Sometimes the moon is right, the water is right, the lure is right, and the situation is right for the perfect day on the water.
Nick and I took our Big Tuna down to the Calf- Killer River in Sparta, TN to have some fun running this 6 mile stretch of clear mountain water.
The water was low as we haven’t had rain for a long time here on the Cumberland Plateau, making for crystal clear blue/green waters that meander between the steep banks, heavy trees, and occasional cattle farm. The Calf Killer name came from somewhere and I can only assume from high water spring flows and the unsuspecting calves.
Paddling down the Calf Killer is an amazing display of “Who’s Who” among fresh water fish. Schools of 100+ Black Redhorse look like trout or bass from a distance and appear where the shiners are, the minnows are, and of course, the bass and Musky. What is funny is that I will be looking down into the water while standing up in my Big Tuna and just watching the school of Black Redhorse swim by and, as if I wouldn’t notice, a big small mouth bass will be in the school trying to blend in. The bass are the same size or a little bigger, but they stand out like sore thumb. I have never gotten a hit from one of those bass, and I wonder if they are trying to become vegetarian or simply trying to get past my boat without being noticed. The river is no more than 3 boat lengths wide in most places, and only 1 boat length wide in others. It is rarely more than 3 feet deep at low water levels and because of the clear water, nothing goes buy unseen. One of the most common sites are the turtles- tons of turtles. They often swim to the bottom when you come and sit still as if nobody could see them.
Nick and I were enjoying the run, even though the bass were not biting. My last trip down this river I caught about 20 small mouth bass. This trip I caught zero and Nick caught zero. however, we did get something worth remembering; a huge Musky. Nick and I were casting the shore near a fallen tree and I announced before my cast… “This looks like Musky territory” and sure enough, my Buckey Jig and Zoom crawfish trailer dropped to the bottom and on the first hope “Bam!!” a strong hit and immediate tug on my line. I set the hook and realized that I had a Musky on the line immediately. The line went upstream about 50 feet as I only had 10 pound test monofilament for a leader and my drag was set light. I took my GoPro Hero 3+ and gave it to Nick to put on my paddle blade for some underwater shots. I really wasn’t sure if I would land this fish or not. It went back and forth between running my line out fast, to resting and allowing me to bring it in close again. The excitement and suspense was so thick that Nick and I weren’t communicating well. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to get out of the Big Tuna and land it on shore, or have Nick keep me away from the trees in the water. Finally I decided to hit the shore so I could lift it up easier and release it with minimum stress to the fish… assuming I land it. With 5 poles in one kayak I had to deal with my line catching on them from time to time until we got them laid down out of the way. All was going well until I asked Nick to paddle us to shore, which had more tree cover than clear bank. We got close and my fish shot out behind us under the boat through a tree branch. I jumped out into about 2 feet of water, and luckily he took a turn bringing him back around the tree branch. He seemed tired and ready to come in. Nick put my camera on the end of our paddle… Did I tell you that we had only 1 paddle for the two of us on the Big Tuna? A six mile run and Nick forgot his paddle…. hmmm…. was it an accident? So I paddled while he fished. Normally the protocol for forgetting something is that if you forget it, you pay the price. Forget your throw bag on a whitewater trip? You take somebody else’s so that your mistake doesn’t affect their safety. In this case, Nick has a hurt shoulder and wasn’t sure if he could go anyhow. I was happy to paddle him down the river, but I am still going to give him a hard time for it. 🙂 Did the story just digress? Sorry..
Finally I got the Musky up to shore and was about to land it (water land it) and I all but had it out of the water when it decided it still had plenty of energy and took off, almost taking my pole with it, running about 50 feet of line out. Another few minutes and it decided that it was time to get this over with, get its picture taken with me, and be set free. I was quite fired up with the whole experience. It still boggles my mind to be catching such big fish in such small waters. Alaska fisherman know about this feeling during the King Salmon runs, but here in TN, Musky are the big fish in the little pond.
The water is clear, the leaves turning bright colors, and the lighting was soft and perfect for getting great shots. Everything came together to make a great video documenting the catching and releasing of an awesome predator of White County, TN.
I hope you like this video..
Team JK- Fishing and Whitewater