Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 10/23/14
Sometimes, I forget that not everyone reading my articles and reports are
experienced fly anglers. My yesterday's article about fishing for spawning brown trout
left at least one guy confused, and I can understand that from reading what I wrote
again this morning. I was trying to make fun of phoney anglers that fish for spawning
brown trout but pretend to do otherwise. I'll try to make this as simple as possible,
knowing generalities cannot possible cover everything as well as it should be
Fishing for spawning brown trout is legal in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are no closed seasons to protect spawning fish and the park fishery mangers
don't think there is a need for it. I have no strong reason to disagree or agree with
that and I'm not suggesting they should close the streams during the spawn.
When brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage, they generally use far less caution
than they normally do, and are sometimes seen out in the open water looking for
mates and/or places to build their redds. They became aggressive and protective of
their territory. Like many other animals, the males sometimes compete for the rights
to a female. There is a huge difference in pre-spawn brown trout and
spawning brown trout, meaning once a redd has been built and a female is
holding it, or attempting to lay her eggs and spawn, and males are completing for the
sperm rights, the fish throw most of their caution away and will try to kill, move or
destroy anything they consider a danger, such as another fish or crustacean. In the
Smokies, this is especially true of Sculpin and other fish species that love to steal
I think it is unsportsmanlike to fish for brown trout that are spawning,
holding on or near their redds. Wading through redds can damage them.
Both genders play an important part in the spawning process and interfering with
either sex could adversely affect the spawn. In my opinion, catching either the male
or female in this situation is unsportsmanlike. I am far less likely to condemn those
that have never caught many large trout than those that consider themselves experts
To make this very simple, catching a large brown trout in March or July, for example,
is a big challenge. Catching one that is in the process of spawning is much less of a
challenge. What I do dislike are those that catch spawning browns and lie
about it by trying to make other anglers think otherwise, or that they
selected a male that has no affect on the success of the spawn. I also dislike
fly shops that try to increase their business profit by promoting fishing for spawning
brown trout suggesting such phoney, baloney ways of getting around the truth.
October is as good of a month to fish the Smokies as any month. This October is
even more special than it normally is because we have good stream flows. Normally,
low water levels in October hurt the chances of success for those that aren't all that
proficient at fly fishing. It is a great time to fish streamers and a good time to catch
some large brown trout; however, if you find them holding their redds, I hope you will
be a good sportsman and leave them alone.
Smoky Mountain Weather:
Superb! Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 64. North wind will be around 5
mph. Tonight's low will be around 40.
Friday, will be mostly sunny with a high near 68. Calm wind will come out of the north
around 5 mph in the afternoon
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links that have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data:
Little River: Rate 179 cfs at 1.82 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 282 cfs at 1.47 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 58 cfs at 2.34 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 back in good shape.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake: Customers
reported Hazel is in good shape.
Current Recommended Streams:
I think you can fish about anywhere you wish today.
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. Little Yellow Quills
Hook Size 16
5. Great Autumn Brown Sedge:
Hook Size 10
6. Needle Stoneflies
Hook Size 16/18
7. Carpenter Ants, Black
Hook Size 16/18
8. Japanese Beetles
Hook Size 16/14
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 size 18 Blue-winged Olive nymph. Many of the species of
mayflies called Blue-winged Olives are bi-brooded, meaning they hatch twice a year.
The life cycle is still a year long but there's a spring and fall hatch that occcurs.
These, along with some size 20 and 16 BWO nymphs, are plentiful throughout the
lower to middle elevation streams of the Smokies. They are swimming nymphs that
dart around in short spurts and hide wherever they can. They don't stay wedged up
under the rocks like most of the other mayfly nymphs, the majority of which are
There are still some Slate Drakes hatching in the lower elevations. This will occur off
and on from now into the month of November. If you spot their shucks on the rocks,
switch to a Slate Drake nymph.
Little Yellow Quills are still hatching in some of the higher elevation streams. These
are mostly a mid to high elevation insect, often confused with Light Cahills, but quite
Needle Stoneflies will still be hatching in the mid to high elevations. 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 layers can provide some great action in the late afternoons.
Great Autumn Brown Sedges, or caddiflies, are hatching. 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 probably see them around your lights.
Carpenter ants are still 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.
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:
None, I've done enough damage already
Whatever Hits Me:
Thank you for visiting our site. James Marsh, Pending CFO (Chief Fishing Officer)
Copyright 2014 James Marsh
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