Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Little Yellow Quills (Heptagenia Group)
3. Needle Stoneflies
4 Slate Drakes
5 Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
9 . Craneflies
10. Great Brown Autumn Sedge
Smoky Mountain Trout Flies ? ? ?
Following our new "Fly Fishing Strategies - What Fly To Use" article each week, we
normally receive one or more, usually more, email letters asking the same question.
The question is usually asked differently, but it gets down to one thing - why we don't
recommend the same flies most of the fly shops, guides, books, magazine articles and
other sources of information on fly fishing the Smokies recommend. Most of the time,
the question is asked like "why don't you recommend the regular Smoky
Mountain Flies or some phase it "Smoky Mountain Fly patterns"? I get the same
questions about articles I write for our Fly fishing Yellowstone website - why don't I
recommend the regular Yellowstone flies or fly patterns. In fact, when anglers
write or call us at Perfect Fly for fly recommendations for streams across the nation
we frequently get the same question.
The answer we give is always the same answer. There isn't such a thing as a
Smoky Mountain fly, or a Yellowstone fly, or a South Holston River fly.
Trout flies should be designed and tied to imitate the food trout eat - insects,
baitfish, crustaceans, etc., not locations of streams or streams themselves. In other
words, in all due respect to anyone who ask that question, it's a good question; but
it's actually a very stupid question. That said, in all fairness to anyone that ask the
question, it isn't really their fault. It's the fault of the authors, writers, and fly
shops that use that phrase and description of flies. There's not such a thing as
a Smoky Mountain fly.
For example, If the, quote "Smoky Mountain fly", was intended to imitate a Yellow
Sally, then I'm sorry, but there are Yellow Sally stoneflies in most every trout stream in
America and guess what? There's isn't any difference in any of them.
A Quill Gordon mayfly that exist in the streams of the Smokies is the same epeorus
pleuralis that exist in many, many other trout streams in the Mid-west and Eastern
The Little Yellow Quills that are hatching now in the Smokies are the same Leucrocuta
species that hatch throughout most of the nation, and, by the way, a very plentiful
mayfly eaten by trout that you never hear mentioned by fly shops, guides, books,
etc. Why is this the case? It gets down to the bottom line of it all. The lack of
information available to the angler about the trout food in the streams of the
Southeast. As I have written often, out of hundreds of books written about the insects
and trout foods of trout streams across the nation, not one has been written about
the streams of the Southeastern United States.
You might see a book with a revealingly dense title such as "Smoky Mountain Fly
Patterns", because so far, ignorance prevails in that area of fly fishing information.
There's been little information provided about the insects in the streams of the
Smokies. Only a very few of the many major insects that exist in the Smokies are
commonly mentioned. Instead anglers and fly shop discussions centers around
fake flies rather than insects.
For the most part, trout flies have only been around for about a hundred years. Most
of them originated in England. They were brought over to America and first made
popular as Catskill flies, which are still popular. The vertically wound hackle imitated
the mayflies legs to a certain extent and float high in fast water streams. It has taken
several years but parachute style, horizontally wound hackle has rapidly been
accepted as more imitative of the mayflies legs.
It has only been a few years since anglers started studying insects and writing about
matching them with flies. Such books as Matching the Hatch changed things to some
extent, but trout flies, like many other things have been slow to change in the
Appalachian Mountains of the East. The southern part of the mountain range wasn't
and still isn't one of the most highly recognized main areas of cold water trout habitat.
You can find books written about the insects of several major individual rivers,
numerous areas but again, none about the aquatic insects of the Southeast.
Generic flies such as Parachute Adams, Royal Wulffs, Hare's ear nymphs and other
match any and everything flies are the main subjects of discussion in the area of the
Smokies. Then you have the Tellico Nymphs, Yellow Palmers, Smoky Mountain
Forked Tails and other old, locally created flies that like Model-T Ford automobiles,
are nice to talk about and collect, but fail to serve well.
To make this very, very clear, and in all due respect to any and everyone, the bottom
line to this is lack of education about what the flies should imitate. It stems from
authors writing books about fly fishing that know less about aquatic insects
than any twelve year old kid could learn in a week. It comes from guides, such
as one I happen to meet that guided for years in the Smokies, who didn't even know
what a mayfly spinner was. He could quote the history of the "Yellar Hammar" (as he
called it) or an old fly made from the wings of a woodpecker, but he didn't have the
slightest idea what a caddisfly pupa was. .
All will be quick to tell you that the flies they use will catch trout and plenty of
them. All have excuses for their lack of knowledge about what it is they attempt to
imitate. All are telling the truth when they say the flies will catch fish. Any and every
trout fly that's every been tied will catch a trout. It's just a matter of how often
and with what consistency.
The bottom line is the generic flies work in the fast water, and basically fast
water only, and they work when the trout are feeding heavily; however, they
never perform as well as a fly that imitates a specific item of food that's most
available and most plentiful at the time.
When you hear anglers or fly shops tell you "the fishing is good", what they really
mean is the fish are feeding in the fast water heavily enough that most any fly that
looks anything like a bug will catch some trout.
When they say "the fishing is slow", what they mean is the flies that don't resemble
much of anything very well aren't working in the fast water where the trout have little
opportunity to closely examine what their eating.
I hope I haven't offended anyone. That's not my intension at all. I'm only trying to point
out that flies should imitate the food trout eat. Just like there's not such a thing as
a Smoky Mountain rainbow trout, there's only non-native rainbow trout that are found
in the Smokies that are identical to other rainbow trout found nationwide, there's not
such thing as a Smoky Mountain Quill Gordon, Blue Quill or any other trout food.
There's only Quill Gordons and Blue Quills found in the Smokies.
By the way, we do sell just about all the generic and standard trout flies at Perfect Fly.
We even have Tellico Nymphs. We sell them delivered for an average of about $.79
each and of at least as high or better in quality than any fly shop in the nation. They
work great in fast water streams that have recently been stocked with trout used to
eating pellets. They work okay in the fast water of the streams in the Smokies but
usually only at times when anyone that can cast fifteen feet upstream has a good
chance to catch trout.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh