Some Notes On Choosing Flies:


I am still receiving lots of email from anglers that have question on how to go
about choosing a fly for a particular date in time when fly fishing the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. There are a lot of factors involved in answering
this question but I will try to keep it as simple as possible in this article.
First lets assume the angler has not fished the Smokies for quite some time.
Lets also assume he or she is smart enough not to just go about selecting flies
from their box at random or selecting them based on what worked some time in
the past.
First, go to our hatch chart on this website and look at the date you are going to
fish. Lets use this date (6/8/09) for example. Before we pay attention to the
hatch chart, lets look at the current conditions.
Notice there is still two weeks of calendar date or official spring left yet. If this
isn't summer, we will not have a summer. Temperatures have peaked in the low
to mid nineties at the lower elevations. Rainfall has been on the low side and the
water levels are slightly low on the average. The water levels are very low in
some streams. The nights have been warm and the days hot. The water
temperatures are almost too warm in the lower elevations.
You could obtain the weather information from most any weather website. You
should, of course, also note the conditions once you are at the park. You could
obtain the stream levels and water temperature information once you get to the
stream. There is not a lot of brain work involved with finding out those simple
Now to the hatch chart starting at the top of the page under the date June 8 or
second column in June:
LIttle Blue-winged Olives: Notice there could be a hatch of these but if you have
studied these insects before or read the information we have posted, you would
know there are several species of them that hatch over a long period of time. In
other words it could be hit or miss. You would see a three star rating meaning
this would be important but not greatly important, provided there was a hatch of
Next item is the Little Gray Sedge with a two star rating. Notice it is near the end
of the hatch so it may be playing out. Since the weather and stream conditions
are more like summer than the normal weather and stream conditions for this
time of year, you could assume this one may have ended all together. Since it
was not rated high, so you could ignore it temporarily. Just be aware you may
run into a hatch of them. This means you should have some flies that we
recommend for this caddisfly hatch in your box. You could find out "which flies"
simply by looking up the insect on our site and following the links.
Next item is the Green Sedge. Notice it has a three star rating which could be
important. If you are familiar with this insect you would know the most important
part of fishing the hatch would be the larva stage of life or the rock worm. You
should have some rock worm imitations in your box. This may be a good fly to
use if you fish the riffles and/or if you cannot catch them on a dry fly.
Next item is the Cinnamon Caddis but notice it is late in the hatch period and
since the weather is ahead of normal (more summer than spring -warmer than
usual) it may be over. But more importantly notice that it only occurs of
significance in Abrams Creek. Notice the same thing is true of the next item, the
Little Sister Caddisfly. Lets assume we are not going to fish this stream for
purposes of continuing - but for practical purposes, don't be that stupid. Abrams
may be the stream you need to fish under these conditions. So, if you do, make
sure you have some imitations of these two caddisflies.
The next item is the Pale Evening Dun with a three star rating. Notice though
that it is nearing the end of the hatch. With the weather ahead of schedule, it
may be ending. Have some imitations of them with you and if you encounter the
hatch, use them. Notice the next item is the Sulphur. If you are familiar with this
insect and the Pale Evening Dun you would know they are very similar. The
sulphur follows the PED some and may be important during the day you fish.
Notice it is only a two star rating. That is because most streams or parts of most
streams are not suitable for the sulphur. You will have low odds of finding a
hatch. What you should do is make certain you have imitations of both these
insects - the PED and Sulphur. Actually, they are close enough that one pattern
of the important stages would be okay.
The next item is the March Brown. Notice it is about over. Since the weather is
ahead of schedule, mark it off your list.
Next is the Little Yellow Stoneflies (what the locals call Yellow Sallys).with a five
star rating. Notice it continues on into the Summer hatch chart until the second
week of July with a short break before it starts again. This is because there are
several species of Little Yellow Stoneflies.
I think we just hit on something.
Well, I don't think, I know. You should have some nymphs and dry fly imitations
of this one and you should become familiar with the details of the hatch and be
prepared to use them. We cannot go into all that here. The information is on our
Notice the next item is the Slate Drake. It has a three star rating because the
hatch is not heavy in any one place. It occurs here and there. However, this
shows it is in its prime part of the hatch.
It may be very important. Have some
nymphs and spinners for it. If you are not familiar with the slate drake get familiar
with it. It hatches out of the water. The information is on our site.
The next item is the Light Cahill. Notice it is near the end of the hatch or actually
the first part of its two part hatch. It could be important but knowing it is not
continuous or heavy in any one location, you shouldn't be counting on it.
However, be prepared for it in case you see some of the duns or spinners on the
The next item is the Little Green Stoneflies. It should have already started with
things ahead of schedule but if you are familiar with it, you would know it doesn't
occur but in a few places and may or may not be important. Next is the Golden
Stonefly. It may have already started with things ahead of schedule. Also notice
it is a four star rated insect.
Be certain to have the nymph and dry
imitations of it on hand.
We skipped over the midge but don't ignore it. If you have a difficult time
catching trout and you see a lot of them hatching you may need to try it. You
can almost always catch trout on the small midge larva and pupa imitations.
Next is the terrestrial insects. First the beetle. It should be important so have
some imitations with you for certain. The same thing goes for the next item or the
grasshopper. Notice also, since the weather is ahead of schedule, you should
also carry some ants and the inch worm. They should have began to show up in
numbers warranting your trying imitations of them, so make sure you have some
of them with you.  
Now lets summarize what should be going on when you fish. The number one
thing should be the
Little Yellow Stoneflies or Yellow Sally. It is a afternoon
and early evening hatch and egg laying activity so be prepared first and
foremost for it. Also remember the
Golden Stoneflies may already be hatching,
so have some of the imitations for the nymphs and adults on hand for certain.
You may also consider having some imitations of
Little Green Stoneflies but
the Little Yellow imitations will usually work if you did encounter a hatch.
Definitely have some
Rock Worm imitations with you. This may work well in the
morning in the runs and riffles. You may see a few adults but I would call that
optional. Carry some green caddis dries with you.
Always have imitations of the
Little Blue-winged Olives in all stages of life with
you - period.
Have some imitations of the
Sulphur and Pale Evening Duns along with you in
case you encounter a hatch of them. One pattern of each stage will get you by.
By all means, have imitations of the
Slate Drake nymphs and spinners. Use the
nymph in the mornings and keep and eye out for the late evening spinner fall.
Always have some
Midge patterns with you. Especially the cream and green
pupa and adult imitations in size 20 to 24. If you are having a very difficult time,
try them.
Last but not least, carry imitations of
beetles, ants, grasshoppers and the
inch worm
along with you and be sure to try them.
Basically, use the Rock Worm, Slate Drake and Stonefly nymphs imitations in the
mornings until you encounter a hatch, along with the terrestrial imitations. If you
encounter a hatch, fish it. If you don't, stick with the nymphs and terrestrial
imitations until late in the afternoon.  Late in the day, you should be able to fish
the Little Yellow Stonefly hatch and egg laying event and possibly the Golden
and/or Little Green stonefly hatch.
If you use this procedure day in and day out throughout the year, you should
always be prepared to fish with proficiency and confidence.
(PS: This is unedited, off the top of my head as fast as I can type)

Copyright 2008 James Marsh