Relatively obscure in the world of fly fishing magazines and the fly fisherman photog's picturesque panoramas, the Smoky Mountains are known for, among other things, leaving the average (even experienced) angler befuddled. Never fear, however, your local mountain guide and fly fisherman extraordinaire, moi, shall help you become a better Smoky Mountain fisherman in three easy steps. Is this possible? If you're from Ohio or the Northeast, probably not. But the rest of you contiguous staters, pay close attention.
Number one: Stealth.
If nothing else I say sticks, remember stealth. With eight-hundred miles of gin clear water at your beleaguered feet, tread silently as possible. Trout are prey and you are among one of their foremost predators. Shadows, disturbances, splashes, and even a false cast can drain a pool of potential targets with speeds equivalent to a T1 Internet connection. With an overabundance of boulders and other natural cover, your best bet is to enter the water as little as possible -- meaning, fish from the banks as often as you can. Stay low, wear that drab olive and khaki that every store from Bass Pro to your local fly shop sells. They're there for a reason. And mind your casts. False casting scares more fish than you'd think, a nice roll cast, or a short cast with as little floating line as possible will help tremendously. Stealth, stealth, stealth. Hide, sneak, crawl, pretend you're not even there if that helps. Blend in and fish on.
Number two: Fly selection.
Here's where I smile and say, Thank you God for the Smoky Mountains. Matching the hatch is about as important as what you had to drink that morning. Though I will say this is true of almost any high country stream in the country, we're not talking about the rest of the country, here I am again, being terse.
That being said, just remember the time of year you plan to fish. Summer time, all day long, Adams, Wulffs, yellow or orange stimulator, tellico nymphs, copper johns... have at it. Winter time, big nasties. So, essentially I'm saying don't be too picky about fly selection, you can over-think it. Many do. By the way, I don't fish droppers, I find it tacky. If I fish a nymph, I fish just that, or a dry fly, etc., all separately and alone. Though I may drop two nymphs at a time.
Number three: Patience.
I was probably around four years old when I first saw my papaw dap a ten foot cane pole over boulders and catch 12 to 18 inch brown trout in the Smokies. Not too long after that I was tossing the micro lite spin caster, and on my 12th birthday I got my first fly rod, a beaut of a yellow fiberglass Eagle Claw and Martin reel.
I think I was 14 when I first caught anything over 10 inches in the park, it was a 17 inch brown on a olive wooly bugger. But that just whet the appetite and it wasn't until I was in my late teens until I could catch anything that size consistently (and consistently means about once every four or five trips to the water).
So keep that in mind, if it's your first time, or even fifth, keep hammering away with stealth-like presentation and be patient. Learning these majestic and misunderstood waters takes time and plenty of failure. Failure is an option when fishing the Smokies, one that only makes you stronger and smarter and a better fly fisherman.
Sure, there are many publications that would say, Hold on, Griz, there's a lot more to it. But I'll say in return, Show me the fish. These three steps are the easiest and by far the best steps to catching more and larger fish in the Smoky Mountains. Keep it simple, stupid. That's a motto beyond many fly fisherman that spend thousands of dollars on gear and wind up like that proverbial idiot, "standing in the water waving a stick."
Until my dying breath I'll contend that if you can master (or even become an accomplished novice) the waters of Southern Appalachia, you can fish absolutely anywhere in the world. That may be a bold statement, but I've seen it. Western waters are no match for the southern mountain fly fisherman's ingenuity and triles by far (trials by fire for you Yankees).
Earlier when I said that magazines seem to leave out the Smoky Mountains and Southern Appalachians when it comes to their target audiences, I couldn't be happier. Let not the masses tread on majesty, a little ignorance goes a long way.