Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
2. Little Winter Stoneflies
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Long Range Weather Forecast
I don't mean to write like a 9th grade science teacher (I'm not that smart) but in case anyone has
forgotten, the seasons of the year are determined by the amount of light, not heat. It's a factor of
how earth orbits the sun and tilts on its axis. In theory, Spring begins when there's about 12 hours
of day and 12 hours of night. Fall is based on the same theory. Summer begins when the days
are the longest and Winter begins when days are the shortest.
We are about half way through the calendar Winter season in the United States but in eastern
Tennessee and western North Carolina, or the Smoky Mountains, we are more than half way
through the cold Winter. What did I just write - cold Winter?. That's what's should be happening
because we are still under the influence of La Nina.
Quoting AccuWeather, "La Niña, a phenomenon that occurs when sea surface temperatures
across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal, is what made last year's
winter so awful for the Midwest and Northeast. Monster blizzards virtually shut down the cities of
New York and Chicago. Last winter was one of New York City's snowiest on record."
At the beginning of the year AccuWeather, the National Weather Service, Underground Weather
and everyone else that claims to be able to predict the weather has forecast the following:
A brutal winter for the Midwest and Great Lakes:
So far, that's about as wrong as wrong can get. The steelhead and salmon guys have been
complaining about unusually warm weather.
Monster snowstorms for the Northeast:
What? So far that's bad wrong. Last year, but not this year.
Ice Zone for the Southeastern U.S., with severe threats in February:
Well, we are about to find out because there are only two days left in January. The detailed
forecast calls for severe weather in the lower Southeast and that's been dead on target so far.
Quoting AccuWeather, "Precipitation is forecast to average out below normal from Florida into
parts of the Carolinas. A drier-than-normal winter could exacerbate the extreme drought that is
gripping central and southern Georgia and parts of South Carolina. Areas from the western
Carolinas into northern parts of Georgia and Alabama will turn out wetter".
So far, that's about half right, maybe.
The Southwest and Texas - parched and warmer:
"The West should have big swings with the Pineapple express bringing warmer than normal
temperatures the first part of Winter and heavy rain and snowfall for the second half."
So far, that's been right.
As far as I am concerned, all of the above information from the experts is completely worthless.
Anyone, even our dog Biddie, can get things half right.
So far the Western States have received about 40% of the snow they normally get by this time.
This could change and the snowpack increase. Winter doesn't end in the Northwest until well into
April and sometimes well into May in the higher elevations. So far, the trout streams of the
Western states are in trouble.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is saturated with water and above normal in terms of
rainfall amounts for this time of the year. The average temperature for the first half of Winter is
well above normal.
Smoky Aquatic Insect Hatches:
I checked some of the streams over the weekend to try to determine the status of the nymph and
larvae development. They are clearly a little more developed for this time of the year than they
normally are. I really didn't have to see any to know that but never-the-less, I wanted to confirm it.
Blue Quills are beginning to develop wing pads. Brachycentrus caddis (Grannoms), the little
chimney cased caddis, are very active and obviously progressed beyond what they were last
year at this time.
This doesn't necessarily mean that these insects will hatch any earlier than normal. That remains
to be seen. Although warmer water temperatures does progress the development of nymphs and
larvae, it only affects it to a certain extent. If the water stayed sixty degrees all Winter long, it
doesn't mean the insects would hatch out two months early. It doesn't work that way.
Even though they are well developed, when the time comes for them to hatch, they still won't
hatch unless the water temperature averages a certain level for a certain amount of time. To
make this clearer, for example, Blue Quills that would normally hatch around the first week or two
of March, won't hatch the first week or two of February just because the water is warm enough for
the hatch to occur at that time. It would depend far more on the average temperature over the
past few months than the current temperature. If the water is colder than normal the first week or
two in March, or the time they would normally hatch, but the average temperature had remained
well above normal, they would hatch in colder water than they normally would hatch in.
Right now, it looks like the Spring hatches will occur sooner than normal, but this all depends on
the weather during the coming weeks. If the warm weather pattern continues, things may begin to
pop a couple of weeks ahead of normal. If cold fronts slow it down near the calender time the
hatches should occur, they will hatch closer to their normal time of the year.
Planning Your Trip:
The late Winter and early Spring weather patterns in the Smokies varies greatly, changing from
cold to warm every few days. There's a cold front coming through just about every week that's
preceded by a warm front. Trying to plan a fishing trip to catch a hatch over a week in advance is
purely a hit or miss situation. What makes it even tougher on out of town people is most people
don't have a completely open schedule. Those that work a normal job need to fish on weekends.
This really makes it a hit or miss situation if you plan ahead any more than a week in advance.
I'm using the "week" period because that's what the weather experts spend their time on. What
they predict for the next seven days at any one time is usually pretty accurate. To make this short
and sweet, during late February, March and April, I wouldn't book any non-refundable housing
reservations any more than a week in advance. The Spring Break period can create a shortage
of rooms but it usually doesn't book everything available.
I'm writing about this because we are already receiving lots of calls and email from people that
are planning trips that include fly fishing for late February, March and April. Many are related to
Spring Break and those people have little choice as to dates. Many are students, some of which
are experienced and some that are new to the sport. Many are dads that are planning on
bringing their kids and fishing while mother handles some of the daily non-fishing activities. Many
are serious anglers from all over the United States that want to get an early start on their fly
Not any of the above wants to have a couple of days to fish the streams of the Smokies and
discover the high temperature is only going to be 25 degrees, or that it's nice and warm but the
streams are blown out. Most of the half way serious anglers prefer to catch a trout on the dry fly.
My suggestion to anyone planning a trip during this period of time, is to if at all possible, plan
your trip as late as you possible can. Keep a check on our weekly fly fishing strategy article and
the current weather forecast that's no more than a week in advance of the time your will be
fishing. You can order your flies at least a couple of weeks or so early. The flies you will need
doesn't change week to week. You can order them now for any future date as long as your within
a month or so of the actual time you will be fishing. Don't rely on being able to read where Joe
Blow caught a lot of trout on a dry fly before you plan to visit. You won't make it in time to copy his
success, even if you fish the next day in the exact same spot. That's the absolute worst strategy
you can use. I can write a book about why but for now, I hope you take my advice and ignore Joe
If you don't have a choice as to the dates you will visit the Smokies, give us a call 800-594-4726
or email us as soon as you know the dates you will be fishing. Then to keep current, call or email
us no more than two or three days in advance of arriving and we will again do our very best to
help you anyway we can. We will be happy to give you our recommendations as where to fish and
how to go about it. We want you to be successful and we mean this irrespective of whether or not
you spend a cent with us or not. We don't have a brick and mortar fly shop and money isn't a
factor related to our desire to help you. If there is a youngster involved, we always double our
Keep a check on the Planning Section of this site. We are constantly improving it and trying to
complete the sections not yet finished.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh