Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
2. Blue-winged Ollives (Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
3. Blue Quills
4. Quill Gordons
5. Little Black Caddis (Brachycentrus)
6. Little Brown Stoneflies
7. Hendricksons & Red Quills
Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
8. American March Browns
9. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fly Fishing Strategy Series - What Fly To Use - Part 34
In my opinion, the meteorologist are really taking another big guess for what's in store for the
Great Smoky Mountains for the next week. I should rephrase that to read, what's in store for the
surrounding valleys of the park, because there's not such a thing as an official forecast for the
park as such.
As you have probably noticed just from reading the last few strategy articles, the weather pattern
for the park doesn't follow the local forecast for the cities in the valleys on the Tennessee or the
North Carolina side of the park. It's one thing to have a normal, fast moving cold front come
through and drop some rain and snow on the mountains, but when the low pressure systems stall
and slowly come and go, gradually developing and dissipating for a few days at a time, it proves
that the weather guys can only guess as to the amount of rain. This is especially true for the
higher elevations of the park. You have to keep in mind that the climate for the higher
elevations is similar to that of Maine, not Tennessee or North Carolina.
Basically, except for Wednesday, the National Weather Service and AccuWeather are both
currently showing a chance of rain for the next seven days. The only advantage they have with
long range forecast is they have the opportunity to change it every few hours. The good but often
deceptive part of the long range forecast is they are only expecting about a half to three quarters
of an inch of rain during that time. The streams have just yesterday dropped down into the "wade
if you must but be extremely careful" category. Of course, some of the guides and a few fly shops
contend wading isn't ever a problem as long as the streams aren't flowing out in the roads.
About all I'm willing to assume is that the weather is still going to be on the warm side
of what's normal during the next seven days. As far as the amount of rain the park may get,
it is anyone's guess. Last week they predicted about of a quarter of an inch and it turned into one
and a half to two inches of rain in the park. This time they are predicting about a half inch of total
rain to fall later this week. If your here all week, it doesn't matter. If your coming in for the
weekend to fish, you will just have to wait until later on in the week to get a better idea of the
rainfall amounts. Even then, it may still be a big guess.
The warm weather should make it comfortable to be out on the streams fishing and the aquatic
insects should stay well ahead of their normal hatch times. The skies should be cloudy most of
the time and some of the hatches could be intense as they ever get. The odds are good that the
stream conditions for next week will remain a little on the high side, but remain wadable for at
least most of the next seven days. My spell checker doesn't like the word "wadable", but I do, I
could never spell anyway. There's also a chance the streams will be high again for at least part of
the coming week. About the best way to describe the weather is to say that it's going to continue
to be early Springlike weather.
Multiple Hatch Complexities:
The problem with the multiple Spring hatches that will occur, is that up until recently, they all
occurred in the lower elevations. Everyone knew they should fish on the low side of the
mountains. During the last couple of weeks, the main hatches of Quill Gordons, Blue Quills,
BWOs and Little Black Caddis moved well into the middle to middle high elevations. With the
continued exceptionally warm weather in the forecast, with temperatures reaching near 80
degrees in the lower elevations at times, you can assume the hatches of these same insects will
continue to progress to elevations as high as the particular insects exist. I expect that you will see
some Hendrickson and Red Quill hatches occurring in the very low elevations and possibly even
some March Browns will start to show up. Although the March Browns are very plentiful, they are
never very intense at any one point in time. They hatch over a very long period of time and
sporadically throughout the day.
To keep all of this in the KISS (keep it simple stupid) category, you not only have to figure out
what insects are most plentiful and available like you should always do, you have to
figure it out for the particular section (elevation) of the stream your fishing. The hatches
progress upstream as the weather warms. The higher you go on any stream, the colder the water
temperature will be. What hatched a week or two ago in the low elevations may only be hatching
this week in the higher elevations. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of these insects
don't exist in the highest elevations. It depends on the species and particular stream.
Some examples may help explain what may seem complicated. For example, don't expect a big
Quill Gordon hatch to take place in the high elevation brook trout streams. They don't live there.
Although a March Brown may be found hatching in Little River in Townsend, Tennessee today, it
doesn't mean they are hatching where wild trout exist in the park in the Metcalf Bottoms area.
They will also be hatching above the 3000 feet elevations near the end of April.
To try to roughly summarize this, look for the Quill Gordons only in the middle and upper middle
elevations. The hatch isn't over by any means but they are finished in the lower elevations.
Look for the Blue Quills to range from the lower to the higher middle elevations in any moderate
to slow water you find. They hang around much longer than the Quill Gordons. They are still very
plentiful and hatching as much or more than anything right now.
Look for the BWOs anywhere other than the fast water. There's three different species that can
be hatching right now.
Look for the Little Black Caddis in the middle elevations. They were hatching big time yesterday
in the Elkmont area. I was able to catch four trout in about thirty minutes of fishing.
The Hendricksons and Red Quills may start this week but only in the moderate flowing sections of
the lowest elevations.
Quick Tip List:
1. What the above means is that you need to select the strategy for fishing, depending on
the elevation your fishing and as always, the type of water in the particular stream your
2. You should be able to catch trout at almost any elevation in the park, but to maximize the
odds of success, you need to focus on the most available and plentiful insects at that
3. Using specific imitations of those insects (like our Perfect Flies), versus generic fly
patterns such as Hares Ear nymph, Parachute Adams, etc., should double or triple your
There's not really much change from the last two weeks except the most available insects will now
depend greatly on the elevation as I just pointed out. Basically, you should start out in the
mornings fishing a nymph and change to an emerger/pupa or a dun/adult dry fly pattern if and
when you see something hatching. Hatches should start taking place around 2:00 to 3:00 PM.
Insects you see before then probably hatched the day before. If you don't find anything hatching
within a relatively short time, you should quickly change locations.
Later in the day, when the hatches subside, switch back to the morning pattern I suggest below.
From about 4:30 PM to near 7:00 PM, watch closely for mayfly egg laying and spinner falls. If
Little Black Caddis hatch earlier in the day, watch for the egg laying activity and fish an adult
imitation of them. If you find any Little Brown stoneflies emerging (crawling out of the water to
hatch late in the day), by all means switch to the nymph imitation of them. The same thing goes
for egg laying stoneflies. If you see them in action, switch to an adult imitation of them.
The only problem in the above strategy is it doesn't take into consideration which of the insects to
imitate prior to your seeing something hatching and even then, if you find more than one insect
hatching (likely the case), it doesn't give an order of priority.
Mornings until early afternoon:
From the mid elevations and up, there's high odds of having plenty of Blue Quills, BWOs, and
Quill Gordon mayfly nymphs; and some Little Brown Stoneflies. There should also be plenty of
Little Black Caddis pupae in many areas of the larger streams. Of course, all of the above insects
are always there at this time of the season. I'm referring to what's available for the trout to eat,
rather than what's hiding under a rock.
If you know for a fact any of these bugs hatched within the previous day or two, at the particular
time you are fishing, fish the nymph or larva fly that imitates that particular species during the
morning and continue to do so until you see something hatching.
If you know that more than one of them hatched, choose an imitation of the nymph or larva in this
priority - Blue Quill, Quill Gordon, Little Black Caddis, BWO and fish it up until you see something
hatching. I'm basing that on the quantities of the insects available to the trout to eat that most
likely exist due to the previous day's activity.
If you find Quill Gordons hatching, fish an imitation of the emerging dun, or the dun, in priority to
any of the other mayflies. The hatch is easier to fish than the Blue Quills or BWOs.
Next in line would be the Blue Quills. If they are hatching (and the QGs aren't) go with an emerger
or dun pattern.
Next in priority of mayflies, if hatching, would be BWOs.
Exception: If you find the Little Black Caddis hatching, fish an imitation of the pupa first and later
the adult. Fish these in priority to everything but the Quill Gordons. If the QG hatch isn't
substantial, I would still fish the Little Black Caddis hatch.
Late In The Day:
Late in the day, depending on which of the multiple hatches listed above you may happen to
have found, fish the spinner fall and/or egg laying activity as appropriate.
If none of the above insects have hatched, laying eggs or falling on the water, fish an imitation of
the Little Brown Stonefly nymphs (size 14). They will begin to crawl out of the water to hatch late
in the afternoon and if it's cloudy, a little earlier in the afternoon.
If predicted rainfall amounts change, I will update this later on this week.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh