Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report - 02/10/14
It seems like the weather is all there is to hear and talk about lately. I manage to keep
my sanity (at least I think I do) talking to anglers from across the nation each day but
it doesn't seem to matter where the calls or email comes from, weather seems to
always be the main subject. We are staying very busy shipping flies and other
product but it is rare to talk to anyone, anywhere that is actually doing any fishing. It
is smack in the middle of the winter steelhead season and even they are complaining
about the weather.

There certainly isn't a good looking picture of the weather for the first part of this
week in the Smokies. At least for now, the long range forecast for Friday and
Saturday isn't that bad. It is showing temperatures back up to around 50 during the

Smoky Mountain Weather:
Snow and snow and/or rain if forecast for today with a high near 39. The chance of
precipitation is 60%. We could get up to a half inch. There is a 40 percent chance of
snow on Tuesday with a high near 35.
NWS Forecast

Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data:

Little River: Rate 411 cfs at 2.37 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)

Oconaluftee River: Rate 720 cfs at 2.17 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)

Cataloochee Creek: 187 cfs at 2.90 ft
(good wading conditions up to 125 cfs, and with extra caution up to 150 cfs)

Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby. Looking at it is yesterday it
appeared to be just a little high.

Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Cherokee Lake: My guess
it is still a little high.

Current Recommended Streams
The water levels are dropping rather fast. The lower elevation streams are getting
low enough to wade if you use caution.

Recommended Trout Flies:
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 18
nymphs (this would be the main fly)

2. Midges: Cream
Hook Size 20/22

3. Sculpins: Especially good in off color, high water & early/late in the day
Hook Size 6
Brown Sculpin
White Belly Sculpin

4. Winter Stoneflies: 18/16

Recommended Fishing Strategy:
No changes below here. Water temperatures in the lower elevations where trout exist
will be about 38 degrees at the warmest part of the day. I would fish the BWO nymph
until about 3:00 PM and then switch to a Little Winter stonefly nymph. The only time I
would change that strategy is when and if I saw something hatching and then I would
go to the appropriate imitation of that. Fish the slow side of any current seams,
pockets and pools where there is little to no current. I am expecting to see some Little
Brown stoneflies on the banks and roads soon but so far I haven't and I'm holding off
listing them as recommended flies.  

Tips for Beginners:
Keep the fly on the bottom in slack current.

Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
I think those that are use to fishing cold water know this but I will point out that adding
plenty of weight to get the fly down is only a small part of the strategy in fishing cold
water. Keep the fly out of all but the slowest current and on the bottom. You should
use light tippet (I use 6X) and small, simi-realistic flies as I recommend above
because the trout can see the nymphs much, much better than a dry fly due to the
clear water normal at cold temps and because the fly should be moving slow at the
same speed of the water. The light tippet helps keep the fly down because it adds
less resistance to the water than heavier tippet, requiring less added weight.

Whatever Hits Me: (I'm leaving this up for a few days)
I had an email from someone who doesn't think they are an expert, but who
wondered what I meant yesterday, when I mentioned math probability in the above
tips for "Self Proclaimed Experts".

When your choosing a fly to use, or for that matter, what bait (live or dead), fly,lure,
etc., to use to catch a fish, you should choose it based on one thing -
what you
think will give you the highest odds of success.
That's because in most all
cases, there isn't such a thing as only one bait, lure or fly that will catch the fish your
Technically speaking, all fish are opportunistic feeders. That written, in
most situations, there is always a certain bait, lure or fly that you could use that would
give you the highest odds of success.
When your choosing a fly to use for trout,
you should  select one that best imitates the food that is most available and
most plentiful for the trout to eat.

What confuses most anglers is this. It isn't that the trout won't eat a fly that imitates
something else. They will. It is the fact that they will position themselves in certain
areas of the water, both in terms of horizontal and vertical position, where they can
acquire the most food the easiest and fastest way.
They do this not only because
it is more convenient and easy for them to acquire the food, it is often a
matter of survival.
They have to spend less energy than they can replace with food
or they will soon die.

I'm trying to make this as simple as possible, so let me say they don't choose a BWO
nymph over a sulphur nymph because it taste better. They will probably eat either
one as long as it is in the same line or food channel they are feeding in: however,  
that's not usually the case. At any given point in time and at any one place, there is
always one food that is more plentiful and easy for them to acquire than all other
foods that are available.

Off hand, many of you may think that would be very difficult to figure out. The truth is,
if you know and understand the aquatic insects and other foods in the stream your
fishing, it isn't.
It is fairly easy to do. Sure, you can make mistakes but most of the
time it is easy to do but again, only if you understand the food. When you will have
the most trouble is when multiple hatches are occurring.

Let me explain why hatches are important. It is simply because aquatic insects are
easy for the trout to acquire when they are emerging. They are usually sitting
ducks, so to speak. But don't let that fool you because it doesn't just relate to dry fly
fishing. It relates much more to nymphs that are on the streambed out in the open
getting ready to hatch, not hidden down under and between the rocks. It relates more
to them accenting to the surface to dry their wings and fly away.
To the trout,
eating the emerging insects is like taking candy from a baby
. When they are
on the surface trying to escape they are often more difficult for the trout to catch and
When mayflies fall on the water to die as spinners, they are dead sitting
When stoneflies, mayflies or caddisflies are laying eggs on the surface, they
are easy for the trout to grab.

Many think that is very complicated to learn what you need to know about insects but
it really isn't.
If aquatic insects was the subject of a sixth grade class for just
one month, the kids would know more about it than most fly anglers.
would know more than many fly shop owners.

I won't get into all of that, but I do want to point out something for you "trial and error"
guys. Let's say you fish a certain nymph for an hour and don't catch the first trout.
Then you change nymphs and catch two or three during the next hour. Now, many of
you would say the trout are taking the such and such nymph and think you had it
down pat. Facts are, you may have caught the same amount on the first nymph you
used if you continued to fish it. In fact, you may have caught six on it. In fact, you may
not catch another one on the second nymph you used all day.
Using that type of
trial and error for a strategy is actually plain stupid
but all that guys who are not
willing to learn much about what the heck it is they are trying to imitate with a fly are
left with. It is your choice to make. You can continue to be a mediocre angler the rest
of your life or learn what your really doing, catch more fish and just as important, take
pride in knowing that what you caught was more a matter of your knowledge than
pure luck.
Copyright 2014 James Marsh
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