Headwater Stream:
Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A Headwater Stream:
Headwater Stream is a commonly used phase to distinguish the smaller
streams in the higher elevations of freestone streams. There's really not any
real definition of the phase "headwater stream". It's just a general term that
distinguishes the uppermost streams from the larger, streams in the lower

Just where a headwater stream ends depends on one's personal definition
of the phrase. For example, I guess the Little River could be considered one
of the headwater streams of the Tennessee River. More anglers would think
Fish Camp Prong should be more appropriately considered a headwater
stream of Little River than Little River a headwater stream of the Tennessee
River. At least in the sense we will use the phrase "headwater stream", our
intent is to define the uppermost, smaller streams at the "head" of the larger
watersheds and streams that exist the park.

When it comes to fly fishing headwater streams, here's an important fact to
consider. Although there are always some exceptions, the further you travel
upstream in any headwater stream, the smaller you will usually find the fish
to be. Although the amount of available food is usually the most important
factor in determining the size of the fish in a stream, the physical size of the
stream can also affect the size of the fish. It's a fact that small streams
usually have small fish. As a general rule, the smaller the stream, the
smaller the fish.

It may seem appealing to venture far upstream or to hike into the
backcountry from the standpoint of envisioning that there are more large fish
there than there are in the lower part of the stream. The fact is, just the
opposite is usually the case. There are many other advantages of hiking into
the remote part of a stream for some anglers, depending on their personal
preferences, but catching bigger fish is usually not one of them.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh
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