Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives and Little BWOs
2. Green Sedges (Caddisflies)
3. Cinnamon Caddis (Mostly Abrams Creek)
4. Little Short Horned Sedges
5. Eastern Green Drakes (Abrams Creek)
6. Hendricksons & Red Quills
7. American March Browns
8. Giant Stoneflies
9. Light Cahills
Most available/ Other types of available food:
10. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fly Fishing Strategies - Which Fly To Use - Part 39
Weather In General:
A week of cooler, more seasonable temperatures have made fly fishing conditions more
normal for this time of the year. As best I can determine, from the local situation as well as from
many daily conversations and email from many anglers nationwide, things have remained
ahead of schedule, even after the weather has cooled down. Just exactly what the long term
results of this will be remains to be seen. This same weather situation hasn't taken place within
the last two decades or at least not anywhere close to the extent it did this past Winter. The
forecast for the next few months is for normal weather conditions to prevail.
Although no one complained about the warm Winter, including me, in my opinion, the previous
unseasonable warm winter weather has created some undesirable conditions for both the
aquatic and terrestrial insects. This means it will also create some undesirable conditions for
the trout. To put it as plain and simple as I can, the development of the insects has been from
two weeks to a month ahead of the normal schedule. This has resulted in hatches being from
two weeks to a full month ahead of schedule, not just in the Smokies, but throughout the East
and Mid-west and in some cases, almost nationwide.
Sounds all good so far, but I think this is going to mean that at some point in the future there
will be a two weeks to a month long lag in the overall amount of available aquatic insects for
the trout to eat. If the trend continues and doesn't string out to gradually become normal, it
could result is a shortage of food for the trout at the worst possible time of the year - during
the Summer and early Fall months. At that time of the year, the total amount of food for the
trout to eat is always at its lowest point when at the same time, the trout's metabolism remains
on the high side. Just how the very unseasonable weather that occurred during the Winter
turns out for the trout, is going to be of great interest or at least it will to me.
Current Weather Conditions:
So far, most of the park on the south end (west of highway #441) of the Tennessee side of the
park has received from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rain. Most areas on the Tennessee side east of
highway #441 have received from 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Some rather heavy showers are
continuing in Pigeon Forge as I am writing this but they should end sometime this morning.
The knoxville area received very little rain.
On the North Carolina side, areas west of highway #441 have received 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.
This includes the streams that flow into Fontana. On the east side of the highway, most North
Carolina areas within the park have received 3/4 of inch to an inch of rain and some more than
With the exception of the Southeast side of the park, from this morning to late Saturday
afternoon, I think all your looking at is high water levels that will be fishable. Most of the small
streams can be safely waded and areas of the larger streams can probably be safely waded
today through Saturday. The water will continue to fall today and the levels will be better
tomorrow and Friday. The Southeast section will have very high water.
The Little River USGS gauge will continue to rise for most of the morning due to rain in the
higher elevation. It will be of little use for a while but still, the northwest side of the park (mostly
Little River drainage) will be your best bet for today. Oconaluftee and Cataloochee are both
rising fast and the Cataloochee area will be the highest when all is done.
Saturday will probably be okay but Sunday will be a different story. A lot of rain is expected for
Saturday night. If the current forecast holds up, I think your going to be looking at very high
levels for Sunday and possibly blown-out situations in some areas.
I went into the park in several different areas on the Tennessee side yesterday but didn't make
a single cast. I just checked for insects to make sure I was in touch with what is going on in that
regard. What I, or anyone else for that matter, could have caught or failed to catch would be of
little to no use to anyone. What someone caught at such and such place at such as such time
usually results in waisted effort for copycats that haven't quite figured that out yet. Attempting
to follow the success of others is the worst possible strategy you could use.
As it has been for the past few weeks, what is hatching will depend on the elevation even more
than it normally does. Multiple hatches will become less and less of a problem. According to
the weather forecast, the normal weather we are experiencing isn't temporary. It will remain
normal for the rest of the month of April. The high temperatures will range from the mid sixties
up to eighty degrees in Gatlinburg for the rest of the month.
As you should almost always do, should start out in the mornings fishing a nymph or larva
imitation and change to an emerger/pupa or a dun/adult dry fly pattern if and when you see
something hatching. Now, I realize you can catch some trout in the faster sections of water
on a dry fly in the mornings and if your most interested in dry fly fishing by all means do that. In
this strategy article series, keep in mind I will always strive to tell you what I think will result in
the largest number of fish caught and that isn't always what provides the most fun or the
easiest method of fishing.
Most hatches should start taking place around 1:00 to 3:00 PM and again, the hatches will
depend greatly on the elevation of the stream your fishing. Later in the day, when the hatches
subside, switch back to the morning pattern. Again, even though the trout will continue to fall
for a few dry flies, I am advising what to do based on your highest odds of success, not
necessarily not your highest odds of fun. From about 4:30 PM to near 7:30 PM, watch closely
for mayfly egg laying and spinner falls. Fishing the spinner falls can result in the fastest action
and most fish caught in a short time span.
Keep this in mind:
By fishing a nymph or dry fly, I don't mean just any nymph or any dry fly. I am referring to
nymphs and dry flies that specifically match the insects that I list below. This will increase
your odds of success over the "match anything" generic and attractor type of flies
that usually only produce mediocre success.
From the mid elevations and up,there's still some odds of having some size 18 Blue-winged
Olive hatches. There may also be some Little BWOs hatching in the lower and middle
elevations. These would be hook size 20 or even smaller. Neither of these sizes of BWOs will
hatch in large numbers.
Hendrickson/Red Quills are still hatching but mostly in the middle elevations. Remember, they
generally don't hatch in the higher elevation, or where the stream gradients are steep..They
are more of a pool and slack water insect. They are concentrated, but only in isolated areas of
the streams. If you find them, they should be the top priority.
Little Short-horned Sedges are still hatching but like the Hendrickson/Red Quill mayflies, they
are concentrated but only in isolated areas of the streams.
March Browns are still showing up and will continue to do so for some time, but remember that
they hatch a few here and there and throughout much of the day over a long period of time.
They are not usually concentrated at any one point in time or place. That doesn't mean they
aren't important insects to imitate. It just means that you cannot expect to see heavy hatches
taking place. If they are hatching, you can expect some rather heavy spinner falls to
occur near dark because the spinner falls are concentrated into a short time of usually less
than an hour. A March Brown Dun imitation would provide good odds in the afternoon. The
March Brown Spinner imitation would provide great odds very late in the day. Also keep in
mind, they probably won't be the only spinners that fall. Any other mayflies that hatched in the
same area will also fall.
Little Yellow Stonefly hatches are sparse. I saw a total of three adults yesterday afternoon and
not any shucks on the rocks. If you happen to be at the right elevation at the right time of day
(late afternoons) you will likely see some this coming week. Remember, they both start to
hatch (crawl out of the water) very late in the day and deposit their eggs late in the day.
I have added some other insects on the list above that may start hatching any day. The Green
Sedges (caddisflies); Giant Stoneflies and Light Cahills could start hatching, especially in the
lower elevations. Normally, it would be a couple more weeks or more for them to start. I am
strictly basing this on the theory the hatches will continue to be early. It's even possible you will
see some Eastern Pale Evening Duns and Sulphurs (both called Sulphurs locally) show up.
The first will be the EPEDs and then the Sulphurs. Here again, these are insects that can
hatch in good quantities but only in very isolated sections of the mid to large size streams. If
and when you encounter them (and you may not) you should have a few imitations of them.
Which nymph/larva imitation to fish?
If you know for a fact any of the above insects hatched within the previous day or two of the
particular time you are fishing, fish the nymph or larva fly that imitates that particular species
during the mornings and continue to do so until you see it or another insect hatching.
If you know that more than one insect hatched, choose an imitation of the nymph or larva in
this priority - Hendrickson/RQ, BWO, March Brown and fish it up until you see something
hatching. I'm basing this on the availability of the insects for the trout to eat that most likely
exist based on the previous day's activity.
Which Fly to use During Hatches?
If you find Hendricksons/RQ hatching, fish an imitation of the emerging dun, or the dun, in
priority to any of the other insects. Next in priority are the Little Short-horned Sedges. If they
are hatching, fish an imitation of the pupa. Next in line would be the March Browns. The
hatches are easier to fish than the BWOs. If by chance you run into an early hatch of Eastern
Pale Evening Duns or Sulphurs, by all means fish it
Which Fly to use Late In The Day:
Late in the day, depending on which of the hatches listed above you may happen to have
found, fish the spinner fall and/or egg laying activity as appropriate. By all means, if you a
spinner fall, fish it. March Browns will likely fall.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh