Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Morning on the Elk River: Finding Serenity and Catching Fish


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Story by Ethan Pickering | Lifestyles Editor

This time of year the water released from the bottom of Tims Ford Dam is biting cold, just right for trout fishermen from across the region who come to catch rainbows, browns and brookies. Many arrive at dawn, when fog settles on top of the water and cool breezes rustle leaves.

Some float downstream hoping to find a pocket of water that hasn’t been fished, where an 18-incher might be hiding. Fly fishermen often walk downstream on a path beneath the tree canopy that parallels the river until they find a spot that suits them. They wade into the cold water, sometimes up to their waists and begin casting, their looped fishing line shining in the morning sun. At the end of the line is a hand-tied hook, meant to imitate an insect. 

A trout fisherman watches his line through a gray mist that hovered above the river. (Photo by Kailee Shores)

There are others who unfold a camp chair by the bank, using a spinning rod to throw out a line on which a kernel of corn is the bait.

Whether in a boat, in the water or sitting on the bank, fishing offers an escape. “It’s a kind of release you know. It’s easy to get away from everybody,” said Jesse Tomme, an IT engineer who often flyfishes with several friends from his Army days. He lives within a short drive from the river.

“We try to do it at least two or three times a week before work. We start at about five in the morning and go to seven. Then go to work. We have a good time,” said Tomme.

Ryan Watts, one of his fishing buddies, said being in the water is therapeutic. 

“It’s very peaceful, very relaxing. Getting out in that cold water it’s like taking an ice bath. I think I’m literally hooked (on trout fishing),” he observed.. 

A few minutes later, his line jerked and Watts pulled his rod back to set the hook. A wriggling rainbow surfaced. Watts retrieved the hook and watched the trout swim away.

Then he cast again, before leaving this serene world to face the responsibilities beyond the river.

Ethan Pickering is one of nine Middle Tennessee State University journalism students who spent two and a half weeks in Franklin County this past May writing stories for the Herald Chronicle. More of their work can be found at

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