Things to know about trout

Big rainbow trout such as this one caught at the Tuckasegee River in Jackson County are fairly common in hatchery-supported waters.

Here’s a compilation of trivia, information and tips about trout and trout fishing you probably won’t find anywhere else. Some of it might even be useful.

• The brown trout (Salmo trutta) is the only true trout of the genus Salmo found in southern Appalachian streams.

Rainbow trout (Onchorychus mykiss) are members of the Pacific salmon family, and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) belong to the char family.

The brook is the only true native of the southern Appalachians.

• Southern Appalachian trout primarily are opportunistic feeders, meaning they’ll hit just about anything that looks edible and floats past them.

In high gradient streams, such as the majority of those found in the mountains, a trout doesn’t have the luxury of examining an insect as it rushes by, but it doesn’t take long for it to distinguish between what is edible and what isn’t.

Although mountain trout aren’t overly selective, they’re extremely wary. Their quick reflexes protect them from predators, such as kingfishers, herons and raccoons.

• Most high-mountain streams are high-gradient freestone streams. They tumble and fall, have fast, frothy water, and provide few food resources for trout. A typical freestone stream can support about 15 to 30 trout per acre, compared to a limestone creek which can support several hundred trout per acre.

• If you’re not the first person at a back-country stream, the odds of catching trout are greatly diminished. When fishing with a partner, make sure you don’t fish behind each other.

• Proper presentation means fishing a fly so it floats naturally on the water, and proper approach means making sure you aren’t seen by a trout.

• When water rises, especially after a summer shower, trout usually rise with it. They’ll hang along the edges of a stream close to banks, feeding on insects washed up by the rough water.

• Imitative flies attempt to imitate a specific insect in order to fool a feeding trout. Non-imitative flies often are called “attractors” because they present a general imitation of an insect that’s attractive to a trout.

If you fail to get a rise matching a hatch pattern, switch to an attractor such as an Adams (parachutes work especially well), Royal Wulff, Stimulator or any bushy fly with thick hackles, buoyant hair for wings and tails and plenty of fur on the bodies. This type of fly is specifically designed to float well in high-gradient streams.

• Mark Cathey of Swain County is one of the most famous old-time mountain trout fishers. He fished the streams of the Great Smoky Mountains from the 1890s to the 1930s and popularized the “dance of the fly” technique.

Cathey would hold out his rod and toss a fly upstream into a pocket. When it landed, he would turn it side to side, making it look like a struggling fly trying to rise to the surface.

• Early Cherokee Indians caught trout with flies.

In an article in “Forest and Stream” magazine in 1888, Charles Orvis describes a Cherokee fly made from thin strips of short-haired deer hide, reverse-tied with the hairs pointing toward the eye of the hook instead of the bend.

Orvis said the Cherokees tied their flies to perfection and used some type of cement or varnish to make the thread waterproof.

“The effect of this reversed method is very perceptible in swift water,” he wrote. “Every little move in drawing back as it floats down gives the appearance of a live worm trying to get out of the water.”

• Not all early mountain fly fishers were subsistence fishers, contrary to popular belief.

Charles Lanman, one of the best known fly-fishers of his day, wrote of encountering “gentleman anglers” in the 1840s during a trip through the southern Appalachians.

In 1885 a fishing guidebook by Charles Harris stated, “The artificial fly is the universal lure favored by the native fishermen” in the southern Appalachians.

• The origin of the two-fly tandem rig, which is used by many mountain fishers, is generally attributed to A.J. Johnson of Winston-Salem.

A weighted nymph is tied to the shank or hook of a larger dry fly, usually on a 12- to 15-inch tippet. Most fishers use an attractor fly such as an Adams as the top fly.

• The Yellowhammer, also called “Yallerhammer,” became one of the most famous fly patterns in the southern Appalachians.

Originally, it was tied as a wet fly using the feathers of the Yellowhammer or yellow flicker (a large woodpecker with a yellow body marked by brown spots).

After the flicker was declared an endangered species, fly-tiers began using wood duck, grouse and dove feathers. This fly can be tied dry or wet, as a nymph or as a palmered pattern on a long straight-eyed hook. The Yellowhammer is especially effective when light-bodied mayflies hatch.

• Two of the oldest patterns in the southern Appalachians are the Gray Hackle and the Smoky Mountain Forktail.

• North Carolina has approximately 4,000 miles of trout waters, not including another 600 miles of prime trout streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Just about every type of trout fishing experience is available at these streams. You can find streams where you can fish for trophy-sized trout with flies only, streams that allow either spinners or flies, and streams in which you can use just about any type of bait or lure.

About Robert Satterwhite 180 Articles
Bob Satterwhite has been writing about the outdoors, particularly trout fishing, for more than 25 years. A native of Morganton, N.C., he lives in Cullowhee, N.C., close to the Tuckasegee River, Caney Fork, Moses Creek, and several other prime trout streams.

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