Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/17/15
There is snow on the ground outside but at 4:30 AM this morning, it is difficult for me
to tell just how much there is and on top of ice, I might add. I'm not going outside to
check it out.
I'm up early this morning due to our getting snowed under with orders at Perfect Fly
this weekend and especially yesterday and last night. I guess everyone was at home
on their computer thinking about fishing. Actually, most of the orders came from
areas of the country with good weather. It is a strange situation with warm weather in
the western Rockies and cold weather in the South. We're certainly happy to have
plenty of orders but I just didn't expect that many with the weather situation that exist
in the mid-west, northeastern and southeastern parts of the country under snow.
I'm continuing with part 2 of the Little Black Caddisfly article:
I mentioned this yesterday but its worth bringing up again. Be aware that it's easy to
confuse the Little Black Caddisflies with another little black caddisfly called Tiny Black
Caddis. The Tiny Black Caddis I'm referring to hatch in the Smokies in fairly large
numbers. I'm fairly sure these little tiny caddis are Chimarra obscura species but I
have not sent them to an entomologist to verify that, and I have not tried to identify
them using my microscope and the keys. I do know for a fact, the Chimarra obscura
species exit in the park because they are on the Discover Life list. I do know the
caddisflies I'm referring to crawl out of the water on rocks to hatch into adults. The
only times I have seen the adults around the water, they were either newly hatched
caddisflies crawling around on the rocks, or females that were laying eggs by
crawling down the rocks into the water to deposit them. As mentioned yesterday, I
gave up on trying to imitate them. You will see them by the dozens at times. These
are easy to confuse with Little Black Caddis; however, if you look closely, they are
much smaller, the females being a hook size 20 at the very largest. Little Black
Caddis are a hook size 18. See the image of what I believe is the Little Chimmara
I'm not trying to make this complicated. The important point here is that you should
be aware there's more than one little Black Caddisfly. The Little Black Caddis hatch
midstream almost like a mayfly. They deposit their eggs on the surface of the water
late in the day and are easy to tell apart from the tiny ones in that regard.
Little Black Caddis Pupae:
The Little Black Caddis pupae slowly swim to the surface when emerging. They have
what's called two middle legs that wiggle to help them reach the surface. Air bubbles
released from the pupa sheathing also aid the little pupa in reaching the surface. My
guess is that it's probably the air bubbles more than the leg action that propels the
pupa to the surface. They emerge into adults in the surface skim by shedding their
thin pupa skin. As soon as the wings are dry enough, they fly away to the
stream-side bushes, trees and grass where the males and females congregate to
These caddisflies usually don't hatch in shallow water or near the edge of a stream
like many other caddisflies. In most cases they hatch mid-stream and by that I mean
anywhere out in the stream where there's some depth to the water.
The Little Black Caddis hatch usually starts in the early afternoon and if it's a cloudy
day, it can last until late afternoon. You will sometimes see the adult caddisflies
fluttering on the surface just as soon as they emerge but most of the adults you see
on the surface will be females from a different day's hatch depositing their eggs. This
is a fairly common situation when the skies are overcast. The combination egg laying
and hatching usually occurs later in the afternoon and can increase the activity to the
point it becomes a feeding frenzy.
The pupae usually hatch in water that's relatively smooth, even in streams that
consist mostly of fast moving pocket water. They seek the slower, smoother areas of
the stream to emerge. They will hatch near the tail ends of runs and even in the tail
ends of pools. It's during the time that the pupae are accenting to the surface and
changing into an adult that the trout feed on them the most. This is very easy for the
trout to do because it's impossible for the pupae to escape
Most of the time, you won't see the trout splash the surface feeding on the pupae. In
fact, most anglers don't even recognize the hatch is taking place. The trout will
sometimes take the adults on the surface before they depart the water, but if so, it's
usually late in the hatch period when the water is warmer than normal. Trout feeding
on the hatching Little Black Caddisflies on the surface is the exception, not the rule.
Most of the time you see trout hitting the surface is when females that hatched a few
days before are depositing their eggs at the same time other caddisflies are
If you watch carefully, you can easily tell the difference in the newly emerged caddis
and the egg layers. The newly hatched caddis will flutter their wings trying to dry
them and then depart the water. The egg layers will land on the surface for a few
seconds and then fly a few feet only to repeat the process. Most of the time they just
land on the surface a few seconds before departing the water again, much like an
airplane student pilot practicing touch and go landing.
When the Little Black Caddis are hatching and the trout are feeding on them, you will
just see flashes of trout. Sometimes the trout will swirl just beneath the surface when
they take the emerging pupae, but most often you will only see a flash of the fish.
Occasionally you will see some surface disturbance but most of the time you won't.
Flashing trout is the key to detecting the hatch is underway. When you see trout
flash beneath the surface, but don't see what it is they are feeding on, it usually
indicates caddisflies are hatching. Often, it's the only clue you will have that a Little
Black Caddis hatch is taking place.
If you are fishing pocket water, I suggest you use an up and across presentation of
the pupae imitation. The reason for this is you can get much closer to the feeding
trout approaching them in an upstream direction. Cast slightly up and across the
stream and allow the pupa imitation to swing all the way around downstream. Mend
your line as soon as the fly hits the water as necessary to get the fly down near the
bottom. When it's near the end of the drift, slightly and slowly raise the tip of the rod
to make the fly accent to the surface like the real emerging caddisfly pupae. The
trout usually take the fly while it's accenting to the surface.
In smooth flowing sections of the streams, such as the pools, you will be better off
using a down and across presentation. It can be difficult to get very close to the
feeding trout in smooth flowing water and longer cast are required. With either type
of presentation, up and across, or down and across, you want to imitate the pupa
swimming to the surface to hatch. You do that by simply stopping the rod near the
end of the drift and allowing the fly to rise back up to the surface. The current will
bring the fly back to the surface for you.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, there is a 40 percent chance of snow before 7am. It will be mostly cloudy with
a high near 29. Northwest wind will be around 5 mph. Tonight, there is a 20 percent
chance of snow after 4am. The low will be around 18.
Wednesday, there's a 50 percent chance of snow showers, mainly after 7am. It will
be mostly cloudy with a high near 30. Southwest wind will range from 5 to 15 mph
becoming west in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 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 495 cfs at 2.40 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 464 cfs at 1.84 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 156 cfs at 2.79 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 a little above a
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are approaching a little higher than normal levels.
Current Recommended Streams: Upper Abrams Creek, if you can get there.
Check the park road closings.
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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Image of the Tiny Black Caddis I believe to be a Chimmara genus species.
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