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View Full Version : How does GSMNP fishing compare to the Colorado Rockies?


HuskerFlyFisher
05-10-2012, 09:27 PM
Ironically I only live about a 7 hour drive from the so. Co. Rockies, and 1100 miles from the Smokies, yet my only fly fishing experience is the Smokies (own a couple of nearby cabins).

Has anyone here spent much time in Colorado on rivers and streams? If so, how does it compare to GSM fishing? Harder? Easier? Difference in average fish size?

My dad is primarily a CO stream/ river fly fisher and he claims the CO fishing is easier, more productive, and the fish are somewhat bigger. He also says the fish don't seem to hold in the same places at times. Of course, he cut his teeth in CO so that's his preference.

Thoughts?

BlueRaiderFan
05-10-2012, 09:36 PM
Man Husker, I only know what my old army buds that live there have told me or shown me via reports. The hiking is similar. I've seen high mountain streams where the fish were about as small. They do seem to be bigger on average down low though. You can get into some cutties. That's about all I know. Sorry it's not much. I would bet the Smokies tactics would work just as well. I've gotten to were I kneel on the bank on tailwaters and cast, hoping to sneak up on a big one near the shallow part of the river.

HuskerFlyFisher
05-10-2012, 10:03 PM
Did a little surfing around...I guess this link answers my question. River looks to approximate to Greenbriar or Cataloochee.

http://rockymtnfly.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=6621

fearnofishbob
05-10-2012, 10:46 PM
Funny you should ask !!! ...I have fished Colodado a few times and I fish the Smokies ALOT...... I fished the Flat Top Wilderness area and also The streams around Gunnison......
Without a doubt the fishing is easier and alot more productive in Colorado than in the Smokies. I fished a small stream in Colorado called Cebolla and I must have caught 40-50 browns in the 9-14" range in a half day. The fishing was easier in that we drove right up to the stream and started. The actual streams were not any different than you might find here in the Park. The Taylor River, East River and the Gunnison itself produced larger fish but not as many of them. You are very close to a "fantastic" trout fishing area .....enjoy it

tnflyfisher
05-11-2012, 11:22 AM
I haven't fished CO in over 15 years but it was amazing last time I was out there. This was also before I started fly fishing so I haven't even experienced it with the fly rod yet. I so want to go back out there again but I'm afraid that if I do, I will never come back...:biggrin: It really is that good and if it were me, I would certainly focus your efforts on the Western streams vs. Eastern streams since you are fairly close. I drive over 3 hours each way to go and fish the Smokies sometimes for just a day. I can't imagine how much I would be on the road if it only took a couple more hours to hit CO... :biggrin:

Maybe DK will chime in with his experience fly fishing out there vs. here in the park. He has logged some nice trips out West along with some nice fish...

Tight Lines,

Hoosier
05-11-2012, 11:51 AM
I hope CO is easier, I am making my first trip going to Estes Park (RMNP) for a day and a half this weekend. Any recommendations? I want to go to RMNP so I am thinking Glacier Creek or Cow Creek.

TNBigBore
05-11-2012, 12:38 PM
I have not fished Colorado much, but have fished a good bit in MT, WY, ID and some in WA and CA. Small stream Smoky Mountain trout tactics work just as well on trout out there. Western streams as a general rule have higher carrying capacity than Appalachian streams, mostly due to higher buffering capacity of the water and the fact that they flow over more mineral rich beds. As a result, they seem to hold more numbers and biggers sizes of fish. There are exceptions of course. Our tailwaters even the playing field somewhat though. I don't know of any Western Rivers that have more big browns than the South Holston, White and Norfork rivers. As for fishing being easier, I really think that is a function of fishing pressure. I have fished a lot of small streams Out West that get virtually no fishing pressure. They are very easy to catch fish on. Similarly, I have fished backcountry stretches of Appalachian streams that get little pressure and they are just about as easy to catch fish on.

David Knapp
05-11-2012, 02:12 PM
TNBigBore explained it well. The streams out west have more nutrients and thus support more and/or larger fish in general. I think it is hard to compare though because here in the Smokies we are talking about mostly headwater streams whereas out west people are able to fish the larger rivers and lakes because they stay cold enough to support trout and not all of those rivers are tailwaters.

So, is Colorado easier? Not necessarily. In my experience, the only aspect that is sometimes "easier" out west is our perception. When you are catching larger fish it is hard not to fall into the trap of thinking that things are pretty easy. What it really boils down to though regardless of location is fly selection and presentation. Out west, the lack of an overhead canopy on the streams makes casting easier (no trees to snag, etc), so it is again not too hard to think that things are easier as a whole. However, the fish bite with about the same regularity no matter where you fish if you figure out what they want to eat.

My favorite river in Colorado is the Gunnison. My first fishing experience there was an eye opener as a nearby fisherman wore them out while I would have done just as well if I was simply out to enjoy the scenery. However, after a couple of trips, and much additional knowledge shared by helpful friends and acquaintances (not usually even about the Gunnison, just knowledge on fly fishing in general), I was able to consistently catch nice fish even in the heavily pressured areas.

The high elevation cutthroat streams can be awesome, but really not any better than getting on a good stream in the Smokies that gets minimal pressure. The hard thing around here is that the smaller streams are what EVERYONE is fishing because that is the extent of our trout water (other than tailwaters), whereas out west there are stillwaters, small streams, medium streams and rivers, larger rivers, tailwaters, spring creeks, beaver ponds....... People gravitate towards the larger water meaning small streams are rarely if every crowded or even fished that much. Take me to the Smokies on any nice weekend and I can show you fishermen pretty much anywhere on Little River you want to look...around here, if you want solitude, you must put some miles behind you.

So, to sum up, my opinion is that the perception of easier fishing is generated by larger average fish size (which is nice but does not necessarily equate with better fishing), as well as easier casting scenarios. When beginners can catch 12"-16" fish all day because that is the average size, people take that as much better fishing than the 5"-8" average size in the Smokies...really we need to all define "better fishing" first and then ask ourselves these questions... :rolleyes: :biggrin:

That said, if I lived seven hours from the Colorado Rockies, I would probably fish out there way too much... :cool:

adirondack46r
05-11-2012, 03:18 PM
Having grown up in upstate NY, I was able to flyfish the Beaverkill, Willowemac, Delaware (WB mostly), West Canada, the Battenkill, the Ausable, the Oatka, and a bunch of other stocked trout waters across the state. I have also fished out west including the Henry's Fork, Snake River, Madison, Yellowstone and a few mountain streams like Slough creek. I have been in East TN for 8 years now, and my observation is that the fly fishing in the Smokies is the MOST challenging by a wide margin.

IMHO, the thing that makes New England easier are the more consistent hatches and spinner falls. I could count on hendricksons around the 18th of April, and when the trout started taking them it was spectacular. When you got into a spinner fall after a sulphur hatch you could wear them out. Things were similar in the west, but the fish were bigger and, with the exception of the Henry's fork a little more gullible.

The challenging things in the smokies are keeping your fly out of the trees, stealth when approaching pools, and getting a good drift in the endless pocket water. Many a day I have longed to be fishing a hendrickson hatch to rising brown's in Carin's pool (one of Lee Wulff's favorites) on the Beaverkill.

adirondack46r
05-11-2012, 03:25 PM
Sorry about that... I guess I was totally off track from the Colorado question.

HuskerFlyFisher
05-11-2012, 03:36 PM
The hard thing around here is that the smaller streams are what EVERYONE is fishing because that is the extent of our trout water (other than tailwaters), whereas out west there are stillwaters, small streams, medium streams and rivers, larger rivers, tailwaters, spring creeks, beaver ponds....... People gravitate towards the larger water meaning small streams are rarely if every crowded or even fished that much. Take me to the Smokies on any nice weekend and I can show you fishermen pretty much anywhere on Little River you want to look...around here, if you want solitude, you must put some miles behind you.

It's funny to hear this, not because I doubt your point of view, but that it's 180 degrees from my dad's POV. He being a CO (and a little of Northern NM) fisherman, he is always absolutely shocked when he comes with me to the Smokies at how there are NO FISHERMEN!

Two weeks ago, we fished LeConte Creek, Roaring Fork, a bit of Little River, and Cosby Creek - spread over 4 days, and never once saw a SINGLE fisherman!

My dad always comments about how there are NO FISHERMEN in the Smokies and always asks me "why".

Aren't perceptions funny?

My dad does make comments like "I really wonder about the fish populations here" because he will go a whole day only catching a fish or two. But his 12-year old grandson (my son), easily hauls in 7-8 on an outing. :biggrin:

Then he will say things like "I can show you streams like this in CO where I will pull out more nice fish in half an hour than I do here all day."

I am partial to the Smokies because that's where my cabins are, and I love the climate.

Another thing I like about the Smokies is that it's really year-round fly fishing because the streams are spring-dependent rather than snow-dependent; there are a lot of times when the CO streams have swelled so high they aren't fishable.

So I *think* that fly fishing is much more of a year-round deal in the Smokies than the Rockies.

yonder
05-11-2012, 03:46 PM
I would humbly say, to come on out and fish our waters. I am sure that there would be many volunteers, who would be glad to show you around. I personally, would compare our waters to the smaller streams of RMNP, or yellowstone. Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference. Just my humble opinion, of course.......

Knothead
05-11-2012, 06:38 PM
Personally, it would depend if I lived in Colorado or east Tennessee. Whichever is the closest. I have to agree with HuskerFlyFisher. For a park so close to so many people, I am surprised at how few there are fishing the park.

David Knapp
05-12-2012, 10:31 AM
It's funny to hear this, not because I doubt your point of view, but that it's 180 degrees from my dad's POV. He being a CO (and a little of Northern NM) fisherman, he is always absolutely shocked when he comes with me to the Smokies at how there are NO FISHERMEN!



Compared to well-known Colorado streams and rivers we definitely have fewer fishermen...but I still say that the remote headwater streams out west that would be most comparable to our mountain streams are fished even less than ours by a significant margin...

If you are fishing small streams like the ones you mentioned and not catching large numbers of fish, there is a pretty decent chance someone already fished through ahead of you and spooked the water. So, you may not see the other fishermen but they were likely through sometime earlier in the day...

Rob Johnson
05-13-2012, 02:12 AM
Mr. Knapp is dead on. In your dreams you were the first to fish that special hole but look for the boot prints 0n the rocks. Smoky Mtn fish are spooky. San Juan, Yellowstone, Animas, Lee's Ferry, love them but I would rather catch a 10 incher on Ocanaluftee than an 18 incher after that plane ride. Depends on what kind of puzzle you like to solve. Maybe western fishing is the apple or the smokies are the orange, I don't know, but I can use the stuff I learn to catch trout anywhere. No! the fish in the Smokies aren't as big as the ones out west. It's just a different game.

Fishstu
05-14-2012, 01:38 PM
I would agree with "Yonder" that a number of the creeks and stretches of water in the GSMNP compare favorably to smaller creeks/rivers in RMNP and Yellowstone (no drift trips down the Little River in GSMNP). Depending only somewhat on the body of water, slow & careful approach, and good drift, are keys.

The question reminds me of my first trip to GSMNP when I hired a guide (who shall remain nameless), and as we drove to the first stop near the Institute he was asking me about my fly fishing experience. At that time it had been almost exclusively in RMNP (including hikes up to some alpine lakes / streams). As I mentioned fishing in RMNP he said he had been fishing "out west" one time, and thought he had died and gone to heaven. I was concerned he meant that the fishing was much better than in GSMNP, but he assured me such was not the case (and proceeded to help me see it was not the case) - - he explained his comment: "out west" one usually has more opportunity to stay more upright and get a full backcast - - if roll casts & high-stickin' ain't for you, fishing in a number of streams in GSMNP is likely to be a challenge.

FishStu