Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 01/22/2020

High flows continue across the area but trends are definitely down. A recent cold snap broke the ongoing heatwave so fishing in the mountains has slowed dramatically. Right on schedule, some of our tailwaters should begin returning to more normal flows for this time of year meaning float trips are certainly possible.

For the Smokies, a warming trend should commence as we go into next week. By mid week the fishing should be decent before the next cold front returns us back to winter again. On warmer days, look for midges and possibly winter stoneflies hatching. Some blue-winged olives will be possible on foul weather days as we head towards February. The best fishing is still a few weeks out, but no longer feels like an eternity. Expect good spring hatches to start in late February or early March with blue quills and quill gordons along with little black caddis and early brown and black stones. By April, things will be settling down with the pinnacle of spring fishing usually happening from mid April through the month of May.

On our area tailwaters, high water continues to be the story. The Caney Fork still has at least a couple of weeks of high flows and that is assuming we don't get any more heavy rainfall. This time of year, that is asking a lot. The high water is good for one thing, however. Shad. Yes, the cold months are prime time to try and hit the famed shad kill and catch a monster brown trout. Same thing goes for the Clinch.

Speaking of the Clinch, the good news is that flows are scheduled to begin dropping tomorrow. A steady two generators will feel like low water after the recent period of two generators plus sluicing. Two generators opens up some nymphing possibilities in addition to our favorite winter pastime, stripping streamers for monsters.

The musky streams are settling into fine shape and will be an option moving forward as well. Remember that bouts of high water will get them stained or even muddy for a few days, but as flows come down the fishing should pick back up.

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Terrestrial Fishing for Big Brown Trout

'Tis the season for terrestrials and quality brown trout. I just saw another report with a similar theme from my friend Ben Smith over at Arizona Wanderings. He found big brown trout that were eating cicadas which is always guaranteed to be fun. Here in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina, the annual cicadas are on but not in enough numbers to consistently get the fish interested. No, we have inchworms, ants, and beetles to get our fish interested.

I've already experienced some good terrestrial fishing this year, both as a guide and an angler. Inchworms and ants provide good fishing starting in May and continuing through the summer. Fish get accustomed to looking for these delicacies. In June, Japanese Beetle season commences and the fish will eat a well placed beetle imitation.

Yesterday, we were fortunate enough to experience some of everything during my guide trip with Kirk. The day started fishing beetles and ants to high elevation rainbow and brook trout. During this time, we found some quality fish and the takes were always something special. Here are a couple of the rewards for stealth and accurate fly placement.

brook trout caught on a beetle

rainbow trout that ate a beetle

A beautiful brook trout rests after the release

Speaking of stealth, fish were spooking even before we could get into casting range at times. I recommend doing everything in your power to be stealthy right now. Wear camo shirts, get down and crawl on your hands and knees, make longer casts wherever possible, and most of all, know that you normally only get one shot so make the first cast count.

As the number of landed rainbows and brookies continued to climb, Kirk and I started a discussion about whether or not to go looking for a nice brown trout to round out the day. Finally, we got to a good spot to get out of the stream and decided that we should go looking for a brown trout. I reminded him that the numbers of fish wouldn't be as high, but there was always the chance for a nicer trout of maybe 12 inches.

When we started fishing at our next destination, the creek was flowing at a perfect level to hunt quality fish. Early on, we missed a good 10-12 inch brown and had another couple of hits, but it took a while to catch the first fish which ended up being a little rainbow of perhaps 5 inches, definitely not the big fish we were hoping for.

Moving on up the creek, I paused to discuss strategy if we should happen to hook a big fish and explained how to beach a large brown without injuring it. Most importantly, when beaching a fish, make sure that it is on a firm but level surface and that the surface is WET. Other than that, beaching is an acceptable method for landing a large trout but remember to hurry to get the fish back in the water.

Shortly after, we got to a deep plunge that was well shaded. I pointed to the best spot and Kirk executed a great cast. After a second, the indicator plunged. I turned to ask if it was a rock or a fish and he was already in the process of saying, "That's a big fish!"

As soon as the fish came up and rolled, my face grew as serious as his was. He was fishing my new Orvis Superfine Glass rod (7' 6" 4 weight) and had the advantage of a very forgiving tip in the fight against the quality brown trout. We had to follow the fish downstream through two sets of rapids before Kirk saw a window of opportunity and quickly gained control of the head of the fish and slid it onto a flat spot with a small pool. I pounced just as the fly popped lose and secured the big brown trout for a quick picture.

A big brown trout caught on a terrestrial in the Great Smoky Mountains

I think both of us will dream about this fish, reliving the moment it came up and rolled and our mouths' both dropped open. Fish like this are more common than most people realize in some of our streams, but catching them is anything but common. In fact, a fish like this is often earned over many years of trial and error.

Oh, I forgot to mention. It ate a sunken ant that I tie. Those ants are like candy to the trout as I have written about before. Check out that link for how I like to rig my ants for catching quality fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Days like this are special to me as a guide. Naturally I cannot guarantee catching a nice fish. In fact, if I had people catching them all the time, you would see a lot more pictures here of big fish. It is very satisfying though to have a plan come together and a nice fish hooked and landed.

If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please contact me, fly fishing guide David Knapp, via call or text at (931) 261-1884 or via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com.

8 comments:

  1. That's a chunky GSMNP fish! Girth from head to tail.

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    1. Bryan, I've caught fat and skinny fish in the Park and for its length, this was one of the heavier fish I've seen up there.

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  2. Anonymous1:44 PM

    David, great post. Fishing Terrestrials in Mid-July is certainly getting a good jump on the Fall we are waiting for. Nice Brown!

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    1. Mel, the terrestrials definitely help to pass the time until the cooler weather of fall arrives. Thanks!

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  3. Dave a foam black ant have been working well here.

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    1. It always amazes me how effective ants are across the country. They have always fished well for me just about everywhere I try them.

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  4. From a small mountain stream, that is a beast!

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    Replies
    1. Indeed it was! Thanks for stopping by.

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