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
It is quite a different morning from yesterday. It's currently 36 and falling, instead of yesterday's 66 degrees.
The high today in Gatlinburg should only reach 51. It will go down to a low of 31 tonight. Wednesday's high
will be near 54 and the low not quite as cold as tonight. Thursday will be sunny with a high near 57.. Friday
will be near the same. The lows Wednesday and Thursday nights will be a little warmer at about 37. Friday
gets a little warmer with a high near 58. Saturday and Sunday's highs will be about the same..The low
Sunday night will be a little cooler and back down to about 35.
As you can see, the weather will remain normal for this time of the year, but on the cooler side of what it has
been. This weekend provides the best opportunity from a temperature standpoint. When the highs in
Gatlinburg only reaches 51 to 53 degrees and the lows at night go down near freezing, the water will have a
difficult time reaching over 50 even in the lower elevations of the park. Most of the time the remainder of this
week and weekend, the water temperatures in the lower elevations will average in the mid to high forties. I
doubt it ever reaches 50 degrees in the upper middle and higher elevations. Remember, water temperatures
do not change near as fast as air temperatures.
The bottom line to this is you need to fish below the surface most of the time. When the water temperature is
lower than 50 degrees, it cuts down the surface feeding activity considerably. This isn't to say you won't or
can't catch a trout on the surface on dry flies when it is less than 50 degrees because you can. Unless
there's lots of food on the surface, and that's unlikely, you will have little success fishing a dry fly. Some may
still prefer to fish dries and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. I can just promise you one thing. This
week, until maybe mid-afternoons Saturday and Sunday, it will greatly reduce your odds of success.
Right now, the streams are flowing a little on the high side from normal. We got quite a bit of rain yesterday
afternoon and last night. Little River is flowing at 383 cfs. This is a level you can wade but use some caution.
Oconaluftee River is at 924 cfs. That is high and needs to fall before wading is recommended. Cataloochee
Creek is at 95 cfs, which is a good level.
I suggest fishing streamers for the next day or two while the water levels are still on the high side, especially
early and late in the day. Our Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin and if the water is stained, our Yellow Marabou
Sculpin would be excellent choices. You may have some opportunities to catch a post-spawn brown,
depending on the location you fish. The majority of, or at least many of those browns that exist in the
higher and maybe even the middle elevations may have spawned. The majority of those in the lower
elevations have not finished spawning. At some point, those that have finished spawning will begin to feed, as
opposed to protecting their territory. For the most part, I don't think that has happened. In the lower
elevations the spawn is probably right smack in the middle of the cycle. Please leave those fish alone.
There may be some sparse hatches of Little Yellow Quills and Needle Stoneflies in the middle to higher
elevations this weekend. You may still find a few Great Autumn Brown Sedges. By far your best opportunity
for numbers of fish is to stick with the Blue-winged Olives.
Fish either a size 18 or 20 size Blue-winged Olive nymph and stick with it until you see something hatching.
Both of these sizes of BWOs may hatch depending on the species. When they do hatch and the water is still
in the high forties, stick with the nymph and bring it from the bottom to the surface in the slower water or
marginal areas of the stream next to the fast water where these insects hatch. Both our Perfect Fly plain
emerger and emerger with a trailing shuck work better than a dun imitation under these cold water conditions.
They both have CDC wings and float in the skim. If the water is 50 degrees or above and you notice the trout
eating flies from the surface, go to a dun imitation of the Blue-winged Olive. Spinners will likely fall in the late
afternoons but unless the water is warmer than 50, I don't recommend using an imitation of them.
For your information, as I have been doing this second year, I am again providing last year's strategies article
for this period of time.
Last year's strategies this same week:
The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that's most available and easiest
for the trout to acquire. If you haven't read the first parts of this series, please do so.
It will help make this article more meaningful.
I delayed writing this strategy article because I thought we may be in for a good rain,
and as relates to the higher elevations of the Smokies, possibly more than was
forecast for the foothills areas such as Gatlinburg. From looking at the National
Weather Service precipitation map, I can see where that was the case. Although there
wasn't as much water that fell as there could have been, within the last 24 hours the
park received as much as 2.5 inches of rain. Most areas appear to have received
closer to 2 inches. That isn't enough water to create any flooding, or at least it wasn't
the case in any of the areas I visited yesterday. It is enough to stain the water badly
and stop anglers from wading for a short time.
I made a trip into the park both yesterday and the day before. I didn't make a cast
either time. Although I intended to fish some yesterday, by the time I got to the park,
the bottom fell out.
I wish I could tell you just how the high water affects the brown trout spawn but it would
be pure speculation. I'm not sure anyone knows for certain. If the results are known, it
seems it would have to come from data collected on fish populations in previous
years that was taken a year or two after similar high water conditions occurred during
the spawn. I do know that not all of the trout have completed the spawn cycle. I'm not
certain as to what percentage may have finished. The eggs must remain intact (they
are covered with layers of small gravel) until early Spring. My guess is the high water
has less affect than we might tend to think. Mother Nature has ways of coping with
such; however, I no longer finished typing that before it dawned on me that brown
trout aren't native to the streams in the North America. I feel sure Mr. Steve Moore,
head fishery biologist for the park, has collected enough data and studied the subject
enough to have a very good idea as to the effects of high water during the spawn.
There isn't anything anyone can do to change the results, whatever it is.
The stream and weather conditions are going to change a huge amount
every day for the next week. The weather forecast for Gatlinburg shows rain
ending this morning and the skies clearing this afternoon. The temperature will remain
around 45 degrees throughout the day. The low tonight should be a cold 26 degrees.
The high Friday will only reach 53 with a low Friday night expected to be around 29.
If your fishing today, you will be doing so from the banks in stained water. If you fish
tomorrow, the water will still be high but very cold. By the way, in general terms, about
the worst conditions you can face is high, stained, very cold water. The combination
makes it tough to find and catch trout. I doubt the water temperature reaches 40
degrees Friday, even in the lower elevations. That's too cold for anything other than
midges to hatch. Sure, you can throw large streamers and nymphs but for the most
part, if you catch anything you will be catching a spawning brown trout aggressively
trying to protect its territory. It's also possible, especially in the mid to higher
elevations (where brown trout exist that may have finished spawning) that you may
hook a post spawn trout but it's not nearly as probable as hooking a spawning fish.
Spawning brown trout will hit a large streamer or big nymph that cross their path just
right even in very cold water as low as the high thirties and low forties. Whether it is
intentional or not, doing so does affect the trout's ability and success during the
spawn. That's why fishing for brown trout during the spawn is out of season or off
limits in many streams across the nation.
Conditions will improve Saturday with a high that's expected to reach 57. The low
Saturday night will only dip down to 44. This should bring about excellent water
temperatures for the baetis Blue-winged Olives to hatch Saturday but they will be
sparse because of the clear skies. On Saturday, you will want to fish the lower
elevations for sure.
Sunday brings about just as large of a change. Clouds will begin to return and the
high will reach near 65 degrees. With a low the night before of only 44, this creates
the same weather pattern we have had for most of the past three weeks now. It's more
Springlike than Fall weather. Sunday's weather will bring the water temperature back
up above that desirable for the baetis hatches. As you can see, every day will be
an entirely different situation as relates to water temperatures and stream
levels. The water won't drop back to normal very fast because the water table is in
good shape. You can expect a steady but moderate decline in stream levels but read
Starting Sunday night and Monday, they are forecasting a 40 percent chance of rain
and a high temperature on Monday of 67. At that point in time, the stream levels will
still be high. If this holds out, the water will remain high throughout next week. The
chances of rain should be 30 percent on Tuesday and 40 percent next Wednesday.
Of course, that far in the future, the forecast is subject to change. Just don't expect
drastic changes in the forecast. The bottom line is that the weather is going to
be cold for a day or two and then back to being unseasonably warm.
There will be more brown trout that have finished spawning than last week, but my
guess is that's still mostly in the mid to higher elevations where the browns exist. I
think the warmer temperatures we have experienced the last few days has slowed the
spawning process down some in the lower elevations. As mentioned last week, It will
be well into December before all of them have spawned. The big difference is for the
next few days, if the high water doesn't detour them, those on their redds will be
bothered less by anglers. It won't be as easy for those seeking an unsportsmanlike
advantage to spot them.
You may have some opportunities to catch some post-spawn browns, depending on
the location you fish. The majority of, or at least many of those browns that exist in the
higher elevations may have spawned. The same thing may be true of those at the
middle elevations. The majority of those in the lower elevations have not finished
spawning. At some point, those that have finished spawning will begin to feed, as
opposed to protecting their territory. For the most part, I don't think that has
happened at this point in time. From what I have observed, It seems to me the spawn
is smack in the middle of the cycle, at least in the mid to lower elevations.
Part 2, Last Year:
I see little change in the weather or the levels of the streams from what I reported in
yesterday's article. I'm writing this very early Friday morning and all three USGS Real
Time Stream Flow charts for Little River, Cataloochee Creek and the Oconaluftee
River are still very high. As mentioned yesterday, I expect the fall in water levels to be
slower than what we usually see during the warmer months. The temperature this
morning is going to be slightly warmer than Yesterday's forecast. Gatlingburg will
reach a low 29 but it will rise back up to around 52 this afternoon. Of course the
location of all but the low elevation streams will see even colder lows.
As mentioned yesterday, the fishing conditions are going to change every day for the
next few days. This is not only true in terms of stream levels and water temperatures,
it will also change from bright clear skies to cloudy skies Saturday night. They have
changed the next low arrival to Sunday with a 20 percent chance of rain. Rain is
forecast for several days following Sunday. That means the stream levels will most
likely remain high for next week.
The coming warm, springlike weather next week will again slow down the hatches of
baetis mayflies. They hatch best in water that's in the high forties and very low fifties..
There may be some small Blue-winged Olive species hatch but I think most of them
have already hatched. Even though the weather is warm, midges will probably be the
only thing hatching of much significance. I will be removing the Slate Drakes from the
list of insects today. They have finished their long split-season hatch. I'll be leaving
the Little Yellow Quills up for another week or so, but if there any hatches, it will be at
the very lowest elevations they exist. There may well be a few Great Autumn Brown
Sedges that hatch because the weather has averaged on the warm side and slowed
the hatches down. If so, remember they both deposit their eggs and crawl out of the
water to hatch very late in the day near dark. The bottom line to this is that unless you
happen to see some of the big Autumn Sedges hatching near dark, you will be limited
mostly to a possible BWO hatch and midges as far as hatches go. You may have
some good baetis hatches today and Saturday but by Sunday, the odds will decrease
due to the warming water.
If you happen to fish today, and I doubt many will, you should still stick with the same
strategy I have been suggesting for the past few weeks except you may want to rely
on streamers due to the high water. If not, begin with a hook size 18 BWO nymph and
stick with it until you see something hatching. Most likely that would be BWOs this
early afternoon and/or midges.
If you do notice much midge activity, change to a Midge Pupa fly. Most of the time this
will be little Cream Midges. Continue with the pupa imitation until you see a lot of egg
laying activity. If so, you may want to try a dry fly imitation of the Adult Cream Midge.
Remember, they will continue to eat the pupa fly even when the egg laying is going on
because they often hatch and deposit eggs during the same time period.
The odds of hatches are about the same for Saturday. This same strategy should be
used for the next few days. The only changes will be the hatches of BWOs will
decrease when the water warms up in the mid fifties or higher. You may get lucky and
find a good Autumn Brown Sedge Hatch. If you do, change to a Great Autumn Brown
Sedge Pupa. If the egg laying activity increases, go to the Adult imitation. This will only
occur very late in the day.
If you choose to use streamers, as the days go by, the water will clear and you should
change the color of your streamer accordingly. Today, with some stain in the water, I
suggest you use our Yellow or Black Marabou Sculpin Streamer. When the water gets
clear, go to our Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin or the White Marabou Sculpin.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh
Click Images To Enlarge
Perfect Fly BWO
nymph top view
Perfect Fly BWO Dun
Perfect Fly BWO emerger
Perfect Fly Yellow Marabou
Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin