I have mentioned that the trip I guided this weekend was the first time I have ever had a client who found my guide service not through typical flyfishing channels such as the Orvis Endorsed Guide program but rather through reading TTAK.
Lee was a TTAG reader before adding The Truth About Knives to his weekly reading list. He also was a flyfisherman when he was younger, but has just recently reengaged with the hobby. He lives out of town but scheduled the trip for himself and two buddies who have never flyfished, but lived in Knoxville.
Not only was it a wonderful day on the water, it gave me my second chance to take the FirstEdge 5050 Survival knife out into the woods.
Like all of my trips with beginners, the day started with about 45 minutes of a casting lesson for Lee’s friends. It was in the field behind Little River Outfitters, a really great flyshop in Townsend, TN which is kind enough to let me use their shop as a meeting place for my clients and the field for my casting lessons. From there we headed into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, less than a 5 minute drive from the shop.
We drove up the gravel road along the Middle Prong of the Little River, known locally as Tremont, until I spotted a section of stream that suited my eye. We rigged up and I took a few minutes to demonstrate the techniques of reading the water and casting/drifting a fly for mountain trout. Within a couple of casts I had a nice rainbow on the line, and proceeded to hand the rod back to my client and give him the chance to try.
In short order he had a fish that while small, was something really special. All the fish in the Smokies are wild, which means that they are not being stocked but rather are sustainable, reproducing populations. One species, the Brook Trout, is not only wild but also native, meaning that its ancestors have never been stocked like the park’s rainbows and browns were following the habitat destruction from logging in the early 20th Century. The last stocking of browns and rainbows occurred in the early 70’s.
His fish was a small “speck” as brook trout are known colloquially. It had lovely blue rings around its blue spots, and its fins were a bright orange. I really think that they are the most beautiful freshwater fish in North America. But I am biased. What made this fish really special was it was the lowest elevation I have ever seen a brookie caught on Tremont. Most are found several miles upstream where significant restoration work has been done by the Park Service and the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited among others.
Lee followed his buddy’s speck with a small rainbow, the predominate species in the stream. What was even more amazing was that the next fish caught was a little brown trout from the third angler. Within an hour of hitting the stream my clients had teamed up to catch the Smoky Mountain Grand Slam, on their first 3 fish. The rest of what was a chilly but beautiful day was just gravy. The fishing wasn’t on fire, but by the end of the day everyone had caught at least 4 fish, which is a day a guide will never complain about. Lee and his friends seemed quite please as well.
I have mentioned that I frequently will cut down a small limb to retrieve entangled flies. I don’t typically carry a knife that can double as a small machete. A small tree had become swept downstream a couple of years ago and jammed in the middle of what had previously been an excellent hole. I decided to see if the 5050 could hack its way through a section of its trunk and free it from the hole.
Chips of wood positively flew away, and in less than 3 minutes I had hacked my way through a 5+” trunk. I was able to drag the freed section clear to a more convenient location.
The 5050 is not quite as good as the CRKT Halfachance Machete as a brush-clearing implement, but its heft and blade length make it the next best thing. I was amazed at the chips it threw, but there is no noticeable degradation to Elmax blade.
While it might be a bit larger than I need for my everyday guide-knife, it is noticeably heavy on my wading belt, the 5050 continues to impress. I am going to use this knife for the majority of the Spring before doing a full review. I still need to catch a trout worthy of bringing home for dinner, and I need to test the 5050 on this staple application.