Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little and baetis BWOs)
2. Little Yellow Quills
3. Needle Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of food:
4. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fly Fishing Strategies - Which Fly To Use - Coming Week
As mentioned yesterday, conditions are going to change Thursday through the weekend. The high
today will be in the very low fifties in Gatlinburg with the low reaching down to the low thirties. That
means the water temperature will only reach about 50 degrees or so at the most today. That
means surface action will be very limited. That's not say you cannot catch trout in water below that
temp because you can. It just greatly reduces your odds and usually requires lots of insects on the
surface to pull it off.
Something important to keep in mind that many fly anglers fail to recognize is that it is far more
important for you nymphs to closely imitate the looks and behavior of the naturals than
dry flies. It is a fact that the trout can seen nymphs much better than an insect on the surface. It is
exactly backwards of what many think. Although they don't come into completely clear focus until
they are near the trout, trout can see nymphs several feet away in clear water.
If they are holding about a foot deep feeding on the surface, they cannot see an insect on the
surface (or you dry fly imitating them) until it is within about 12 inches from them overhead. Even
then, their view of it is greatly distorted. They can only see it in clear focus when it is almost directly
overhead. They can see the parts of an insect or dry fly on the surface that protrude below the
surface skim but nothing that's above the water. Everything else they see looking up at the surface
is a mirror image of the bottom.
If your only worrying about your dry flies matching insects and not your nymphs or larvae, you
have a lot to learn my friend.
Last year's strategy this week:
I finally got an opportunity to visit some of the streams in the park yesterday. Last
year at this time, we were not that busy with our Perfect Fly company. The orders for
trout flies normally slow down this time of the year but that hasn't been the case this
Fall. The popularity of the site has grown a huge amount and we have also added
steelhead and salmon sections to the site. That has increased our orders but we also
are getting orders for a large variety of different flies from saltwater to bass and even
for South Florida bream. The change in the time and the orders prevented me from
being able to spend as much time on the water as I wanted to spend.
The low pressure system was prevailing yesterday and it was cloudy, nice and warm.
As just mentioned, I was short on time and actually fished for only thirty minutes or so.
I spent most of my time driving from one location to another, taking the water
temperature and looking for insects and on Little River, for spawning brown trout..
From where I live in Pigeon Forge, I can see more water in a short amount of time
from highway #441 than anywhere. I can also cut over the ridge to Little River near
Elkmont fairly quickly. I keep repeating the same streams due to the shortage of time
but during the next few weeks I plan on fishing more on the North Carolina side of the
park and visiting the north and south ends of the park more than I've been doing in
The water temperature, even on upper Walkers Camp Prong, was in the low fifties. In
the lower elevations of the Little Pigeon it was 56 degrees. I stopped a two places
along Walkers Camp, fished for a few minutes and caught two brook trout. I didn't see
any brook trout spawning and assume it may be about over at least at the higher
elevations. I spotted a few Little Yellow Quill duns and a few spinners dipping down to
deposit their eggs. I didn't see any Needle Stoneflies and I'm not sure why I didn't.
They should still be hatching. I did see a very few very tiny Blue-winged Olives.
At Sugarland, I fished maybe ten minutes on the Little Pigeon. I didn't catch anything
or see any insect activity. I'm assuming it was due to the rather warm water
temperature for this time of the year. I was also probably an hour or two late for that.
On Little River, a mile or so below the turn to Elkmont, I spotted brown trout spawning
at two different locations. I stopped to look at the water at several places along the
road between there and Metcalf Bottom. I didn't fish any on Little River. The only
insect activity I spotted was some very small Blue-winged Olives. As was the case on
Walker's Camp Prong, I'm not sure of the species. They were no larger than a hook
size 20 and all were spinners.
The water levels are excellent. It began to rain late in the day and looking at the
precipitation map this morning, it appears most of the park received less than an
quarter of an inch, if that much. It's only 5:00 AM (I'm still on the old time schedule)
and Little River USGS data is just starting to show a slight rise in the stream level.
The passage of the cold front will cool things off a lot but it will again return through
the normal cycle of returning back the warm weather. The high today at Gatlinburg will
only get to around 53 degrees and it will drop down to 24 degrees tonight. It will
remain mostly cloudy. Friday, Veterans Day, will only reach 50 with a low that night of
32. The high Saturday will be back up to around 59 and down to only 36 that night.
Sunday will be even warmer, up to 64 degrees and only down to 44 Sunday night.
This swing in water temperature will change the status of the few insects that will hatch
almost hourly. Today, with some cloud cover, it's possible the baetis Blue-winged
Olives may hatch fairly well in the mid to lower elevations. Irregardless, you should
stick with about the same strategy as I have been giving for the last few weeks. The
baetis nymphs are plentiful in the mid to lower elevations, and are most available for
the trout to eat. Stick with the #18 BWO nymph until you see them hatching. Change
to an emerger or dry fly if you do. Depending on the water temperature, you may
need to stick to an emerger today. If the water temperature remains below 50,
although it's possible to catch them on the dry dun imitation, it is often more
productive to use the emerger or stick with the nymph just slightly weighted. I don't
see this changing Friday at all. In fact, the hatches will probably occur but in much
lesser quantities due to the high pressure system.
Based on the water warming up more later in the day Saturday, I think you will have a
better opportunity to see some more baetis hatches and a more ideal temperature
range for the day. The only downfall to fishing Saturday will be the bright sun. The
water temps should be excellent. Sunday, the situation hatch wise, will begin to
reverse as the water warms.
There could be a few brown trout that have finished spawning but my guess is that's
mostly in the higher elevations where the browns exist - Upper Little River above
Elkmont, for example. I think the warmer temperatures we have experienced the last
few days has slowed the spawning process down in the lower elevations. It will be well
into December before all of them have spawned.
You may have some good opportunities to catch some pre-spawn and possibly some
post-spawn browns depending on the location. Just please leave those on their redds
alone. It's also possible that the cold weather we will experience for the next couple of
days will speed things up. The browns prefer to spawn in water that's in the high
forties; however, when they start the process, they will continue it even though the
water temperatures may go below or above that. It can delay the start of the actual
spawn but has little effect once it starts.
Strategies for this week:
Notice, I have changed the list of available food above eliminating the terrestrials and the Slate
Drakes. This swing in water temperature will change the status of the few insects that will hatch
almost hourly. It's possible the baetis Blue-winged Olives may hatch fairly well in the mid to lower
elevations today but if not, certain later on in the week and weekend. Irregardless, you should stick
with about the same strategy as I have been giving for the last few weeks. The baetis nymphs are
plentiful in the mid to lower elevations, and are most available for the trout to eat. Stick with the #18
BWO nymph until you see them hatching. There's one species that's a hook size16 but the odds
are lower of them hatching. Change to an emerger or dry fly if you do. Depending on the water
temperature, you may need to stick to an emerger.
Based on the water warming up more later in the day Thursday, I think you will have a better
opportunity to see some more baetis hatches and a more ideal temperature range for the day. The
only downfall will be the bright sun. That reduces the number of insects that hatch.
You may have some good opportunities to catch some pre-spawn and possibly some post-spawn
browns depending on the location. Just please leave those on their redds alone. That means the
males and the females. Don't be guilty of using the lame excuse of abusing the spawning trout by
contending you only target the males. Anyone with a IQ of 50 or more should know the males are
equally involved with and necessary for the spawning activity to be successful. Some fly shops will
promote anything, ethical or not, if they think it gets a customer in the door.
Later on in the week, if the water warms up some in the middle to high elevations, you may find
some Needle Stoneflies and/or Little Yellow Quills hatching. The melting snow will have a big effect
on this and it isn't very likely, but if you do, use an emerger or dun imitation of the Quills and fish
the stonefly hatch late in the day with a Needle Stonefly nymph and if you see them laying eggs, a
Needle Stonefly adults.
Got to run, so this is a little short. The conditions will be great this weekend. I hope you have the
opportunity to go.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh