2 day of float fishing. It had just been a few days since I had seen some great fishing on that river. I just knew that we would have a great day doing one type of fishing or another. It was not to be. We struggled all morning trying to get some action while wading. Our efforts only produced one fish. We saw one or two other fish caught all morning by other fishermen.                                                             


We began our float at about 2:00pm after talking with Jack Prater about the conditions and asking if he could shuttle us. Jack told us that the fishing had been very poor for the last 3-4 days. That was not a good sign. He said the Sulfurs had not been coming off like they usually do. This really gave us cause for low expectations. We began our trip down the river and we saw Sulfurs hatching right away. At first there was no feeding at all and farther down the river we began to see small fish feeding right along the bank. I moved the boat into position for them to begin casting to these rising fish and they seemed to be placing their flies into the feeding lanes. They cast to rising fish after rising fish with the same refusals. We came to the end of the best dry fly water and we switched to nymphs. The story was the same all the way to our takeout point. We talked to several people on the way downriver and except for a couple of occasions where guys were deep nymph fishing we only saw a couple of fish on and all the other people we talked to said they had not had a strike. It was about the poorest two straight days of fishing that I have ever had. The conditions seemed right , but the fish were not cooperating. We felt like the phase of the moon may have been the problem. It also goes to show that all trips with the best of intentions can not always work out.
We left Bob and Gail that night and thanked them for being our good friends and wished them a safe trip home. They are now thinking of a trip in the winter time to the Holston River. We look forward to being on the water again. 

August 28, 2010 Gail and Bob Dosser Fishing on the Holston River Below Cherokee






Today, August 28th, I guided Bob and Gail Dosser on the Holston River, below Cherokee Dam. We are right at the last of the season for flyfishing on this river and I was surprised the water was still pretty cool. It is not to the danger point yet.
Even though the water is still okay, the fishing left a lot to be desired. We fished very hard using a number of different flies up until lunch time to no avail. We moved farther down the river in the afternoon and we still did not see any fish feeding until about 3:00PM. We were at the uppermost point that we intended to fish and a few fish began to rise. Gail had gotten  a new flyrod custom made back in June at Cameron, Montana. The builder is Dan Belekta, and he works at Beartooth Lodge. The rod is a 9ft. 5wt. paired with a Lamson Velocity 1.5 reel. The fish that she caught was the 1st one on this new rig and we caught it all on video. Take a look at a nice lady breaking in a new rod properly. Congratulations Gail and Bob, and good fishing in the future with it.


Phil Snapp and I hit the South Holston River again today in preparation for guided trips that are taking place this weekend. The fishing was great but I forgot to check to see if my camera was set in the anti shake mode. It was not and I'll have to ask forgiveness for all the movement that should not have been there. Phil did a great job today and when you see him, give him a big hand.



Phil Snapp and I spent the first half of the day on the Watauga River. We did not seem to have the results on that stream  that we would like to have had. We moved on over to the South Holston River after lunch and TVA was sluicing about 600 CFS of water per hour. We walked downstream about 1/4 of a mile and got in the river. Phil went to one side and I fished the near bank. A few fish were feeding and I was rigged with a Tan Wulff and a Rockhold Sulfur Emerger. I began to get a few strikes and I was into some fish pretty quickly. The strikes became a little more frequent and other fishermen began to crowd around. In 20- 30 minutes Sulfurs began to hatch and the fish were becoming more aggressive all the time. After an hour to an hour and 1/2 I had caught so many fish that I lost count. I finally got Phil to come back across the river and I handed him my flyrod. The Sulfurs were coming off in waves and Phil started catching fish on almost every cast. He had never seen such feeding and people were gathering around on all sides to watch the show. I believe the Rockhold Sulfur Emerger caught at least 50 fish by itself and the Tan Wulff caught almost as many. We probably did not move 10- 15 feet in any direction to catch all of these fish. it was a sight to behold. It was one of those days to remember and lots of other fish were being caught as well by people above and below us. It was a great great day on the river and I think Phil enjoyed it as much as I did.

 Get in on this great fishing! Call us at 423-586- 6198 and enjoy the best dry fly fishing to be had in Tennessee.


Renee Mc Coy is from Cookeville, Tennessee and she decided to give her friend Dan a nice birthday present in the form of a guided trip to an East Tennessee Tailwater. We made our way to the Holston River and worked on casting and mending skills for awhile. Pretty soon they were off to the races and Dan had his first fish on. It seems like the generation has caused the Blackflies to become active again and the birds and the fish were feeding on them. Dan managed to catch several fish during the half day we were there and Renee even had a fish on for a minute. It was fun and Renee even had some good business transactions going on the river. I think Dan is taken with the bug of flyfishing and I hope that he gets to spend more time on the river.




Cory is 10 years old and he is working on a merit Badge with the Cub Scouts. Taking a flyfishing trip and landing a fish was one of the things that he wanted to accomplish. We worked hard on casting and mending skills and he soon had his first fish. It was a small rainbow and soon after that he caught a few chubs. Water temperature and large crowds of people made for some tough fishing but Cory stayed right there until it was time to get back to meet Mom and then on to the next adventure. Cory is an Oklahoma Sooner but I think he loves East Tennessee. We hope he continues what he has learned on this day.


Conner came from Nashville today and we spent a very enjoyable , but extremely hot day on the Holston River. You can see by his youth and his enthusiastic smile that he was able to endure the heat better than me. As I was driving back home after the trip, the thermometer said 95 degrees. Conner just fished right on through it and seemed to enjoy every minute of the day. He had already picked up a lot of good skills before we met and with a little bit of coaching, he just got right to the business of catching some nice trout. He was probably as well trained as anyone as young as he is that I have met. We fished at the first location until lunch time and then moved down river. This proved to be a much better location than the first. It seemed like Conner was into fish for most of the afternoon and he was really enjoying himself. A lot of his fish were in the 14 inch range, and one or two might have gone 15 inches. It was great to get to fish with him and he is planning on fishing the Watauga River tomorrow. Good luck to him.


Ben and Brad Shurett hail from Texas and Alabama. They are in the newspaper and restaurant business. Brad gets to fish the Elk River some and Tim's Ford. It is mostly warm water or salt water for Ben. They both wanted to try the Holston River today. TVA has been running water all week and today we had a window to give these fellows a try at the good fishing that we have been experiencing all summer. It was not easy starting off and we had to work at it to find what the fish wanted. It seemed that the fish wanted to feed on top or very near it. We did manage to catch some on dries and emergers. A small Caddis hatch took place for a few minutes and they both had a lot of fun. We worked diligently on casting and mending skills as well as proper timing for hookset. It was a fun day with two great fellows. My thanks to them for a lot of fun and their enthusiasm to learn all the things that I tried to show them. I hope to fish with them again.


As I have mentioned before, we are at the time of the year when we switch the focus, or our main emphasis from the Holston River, below Cherokee Dam to the South Holston River and the Watauga River. The main hatches have come to an end on the Holston River, but we are still seeing great Sulfur hatches on the South Holston. Fishing is actually good on all 3 rivers, but the Sulfur hatch that keeps on taking place on the South Holston is something to behold. Today, we started first on the Watauga and we hooked some very nice fish. For some reason, I managed to lose 8 fish and Carolyn lost several also. One of the fish was a very nice one.

  We moved over to the South Holston just as the "pulse" was taking place and the Sulfur hatch was in high gear. It is just amazing to see so many insects coming off and the river is simply alive with feeding fish. We stayed on the river until 6:30pm, and the bugs were still flying.  It also seemed like about 90 percent of the fish that we caught were browns. If you would like to get in on some fantabulous dry fly fishing, just call 423-586-6198. The flies of the day were the Tan Wulff and the Rockhold Sulfur Emerger.


I've been recovering from some minor surgery for the last 3 weeks and now I'm back on the river. Carolyn and I spent 1/2 day on the Holston River this morning and TVA had decided to run 400CFS instead of the regular 300 that they had originally posted last night. Carolyn started off with a dry fly and a dropper. I changed my setup to a large #14 BHPTN as my top fly and a #16 Flashback Pheasanttail Nymph as the dropper. Since so much water was coming down the river I felt that I needed to get my flies