12/23/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Midges
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fishing Cold Water - Part 13
I have been going through our video logs and journals looking up fishing trips we have made
in the park during times the water was cold. We have fished on numerous occasions when the
water temperature was in the mid forties or lower. Looking at the logs, it appears that we
fished cold water most often in the months of January, February and March. There were times
we fished cold water during the month of December but not as often as the months that follow.
Part of the reason for that is probably due to the fact that we are usually visiting our families in
Florida and Alabama during the holidays. Something that stood out is the number of times we
have recorded water temperatures in the high thirties and low forties during the first two or
three weeks of March. January has fewer total trips shown than any month of the year but I
recorded a few trips each year. According to the logs, we fished water that was below 45
degrees about half the time during the January trips.

We moved to Gatlinburg in April of 2003, so we have fished eight of those almost nine years
during January, February and March. We were here in January only one time prior to that and
that was the snow trip that I previously wrote about. In 2004, we fished a total of 12 times
during January. Since then, the average for January has been ten days per year. Most of the
fishing done in very cold weather was done during short trips ranging from a couple of hours
to four or five hours. February has more trips recorded than January. It varied from year to
year but the logs show we fished an average of 16 days during February during the eight
year time span. That's slightly more often than every other day. About half of that time we
were fishing water ranging from 45 to 50 degrees. The other half of that time period the water
was below 45 degrees. There was only one year where we show the water was over 50
degrees during the month of February and it was of course, near the end of the month.  

What surprised me was the number of times we fished in March when the water was very cold.
Over those eight years, from 2004 through 2011, we fished a total of 39 times when I
recorded a water temperature of 45 degrees or less. Keep in mind that most of those reading
were taken when the water was at its warmest. On the average, that's five trips a year when
water was below 45 degrees during the month of March. When you think about it, it makes
sense. Winter doesn't end until the third week of March. I think it seems strange because we
usually have several days in March when the air temperature reaches the seventies. There's
usually snow on the higher mountains for several days during March. Last year there was
snow on the highest mountains for a few days during the early part of April.

Most of the time during the month of February, the water temperature failed to reach the
magic 50 degree mark for the Quill Gordon mayflies to hatch. Most often this happened near
the middle of March. It has happened in late February but that's the exception, not the normal
occurrence. According to our journals, it only happened one time during the years we have
lived here. When we do have a early warm spell in late February or early March, the water
temperature usually rocks back and forth from about 42 to 52 to the point it causes the Quill
Gordons to hatch very sporadically.

I'm highlighting the Quill Gordon hatch because that's what everyone gets all fired up about.
Actually, there can be just as many, if not more trout caught during he Blue Quill hatch. It last
longer than the Quill Gordon hatch. Just as many or more trout can be caught during the Little
Black Caddis hatch, but for some reason it's completely overlooked by 98% of the anglers.
Most of the local anglers, fly shops and guides are caddisfly illiterate. Actually, the same thing
could be said about aquatic insects in the streams of the Smokies in general. Unfortunately,
that's where most visiting anglers get their information. In comparison to the rest of the nation,
fly fishing methods, strategies and techniques taught by the local mom and pop fly shops
hasn't advanced beyond the Davy Crockett era. The so-called "fly fishing schools" teach fifty
year-old "traditional" methods using "Smoky Mountain" flies. The insects and other trout food
in the streams of the Smokies are the same insects and food that's in most other freestone
trout streams in the eastern United States. There's really no such thing as a Smoky Mountain
insect or a Smoky Mountain fly.

Tomorrow, I will write about some of the cold water fishing trips taken during the past years in
the Smokies. They were not all highly successful by any means, but I think you may be
surprised to find that in many cases, just as many trout can be caught when the water is cold
(in the low forties) as can be caught when the water is in the so-called ideal temperature
range. There's one thing for certain. You can't do it sitting in front of a fireplace on the couch
watching TV.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh