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Beginning Fly Fishing in the Smokies
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Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Beginning Fly Fishing in the Smokies on 03/01/2009 21:59:17 MST Print View

I am an avid backpacker and have backpacked 500 miles of the AT and many of the trails in the Smokies. After several years away from fishing period, I have gotten the urge to bring a fly rod on some of my trips in the Smokies. I was hoping you could help me decide what I need.

About five years ago, while I was still regularly trout fishing (stockers) with a spinning rod, I wanted to get into fly fishing and I bought a 2pc rod(which I am now selling to buy a four piece) and a reel (that never even got line on it. I am planning to build my set up around this reel. It is a Tibor Light Spring Creek (older model – I got it on clearance)


I am assuming that since I am going to be fishing small creeks in the smokies that I would want a shorter, light weight rod (please correct me if I am wrong) so I was looking at seven to seven and a half foot 2, 3, or 4 weight rods. I also need a rod that will break down to around 25 inches for transport in my backpack. My first question is; will there be any negatives on being a novice fly fisher starting with a short rod and light line? Here are the rods I have been looking at and wanted to get your opinions on them or if I should go a whole different direction.

TFO Professional 7’-6” 4wt 4pc ($149)
TFO Finesse 7’-3” 2wt 4pc ($179)
TFO Finesse 7’-9” 3wt 4pc ($179)
St Croix Imperial 7’ 3wt 4pc($170)
Cabela’s TQR 7’-6” 3wt 4pc ($119)


I have read not to skimp here so I was thinking a WF line from RIO or Cortland’s Clear Creek. ( I assume that I want a camo line, not a flo orange line for small streams with spooky fish) What do you guys recommend for a new fisherman? Is one line easier to learn on that another?

Leader and Tippet:

What brands sizes should I look at?

Thanks you guys and gals for all of your help!


Dennis Park
(dpark) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Beginning Fly Fishing in the Smokies on 03/01/2009 23:17:10 MST Print View

This is not a specific answer but I would call a local fly shop in the area that you will be fishing. They will be able to give you the most accurate info on gear required. Hard to beat the guys who live it everyday.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Backcountry fishing on 03/02/2009 07:33:27 MST Print View


Temple Fork makes great rods, one of the best values I have ever seen. You can't go wrong with one of those. Any of the better quality lines should work, and I agree that you should go with grey or green rather than a high vis color. WF lines are marginally easier to cast accurately, and work well unless you really need to go deep (which you shouldn't on any stream but might want to on a lake). Starting with a shorter rod should increase your accuracy, at a small expense in distance, which again you shouldn't need on small streams. Sounds to me like you are on the right track. Have fun and post some pictures!

Aaron Lastname
(Cloudveil9) - F
New2It on 03/02/2009 09:31:34 MST Print View

For you purpose I would not suggest anything shorter than 7.6 feet and nothing over 9'. Ideally I would say roll with something between those two lengths. If you are looking for the one do it all fly rod I would suggest a 5 weight...With this not only could you hit the small streams, but if you ever wanted to head out and fish a larger river, lake, you could do it. Also, the 5 weight would be fine for smallmouth and largemouth bass if using lighter flies and techniques. If however, you solely plan to use this rod for small stream trout, I would say go with a 4 weight. 4 weights are wonderful. Once you get into 3 weights and lower your ability to handle any wind, cast with distance, and play fish without exhausting them to death decreases. It's all a matter of compromise. The 5 weight will be able to cast farther, cut wind better, cast larger flies, and play larger fish. But the 4 weight will have a more delicate presentation and be a lot more fun playing small fish. For an all around, small stream trout rod, I would say either a 7.6 or 8' 4 weight would be great. Pick something with a moderate to moderate fast action. Get the 2 or 3 weight as a "Fun rod" later.

TFO makes good rods but for just a little bit more you could get a lot better rod. I would suggest looking at the St. Croix Avid. They have an 8' 4 weight 4 piece that would be great. Model A804.4. Also check out the Orvis Clearwater II series. Otherwise the TFO will be fine.

WF or DT. Weight Forward is my choice. Double Taper is better for roll casting farther, and tends to have a more delicate presentation on the water. Also once you wear out the front part of the line you can just flip it around on your reel and you have a new line. However it won't handle wind, larger flies, and distance as well as WF. Again, compromises. I would say go WF and master that, then try DT. Regardless, just make sure you match the line weight to the rod. Also, color should not matter that much. If you get in a pool or river underwater and look up at fly lines, they mostly look the same color from below. In addition, trout usually spook at the sight of a fly line no matter what color. That's one part of your leaders job. A lot of people prefer super bright lines so they can track the line on the water and follow their casting visually easier. That said, I never have a problem seeing my line no matter what color and usually go with something neutral...Just because it doesn't feel right to me to be out in nature using colors that clash with everything. Hot pink kinda breaks my feel good nature vibe but that is just me. The lines you mentioned should be fine, I prefer the Scientific Anglers Trout Taper.

Leaders / Tippet: Most any name brand is good. Umqua, Rio, Orvis, etc. I suggest using knotless tapered leasders. For small stream fishing I would go with a 4X tapered leader, 9', and carry both a 4X and a 5X spool of tippet. After you've made a few fly changes on the 4X leader, shortening it by about 1.5 feet, tie a perfection loop in the end and then you can alternate tippets. You could either use the 4X tippet looped on with another perfection loop (Taking it back to about 9') or go to a 5X for a more delicate presentation. This would be fine as you would be going from a 4X to a 5X taper...Or staying with a 4X taper would be good too. For extremely picky fish, it might be good to use the same combo scheme...But with a 6X leader and spools of 6X and 7X tippet. Carry a few leaders as they can be lost / ruined easily especially when starting out.

Reel: Small stream, trout - Anything will do. It's just line storage really. You don't need anything fancy, just as long as you like the way it handles. The reel you listed looks fine...Put some backing on it and load it up with your new line. I like to have enough backing so that when the fly line is fully reeled in, it almost rubs on the reel housing, but doesn't.

Not sure about your skill level, but in person instruction really helps. There are also some great books out there I can suggest as well.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: New2It on 03/18/2009 17:37:26 MDT Print View

Brad- I'm a big fan of 3 weight rods and 7.5' is a handy size for fishing small streams because you will get less tree snags as you're walking from fishing hole to fishing hole, but with a 3wt you're limited to dry flies and unweighted (or very light) nymphs. A #10 or #12 woolly bugger is casatable on a 3wt, but takes some practice (And luck) to get a long cast with such a heavy fly--though if your rod is a fast action rod, the problem is lessened. Therefore, you might want to look at the more trusty 5wt size, or 4wt for a sort of compromise.

The rods you mentioned are all good rods and any of them would probably suit you well. You might want to also try to find used fly rods on ebay, as you can make your dollar go a lot farther this way.

As for fly lines... WF vs DT: I find that DT is better for roll casting, which I do most of the time on a small stream. For larger bodies of water, a WF is preferred. People say a DT gives a more delicate presentation, but if you're getting a splash with a WF, you should spend some time practicing your cast rather than dropping another $40 on a fly line that is only going to hide your casting inadequacies...

A good line vs a cheap line is mainly going to be more manageable in cold weather, will glide more smoothly through your guides, and may float longer. I've been surprised at how quickly some super high-end lines lose their buoyancy even on their first day of use, though, so I typically don't go much higher end than a standard Cortland line.

Bright colors vs. camo: I believe there's no conclusive answer. OK- a dark color may be invisible to you when looking down at the water, right? but fish are looking UP from the water. They see the bright sky above them and most of the times a dark fly line is going to be highly visible to them due to the increased contrast from the color of the line and the bright blue/white of the sky. The exception would be in summer when there's heavy vegetation over-arching the stream, and here only if the stream is small enough for trees to actually hang over it like that. Then the fish, looking up, would see the dark colors of tree branches and leaves above them and it would be logical that a dark fly line would be preferred for this situation. But a lot of debris will float down rivers naturally, and fish are used to it. I've seen fish spook when I cast a fly line right on their head, but I've never seen a fish spook because a fly line floated past them... YMMV.

>TFO makes good rods but for just a little bit more you could get a lot better rod. I would suggest looking at the St. Croix Avid.

I don't know about "better" but I own two TFO Finesse rods and have owned (but ultimately sold) both a St. Croix Avid and a Legend Ultra and my opinion is that the St. Croix' are not better rods than the TFO. Different, yes. Smoother, I don't think so. Someone with a different casting style might prefer the St. Croix rods, of course... Personally, my sweet spot is the TFO Finesse series of rods, though.

Edited by artsandt on 03/18/2009 17:43:25 MDT.

Aaron Lastname
(Cloudveil9) - F
RODS on 03/18/2009 19:06:19 MDT Print View

I'm not really sure the Finesse and Avid are comparable, aren't they different beasts action wise? Two different tools IMO. I prefer slower action rods myself but it's not usually what I steer a beginner towards but that is just me. Personally I'll stick with my Sages and my Loomis I made a long long time ago.

Brad, I don't know if you're still following this but there is a 7'6" 4 weight Sage DS2 for sale, never used for $125 on Whiteblaze. I have this rod. I love it. It's a little short than what I would suggest for an "All around rod" but it should suit small streams just fine. I used it last weekend. I'm using it this weekend. I want to buy the one on WB just so I have a spare in case mine breaks lol. It's an excellent rod. Maybe Art will agree ;)

Ok, Chevy vs Ford next lol :D

Edited by Cloudveil9 on 03/18/2009 19:07:50 MDT.

Aaron Lastname
(Cloudveil9) - F
2 Piece on 03/18/2009 19:20:00 MDT Print View

Forgot...That DS2 is a 2 piece...Not the best for backpacking. Oh well.

Kevin Kelleher
(softouch333) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mountains
backcountry all-rounder on 03/31/2009 04:10:37 MDT Print View

I think Aaron is right. Stay away from the 3 weights at first. A 5 weight (or should I risk it--a 6 weight) is a much better rod for an all rounder. I have a whippy little 7'6" Sage 3wt I occasionally use when I know the stream and will be casting little dries or light nymphs, but trying to throw a weighted nymph or wooly will drive you crazy, and a 3 weight is useless on small lakes or in any wind. Also a short rod will rule out much roll casting or dapping. I think a five weight,8 1/2 foot is a good compromise.

Brands? You can fish effectively with any moderate brand rod including TFO. I would second the notion for bumping slightly up to a St. Croix. Or do what I've used. My top rod is a Z-axis demo I spent $300 on but I like my St. Croix UF almost as well for $90. My most packable is a Winston LT 5 piece and knocks down to 21" and talk about light! Reels? Anything will do, but I vote for quiet as the only aesthetic. Your Tibor is fine if you can break it down to clean in the field.

Aaron is almost right about leaders too. I too have been using a loop on tippet, but have recently begun using a tippet ring instead. No loop tangles, easy to add a dropper, no problem tying on a 6x tippet to a 3x line. (Have you tried them Aaron?)

Aaron Lastname
(Cloudveil9) - F
Tippet Rings on 03/31/2009 07:52:39 MDT Print View

Great advice Kevin! I fear we have lost Brad along the way somewhere though, oh well.

I haven't tried the tippet rings yet! I may have to give them a shot this weekend. My usual setup is just perfection loop city...Leader to flyline, leader to tippet... It works out well for me but maybe these will be better.

Wow, Winston LT...Nice rod...

Jonathan Boozer
(anywayoutside) - MLife

Locale: South East
Hijack - St Croix Question on 03/31/2009 08:08:49 MDT Print View

What about a 9' 6wt 4 pc St Croix Reign as an all around for a newbie?

Aaron Lastname
(Cloudveil9) - F
Rod on 03/31/2009 08:29:45 MDT Print View

Jonathan - Looks good to me!

Though for what you said you would be fishing for in the other thread, I would go with the 8'6" 5 weight they have in the same series - Also a 4 piece.

My first rod was a 9' 6 weight...They are great for casting long distances, casting larger / heavier flies, and fighting a stiff wind but at times it can be a little over-kill for smaller fish. Personally, I would go with a 5 weight. If you want to fish for larger bass with larger flies in large lakes and rivers the 6 weight would be better or even a 7 weight (At which point you could even go light saltwater) If you are mostly after bluegill and crappie and trout on smaller lakes and rivers and streams I think the 5 weight would be great. For your purposes I usually roll with a 4 weight but at times it's a bit light...

Mark Jones
(hibisk55) - M

Locale: The Back of Beyond
Beginning Fly Fishing in the Smokies on 05/25/2009 10:25:07 MDT Print View


One of the best outfitters in the area is Little River Outfitters in Townsend. They are great people with honest and accurate advice. They can advise you of current conditions, hatches and effective patterns.

They can be found here:

It is valuable to check their on-line fishing report prior to an outing.

One of the best local guides is Ian Rutter. He has published an excellent book on the subject: "Great Smoky Mountains National Park Anglers Companion by Ian Rutter" available at Amazon:

Another good resource is "The Fly Fisherman's Guide to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park" by H. Lea Lawrence available at Amazon:

The ideal tackle for GSMNP streams is an 8.0' four piece rod with 4 or 5 wt WF line and 7.5' leader. The 8' rod will allow you to make very short casts, roll cast or dangle through a run. A 7.5' will do. A 7' will frustrate you. A WF line will be your friend. A 9' leader is too difficult to handle in tight confines.

A stealth approach and a good presentation are primary skills to be developed as the fish spook easily.

Happy Trails.


Edited by hibisk55 on 05/25/2009 10:42:56 MDT.