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Flies For the Smokies

A guide for choosing the appropriate fly patterns to be used when fly fishing in the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

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About Fly Selection and this Guide

This guide offers you relevant information about selecting the right flies to fish with in the Great Smoky Mountains and the adjoining mountain ranges to the North and South called the Southern Appalachians.  Here you will find a “look into the future” based on “experiences from the past” to help you make fly selection decisions before you go fly fishing in these mountain streams.  Remember, the best information is current information.  You can obtain daily observations from seasoned guides and anglers by visiting our Daily Fishing Report.  However, the flies we are recommending here are our best sellers, tested patterns, with a history of success.  We know they will work.  What we do not know sometimes is when to a certain extent because we can’t predict stream conditions for when you plan to fish. Clicking on the "Season" to the left will take you to a new page that will describe the conditions and which flies should produce best for you. The page will open in a new window or tab so you can easily return to this page.

Water Temperature

Water temperature is the single most defining condition that you can rely on to determine the level of trout and aquatic insect activity.  There are other determining factors, but water temperature is at the top of the list.  We know that the water is cold in the Winter and warm in the Summer.  We know that the best conditions for trout activity usually occur in the Spring and Fall.  When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, fly fishing for trout gets slower.  When the temperature reaches 40 degrees or below, most trout stop feeding or eat very little.  During the cold months, aquatic insect activity is low or limited to a lesser number of species. When water temperatures reach 58 degrees, most seasoned anglers know this is the perfect condition for great fishing.

Water temperature determines when the Spring hatches begin.  Most experts will tell you, “When the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, the Quill Gordons and Blue Quills start hatching.”  These early hatches can be prolific and trout can become selective, feeding on those insects exclusively.  What we don’t know is when the water temperature will reach and sustain 50 degrees in the Spring.  In 2012 that happened in early February.  It usually occurs at the end of February or in early March.  We have had hard freezes in April in the Smoky Mountains.  You just never know.  


Nymphs or Dry Flies

There are times when only nymphs will catch trout.  That is usually the case during the coldest months.  However, there are times when dry flies will work when the water is cold, during a winter blue wing olive hatch for instance.  Nymphs also may perform better than dry flies, even during the Spring when hatches are abundant and trout are sipping insects off the surface.  It has been proven that most of the food a trout eats is not taken from the surface of the water.  Nymphs usually work best for large trout, especially brown trout.  Not many brown trout between 20” and 28” are caught on dry flies.  In Little River, most of the large browns are caught on nymphs.

There are times when dry flies are the only way to go, especially when you want to catch large numbers of trout.  Dry flies are easier to use.  If you can keep your dry fly in view, you will know when you have a strike.  During large hatches, trout may become selective.  In other words, they become used to seeing a certain species of aquatic insect on the surface of the water and feed only on those insects, ignoring everything else.  That does happen in the Smoky Mountains, but not that frequently. Usually, except during the coldest months or during the lowest water flow periods, if you can drift a fly that looks like food over a trout, without spooking the fish, they will feed.  There are fly patterns that work better than others at different times or under different conditions. In this 12 page section, we will show you by the month, what we believe are the best flies to choose to fish in the Southern Appalachian trout streams.