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Stealth Mode by David Knapp

Fish are naturally wary of predators, even in a setting without any human presence. False cast over a riser and you will quickly understand why stealth is so important. Some fish are much more forgiving than others, but these tend to be the smaller fish. Big fish have grown large for a reason. Even the small fish tend to be skittish if you get careless wading.

Many people fish in the Smokies and come away wondering why they didn’t catch many fish. One of the easiest problems to correct is when people aren’t being stealthy enough. When in doubt, be sneakier.

On a recent fishing trip to the mountains, I watched as my cousin worked his way upstream and was impressed with how sneaky he was being. Only fly fishing occasionally, he knew from experience in other methods of fishing that a major key to success was to make sure the fish did not see him. He was fishing just like any seasoned Smokies regular, crouching behind all the right rocks and ducking low when approaching a flat run.

Over the course of the day we both did well and I got an idea. Putting the plan into action, we both took pictures demonstrating good stealth techniques. Here are three that we took and an explanation of why they improve the odds of catching fish.    

David Fishing 
In this picture, I am working a nice run beside a big boulder. The double nymph rig means that I don’t have to see the flies as you generally do with dry flies. Instead of poking my head too far around the rock and spooking the fish, I’m staying behind the big boulder and feeling the flies with the rod tip. Also, I can see around the rock enough to watch the end of my line which serves as a good indicator. While the visual aspect of dry fly fishing is its main appeal, you can also use this technique with dries. Simply keep the line tight between you and the fly. You don’t have to see the fly to feel the strike. Every year I catch several trout this way. If the fish spooks when you show your face, try hiding behind a rock. 
Angler kneeling to fish 
The approach in this picture is quite obvious. Here the angler is approaching a big back eddy in plunge pool and using a rock as cover so he does not spook the fish. Remember that trout generally face into the current. Almost every eddy of any size in a Smokies stream will have a fish sitting in the back facing downstream into the current. Walking right up to the pool from downstream will cause those fish to spook. Once you spook a couple of fish in a pool, there’s a good chance that they spooked the rest as well.

Fishing a riffle and run 
The last picture can be confusing. The angler is wading right up the middle of a quality run and probably scaring lots of fish, right? Not necessarily, and in fact he caught a fish right after the photograph was taken. Fish will hold in different parts of a good run. If you remember that fish are normally going to be facing upstream in this type of run, you can approach from directly downstream and get quite close. In mountain streams, the turbulence of the water makes it harder for fish to see and sense your presence. This allows you to cast from nearly on top of the fish. As long as you move up from directly behind the fish, they won’t know you are there until you hook them. Once you adequately cover the back of the run from below, you can move up into the lower end of the run itself to fish the head. Fish will often hold just to one side of the main current but will feed right in the current itself as well.

Remembering to stay sneaky will boost your catch rate in the Smokies. Part of being sneaky is to not stand out so leave the bright clothing at home. Some anglers even prefer to wear camouflage when fishing the park. The ability to be sneaky also means being a proficient caster. Better casters can maintain more distance from the fish while still presenting the fly in a natural manner. Finally, the best thing about being stealthy is that it will translate to success anywhere you fish.

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