Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/16/15
There isn't much sense in going over the weather, water and stream level conditions
for the next few days. It is going to be cold with highs of only around water freezing
temperatures of 32 degrees, and lows less than that for the next five days. If you
want to go fly fishing for trout this week, try the Rocky Mountains where there are
highs in the sixties or better California or the Southwestern states with highs in the
I'm going to continue covering some of the first hatches of aquatic insects that take
place in the Smokies but this time, covering one that many are not familiar with - the
little Black Caddis. I know caddisflies are not considered very important insects in the
streams of the Smokies but this one should be just as important as the Quill Gordons
or Blue Quills I just finished writing about the past few days. They can provide some
prolific hatches and just as many trout can be caught from their hatches and egg
laying activity as the two mayfly species just mentioned.
There is a problem with the early season hatches of the Little Black Caddis because
there are two different species that can easily be confused by the common name
Little Black Caddis. The important ones,also called American Grannoms and
Short-horned Caddis, are species of the Brachyentridae family of caddisflies. To be
specific, they are Brachycentrus occidentalis. There's another species, the
Brachycentrus americanus, that hatches later on in the year, but it's usually not very
prolific. In the western States, where the same caddisflies hatch later in the year, the
Little Black Caddis hatch is often called the "Mother's Day Hatch".
The problem with this hatch that causes confusion in the Smokies is that there is
another little black colored caddis that hatch just before the Grannoms begin to
hatch and sometimes it last into the first of the Grannom hatch. They are Chimarra
species, called Tiny Black Caddis, that are found in some of the park's streams.
These are a hook size 20 to 22. These caddis crawl out of the water usually on rocks
to hatch during the day and crawl back into the water to deposit their eggs in the
afternoons. I have never figured out how to catch trout imitating them and I have
tried. I even developed a pattern for the pupa and adult, and discovered neither
worked even when there were large numbers of them hatching. I soon gave up the
idea of offering a fly pattern for them. It is difficult to imitate an insect that crawls up
and down the banks and rocks. They hatch when the water is about 45-50 degrees.
The Little Black Caddis usually hatch when the water is from 50 to 52 degrees but
they are larger, averaging a hook size 18. They don't crawl out of the water to hatch
or to lay their eggs.
Other than just a general bug ignorance of many Smoky Mountain anglers, I think the
main reason for the lack of importance placed on this insect in the Smokies is the fact
that they usually start hatching about the same time the Quill Gordon and Blue Quill
mayflies hatch. The Little Black Caddis hatch is largely ignored. That can be a huge
mistake because I have seen many days that you could catch a good number of trout
on the Little Black Caddis hatch when everyone was beating the water to death with
Quill Gordon patterns catching few to none.
Another problem is those that do fish the hatch, fish it using a fly that imitates the
adult. That brings little success simply because the trout mostly eat the emerging
pupae rather than the adults. The adults can quickly leave the water and the pupae
Another reason is that In water around fifty degrees, the trout aren't as prone to feed
on the surface of the water as they are beneath the surface. Yet, even another
problem, is that by the time many anglers figure out they are hatching (seeing adults
on the banks and in the trees and bushes), the hatch has already ended for the day.
The few anglers I have noticed fishing this hatch, fished it using the wrong fly. An
imitation of the adult works great during the egg laying part of the hatch that for the
most part takes place a few days after the hatch, but not very good during a hatch.
During the actual hatch, an imitation of the pupa works much, much better.
If you have ever paid any attention to what's in the streams of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, you have seen the little chimney cased caddisflies. You
couldn't miss them. Most of the streams have a lot of these cases. Little River has a
rather large population. This is the larva stage of life of the "Little Black Caddisfly".
These are neat little cases made of wood. They are square but slightly tapered
towards the tail end of the larvae that they enclose. Unless your sneaky, you won't
see them with their heads stuck out like the ones in the image to your right. If you
pick one of them up from the water, they will stay hidden in the case and won't stick
their heads out until they think they are safe.
Fly patterns have been developed by anglers to imitate these caddisfly larvae.
Although I'm sure some of them are eaten by trout, I question the odds of success
when using a fly that imitates them. We have developed different Perfect Fly patterns
for them but using them has produced far less success than we anticipated. For that
reason, we don't offer an imitation. I will continue this article tomorrow.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, freezing rain and sleet is likely before 2pm, then freezing rain and sleet
between 2pm and 5pm, then rain or freezing rain after 5pm. The high will be near 33.
Northeast wind will be around 5 mph becoming south in the afternoon. The chance of
precipitation is 100%. Total daytime ice accumulation of 0.1 to 0.2 of an inch is
possible. Total daytime snow and sleet accumulation of less than one inch is possible.
Tonight, expect rain or freezing rain before 8pm, then freezing rain and sleet
between 8pm and 2am, then a chance of snow, freezing rain, and sleet after 2am.
The low will be around 19. The chance of precipitation is 100%. New ice
accumulation of 0.1 to 0.3 of an inch is possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of
less than a half inch is possible.
Tuesday, there's a 30 percent chance of snow, mainly before 8am. It will be cloudy,
then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 29. Northwest wind 5 to 10
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 365 cfs at 2.13 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 387 cfs at 1.70 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. Yesterday, it was about a normal
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are approaching normal levels.
Current Recommended Streams: Upper Abrams Creek
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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Little Black Caddis Larvae
Adult Little Black Caddis