Fishing Cold Water in the Great Smoky Mountains - Part Four

As I mentioned yesterday, the best method of getting your fly down into deeper
water or pockets where trout may hold in slow moving areas of cold water, is
probably the Czeck method of nymphing. This is locally referred to as the "high
stickin" method. It is a short line technique used to basically keep your fly line out of
the water. Doing so helps eliminate much of the drag caused by faster moving
water on or near the surface pulling the fly line. The resistance of a thinner
diameter leader isn't as great as the large diameter fly line, consequently, there is
less drag.

First of all, let me say that not all the slow moving water down deep is under fast
moving water on the surface. You want to also fish the current seams where the
slow water meets the fast on the surface and the slow moving water and eddies that
are outside of the fast current. The water on the bottom down deep may possible
be moving slowly the same as it is on the surface. Remember that wearing polarized
glasses will help you see where the deepest water is.  

I suggest a rather long leader and tippet combination of at least ten feet. The
smaller the diameter of the leader, the less drag there will be. I don't suggest
anything larger than a 4X. I often use a 5X. Anything much smaller will begin to
present other problems when you hook the bottom or try to set the hook on a fish.
You want the fly to be weighted heavily to get it down on the bottom quickly. I prefer
using split shot about ten inches above the fly. I do not like bead head flies
although some of the work fairly well. Nymphs don't have bead heads. Weighted
flies are okay but you will still need added weight in most situations. Split shot will
allow you to adjust the weight for various depth and current conditions. Since the
nymph is behind the weight, It will allow the fly to move more like a natural nymph
that a weighted fly would.
I suggest a fairly stiff fly rod with some backbone. This is a good application for a
fast tapered rod or fast tip rod. It is about the only time you will need to use one in
the smokies but it certainly isn't necessary. I would use a nine foot rod, not a
shorter one. From a casting standpoint, you just want to make sure the rod will
handle the heavy weighted fly. A five or six weight rod should work fine.

The idea is to keep the fly line behind the fly. This will allow you to feel the fly. You
want to keep slack out of the line. Cast upstream and slightly across but only a
short distance of ten to fifteen feet. In most cases it will help to quickly mend the
line. When the fly first begins to head down stream you want to raise the rod to hold
the tip of the rod high above the fly and keep the fly line out of the water. As soon
as you do this the line will begin to tighten due to the pressure of the current. The
idea is to let the fly drift in a natural manner and not be dragged along by the fast
current near the surface. You want the fly line to be upstream or behind the fly
throughout the drift. This will keep the line tight so that you can feel the fly bumping
along the bottom or when it is taken by a fish.

Most anglers extend their arm out or reach out to extend the overall length the fly is
from their position. As the fly passes by, you want to slowly swing your arm and fly
rod from its up and across position to a down and across position following the fly
but staying behind it. As the line extends out downstream the fly will begin to rise
back towards the surface and eventually reach the surface. In the cold water, most
of the strikes will come when the fly is directly across from your position, or in the
deepest part of its drift. After you have made a few cast and made sure you have
covered all the water directly in front of your position you will want to take a step or
two upstream to be able to cover new areas of the bottom. You will always be
standing rather close to the area of water you are fishing, so you want to be extra
careful not to spook the fish. Move carefully and slowly and if you are wading, by all
means do not scrape or drag the bottom with your feet or you will spook every trout
within several feet of you.

You want to be ready to set the hook as quickly as the line changes its movement,
stops moving, jumps, jerks, twitches or when you feel a tap or movement of the line
that feels unnatural. You will soon be able to tell the difference in the fly bumping
rocks and the bottom along its course and a fish taking the fly. That will come with
experience. If you are in doubt, set the hook. You do that by raising the rod tip fairly
quickly and smoothly with a quick jerk. There is no need to jerk the fly out of the
water or like you were setting the hook on a bass with a plastic worm.

Tomorrow I will discuss making longer cast and mending your line to get the fly
down. It is necessary to do that is some circumstances such as when the deep
water area is fairly wide and you cannot reach some of the deeper spots using the
"high stickin", short line method.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh