Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Little Black Winter Stoneflies
3. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish
Current Conditions/Forecast for the Great Smoky Mountains:
This is in response to email I received yesterday asking for information. I usually check two
weather forecast each day. That sounds like a lot but that takes less than a minute for about all
the info I want. They are the National Weather Service (NOAA), and AccuWeather. I will post these
on our Link Section of this website so that anyone can click and see what is going on in the
Smokies at the main entrance to the park. They are usually about the same forecast.
At 5:00 AM this morning, the usual time I get up, it was 39 degrees in Gatlinburg. The
temperature is going down to 31 to reach its lowest point. Tomorrow, or Saturday, it should be
the same reaching 39 degrees for the high for the day, but going down to 30 at its lowest point.
Sunday night it will hit 26 in Gatlinburg and Sunday's high again should be only 39. Monday, it is
going to be a little colder.
Changing the subject, but the 39 degree mark reminded me of something that has always
amazed me. We have spent many nights in West Yellowstone Montana during July, some years
the entire month. Most every morning when we would get up, the temperature would be 39
degrees according to the one radio station and my vehicle's gauge. I have seen it do that every
morning for 2 weeks in a row. The strange thing about it, is that about 2:00 to 3:00 PM, the
temperature would be in the low nineties most days. That amazes me and also makes a very
important point. It isn't so much what the air temperature is at any one time, it is the average that
matters. The water changes in temperature respond much slower than the air.
There is more to it than that. The Gallatin River water temperature is usually around 42 every
morning at 9 AM in July. By 2:00 or 3:00 it is usually only (in July) about 50 degrees. That isn't
reflected by the average air temperature. It is controlled by the melting snow and water draining
from the high mountain range. It is almost never over 55 until later in August.
The cold blooded aquatic insects also amaze me. The difference in that five degrees of water
makes a huge difference in which ones hatch and when they hatch. All cold blooded animals,
such as snakes, and by the way, fish are animals, respond to the changes in water temperature
similarly. They all have their different preferences but the changes are usually fairly close when
scaled out. After all, at 32 degree F., the water will freeze. Between 40 degrees and down to 32,
trout (and most all fish) undergo drastic changes. Their body temperature (blood) undergoes
drastic changes. At 40, if trout move around very much, they use energy and need food. The
results is, they move around far less than normal. They avoid current. They still feed some and
they still move around some but from 40 down to 32, each degree means a huge difference. The
temperature of the water has a non-linear affect on them. It decelerates drastically. The
difference in their movements, the amount of food they eat and energy they expend varies
drastically. The difference in the 8 degrees from 40 down to 32, and the 8 degrees from 48 down
to 40, isn't comparable at all. The changes the trout undergo are drastically different.
Yesterday, when I arose the temperature was 35 degrees in Pigeon Forge (weather station wise
I am closer to Gatlinburg. It dropped down to 31 by 8:00 AM and went up to 51. That means the
average temperature was 41 degrees. The water temperature rose to 44 degrees at the entrance
to the park at Gatlinburg yesterday afternoon. Water responds slower to the changes. That is a
huge difference that the temperature going down to 26 and only reaching 39 degrees. That
means the temperature is only averaging 32 degrees for the 24 hour period. That means the
water will be very, very cold.
By the way, the elevation at Gatlinburg (weather station wise) is just over 1900 feet. Wild trout do
just fine at that elevation in the winter. Would you like a specific point to fish? To catch wild trout,
you only need to drive to the bridge crossing the Little Pigeon River when you get in sight of the
Sugarland Visitors Center. There is a pool right under the bridge. It usually holds several
rainbows. We have caught lots of trout there when the water was in the forties. Of course there
are many, many other places. By the way, just inside the park you will sometimes catch stockers
that have moved upstream from where they were planted in Gatlinburg. We haven't caught any up
at the bridge, but I feel sure there are some that travel that far and probably farther.
I think you can see from the above temperature info, catching trout yesterday would be a
completely different situation from catching them today or for the next few days. This information
is available at the click of a mouse. If you want to know the conditions, just looking closely at the
weather can tell you a lot during the winter. My other advise is to get a good digital water
thermometer and use it. Last but not least, learn to fish cold water. It requires completely different
methods and techniques than the normal ones. I will be getting into that during the next few
Basics of Fly Fishing: Trout Food Series - continued tomorrow
Stream and Lake Destinations - West Prong Little River (GSMNP),
Continuing on with our Great Smoky Mountains National Park Streams, check out
our "Perfect Fly" stream section's link to the West Prong of the Little River.
Copyright 2009 James Marsh