01/23/12

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Midges
2.    Little Winter Stoneflies
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fishing In The Park The Past Friday, Saturday and Sunday
I made it a point to take at least a few hours away from updating and overhauling our several
websites to get out on the water during the past three days. I decided I would fish in spite of what
the stream and weather conditions were but for the most part, they were decent. I've been raking
leaves, walking up and down the steep hills around the house with Biddie, and doing things that
keeps me in shape to a certain extent, but I've done very little fishing for the past several days.

Friday:
This past Friday looked like the perfect Blue-winged Olive day except there are really not any
BWOs hatching in the Smokies at this time of the year. It's too bad we couldn't have had the
same weather in December when
baetis were hatching in high winds and bright light conditions.
The warm weather pattern has things off the normal cycle.

There's an occasional bi-brooded, light hatch of tiny
Acentrella species (Acentrella turbida) that
some anglers call Little BWOs that happens sporadically at this time of the year, but I didn't even
find any of those. These are commonly called Miniature BWOs and tend to live in slow to
moderate flows. They range in hook size from about a 20 to 26 but so far, I haven't even seen
any of them. These are weird, tiny mayflies that they hatch below the surface at times and even
dive down into the water to deposit their eggs as opposed to depositing them on the surface. I've
never been able to do well with the hatch the few times I have found them. We tried to develop a
Perfect Fly "Wet Dun", I called it, for them and a few other similar species but we finally gave up
after not having any good results for using the flies. Although I knew better, I couldn't help but
keep getting the feeling something had to hatch last Friday with the solid cloud cover, but other
than midges, nothing happened and of course, nothing should have happened.

The water was at the ideal wading level and everywhere the water was calm or slick on the
surface, adult midges were present; however, I was not able to catch the first trout on a midge
pupae or larvae. I didn't see anything rising to eat them. In fact, looking back, I'm sure I waisted a
lot of my fishing time thinking they were hatching when I was actually seeing adults that had
previously hatched. It's very difficult to actually see if they are hatching, especially with dark skies.
Just because your seeing adults doesn't mean they are hatching.

Although the air temperature wasn't all that cold, it felt like it was below freezing. The water
temperature was a cool 41 degrees. I made another mistake. I didn't dress properly for the
dampness. I stayed cold the entire time i was on the water. That was something I did that was
completely thoughtless and I paid for it.

After getting skunked on midges, I switched back to our Little Winter Stonefly nymph and
managed to catch five trout in the approximate three hours of time I fished. Two came almost
back to back at my first stop on the Little Pigeon in the Sugarlands area but the action stopped
as if a switch had been turned off. I fished for almost another hour without a strike (mostly midge
imitations) and some using the Little Winter Stonefly nymph I started with before moving over the
hill to Little River near the turn to Elkmont. The Little Winter stonefly fly picked up two rainbows
and a brown all within about thirty minutes of fishing time. They all came within a fifty yard stretch
of water.

I fished on upstream from there and almost two hours at three other locations in the same
general area  without getting a strike. I have no idea why two areas I fished turned out good and
other seemingly identical areas didn't. They all consisted of about the same type of water. I fished
the ends of the long runs and the lower ends of pools. One rainbow may have touched nine
inches and the brown maybe eleven inches. All in all, three hours of fishing produced all the fish
within two very short time intervals.

Saturday:
Saturday was a completely different type of day. It had been raining and was continued to rain off
and on most of the day. It was fairly warm and even the rain wasn't very chilling  After freezing
Friday, I started Saturday out with too much clothing. As everyone knows, you can always take it
off but you can't put it on if you don't have it with you to put on.

The Little Pigeon River was off color, quite high and rising and I proceeded directly on over to the
Elkmont area of Little River. The water was high, still rising and off color there. It was too high to
safely wade.

I ended up casting streamers at about a dozen different locations. I was in the park about three
hours but probably only fished about a total of an hour. I spent more time driving, moving from
one place to another looking for suitable water. I caught one good size brown trout about 14 or
15 inches long. I actually didn't catch it. It got off before I could climb down the steep bank to
release it. I was holding it near the bank and climbing off the slick, almost vertical rock wall
thinking I was going to slip and break my neck when it finally released itself. It may have done me
a big favor.

Hooking that fish was almost a spooky thing for me. I just had to cast there but by the same
token, really wasn't expecting to hook a trout. I had watched my friend Chris hook and loose a
large brown trout in the same exact spot under the same stained, rising water circumstances
except it was during the hot summer months after a rain. He was wading and swinging a streamer
from the far bank. I was standing in the exact same spot where I watch him loose his trout when I
hooked mine.  I was cheating and casting from atop the high bank. The brown ate our Perfect Fly
Yellow Marabou Streamer. I don't think this was the same brown trout. Although it was a good
one, It appeared smaller than the one Chris hooked. We didn't see his that well, but it ripped a
path across the stained water near the surface like a ten pound Atlantic Bonita before pulling the
hook.

From then on, I went to the trouble to get down level with the water to cast, but after stopping at
several other likely locations, I didn't get another strike. The water was really good looking
streamer water and I probably could have put forth more effort. What  effort I did put forth, using
a new 6 weight prototype, ultra stiff, tip fast action fly rod, ended up making my arm sore. It was
actually too much rod for the lighter weight streamers I was using, even though I weighted them
down some. I could have worked harder and maybe waded the shallower water in a few places in
order to be able to make better presentations. A few years ago, I would have done just that but
now, an hour of streamer fishing is enough to last me for at least a week. The water was still
colder than I thought it would be. It was only in the high forties even though the air was warm. The
water temperature measured 46 at one place and 48 later at another location near Metcalf
Bottoms.

Sunday:
Yesterday, with a sore arm, I bravely decided I would keep my promise to myself and continue to
get out and fish, even though I knew I should use streamers. When I crossed the little creek at the
foot of the hill below our house, I knew things were again going to be tough from a water level
standpoint. It was rolling and very dingy. I had looked at the USGS stream levels of Little River
just outside of the park and the rainfall amounts from the NWS precipitation map. I knew what to
expect but armed with a different fly rod for streamers, I headed out again. I designed the new 6
weight prototype fly rod I used Saturday for high stickin and it may well work great for that
(haven't tried it yet) but it's too stiff for small size streamers.

Little River was still high but it was much clearer than the day before. It was also still colder than I
expected. It still was 48 degrees even though Sunday was an even warmer day. The clouds begin
to break up a little in the afternoon and that and the clearer water didn't help the streamer fishing.
I caught one little brown trout from the bank of the picnic area at Metcalf Bottoms and one small
rainbow from Laurel Creek, a small tributary of the West Prong of Little River.

I cast at a few more places on Little River using several different new flies we are testing. Some of
them use the new "fish skull" type heads which look great, but they seem more like a lure than a
fly. They are samples tied from sample heads given to me by Jerry Maslar of Trout University who
paid the company a visit. The Flymen Fishing Company that makes Fish Skulls is located in
Charlotte North Carolina. Some other flies I used were flies Chris tied for me before leaving for
Afghanistan. Hopefully, he will be back home safe with his wife in New York this coming August.

I checked all of Little River from Elkmont Campground to the Y, the lower end of the Middle Prong
of Little River (which was in the same condition) and ended up fishing a few minutes on Laurel
Creek. I'm sure I could have caught more trout in the little headwater streams but the water was
high even there.

I didn't see the first insect hatching at any location I stopped at except a very few midges in some
calm water areas in the lower East Prong. Amazingly, I only spotted one angler's vehicle that I
could positively say represented someone fishing. It had some fishing decals on it. Other than
that, in three days of fishing a short time each day, I didn't spot the first person actually fishing. I
did see a very few vehicles of people that possibly were fishing, but I doubt there were over three
or four guys fishing Little River either of the three days. I could be wrong about it but it wasn't
crowed - that's for sure.

Let me make one thing clear about writing this. This could be called a fishing report, but I want to
make sure you understand I'm only writing it mostly to have something to write about. Nothing I
have written is worth a flip as an example to follow for anyone planning on fishing the park. I'm
also pointing out the fact I goofed more than once. I fished midges when I shouldn't nave. I fished
like a lazy bum from the top of the bank and lost a trout and even worse, could have broken my
neck trying to get down to release it. Although intentional, I did far more driving than fishing. This
was just my preference, not something I did not knowing I was waisting a lot of time. I didn't dress
right for Friday's outing. I'll be writing another strategy article tomorrow. Things are changing
again. Looks like a big storm is going to hit here shortly.

As I hinted in yesterday's goofy article, I do think the aquatic insects could hatch early this year.
Unless the weather changes back to normal, I am certain they will. That said, also keep in mind
that water temperature is only one factor in the development of the larvae. They do have a
normal "time" cycle to live as larvae (nymphs) and warm water will only shorten that time to a
limited extent. The normal duration of almost a year for most aquatic insects can be shortened
but only to a certain extent. Remember that when hatches occur early due to weather patterns, or
late for that matter, the order that the various species of insects hatch in doesn't change at all.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh