Advice From Guides

Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Advice From the Guides

This is a new feature where we answer your questions. We answer fishing questions every day and realized we could help more people by putting those questions and answers in a place where people could see them.

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How do you decide what fly to tie on when you get to the river?

That’s a great question! Local knowledge is a huge advantage, but there are several fly patterns that are a good place to start.  If you’re on a small to medium size trout stream during the spring, summer or fall a #14 Parachute Adams or #16 Elk Hair Caddis is a good way to start. Same thing with a #14-16 Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, or Prince Nymph. All of these flies have worked on every creek we’ve ever fished in the East or West.

Big tailwaters like we have here in East Tennessee call for a little different strategy. Unless we see bugs on the surface that are getting eaten by rising trout we tend to tie on a nymph. A #16 Beadhead Pheasant Tail is universal. Midges are important food sources for tailwater trout so we always have plenty on hand. We’re partial to our Skull & Bones, but virtually any midge pupa or larva pattern #18-22 will do the job. A Zebra Midge is perfect.

Droppers are a great way to experiment on new water. Either use a dry and dropper or fish two different types of nymph. Eventually you’ll notice more about which bugs are hatching and what flies the fish seem to have a preference for. Refusals are imporant too! If a fish inspects a dry fly but doesn’t eat it that means you’re close. See if a fly one size smaller will convince them or maybe your size is right but the color is wrong. It’s extremely gratifying when you work these things out and catch fish.

Fly Fishing With Streamers - Advice From the Guides

 Could you please suggest a method of attaching a yarn strike indicator to the leader, preferably one that can be removed without crimping the leader?

We use a slip knot to attach yarn as a strike indicator. Unfortunately we’re not aware of a way to get yarn on a leader without crimping it.

There are other styles of indicator that can do that. They’re usually foam pills or balls that use rubber tubing or pegs to place the indicator. I think they work great in rough water, but don’t like the “plop” on quieter water. Yarn certainly lights on the water much quieter.

One thing we’ll do is use 7 1/2′ leaders tapered to 3X. We’ll tie on 18-24″ of 5X and tie the yarn on further up in the heavier leader. Since we’re tying tippet on further down the yarn is on relatively heavy mono compared to if you were fishing a 9′ 5X leader. The yarn turns over better this way. I will say that from a boat we use separate rods to nymph and fish dries. Just easier and quicker to change than constantly re-tying. I’m not really concerned with a kink in the leader on mountain streams. The water is usually broken and the fish don’t seem to care.

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What size fly rod do I need?

For the Smokies we like to say that a 8′ 4 weight is the best all round fly rod. However, we like 8’6″ – 9′ rods for larger streams like Little River, Abrams Creek, Oconaluftee River, Hazel Creek, and the prongs of the Little Pigeon. A longer rod is useful for high sticking to get good drifts.

Many believe that short rods will prevent them from getting hung up in streamside brush, but that’s not really the case. The best way to keep your fly out of the trees is to cast less line and use side arm and roll casts.

On the tailwaters we use a 9′ 5 weight more than anything, but 4 weights are often appropriate since most of the flies we fish are #16 or smaller. We like to use a stiff 9′ 6 weight with a quick sinking fly line to fish streamers from the drift boat.