Insects and other foods the trout
should be eating:
1. Slate Drakes
2. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Summer Stones)
3. Needle Stoneflies
4. Mahogany Duns
5. Little Yellow Quills
Most available - Other types of food:
6. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
7. Inch Worms
Smoky Mountains - Low Water Tactics - Part 2 of 2
Of course, just as soon as I announced that I was going to write about low water
fishing tactics it begin to rain. The forecast originally called for a 40% chance and was
increased to 60% a day before it rained but we ended up with a lot more than anyone
predicted, including the National Weather Service. The streams are falling fast and by
the first part of next week will be back down to what's considered low. Keep in mind
that we have yet to see what is normally low water for September. August reached the
normal lows for only a day or two. I hope it stays higher than normal but most likely it
won't. Most likely we will see more low water levels that's low enough to give most
anglers trouble. That's because not only do many anglers rely on higher, faster water
levels to cover up poor presentations, they rely on it to get by with using flies that are
poor imitations of the food the trout rely on to survive.
The big Rod Run show is underway in Pigeon Forge this week and weekend. The
main strip is jam packed with traffic looking at the old automobiles. I always get a kick
out of driving (one time) through the strip to see all the old automobiles that's mostly
from the forties, fifties and sixties. It reminds me of most angler's fly boxes
which are packed with trout flies as old or older than the automobiles in the
Fly shops get over 90% of their trout flies from three larger wholesale companies that
import them from overseas. Almost all of them are based on very old patterns that do
not imitate anything in specific and that originated before anglers begin to know a
caddisfly from a mayfly. Although there have been a couple of hundred books written
about aquatic insects during the last thirty years, and many anglers have begin to get
familiar with aquatic insects, the flies that they can purchase from fly shops are most
all based on very old fly patterns that do a poor job of imitating anything. This is
especially true of Smoky Mountain anglers because there hasn't been any books
written about the aquatic insects and other foods in the trout streams of the Smokies.
Anglers don't use a 1932 Ford to travel to the park to fish much more, but they don't
seem to mind using flies that have about the same degree of reliability.
By the way, if you don't use a GPS in your vehicle and your to lazy to purchase a
paper map, be aware that except for a couple of blocks, you can completely bypass
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to get to the park from Sevierville. You don't
want to get stuck in traffic at the rod show.
Low Water Tactics - Part 2:
Use a 6X tippet for your dry flies and 5X for your nymphs. Some leader and tippet
manufacturers want to fool anglers with marketing gimmicks. A 6X tippet should be a
6X tippet, not a 5X tippet in a 6X package to make the angler think their 6X leaders or
tippets have a higher breaking strength than others. Make sure you have a small
diameter tippet and with plenty of elasticity.
Never, completely straighten the leader and tippet out. You will either get instant drag
or line the trout your trying to catch. Make reach cast and in some cases slack line
cast or curve cast. I'll explain more on this tomorrow.
If you cast directly upstream, against the current, your fly line, leader and tippet is
going to drift directly downstream with the current. That means that unless you mend
the fly line after it lands on the water, it is only going to pass over trout that are directly
below or under the fly line, leader and tippet. In other words, in low, shallow, clear
water, you are going to spook every trout that would have a chance to eat the fly. You
have just "lined" the fish your trying to catch. If you try to correct it by mending the fly
line after it's on the water, most of the time you are going to spook the trout by picking
the fly line, leader, tippet and fly up off the water directly above the fish between you
and your fly.
Your only other option is to cast "up and across" the stream. Even if you cast "up and
only slightly across" the stream, if you completely straighten out the fly line, leader and
tippet, you will get drag the instant the fly hits the water. The current will instantly begin
to pull your fly line, leader and tippet in a different direction than the current wants to
take the fly. Left alone, current will put a bow (curve) in your fly line between you and
the fly. This will "drag" the fly across the water. The fly will look entirely different from
a free floating insect or a fly that wasn't attached to a fly line. In other words, you won't
get a drag free drift. The unnatural appearance of the fly will actually spook the trout,
rather than attract them. The wild trout in the streams of the Smokies won't fall for that
So far, I have written that if you straighten the fly line, leader and tippet completely out
and you cast either directly upstream, or up and across the stream, you are going to
spook the trout your trying to catch. So, what do you do? The answer is you don't
completely straighten the fly line, leader and tippet out. You should cast up and
across, or up and slightly across, and in essence, mend the leader and tippet while
the are still in the air. This is really easily done. There are many ways, but the three
most basic ways are as follows:
The easiest way is to make a reach cast. It is very simple to do with only a little
practice. While the fly line is still in the air, unrolling on its way to the target, you simply
"reach" your arm out either to your left or right - before the line lands on the water.
Done correctly, the fly line and most of the leader will land in a straight line, the same
length you reached left or right of the fly. This is usually two or three feet, left or right
or the fly. In other words, there is slack in your line and you fly line will end up a couple
or three feet to the left or right of the path your fly is going to drift. A trout, looking at
the surface through its window of vision, will only see the fly and not your leader or fly
line. The slack will allow the fly to drift "drag free", like a real insect would drift.
Two other types of cast will accomplish the same thing but I rarely use either one in
the Smokies. The "curve" cast will work but is more difficult to make and should be
used to reach places that are behind objects in the water, more so than to get a
drag free drift.
A "pile" cast will also work, but only if you need to cast downstream to reach a feeding
trout and that's a rare situation in the streams of the Smokies.
I'm not going to describe how to make these presentations. You can "google" the
following to find plenty of information on how to make them. If you don't use
anything else, learn to make and use the reach cast. In low, clear water, it is
essential for successfully fishing the small streams of the Smokies.
fly fishing reach cast
fly fishing curve cast
fly fishing pile cast, or fly fishing parachute cast
Summary to fishing very low water levels:
In addition to wearing subdued colors of clothing, wading correctly not moving objects
on the bottom (making low frequency noise), and other commonly known tactics, do
1. Make longer cast than you normally would. Instead of ten to twelve feet, maybe
fifteen to thirty feet.
2. Use a 12 foot combined leader/tippet length.
3. Use a 6X tippet for dry flies and 5X for nymphs
4. Make reach cast that land the fly on the water as lightly as possible, with little
5. Use Perfect Flies which imitate the real insects far better than the old standards
5. Keep out of the line of sight of trout in the areas your trying to fish. Stay as low as
possible. Stay below a 20 degree angle above the water line.
The Trout's Window of Vision
Trout's Binocular and Peripheral Vision
Trout Flies In The Surface Skim
Copyright 2013 James Marsh
New Schedule of Daily
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Conditions Forecast - Coming Week
Tuesdays: Fly Fishing Strategies -
Which Flies To Use - Coming Week
Wednesday: Fishing Tales
Thursday: Smoky Mountains Fishing
Friday: Getting Started
Saturday: Fly Fishing School
Sunday: This Week's Featured Trout
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