Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 10/17/14
The streams have all dropped fairly fast and by this afternoon some on the
Tennessee side of the p ark may be okay to wade, provided you use caution, but
they all will remain very high. Conditions for the weekend should be excellent.
I received so much email and calls yesterday, responding to the article below, I'm
leaving it up another day. I will be revising the strategies tomorrow as the much
cooler weather is going to change the situation with some hatches ending.
Articles on the Internet Don't Go Away: I received this email on Tuesday.
Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 7:22 AM
Subject: 2010 Article "Having Trouble Catching Trout? I just picked up this article
while doing a google search. Who wrote this article? Do they have a book in print?
Finally someone knows what they are talking about !
I tried to find the article on this website but keep in mind there are at least 2,280
articles and reports, not including the general information articles. I searched the
2010 articles and didn't see it. Finally, it hit me to enter the same search on google,
or "having trouble catching trout", and there it was. Although, It probably has fifty
grammar errors, I am going to publish it below again. Obviously, nothing has
changed, so here it is:
Having Trouble Catching Trout? Fishing Bad; Fishing Good, Fishing
Okay - Really? Maybe you need to read this a few times.
Even I am occasionally guilty of saying the fishing is good, bad, etc. I guess I hear
the phase so often I say it without thinking. I usually say the fishing is easy, or the
fishing is tough, or something like that, rather than it's bad. Actually, there really
isn't such a thing as the fishing is good or the fishing is bad in the sense the phase is
Fishing is done by people called anglers. They can do a good job of fishing or a
very poor job of fishing. Does anyone out there actually think the trout feed
one day and not the next, or they feed for a week or two, and not for the
next week or two. That can happen when the water temperature is almost freezing
and it warms up a little into the low forties, but that is really about the only time it
happens. It sure doesn't happen during the springtime.
Most of the time the trout eat about the same amount of food day in and
day out. Of course that varies throughout the year with the season, water temps
and the trout's metabolism. To say the trout were feeding or eating last week, and
this week they aren't; or even to say that they were really feeding last week and this
week they are feeding very lightly; just isn't true. What an angler really means is the
trout were easier to catch at one time and not the other time.
The bottom line to this is anglers blame the fish when it's the angler, not the fish.
Fish don't feed heavily and then just stop eating without extremely drastic
changes in conditions. As I just said above they don't just stop eating. They
eat all year. They may slow down when the water gets very cold, or is depleted of
oxygen when it gets too warm, but that's all there is too it. The problem lies in the
methods, strategies and techniques used by the angler. This just isn't true of
trout and fly fishing. This same thing is true of all fishing, salt and fresh water.
Of course, it's much easier for the trout to acquire the food they eat when a hatch is
occurring. The insects are usually sitting ducks during a hatch or very easy for the
trout to pick off. That makes it appear to an angler that the trout are feeding one
day and not the next. The hatches also makes it easier for anglers to catch
them on the typical, remedial methods used by most Smoky Mountain
anglers. Even then, they catch trout ONLY IF they are feeding in the fast water
of the runs and riffles.
If the trout are feeding in the calm pockets; in the holes on the bottom where the
current is slow; or in the many large pools in the streams, the average angler
fishing the Smokies will catch few trout, if any. Under these conditions when
they fail to catch trout, they always blame the trout. In fact, most anglers fishing the
Smokies completely avoid the pools. The reason is they lack the skills to
successfully fish the slower, clear water. Another reason is the generic
flies they use usually don't fool the trout in the slow moving water because
the trout can get a good look at the poor imitations of the real insects. This
exact thing I'm writing about is also exactly what distinguishes a truly good angler
from one that isn't.
When lots of money is on the line in bass, walleye, and various saltwater fishing
tournaments, it's always the same guys that take the checks home, not every time,
of course, but on the average. Amazingly the results is almost even more consistent
than professional golf tournaments. There aren't any real professional fly fishing
trout tournaments (thank goodness), but if there were, it would have the same
results. Some guys would always manage to catch trout, when others reached deep
into their bags of excuses after failing to catch them. This situation is always when
the good anglers stand out and distinguish themselves from the mediocre ones.
When fishing is easy, it tends to level out and everyone catches fish. When
it seems tough, only the ones that actually know what they are doing
I'll put it this way. The average, or typical Smoky Mountain angler, generally fishes
using some very simple plans and procedures. They use these same strategies
and methods over and over regardless of the conditions and regardless of
what the trout are feeding on. Oh, they may change from a nymph to a dry fly, or
they may try to double their odds by fishing a tandem rig, but basically, they cast
generic nymphs or dry flies upstream in the fast water runs and riffles.
When conditions are optimal, the water levels, temperatures, etc., are excellent,
and the trout are feeding on insects in the fast water, they usually catch some
trout and sometimes a good many of them. Under these conditions the anglers
really feel like they have everything down pat. They will tell you that the fishing
is very good.
Actually, their occasional success is part of the problem they aren't
consistent. They think their success was because the trout were feeding and of
course, they were. However,when they don't catch them, they think it was due to the
trout not feeding and that almost always isn't the case. Poor trout - they must live a
sad life - going hungry most of the time. They must really have their ups and downs,
eating lots of food one day and starving the next day, or eating one week and not
As soon as the trout change the food they are eating, the area of the streams and
time they feed, most anglers fail to catch very many of them. They blame the
trout, the water, the tubers, the imaginary anglers fishing ahead of them,
and a thousand things other than the real truth. They really just don't know
what they are doing.
One reason for this is that many anglers have been taught that way by a bunch of
old codgers who think they know what they are doing and think they know what the
trout are doing when they really don't. For example, many of them that proclaim to
be experts at it will tell you that it doesn't matter what insects are in the water or
hatching. They will tell you that knowing the behavior of the various insects isn't
necessary for fishing the Smokies. The same guys usually boast that they have
been fishing the Smokies for forty or fifty years. I know some that only fish a few
times a year that boast about the length of time they have been fishing. I'll usually
keep quite and think "that's a long time to go using the same old fish aren't bitting
excuse". In fact, it is easier to make the same mistakes over than it is to do
things right over and over. If you ask them a few simple questions about what
the trout eat, you will quickly discover that most all of them know very little about the
insects and other food the trout eat, much less how to go about imitating a particular
insect's behavior. Not any of them have gone to the effort to actually learn much
about the insects and other trout food. However, they certainly seem to know
the importance of something they know very little about - the food the trout
They will tell you that all you need is some Adams and Hare's Ear Nymphs. Even
then, if you will notice, their own fly boxes will have a little of everything in them for
their trial and error method of fishing. When the trout are feeding in the fast water of
the runs and riffles they are correct. The Adams and the Hare's Ear Nymphs
usually work quite well. When the trout aren't feeding in the fast water, they don't.
This is where most angler's problems lie. The trout in the park don't always
feed in the fast current. In fact they only feed there part of the time. Day in
and day out, they only feed there a relatively small percentage of the time. It
depends on the insects or other foods they are eating. Most of the time, the insects
and other foods avoid the fast water. Only a few of the hatching aquatic insects get
caught up in the fast current long enough for the trout to eat them before they
depart the water. That occurs mostly in the Spring when most of the clinger (fast
water dwelling) mayflies and stoneflies hatch. That's when anglers can catch them
fairly easy, using the age old traditional, one track trail and error methods that rely
solely on the trout not being able to good a good look at the fly. The age old
methods of catching trout in the Smokies work great when this is happening. When
it isn't, they don't work. That's exactly when anglers begin to complain that the
fishing isn't good. I guess that's when the trout are supposed to be on a diet or
worse, starving not eating at all. You're probably already starting to hear the fishing
isn't all that great or that it have slowed down a lot. Do you actually think the
trout drastically change the amount of food they consume during the month
It isn't just that the old timers teach and know the methods that only work at certain
times. I know some guides that fit the same description. I know some that doesn't
know one insect from another, much less how to imitate them. I know some that use
the same excuses I'm writing about over and over - the fishing isn't or is good right
now. About the only real value of having one of these so called "guides" is that you
probably want get lost. You would be better off getting a GPS.
Most of the fly shop owners and employees preach the same way to go about
fishing in the Smokies. If you will check closely, some of them never actually fish in
the Smokies. Some have salesman that know about as much about insects as any
twelve year old kid could learn in a weeks time. Many of them would sell you a Slate
Drake dun. In fact, I know of that happening, even though a Slate Drake dun
never gets in the water. The problem is, the sales people don't know that and
obviously, neither does the folks that has the flies tied in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Most all flies sold by fly shops are tied in counties in dire economic shape. Rainy
Flies will tell you their flies were designed by a long list of anglers, some well known.
They really push that marketing strategy. Do you think they actually tie the flies
Rainy sells? Next time you buy some in a fly shop, ask them where they were tied.
The truth of the matter is that in the Smokies, there's a lot of Davy Crocket age
methods and strategies being taught over and over. Even the few books about
the fishing the Smokies teach the same methods that are only effective
part of the time. Some will even go so far as to tell you that if you can catch trout
in the Smokies, you can catch trout anywhere in the Nation. That's about the most
outright, completely false statement I can think of off hand, but that is another
You will also hear that the trout in the Smokies are different than the trout in other
areas of the country. Well, in some unimportant respects that may be true, but the
essence of that statement is completely false. There isn't anything different, or
extremely unique for that matter, about the trout in the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. They are basically the same as the trout in all the other small
mountain freestone streams in the East and West. The Ph can vary some and that
can increase of decrease the fish and food and effect the size of the trout, but that
is about the only thing different.
Anglers generally think that fishing in the West is very different. That really isn't true
either. If it's a small headwater stream in the Northern, Central, Southern Rockies or
the Cascades, there's very little difference, if any. I know that for a fact because I
have probably fished as many of them, or at least close to as many trout streams in
the Nation as any person living.
Rainbow trout are rainbow trout. Small, mountain fast water streams are small fast
water streams. Where the stream is matters little The species of trout varies
some. The West has native cutthroats in many of its headwater streams instead of
native brook trout that are in the Smokies. The trout in the small headwater streams
of the West usually react the exact same way. If they don't get a good look at your
fly, and they usually don't, you can catch them on standard generic flies as long as
the trout are feeding in the fast water. Just like in the Smokies, when they don't
feed in the fast water, the poor imitations don't work. It can be easy to catch
them some days, and not easy some days unless you change strategies, methods
and locations within the stream. It would be very difficult to tell if you were fishing in
the headwaters of Little Blackfoot Creek in Montana, or the upper Little River if it
were not for the different types of trees.
If you want to learn to consistently catch trout in the Smokies, you better
learn something about what the trout eat, when and where they eat it and
how to imitate it. Otherwise, you will find yourself taking about how good the
fishing is one day and how bad it is the next, even during the month of May when
trout are feeding every day.
Smoky Mountain Weather:
Today will be sunny with a high near 74. South wind will range from 5 to 10 mph.
Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high near 63. Northwest wind will range from 5 to
Sunday will be sunny with a high near 63. North wind should be around 5 mph.
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links that have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data:
Little River: Rate 542 cfs at 2.69 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 587 cfs at 2.02 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 91 cfs at 2.52 ft
(good wading conditions up to 125 with extra caution up to 150 cfs)
Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby but is still high
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake: I'm sure
they all are high and marginal when it comes to wading.
Current Recommended Streams:
Cataloochee Creek would be my number one preference It can be safely waded for
sure but there will be other options, especially if you fish the smaller streams.
Recommended Trout Flies:
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 20/18/16
2. Brown and White Belly Sculpins:
Especially good in off color, high water & early/late in the day
Hook Size 6
3. Slate Drakes
Hook Size 10/12
4. Cream Cahills
Hook Size 16/14
5. Green Sedge (Caddisfly):
Hook Size 14/16
larvae (Green Rock Worms)
6. Little Yellow Stoneflies:
Hook Size 14/16
8. Little Yellow Quills
Hook Size 16
9. Great Autumn Brown Sedge:
Hook Size 10
10. Needle Stoneflies
Hook Size 16/18
8. Moth Larvae: (Inch Worms): 10/12/14
9. Carpenter Ants, Black
Hook Size 16/18
10. Japanese Beetles
Hook Size 16/14
11. Grass Hoppers
Hook Size 10, 12, 14
Recommended Fishing Strategy:
Keep in mind, the strategies I am recommending is for the maximum odds
of catching numbers of fish. Many prefer or favor a dry fly and by all means there
isn't anything wrong with that. It's just a fact that if nothing is hatching at the time, it
reduces your odds of success. You can still probably hook some trout, just not as
many as if you fish subsurface. Of course, this is also based on using good
techniques and the right flies. Some guys don't know how to fish below the surface.
Until I spotted something hatching, assuming I was fishing a low to mid elevation
stream, I would fish a Slate Drake nymph. These big mayflies are plentiful
throughout the lower to middle elevation streams of the Smokies. They are swimming
nymphs and represent a big meal for the trout that catch them. They have begin
congregating near the banks to crawl out of the water and hatch. That makes them
much easier for the trout to catch and gives you a good opportunity to catch some
nice trout. This will occur off and on from now into the month of November. The
hatches will increase in late September and early October.
Let me note that if you fish the day before, and know for a fact a certain mayfly
listed above is hatching in a certain area of the stream your fishing, by all means
fish the nymph of that mayfly the next morning up until you begin to see them
hatch. That will always give you the highest odds of success.
Little Yellow Quills will begin to hatch anytime now. These are mostly a mid to high
elevation insect, often confused with Light Cahills but quite different. They are very
plentiful at times and you will often see them in the brook trout streams.
Needle Stoneflies will begin to hatch anytime now. These are very narrow, long
shaped stoneflies that when in flight, look more like a caddifly than a stonefly. Like all
stoneflies they crawl out of the water in low light conditions to hatch. The egg layer
can provide some great action in the late afternoons.
It is about time you will start seeing the Great Autumn Brown Sedges, or caddiflies.
These are large caddis that hatch during the evening and lay their eggs late in the
day and early evenings. If you camp, you will see them around your lights the next
month or two.
Little Yellow Stoneflies are hatching and different species of them will actually get
more plentiful in the near future. If you see any adults during the day, it is a good
idea to fish an imitation of the nymph near the banks of the stream late in the day.
They crawl out of the water and hatch during the darkness of the night. You may also
spot some of the females laying eggs. This usually occurs late afternoons and if so,
be certain to fish an imitation of the adult.
Green Sedges have been hatching and will continue for a few more weeks. There
are several different species of them. The do not hatch in big numbers but where
they hatch, trout will focus on eating them because they hatch at a time of day that is
different from other hatching insects at this time of the year. It usually occurs later in
the day near the same time the previously hatched adults are depositing their eggs.
You should concentrate far more on fishing the Green Rock Worm or larva stage of
life of the Green Sedge.
Cream Cahills are still hatching. These are mainly a mid to high elevation mayfly. The
duns leave the water very quickly but the spinner fall can produce some very hot
Blue-winged Olives are hatching but they are very small. They are small baetis type
BWOs but also includes species from two other genera commonly called Small BWOs
and Little BWOs.
There are still plenty of moth larvae hanging from the tree limbs. The moth larvae
fly also imitates the green caddis larvae quite well and is one reason the fly works
well in the Smokies.
Carpenter ants are very plentiful. There are both black and browns ones in the
park but the blacks are more plentiful. These ants tend to only get in the water when
they are washed in by heavy downpours. It is a good idea to fish them anytime after a
The same heavy rain scenario applies to the Japanese Beetle. These insects are
very plentiful in the park. Fish our Perfect Fly imitation of them anytime, but they are
more effective after heavy downpours.
In areas where the streams in the park are surrounded by lots of grass, hoppers
can become a factor in the trout's diet. They are generally blown in the streams by
high wind, but can always accidentally jump in the water. They are not the smartest
creatures on earth.
Tips for Beginners:
First learn what food it is you need to be imitating, that should determine what flies
you should be using. It isn't really that complicated. Trout will always focus on and
position themselves in the stream to eat the most plentiful and most available food.
It's natures way for them to expend the least amount of energy to acquire the most
Many anglers, in fact most anglers, try to short cut the process and first try
to determine what flies they need to be using. It's the difference in knowing what you
are doing, and just relying on pure trial and error. It makes the difference in being
consistently successful or having to blame the lack of success on the fish or
Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
Whatever Hits Me:
Thank you for visiting our site. James Marsh, Pending CFO (Chief Fishing Officer)
Copyright 2014 James Marsh
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