My Favorite Things

Okay, I admit it. I stole this idea from Oprah. But I am in a unique position to use and abuse a lot of fly fishing related products and over the years, I have developed some favorites and I thought I’d share them with you. I may even make this a holiday tradition. Who knows? Maybe Santa will see it and put one of these items under your tree!

In any case, it’s worth mentioning that I do not make a dime on any of these items if you buy them. These are just five great products that have served me well. They are random items that range in price from about $12.95 – $400.

Richardson Chest Fly Box

Richardson Chest Fly Box

If you’ve been on a guide trip with me, you’ve seen this. It is absolutely my favorite piece of gear and I’ve been wearing it since 1999. They’ve been making these boxes quite a bit longer, though. Ronald Fye developed the first one in 1951. Rex Richardson purchased the company and the patent in 1960 and the current owner, Bob Hegedus, has been making the boxes since the mid 90’s. Each box is built by Bob in Bellefonte, PA and carries a lifetime guarantee.

I love them for the organization and the flexibility they offer. Everything is right in front of me so I’m not digging through pockets to find things, and it acts as a sort of work table, too. It can be used alone or in tandem with a backpack, vest or hip pack.

There are a several different options from which to choose and each box is custom built to your specifications. Choose from one to five trays and build them how you please: compartments, foam, storage, tippet dispenser… Continue accessorizing with floatant holders (built to fit your brand), magnifiers, flashlights and more. $85 – $400. View website.

Fishpond Burrito Wader Bag

Fishpond Burrito Wader Bag

I like keeping my wet stuff separate from my dry stuff when traveling and this bag is the perfect solution. Unlike some products on the market, it is well thought out without being over engineered. You know what I’m talking about.

Simply open the bag, grab the handles and lift and your waders and boots roll right out. The waterproof interior liner acts as a “changing station” where you can stand and protect the feet of your waders while suiting up. At the end of the day, take your wet gear off while standing on the waterproof liner and roll it all up. The video below will explain WAY better!

It’s ideal for one set of boots and waders but you can fit two if you need. $59.95. View website.

Simms Guide Guard Wading Socks

Simms Guide Guard Wading Socks

Wading socks are wading socks, right? Wrong. Wet wading season lasts a long time in the Smokies and I’m probably fishing and hiking in wading socks almost 150 days a year. I’ve worn about every brand and style out there and these are hands down the most comfortable and durable.

The biggest problem with most wading socks is that they are usually only 2 – 2.5mm neoprene. Your wading boots are sized to fit over the neoprene foot of a wader, which is usually 3.5mm. So, when you end up with boots that are either too tight when you wear waders or too loose when you wet wade. The Simms Guide Guard sock is 3.5mm which means they’re not only more durable, but you get the same fit whether wearing waders or wet wading. They’re a little more expensive than other brands but in my opinion, worth every penny! $49.95. View website.

Fishpond PioPod

Fishpond PioPod Trash Can

“Pio” stands for “pack it out.” This simple little contraption is meant to act as a small streamside trash can to dispose of monofilament, strike indicators, cigarette butts… you name it. The top has “one way” slits that allow you to push things in without them easily coming back out. The lid can easily be removed to properly dispose of trash when you get home.

It conveniently attaches to most any pack or vest with a dual attachment options. Check out the video below for more details. $12.95. View website.   

Shelta Performance Sun Hat

Shelta Performance Sun Hat

After the recent removal of a basal cell carcinoma, I decided to get more serious about protecting my skin against the sun. That included a new hat. I’ve always been a ball cap guy. I don’t like big, wide brims that seem to get in the way of everything and I don’t like floppy brims flapping around in my face.

I found my solution with Shelta. They make a variety of sun hats with different brim shapes and sizes, all with a rigid front brim that won’t flop! Even better, it’s UPF 50+ and it floats. It’s also fairly water resistant which is a big plus in a climate where there almost always at least a 30% chance of rain. Another big bonus is a chin strap that secures out of the way when you don’t need it.

It’s not a cheap hat. Then again, it’s not a CHEAP hat. This thing is extremely well made and comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s the best purchase I made in 2021! $69.50. View website.

Smokies Fishing Report 11-30-21

Abrams Creek, Smoky Mountains

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 100cfs / 1.63 feet
Pigeon: 214cfs / 1.57 feet
Oconaluftee: 191cfs / 1.24 feet
Cataloochee: 37.5cfs / 2.23

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 38 – 42 degrees
Mid elevations: 37 – 40 degrees
High elevations: 33 – 36 degrees

Current Conditions

Although we’ve had a few pretty afternoons, cold weather has dominated recently. Overnight lows have not allowed the water temps to get much above 40-degrees.

Projected Conditions

Things are definitely improving and by the end of the week, we’ve got some great conditions for December. Daytime highs expected in the 60’s with, more importantly, overnight lows in the mid 40’s. looks like we’re going to pay for it after the weekend, though!

Tips

While you may find isolated fish rising on warm afternoons, the name of the game is nymphing right now. Get those flies deep and focus on low elevations during the middle of the day for the most activity.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

If you’re going to see hatches of any significance, they’ll likely be BWO’s, dun caddis or midges. In any case, they’ll be small and dark. A Parachute Adams or Griffith’s Gnat in #20-16 should handle most anything.

Nymphing is going to be the most productive method right now, and fly pattern is not nearly as important as fly depth. Now is the time for tungsten beads and split shot. Most any generic nymph in the #18-12 range shoud be a good bet. I’m particularly fond of stonefly patterns like a Tellico and peacock patterns like Prince Nymphs and Zug Bugs.

I like fishing double nymph rigs with a point fly and an “assist fly.” The point fly is usually a more subtle pattern while the assist fly is something bigger or brighter to get their attention. The idea is that the assist fly gets their attention and leads them to the point fly… and sometimes the assist fly catches a few, too!

Check out my Hatch Guide for specific hatches and patterns.

Featured Fly

The Frenchie

The Frenchie came into fashion during the first EuroNymphing wave, but I’ve been tying patterns similar to it for years. What we didn’t have until recently are these micro jig hooks and slotted tungsten beads. They are great to tie on and help the nymph to ride hook up, reducing bottom snags.

This is a pretty good pattern for me all year but really seems to shine in the winter. At the very least, it’s flashy pink thorax makes it a great assist fly.

Smokies Fishing Report 10/28/21

Smoky Mountain Stream

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 86cfs / 1.56 feet
Pigeon: 166cfs / 1.44 feet
Oconaluftee: 230cfs / 1.35 feet
Cataloochee: 44.2cfs / 2.28

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 52 – 55 degrees
Mid elevations: 48 – 52 degrees
High elevations: 45 – 49 degrees

Current Conditions

A recent cold snap dropped water temperatures pretty significantly but they are beginning to slowly rebound. Water levels are low but pretty much in line with what you would expect in October.

Projected Conditions

Rain rolled in today with more expected over the next few days. It doesn’t look like it will be huge amounts but maybe it will help to bring those levels up a bit. Temperatures should be relatively mild the next few days with more rain and a significant cold front late next week. Brook trout are currently spawning in most mid elevation streams. High elevation brook trout should almost be done. Brown trout should begin spawning soon – some may already be beginning. Keep your eyes open and if you see fish paired up over a cobbly bottom, leave them alone. We want them to make more! Also keep your eyes open for redds in those kind of pools and avoid stepping on them.

Tips

It’s beginning to be too cold at high elevations. Best fishing will be best at low to mid elevations. Nymphing will be your best bet, especially in the morning, with topwater activity picking up in the afternoon. In general, expect better fishing through the middle of the day.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

For pocket water fishing, a dry fly/dropper rig is still a good bet. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something tan or orange and probably foam. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well.

An orange or tan Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is an orange Stimulator. I’d also carry some tan Elk Hair Caddis in #16-14. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Tellico Nymphs and a favorite this time of year… George Nymphs.

Brown trout will be feeding more aggressively ahead of the spawn. In waters where they live, bigger stoneflies and even streamers can be productive. For streamers, just standard buggers will do but I love throwing sculpin patterns more than anything in fall.

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

Slumpbuster
Slumpbuster

The Slumbuster is a great streamer anytime but a long time favorite for me in the late fall. It has plenty of weight to get down without being a huge burden to cast, and the zonker strips give great action. There are a number of color combos you can use but my go to version is the olive and pearl one pictured above.

Climate Change and Trout

Climate Change is arguably the biggest existential threat we face as a human race. There is very little, if anything, that will not be impacted significantly by a warming planet and our trout fisheries are no exception. We’ve already begun to see changes in the Smokies and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

My friend, Steve Haigh, has put together an excellent podcast episode on the subject where he interviews two scientists from Trout Unlimited. Sure there’s some doom and gloom. It’s a gloomy topic! But there is also some hope offered and information on some very real things you can do to make a difference. Give it a listen!

Smokies Fishing Report 9/28/21

Fly Fishing a Smoky Mountain Trout Stream

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 146cfs / 1.79 feet
Pigeon: 231cfs / 1.61 feet
Oconaluftee: 253cfs / 1.41 feet
Cataloochee: 41cfs / 2.26

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 59 – 63 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 61 degrees
High elevations: 53 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

On paper, our conditions are about as perfect as it gets. Water temperatures are great across the board, fall hatches are starting to kick in and water levels, while getting a little low, are great for this time of year.

Projected Conditions

Things are continuing to look good in the coming week with the possibility of a little rain early next week. That rain should just make it better. Brook trout likely begin spawning in the next week or two. Keep your eyes open and if you see fish paired up over a cobbly bottom, leave them alone. We want them to make more! Also keep your eyes open for redds in those kind of pools and avoid stepping on them.

Tips

Pretty much all options are on the table. It’s a good time to start fishing those low elevations again. Water is cooling down and fish are active. Larger browns should be getting more and more active as their late spawn approaches. Stripping streamers through brown trout water probably won’t yield many strikes but may produce that one bruiser! Fishing is pretty good all day but will likely be at its best through mid day, particularly on mid and high elevation streams.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

While water is high, I’d focus mostly on nymphs. I’d fish a pair and try to diversify them. Have one bright and one drab or one big and the other small. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In addition to the standard nymphs mentioned below, I like worm patterns and big, rubber-legged stoneflies in higher water.

For pocket water fishing, it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. Tan and orange dry flies are also starting to work well as fall sets in. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well.

A yellow, orange or tan Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a yellow or orange Stimulator. I’d also carry some tan Elk Hair Caddis in #16-14. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Tellico Nymphs and a favorite this time of year… George Nymphs.

Summer is winding down but terrestrials will still be an important food source for the next few weeks or so. Fish will continue feeding on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

The Doculator is the creation of New Mexico fly guide, Doc Thompson. It floats well and fish dig it. We’ve featured it before in yellow. Try it this fall in orange. It’s as if Doc had the Smokies in mind when he came up with this one!

Doculator

Partial Renewal of Covid Policies

With the spread of the Delta Variant we are seeing a significant spike in Covid cases in our area, as well as around the country. Many hospitals in the East Tennessee area are seeing numbers of cases higher and more serious than during the height of the pandemic in 2020. The more recent spike seems to be hitting the unvaccinated the hardest but many vaccinated individuals are also being impacted.

In light of this news, I have decided to reinstate the separate vehicle policy that was in place in 2020. We will still meet at a convenient location but guide clients will need to drive separately to the destination. This policy will remain in place until at least the end of the year. In my view, time spent close together in an enclosed vehicle is the highest risk of exposure on a guide trip. The remainder of the day is spent outside and maintaining reasonable distance is pretty easy.

Beyond that, I am not requiring that you wear a mask but you are certainly welcome to do so. I do not typically wear a mask on the stream but always have one. I will gladly wear it if it makes you more comfortable.

I’m sorry for any inconvenience and please let me know if there is anything else I can do to make you feel more safe and comfortable on your guided trip.

9 Items You Should Have in Your Backcountry Fishing Kit

One of my favorite things to do is fish in very remote places. I love going to places where I’m unlikely to see anyone else and even better, places that few have ever been. But traveling to these places, or anyplace in the backcountry involves a certain amount of risk.

No one ever plans to get lost or to get hurt. And certainly, nobody ever expects that a day of fishing will turn into an overnight stay in the woods. However, no matter who you are, something can always go wrong and when you’re in the backcountry of the mountains, there is a name for people who are not prepared for those unforeseen occurrences when they arise… “Statistics.”

I’ve always been accused of being over prepared and some will probably roll their eyes when they read this article. But things can go bad in a hurry in the wilderness. And if they do, you can hope that someone happens by to help, or you can be prepared to deal with it yourself. And when you travel to some of the remote places I do, the chances of someone happening by are slim. Even when I’m traveling to a location where I’m more likely to see someone, I would much rather be the person prepared to provide aid than to need it.

I always wear a daypack in the backcountry, and I define the backcountry as anyplace I can’t exit and get aid fairly immediately. So, it could be five miles up a trail or it could be a deep roadside gorge that I can’t exit until I get to the other end. In addition to my fishing supplies, I always carry the following items in my backcountry kit and suggest that you do the same.

1) Knife

Whether in the backcountry or not, I was taught as a boy that you never go to the woods without a knife. The needs and uses for a knife in the outdoors are endless.

2) First Aid Kit

From a fall to a sting to a severe cut, you just don’t know when you’re going to hurt yourself. A first aid kit is a must and I’d recommend putting together your own rather than using the pre-made kits. Think about the most likely injuries you could suffer as well as any personal issues you may have, such as bee allergies, and pack your first aid kit with items to treat those things.

3) Whistle

Even when you’re in an area where there are more people, if you should injure yourself in the stream or anywhere else out of sight of the trail, help may not be able to see or hear you. A whistle or other loud sounding device can signal others that you’re in distress. It can also be a tool to scare away aggressive wildlife.

4) Bear Spray

Speaking of aggressive wildlife, I always carry bear spray with me in the backcountry. While it can provide comfort and protection against aggressive bears and other wildlife, it can also be a useful weapon against undesirable people. Anyone remember the machete wielding killer on the Appalachian Trail a few years ago?

5) Topo Map

Certainly this can include GPS devices but a good old fashion paper map won’t run out of batteries. Learn how to read a topo map if you don’t already and keep one with you. I can’t tell you how many lost hikers I’ve encountered and set straight in the backcountry who didn’t have a map.

6) Fire Starting Tools

I always carry waterproof matches, a fire stick and a small amount of dry tinder in my pack. This is in case I, for whatever reason, unexpectedly must spend the night in the woods. Or maybe I take a spill in the water on a cool day and need to prevent hypothermia.

7) Emergency Space Blanket

Much like fire starting tools, this may be used for warmth and/or shelter in case of an unexpected overnight stay or as prevention/treatment for hypothermia.

8) Water Purification

I always carry water with me on a fishing trip or hike. But if it becomes an unexpected extended stay, I want a way to purify water. A LifeStraw is a simple, light, packable option.

9) Paracord

Much like a knife, paracord has multiple uses in the outdoors whether in the backcountry or not. It’s light, small and strong and can be used for simple “emergencies” like replacing a broken boot lace to more serious tasks like constructing a shelter for an unforeseen overnight.

Additional Thoughts

I don’t usually carry a map on guided trips or on many solo trips in the Smokies, only because I am so intimately familiar with those locations. But I take one anytime I go someplace I’ve never been or have only been to a few times. Otherwise, I never travel in the backcountry without the above-mentioned items.

Additionally, although I do it routinely, it’s not a very good idea to fish the backcountry by yourself. Take a buddy and always let someone know where you’re going to be. If you tend to go to really remote spots, you may consider carrying some sort of GPS beacon. They allow you to send an SOS if you get into trouble and some offer text messaging if you need to message a potentially worried loved one when you’re running way late. It didn’t make my list of essentials, but my wife insisted I take one on my “extreme” excursions.

The Bear Necessities

How to Deal with Bears in the Backcountry

“Do you ever see any bears when you fish?” It’s one of the most common questions I get. Probably the only question I get more often is, “Is that your real last name?” “Yes” to both. If you spend enough time in the Smokies, especially in the backcountry, you’re going to eventually run into a bear. In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is thought to have the densest population of black bears east of the Mississippi.

Likelihood of Seeing a Bear

Other than pure chance, the number of bears you’re likely to see depends on how much time you spend in the mountains and how abundant food is. When bears have plenty to eat, they don’t roam around as much. However, when food is in short supply, such as following a drought, bears need to do more looking and that tends to take them closer to trails and roads. I typically spend about 200 days a year in the mountains and I see anywhere from 3 to 40 bears in a year.

On a recent backcountry guide trip, we saw 4 bears in one day! Seeing a bear when you’re fishing or hiking is usually a good thing. They’re pretty and they’re really cool to watch. The key to enjoying bears is knowing how to behave around them.

Concern for Bears

Many people tend to be far too afraid of bears, allowing that anxiety to disrupt what should be a peaceful day in the mountains. Or worse, their fear incites panic when they encounter a bear and they make poor choices. However, on the other end of the spectrum, you have people who do not give black bears the respect they deserve. I routinely see tourists getting far too close to bears when trying to photograph them. And I’ve had more than a few “macho” guide clients chuckle when they learn that I carry bear spray in the backcountry – “They’re just black bears.”

It’s true that black bears don’t get as big as brown bears and grizzlies, but they can still get as big as 600 pounds. It’s also true that black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans. On the list of top causes of injuries in the Smokies every year, bear attacks don’t even rank, which means that, on average, there are less than four a year. As a matter of fact, in the entire history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there have only been two bear attacks that resulted in human death. One of those was just last year on Hazel Creek.

So, I don’t carry bear spray out of an abundance of fear but more as a precaution in case I run into one of those few bears who don’t know the rules. For one thing, I’m in the backcountry far more than, well, the average bear, so I have far more opportunities for an encounter. Additionally, I am responsible for the safety of paying clients and I don’t take that lightly.

In any case, whether or not you decide to carry bear spray is up to you. But I have learned over the years from talking to guide clients and passing hikers and fishermen that most people don’t have any idea what to do when they encounter a bear. Hopefully this article will help a little.  

Black Bear Facts and Statistics

As I typed that header, I couldn’t help thinking about Dwight Schrute. Fans of The Office will understand. Before we get into managing a bear encounter, let’s get a little information on black bears, at least when it comes to the Smoky Mountains.

  • There are an estimated 1500 – 2000 bears in the Smoky Mountains. This works out to roughly four bears per square mile and is thought to be the densest population of black bears east of the Mississippi River.
  • Black bears are omnivores and they are scavengers. They feed mostly on plants, nuts and berries. Black bears also feed regularly on insects (grubs, larvae, etc.) and crustaceans (like crayfish), and they eat meat but rarely kill for it. In other words, they are unlikely to kill a deer for meat but will feed on a deer carcass if they come across it, much like a buzzard.
  • Some black bears turn to scavenging in towns for food, raiding dumpsters and trash cans. This behavior should never be encouraged as it increasing endangers the bear and the humans around the town.
  • While they may appear to be slow and clumsy, black bears are quite agile and can reach speeds of 35mph. They are also exceptionally good climbers.
  • Black bears in the Smokies are usually most active during the early morning and late evening and they typically mate sometime in July.
  • Black bears do not truly hibernate in the Smokies but in winter, do enter long periods of sleep. They may leave the den for short periods if disturbed or during brief warming spells.
  • Their cubs are born during this period of deep sleep, usually in late January or early February.
  • Females with newborn cubs usually emerge from the den in late March or early April. The cubs, which are usually born in pairs, will typically stay with the mother about a year and a half.

Video of Bear Scavenging on Stream Bank

Preparation for Travel in Bear Country

Preparing for travel in bear country mostly means packing to prevent a bad encounter but also to deal with a bad encounter should one arise. Of course, by bad encounter we’re talking about the rare occurrence when a bear behaves aggressively toward you. Any bear will behave aggressively if it feels that it or its cubs are being threatened, and understandably so. If you were at the supermarket and a stranger approached your kid in an unusual manner, you’d do the same! “Problem bears” may behave aggressively if they view you as a source of food. This behavior is rare but may occur from a bear that has been fed by people at some point or that is simply a victim of starvation.

Airtight Food Containers

You can significantly reduce the chances of an encounter with the latter by packing your food properly. Always have any food (including trash after you eat) you’re carrying sealed in an airtight container. Ziplock bags, for example, will do the trick or better yet, cut down on those single use plastics and carry your food in a reusable container. If you’ve ever been on a full day guided trip with me, you may recall your lunch was packed in a sealed container.

Another suggestion many experts make to prevent a surprise encounter is to put bells on your pack when you’re hiking. The idea is that you won’t accidentally startle a bear that might be upwind of you because it will hear you coming. This approach absolutely has merit but it is not one that I personally choose to take. When I visit the backcountry, I enjoy taking in ALL of nature, including the sounds. I want to hear the wind in the trees, the sound of the stream, chirping birds, etc. and not the sound of bells. Furthermore, I don’t want to scare off wildlife.

To prepare for a bad encounter, carry bear spray and a whistle. The whistle can be used to scare off an aggressive bear and also as a signaling device if you get into any other kind of trouble. Keep the bear spray in a place where it is immediately accessible. You likely won’t need it but if you do, you’re not going to have time to rummage through your pack.

Dealing with an Encounter

When you encounter a bear, stop what you’re doing and observe. Many people have heard that you should look big and make a lot of noise when you see a black bear. There is a time and place for that but it’s not every time you see a bear. If it’s far away and minding its business, you don’t want to start harassing it by yelling and waving your arms!

Bear Minding His Own Business

You want to watch and see what it’s doing. Look around to make sure there are no cubs and if there are, that you don’t put yourself between the adult and cubs. More often than not, your course of action will be to do nothing. As long as you’re at a respectable distance, the bear will likely ignore you and go about his business. Bears are cool and fun to watch. Enjoy the show and after it moves on, go back to what you were doing.

Just always be sure to give the bear plenty of space and make sure it has a clear path. You don’t want it to feel cornered. If you encounter one a little too closely, keep watching it and slowly back away. As long as its behavior doesn’t change, it doesn’t feel threatened and you don’t need to worry.

I frequently see bears walking stream banks and turning over rocks for food. If you see this when you’re fishing and the bear is heading your direction, quit what you’re doing, get out of the stream and go to the opposite bank of the bear. Typically, it will totally ignore you and go right by you. In any situation, try not to turn your back on the bear and never run. Running can often trigger a predatory response in a bear that was otherwise minding his own business.

When Bear Encounters Go Bad

If a bear changes its behavior around you, it’s time to get serious. While it may be difficult, try to remain calm and pay attention to what the bear is doing. If it is doing things like swatting the ground or making a quick step and stop (bluff charging) toward you, it is demanding space. If you have bear spray, now is the time to get it out as you slowly back away from the bear. Keep backing away until the bear quits this behavior. As mentioned above, do not run. Black bears can run 35mph! And don’t try to throw food at it. You don’t want the bear to view you as a food source.

If a black bear continues toward you, even after you attempt to give it space, it’s time to stand your ground. Now is the time to look bigger by stretching your arms out. If you’re with someone else, stand together with your arms out. Act big and make a lot of noise. You’re trying to scare the bear at this point. Blow your whistle, bang rocks together, etc.

If, after all of this, the bear is still approaching in an aggressive manner, it’s time to fight. You don’t want to play dead as is often suggested with other types of bears. Blast it with your bear spray. If you don’t have bear spray, use whatever is nearby. For example, in a stream, you are surrounded by rocks that you can throw at it. Or use a stick. Use whatever you can. Just fight.

About Bear Spray

Bear spray is essentially high intensity pepper spray that is compressed in a container resembling a small fire extinguisher. It usually comes with a holster that you can easily attach to your belt or pack. Unlike personal defense pepper spray you might carry on a keychain to spray into the face of an attacking human at close range, bear spray containers fire a cloud of chemical about 30 feet.

While I have test fired bear spray, I’ve fortunately never had to use it for actual defense. If you do have to use it against a bear, it’s recommended that you give a few short blasts rather than emptying the container. If the bear continues approaching after those few short blasts, unload it. Needless to say, after you have stopped the bear, get the hell out of there, go home and pour yourself a stiff drink!

Smoky Mountain Fishing Report 9/2/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 1410cfs / 3.90 feet
Pigeon: 2300cfs / 3.87 feet
Oconaluftee: 1280cfs / 2.86 feet
Cataloochee: 113cfs / 2.65

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 61 – 64 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 62 degrees
High elevations: 53 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

Ida came through mid week and dumped a ton of rain so streams are too high to fish right now. However, all that rain coupled with mild temperatures has dropped water temperatures a bunch.

Water is high everywhere but the North Carolina side of the park is in a little better shape. It will just take a couple of days to drop to workable levels. Across the board, expect fishing conditions to improve greatly by the latter part of the weekend.

Projected Conditions

Once water drops, we should be looking at a great week ahead! As mentioned above, water temperatures have dropped significantly which should have lower elevation streams turning on. Temperatures are expected to remain mild through the week. I’m sure we’ll have at least a couple more bouts with hot weather in the coming weeks but for now, enjoy this little fall teaser!

Tips

Over the next day or two, I’d stay off the streams unless you really know your way around Smokies streams. High water is dangerous and there will be a very limited amount of fishable water. As water continues to drop, use caution and focus flatter, “pooly” parts of the stream.

It will be mostly nymphing in the coming days… fish them heavy and deep. Check out Fishing High Water for a few tips. By Sunday or Monday we should begin seeing topwater activity pick up again.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

While water is high, I’d focus mostly on nymphs. I’d fish a pair and try to diversify them. Have one bright and one drab or one big and the other small. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In addition to the standard nymphs mentioned below, I like worm patterns and big, rubber-legged stoneflies in higher water.

Once the water drops back to normal, you’ll still do a lot of pocket water fishing in the coming weeks. For that, it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. However, we will soon be transitioning into tans and oranges. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well.

But as mentioned, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow, and soon orange and tan to best match hatching insects. A yellow, orange or tan Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a yellow or orange Stimulator. I’d also carry some tan Elk Hair Caddis in #16-14. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Tellico Nymphs and a favorite this time of year… George Nymphs.

Summer is winding down but terrestrials will still be an important food source for the next 6 weeks or so. Fish will continue feeding on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

Isonychia nymphs are very active this time of year. While there are a number of specific Isonychia patterns, the George Nymph has always been one of my best imitations. So, while it’s a great generic nymph all year, I think the George Nymph is at its best in August and September!

George Nymph

Smokies Fishing Report 8/2/21

Smoky Mountain Stream

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 103cfs / 1.61 feet
Pigeon: 169cfs / 1.55 feet
Oconaluftee: 208cfs / 1.29 feet
Cataloochee: 36.2cfs / 2.22

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 64 – 68 degrees
Mid elevations: 61 – 65 degrees
High elevations: 59 – 63 degrees

Current Conditions

Conditions are very August-like. Water is a little low (though we got a little help from some rain yesterday) and temperatures are warm in the lower elevations, reasonable in mid elevations and good in the high country.

Projected Conditions

Temperatures are relatively mild (for August) through the weekend with spotty chances for rain. Enjoy it while you can… looks like we get hot again next week.

Tips

I would completely stay away from the lower elevation streams – this includes really anything under 2000′. Water temps are warm and fish will not be very active. And if you do catch one you’ll be stressing it to the point where it likely won’t survive. Mid elevations should be good in the morning and early afternoon. High elevations should fish well all day but will likely have the least amount of water, so expect very spooky fish.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

Most of your fishing is in pocket water this time of year and it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs.

During the heat of summer when hatches are sparse, attention always turns to terrestrials and there are a number of ways to incorporate them on either end of your dry/dropper rig. Fish are feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

This is not the first appearance of the Green Weenie as a featured fly but it’s a terrific fly this time of year. Definitely one of my favorite summer “nymphs” to fish as a dropper.

green weenie
Green Weenie