Generally speaking I find that there are two types of fly anglers. People that prefer to fish solo and people that would rather fish with a buddy. Fishing solo has its own unique merits. However, I want to focus on how you can use the buddy system to work water more efficiently and catch more fish.

How can you work water more efficiently while fishing with another person? Cooperation and communication are critical. This can take time to develop with another angler but is well worth it. In the small streams of WNC it can be difficult to spread anglers out on the water without spooking fish. Fish each hole/run as it comes and let the topography of the river decide how you move through it. If the lay of the land allows you to leapfrog your partner without spooking their fish, go for it. If not, wait until your partner has fished out the hole or run. This will allow you both the work more water than you could solo while not spooking fish for each other. Your partner can hold you accountable as far as how much time you spend fishing a run. Your partner can also and serve as a spotter. Lastly, when you hook into a fish, your partner can help net the fish. Working in tandem allows you to cover more water more efficiently, and help land fish quicker which benefits the fish. 

Once you have established a flow with your fishing partner you can begin working on ways to catch more fish while fishing with each other. How you both intend to set up your rods for the day is something to spend some time deliberating on. This is very water type dependent advice so consider what techniques suit the water best and go from there. Dry dropper fishing is the most popular way to fish in our part of Western North Carolina. While preparing to fish with a friend I would stagger your fly selection regardless of your chosen fishing method. Don’t throw the same bugs as each other, try different flies, fly sizes, and depths. This will allow you to figure out what bugs are hot as well as which part of the water column the trout are feeding in faster than if you were fishing alone. 

When I guide I will bring several rods with me for the day. Inevitably, when a client asks why I brought so many I use the golf club analogy. I’m not a golfer by any means but my response is always “you wouldn’t go golfing with just a driver”. Golfers use a variety of clubs that are suited for certain situations. Similarly, I bring multiple rods that are setup for specific techniques or water types. You and your fishing partner can use the same approach using two or three rods. When you determine what type of rig would work best for a run, you can reach for the rod that is best suited for the situation. This reduces the amount of time you spend rigging on the water and keeps you fishing longer. 

Aside from the other reasons mentioned, fishing with a friend is more fun. Cracking jokes on each other, helping each other out when a good fish is hooked, and sharing the stoke of a cool eat are just a few of my favorite reasons to fish with friends. Almost all of my favorite memories on the water are ones I made with those close to me. All of the images in this article are the product of the buddy system. Fishing with friends can not only increase your efficiency as an angler but it also enhances the experience as a whole. 

The Winter Solstice has ushered in the winter trout fishing season. For some anglers this signals the beginning of beer drinking and fly tying season. However, for those that want to brave the elements, winter can be a great time to target larger trout on streamers. 


Light tippet and midges characterize winter fly fishing. Sizing your flies down to 18, 20, 22 and even smaller is key to success when bug fishing in the winter. The wintertime diet of a trout is primarily made up of midges and other smaller macroinvertebrates. Most people do not think of winter as a great time for streamer fishing because trout become more lethargic as their metabolisms slow down in the cold water and are less likely to swim very far for a meal. Trout are opportunistic feeders by nature and winter provides ample opportunity to eat with the influx of midges in the water. If trout are less likely to move for food then how should you target them using streamers?

Your streamer presentation during the colder months of the year is critical to getting an eat. Let’s examine some of the variables to consider when winter streamer fishing. First is fish location. During colder months expect larger fish to be holding in large deep pools, undercuts, and beneath log jams. These locations offer trout food and security without much effort to stay there. Streamer depth and speed are also important. Low and slow is usually the name of the game during this time of year.


Either use heavy streamers, sink-tip lines, or even full sink lines to ensure you are hitting the correct depth. The correct depth is either on the same plane as the fish or just above the fish. As far as streamer speed is concerned, the slow swing or longer slow strips will help make the streamer more visible as well as look more obtainable to the trout. Trout are opportunistic so consider these aspects of streamer presentation in order to emulate an easy, larger calorie feeding opportunity. One fish can feed a trout for days. This is a low-risk high-reward feeding opportunity, particularly when compared to the alternative of gorging on hundreds of midges in a day. 


So what streamers to use? Mini Dungeon, Head Banger Sculpin, Full Size Dungeon, and Peanut Envy are some of our guides’ favorites.

      Wether it’s a thermos full of coffee or hand warmers, it’s always a good idea to bring some small comforts while fishing in the cold. As our winter continues to progress eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, we will see temperatures in the mid to upper thirties. Some days can even get into the low teens and It’s essential to stay warm and dry in conditions like this. When these seasonal changes are happening we can also except to see changes in bug life and even water conditions. For example, on the South Holston tail race there is a transition from summer sulfurs to winter blue wing olives. While bug fishing can be good year round, It’s never a bad idea to chuck a streamer in the winter as large predatory fish are looking for quick high protein meal. On unregulated rivers, (not dam operated) a general rule of thumb is lower clearer water. This could make the trout spooky and could call for a downsize in tippet or even the fly. The cold can cause the trout to become sluggish. When you can obviously see or know there’s fish feeding but you can’t buy a fish, an adjustment in depth or cast placement may cause a strike.
     Don’t let the cold get to you, remember that trout have to be in the water all winter! Although trout are a cold water fish there is still a point when they begin to hunker down. Typically you will begin to find trout in slower deeper runs, in eddies or slack water because less energy is required to hold in these locations. Keep in mind food is relatively scarce during these times and a fish will want to exert a minimal amount of energy. Trout will also become less willing to travel far for a meal so a more accurate presentation could be needed. Getting in tune with your local fisheries and find out what food sources are available year round. For example in our area midges are a very common “fish finder” and can turn up results in tough conditions. Finding the fish or the right bug isn’t always the battle. Frozen guides can be extremely frustrating and it’s pretty hard to avoid. Try adding a very small dab of Gink to the guides. This isn’t a permanent fix but it can slow the water from building up and freezing. What’s worse than frozen guides? Frozen boots! Starting the day trying to jam your foot into a solid ice boot is not only impossible but if you manage to get in, it’s like your own person toe freezer before you even hit the water. So plan ahead and keep those wet boots from the day before above freezing temps if possible.

People often fail to recognize how much thought and effort goes into making a good first cast when fly fishing. The following will share some of the tricks and tips which I’ve picked up along the way.

What to tie on?

There are a few different strategies which can be used to figure out what fly to use when first arriving at the river. One of which is the simply look around you and see if there are any bugs flying around near the water. Now you may not always be able to tell exactly what insects you see, but if you can at least tell the approximate size and color of the bug, do your best to find the fly in your box that comes closest to matching that profile. Another useful trick is the step into the water and look underneath a few of the rocks in the river as there will almost always be several different insects hiding there. Once you’ve figured out what bugs are in the water, again do your best to match them with a size and pattern in your fly box.

Don’t Spook the Fish!

Trout tend to be especially skittish fish, which means one must approach the river with a lot of caution in order to keep the fish from swimming for cover or shutting down feeding. One thing that can help prevent this is doing your best to avoid casting any shadows over the water as a trout’s only real predatory threats are birds and other animals such as bears and raccoons, all of which can be detected by the shadows they cast. Always try to keep the sun in front of you, and try to crouch when necessary to stay out of the fishes line of sight. Additionally, do your best to cast in front of the fish and avoid landing your fly directly above where the fish is holding, as doing so can scare them off.

Setting the Hook

This can often be one of the most difficult parts of fly fishing. The most important thing to remember is to set the hook DOWNSTREAM! More times than not, a trout is going to take your fly in an upstream direction, meaning if you attempt to set the hook upstream, you will likely pull your fly right out of its mouth and the fish will probably get spooked and leave the area. However, if you set the hook downstream of the fish, you give yourself the best chance of lodging that hook into the fishes mouth, giving you the best chance of landing it!