Sunday’s Classic / 8 Flies for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout

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Dan Flynn C&R’s a Brookie. Photo By: Louis Cahill

My good friend Dan Flynn is the man when it comes to hike-ins for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. I’ve never met a fly angler that enjoys bushwhacking through walls of thick impenetrable rhododendrons more than Dan. Randomly pick any thin line of blue on a Delorme’s Georgia or North Carolina topography map and chances are, Dan’s thoroughly explored the high elevation tributary.

Most anglers I know wouldn’t waste their time and energy for such a small catch, but that’s where most anglers go wrong in their thinking. It’s not about the size of the catch that’s the reward. Instead it’s the aura of true living that comes over you exploring high mountain streams in complete solitude. It’s the small doses of adrenaline that you feel pumping through your veins as you hike up a steep slippery waterfall to the next plunge pool. It’s the anticipation and excitement that you get as you peer over a boulder or log jam and spot a colorful native feeding on the surface. Decades of your life seem to roll back participating in this kind of fly fishing, and the kid in you is reborn. Make a trip to one of these crown jewel brook trout streams and your soul will feel cleansed and reenergized afterwards.

Southern Appalachian Brook Trout Feeding in the Current. Photo By: Louis Cahill

The best thing about brook trout fishing is that you don’t have to carry your entire fly fishing arsenal of gear with you. A fly box filled with a handful of brightly colored dry and wet flies will almost always get the job done. The biggest factor for success is getting into position and choosing a fly cast that will allow you to present your fly in front of the brook trout. The bow and arrow cast is a staple here and anglers should also be ready for plenty of side-arm roll casting.

Be ready to drift your flies downstream under low hanging foliage when that upstream presentation won’t work. Quite often it will be the only way you can present your flies into the prime water. Leave your nine foot leaders at home. Short leaders will shine for the tight quarter fishing, allowing you to keep the critical foot or two of fly line out the end of your rod tip for your fly casting. You’ll also find the shorter leaders will make it easier for you to land your fish and keep your fly rod out of the overhanging branches in the process.

Fly Patterns for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout

Top Line (Left to Right): Adams Variant, Thunderhead, Orange Stimulator, Tan Elk Hair Caddis
Bottom Line (Left to Right): Yellow Mayfly, Tellico Nymph, Green Wire Caddis Larva, Micro Woolly Bugger.

Most of my brook trout fishing is done exclusively with one of these dry flies above. However, sometimes you’ll find some of the biggest brook trout will hold on the bottom of deep pools during high water levels and during colder months of the year. Depending on the day, they may or may not be willing to come up for a dry fly. Fishing a nymph or micro woolly bugger dead drifted or stripped can be very successful in these conditions.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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17 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / 8 Flies for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout

  1. Are the Adams Variant and Thunderhead switched around? Either way, I am tying both. In Northern Michigan we tie a lot of Pearl Elk-hair Caddis, Madsen’s Skunk and the Royal Trude. I am glad to see the Tellico show up, classic fly that produces on many waters. It is very true that you return to days in your childhood when a thick caddis hatch comes off and the brookies put the feed bag on and you are in the middle of it.
    Tight Lines,

  2. Good job Kent. Dan Flynn is a friend and a good guy as well as a good fisherman. The conundrum of small stream fishing for me: the safety of going into wilderness alone versus splitting fishing time with a partner. Once small stream water is fished and trudged through, fugedabout catching anything on the same section. Maybe you can do a post about strategies for fishing with a partner. We either stay together and alternate casting or split up and mark off sections we fish with stacks of rocks. But last time we tried that my buddy unknowingly walked past me and we almost lost each other.

  3. First got turned on to small streams and wild fish 40+ years ago my friends can’t understand why i enjoy fishing for small fish so much. small streams, wild fish, solitude. PRICELESS.

  4. The way you have described this type of fishing, it could just as well be that of ours here in KZN, except that perhaps ours involves less trees, and more grass higher than ones head. And like there, most anglers here dont waste their time and energy on our streams, prefering the easy stillwaters. More space for us small trout nuts!

    Thanks for a descriptive post.

      • Hi Kent. “KwaZulu Natal” Province, on the Eastern seaboard of South Africa. A picturesque countryside extending from the 10,000 ft Drakensberg in the West down into the rolling hills of the “midlands” at 3,500 ft. Good Trout country!
        Come visit some time 🙂

  5. I fish small streams in the southern Appalachians for brook trout, usually southwestern Virginia about 30-45 minutes from the Tennessee state line, and I must say these fly choices are spot-on. I’ve had luck with several of these patterns and most of them are effective year-round. Also, your description of fishing in the mountains was awesome. Great post!

  6. That’s a great bunch of flies for any small stream in N. Ga in my opinion. Haven’t done any bluelining this winter but plan to do some this summer. Found a brookie stream last year with some very pretty and larger than average trout. It’s not easy to get to, but is worth every bit of effort to get there. Like you said, it’s not just about an 8inch brook trout, but the environment and the adventure as too.

      • Yup, those blue lines will just have to wait. Fortunately there are two select trips that I won’t be missing this spring thanks to my wonderful and understanding wife. One mad dash to Fla for some reds and trout in 2 weeks, and one more a bit after baby is born up on the Tick. Can’t wait for either.

  7. When you say use a short leader, how short is too short? I too love bushwhacking to headwaters, but dont seem to have cracked the code on leaders. And do you tie up your own leaders for small streams?

  8. In the words of my fishing partner, “they should make jails out of this shit!” In reference to rhodo. We tend to find ourselves going after the little fish more than the big because, honestly, its a much better big fish game… Live on Brookie I’m on your side in the YHC

    • Troutbum69,

      YHC, awwww…., I had a couple great years there my friend. Glad to hear you’re following the blog. I tried to volunteer my time to start up a fly fishing class there a few years ago to give back as an YHC alumni, but the outdoor recreation director pretty much told me he had it handled. I left pissed off, thinking who would turn down a volunteer? Anyways, enough of that, glad you’re following the blog and thanks for interacting. We’ve got a great G&G community.


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