Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Strategies - What Fly To Use - Part 23
I think we finally have a good weather forecast for the next several days if you overlook today
and tomorrow.. It's not looking so good for this morning. We may even get some snow
accumulation. The high today will only reach 42 degrees. Tonight will be down to a cold 26
degrees in Gatlinburg but it the temperature will head back up to 53 degrees for tomorrow, or
New year weekend is looking good. The highs predicted for Friday is 55 and Saturday 59
degrees. The lows want quite get down to freezing. That should put the water temperatures in
the lower elevations in the high forties to low fifties on the average in the mid afternoons.
That's about normal and as good conditions for this time of year.
The water level is a little on the high side now, at 526 cfs, but it will probably fall rather fast
unless we get a lot of snow from now (which is just after midnight Tuesday night) until in the
morning. That's not predicted and shouldn't be the case. The amount of rainfall yesterday
was less than expected. Certainly be this weekend the water levels will be down in excellent
condition for wading and can be waded now if you young, strong, avoid swift areas and use
common sense. The knee-high rule will keep you safe under most situations. Just falling in
and getting wet is very dangerous.
Sidebar on Wading:
I know this is getting off the subject but I attended the Coast Guard's National Safety meeting
held for state and local marine officers, police, water patrol, etc. Representing Ranger Boats
saltwater line boats demonstrating their boats rigged for marine police, the Coast Guard, etc.
When the Coast Guard gave their statics on drowning for the previous year, I was always
shocked at the number of deaths that were initially called drowning but later determined to
have been caused from hypothermia. It's a far bigger killer than most people think.
One amazing thing was the water temperatures at which it can occur. To make it short and
simple, its much higher than you probably expect and it doesn't take as long as you probably
expect it does. It doesn't take thirty-five degrees water to kill you. You can die from being in
fifty degree water. If your in it long enough, you will die. When your surrounded by cold water,
your body starts losing its 98.6 degree temperature fast. It's like the opposite thing of having a
Here's the down and dirty analysis of it. At first you will get the shakes and feel very cold.
Then you will actually begin to feel warm and think your getting better. Then you die not even
knowing you are dying.
Last year I noticed reports that several wading anglers died from drowning. One is too many.
What a sixty or seventy year old man can handle is one thing. What a twenty year old man
can handle is another. The older guys usually have more wisdom but less strength.
What a guy that's used to wading several times a year can do is one thing. What a guy that
hasn't waded in months can do is another. Your legs and mind get used to it and you can
even build muscles in places you wouldn't normally have much muscle wading often.
Guides will tell you one thing and in general claim it's safe to wade water that's not only not
exactly safe to wade, but also water that's not pleasant to wade. They are always pressed with
having to save all the days they have the opportunity to make a living that they can salvage.
Some, not all, but some fly shops will stretch the truth to get customers in their shops by
claiming high water levels are great and safe to wade. There isn't a lot of fun to fishing is your
fighting high, strong currents all day, even if your catching some trout. Giving guides all the
benefit I can, I will say that with a guide, you may at least have some help if you do get into
The best thing you have going for you is common sense.
Back to Strategy.
The strategy regarding which flies to use is almost the same as it has been for some time.
Blue-winged Olives and Midges are still the most plentiful and most available insects for the
trout to eat; however, the Blue-winged Olives species that may hatch have changed. The
larger hook size 18 Baetis should have all hatched. What may hatch from now until later in on
in next year is some of the other species of mayflies called BWOs. These will range in a hook
size from 20 down to 22 and even smaller. You can almost count on Midges hatching and if
not, you can sure count on the water holding plenty of larvae. Most of the midge larvae in the
Smokies are not burrowers and that means the species that do exist are available for the trout
If you fish very early under low light conditions, and that will make it a little tougher to catch
trout if you do because the water will still be cold, you may want to use a streamer. If you fish
late in the day, you may want to end up using a streamer. The water will be clear, certainly
within the next day or two and is probably clear right now.
Other than that, your highest odds will probably come from using a size 20 BWO nymph or
size 20 to 22 Midge larvae. First, the BWO. It's a good idea to have some BWO emerger
patterns in addition to the nymphs. You should also have a few duns and spinners on hand
but your main tool should be the small BWO nymph. I suggest you use the #20 BWO nymph
and stick with it until you notice any hatching.
For some reason I will get to later on in another series of articles, most anglers that fish the
freestone streams of the Smokies don't consider using midge imitations. If you fish at this time
of the year, this can be a big mistake provided you want to catch trout when conditions are
I read just yesterday, where a guy that claims to fly fishes for trout, doesn't really
care if he catches trout or not, he's still happy. Well, bless his hearth. I'm glad he's
satisfied without being able to catch the trout he is trying to catch; however, I'm absolutely
positive that at least the great majority of you rather catch trout than just act like your fishing
for them standing in the water waving a long stick.
I made the mistake for a few years of not using midge imitations in the park. One day I noticed
them hatching like you often will, I decided to try it and caught lots of trout. I caught a 14 inch
brown trout the very first time I ever fished Little River with a midge larvae imitation. Granted,
I had rather use something else provided it works but when I think it provides the best
odds of catching trout, I will use the little flies I can barely see. I'm not like the fly shop guy
that's perfectly happy not catching anything. The only thing I can figure out that caused that
was I guess he got that way from not ever catching anything.
I solved my big problem seeing the little flies well enough to tie them on by using pre-threaded
midges and midge boxes made for holding them. If you haven't, you should try the midge
threaders and threader fly boxes.
You should fish the midge larvae imitations exactly like the BWO nymph imitation - on the
bottom where midge larvae stay. If you see any hatching, you should change to a pupae
imitation. That will increase your odds a bunch. You can try the dry fly midge but you will
probably be lowering your odds. On the other hand, you may have more fun but trout eat far,
far more midge pupae than adults.
Most of the midges in the streams of the Smokies are shades of cream. There's some light
green but few if any that are red. Those are burrowers.
Don't be like the fly shop guy I read about yesterday and be happy not catching anything
when you can catch trout. Thirty year old standard flies may be like 30 year old cars on
a cold morning. They may not work.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh