Like most area fly fishermen, I spend the cold months dreaming of the first significant spring hatches in the Smokies. The Quill Gordons and Blue Quills highlight the early part of the season along with various caddis and stoneflies. After trying for years to hit a good Quill Gordon hatch, this proved to be the year to hit the jackpot.
Last Sunday, I drove up to the Park on a tip from my buddy Joe Mcgroom who had fished on Saturday. His report of bugs hatching and fish rising had me really excited. The icing on the cake was that the hatch didn't start until 1:30 in the afternoon. This meant I could sleep in and still make it in time for the dry fly action.
After the usual routine of stopping by Little River Outfitters to pick up a couple of items I wanted, I drove on up Little River looking for the perfect pool. Finally I settled on the same pool my buddy had fished the day before. He had caught 10 or more fish without really moving and I hoped to duplicate his success.
Before rigging up, I walked to the water and took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful day. The first few bugs were struggling on the surface and a couple of fish were already rising consistently to the banquet drifting downstream from the fast water above. Hurrying back to the car, I soon had my favorite rod out, an old Orvis Superfine that flexes all the way to the handle. The soft rod is perfect for a day fishing dries, and I had already made up my mind to stick with dries no matter what.
I like to keep things simple when I'm fishing assuming the fish aren't picky so I tied on a trusty Parachute Adams and waded carefully into the calm water in the back of the pool. Several fish were rising by this time and I cast to the nearest one. Three casts later I had my first fish of the day. Sometimes catching fish that fast is a bad sign, but this time it just meant the fish were dumb and hungry. I took another step out and continued casting until another fish rose to the dry. Fish after fish rose with reckless abandon to my offering including a chunky brown of probably 12 inches that threw the fly after a spirited fight.
I continued moving up the pool casting to first one fish then another. Eventually they started to catch on, or maybe I just caught all the less intelligent residents. Regardless, it was a great way to start the day. After walking back to the car, I drove a short distance downstream to try another favorite piece of water. This one was decent but not as good as the first hole. Still, I managed a few more fish.
By this point in the trip, I was excited. Most of the fish I was catching were browns. Those that know me realize I would prefer to catch brown trout above all others. Not only was I catching browns, but they were mostly 9-12 inch fish, beautifully colored and obviously very healthy. The rainbows were gorgeous as well and quite chunky.
Moving on downstream, I stopped at a pullout right beside the stream. Sneaking along the edge of the stream, I started picking off fish after fish. The best fish of the day came from this stretch and was a brown of between 14 and 15 inches. It rose from the back of a deep run populated by several rising fish. Spring is the best time to catch larger browns on a dry. One of these days I hope to find one of the truly large fish rising to a good hatch. Until then I'm more than satisfied with catching 8-14 inch fish all afternoon.
Days like this one make me wish I lived closer to the Park. However, I would probably call in sick too often if I actually lived closer so its probably a good thing. Soon I'll be back, likely within the next week or two. Right now its time to tie flies so I'm prepared for the next trip...