Featured Photo: Native Colors

Featured Photo: Native Colors

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Trout

Winter is a somewhat lean time for trout in the Smokies. There are still plenty of nymphs in the water but they definitely aren’t as active or readily available to the trout. Hatches are sparse if present and consist of midges and perhaps a few BWOs or stoneflies. On the other hand, spring always brings quality hatches. Even when there is not an active hatch in progress, the trout feed heavily on the bounty of aquatic insects and other food sources in the drift.

The quantity of food available means that even the usually wary brown trout are sitting out in the open consuming as many calories as possible. I catch more browns in the spring than any other time of the year except possibly early fall just before the spawn begins. Best of all, they tend to run a little larger than the average Smoky Mountain trout.

Camping is best in spring or fall, and I make sure to take at least a couple of camping trips during those times each year. A little over a week ago I found myself in the Smokies for my first spring camping trip hoping to run into a good hatch. All winter I have been looking forward to the return of steady dry fly action. While bugs were hatching, including Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, Brown Stoneflies, and Little Black Caddis, the heavy hatches I was hoping for didn’t happen. In fact, the best hatches I encountered were of the little brown stoneflies. Trout don’t normally rise very well to these insects although a stonefly nymph imitation can be deadly.

Over the course of the weekend, I had very good success with a Tellico nymph which is a great generic stonefly nymph imitation. Wooly Buggers and Pheasant Tail nymphs rounded out the rest of my arsenal. For dries, all I threw was Parachute Adams to match the Quill Gordons I found sporadically hatching. The fish responded best to the nymphs but under the right circumstances trout would rise to a well-presented fly. The larger browns were either in deep runs or waiting in ambush near structure, particularly overhanging or undercut rocks.

On Sunday I hiked a good distance up Little River with my buddy Kevin. We were searching for solitude and hungry trout and found both. Three miles of hiking put us above the last angler and gave us lots of good water to choose from including some really nice pools. We started fishing subsurface offerings which I stuck with for most of the day. Kevin switched to a dry after awhile and found plenty of willing trout.

The big surprise of the day was a small young of the year brook trout I caught around three miles upstream from the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont.  That is unusually low to catch a brook trout but this was probably because it washed down during one of the recent high water events.  The tiny fish somehow managed to take the fly, beating several other much larger rainbows which makes one wonder about the theory of rainbows out-competing with the brookies. 

My best trout of the day was a nice brown of 15-16 inches that nailed the Tellico almost before it hit the water. When I saw the golden sided fish roll, I almost dropped the rod in excitement. Thankfully all the knots held, and I beached the beautiful brown at the low end of the pool. After a couple quick pictures, I released the fish and watched as it shot across the stream to a hiding spot near the far bank.

Continuing up the river, I caught several more nice fish including another brown of around 13 inches. Small streams and willing trout provide one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day fly fishing in my opinion. This day on the water was one of the better small stream experiences I’ve had in the last year.

As area waters begin to warm, more fishing opportunities are opening up. Bass should be moving around now and the fishing for both smallies and largemouth should improve drastically over the next few weeks. I intend to spend more time in the Smokies soon, but have some professional responsibilities beyond my normal work load that may limit my time on the water for the next week and a half or so. After that, I have a break with several days off and will probably spend a significant amount of time with friends in the Park. Naturally at least a little fishing will be included…


  1. David,

    Nice fish man! Very nice. I have always wanted to fish down there but I have never had the chance too. Man am I jealous. Well done.


  2. Those are some amazing pictures!! Great blog! You got a new follower

  3. Jeff,

    Hope you get the chance to fish the Smokies...it is a special place!


    Thanks for the kind words and for checking out my blog!

    David Knapp

  4. Those browns are gorgeous. I'm very inspired. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Beautiful pictures ! Hoping this spring will bring some good fishing in NE and later in the Adirondacks

  6. I love brook trout..