Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report - 01/22/14
I will never forget Angie and I talking to a couple of gentlemen who were rigging up to
fish the Harriman State Park section of the Henry's Fork River in Idaho, one July,
morning, several years ago. We had been fishing the Madison River for the past
week following the Salmonfly hatch upstream and catching from twenty to thirty or
forty nice size rainbows and browns a day. We had moved to the Henry's Fork to fish
it for our second time. The first time, the year before that, I managed to catch one
trout in about 6 hours of hard fishing. I do remember that beat what most of the guys
we talked to caught that day.
Back to the story, Angie told the two men about the salmonfly hatch happening about
thirty miles away on the Madison River. She told them what we had been catching for
the past week, along with most others that were fishing the Madison in the right
places. One of the men looked at her and replied, " I had rather catch one of
these rainbows than twenty or thirty of those in the Madison".
I'm sure both she and I looked puzzled. She replied, "i know these trout are large, but
those we have been catching were averaging from 12 to 18 inches". They responded
to that saying something like, "yes, we know, we have fished it many times during the
past twenty or more years". The man continued to explain why he was there, and not
on the Madison even though he already knew what she had told him. It went
something like "Those are easy to catch in the fast water during the salmonfly
hatch". These big rainbows aren't. They are very, very tough to catch. Most
guys can't catch one if they fish all day. He pointed to the water and
continued by saying if you watch the water, you can see several big
rainbows feeding but lets see you catch twenty or thirty of them." The
conversation went on and they made it clear they were there for the challenge of
catching trout, not anything else.
I was very familiar with that philosophy with other types of fishing. I had made my
living from fishing TV, video and tournaments for many years. I had been practicing
exactly what they were doing with many other species of fish, both fresh and salt
water species. We had only been fly fishing for trout, almost exclusively, for two years
at that time. I had not experienced that level of professionalism with fly fishing up to
After watching them fish from a distance that day, I realized they were very seasoned
anglers that knew exactly what they were doing. They each caught two or three of the
big rainbows, if I remember correctly. Two or three that would probably measure 18
inches, that were feeding on the surface of the Henry's Fork smooth, slick, clear
flowing water, on tiny aquatic insects. They were not blind casting a large dry fly in
fast water where big trout were feeding on egg laying salmonflies.
We made it a point to talk again to both men again, late in the day. They were happy
as they could be. They had caught some big trout that 95% or more of the so-called
fly anglers couldn't catch in a week of fishing.
Think about it. They were not catching trout to eat. They were going to release them.
They had caught plenty of trout before. Anyone with a good Salmonfly imitation, that
could cast thirty feet upstream in the fast water of the Madison, could catch some big
trout just over the mountain in Montana. They were not interested in that. That were
interested in the meeting the challenge of the slick, smooth flowing Henry's Fork.
They were interested in catching difficult to catch trout, not easy to catch
What would happen if the Denver Broncos played the Maryville High school football
each week of their season. Would they enjoy that? Would you enjoy watching it?
I'm bringing this up for one reason. When you go fishing in the wintertime,
fishing very cold water in the Smokies, it is the challenge that should make
it the sport it deserves to be, not the catching. I realize that not everyone
enjoys getting out in the cold weather to fish, but If you feel otherwise about being
challenged by the fish, you have a long way to go and a lot to learn about the
sport of fishing.
Smoky Mountain Weather:
I'm give out. Read it for yourself NWS Forecast
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
Same here, click the links: The streams with links have nearby USGS Station
Real-time stream data:
Little River: Rate 344 cfs at 2.22 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 735 cfs at 2.19 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: 128 cfs at 2.04 ft
(good wading conditions up to 125 cfs, and with extra caution up to 150 cfs)
Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby but it is back near normal level.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Cherokee Lake: My guess
is they are about normal levels.
Current Recommended Streams
I recommend Abrams Creek. The water will be slightly warmer. You may try the larger
streams in the lower elevations where trout exist.
Recommended Trout Flies:
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 20
nymphs (this would be the main fly)
2. Midges: Cream
Hook Size 20/22
3. Sculpins: Especially good in off color, high water & early/late in the day
Hook Size 6
White Belly Sculpin
4. Winter Stoneflies: 18/16
Recommended Fishing Strategy:
Fish the size 20 BWO nymph. You might change to a Winter Stonefly nymph but I
wouldn't recommend it until late in the day. High stick or otherwise, keep the fly on
the bottom out of the current.
If you fish Abrams, fish just downstream from the Abrams Fall trailhead. The farther
you travel downstream, the lower the water temperature will be.
You can fish the upper spring creek section above the little walk bridge but you
better stay well hidden. It is best to stay back away from the banks and stay in a
keeled down position. You might try hiding behind some of the big trees if they are in
the right position for you to hide. Usually, the trout run off and hide before you can
get into position to see them. It isn't easy fishing, but it is fun and you can catch them
if you work hard at it. Fish it from the Abrams Fall trailhead bridge upstream as far as
a few hundred yards above the bridge at the loop road.
Tips for Beginners:
Use a strike indicator but keep the nymph near the bottom.
Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
Read the article at the top of the page twice, then ask yourself if your really an expert
Copyright 2014 James Marsh
More Options For Selecting Flies:
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Please allow up to 24 hours for a
2. Call us at 800-594-4726 and we
will help you decide which flies you
3. Call or email us with a budget for
flies and we will select them and get
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