Fishing Cold Water in the Great Smoky Mountains -Hatch
Summary- Part 16

Fly fishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the winter months in cold
water before the late winter-early spring hatches begin, requires fishing methods
that are quite different from the normal. First of all, it requires knowing exactly what
the water temperature is at the particular place you are fishing. That means a
thermometer is absolutely necessary. Of course this doesn't do you any good if you
do not know where the trout position themselves in the streams at various ranges of
water temperatures; where, when and how they feed; what they feed on; and how
you should imitate and present your fly for the various sceneries.

You will hear bits of advice such as "weight a nymph down and fish it right on the
bottom". It is also good to use a leader and oh, yea, don't forget the tippet. I'll add
that good advise but I doubt any of the advise so far is worth very much. Depending
on what is happening in the cold water, the first part of the advice given could be
exactly opposite of what you may need to be doing. You may need to be fishing just
under the surface of the water. Fish on the bottom of what - shallow pockets, riffles,
deep runs, pools, etc? What kind of nymph - mayfly, stonefly and what size? The
people giving this type of advise, first of all, probably rarely if ever fish cold water
and secondly, for sure don't catch much of anything when they do. They probably
think because it is cold that the trout get down to the bottom to keep warm. They
probably think the trout will look for the warmest places in the stream to get trying to
stay warm. I'm sure they thing the trout go to shivering from the cold. Maybe they
think they can't swim in cold water and have to lie on the bottom.

Of course you will also hear them say to "fish the sunny water" and not in the
shade, even though the water is flowing downstream a five miles an hour and
mixing like it would in the dishwasher. I guess they also think the trout will go in the
sunny areas so they can get warm. I guess that means you should find the deepest
water in the stream, in the sunny areas. The only good that will do you is that it will
help you, a warm blooded creature, keep warmer than you would if you fished in the

I'll just about promise you that if you fish on any cold winter day and begin to fish
any type of nymph of any size, anywhere in the stream, weighted down and on the
bottom, that your odds of catching one fish for the day is about one in ten, probably
worse. Most likely you will not catch anything. Not that fishing on the bottom or that
fishing a nymph is bad advise, it is that catching fish without relying on pure luck
involves a lot more than that.

You will also hear that you may catch a fish or two but you want catch many. That
advice is not only worthless, it is misleading. If you do things the right way, using the
right methods, fishing the right type of water with the right flies you may catch fifty. I
have done that several times and half that many, many times in cold water less than
fifty degrees. At times, when you find them concentrated, you can catch a lot more
than you can under other presumably, good conditions. If the water is almost
frozen, say between thirty-two and thirty nine degrees, you probably won't catch
many but if it is between forty-five and fifty, it is very possible to catch just as many
as you could catch at any water temperature. I notice that a lot of anglers go home
without a fish brought to the net or hand when the water temperature is between
fifty-five and sixty-five degrees. Catching trout is not a mathematical derivative of
water temperature. By the way, if the water is below freezing very much, you can
catch a lot by just chopping up the ice and carrying it home and thawing it out.

I can promise you one thing for sure. If you sit on your behind and listen to others
that don't fish when the water is cold (and little, if any, when it is perfect) tell you
how to fish, when and when not to go, and give poor, even misleading advice as old
fogey, almost as  fossil as the mountains, you will not catch a single trout.
You will
have to put a fly in the water to get a strike from a fish in cold or hot water
Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. Get out on the streams,
wherever it is legal, and fish. Fishing for trout is wonderful in the cold winter. The
trout love it and so will you. That is why they love the northern country and the high
country of the West. That is why the have to be stocked almost everywhere in the
South but the Great Smoky Mountains.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh