Guided Trips


Things have changed a lot since the last report. Unseasonably warm weather has kicked off the first hatches of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains while an extremely wet February means all of the tailwaters are blown out across middle and east Tennessee.

If you want to fish in the Smokies, nymphs and streamers will be your best bet unless you encounter a hatch. In that case, Blue Quills and Quill Gordons should be in your arsenal as well as Blue-winged Olives.

For now, just forget about the tailwaters in the short term. continued rain means it will be at least another month before the tailwaters are fishable again. With luck, we can start thinking about some streamer float trips on the Caney Fork in mid to late March, although that may be optimistic. In the meantime, head for the mountains and enjoy chasing the wild trout there.

Photo of the Month: Breaking Cabin Fever

Photo of the Month: Breaking Cabin Fever

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Where Are the Fish?

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.


  1. Good job David. I'm sure it's a trip Roger will not forget.

    1. Thanks Mark. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did.

  2. Agree with Mark. Confidence breeds confidence, and, Roger will be more successful because of the confidence you helped give him with your guiding information.

    1. Mel, that's my goal when I guide. Thanks for reading!



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