Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Cinnamon Sedges (Caddisflies) (Abrams Creek)
3. Green Sedges (Caddisflies)
4. Little Sister Caddisflies (Abrams Creek)
5. Little Yellow Stoneflies -Yellow Sallies
6. Slate Drakes
7. Little Green Stoneflies
8. Golden Stoneflies
15. Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
Dealing with low water levels and the heat
All the streams in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are low at this time and
from the looks of the long range weather forecast, that isn't going to change in the
near future. The more normal like range of temperatures we have encountered for
the past few days will change back to warmer than normal daily temperatures and
warm nights. I could just say it is going to be very hot the next several days.
The average high in the lower elevations of the park should be in the low nineties at
least until this coming weekend. The forecast is showing zero chance of rain until
this weekend and then only a twenty to thirty percent chance. Our only hope is the
simi-tropical climate of the forest will create some of its own isolated thunderstorms
and provide some water but that may not happen.
The low water condition will be here for a while anyway. As I have written several
times in the past, from a fishing standpoint, I prefer low water. When it gets to the
point it becomes unhealthy for the trout, I begin to hope for rain but only for the
One reason I like the low water is that it makes it much easier to get around in the
streams. When the water is high, some streams are almost impossible to negotiate.
When the water gets too deep or strong, you have to climb out and travel up the
banks. In many cases the rhododendron shrubs prevent that.
The low water conditions make it slightly tougher to catch trout. They are much
easier to spook and tend to become more cautious about predators. In general, the
speed of the water slows down because there is less of it. Slower moving water is
more difficult to fish as a general rule. The only good part from this standpoint is the
low water does concentrate the trout. They tend to seek the cover of broken water
more so than they normally do.
Riffles, plunges and short cascades also provide more oxygen. When the water
temperatures begin to approach the high sixties, the amount of dissolved oxygen in
the water becomes marginal. The trout will seek the more oxygenated areas of the
streams under these conditions.
The deceptive part about this is that the trout will not hold in the fast current as
such. They usually hold just below it where upstream rocks on the bottom slow the
flow of water. You can be looking at very fast moving surface water in a riffle or run
and not realize that a foot below the surface, the water is moving much slower.
Those are the type places the trout will hold. There are sections of water beneath
riffles and runs where the current is moving very slow and even in a reverse
direction in the case of subsurface eddies. If the trout didn't hold in these types of
places they would expend more energy in the fast water than they could acquire
enough food to replenish.
One thing that I just finished writing about comes into play in a big way with low
water - the fringe area of the trout's window of vision. The lower you stay, the closer
you can approach the trout. Remember too, that the trout cannot see clearly
through their window of vision if the surface of the water is broken or rough. It
distorts their vision of the outside world substantially. The other easy way to avoid
spooking the trout is to stay hidden behind large boulders, trees and anything else
you can hide behind and cast.
Where most anglers trouble comes into play is that they beat the water to death with
dry flies when the trout are paying little attention to the surface. If there isn't a hatch
occurring, you are far better off strictly in terms of numbers of trout caught, fishing a
nymph. The other problem, is those that do fish a nymph tend to use tandem rigs,
dropper rigs and even strike indicators in the low, shallow water. That greatly
reduces you odds. If you fish a slightly weighted nymph without any of the above
you will catch a lot more trout provided you concentrate on the fly line and leader. If
you don't, you will miss the takes.
The trick is to get the nymph to drift through the water at the speed of the current
where the trout are holding, not necessarily the speed of the surface water which
could be much faster. This is a big advantage of the "high stickin" method of
nymphing but the low water usually prevents that from being effective. It takes
mending the line and paying close attention to the current and your drift.
The other key to this is selecting the best nymph. Anytime you choose a nymph or
caddisfly larvae that imitates the most prevalent and most available food, your odds
of success greatly increase. At this particular time, I would first try imitations of the
Slate Drake nymphs and imitations of the Little Green and Little Yellow Summer
Stonefly nymphs. Imitation of the Green Sedge larvae, or Green Rock Worm, would
also be a very good choice. There's lots of hook size 18 needlefly nymphs in the
high elevation streams. An imitation will produce very well.
I don't want to leave out the fact you should dress to match the surrounding, avoid
kicking rocks on the bottom and the other basics. It wouldn't hurt to go to a longer,
lighter leader and tippet, but that within itself won't guarantee any success. It may
help in certain situations where the fly is in slower moving water. Don't waste time
fishing unproductive areas of the stream. Keep moving and hit the most likely areas
of the stream. Don't worry about the shade. Fish the fast water even when it's in the
Of course "where" you fish is very important. Avoid the lower elevations altogether
and fish the mid elevations only early or late in the day. Stay on streams above
3500 feet elevation. If you are anywhere near tubers or kayaks, you are in the
wrong place. If you fish the higher elevations, chances are you won't be bothered
with them. If you get off the road a few hundred yards, it is unlikely you will be
bothered with anyone.
If you follow the above strategies, there isn't any reason you shouldn't be able to
catch just as many trout as you could catch during April or May. If you are fishing
brook trout streams, you would probably catch more. Although your odds will be
greater of finding hatches very late in the day and spinner falls early in the morning,
you should be able to catch trout throughout the day, even during the hottest part
of the day.