10/22/08

Fishing the Smokies Update

Within the past week, we have been able to make three short trips into the
Smokies. The streams are all very low and I mean very low. The only thing saving
the trout is the lower water temperatures. For the most part the water has stayed
cool. There could have been some problems the last month or so in the lower
elevations. The water has been quite warm a couple of times down low but for the
most part, everyone should be thankful that the lack of rainfall has occurred after
the weather began to cool off some. That is normal for this time of year in the
Smokies - that is normal temperature wise, but not normal for the water to stay as
low as it has the last month or so. It is normally low in the fall but not near this low.

Everything I have said about the water is looking at the situation from the fish's
standpoint. Low water is fine as long as it is cold. Cold water also keeps the oxygen
content up and basically there is little problems from that standpoint. It does effect
other things adversely. It affect the numbers of aquatic insects in some cases, for
example. It reduces the area of substrate covered with water and that reduces the
area the insects live. It leaves many of them on rocks and soil that dries up.  

Personally, I love the low water from a fishing standpoint. It makes getting around
much, much easier. In high water it gets tricky moving upstream in many places. If
the banks have the normal thick brush that exist in many places, you cannot get out
of the water to move upstream. The low water allows a passage way under these
conditions.

Low water also adds some challenge to the opportunistically feeding trout. If the
water is normal or slightly high, often catching fish is a matter of tossing a fly
upstream in the right place. That offers little challenge. With the water very low like
it is now, you must be very careful not to spook the trout. That is easier said than
done. It takes ultra slow movements and staying hidden behind trees or boulders.
Staying low enough to get close in tight places and that just about amounts to
crawling. It also takes better presentations and better imitations (flies).

We have found plenty of Little Yellow Quills in the higher elevations along with a lot
of needle stoneflies. The brook trout are beginning to spawn and the two times we
stopped at a brook trout stream, we found a few brightly colored beauties only
willing to protect their nest. At the mid elevation areas we fished, both in North
Carolina and on the Tennessee side of the park, we found some adult Great
Autumn Brown Sedges flying around indicating they have begin to hatch in the
evenings. We noticed one Slate Drake spinner. They are probably about gone for
year. We noticed two species of Blue-winged Olives hatching. One was a
baetis
species, size 18, and the other most likely a Little Blue-winged Olive species, closer
to a size 20 or 22. Neither was present in prolific quantities but the days were clear.
We somehow managed to miss fishing during the few cloudy days we had recently.
That would have brought more olives out of the water.

In a few places we found the leaves on the water seem to help with regards to
spooking the trout. Most of the trout are staying in the deepest water they can find
and as soon as they see a movement, they just slide a few inches under a rock. We
caught a few trout from the pools but that adds a lot to the difficultly. That takes a
very long and light leader and tippet and a small nymph fished deep. That wouldn't
be too difficult if it were not for the fact that you must also stay hidden. Watching
your leader isn't easy under those circumstances. When you can see it, it is like
watching paint dry.

We saw only one large brown. She didn't seem to want to stay put in one area. I
couldn't determine the stage of the spawning activity for certain and I left her alone.
The way she moved around, I doubt I would have stood much of a chance with her
anyway. She saw me way before I spotted her. We didn't spend any time looking for
the large browns. That is one reason we probably didn't see but one. I am certain
there are plenty of them around but the recent warm spell may have slowed the
spawn. Things should be back to normal by now.

In the three short trips we made, we managed to catch over twenty trout. One
brown was about twelve inches and other than that, they all were all either small
browns and average size rainbows and brooks. We probably fished only a total of
about eight hours and that was one at a time. About half of them were brooks. The
other half were tough to come by but that is exactly the way it should be.


Copyright 2008 James Marsh