Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little and Eastern BWOs)
2. Little Yellow Quills
3. Little Yellow Stoneflies
4. Slate Drakes
5. Needle Stoneflies
6. Mahogany Duns
Most available/ Other types of food:
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fly Fishing Strategies - Which Fly To Use - Coming Week
The weather and stream conditions continue to be excellent. We could have had some heavy
rainfall this past weekend but the majority of the precipitation went well to the north of the Smokies.
I noticed in last year strategy article (below) for this same time of year, we did get plenty of rain.
The chance of that happening now is probably slim and at least a week away. This is typical
weather and stream conditions for the Smokies for this time of the year.
The weather has cooled down and is very nice. The stream water temperature is down some and
this puts the middle and upper lower elevations back into play. You should be able to catch plenty
of trout most anywhere in the park except the lower elevations.
The streams are all still low in the Smokies. That makes them easy to get around in but a little more
difficult to fish than they are high and rolling fast. When that's happening and the other conditions
such as water temperature and clarity are good, anyone that can make a short upstream cast of
about fifteen feet can catch trout in the Smokies. That's because the fast water give the trout only
a glimpse of the fly and it also makes it easier to stay hidden. It also covers up a lot of mistakes.
Under low water conditions, if you have a one track approach to fishing the small streams of the
Smokies, you use match any and everything generic flies, and you don't make good approaches
and presentations your not going to be successful. You will just have to use the "fishing is slow or
poor" lame excuse. Blame it on the fish. That's what many anglers do but the facts are, the trout
will be eating just as much as they ever do at this time of the year.
If you have trouble catching them just because the water is low, you need to first of all, accept
responsibility for the fishing, not be so dense you think it's the fish not biting. Well, I take that back.
I guess you could say they are not biting. They probably won't bite what your offering or at least in
the manner in which your offering it.
The single biggest difference I know of in a truly good angler and those that think they have
everything down pat is the best anglers are very versatile and never set in their ways of
how, when or where to fish. If you fish a full day tomorrow, know what your doing and do a good
job of doing it, you should be able to catch lots of trout. The trout are going to eat. They not
hiding, scared to death either, that is, unless you cause them that to happen.
The Little Yellow Quills should start hatching any day. They will hatch off and on in the middle to
higher elevations for the next couple of months. So will the Needle Stoneflies. They are showing up
on the higher elevation streams and will become very plentiful in the near future.
Little Yellow Stoneflies are already beginning to appear in the higher elevations. Instead of
hatching in the lower elevations and moving upstream, they will do just the opposite. They will start
in the higher elevations and hatch in the lower elevations as the weather cools off for the Fall
The Slate Drakes and Mahogany Duns will continue to hatch randomly in the middle to lower
elevations. The majority will be Mahogany Duns for now. Later on at the end of this month and on
into October, the Slate Drakes will again become more plentiful but so will the Mahogany Duns.
As it has been for some time, the most plentiful and available nymphs and/or larvae will continue to
be Blue-winged Olives. These will be a hook size 20 and 18 until the Fall Baetis genus species
begin to hatch. They are 16's. Imitations of these little swimming BWO nymphs will still offer
the highest odds of success. There's more of them in the water than anything the trout can get
too fairly easy.
Keep your eyes open late in the day for egg laying Little Yellow Stoneflies. They will start very late
and also start hatching near dark. Except and unless you find a good Little Yellow Stonefly hatch
or a Mahogany Dun hatch, again this will be late in the day, then a Blue-winged Olive nymph
imitation is your best choice. Fish it up until you see them (BWOs) or Mahogany Duns begin to
hatch. Don't change flies until you do find something hatching.
If your fishing the middle to higher elevations, you may find a Needle Stonefly hatch taking place
late in the day. If you do, switch to a Needle Stonefly nymph imitation. They crawl out and hatch out
of the water. They are hook size 18.
Very late in the day, the last hour or two of daylight, you may find some mayfly spinners and/or
stoneflies laying eggs. If so, switch to a spinner pattern of the particular mayfly or an adult imitation
of the stonefly, Little Yellow or Needle, depending.
Once you learn to fish using a logical strategy, versus trial and error methods, you will
see your catch improve considerably. More importantly, you will see it become much more
If interested, Last year's Strategy Article for approximately this same week:
For the next few days, the recent and continuing rain changes the overall strategy of
the methods that should be used for fishing and of course, doing that changes "what
fly to use". The controlling factors are water levels and even more importantly, the
water clarity. I drove down to check out the Little Pigeon River and as expected, it was
very high and muddy. The water inside the park will clear up much faster and isn't a
dingy as what I looked at near the spur because the stream flows through Gatlinburg
just outside the park. The runoff from the parking lots and streets of Gatlinburg
greatly effects the extent the water is stained or in this case, muddy would be a more
accurate description at the present tome. The rainfall we received so far is great and
just what we needed to help the low water situation. The rain will continue throughout
today but they are not expecting it to increase to the point it will flood.
The idea situation is to start fishing when the water is falling. This concentrates the
locations of the fish to the places the water is draining back into the normal
streambed. In this situation, the rivers are not out of the banks. I am strictly going by
the Oconaluftee and Cataloochee USGS data on the North Carolina side of the park. I
have not seen the streams since the rain. This isn't to say that you can't catch trout
when the water is rising, because you can. It's just that the falling water tends to
concentrate the trout where food is washing into the stream. Many different species of
terrestrial larvae that normally isn't in the water will be washed in by the heavy rain or
more particularly, where it drains into the streams.
If I wanted to fish today, I would definitely fish streamers that imitate baitfish or sculpin.
The stained water brings the larger brown trout out from their normal hiding places. In
cases where the water is draining back into the streams, one of the items of food to
wash into the water will be cranefly larvae. We have done well using out Perfect Fly
Cranefly larva fly under these high water conditions by fishing this fly in the areas of
water where it's draining back into the streams. The trout will normally concentrate on
these areas because the water draining into the streams provides a continuous
stream of food. I would not recommend this fly as long as the water is rising. I would
use streamers when the water is rising as well as when it's falling.
Fish in lakes will move to the banks when the water is rising and away from the banks
when the water is falling. Trout don't respond that way. They will continue to search
the banks for food that has gotten into the water because of the high water levels
even when it's falling.
The dingier the water, the brighter you want the fly to be. Yellow, chartreuse and white
are good colors to use in heavily stained water. The ideal situation is you want the fly
to standout enough in contrast with the water to be seen, but not seen well enough for
the fish to determine it's not something to eat. This situation changes constantly with
the clarity of the water and the light conditions. If it's cloudy or overcast or near dark
or daylight, there's a lot less visibility in the water. As the water clears, you want to
adjust the shades of color of the streamer accordingly.
This is difficult to describe in words, but i toss the streamer in the water near the bank
and observe just how well I can clearly see it. For example, if you can clearly see it
four feet deep, you probably need to use a less visible color of fly. If you can't see it in
two feet of water, it needs to be more visible. This isn't the exact view the fish will get,
but it gives you a quick idea of which way to adjust the contrast. Sometimes the water
will fool you. It can be clearer than it looks and of course, just the opposite at times.
Tannic acid (tea colored water from vegetation and leaves) can make the water clarity
very deceptive. It's always much clearer than it looks.
Both our yellow and white Perfect Fly Marabou Sculpin are good flies to use in high,
stained water. We also have several colors and sizes of Wooly buggers, Clousers,
and Zonkers that are priced very low. These are all good streamers to select from.
I normally will be writing this strategy article each Tuesday of each week for the next
year. In this case, the strategy will change as the water levels and clarity change, so I
will be updating it every couple of days or so. Right now, you need to take advantage
of the stained water and use streamers. The streams cannot be waded safely at this
time and probably not for at least the next couple of days or longer. That means
fishing from the banks and streamers is the best way to go.
As mentioned two days ago, the strategy for fishing the streams of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park is changing from that used for the high, highly stained water
of two days ago as the water conditions get back to more normal levels. We had some
rainfall last night but it has little effect on the stream levels so far. The forecast for the
next few days call for a 20 percent chance of rain with continued cool weather.
Conditions are excellent except the water is still too high to wade safely in many areas
of the streams. You should use caution when and if you do wade.
As of yesterday, the streams had cleared up nicely and had little color to them. It's still
possible to be successful using streamers that imitate sculpin and baitfish during the
day, but they will work much better under low light conditions such as when it's heavily
overcast like it is right now at the time I am writing this. If there's much light, you will
probably want to fish the streamers only early and late in the day. You should also
keep in mind that you should adjust the color of the streamers to those more suitable
for clear water conditions. White and Black are always good colors in clear water. You
don't need the chartreuse and bright yellow colors any longer. You may want to
consider using shades of brown and red which are also good clear water colors. The
water still has a little stain but it has cleared up considerably.
In many areas, tiny streams and trickles of water are still washing food into the main
streams. These are excellent places to fish imitations of crane fly larvae, ants, and
beetles. If you come up on a likely looking spot where the water is running in from the
surrounding area of the stream you should try this. Cast the fly up near the bank
where the water is running in and let it dead-drift downstream a few feet. If trout are
concentrated in the area feeding, you will know it very quickly. If not continue with the
strategy I'm about to out line.
What often is deceptive, is that there are still far more aquatic insect nymphs and
larvae in the streams that are available and easy for the trout to acquire than
terrestrial insects. That isn't to say the streams don't have plenty of terrestrials in the
water because I'm sure they do. The most available and plentiful foods in the streams
at this time of the year is near the same as it was two to four weeks ago except there
are fewer small or tiny Blue-winged Olive nymphs. There are still plenty of larger, hook
size 18 to 16 Blue-winged Olive nymphs in the streams. This consist of Eastern BWOs
(Drunella genera species) and baetis species that hatch in the Fall. There are still
more of these nymphs in the stream that's available for the trout to eat than anything
else. Until you observe something that I describe below hatching, you're odds are best
to fish an imitation of the BWO nymph.
Just prior to the rain I found a few Needle Stoneflies that had hatched in the high
elevations. That should continue and the hatches will progress downstream as the
days go by. These nymphs are clingers and are hidden beneath the rocks and stones
in the streambed until they get ready to hatch. If you see any that have hatched, you
should change and start fishing an imitations of the Needle Stonefly nymph.
I haven't seen any yet, but the Mahogany Duns should start hatching in the higher to
mid elevation streams any day. These nymphs are crawlers and don't stay as well
hidden as the clinger nymphs. If you see any of the duns that have hatched, by all
means switch to an imitation of the Mahogany Dun nymph. These are small, about the
same size as the BWO nymphs, but a completely different color. Fish the nymph until
you observe them hatching and then switch to an emerger or dun. Very late in the
day, watch for a spinner fall and use a spinner imitation if you do.
There are some Slate Drakes that are hatching but they are very sparse and
scattered throughout the day. If you start seeing some nymph shucks on the boulders
and rocks, switch from the BWO nymph to a Slate Drake Nymph. Check the water late
in the day for spinners. If there's cloud cover, the odds are much higher for these
mayflies to hatch. Remember, they crawl out of the water and hatch.
The Little Yellow Quills will soon start hatching in the higher elevations in the near
future if this cool weather hasn't already started the emergence of these mayflies. The
hatch will progress downstream as the days go by. If you observe any duns in the
bushes or air, switch to an imitation of the Little Yellow Quill nymph. If the hatch is
underway, switch to an Little Yellow Quill emerger or dun. Check the water late in the
day for spinners. The trout in the high elevations streams eagerly eat these Little
Yellow Quill spinners during the egg laying process. This includes the brook trout.
Little Yellow Stoneflies will make another appearance in the near future. Use the same
strategy as you do for the above hatches and just keep your eye out for them. If you
see the adults, switch to an imitation of the Little Yellow Stonefly nymph. Late in the
afternoon, if you spot any egg layers, switch to an imitation of the adult.
It is possible none of these hatches will occur, depending on your location and time
you are fishing during the next few days. If not, stick with the BWO nymph and
continue spot checking the drainage areas using terrestrial imitations. That will
provide your highest odds of success. Again, keep in mind this is for the highest odds
of catching trout. There's absolutely nothing wrong if you want to fish a dry fly
imitation and take your chances. Just rest assured, unless you just don't know how to
fish nymphs, you will be lowering your odds of success. If you do hook a few, you will
probably have more fun using the dry fly.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh