Sometimes stuff doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We wanted a Bowfin story from Scotty Davis. Unfortunately no Bowfin were caught after many painful trips. So we came up with this instead. Enjoy.


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By David Grossman and Boudreaux
Art: Steve Seinberg
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue NO. 6: Winter 2013


If you know Allen Gillespie, then the title is pretty self-explanatory. All truth aside though, Knoxville might just be the best smallmouth fishery in the South, and is always on our itinerary this time of year.

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By Allen Gillespie
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Allen Gillespie
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue NO. 5: Fall 2012

“Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe,that found me poor at first, and keep me so.” – Oliver Goldsmith

Like your first shot of corn from a jar, the take from a substantial riverine smallmouth has the ability to freeze time.  During that brief interlude, the savage force of the fish’s grab plants a seed in the recesses of your mind, which will ultimately sprout and grow to possess all of the qualities of a high-grade addiction.

This is in part due to the fact that a smallmouth’s fight is rivaled in freshwater only by their anadromous cousin, the steelhead. And just like steelhead fishing, it is the later reflection, far from the river, which haunts you and twists your mind sufficiently to cause a serious case of the night sweats. The only cure is the journey back to the river to seek another taste. Hence the addiction.

Knoxville, tucked neatly in the bosom of southern Appalachia, lies at the southern extreme of the smallmouth’s natal range. Like Afghanistan is to poppies or Bolivia to coca, East Tennessee is ground zero for the southern smallmouth. The region’s longer growing season coupled with TVA’s Franken-water laboratory of habitats combine to cook lunker smallmouth in batches of varying grades, which have included the current world record fish (11lbs 15oz).

A purest within a subset of gentlemen anglers, I prefer to chase the species in their lotic habitats due to the riverine effects on the species phenotype, which results in an ornery disposition not found in their lake brethren. My preferences aside, stillwater anglers need not despair since the hundreds of acres of water in the numerous reservoirs that ring the Knoxville area are prime waters. In fact, in many cases the potamodromous species divides its time between the area’s interconnected lentic and lotic habitats depending upon the season.

My southern home is blessed with a longer fishing season for smallmouth than anywhere else on the planet. A typical Knoxville basshole gets his first itch for a fresh fix in early March when water temperatures begin to approach 60 degrees. From this point on, the fishing can be fantastic as post-spawn bass drop back off their beds into primary tributaries and put on their feedbags.

With the arrival of the dog days of summer, however, the smallmouth frequently affect a crepuscular crankiness that limits the better fishing to the early morning and late evening hours necessitating not only a pre-work fix, but also a post-work one for the junkies among us.

As the first hints of browning on the foliage begin to show in late August and early September, serious anglers are in full-blown addict mode, in a perpetual search for the next monster to ease their pain. All too frequently obligations and responsibilities are eschewed for the chance at one more taste as the anticipation of the fall feeding frenzy makes the need that much more poignant, as by early October there is no better time to be on the water chasing trophy smallmouth.

By early fall, the occasional angler has long since shifted focus to football or hunting. The rivers are devoid of any boat traffic and the big bass begin to sense the change in the air and switch back to a persistent diel activity pattern, feeding throughout the waning daylight hours. The big fish you’ve targeted through the summer months are more obliging. In anticipation of the colder weather, they’re no longer content to merely inspect your offerings, instead compelled to destroy nearly all properly presented flies upon entry into their watery world.

With a little luck, and favorable weather conditions, Knoxville’s primary tailwater fisheries’ season can stretch well into the later part of November. This, of course, leaves only three months to wait before the season is back yet again. Scant weeks on the one hand.

Yet on the other—a long cold winter before the junkie can score his next fix.



Another piece from the vault…..
Ryan Dunne explains his unnatural love for the carp to help you get ready for the summer fun.



By Ryan Dunne
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Ryan Dunne
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 4: Summer 2012

When I bring up fly fishing and carp in the same conversation I usually get some funny looks. I hear comments like, “You actually touch those things?” or “My cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew caught a big one on a bread ball down at the carp pond.”

While chasing carp with a fly rod has become quite the norm in certain parts of the country, here in the South they remain somewhat overlooked. Some people seem to think carp are dumb and not worth the time of day. Then there are those who are secretly interested in fly fishing for carp, but try not to show their interest in front of their friends (kind of like that case of warts down there you haven’t told anyone about).

I didn’t set out to become a carp addict by any means; things kind of snowballed after I caught my first carp on a fly. Carp are sophisticated fish with bi-polar tendencies (much like that aunt who just ain’t quite right). They always leave you guessing and wanting more pudding. Most of the time they are going to refuse you. They sense you way before you see them. Very few people are fishing for them, so chances are you will be sharing the mud flats with birds, turtles and other fish, instead of every Touron (tourist + moron) in town. Not to mention carp are measured in pounds instead of inches. If you hook a carp, your backing will actually see the sunlight. If you survive a nuclear attack, you will still be able to go carp fishing.

Nothing beats the early morning boat rides across the lake. The anticipation felt while stalking carp is just like the anticipation felt while hunting the rut during deer season. You never know what to expect. Sight fishing to carp is in many ways like hunting, because a bad cast or sudden movement will blow your cover. This is where things can get intense as you slowly and deliberately scan the flats for the slightest movement. You hope that when the time does come that your performance is up to par. If you blow it, there’s always that chance you will go home with a giant goose egg. Carp fishing isn’t a numbers game—it’s about the culminating of your skills to fool a wary fish and get him to eat your fly. When it all goes as planned you feel that sense of accomplishment. I’m a carp lover, just keep it on the DL if you don’t mind.




As I pack up the family truckster for our annual vacation in the low country, I am trying to stay positive. Trying is my new thing when it comes to redfish. I will not be defeated before I leave. I will be defeated when I get there, like a normal human being. So in honor of my impending mediocrity in the face of marsh donkeys, here is one of our favorites from the vault.




By Scott Davis
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Scott Davis
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 4: Summer 2012

 “we spot each other clearly by the wet pant legs, the dubbing or flashabou bits in the beard, the raccoon eyes”

Step back and think where you’d be if fish didn’t control your life. What magazines would be by your toilet? What stickers would adorn your boat’s tow vehicle? Maybe you have another passion, but I doubt it. It seems to be all or nothing, and not by choice.

Watching a redfish commit murders among the crustacean community in inches of water has got to be it…it’s the last legal drug…these tailers. When they tail, something dies—simple. Once you’ve seen it, it generally grabs you like an untreatable fever. And like a disease you’d never want to cure, you feed it thinking it will satisfy the addiction, but you’ve really made it much worse.

I meet very few “casual” redfish anglers. Most are sunburned, obsessive, smell funny and couldn’t give a damn about who won last night’s game. They tie flies out of necessity, stop to skin road kill, eat in the car, and forget birthdays, but can tell you the tides for the next month. If the flats aren’t going to flood, they’ll go where the fish go even if that means casting through tourists and labradoodles at the beach. The fish are always out there somewhere as are these maniacs, these wonderful misfits.

It becomes eerily cult-like, this lifestyle of fly fishing. Most people can’t tell by looking, but we spot each other clearly by the wet pant legs, the dubbing or flashabou bits in the beard, the raccoon eyes. We can feel the push pole or oar calluses in your handshake so don’t fake it, we know who you are.

It’s the nature of humans I suppose, to seek out what makes us happy and pursue it relentlessly, at all costs. The simplicity of fly fishing is its greatest merit. I think it’s the same with the redfish tails. They are simple. Vaguely colored, adorned with only bronze, blue and a speck of black, they lure us like mythological sirens into a life of searching—waiting and hoping for the chance at another glimpse.



The Vise_SCOF_2013_seinberg


By Mike Benson
Photos: Steve Seinberg
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 3: Spring 2012

“Never trust a man without a vise.”

Winston Churchill said that, or something close to it.  Truer words have never been spoken.  Everyone needs something to lean on when the shit hits the fan. I just can’t find it in myself to believe that anyone is strong enough to stand up to the storm that is life on his or her own internal fortitude.  And if they claim to do so I can’t stop myself from thinking about what horrible unspeakable things that person is hiding.  I save my fellow men from having to think such thoughts about me by wearing my vises plain and clear right on my sleeve.  For some it’s drinking, smoking, or drugs.  For others it’s a hobby, say fishing for example, and I’ve been known to delve in a little of each of these in my short life for better or for worse.  But there is one vise in my life I find myself turning to more often than others, it hasn’t been proven to kill or cause any bodily harm to anyone, and its clean, well if you don’t mind vacuuming or sweeping once in a while, and it has the power to completely take away any stress, problem, or mental anguish I have ever encountered in my life.  Well temporarily anyway.

When most people write about fly-tying it very seldom goes beyond that persons favorite tools, or their “ways to tie better, (insert fly type here)”.   Tying articles more often than not read like a cookbook, except that at least a cook book can make you hungry.  It would appear that there is nothing deeper to tying than the satisfaction one gets from creating art, or catching fish on your own creations.   Don’t get me wrong, these are great side effects of spending some time on a vise, but I cannot say they are even in the top ten reasons I ever thread a bobbin or sit down and lash parts of dead animals to a hook.  Tying takes on many forms and I guess to be fair, takes on many meanings to many people.  Some use it as a utilitarian way to fill their boxes, others as an art form, tying creations that will never see the water let alone a fish, and some others still use it as a form of therapy, mental or physical.  I’m none of these people, and perhaps a little of all of them.  I will admit this here in front of my computer screen, and any poor hapless soul who ever happens to read this.  Though I have a few patterns circulated worldwide, and am known as a fly-designer (at least in the small circle of people who even know who I am) I am a lazy tier.  Sometimes I just plain don’t like to do it.  Sometimes the trouble just doesn’t seem worth it.  I would rather just use that same fly I’ve been giving CPR to on the last 3 fishing trips and see how many fish I can make it through.  Its messy, time consuming and just plain a pain in the ass sometimes.   But in the end I do love tying, in my own way.  Before my annual bonefish trip to the Bahamas I will sit down and tie for weeks.  I’ll wrap up 3 or 4 dozen flies, knowing full well that I will be lucky to use 5 or 6 flies on the whole trip.  The same could be said for my Albie trio in the fall, and you don’t even want to see my tying desk just before the tailers get going here in chucktown, but for long periods of time during the year my vise just sits there giving me longing glances and I shuffle past my tying room.  The utilitarian in me sees the worth of being able to fill my boxes at will, whether it be for a trip or just my local redfish.  The artist in me sees the beauty in taking unrelated materials and some thread and making something that makes a fish forget what a real shrimp, crab, or mullet looks like.  And like I mentioned in the beginning, tying has a way of focusing all of your energy onto one single thing, putting the rest of your life in your peripheral vision.

People, non-tiers, have often asked me how I can just sit in front of my vise for hours at a time.  And I guess Makers Mark has a lot to do with it, but I invariably respond, “Because I’m not sitting at my vise at all.”  When I sit down to tie I’m poling through the marquesas, watching a school of permit tailing like they don’t have a care in the world.  I’m wading across a mangrove pencil studded flat in the Bahamas watching a big ass bonefish push, or putting the throttle down and blasting out of Beaufort Inlet watching acres of birds and albies dance with one another while gorging themselves on bait balls the size of Volkswagens.  Tying is my way to step out of my body and move among my favorite places on the planet, even if I’m not sure I have enough money in my account to pay for the power flowing to my tying lamp.  It just has a way of getting me through, like any good vise should.  So if you don’t tie, or have never really thought about it, I would suggest getting a vise, the kind that holds hooks, some basic tools and enough material to tie your favorite fly.  Find a quiet place, or crank up some tunes, whatever your style may be, sit down, and just tie.  I think you’ll be surprised what you take away from the vise.






Another oldie but a goodie to start your SCOF week off. With winter, hopefully, in our rearview mirror we figured one last irreverent look at winter would be an appropriate way to lay it to rest. Thanks again JEB for all you’ve done for SCOF and milk sandwich awareness.


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By Jeb Hall
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Jeb Hall
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 2: Winter 2012

When it snows in the mountains of North Carolina, things shut down. All the way down. As soon as there are reports of flakes falling from the sky, people leave work, schools close and milk sandwiches suddenly dominate the menu of every mountain household. Yes, milk sandwiches.

To the rest of America, the milk sandwich is a virtually unknown dish, but to the hearty souls who endure the harsh winters of Western North Carolina, it is the food of survival. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, it will be the milk sandwich that keeps the last of humanity bravely fighting the undead. The need of WNC residents to procure the makings of the milk sandwich can be witnessed at any grocery store as soon as snow is forecast. Old cat ladies can be seen with a gallon of milk in each hand rushing for the express lane. The bread aisles become scenes from The Day After as distraught shoppers squabble over the last loaves of Wonderbread. Shopping carts are left to roll into the icy streets as store patrons quickly rush back in the door to stand in line for the Red Box, only to find that all the copies of The Best of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour have been rented. It is during this time, The Milk Sandwich Time, that true locals venture out to explore the Davidson River.

The Davidson River is listed as one of North America’s top 100 trout streams by Trout Unlimited. It is this prestigious designation that causes the river to be crowded, fickle and undesirable to most local anglers. Summer’s warmth brings with it an onslaught of tourists escaping the sweltering hell found in the states to the south. By Memorial Day, luxury SUVs fill every possible pullout along the river and sunlight is virtually blocked from reaching the water’s surface by a canopy of Tilley hats, fedoras and straw gardening bonnets. As long as the air temperature remains over 50 degrees, anglers stand shoulder to shoulder in the low, clear water trying to convince themselves that they enjoy fishing as much as playing a round of golf. Winter, however, is a different story. As the flakes fly and the milk sandwich cry goes out across the land, the Davidson becomes an empty playground. The tourists have long since left the comfort of their 25,000 square foot luxury cabins and returned to the land of the box people. The opinionated gentlemen who can be observed fishing the same 20 feet of water all summer long, are caught up in the aforementioned bread aisles trying to fill the pantry before inches of snow pile up on the roads. Even the elite anglers of the Davidson River Social Club disappear from the hatchery parking lot, possibly fearing the icy weather could damage the official wooden license plates attached to their front bumpers.

Winter fishing on the Davidson is not for the faint of heart. The water is typically high, cold and clear, making deep presentations a necessity. Leaders of 12 feet in length ending in 6x fluoro are standard, and fishing a rod shorter than 8’6” is asking for an impossible day. Winter flies should match hatches found on the Davidson. The most commonly fished hatch is the pellet hatch that occurs near the fish hatchery. On a normal day, anglers typically post up in lawn chairs until the hatchery tanks are flushed and the hatch be- gins to make its way down the river. On a snowy day, the doctor’s office style waiting is non-existent, and the hatch can be enjoyed by a single group of anglers from the time it leaves the pipes until it disappears into Horse Cove. Other hatches, such as the tube hatch, don’t occur in winter months allowing anglers to carry a more basic selection of flies.

The harsh conditions faced while fishing the Davidson during winter storms create a need for careful planning and specialized gear to make the day comfortable. The river can be fished in winter with a standard fishing kit, but being unprepared can spell disaster when nature unleashes her chilly wrath. When preparing for a trip to the “D”, remember these four words: transportation, acclimatization, floatation and libation. Transportation means that you don’t drive a two-wheel drive SUV or a rear wheel drive truck into the Pisgah National Forest in a snowstorm. While all the “look at me” girls outside the sports bar might think you drive a burly vehicle, a trip up Highway 276 in a driving snowstorm will soon prove that looking cool doesn’t get you very far outside the Charlotte Metro area. Acclimatization is something that most fly anglers should do regardless of whether or not they are going to fish in winter. The concept here is that it sucks to fish with lots of clothes on and that the less you can wear, the better. To properly prepare your body for winter fishing, wait for a cold night and proceed as follows. First, put on cotton underwear and a t-shirt. Then, take a cold shower. Without fully drying off, grab a Rubik’s cube and head out on the deck and find a chair. Sit on the deck and attempt the to solve the cube until you are shaking too badly to hold it. Finally, come on back inside and take a warm shower.

After several weeks of this routine you will have both readied your body for cold weather fishing and hopefully solved a Rubik’s cube. Floatation refers to the need for good indicators to handle the massive amounts of split shot
you will be fishing in front of your egg patterns. Last, but not least, libation is the need for warming beverages on the river. Hot coffee or tea in a Thermos never tastes as good as it does when you can’t feel your digits. Adult beverages are also a good call. Just make sure you aren’t behind the wheel on the drive home.

This winter, when you see that the upcoming weather forecast is sponsored by the local grocery store, don’t panic and rush to the dairy case. Grab your rod, layer up and head on over to the Davidson for a frosty adventure. Even if the fish aren’t cooperating, you will find more to sustain your soul by watching the snow falling softly on the water than you will between two slices of enriched white bread taking a lactose bath.

Essential Gear for Davidson River winter fishing:

4×4 or All Wheel Drive Vehicle
Warm Hat
Hand Warmers
Polarized Glasses with yellow lenses
Pellet Flies
Egg Patterns
Crazy Streamers
Carrot (for impromptu snowman building)

SCOF History: The Holy City

Who doesn’t love Mad Mike Benson? Who? You tell me and I’ll punch them in the face. This is the first story  Mike did for us way back when, and we couldn’t have been happier. Mike’s somewhere in the Caribbean this week, so now we  couldn’t be more disappointed in Mike for not inviting us. Screw you Mike, but pleased keep writing stuff for us regardless.



The Holy city
By Mike Benson
Photos: Steve Seinberg and David Grossman
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 2: Winter 2012

Anybody who’s ever sat in an American History class already knows a few things about Charleston, SC. Mainly that we fired the first shots of the Civil War. And those who’ve ever lived here for any length of time may tell you a few other things about our city. They’ll tell you about Moultrie, the “Swamp Fox”, John C. Calhoun, the “War of Northern Aggression”, and of course, Hurricane Hugo. Nowadays, fly fishermen from across the country, and in particular the South, are becoming more and more familiar with Charleston as a great place to chase redfish with the fly rod. But if you’re going to come on down and join us amidst the Spartina grass, I ask that you take a second to really take a look around and attempt to take in what is going on around you.

When you’re poling or wading the flats north of town, just stand still and listen for a minute. If the wind is blowing just right, you may hear the low mournful hum of slaves singing hymns in fields long untended. Running across the harbor, you may hear the sound of Yankee cannons over the whine of your outboard, conducting one of the longest artillery sieges in modern military history. As you leave the harbor and turn north into the waterway, try to picture the Sullivan’s Island bridge completely dismantled and laying on its side in the creek, and the raw natural forces it took to accomplish that. And when you’re standing on one of the “fly away places,” the small cedar islands that escaped slaves used to stop and pray on for God to turn them into birds so they could fly back to Africa, try your hardest to keep your feet on the ground.

They call this place the Holy City, and the tour guides in town will tell you it’s because of the sheer number of churches, or our history for religious freedom. But spend enough time being quiet in the backcountry and it’s hard to ignore the natural and spiritual forces that seem to surround this place. So when you come to Charleston to chase the reds, bring your 8wt, a box full of crab and shrimp patterns, and open your mind and your soul. You may just be surprised by what you’ll catch down here.


Sooooooo, the blog is back again, for at least the third time now. This time we’re serious though…for reals…I swear. Our pledge is to post at least three times a week…for at least three weeks.We started looking through all of our old issues and realized we had done some pretty good stuff that not everyone might have had a chance to bask in. So at least once a week we’re gonna post a contextual blast from the past. The rest of the week we will be putting up completely new content…most of the time. To get this party started we’re starting with a little diddy from the very first issue of SCOF. Enjoy, and keep checking back, as we strive to live up to our empty blogging promises…yet again.

– Dave



By David Grossman
Photos: Steve Seinberg
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 1: Fall 2011


You will find plenty of articles in fly fishing magazines telling you where the latest fall must fish hotspot is, and a long list of reasons why if you’re not fishing there you might as well be chucking bait in a retention pond behind the mall. What you won’t find is magazine pages filled with reasons you shouldn’t be fishing a writer’s favorite home waters… that is until now.  I live just over the mountain from two of Tennessee’s most talked about tailwaters ⎯ the South Holston and Watauga rivers. You’ve probably heard the rumors of giant wild fish, great dry fly fishing all year long and the warm welcoming nature of the locals…all lies my friends. I’m here to shed a little light on what might be the greatest lie perpetrated on the fly fishing community as a whole since the idea that Tilley hats were cool. So let’s break this down for the unenlightened.


The Fish:

There are none. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little here. From a very reliable anonymous source within the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, I have learned there are exactly seven fish between the S. Holston and Watauga rivers. These fish are stockers and were put in the river somewhere around the early nineties. It has been reported that they remain finless and stupid. So to summarize, you don’t even need your toes to count all the fish in these rivers and there are absolutely no wild fish to be had.

The Tactics:

For some reason, flies have historically been ineffective on these rivers. We recommend spin fishing using dough balls. Admittedly this isn’t the most sporting way to pursue trout, but you’re probably not going to catch anything anyway, so it’s cool. Many a fly angler has traveled long and far to this corner of East Tennessee with dreams of summer hatches of sulfurs and winter emergences of blue wing olives that have every fish in the river looking up. Well don’t fall into the trap these suckers did. There are no bugs, and there is no dry fly fishing. Dough balls people, dough balls.


Good luck. We have yet to find any public access on these rivers short of being airdropped into the river by helicopter. This method is preferable to illegally crossing through someone’s private property though, as Tennessee law clearly states that all trespassers may not only be shot, but also kicked repeatedly in the junk in the town square, which is way worse than being shot (depending on your junk, that is).

Local Culture:

The references to Deliverance have been a little over done when talking about Appalachia. I consider East Tennessee closer to The Postman meets Water World. If you like postapocalyptic landscapes populated by roving bands of flesh peddlers, then by all means visit the Tri Cities area. If not, I’d probably steer clear.


They all suck.

In conclusion, your time and money would be better spent visiting more famous rivers else- where since these “famous” rivers are full of trout that eat everything on every presentation, and their banks are lined with big breasted women who really dig fly fisherman. Our little old tailwaters in Tennessee are best left to us slack jawed yokels, who wouldn’t know a world class trout river even if it was in our own backyard.

Editor’s Note: The above should only be taken as advice by those fly fishermen that don’t plan on paying for a guide. For any paying clients out there, I would be more than happy to show you why I, as a full-time guide on the S. Holston and Watauga Rivers, consider them to be the two finest tailwaters on the East Coast.