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.

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

Smokies Fishing Report 7/4/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 196cfs / 1.97 feet
Pigeon: 257cfs / 1.77 feet
Oconaluftee: 299cfs / 1.52 feet
Cataloochee: 53.1cfs / 2.34

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 63 – 67 degrees
Mid elevations: 61 – 65 degrees
High elevations: 59 – 63 degrees

Current Conditions

Last week’s rain plus the cold front that followed has streams in pretty good shape for July… especially on the TN side. The NC side of the park is a little warmer with lower water levels.

Projected Conditions

Going to get hot again this week with a brief break mid week. Rain possibilities again later in the week. Should be an okay week, especially if we can get that rain!

Tips

If you’re wanting to hit some of the bigger, low elevation streams, get out there early or late in the day. Early will give you the best water temps. Late will give you the best hatches. Mid day will give you lethargic fish! Mid to high elevation streams may slow down a bit in late afternoon but should fish pretty well all day.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We’re still in “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16). They’ll be most active in the evenings. Keep your eyes open and you may even see a few large golden stones hatching here and there.

During the heat of summer when hatches are sparse, attention turns to terrestrials. 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,

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, 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. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

A soft hackle ant is a great fly to drop of the back of your favorite dry fly in pocket water. Ants are not strong swimmers and presenting an ant pattern just below the surface can be deadly!

Soft Hackle Ant

Smokies Fishing Report 6/13/21

Smoky Mountain Brook Trout

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 199cfs / 1.98 feet
Pigeon: 549cfs / 2.27 feet
Oconaluftee: 506cfs / 1.86 feet
Cataloochee: 64.6cfs / 2.41

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 62 – 66 degrees
Mid elevations: 60 – 64 degrees
High elevations: 58 – 62 degrees

Current Conditions

Water temperatures are getting a little on the warm side in lower elevations but thanks to last week’s rain, water levels are close to perfect.

Projected Conditions

The coming week will start hot but we’re look at some very refreshing overnight lows in the 50’s toward mid week. The second half of the week going into the weekend should be fantastic.

Tips

If you’re wanting to hit some of the bigger, low elevation streams, get out there early or late in the day. Early will give you the best water temps. Late will give you the best hatches. Mid day will give you lethargic fish! Mid to high elevation streams may slow down a bit in late afternoon but should fish pretty well all day.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We’re still in “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16). They’ll be most active in the evenings. Keep your eyes open and you may even see a few large golden stones hatching here and there.

We’re about to head into the heat of summer when hatches are sparse and attention turns to terrestrials. As things continue to warm, fish will begin 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.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, 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. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

A foam beetle can be a killer during the summer and the strikes can be violent. This is just a generic pattern with a thread body, black foam and rubber legs. I usually fish it in a size #14.

Foam Beetle