Friday, November 30, 2012

Reunion, Reviews, and Rarities

Last Sunday, I got the chance for a little reunion with an old friend from Knoxville. It's almost hard to believe how long it had been since we hung out the last time, and we didn't even go fishing or looking for reptiles- two of our favorite pastimes. We ate at the Country Table Restaurant in Knoxville. It was a classy joint as you can tell from the photograph of that day over seven years ago. It appears the restaurant has closed down and is now for sale.


Stephen Jones is a really good guy, and, as it turns out, he's become one heck of a fly fisherman in those seven years since I had last seen him. I'm proud to say that Stephen gives me at least a little bit of credit for sparking his interest in fly fishing. Apparently there's another guy that shares the credit as well. I've never met him, but he must be a pretty good fellow too.

Stephen below the bridge at the Apalachia Powerhouse- look closely

We spent our reunion day on the Hiwassee River in east Tennessee. It's a place I had fished only a few times before, and I will admit... it still has my number. For whatever reason, I just haven't had much luck there. Stephen had no trouble though. He put on a clinic for high stick nymphing and probably landed thirty fish or more throughout the day. He caught more than a dozen before Kelly and I even made it to the river. His drive was just a bit shorter than ours, and we got distracted by some birds flying overhead on the way there.

Kelly caught more fish than I did as usual (I think the count was like 10 – 2), and she finally caught another Brown Trout that was at least slightly bigger than her first. Despite our best efforts, none of us caught anything spectacular, but of course that's not always the point.

Kelly's new personal best Brown Trout ;)

Besides catching a few fish, part of our goal for the day was to field test a couple of new items from SmithFly and finish testing out our Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders. We were pretty successful on all fronts, and the reviews will be soon forthcoming. Stay tuned for those.

The birds that were flying overhead were cranes- mostly Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). We've seen Sandhills before. We even saw a nesting pair when we visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Whooping Cranes (G. americana) on the other hand, were something new and exciting. We were pleasantly surprised to spot a pair flying in formation with the Sandhills.

Unfortunately, we don't have any concrete photographic evidence to support our claim, but we did get a few pics of the cranes in flight. In the second photo, the sixth and eighth birds from the left look like they could be Whoopers, but I won't claim that they are. I'll let you examine and decide for yourselves. The two possible Whoopers in the pic are not the pair we saw. We weren't able to get a pic of that group before they disappeared behind the treeline.



I'm satisfied knowing that Kelly and I got the chance to see a true rarity, living free in the wild- proof that endangered species can be saved. Today there are only about 600 Whooping Cranes in the wild. In the 1940s the population dwindled down to just 21 birds. The recovery of the Whooping Crane is a true conservation success story.

Photo courtesy of the International Crane Foundation

The Whooping Cranes that now migrate through east Tennessee are graduates of a program that uses aircraft-led migration to lead young birds from summer breeding habitat in Wisconsin to an overwintering site in Florida. The program continues to reintroduce more captive bred birds each year to supplement the wild population. Whooping Cranes are still listed as "endangered," but they're on a steady road to full recovery.

It now appears that the older Whoopers are migrating naturally along with their Sandhill congeners...

and it's a beautiful sight to see.

10 comments:

  1. Awesome. Couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've crossed that bridge and fished the runs below. Sounds like you guys had a great day up there. The Hiwassee is a beauty of a river.

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    1. Ty, I know you've probably crossed that bridge many more times than I have. I've actually crossed the bridge more times to look for salamanders along the railroad tracks than I have to fish the river below. The Hiwassee is just as great a place to look for reptiles and amphibians as it is to catch trout.

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  2. Happy post Jay. Thanks for that. I enjoyed seeing the cranes flying in formation. Seeing this never ceases to amaze me.

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    1. Howard, it is truly an amazing sight- especially when the birds are close enough that you can hear them "talking." Stopping to watch along the roadside was well worth the few minutes of lost fishing time.

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  3. Jay
    I have never fished the Hiwassee River, but some on the Caney Fork say it is better than the Caney. I need to give it try come Spring. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I don't know if it's better than the Caney or not, but I've heard the Hiwassee is getting better all the time. They're doing a delayed harvest which should improve things over time. Let me know, maybe we can go together.

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  4. A wonderful happening. An awesome whitetail, with an equally handsome brown.

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    1. Now that the Country Table has closed down, there's no telling where that Whitetail hangs. I remember it being a pretty impressive specimen. I ate quite a few meals under his watch.

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  5. Old friends and new water make for a great combination!
    I've seen several whooping cranes at the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge here in Kansas not far from my home , a majestic bird for sure and it's hard to believe their actual size when you see them up close. Love the sound those sandhills make when they start talking to each other...cool stuff.

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    1. HPFF, thanks for the comment. The cranes sound a bit prehistoric to me... like the sounds a Pterosaur might have made.

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