Smoky Mountain Stream Journal:

Summary for the first three weeks of November (11/21/07):
November brought some good news for the park. It actually rained. At one point
most of the streams were up to their normal level. All in all, however, the water
levels continued to be very low during the first three weeks of November.
We did not recommended the park for visiting anglers unless they just insisted
on fishing it - not because of the fishing but because the low water just didn't
paint the picture the park deserves. The streams were just not as beautiful as
they are when the water is at its normal level. As far as we are concerned,
fishing in the park under the low water conditions was and still is far better than
fishing for stocked fish in the local tailwaters of Tennessee or North Carolina.
The low water certainly is more difficult to fish than it is at a normal levels but in
our opinion, that just help make the fishing more challenging and enjoyable. We
will try to make the following point and will probably continue to make it over and
over.
Many anglers rate  fishing as poor, good, great and so forth when
they should rate it as difficult, normal or easy.
If "good" fishing means it is
easy to catch lots of trout, then why not just fish the stocked streams. On that
basis, "great" fishing would just be a matter of following the hatchery trucks. If
that type of fishing is what you prefer, obtain a permit in Gatlinburg or Cherokee
and have at it. There is nothing wrong with fishing for stocked trout what so ever,
if that is what makes one happy.  
Fishing the park, or anywhere for that matter, only when fishing is easy will not
improve your skills a great deal and in our opinion, is no more enjoyable than
fishing when conditions make it tough to catch trout. Any novice angler with a
basic knowledge of fishing the small freestone streams of the park that can
make a half decent cast should be able to catch a few trout when the fishing is
"great" (meaning easy). At times you can hit them over the head with your fly line
and still manage to catch one even if you are fishing a size 10 Purple People
Eater.
We fished the park ten or eleven times during the last three weeks and have
managed to catch several fish each time. There were a few days when the water
temperature was cold and it took nymphs to catch fish. There were a couple of
days when the streams were at near normal water levels and it was easy to
catch lots of trout. However, most days the water was low and we had to actually
employ a little skill and stealth to catch them.
The streams on the North Carolina side of the park, as they have been all
summer long, have been in much better shape than the streams on the
Tennessee side of the park. The streams towards the north end of the park
seemed to have been in better shape than those in the south end of the park.
The Little River prongs and their tributaries suffered the most. That has been a
little difficult to accept because Little River is certainly one of the better and
easier to access streams in the park. The main prong of Little River probably
lost a lot of its rainbow trout. Even so, we fished it five different days during the
first three weeks of November and managed to catch quite a few trout, mostly
rainbows, each time. In fact we like fishing the low water. It is more challenging
and it forces you to be a better angler. We didn't like the looks of the stream. As
we said previously, the streams are just not as pretty as they normally are. After
all, the beauty of the streams and their surroundings are a portion of what
makes fishing the park great. It is not the number or size of the trout you catch, it
is "where you are".
As far as hatches were concerned, we have seen very few
baetis mayflies or
Blue-winged Olives. Most BWOs were no larger than a hook size 20. We did see
a lot of Little BWOs of various species that were a hook size 20 to 24.
These little mayflies hatch various ways depending on the species. Some
emerge on the bottom, some emerge near the surface and some hatch on the
surface. The spinners of some species dive to deposit their eggs, some crawl
down rocks, some drop their eggs from the air and some deposit them on the
surface. It is very difficult to imitate the Little BWO species. When you fish a tiny
dry fly imitation, the shinners will dive you nuts in some locations. They eat them
just as well as the trout.
We have seen a few larger Fall Caddis. These are the Great Brown Autumn
Sedges or Pychopsyche species of caddisflies. We have never been successful
in fishing imitations of either the pupa or adults. There just doesn't seem to be
enough of them available at any one time, at least where we have fished. At
least not enough for the trout to key in on them. Of course another reason is
that these caddisflies both hatch and deposit their eggs during the evenings. We
did managed to hook a couple of rainbows on a size 14 dry adult pattern, but we
serious doubt that it had much to do with the particular imitation we used.
We spend a lot of our fishing time experimenting with different methods,
techniques and fly patterns. Rarely do we fish what we know would be most
effective method, location or imitation. We think experimenting and learning is a
big part of the fun of fly fishing. We never fish a day without learning something -
sometimes more than we would of liked to have learned.
About half of our days (during the last three weeks) were spent on the business
end of fly-fishing. We will have our new "Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains"
program ready very soon. We subtitled it, "Year-Round Dry Fly Fishing". All the
fish caught in the program were taken on a dry fly. We have had to work hard
lately to keep up with the fulfilment of our pre-xmas wholesale orders as well as
our retail sales. Everything has been exceptionally good lately. On the other
hand, that has affected the amount of time that we have devoted to fishing.
In summary, we think anyone serious about fly-fishing missed out if they haven't
fished the park lately. Don't wait for someone to say "fishing is great". Whatever
that means.

Copyright 2007 James Marsh