The Fall Season Means more
Slate Drakes:
The spinners are the important
part of the adult stage of life of
these mayflies.
Fall (Autumn) Season
Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Brook Trout spawn in the Fall of
the year. It's during this time that
they take on their brightest colors.
be during the autumn season. The
number of visitors to the park
increases tremendously and the
roads and trails in the park can
become a little crowded.
Fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park is great during all four seasons of
the year. There are differences in the methods,
strategies and techniques you should use
throughout the year depending on the
environmental conditions. The temperature and
oxygen content of the water can drastically affect
how often and much trout feed. It's important to
understand their underwater world.
Fall (autumn) is our favorite time of the year. The leafs change colors and make the
forest beautiful. Later they will start falling.  In most places that trout live Fall gives
anglers a  sense of  rush or a sense that they need to get in all the fishing they can
before wintertime. In the Smokies, Winter can still provide some good fly-fishing so
no one really gets the same feeling that anglers do in Michigan or Montana, for
example. This is the big difference in fly fishing the Smokies and fly fishing most any
other part of the U.S. You can fish year-round and the fall season can bring about an
improvement over the summer months in some angler's minds.

One thing noticeable is that the biting insects are gone. The weather will begin to
cool down some and there's normally less rainfall than there are during the
Summer. Daytime temperatures can range from hot in the early Fall to cold during
the mid and late fall months. Temperatures can go as low as the teens and
twenties. Snow will usually fall in the high elevations during the month of October.

Water Levels:
The water is usually low due to the lack of rainfall. That also means it will be moving
a little slower and clearer. Fall normally provides the lowest water levels of the year.
Under these conditions of low, clear water, your shadow can spook fish that are
several yards away. You must use longer leaders and lighter tippets than you are
use to using.

Water Temperatures:
Water Temperatures will vary from warm to cold just like the air temps. Early Fall can
have air temps in the nineties and mid to late Fall can have freezing weather. This
means the water temperatures can vary from the high sixties and even low seventies
in the low elevations to the low forties, even high thirties in the late Fall. Melting snow
can make the water cold in the lower elevation even when the air temperatures are
actually warm. A thermometer is a must item to have. It will give you an idea of how
active the cold-blooded trout are and help you establish their location in the streams..

Leaves in water bothers some anglers. It bothers most of them more from a mental
standpoint that an actual fishing standpoint. The leaves are only thick and
aggravating for a very few days, usually just two or three days, and almost never over
a week. There may be a few on the water for a few weeks but not enough to affect
your drift very much.  After the leaves are ready to fall, a very windy day usually brings
most of the leaves to the ground. Leaves can be aggravating during windy days.

A few leaves on the water can actually help disguise the angler and distract the fish.
They trout certainly don't have a problem selecting your dry fly from the debris and
floating leaves.

One quick tip is to avoid stepping on leaves when you are wading. What appears to
be a few leaves on the bottom of the stream may in fact be a pile of them a few feet
deep. You can step on them and go down fast in just the right or I should say wrong,

Spawning Trout:
Brook trout spawn in the Fall. They change colors just like the leaves. It's amazing
how much they resemble the leaves when they change to their spawning colors.
Brown trout also spawn in the Fall. They usually move upstream and can easily be
spotted during this migration. This is a good time to catch large browns because
they loose their normal caution and nocturnal habit of staying hidden during the day.
Their habit of only feeding during low light conditions and at nighttime doesn't play
the role it does during the rest of the year.

The brown trout should not be caught during the actual spawning process. There's a
fine line between catching spawning trout and catching pre-spaw trout. You should
be able to determine if the fish are holding their position on a redd or migrating
upstream. The males are usually the most aggressive. They will attack a streamer
thinking it's an invading fish. You may also damage the redds during this time by
stepping on them when you are wading.

It's not against the park regulations and rules to fish for a trout while it's spawning. It
is illegal to use certain methods of fishing for them such as trying to snag them. To
catch one while it's on its redd or protecting the redd is in our opinion an
unsportsmanlike thing to do. We hope you will avoid this type of fishing.

This is the final round of hatches for most aquatic insects. Food will grow scarce
after this.

Great Brown Autumn Sedges:
The Pycnopsyche genus of caddisflies are found throughout the Smokies. These
are large tan, yellowish brown or cinnamon colored caddisflies. There are several
species of them. They mostly emerge and deposit their eggs during the evenings
but can provide some activity at dawn or just before dark. These are large flies that
are mostly a hook size 10.

Slate Drakes:
The Isony bicolor or Slate Drake brings on a second wave of hatches for the year.
Remember these mayflies hatch out of the water and the duns are not an important
stage of life to imitate. The nymphs and spinners are. These are a hook size 10 to

Eastern Blue-winged Olives:
The Eastern BWOs are about gone. There could be a hatch of one of the species
early in the Fall but it would be sparse and few insects would be on the water. If
available, they are a hook size 16 or 18.

The Little Eastern BWOs should also be about gone.

Blue-winged Olives:
Some baetis species but also several others like the Acentrella species will hatch in
sparse numbers and in certain areas of some streams. The
baetis are usually on
their second go around, or the second part of their bi-brooded year. These mayflies
are all in the Baetidae family but not all in the
Baetis genus. They vary in color like the
leaves - greens, olives, browns, auburn and yellow. They all have gray wings. Hooks
sizes can range from an 18 to 22, depending on the species.

Little Blue-winged Olives:
There will also be hatches of Little Blue-winged olives. The spinners of these
mayflies molt in colors varying from the clear body of the Jenny spinners to the
familiar rusty spinner color. These mayflies vary in hooks sizes from a 20 to a 26.

Little Yellow Quills - Heptagenia Group:
Bright yellow mayflies usually called Yellow Quills, hatch in September and October.
These are especially plentiful in the high elevation streams or in the brook trout
waters. Many anglers think these mayflies are a Light Cahill but they are not
Stenacron interpuntatums. They are one of the species of mayflies included in the
Heptagenia Group. They are clinger nymphs. Both the emergence and spinner fall
are important stages to imitate. These are hook sizes 16.

Light Cahills:
It is possible there may be a few Light Cahills, or Stenacron interpuntatum species,
that hatch in the early part of the fall months.

Cream Cahills:
It's also possible that you may encounter some hatches of the Cream Cahills in the
early Fall.

The Needle Stonefly:
The little Needle Stoneflies, or the Leuctridae species, are very plentiful in the fall
months. Most anglers think they are brown caddisfies. These are very small, slim
stoneflies that are imitated with a hook size 18 fly. The nymphs and adults are
important stages to imitate.

Yellow Sallys:
Perlodidae family species, not the same as in the Spring, will hatch in the early part
of the fall season. These are called Yellow Sallies by many anglers. They hatch
throughout the afternoon and deposit their eggs from dusk to late evening.

Midges hatch year-round but become more important in the late fall months
because they may be the only thing hatching. They are not profuse hatches like they
are in tailwaters and spring creeks, but they exist in plentiful amounts in isolated
locations and to some extent in all of the steams..

Grasshoppers will still be around until late fall or cold weather sets in. Imitations can
be productive, especially during the early part of Fall.

Ants will also be around until freezing temperature come around. They may be
important In the early part of the Fall.

Beetles can be found up until the ground freezes. Imitations of them may be effective
during the early part of the fall season.

When others are hunting and watching football games, in the Smokies, the trout are
often taking dry flies.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh       
Rainbow trout move back out
of the highly oxygenated warm
summer water to go just
about anywhere they please .  
Some flowers do bloom in the
Fall. They will probably be some
you will not have seen prior to
fishing the park.
the fall months of the year. It's a
beautiful time to be fishing and
the weather is normally nice.  
The boulders can provide the
perfect hiding place.
Staying hidden becomes even
more important.
Water levels can get rather
low because of the lack of
Thumbnails-Click on Images
A Grouse tries to sneak around the bank
of the stream on Cataloochee Creek.
Buck Whitetail Deer are a common sight in
the open areas of the park during the fall
months of the year.
Angie Fishing the Little Pigeon
A large pool just above the
Chimney Picnic area
Great Autumn Brown Sedge: This is a
larger size caddisfly that hatches in the Fall.
Angie with a larger size rainbow caught
during the Fall.
Stream Flows are usually low during the Fall
Season, but not in this scene. The Little Pigeon
River was higher than normal on this day.
Sometimes falling leaves can be a problem
but it affects fly fishing for only a very few
days of the year.
Not near as many aquatic insects hatch
that do hatch can be very important.
Thumbnails-Click on Images