One of the rewards for fishing the
Great Smoky Mountains National
Gear (Fly Rods, Reels, Line, Leaders, Waders, Accessories)
|Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Clothing that camouflage your
presence helps. Trout can spot
movement of objects above the
water. The angler would have
been better off it this light blue
shirt was green. Dress like a
deer or turkey hunter and you will
probably catch more trout.
Felt Sole Wading Boots are a
must to keep from slipping and
falling and to protect your feet
from the rough bottom. Gravel
guards keep the rocks out of your
boots. Small gravel getting in
your boots can cause leaks in
You will find that the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park may require some fly-fishing gear
that is different from that you prefer to use at
other fly-fishing destinations. Here are some
suggestions that may be of help in choosing
It is rare that you would need a sinking fly line in
the park's streams. Most all of the fly-fishing you
would be doing can be done using a floating fly
Line sizes would vary depending on the fly you
choose to use. Small dry flies fished in the very
small streams may suggest you use as small
as a one weight line. Most anglers would use a
3 or 4 weight however. A 4 weight fly line would
probably be the best all around size for the park
if you were limited to one line size. 5 and 6
weight lines would be preferred for nymphing
because you need some added strength to cast
the weight you may be attaching to the nymphs.
6 and 7 line sizes would generally be preferred
for streamer fishing.
Either a double taper or a weight forward fly line
would be preferred. Shooting heads lines would
be of little or no use in these small streams.
Backing is usually needed to fill your fly reel
spool but would not be needed to fight fish in
most situations. Notice we said most
situations. There are brown trout in the park that
can easily take you line down into the backing,
so it is recommended.
You should select the weight of the fly rod
based on the size of the line you need to cast
the flies you will be casting. Choose the fly rod
size to match the line size.
You do not need a fast action rod for the
smokies. Slow to medium action rods make the
type of cast you need to make much better than
a fast or tip action rod. They also protect light
tippets better than fast action rods.
Some anglers like to use very short rods for the
very small brook trout streams. Some prefer a
normal rod length because they help make the
short roll cast better than a short rod. We
recommend a 8 to 8 and one-half foot rod
length for most dry fly situations. A 9 foot rod
may come in handy for high-stick nymph fishing.
Most anglers will tell you that the fly reel is not
an important item, that it only serves to store
your line. It is true that you will probably hand-
line most of the small fish you catch but again,
some streams do contain some large brown
trout. Hang one of them and you will certainly
wish that you had something more than a rough
clicker drag. For that reason we suggest using
a reel with a good, smooth disc drag system.
The other important consideration is the weight
of the reel. The lighter it is the better you will like
it. It should, of course, match the size of the line
you are using.
Leaders are usually shorter than those used in
many fly-fishing situations . Short leaders from
7 to 8 feet work well in most cases. Remember
that if you are making very short cast, and you
often do in the smokies, you would be mostly
casting a leader, especially if the leader was a
long one. Leaders don't cast near as well as fly
lines so you should keep the leader as short as
possible in cases where you are making short
cast. In the faster pocket water the short leaders
don't tend to be as much of a problem as they
do in smooth water.
There are situations where you may need a
long leader. Ten and twelve foot leaders may be
needed when the water is extremely low and
clear and the trout are easily spooked, for
Most of the time a 5X leader would be the
preferred choice. However, again if the water is
low and clear or if you are fishing very small
flies such as midges you may need to use a 6X
or 7X leader. In cases where you are fishing
streamers or heavy nymphs you may need a 2X
or 3 X leader, so be prepared by having a good
selection of them.
Factory tapered leaders work just fine but if you
want to tie your own, please do.
Everything we just said about leader sizes
applies to the tippet except you would need to
keep them a size smaller than the tag end of
the leader in most cases. If anything, they
should probably average shorter than those you
would use at most other locations.
Fluorocarbon tippets and leaders for that
matter, work fine of course, and may offer some
advantage over nylon in very clear water. That
should be a matter of personal choice.
There are some situations where you may need
to wade but our rule of thumb is not to wade
unless you have to in order to properly present
your fly. If you do use waders, we recommend
waders that breathe. Those made of Gore-Tex
material are preferred.
We recommend felt bottom shoes as opposed
to cleats. There is little algae in the streams that
would cause you to slip and the cleats just don't
work well on the large boulders that are
Don't be caught wading without a wading belt
on. Keep it snug and as tight as you can
comfortable wear it. Usually it will not be
needed but it is a very good idea to form a habit
of always wearing it. If you ever fall in while
wading, it will help keep the water from filling
your waders and drowning you. It is almost
impossible to get up off the bottom with your
waders full of water, especially if your are
washing downstream in a strong current.
Gravel guards of some type are recommended
to keep the small stones and other debris out of
your boots. They can cause leaks.
Polarized sunglasses are a must. They will help
you in many ways. Not only will they allow you to
see the bottom more clearly, they may help you
spot trout. We recommend plastic lens over
glass for safety reasons. Large flies that
accidentally hit the lens can break the glass
(and maybe even the plastic) and cut your eye.
The best shade of color depends on the light
conditions. Darker colors work better on bright
sunshine days and lighter colors of lenses work
better on cloudy, overcast days. We think the
best all around color is amber.
A fly vest or chest pack is nice but not absolutely
necessary. It will help store such things as your
fly boxes, pliers, and other accessories.
You will need at least one, of course, but
separating your nymphs from your dry flies and
terrestrials is always a good idea.
Some type of floatant to help your dry flies to
float is necessary for most types of flies. There
are powered and liquid types available. The
rough pocket water can drown your flies fairly
The shade of color of your clothing and hat or
cap is very important. In the small streams you
will usually be making short cast. That means
you will need to get close to the trout without
spooking them. Bright colors tend to spook
them more than subdued or dull colored
clothing. You should try to match the colors of
the surroundings as much as possible. In other
words you should camouflage yourself as much
as you can. Dull greens and light browns are
usually good colors to wear.
Tippet Dispenser (Extra Tippet Material):
Extra tippet material is necessary. Each time
you tie on a fly you will shorten the tippet. If you
hang up, and you may well do that, you may
damage or shorten the tippet.
Carry extra tippet in the size you need. We
suggest 2X through 7X.
A tippet dispenser will help you keep track of the
tippet material and provides easy access. This
is not a requirement, however.
You will need some way of clipping you leader
and tippet. A knife or bitting the tippet will work of
course, but it will blunt the ends of the tippet and
make it difficult to get through the eyes of some
hooks. Clippers will chop it off without a blunt
We land most of our fish by hand. This is much
more difficult than using a landing net. However,
the landing net is not a easy thing to carry along.
If not stored behind your back it gets in the way
sometimes and tends to hang on everything. If
you catch a large brown trout, for example, you
will probably wish you had one though. If you do
choose to use one, you will need a small to
medium size net. The huge ones are not
necessary. There are landing net clips you can
purchase to hook them to your fly vest or pants.
If you fish midges, and we hope you do, you will
need a midge threader even if you have good
eye sight. If you don't see well, you will have to
have one or someone along with you to tie them
on for you.
Fly Floatants come in several varieties and
types. There are liquid and dry powder types.
They help your dry flies float better.
Some types cause the fly to create air bubbles.
Some anglers contend that this makes the fly
look more natural to the trout because some
insects use air to propel themselves to the
surface when they hatch.
We do suggest you carry some of the liquid
paste type to help your dry flies float better in the
rough pocket water typical of the Smokies.
Copyright 2007 James Marsh
Knots and Rigging Techniques
is a DVD program that covers all
the knots you will need to tie for
any fly fishing situation.
Click here for more information
Matching Rod, Reel and Line
Buy Good Waders. There could
be nothing worse than a leaky
pair of waders. The best they
make aren't all that great.
Have a Good Fly Selection.