View Full Version : Skunked Again! Am I doing something wrong? Any Advice?

03-19-2008, 12:36 AM
Hello, I am a new member and this is my first post. I realize it is not yet the prime time for fishing in the park, but I hadn't been since summer. I was lucky enough to spend the entire day fishing in the park today, but with no luck. I had hoped that the warmer water would help me out, but no luck. I started at the Y, then fished up and down Tremont/Middle Prong, and spent the last remaining hour of daylight at Metcalf. I tried using the combo of both suggested nymphs and drys from LRO, but I did not get one single bite the ENTIRE day. I saw plenty of flies coming off the water, but not a single rise from a trout. I spent time just watching the streams for fish and only saw 2 in Tremont. I enjoy getting to spend the day in the park and even with no fish caught is better than a day at work or class, but the last couple of times I have been, I have not caught anything. It's strange because the first time I fly fished the park was 2 summers ago and I caught 3 fish (2 bows, 1 brook) and I had no idea what I was doing. Now, after having been quite a bit with better quality gear and knowledge, it has slowly gotten worse. I have a couple questions that I hope I could get some feedback from you all.
-Does time of day matter when fishing?
-Does the color of the fly line make a difference? Ex. Green vs. Yellow
-Should I only cast upstream?
-Are wide open pools the wrong place to fish?
-Do I really need to hide behind rocks so the fish don't see me?
-Am I doomed this time of year if I only use dry flies (I have tried using nymphs and I do not like it at all, even though they can reach fish on the bottom I have a better cast and feel with dry flies)
I did try using nymphs in deeper spots today, but they were just as useless as trying to get a fish to rise for a fly today. I might be forgetting something, but this is all for now. Thanks for all your help in advance and any advice is much appreciated. Thanks again.

03-19-2008, 12:58 AM
The answer to all of the above is...YES

Just kidding, but all of the items you listed could be a factor. From what I've been able to gather from the fishing reports, etc...while things are on the verge of busting out, it hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, we're getting fronts moving through every few days, and the weather has been fairly unsettled. Down here, it was very windy today, and I think it was the same up there...unsettled weather, unsettled fish, which can make for some tough fishing.

I would suggest picking up a thermometer...it can really tell you the whole story at a glance. If it is around 50, or above, you can probably expect some action on dries. Below that mark, the fish probably won't look up, even if a hatch is in full swing. I remember two weekends last April - the first one, we came up, the weather was very unsettled, and the water was still a bit chilly - all the action was subsurface. The next weekend was sunny and calm, and I couldn't help but get a strike on a dry in every pool.

Nymph fishing can be tough - a lot of the time, even with an indicator, you can't see the strike. Sometimes, you just feel "something" on the line, and sure enough, it's a fish. Other times, you actually have to see the fish make a dash for your nymph to get him.

Finally, whether you're fishing a nymph or a dry, you have to present the fly in a likely feeding station in a given pool, drifting in a natural manner with the current. Drag is a killer. Keep your casts short - in fact, in a lot of cases, I'm just flipping out the leader, with only a little bit of line hanging off the end. Keep low, wear subdued colors, and try not to cast a shadow over the pool. Work the "edges", where the fast water meets the slower moving water, and pay particular attention to the tail ends of pools, and, in the front section of the pool, a corner of calmer water off to the side of the main flow. Try to keep as much of the leader off the water as possible, and follow the drift of the fly with your rod. Finally, if you aren't already doing so, make sure you wear a pair of polarized sunglasses...it's amazing what you miss in the surface glare without them.

03-19-2008, 08:41 AM
Birdman, IJ has some great advice in his post, especially about feeding stations. I fished for several years in the park (about 15-20 times, persistence or stupidity?...) with no fish, myself. What finally helped was hiring a guide and fishing with him for a day. He helped with a number of subtle things like feeding stations and being sneaky. Catching fish with him really helped my confidence, and from that point forward I was able to regularly catch fish in the park.

If you can't afford a guide or want to do things on your own, there are a number of things to consider. As IJ mentioned, water temp is crucial. I may even take it a bit further. While the fish probably won't be looking up until the water is 50 degrees, they may not be really active feeding on top (taking dries) until the temps start approaching 55 degrees.

Also, the fish at Metcalf Bottoms and Tremont are used to seeing humans and flies, so they are much more sophisticated than other streams. I think you might be better off going somewhere you might have to hike into, while you are getting started (above campsite 18 on the WPLR might be a good place). I think fly size is more important than color. If you want to fish with dries, try to find one pattern that you are happy with and stick to it (for the most part). A gray Parachute Adams or an olive Elk Hair Caddis are good choices right now. Try to observe the size of bugs coming off the water and approximate the same size (or slightly smaller version of your fly). And then don't change-keep fishing. Work on your stealth skills, presentation and drift. Too often folks are standing around in a stream changing their flies and not fishing. The more time you have a fly on the water, the better your chance to catch fish...

It is very important to be sneaky. I am constantly amazed how often you can catch fish when you are hiding behind rocks or overhanging branches. If you can see the fish, they can usually see you. If they can see you, they are very unlikely to be caught. Fish upstream as much as possible, try not to backcast, stay low, wear muted colors, move slowly...Have fun! If it gets to be a chore, you won't catch fish...they can sense it:biggrin:

Brian Griffing
03-19-2008, 09:09 AM
It looks like you have already received more and better advice than I can give you, but I will add one thing. If you are new to the sport and you want to fish dry flies, especially with the water relatively high right now, pick a fly that is visible to you. Most people that I have fished with that were just beginning have a hard time following the fly on the stream and are late on the strike or miss it entirely. PeteCZ suggested a Parachute Adams or an elk hair caddis, both should be very visible to you. Start off with short casts into medium-paced water (the ends of pools, next to larger rocks in runs, etc.) and don't move from that spot until you feel comfortable knowing the general area your fly will land every cast and you can find it quickly on the water. I find I need to do this every now and then after changing the length of my leader in order to get used to the new length of line.
Many people that get frustrated with a day of no fish, had strikes they never knew about.
Hope this helps.

03-19-2008, 09:09 AM
Well it won't be long before the fish will wake up from thier winter slumber and spring will will bring on the fish feeding frenzy on anticipated hatches and the buzz of reports on the boards of where to go and what to use...

Right now though, afternoons are typically warmer water and fishing sunny spots may put you on some more active fish....I'd turn over some rocks where ever you are and see what nymphs are about to pop as things are staging up the next few months - find and use what is most prevelant in the stretch your on...fish dries if you see some surface going on...in between stages, dry and dropper...
But also, gotta remember, have to put in the time to consisitanly catch fish - especially if you are looking for fish year round...it can be tough for even locals to find a fish in the winter season...and there is where the beauty of just being able to get out is worth any fish in hand...

03-19-2008, 09:18 AM
When I started fly fishing in the smokies i couldn't afford a guide. I fished HARD for a full year and barely caught anything. Stick with it and you'll soon learn where to fish, where the fish are holding, what they are eating and when a good time to go is. A guide will speed the learning process up for you, my way was by process of elimination.

Everyone's advice given above is correct but I'd bet the thing that would help you the most is the suggestion to hike a minimum of 30 minutes and then start fishing. Go after the dumb fish until you get the hang of it and get some confidence then you can try some of the more pressured fish.

03-19-2008, 09:35 AM
This may be a stupid suggestion, but I would make certain that I'm taking up enough slack out of my float line as it comes back to me from upstream. If you have too much slack in the line, you aren't going to feel a strike or notice it in time if the fish takes the fly and makes a run. Obviously you don't want to pull up so much slack that you are jerking the fly around in an unnatural manner. I just started, so this may be incorrect, but it seems like it would be a slight factor IMO.

03-19-2008, 09:50 AM
I can't believe noone has stated the obvious. Hold your tongue to the left side of your mouth while casting. Do this, and you are guaranteed to catch fish next time.

When I first started fly fishing, I never really started to catch fish until I started fishing the smaller streams like Lynn Camp. I figure this is because there are less places for the fish to hide. Then, I gradualy move onto bigger streams. You may want to try that.

milligan trout degree
03-19-2008, 11:11 AM
Try going smaller tippet, and flouro. I use 6x flouro as a standard just about anywhere anymore. Until I start breaking a few off or something.

Gerry Romer
03-19-2008, 11:21 AM
First, I agree that the higher you go or the farther in you go, the better. The odds favor you for a couple reasons. I think the idea of "dumb" fish has a great deal of validity. Hike far enough in and you'll be stalking fish that likely have not been caught and released. While I believe in and practice C&R, I can also see where this generation of fly fishers are conditioning the fish... maybe not making them smart, so much as wary. Also, You'll find the water levels generally a bit lower and clearer -- "...the better to see you with, my dear". I've found it much easier to sight fish in the higher elevation streams than say at Metcalf.

I would have to say that stealth is crucial at any elevation or distance. Keep in mind that we humans are just one predator that these fish have to contend with - and we tend to be the clumsiest.

Finally, take a good hard look at the size of your offering. I've heard and read a great deal that says, basically, that size is a more important factor than even color. I know that on the tailwaters around here, the difference between a size 20 and a size 22 midge can mean the difference between a day of no fish and a day of fish. So next time you're working a section of stream, before you move on, convinced that there are no fish there, take a five to ten minute break, then try dropping down a size or two in the same fly and working the section all over again - starting with the closest in cast and working your way out and across.

As for the proper tongue placement... I've refined it a bit and you may find it helpful. When fishing for browns, I hold my tongue out the right side of my mouth. I think this is why so many people have a hard time catching browns in the park. They assume that if you can catch a rainbow with your tongue hanging out the left side of your mouth, then it'll work on all fish species. I don't think so. For Brookies?? I just keep my mouth shut and pray!!

03-19-2008, 01:12 PM
Thanks for all the tips and advice. I guess next time I need to try and be more sneaky. I noticed most of you said I should try higher elevations, smaller streams, or places I need to hike to etc. I have hiked to campsite 18 on the WP of LR, but this was last summer during the drought and I figured it was way to small to fish with a 9 foot fly rod. I have hiked abrams trail, but I only fished the creek that was right beside the trail; not the horseshoe. I heard that the Middle Prong trail is a great place to hike and fish, but yestarday I hiked a little bit and saw that the trail was very high up from reaching any river access; maybe I hadn't hike far enough yet. With that said, do you all have any other places in mind I might be able to hike to fish in the park? Also, does anyone know where the guides take the fly fishing beginner school to fish- easier fish?? Thanks again for all of your help, it is much appreciated. Can't wait to get back out there!

Gerry Romer
03-19-2008, 02:38 PM
Tremont - the Middle Prong - has great access all the way up to the horse trailer park at he top of the gravel road. Granted there are some spots where you'd have to climb down a few boulders/rocks/banks, but they're worth the effort. You could drive up to the horse trailer park, and then take either the Lynn Camp Prong trail on the left (an old graded rail bed) or the more primitive trail on the right to Thunderhead Prong. I've found the Lynn Camp Prong to be more productive than Thunderhead. And if you hike up far enough you're in true Brookie country.

Or try Elkmont. Again it's an old graded rail bed, gentle grade for the most part with easy stream access. From the entrance on up you'll find browns, bows and eventually brookies. I believe some of the bigger brown have come from the section between the entrance off LR road and the bridge. It's also a very pretty stream and consequently draws an inordinate number of tourists - especially with the campground right there.

The West Prong of the Little River definitely has more water this year. You might want to try hiking up from the confluence of LR and Laurel Creek... gorgeous country and you can find a few runs and pools to try.

If you're up for a little more drive time, you can't go wrong with the West Prong of the Little Pigeon river above the Sugarlands visitor center. You can pull off at any of the "Quiet Walkaways", hike a few minutes and be into some very nice but moderately technical water. Take 441 up to the Chimneys and you're in for a real treat. Walker Camp Prong runs right alongside the road from the Chimneys all the way to the switchback at the top. You might have to bushwhack your way into a few spots, but once there you'll find you can sight fish for both bows and Brookies. It can get a little tight, but since your casts will all be fairly short, a 9' rod shouldn't be a problem.

Both my son and I have tried all of the spots I've mentioned -- me with my 8' or my 8'6" rod and him with his 9' rod.

I think most of the beginner classes (whether LRO or independently guided) start out putting their beginners on the water at Metcalf Bottoms. Easy access for groups, relatively low and consistent water flow, and wide enough spaces for two or more bodies to stand side-by-side for instruction purposes. I have seen and caught fish there, both large and small, but not when there's a great deal of activity in the area. I know that Hugh Hartsell, for example, will use Metcalf Bottoms as an on-stream classroom when it's convenient, and then move his clients to more productive water once he's confident of their casting and mending abilities.

If you can at all, I would highly recommend an LRO class or at least a half day guided Smokies trip with Mr. Hartsell http://smokymountainflyguide.com/ to flatten the learning curve.

03-19-2008, 03:31 PM
As usual, Gerry has some great advice. To answer the earlier question, after you get above the cascades on the Middle Prong Trail, the stream is very close to the trail and access is much simpler.

I fished above campsite #18 a couple of times last year. In May I caught a dozen or so frisky rainbows, by July I hardly saw a fish. Hopefully they made it through the drought. If so, it should be a great place to fish. But make sure you are sneaky. I caught four of them in one pool by hiding behind a tree and flicking my line out to the edges of the pool (no backcasts).

Left side, right side...I knew I was doing something wrong with the Browns...

03-21-2008, 12:16 PM
I am no expert, but something that I have found that helps me is to just watch for awhile. Because of the limited time I have on the water, when I first started fishing I would drive or hike to where ever I was going to fish, jump out, get my gear together and hit the water and flail away. Now I get my gear together and then find a comfortable spot, and sit and take in the view for awhile. I watch what bugs are flying around, what direction the wind is blowing, is there any rise going on, study the stream flow, try to decide where would I hide if was fish, etc. After awhile it all starts to come together. Then I start to fish. Do I catch a lot, no, but I blame that more on my inability to detect bites quick enough letting some get away(I'm getting better). But you know what, I come to the Park for relaxation and while I love catching fish I probably enjoy the time observing my surroundings almost as much.