A few weeks ago, I was contacted about doing a half day guide trip in the Smokies. Roger had been to the Smokies on vacation other times and fly fished some, but had never caught any trout while he was at it. He had fished in some other places including the White River in Arkansas and had done very well, but the Smokies were a completely different story and he hoped to learn how to approach fishing in the Park.
We had decided to meet at Little River Outfitters so Roger could pick up a fishing license before hitting the stream since he had just arrived the previous evening. After meeting up and taking care of the fishing license, I asked him what he wanted out of the trip. His reply was music to a guide's ears. "Catching fish would be nice, of course, but what I really want is to learn where the fish are and how to approach the water when fishing in the Smokies."
"We can do that for sure, and we'll catch some fish while we're at it," I promised. As a guide, I really enjoy clients who are wanting to learn. In fact, in my opinion, that should be the main goal of any guided trip. Catching fish are clearly part of the equation, but if you don't somehow become a better angler then why bother?
We headed for a stream with lots of willing fish that I like to hit when the water is on the higher side. There is a nice mix of pocket water and pools that keeps the fishing interesting. After rigging up, we headed down to a good starter pool. The backcast isn't too cluttered here and there are normally several fish feeding in its depths. Since the goal was to learn, we started out with nymphs under an indicator. Before we started fishing, I pointed out the best spots in the pool for trout and explained why the fish liked each one. Roger immediately got the idea and pointed to another spot and asked "What about there?" I nodded and grinned. He learned very quickly!
After several drifts and a quick tip on mending, he was fishing the pool like a pro. At the end of one drift the fly started to swing to the surface when a hungry fish hit it hard. It quickly went airborne not just once but twice. Soon he was grinning with his first Smokies trout on the fly!
A quick picture later and the beautiful fish was on its way back for the next angler. We began slowly working our way upstream and fishing the best pockets and pools. The next method that I showed him was one he had tried before but got frustrated because of the tangles it produced. It was the dry/dropper. I told him not to worry about tangles, that was my job to fix. Glad that he didn't have to fix them, he relaxed and started fishing.
The pool he was in was shallower in the middle with two distinct currents on either side. I pointed to the foam line along the seam of the farther current and mentioned that fish like to sit in water like that and leisurely feed on whatever comes along. He placed the next cast with the precision of someone who has been doing this for a while and after drifting a couple of feet, a nice rainbow came up and sipped the dry fly. He had already missed a couple of rises, but this time was ready. Gaining quick control of the situation, he soon landed the rainbow and we snapped another quick picture. This fish was memorable because of the deliberate take off the surface as well as its spirited efforts to throw the hook.
We kept working upstream and picked up another couple of fish on the dropper, but then noticed another angler about to get started and decided to find a new stretch of water. The next section was mostly pocket water, and so we switched back to nymphs after a little while. The fish were mostly staying deep in the bright sunshine and heavier than normal currents. Eventually I decided it was time to show him one last thing, nymphing without the indicator.
Again he picked it up like a pro and was soon drifting the weighed nymph through likely pockets and runs. Our time was quickly running out and before we knew it the time had come to head back down to the shop. We had caught some fish, and more importantly he had learned the answer to the question of "Where are the fish?" Back at the shop, he wanted to pick up a few flies and some split shot and indicators so he could nymph fish effectively.
I enjoyed teaching Roger and wish him the best as he enjoys a few more days of vacation. Hopefully he will enjoy catching some more Smoky Mountain trout while he is there!
If I can help you learn about fly fishing in the Smokies, please head over to Trout Zone Anglers and check out the guided trip options or contact me.
FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 5/22/2017
Fishing is good to excellent across the area. The Caney Fork River continues to shine on both high and low water. In the Smokies, strong hatches have been keeping fish looking up.
Yesterday, Blue-winged Olives hatched for hours during the light rain and drizzle. Fish were looking up but also took nymphs well. Streamers were moving some quality fish as well. The summer hatches are well under way now. Expect Golden and Little Yellow stoneflies and Isonychia (Slate Drake) mayflies. Light Cahills and Sulfurs have been around as well.
The Caney Fork River continues to fish anywhere from good to great on high water streamer floats. Anyone who wants to target trout with streamers will find this to be exciting fishing. Low water is becoming more and more likely, and if that trend continues we will see some great low water floats. The fish are hungry and we are going into some of the best fishing months on this fine tailwater.
Cumberland Plateau smallmouth streams are rounding into fine shape now. Rain will bump flows up again, but in between the fish are hungry and willing to hammer a fly! Musky floats are about over for the year unless we get more rain.