April Coronavirus Update

I tried to get Dr. Fauci to join me for this update but he is apparently tied up. So unfortunately, you’re stuck with me. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting weather, hatches and tourist migration patterns, but I’m afraid I’m still trying to learn as I go with pandemic predictions. I’ll mostly tell you what I know with a very little bit speculation thrown in.

The Big Picture:

  • Tennessee has joined many other states with shelter in place recommendations and mandatory closing of nonessential businesses. Restaurants, breweries, etc. are operating with only carryout and delivery options.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently closed to all visitors. They are scheduled to reopen to the public on April 6th but still keep facilities like visitor centers, campgrounds, restrooms etc. closed. We’ll have to wait and see, but I predict that on April 6th, they will decide to keep the park closed completely until the end of April. Again, this is pure speculation on my part.
  • National forests (like Cherokee National Forest) are still open to the public but facilities are closed.

What I’m Doing:

Like most of you, I’m taking this one day at a time but can’t help speculating. I think we’re going to see bans like we have now in place until at least the end of April and more likely until the end of May. All trends just seem to be pointing that way. Since most of my customers are not local, you’re probably not going to have a place to stay when you get here, if you can get here at all.

If you have a trip scheduled with me in April or May (especially April) chances are good it will need to be rescheduled. Again, purely speculation, but I think you’ll be safe rescheduling it for a date after June 1st. I am totally flexible and willing to wait and see before we reschedule anything, but am mentioning this now so you have more date options. I am removing vacation dates, etc. from the calendar and opening every date I possibly can between now and the end of the year to accommodate reschedules and new business.

The same offer certainly applies to local customers, but some of you may still want to go and I will take you. Hopefully the national park will reopen as a destination for us. Tailwaters like the Clinch may be a possibility soon if we can ever get a break from this rain. Streams in Cherokee National Forest will be our other option. It may just require a little longer drive to get to them. For any locals still wanting to go, I can assure you that I am feeling healthy and have been adhering strictly to social distancing guidelines. If that changes, I’ll tell you and we’ll reschedule the trip. I trust that you will do the same.

These are truly weird times and I appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility. Don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email with an questions or concerns. We’ll get through this mess eventually!

Improved Clinch Knot

The Improved Clinch Knot, like its predecessor we showed you last month, is used to attach the fly to the tippet. The video will explain the differences in the two knots, why and when you might want one over the other and, of course, how to tie it.

The Wonderful World of Worms

The thought of fishing with a worm pattern makes many fly fishing purists cringe. I have to admit, I sometimes feel a little dirty about it but I’m not sure why. I think it’s kind of like the disdain some fly fishers have for strike indicators, probably due to their similarity to bobbers. Bobbers and worms are the tools of bait fishermen and fly fishers don’t like the thought of doing ANYTHING akin to bait fishing!

The thing is, fish eat worms – even the sophisticated trout. When we choose most fly patterns, we are doing so because they resemble something we think the fish is eating. Therefore, why should fly patterns that imitate worms be any different? Maybe it’s just because the patterns for worms just don’t have the same elegance and beauty as say, a traditional wet fly pattern.

Maybe it would help to verbally justify it when you tie on a worm pattern. That’s what I do. In much the same way I acknowledge eating that piece of pie as a bad decision right before I eat the piece of pie, I always declare that I’m going to fish junk before I put on a worm. There’s just something about that self-awareness that allows us to forgive ourselves and sleep at night. And when it comes to fishing the worm, it doesn’t hurt that they flat out catch fish!

San Juan Worm

Just like any fly pattern, a worm imitation isn’t magic. You’re not going to instantly catch a bunch of fish because you’re using a worm. You still have to do all of the other things right like approach and presentation. And sometimes, even when everything is done correctly, the fish may just not be feeding and/or they may not be feeding on worms.

Fish that live in streams with rock bottoms and banks are simply not going to see as many worms as fish in streams with silt bottoms because it’s not their habitat. In the mountains, I have the best success with worms after a good rain. But that’s probably true about anywhere. We’ve all seen an abundance of worms on our sidewalk or driveway after a good rain because they are flooded out of their “holes.” The same thing happens on a stream bank and many of those worms end up in the stream where fish are looking for them.

Under normal conditions, I don’t have as much success with worm patterns, at least with wild trout, or even holdover stocked trout. But freshly stocked trout will often eat a worm pattern with reckless abandon simply because it’s colorful. Fresh stockers tend to be suckers for anything bright or shiny. However, with wild trout, even when they don’t eat the worm, I think it gets their attention.

I will routinely fish a pink or red worm as the top fly of a double nymph rig and for the bottom fly, I’ll use a more subtle, maybe smaller pattern like a Pheasant Tail. Over the years, it’s happened way too many times to be coincidence.  I’ll fish a fly like a Pheasant Tail by itself or in tandem with another nymph with no success. When I re-rig and use that same Pheasant Tail below a worm, it suddenly begins catching fish! I don’t think that’s necessarily unique to worm patterns, though. I’ve had similar results using various bigger, brighter flies above smaller, subtler ones.

Squirmy Worm

There are a lot of different worm patterns out there, but there’s only so much artistic interpretation a fly tyer can have when it comes to worms! The San Juan Worm has long been the gold standard, but more recently, the Squirmy Worm has won favor with many anglers. They are essentially the same pattern but with different body materials. The traditional San Juan Worm has a body made of vernille or micro-chenille, which has less movement but is more durable. The Squirmy Worm uses a stretchy, silicone material, which offers a lot of movement but can come apart after several fish. Pick your poison.

In any case, there are a number of different colors available. Pink and red are the two best colors for me. However, colors like purple, orange and brown have all had their moments.

Green Weenie

And it has certainly been well documented that a Green Weenie is a killer fly in the Smokies. While it fits a little more loosely in the worm category, it still very much fits. Most commonly thought of as an inchworm imitation, it has a smaller, more robust profile than most worms and is most productive in a chartreuse color.

Rob’s PT Tellico

Rob’s PT Tellico

This is one of those flies I usually keep to myself but you caught me in a moment of weakness this month. There’s nothing too special about it. However, it catches fish almost anytime of the year, it’s durable and it’s simple to tie. I suppose those traits make it special, at least to me. Guides go through a lot of flies and consequently, want something that consistently produces and can be mass-produced in a short amount of time.

Like most of my original fly patterns, this one is a variation of another pattern. Actually, this variation is a hybrid of two well-known fly patterns. The “PT” in its name stands for “Pheasant Tail.” So, it’s essentially a combination of a Tellico Nymph and a Pheasant Tail Nymph, stripped down to its bare, fish catching essentials. I tie it sparse so that it sinks quickly. Also, I use a micro jig hook to ride hook up, and reduce bottom snags.

I suppose it could imitate a number of different nymphs but I had the smaller stonefly nymphs in mind when I designed it. These Southern Appalachian streams are full of small and large stonefly nymphs but it seems that most stonefly patterns are designed to imitate the big ones. With the Little Yellow Sally stonefly hatch being one of the most prolific of the year, I was always surprised that there were so few patterns available to imitate the nymphs.

The yellow body combined with the pheasant tail accents seemed the perfect color combination, and it has just enough added flash to suggest movement. It works great as a dropper off a buoyant dry fly, yet, is equally effective drifted under a strike indicator or straight lined with what the kids today call Euro-nymphing. Whip a few up for yourself or feel free to contact me for a custom order.

Rob’s PT Tellico Nymph

  • Hook: Orvis 1P2A (or equivalent) #18 – 14
  • Bead: Black slotted tungsten, sized to match hook
  • Bead Stabilizer: 8 turns of .010 non-toxic fly wire
  • Thread: 8/0 brown
  • Tail and Rib: 4-6 pheasant tail fibers
  • Counter Rib: Small yellow copper wire
  • Body: Yellow floss
  • Thorax: Pheasant Tail Ice Dub

Fightmaster Fly Fishing Survey

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