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View Full Version : Tell me about winter fly fishing in the Smokies


HuskerFlyFisher
10-23-2013, 01:43 PM
We are thinking about flying out to the Smokies after Xmas for about 10 days. I know that you can fly fish (nymphs I assume), but how effective/fun is it on decent weather days?

Anyone regularly fish the Smokies in the winter?

buzzmcmanus
10-23-2013, 03:17 PM
I fish the park in winter a lot. I certainly don't catch as many fish as I do other times of the year, but the atmosphere within the park is very relaxing. Peaceful to be exact.

It is one of the only times of the year I actually enjoy fishing Tremont. That is if they have the road closed.

If the roads are not closed, I enjoy fishing the "easier to get to" brook trout streams. This is contradictory to what most people say about staying low in elevation, but the brookies seem to stay hungry all the time.

I also have better luck fishing the smaller streams and staying away from the larger waters. This could be due to the density of trout in the smaller streams. If I drift my fly over/around 100 trout, I'm more likely to attract the interest of one than if I drifted my fly by 10 trout.

I catch a surprising number of fish on a dry fly. I always start with a dry/dropper combo and on some trips I'm amazed at the number of rises I get on the dry. If you are getting refusals on the dry, cut the dropper off to get a better drift. Also, keep some BWO's on hand. Sometimes you'll catch a good hatch and be able to fish to rising fish.

Fishing is almost always better in the afternoons when the water warms some. But, sometimes the fish forget that so don't stay home if you only have mornings to fish. My best winter day came on a cold, dreary, cloudy winter morning about 2 years ago. I fished above Tremont, in the snow, and caught fish on an orange EHC all morning long.

duckypaddler
10-24-2013, 10:00 AM
Beats watching TV:rolleyes:

As long as you have no to low expectations it can be a lot of fun:biggrin:.

I guess it would also depend on what kind of winter we are having. When we have moderate Winter I would be all over it but if it's really cold and water is 42 or below in Townsend I only go when truly desperate.

David Knapp
10-24-2013, 12:12 PM
If your main goal of the trip is fishing, then I would not consider the Smokies a winter destination. It can be amazing as buzz was mentioning, but more often than not you work pretty hard for a few fish. I would recommend focusing on area tailwaters as a backup plan if the Park fishing is not particularly good. You have some excellent tailwaters in the area that would allow you to enjoy the scenery and tranquility of the Park and still get some good fishing in close by when you want to.

2weightfavorite
10-24-2013, 01:51 PM
winter is fantastic! I caught some of my best fish this year in January and February. I fished with another board member in January and it snowed like crazy. We kept expecting rangers to come and tell us they were closing the roads but they never did. We caught a ton of very nice bows that day. I do not believe in lowering my expectations. I do agree with not fishing very low elevation though. Pretty hard to beat from Metcalf on up for all seasons... I still fish the riffles and runs, and I avoid the big deep slow pools. Concentrate on active fish and active fish will be in faster water. Pretty hard to go wrong with a size 10 stonefly with a PT or copper john under it. I use size 6 shot, starting with 1 and will add however many I need until I get bites. Oh, and I would go with a strike indicator... Lets you get much longer drift and cover more water..

HuskerFlyFisher
10-24-2013, 10:03 PM
winter is fantastic! I caught some of my best fish this year in January and February. I fished with another board member in January and it snowed like crazy. We kept expecting rangers to come and tell us they were closing the roads but they never did. We caught a ton of very nice bows that day. I do not believe in lowering my expectations. I do agree with not fishing very low elevation though. Pretty hard to beat from Metcalf on up for all seasons... I still fish the riffles and runs, and I avoid the big deep slow pools. Concentrate on active fish and active fish will be in faster water. Pretty hard to go wrong with a size 10 stonefly with a PT or copper john under it. I use size 6 shot, starting with 1 and will add however many I need until I get bites. Oh, and I would go with a strike indicator... Lets you get much longer drift and cover more water..

OK, so I'm lost on the bolded part. Do you mean a dry fly with a copper john under it? And you weight the copper john with some shot so it...goes deeper? Do you use a dry fly for a strike indicator?

How far beneath the strike indicator is your copper john? 1 foot? 2 feet?

Sorry, I'm still a novice and a lot of the jargon doesn't quite make sense to me.

Also, it would seem fishing the lower elevations would be more productive because the water is warmer? no?

Stana Claus
10-25-2013, 07:20 AM
HFF - The rig 2wt is talking about is a double nymph rig with a large stone fly as the lead fly and a smaller nymph trailing. The lead shot is usually attached ahead of the lead fly to get the whole rig down to the bottom quickly. Where to attach the indicator depends on how deep the water being fished is, but typically it's about 1.5 - 2 times deeper than the water column you're fishing. So, if you're fishing in 3' of water, set your indicator 4.5 - 6' up the leader. Hope that helps.

NDuncan
10-25-2013, 03:53 PM
The idea about the lower elevation water being warmer is not necessarily true. It can get pretty uniformly cold between the low and mid elevations in the park. However, in the mid elevations, you can find where the stream has more gradient, and therefore faster flowing water, and the fish out in the faster water are going to be more like to be active and looking for food, while the fish in deep slow runs (as is common in the lower elevations) are going to be hunkered down in the bottom of the pools, using very little energy and you just about have to hit them in the face to get a strike, if even then. The 1-2 degree difference is water temp is probably of minimal concern compared to having faster moving runs...

Grey Neversink produced REALLY well for me for a dry fly in 40 degree and above water last year.

SmokyMt4runner
10-30-2013, 06:18 PM
I LOVE winter fishing in the park. Especially if its snowing!! There is something about the peacefulness of being on a small park stream with a snowfall.

You will own the river. Plus, no snakes, bee's and bears!...:cool:

This is the time of year that allows me the ability to find small bluelines that in summer are choked out.

Ohhh and i always fish dry's. NDuncan is correct about the grey neversinks!!!

Gotta love winter!!~!!

chechem
10-31-2013, 07:11 AM
I LOVE winter fishing in the park. Especially if its snowing!! There is something about the peacefulness of being on a small park stream with a snowfall.

You will own the river. Plus, no snakes, bee's and bears!...:cool:



Correction on the bears.

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg201/Chechem_2008/bear_zps70054658.jpg
...and they're really hungry during the winter!

tnflyfisher
10-31-2013, 11:34 AM
As mentioned here already... wait till the afternoon for the sun to hit the water and temps might even climb a few degrees. You will often find small afternoon hatches during this time which could give you some unsuspecting dry fly action...

Also something that hasn't been mentioned... don't forget to check on Abrams Creek throughout the winter. The springs keep the water warmer than other streams in the park thus you will likely find more active fish on Abrams. And as always, please read up on fishing that area first if you are not familiar with it...


Tight Lines,

SmokyMt4runner
10-31-2013, 07:41 PM
Correction on the bears.

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg201/Chechem_2008/bear_zps70054658.jpg
...and they're really hungry during the winter!

Thats just not right.....

chechem
11-01-2013, 07:15 AM
Thats just not right.....

But it's very true. Watch your back!

bigsur
11-01-2013, 11:05 AM
What my inner video shows when it's too quiet in the water in the Smokies on a fall day! :biggrin: Thank God this is from Alaska about 2004.

Man: 0, bear: 1

The following pictures are of a guy who works for the forest Service in Alaska; he was out deer hunting and a large Grizzly charged him from about 50 yards away.

The guy unloaded a 7mm Mag Semi-auto into the bear and it dropped a few feet from him. The thing was still alive so he reloaded and capped it in the head.

It was over one thousand six hundred pounds, and 12' 6" high at the shoulder. It's a world record.

The bear had killed a couple of other people. Of course, the game department did not let him keep it.

Think about it. This thing on its hind legs could walk up to the average single story house and could look on the roof at eye level.

Also, his last meal was human.

http://mbz.org/info/fun/grizzly/.images/Tedbear1.jpg
Picture of the dead bears head
http://mbz.org/info/fun/grizzly/.images/TedPaw.jpg
Bears paw


DISCLOSURE: THESE PICS HAVE BEEN CIRCULATING ON THE INTERNET FOR YEARS SEE BELOW FOR IS IT REAL INFO!

HAVE FUN IT'S FRIDAY

Is It True?

The pictures do show a real giant that was killed in Alaska. However, the story is not entirely true. The pictures show an airman named Ted Winnen and his kill. The animal is actually an Alaskan Brown Bear, which is not the same as a Grizzly. The difference is in the region the bear is found, as they are actually the same species. That particular kill has a length of around 10 feet, and not 12. The real story does not indicate that the bear ever charged the men when it happened in 2001. But they did take it down at close range.



MY DISCLOSURE: 10 FT. OR 12 FT. IT'S JUST MATH IF YOU ARE LOOKING FROM THE INSIDE OUT! :biggrin:

chechem
12-04-2013, 08:11 AM
I saw a dead black bear (road kill) along I-81 yesterday (Sunday Dec 1) about 20 miles south of Roanoke, VA.

Guess they're active during winter there too!

buzzmcmanus
12-04-2013, 11:23 AM
Last Friday

http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u51/buzzmcmanus/IMAG0529_zpsf08c57d0.jpg (http://s165.photobucket.com/user/buzzmcmanus/media/IMAG0529_zpsf08c57d0.jpg.html)

Last Saturday

http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u51/buzzmcmanus/IMAG0532_zpse9fcf158.jpg (http://s165.photobucket.com/user/buzzmcmanus/media/IMAG0532_zpse9fcf158.jpg.html)

After Christmas a couple years ago

http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u51/buzzmcmanus/Foothills%20Trip%2012-29-10/P1000023.jpg (http://s165.photobucket.com/user/buzzmcmanus/media/Foothills%20Trip%2012-29-10/P1000023.jpg.html)

Obviously these pics were taken outside the park, but it was close.

Mike_Anderson
12-04-2013, 06:24 PM
Sat two weeks ago, I was wandering off trail in the Cades Cove area following a Buck scrape line for photo ops. I was deep in the woods, alone, and decided to take a break. After a few mins passed I turned to my right, took two steps, and looked straight into what I thought was a black angus cow's face. Except,, it wasn't a black angus cow. It was a large black bear! My worst fears realized, I slowly backed away until I could no longer see the bear. At that point I found the most open part of the forrest towards the road and I ran all the way back to the truck. Didn't bother to take his picture... How a creature that large crept up on me with all the dead limbs on the forrest floor is amazing, and very spooky. Be careful out there the Bears aren't asleep...

Some of the Deer images I managed to capture can be found here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/90274194@N08/sets/72157632051672111/

bigsur
12-04-2013, 06:35 PM
Will you be able to pick up your pants at the cleaners this Saturday! :biggrin:

Mike_Anderson
12-04-2013, 06:50 PM
Will you be able to pick up your pants at the cleaners this Saturday! :biggrin:

I'm afraid they weren't salvageable.

2weightfavorite
12-04-2013, 08:26 PM
More that once while hunting I have had bears sneak up and walk by me. I've snuck up on and Also had them sneak up on me wheli fishing (although I like to blame the water noise on those instances). They are one of the quietest animals out there. Kind of funny. You can hear a squirrel a hundred yards away, but can't hear a bear that's right next to you..

duckypaddler
12-05-2013, 09:39 AM
I'm embarrassed to know this:redface:, but if you scream like a little girl real loud they run like ****;)

I guess some people's fear runs North and some run South. At least my clean up is easier;)

flyman
12-05-2013, 11:21 PM
I've seen bears every month of the year. Sows with cubs may be more prone to stay close to a den, but males will move around and feed during warm spells. It's my understanding that most of our bears don't go into the type of deep hibernation that their Northern cousins do. I'm not too scared of the average bear, an old sick bear or one that's habituated to people concerns me somewhat, but not enough to keep me out of the woods.


As far as the fishing goes, it can be hit or miss. If you can catch a few days where water temps are on the rise you might catch a few fish. Look for a stream that gets the afternoon sun. Fish in the warmest part of the day. Make several drifts through a run, fish generally won't move very far or chase food like they will when the water is warmer. Be sure you are getting the fly down. If you aren't getting hug up every once in a while you aren't fishing deep enough. Carry a thermometer. If the water temp is less than 40 consider moving to another stream or a lower elevation.

Fish close to the road, take extra cloths in case you fall in. Don't get too far from the vehicle. Fish areas that get some traffic. Car trouble or getting stuck could make for a long night.

2weightfavorite
12-06-2013, 03:23 PM
I kind if like the negative outcome appeal that most everyone had posted on here....must be why the rivers are devoid of people in the winter. Trout are catchable regardless of how cold the water temps are. Not sure who started the under 40 theory...

David Knapp
12-06-2013, 07:51 PM
I kind if like the negative outcome appeal that most everyone had posted on here....must be why the rivers are devoid of people in the winter. Trout are catchable regardless of how cold the water temps are. Not sure who started the under 40 theory...

If you type "trout's metabolism rate 40 degrees" or "trout's metabolism rate below 40 degrees" into Google, you will get a ton of hits on this topic including some good scientific data on metabolism, growth rates, and even feeding habits.

Fish being "catchable" is a broad description of the conditions. Fish are always catchable. Of course, you may need to resort to dynamite under some circumstances... :rolleyes: I've caught trout in water that looked like chocolate milk, so of course the fish were catchable, but I'm sure that most anglers didn't get as lucky as I did.

I'm with you in that I love to fish in the winter, largely because there are fewer people, and yes, I have had some amazing days in the winter. However, both a trout's metabolism and aquatic insect activity is closely tied to water temperature. Fewer bugs moving around in the water means less feeding opportunities for trout. Cold water means they are more lethargic and less likely to move much for a snack. While excellent anglers such as yourself can catch a good number of fish on cold days, the average person who fishes the Park when the water is under 40 will catch few if any trout and then wonder what they are doing wrong. The fact is, they aren't necessarily doing anything wrong but unless you fish the streams on a regular basis and are intimately familiar with deep nymphing techniques, catching fish is going to be tough.

That said, some of the largest fish caught in the Park have been caught in the cold months (January and February) when the water is under 40. So again, can you catch fish? Certainly. Can you even catch a lot of fish? Yep. Just don't expect it every trip. :cool:

flyman
12-06-2013, 09:44 PM
You guys are right, you can catch fish all year when you can fish like you guys can. As I get older cold weather is harder and harder to tolerate, so is hot weather for that matter. I have caught fish when the air temp was in the teens and the water temps were in the mid to upper 30's. I am speaking in general terms, winter fishing can be a little less productive. Don't let what I said stop anyone from going. All I am saying is during the coldest days it can be a little more difficult than a mid May outing:biggrin: