Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/09/15
If you love to fish for trout with a fly, and you want to know how to catch more fish,
consistently, and under most conditions, then the following could very well be the
most important thing you ever read.
The recommended trout flies and recommended strategies I provide below is for the
current date. It doesn't provide information on the flies you may need for the next
month, and in most cases, not even the next week. Both the flies and strategies for
fishing change from day to day and change much more so, in the beginning of the
season the first of each year when the weather begins to warm up in the late winter.
Normally, this is around the middle to the end of February, but in some years, earlier
or later than that. The reason I am pointing this out, is that the information provided
each day is for that particular day and shouldn't be used to select flies for dates
beyond that. To get that information, we rather you call or email us (number and
address on your right under "options for selecting flies") and let us know the dates
you plan on fishing, or the times you want to cover with a selection of flies.
The "Winter" Smoky Mountains hatch chart", shows the flies you need through the
third week of March, the official end of Winter. Keep in mind, the hatches vary more
in the late winter/early spring than any other time of the year. It can vary as much as
two or three weeks.
The exact time aquatic insects hatch is controlled by several factors, mostly the
length of time from the time the eggs hatched into the larva stage of life (nymphs or
larvae), and water temperature. Unlike what many think, it isn't the instantaneous
water temperature, rather the overall average water temperature from the time the
eggs were deposited until the nymphs and larvae are fully grown and developed.
They are almost like human and animal babies in the sense they can be born early
or late but only to a certain degree. For example, you won't find Quill Gordon nymphs
hatching into duns when the nymphs are 10 months old simply because their life
cycle is one year. Similarly, you don't see babies being born that survive any earlier
than 8 months during their normal 9 month life cycle. I know that's a below layman's
explanation of when aquatic insects hatch, but I am only trying to make the point that,
for example, if the water temperature had gone to 60 degrees a month ago and
remained there for three days, you would not have seen any Quill Gordons hatching
because the nymphs would not have been fully grown with developed wing pads.
The point is, the exact time any aquatic insect hatches (hatches is angler's slang for
emerging - eggs hatch) can vary but only due to the average water temperature,
available food for the nymphs, and a few other technical factors that are not
important from a fishing standpoint.
So, keep in mind, when we provide information for flies you need, we base it mostly
on the hatch chart we developed from acquiring insects from the streams using
professional entomology equipment at various times of the year, and the average
water temperature for the past few months. In the case of the freestone streams in
the park, the average water temperature is determined by the average air
temperature. It is almost never the same but it is the only thing that changes the
water temperature and it is in direct proportion to it.
In addition to the above, we always allow a margin for error. Since most angles would
be purchasing flies for any given period of time ranging from a single day to a few
months, we want to make sure they have the flies they need in the event the hatches
deviate from the chart schedule.
There is another huge factor most anglers completely miss. The importance of
hatches isn't just because it lets you know what dry flies to use at certain times of the
year. Just as important, and in most cases even more important, it tells you what is
about to hatch, or nearing its hatch time. The nymphs and larvae don't just jump out
from under a rock and shoot to the surface or crawl out of the water to hatch. In
general, they come out from their normal hiding places and become easy prey for
trout to eat anywhere from two to four weeks before they hatch. This is the one of
easiest times for anglers to catch trout imitating that particular insect. It probably
averages about two or three weeks.
We also take into consideration, the type of nymph or larvae. For example, in the
case of mayflies, it makes a huge difference whether the nymph is a clinger, crawler,
swimmer or burrower nymph. Most of the mayflies in the park are clingers. Clinger
nymphs stay hidden under rocks on the streambed up until about two or three weeks
prior to hatching. In other words, they are generally not available for trout to eat
throughout the year prior to that. They only come out to eat, mostly at nighttime, and
in many cases they are still not readily available for the trout to eat because they can
eat under and in crevices of rocks. By the way, all the stoneflies are clinger nymphs,
so this applies to them as well. It is the same with burrower mayflies. They live in
holes in the banks and bottom and only come out to eat for a short time, usually at
night. By the way, the clingers look about as much like a swimming nymph as a bull
frog resembles a snake. A crawler looks about as much like a burrower as a billy goat
looks like a horse. In other words folks, the nymphs look as different in appearance
as the adults you imitate with dry flies.
Crawler mayflies are a little more available for trout to eat prior to getting ready to
hatch than the clingers. They hide down between the crevices in the rocks and under
and around other cover. At times, the trout can find and eat them but in the case of
the Smokies, only a few mayflies are crawlers, and they are not among the most
plentiful of the mayflies in the Smokies.
Swimming nymphs hide in any crevice they can find. In the Smokies, that is mostly
between rocks, but they are generally available for trout to eat throughout their life.
They are more like small minnows and can dart around and escape trout. They are
also fairly plentiful in the Smokies, but mostly in the form of the Slate Drakes and
The BWOs nymphs cover a huge variety of insects and only a part of them are baetis
species. There are over thirty different species classified as BWOs. You will notice on
the winter hatch chart, I break them down into Small BWOs and BWOs. Later on in
the year, you will also see Eastern BWOs and Little BWOs, that cover other BWO
species. I do that because the hatch times are different and the sizes are different,
although there are many overlaps. They are one of, if not the most available nymphs
for trout to eat year-round. They are small but they are fairly plentiful, and can be
eaten most any time from the time they hatch from an egg until they emerge into
duns. That is why you will see them on our list of recommended flies (nymphs) most
of the year. By the way, the Slate Drakes, large swimming nymphs, are very plentiful
and available much of the year for the trout to eat.
The bottom line to this is that in the case of mayflies, you will see us recommending
swimming and crawling nymphs to imitate much of the year and weeks away from
their hatch times, but you will only see us recommending the clinger and the few
burrowing nymphs in the park, two or three weeks prior to their hatch times.
The single largest mistake that I know anglers fishing for trout make
nation-wide, is the fact they pay a lot of attention to how well their dry flies
match the naturals, and very, very little attention to how well their nymphs
and larvae match the naturals. That is a huge mistake because the trout see
the nymphs and larvae all year, but they only see the adults for a few
minutes at the most. Furthermore, and even more importantly, they can see
the nymphs and larvae much, much better than they can the adults on the
surface of the water you imitate with dry flies.
The book, "Matching the hatch" was a good one that changed the way anglers began
to look at the flies they use to imitate aquatic insects, but it didn't go near far enough.
It is even more important that anglers know how to imitate "what's about to hatch",
"what is available to the trout that hasn't hatched" and "what has hatched,
died and fell on the water".
I'm sorry for the bluntness, but I feel like have to point out that the flies sold by most
fly shops, which mostly come from three importers SUCK. They are mostly dry flies.
You will only find a very few nymphs and even less, larva imitations and most all of
them are generic. The are mostly ego flies developed by anglers over the years
with most all the importance placed on the dry flies. That's because of a lack of
knowledge on the part of the importers, fly shops and anglers in general. That is why
and how, Perfect Fly is rapidly changing the fly business world-wide.
I'll end with this. The way you catch a fish, any fish from a blue
marlin to a trout, is simple. You figure out what it is eating
and you put a hook in it, or you make or otherwise acquire
something that looks and acts like what it is eating with a
hook in it. Other than exceptions where fish are spawning and territorial or
protective, that is it. It is that simple.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, showers likely but mainly before 11am. It will be cloudy with a temperature
rising to near 57 by 10am, then falling to around 49 during the remainder of the day.
Southwest wind will range from 5 to 10 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon.
The chance of precipitation is 70%. Tonight's low will be around 33 degrees.
Tuesday will be cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 44.
North wind around will be around 5 mph.
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links that have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data: Click
to links to see updates:
Little River: Rate 352 cfs at 2.10 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 436 cfs at 1.79 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 109 cfs at 2.60 ft (This gauge is also messed up due to
ice) (good wading conditions up to 125 with extra caution up to 150 cfs)
Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby. Yesterday, it was getting near a
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are nearing their normal levels.
Current Recommended Streams: Any of the lower elevations streams with
Recommended Trout Flies:
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 20/18
2. Brown and White Belly Sculpins:
Hook Size 6
3. Cream Midges: 20/22
4. Winter Stoneflies: 16/18
5. Little Brown Stoneflies: 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.
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 clingers. Winter stoneflies should begin crawling
out of the water to hatch and Little Brown stoneflies will start very soon, if not already.
If the water is below 43 degrees, I would switch to a Cream Midge larva and Cream
Midge Pupa tandem rig, with the larva the bottom fly and the pupa above it.
If you spot something hatching, it will most likely be Cream Midges, Winter stoneflies
or small Blue-winged Olives. Switch to the adult Cream Midge, if it is midges
hatching, Winter stonefly, or the BWO Dun or emerger, if it is the BWOs.
Tips for Beginners:
Learn to imitate the most plentiful and available insects and other foods at the time
you are fishing, or continue to use trial and error methods and forever be a mediocre
Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
Whatever Hits Me:
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
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