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Increasing Your Odds In the Summer: Part 2 By David Knapp

Several summers ago, while working for a landscaping company, my boss would call me when it was too wet to work and tell me to take the day off. While the seemingly daily rain cut into my paycheck, it also allowed me to drive over to the Smokies every couple of days and fish. That summer still stands as one of the best in terms of fishing that I have ever seen in the Smokies and I believe it is more than a matter of coincidence. I was able to fish during higher water conditions and often in stained water. The fish were out feeding and were much more approachable compared to normal low and clear summer water conditions. The previous night’s rain invariably had washed all sorts of bugs into the streams and a Green Weenie accounted for incredible numbers of fish. Interestingly, that is the last year I remember Abrams Creek fishing exceptionally well also. That whole summer, I unintentionally increased my odds by fishing on days when the water conditions were optimal for trout fishing.

Planning a fishing trip around prime weather conditions can be sketchy at best. People who live close enough to take day trips definitely have the advantage. Of course, the number of fair-weather fisherman almost guarantees that you will have most of the streams to yourself during inclement weather. Many people see high water and immediately give up without ever attempting to fish. This can be a great time to catch both numbers of fish and better than average sized fish. If you simply want to catch fish, an attention grabber like the Green Weenie can be all you need. If you want to chase the bigger guys, then try throwing a streamer or a big stonefly nymph in the larger pools. You normally will not catch nearly as many fish this way, but the ones you do catch can be memorable.

Photography of Smokies Stream 
If you live close to the Smokies and can get the day off easily, simply watch the weather. If the park gets heavy late day or nighttime thunderstorms, the next morning should be excellent. If you cannot take off quite this easily, then a bit of planning ahead can be useful. If you can plan trips a week to ten days out, then start watching the weather. The extended forecast is not the most accurate but will give you a good idea of what to expect. When isolated to scattered thunderstorms are predicted then start thinking about a fishing trip. Watching the forecast temperatures are a good indicator as well. Cooler overnight temperatures after a frontal passage can often increase the insect activity and the fish will respond enthusiastically. Fronts will often bring rain as well which increases the water levels. Hatches seem to be triggered by a push of water and some of the best hatches of little yellow stoneflies will be the day after a good rainstorm.

Increasing your odds based on the weather is not limited to waiting for rain and then going fishing. Dry weather conditions can produce phenomenal fishing as well if you are willing to adjust a little. The lower reaches of streams like Little River will not fish nearly as well during the heat of the summer. If you want to find the better fishing, follow the oft heard wisdom of “going higher.” The brook trout streams fish very well during the heat of the summer. A small box of dries along with a few terrestrials is all you really need at this time of year. The fish are willing and will eat just about anything reasonable. Hiking a few miles will also increase your odds by putting you on less pressured fish. My best day in the park based on numbers was several miles from the nearest road.
Remember to prepare if you are straying too far from your car. You should always carry plenty of water or some means to filter the stream water. Keep a respectful eye out for bears. I have never personally had trouble with them and generally have found that they are much more afraid of me, but it still pays to be careful and respect them. Of much more concern to me personally are bees and venomous snakes. Many people often mistake common water snakes for copperheads, and if you are in doubt, avoid all snakes equally. Bees can be much harder to avoid, especially once the yellow jackets start building their nests in the stream banks and the hornets start constructing paper nests in the overhanging trees. Honey bees can cause problems too when they start building in logs along the stream. I found this out the hard way last summer and recommend always watching where you sit. Some snacks and a lighter or waterproof matches should also be carried when you head into the backcountry just in case you end up spending the night. Even with the best intentions, accidents do happen, and you will be much better off if you are prepared.

Intentionally increasing your odds will produce consistently better fishing experiences. Fishing early and late during the summer, fishing during or after a good rain event, and heading for the backcountry are all ways to increase the odds of a memorable day of fishing.

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