Methods & Strategies to Use "Now" Fishing the Smokies
Insects and other food the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Baetis)
2. Blue Quills
3. Quill Gordons
4. Little Black Caddis
5. Winter Stoneflies
The last few days I have discussed some of the flies (BWOs & Blue Quills) to have
with you fishing the Smokies "Now". Before continuing with the insects and flies, I
want to stop and discuss how I think you should approach fishing the next few days
from a strategy and method standpoint.
The weather is cold now and will continue to be cold through most of next week.
Based on the long range weather forecast, the weather should warm up about the
end of next week and fishing may be much easier for you by the first day of March.
It is possible some Blue Quills and Quill Gordons may start hatching around the
weekend of March 1, but that is a guess based on the long range forecast. What I
am going to discuss now, is how to fish the Smokies from now until the end of
next week, or during the time the weather and water continues to be cold. The
only thing that will hatch for sure will be midges. It is possible that some Blue-winged
Olives (Baetis) and small Winter Stoneflies could hatch.
As long as the water is around the mid-forties and higher, you can catch trout on
the dry fly but you odds of doing so are not that great. It is very possible though. If
you have watched our 4 hour long "Fly Fishing Great Smoky Mountains National
Park" - Year Round Dry Fly-fishing DVD, you have seen that proven several times.
When the water is in that temperature range (the forties) you will be more
successful fishing nymphs and larvae imitations.
By the way, just so there is no confusion, the fly fishing industry, meaning fly
shops and manufacturers, call larvae imitations "nymphs". That is incorrect
but that is what they have always called them. I guess I should say, it is what they
called them before they knew the difference in nymphs and larvae. Some of them
are still in the dark about the subject. I mention this because in most cases, when
you check the normal fly shop's website listing of nymphs, or ask for nymphs in their
stores, you will find the larvae imitations included with the nymphs. Recently, some
of the larger dealers, have begin to separate the two types of flies into nymphs and
This is how I would suggest that you go about fishing the streams of the
Smokies for the next few days or until the water warms up to about fifty
degrees or higher.
You should start fishing whenever you want too. You don't have to wait for the
warmest part of the day unless you just want to stay warmer yourself. The fish may
be a little more active during the warmest part of the day if the water temperature
You don't need to fish the sunny spots on the water. The water want be a any
warmer than it will be in the shade unless you can find a still water pond in the
I would start out with a mayfly nymph. The BWOs, Quill Gordons and Blue Quill
nymphs should be the most active of all nymphs since they will start to hatch in the
near future. Since there are more Blue Quill nymphs than BWOs or Quill Gordon
nymphs in the water, I would use an imitation of the Blue Quill nymph. That should
be a hook size 18 fly, not any larger. I would fish it in the moderately flowing
sections of water on the slow side of the current seams, not in the fast water. Keep
the fly on or near the bottom. I don't use a strike indicator. I detect the take by
watching the end of my fly line and leader, or by feeling the takes. If you do use an
indicator, make it is a small one. You want to fish in an upstream direction making
short up and/or, up and across presentations.
Keep your eyes open for any insect activity. If you see any surface activity it will
probably be midges. If you do see midges hatching change your fly to a size 20 or
22 cream midge pupa. You should fish it where you see the midges on the water.
They look like mosquitoes. Add a tiny bit of weight and keep you line mended to
help keep the fly down. Allow the fly to swing around and rise back to the surface by
stopping the tip of your fly rod and allowing the current to bring the fly back to the
surface. If this method doesn't work within a few minutes, go back to the Blue Quill
nymph you were using.
You should be catching trout every once in a while on the nymph. If not, try
changing to an imitation of the Quill Gordon nymph, hook size 14. Weight it down
heavy enough to keep it on the bottom all the time. Use the "high stickin" method
and fish the fast water runs at first. If this doesn't work within half an hour of fishing,
try fishing the same nymph with less weight, in the pockets behind the large rocks
and boulders. This is where the Quill Gordon nymphs will migrate to a week or two
before they hatch. Use an upstream or an up and across presentation for this, not
the "high stickin" method. Again, I don't use a strike indicator. Use one if you feel
uncomfortable without one.
If the water is above 40 degrees you should catch some trout. It will be easier if it is
around the mid-forties. If it is in the high thirties, you are going to find it very difficult
to catch trout. I wouldn't waste my time trying unless I just wanted to get outside and
fish. There is nothing wrong with that. If the water is that cold, go to Abrams Creek
and fish above the bridge (or downstream of the bridge a few yards) at the Abrams
Fall trailhead in Cades Cove. The water will be a little warmer from the springs
upstream. You can catch trout in that part of Abrams Creek if there is two feet of
snow on the ground. The only changes I would make in the methods of fishing I
have outlined above would be in the event of high, off-colored water. I don't have
time to get into what I would suggest under those circumstances. Provided the
water is in the mid-forties or higher, as a benchmark, you should be able to catch at
least a dozen trout in four to six hours of fishing, and possibly more.
Copyright 2009 James Marsh