03/23/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
2.   Little Black Winter Stoneflies
3.   Quill Gordon Mayflies
4.   Blue Quill Mayflies
5.   Little Brown Stoneflies
6.   Little Black Caddis (American Grannoms)
7.   Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
8.   Midges

Fly Fishing Tailwaters - Part 2
If you read the article day before yesterday, you noticed that I would be writing some
about fly fishing tailwaters that are near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In
order to establish what I mean by near, lets say those that are within a half days
drive of the Smokies.

A few years ago, I produced a DVD entitled
"Fly Fishing for Trout in Tailwaters". It
consisted of many tailwaters from coast to coast including some near the Smokies. I
made a big mistake on the title of the program, which by the way, is the most
important thing about a video. I didn't realize that many anglers, or at least
"want-a-be" fly anglers",  didn't actually know what a tailwater was. I should have at
least put a subtitle that indicated it was fly fishing for trout below dams.  

Some Basics:
A tailwater is a stream below a dam, usually a reservoir, pond or lake. There are two
basic types. Those that get their water from the surface of the impounded water and
those that get it from the bottom. All of the ones near the Smokies get their water
from bottom discharges of water. Some of them, like the Hiwassee River, get most of
their water from the lake through a large pipe that extends to or from a dam, but
most get their water directly from the bottom of the dam. These pipes also extends
from the bottom of the lake.

Water that comes from the bottom of a lake is the coldest water in the lake. This is
especially important during the hot summer. That is why trout can survive below
many southern lakes. This requires that the water is constantly or at least frequently
discharged through the dam or otherwise, the water below the dam will warm up too
much during the warmer months.

Water in lakes and reservoirs stratifies or separates into three separate layers - the
Epilimnion, or top layer of water; the Metalimnion, or thermocline layer of water; and
the Hypolimnion, or bottom layer. The deeper the lake, the colder the water, up to a
point. As long as the water is coming from the bottom of a deep lake, or the
Hypolimnion layer of water, it is cold enough for trout to exist year-round.

If it were not for dams, the Southeastern United States wouldn't have very much
water capable of supporting trout. Most of it would be in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. In some cases, construction of dams destroyed trout habit. That was
the case of the Little Tennessee River. Just mentioning that fires up the tempers of
many local anglers. On the other hand, there wouldn't be any trout in the Clinch
River and many other southern waters if dams didn't exist. I don't want to get into
the rights and wrongs of dams. After all, there is little that can be done about those
that do exist, so I will stick to what we have.

Other than the South Holston River, there isn't a tailwater within a half days drive of
the Smokies that is capable of sustaining a decent population of wild trout. Although
this tailwater is still stocked with rainbow trout by the state of Tennessee, it certainly
wouldn't have to be, and in my opinion, shouldn't be stocked, but that is another
subject. There are some other tailwaters that would have a few trout that would
reproduce a few, mostly brown trout, but not to any appreciable extent. The results
is that the states in which these tailwaters exist have stocked trout in their tailwaters.

The Chattahoochee River tailwater below Lake Lanier in Georgia flows right through
downtown Atlanta cold enough to support trout. Even farther south, the little known
Sipsey River tailwater that comes from deep Smith Lake near Birmingham, Alabama,
provides very cold water and year-round trout fishing. When I was a young General
Contractor, one of the small jobs I did for the Alabama Power Company in the early
1970's was to construction concrete steps, retaining walls and platforms below the
dam at Smith Lake. By the way, this is the highest earth dam in the nation. When I
visited the job, I would take my spinning rod and catch rainbow trout. I learned the
hard way to do that after the crew had left the job, not while they were working,
otherwise I would be paying my men to fish.

Some of these tailwaters are only capable of supporting trout during the colder
months of the year. The water becomes too warm during the summer even though it
comes from the bottom of lakes below dams. These are usually called "put and
take" tailwaters, meaning they are stocked and the trout are intended to be caught
during the cooler months. Many of these have been converted into what is called
"delayed harvest" streams. Continued tomorrow.