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 Flies To Use - Coming Week
Some Important Points About The Available Food:
One thing I want to be sure to mention is the fact you will read and hear that there is little food for the
trout to eat during the cold weather time of the year in the Smokies. This may be partly because the
above list of available foods is short and makes it appear that way but it is also due to many writers and
anglers making statements that simply are not true. First of all, there is as much non-aquatic insect food
(crustaceans, baitfish, sculpin, etc.) in the water during the late Fall and Winter as ever. Although many of
the aquatic insects are not fully grown, there are more of them in the water during the Winter than anytime of
The aquatic insects that hatched during the late Winter and early Spring almost a year before are all almost
fully grown. Those that hatched during the late Spring and early Summer are more than half grown. Those
few that hatched during the Summer are just less than half grown. The few that hatched in the early Fall exist,
but in very small sizes.
The above list of available food is short because it list those insects that should be hatching and other than
midges and a few stonefly species, few insects hatch during the late Fall and early Winter. The larva stage
of life of those insects that are hatching are always the most available aquatic insects. The above
list is only referring to food that is readily available for the trout to eat. Much of the food that is not readily
available for the trout to eat is hidden out of sight down between the crevices of rocks and up under the
rocks on the bottom. In other words, from a fishing strategy standpoint, as with all fish species, it isn't just a
matter of what food is in the water. It's a matter of what food is readily available, or easily obtainable, for the
trout to eat. When aquatic insects hatch, they become completely exposed and readily available.
Most nymphs in the streams of the Smokies are clinger nymphs. This includes most mayfly and all stonefly
nymphs. The streams are full of those nymphs right now, but they are very difficult for the trout to obtain.
They become exposed at times when the nymphs themselves are feeding and when they molt. I could go on
and on describing the various types of food but the point is, there is actually more food in the
streams during the Winter than any other time of the year.
Now Back To The Strategies:
Be sure you reviewed yesterday's article about the weather and stream conditions. The strategies I am
recommending for this coming week are almost identical to the strategies for last week with the following
exception. The stream levels are normal and they were a little high last week.
The bottom line to fishing this coming week is that if your looking to catch as many trout as possible you will
need to fish below the surface most of the time. You may have some opportunities to catch a post-spawn
brown, depending on the location you fish. Most of the browns that exist in the higher and middle elevations
have probably spawned. Many of those in the lower elevations have not finished spawning.
There may be some sparse hatches of Little Yellow Quills and Needle Stoneflies in the middle to higher
elevations on Thanksgiving day and Friday, but it's doubtful. You may still find a few Great Autumn Brown
Sedges but again, that's doubtful. These insects are still on our hatch chart but that's because they
sometimes continue to hatch late in the year when the weather is warmer than it normally is. That isn't the
case this coming week.
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. If the water is 50 degrees or above (possible on
Thursday and Friday) and you notice the trout eating flies from the surface, go to a dun imitation of the
If your interested,
Last Years Strategy This Same Period of Time:
I waited until a day later than what I normally do for the strategy series article in order to see the
extent of the rainfall. Although we received a good amount of ran, we did miss the possible severe
weather they were predicting. I do not like Springlike weather in the Fall. It's nice in the sense it's
warm but the windy conditions takes away from the calm, cool Autumn weather we normally have. We
will have enough of this type of weather in about three months.
From looking at the precipitation map on the past 48 hour scale, the Smokies received on the
average about two to two and a half inches of rain. This has brought the stream levels back up high
and they will stay that way for a few days due to the ground being well saturated. It appears that Little
River peaked at about 1420 cfs and is headed back down. The river hadn't quite dropped back down
to a safe wading level since the last rain. It will again be some time before it can be safely waded.
The larger streams may possibly be safely waded by this weekend but it looks doubtful.
The Oconaluftee River and Cataloochee Creek stream flows are very similar. Most of the park
appears to have received about the same amount of rain. The good part is there hasn't been any
flooding and hopefully, there has been minimal damage to the brown trout redds. At least the high
water will somewhat reduce the success of anglers that like to abuse the spawning trout.
The Yellowstone National Park fishing season is open during the migration of the spawning brown
that move from Hebgen Lake, the lower Yellowstone and Snake Rivers into the park to spawn, but it
closes prior to the major brown trout spawning activity. The Smoky Mountains National Park season
remains open during the spawn and although the damage is probably not that significant, the
regulations are rather primitive.
It's still a fact that the streams of the Smokies are managed far better than those of
Yellowstone National Park which has a huge, major problem that the fishery people hasn't
been able to solve and had rather just ignore. It has lost most of its native Yellowstone
Cutthroat Trout population due to non-native Lake Trout existing in Yellowstone Lake, the heart of
the Yellowstone Cutthroat territory. They had rather spend their time and money "studying" how to
destroy the rainbow and brown trout fisheries and restore native cutthroat to the less significant
sections of the park than fix the big problem. What little data you can get from them shows while they
have been able to slow down the damage from the Lake Trout, the overall problem continues to get
worse. They are catching and killing more lake trout each year, but the results has only slowed the
ever increasing damage not just to the sport fishing phase, but for all the other animals that rely
heavily on the Yellowstone Cutthroat trout for their existence. It's in about the same shape as the
national debt - getting worse and with no effective solution to solve the problem. I'm sorry to get off
the subject, but I do write these articles typing what ever hits my mind. I don't have to submit them to
anyone other than you for an opinion.
If you choose to fish during the coming few days, the strategy I'm suggesting is almost identical to
what I suggested last week. You can go back and read it and be on target. The fishing conditions
are again going to change every day for the next few days. This is not only true in terms of
stream levels and water temperature, it will also change from bright clear skies Thanksgiving day
through Saturday, to cloudy skies Saturday night. A new low pressure system will arrive and the cycle
will repeat itself.
The warm weather that will last at least through Sunday will continue to slow down the hatches of
baetis mayflies. They hatch best in water that's in the mid to high forties. Even though the weather is
warm, midges will probably be the only thing hatching of much significance. I'll be taking the Little
Yellow Quills off the list of available insects along with the Little Needle Stoneflies. That leaves mostly
BWOs and midges for aquatic insects. 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, and it is doubtful you will, you will be limited mostly to midges as far as hatches
go. Next Monday and Tuesday should bring about some good baetis hatches. The weather
will be much cooler and more seasonable with a mixture of rain and snow - perfect conditions for the
little mayflies to hatch.
With the high, warm water situation, your best option now is probably to use streamers. The trout's
metabolism will be in high gear and they will need a substantial amount of food. If you do use
streamers, remember, as the days go by, the water will clear and you should change the color of
your streamer accordingly. As long as there is 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.
Fly Fishing DVD - Part 7
Copyright 2012 James Marsh