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:
5. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
6. Craneflies (larvae)
Fly Fishing Strategies - Which Flies To Use - Coming Week
I hope you read yesterday's article about Blue-winged Olive confusion. I also hope you read the one the day
before where I provided the weather outlook and the stream level conditions for the coming week. Since I'm a
day late with this article, I reviewed the weather forecast again and see there are few,changes. It will be a little
colder tonight (below freezing) than the previous forecast predicted but it should warm back up rather quickly
during the coming days. Temperatures should range in the forties at night. I think there will be some snow on
the mountains this morning. It's just now turning daylight and I will be on the road headed to Guntersville
Alabama in just a few minutes. I won't know for certain before this is published. The water temperature in the
lower elevations should average in the mid forties during the afternoons.
One reason I delayed this article was to have a better idea of what the stream levels would be. The levels
have increased a little but not near as much as I would like to see them rise. Rainfall amounts for the park
have been low this Fall. Although I enjoy fishing the low water levels, it isn't great for the trout.
There's little change in this week's strategies from the previous week's strategies. On cloudy, overcast days
you will probably notice some Blue-winged Olive hatches. That doesn't mean they don't hatch during sunny
days. The hatches are just much less intense. Out of the 55 species i listed yesterday, there should be two
species hatching. Sizes will vary from a 16 to 18. There is actually another very small, Pseudocloeon species,
that should hatch. You most likely would confuse them with the midges. They are about a hook size 26. I'm
only mentioning that to keep anyone from thinking I have the hook sizes wrong for the other species one may
Fish an imitation of the BWO swimming nymphs in a hook size 16 or 18. I prefer an 18 simply because more
of them are closer to that size than a 16. Unless you see some surface activity from the trout, I would stick
with the nymph even during the hatch. These particular BWOs will hatch in water between 45 and 50 degrees
but most of the emergers will be eaten below the surface within that temperature range. If the water gets a
little warmer than that, you may want to switch to an imitation of the dun.
Early and late in the day, or when the skies are heavily overcast, you may want to use a streamer. If you do, I
suggest you stick with the sculpin imitations. If your fishing a stream with brown trout, you should have a
decent chance of hooking a good size post-spawn fish. I think the great majority of them have already
I still have the Little Needle Stoneflies and the Little Yellow Quills listed but the odds of them hatching are low.
If they do, it will be in the middle to the higher elevations. That's the reason I'm questioning the hatch. If there
are any of these insects still remaining , the water temperature will need to be in the low fifties for this to
I did add midges to the list. They are multi-brooded and hatch off and on throughout the entire year. They
become far more important as trout food during the Winter months. If the water temperature gets real
cold, lets say below 45 degrees, you may want to try an imitation of the larvae. Fish it right on the bottom
of the slowest moving water in the stream. Most of the Chironomidae species in the Smokies are various
shades of cream. If you notice lots of them on the surface, switch to a Midge emerger in the same color. If the
water is relatively warm (in the high forties or low fifties) you may want to try an imitation of the adult.
That's about it. As I have been doing weekly, I will attach last year's strategy article for this same period of
Stream and Weather Conditions:
The higher mountains were covered with snow Yesterday and still are today. LeConte has two
inches and Newfound Pass has 2 inches of snow. Just looking at them, it appears to be down to
about 3500 feet in elevation.
The higher mountains received from 2.5 to 4.5 inches of rain and snow from this last low pressure
system. Most of the foothills only received about 2 inches on the average but that's not where the
streams in the Smokies get their water. The rainfall amounts in the foothills and valleys are irrelevant.
The high stream levels, which were all blown out from the rain, are very indicative of the rainfall
amounts that count.
The temperature should go down to 25 degrees early this morning (it's still very early and only 31 at
the moment) and the high yesterday was only 44 degrees. The water is cold now but will start
warming up some today with a high forecast for Gatlinburg of 54 degrees. It will be clear and sunny
today and tomorrow with a low tonight of 28 degrees. Friday night will be a little warmer with the low
only reaching down to about freezing. Saturday's high should be about 58 There's a small chance of
rain for Sunday increasing some by Sunday night to about 30 percent. The low Sunday night will be a
warm 44 degrees. Remember these temps are for Gatlinburg. It's colder in the higher sections of the
It doesn't appear at this point that the rainfall will be heavy the first of next week, so hopefully the
streams will continue to drop. The larger streams are all still high and not safe to wade. You should
be able to wade some areas by this weekend but the water will still be on the high side.
As has been the case for the last couple of weeks, stream and weather conditions will make major
change every day as the above weather pattern pointed out. Your strategy should change some
every day to adjust to it. This is very typical of this time of the year. It's almost like Spring but
reversed in many ways. A major frontal system passes just about every week and sometimes, more
often than that. This weather pattern won't change until Winter gets here and things settle down to
remain mostly on the cold side. The Winter months can also be unstable, but not usually with the big
swings that Fall and Spring brings about. Day in and day out, just going to work or doing the normal
daily duties, most people pay little attention to the weather unless there's major changes. When your
fishing at this time of the year, the weather is of utmost concern. I'm not referring to anglers being
comfortable or uncomfortable. I am referring to changes in makes from the trout's perspective and
changes in the strategies you should use to consistently catch them..
The past two weekends and the one forthcoming respectively haven't and will not be on the angler's
side with regards to the hatches of either midges or Blue-winged Olives. The BWOs may hatch today
and Friday but any hatches that take place this weekend will be very sparse if there are any at all.
Baetis BWOs don't like bright, clear days. They don't like water temperatures that rise much above
50 degrees. Sky conditions vary the intensity of the hatches more than just about any other group of
aquatic insects. Next Monday and Tuesday won't be good for them either even if it is cloudy. The
water temperatures will be too warm for any significant hatches. This repeated pattern has resulted in
continuous, mediocre hatches occurring at random in isolated areas of the streams. The high water
levels have greatly hindered one's ability to fish them even when hatches have occurred.
I'm not trying to paint a bleak picture of conditions. I just believe in stating the facts and telling it
like it is. You can still catch plenty of trout on any one of the coming days including next week;
however, It will be more difficult to do than normal because you must be doing the right thing. As just
mentioned, the "right thing" continuously changes. If you expect to use the same methods and
strategies you use during most of the other times of the year, you are in trouble. Even when you do
use the best methods and strategies, you must have the confidence to stay with them when your not
catching a fish every few minutes. That said, you also must be smart and observant enough to know
when to make changes in the strategies you use.
When your fishing cold water, It's not uncommon to go an hour or more without a strike and then
catch several trout in a few minutes. That's because the fish are located in mosty small isolated
areas of the streams (out of strong currents) and certainly not visibly eating on the surface. They will
eat but they won't expend much energy doing so. You have to get the fly very near them.
Knowing when to change strategies is almost like playing a hand of poker. You have to know when to
hold them and when to fold the cards, meaning as this relates to fishing, when to continue the same
strategy and when to change.
Sure, there's luck involved, but if your strictly relying it when conditions are a little tough, you may as
well go home and stay warm. The very essence of what I just described is the difference in good,
average, and below average anglers.
With the big swings in water levels and temperatures forthcoming from today throughout the next few
days, it's difficult to itemize the specific strategies without doing so on a day by day basis. Today and
tomorrow, the water temps will be cold until mid afternoon Friday. In general, this means sticking with
streamers and nymphs. Today and early tomorrow, midge larvae imitations would be a good choice.
If you see any hatching, switch an emerger/pupa imitation. Cream would be the best color choice.
Melting snow isn't going to help the water temperature situation much for the next couple of days.
Saturday and Sunday will bring the water temps back up some. The night temps will not be below
freezing and that will help keep the water in the high forties and low fifties at its peak. You should
certainly start with subsurface flies. Small nymphs will bring the most action and small blue-winged
olive nymphs will bring your highest odds because there are more of them in the streams available
for the trout to eat right now than anything other than midges. Late in the day, with low light
conditions, streamers may be a good choice.
The first of next week they will be warmer than normal for the this time of the year. Cloud cover will
also bring a welcome sight. Stick with BWO nymphs early and don't change unless you spot
something hatching which isn't very likely. Sparse hatches of BWOs, maybe and midges will be about
it. Streamers will be a good option, especially early and late and if it is solid overcast or raining, all
There's probably still some browns spawning in the lower elevations of the streams that have brown
trout but my guess is it's nearing the end of the spawn cycle. The high water levels have prevented
me from being able to determine much with regard to the spawn during the last few days. Those trout
that have spawned will begin to feed within a day or two of coming off the redds. If your fishing a
stream with browns, you should place more emphasis on streamers. This isn't to say the rainbows
want hit them. They will also but your odds of success are better using streamers where there's
I realize this is very general information but to provide a day to day strategy with the swings were
looking at the next few days would be very lengthy and to some extend a guess until the water levels,
water temperatures and clarity, sky conditions and other variables are known rather than predicted.
These are things that keep fishing challenging enough to keep it fun and enjoyable.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh