Brown Trout Blog

Tiny Flies for Big Browns (Repost From the ORVIS Blog)

ORVIS Blog Post


Written by: Trey Oliver, Fishing Manager Orvis Charlotte


Mary Griffin shows off her 22-inch South Holsten brown, caught on a size 22 midge imitation.
All photos by Trey Oliver

It seems that streamers are all the rage these days—and let me preface this by saying I love fishing meaty flies—especially with all the cool patterns out there now! What’s not to love about tossing a 6-inch fly into the unknown with the anticipation that a monster brown will take a predacious swipe? But if I’m being honest, I’ve never really been all that successful with this strategy. Sure I’ve caught some nice fish with streamers, but they have been few and far between. However, some of my biggest trout have all consistently come on flies size 18 or smaller, with my personal-best fish caught on a size 22 Brassie.

A few days ago, Orvis Charlotte Store Manager Mary Griffin and I floated the South Holston River in Tennessee with guide Brown Hobson of Brown Trout Fly Fishing, a former Trout Bum of the Week. I went into this float with the mindset that it was going to be a good day to throw meat. The water was up, slightly stained, and we had a steady rain in the forecast: by most standards, the perfect conditions to fish streamers


The fight was long, and Mary was careful to protect her light tippet.

I decided to start the day with a basic tandem-nymph rig, just so I could get a few fish under my belt before switching to the big stuff. Once I got my fix, and caught a few fish, I was ready to serve up the meat. So I grabbed my 8-weight with a 350-grain full-sinking line and began pounding the banks with my streamer. Meanwhile, Mary was in the front of the boat catching fish after fish with her nymph rig!

“That’s okay,” I thought, “She might win the numbers game today, but I’m going to be the one that brings the fish of the day to the boat.” A few minutes after this thought crossed my mind, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mary cast her tiny nymph rig into a bubbly seam. Before she could even throw a mend into the line, her indicator vanished, and a large boil disrupted the calm surface. Mary set the hook, and all we saw was a yellow flash, followed by a massive, two-foot brown trout leaping two feet out of the water. This the kind of fish I though I’d catch with my streamer. After a long and careful battle by Mary, the fish was in the boat, and I stared at my “meat eater,” a beautiful, 22-inch male brown with a size 20 midge stuck in his mouth.


Guide Brown Hobson

It was humbling, to say the least, but this was not the first time this had appened to me on the South Holston River. More than once I’ve watched fellow anglers on the boat stick big fish with tiny flies, while I’ve stubbornly stuck to my guns with streamers.

Sure, nice fish are taken on the Soho with streamers, but my experience has been that fish are likely just as inclined to move on your streamer—simply to escort them out of their lies, without ever actually looking to eat it—only to return to gulping down midge after midge after midge. I’m sure I’ve ruffled the feathers of many die-hard streamer fisherman with this article, and I’ll admit big flies catch big fish. But on tailwaters such as the Soho, where the angling pressure is high, and the biomass of insect life is extraordinary, tiny flies catch big fish!


That is a healthy wild fish, feeding off the river’s productive food web.

Advantages of the ORVIS H2 10’ 3wt Fly Rod

By Brown Hobson

Last Year I purchased a ORIVS H2 10’ 3 wt. fly rod.  I absolutely love it, and I want to tell you why.  I own 14 fly rods, I think?  I counted this morning, but I am not positive I don’t have on in the rod shop or in a friend’s possession.  That sounds gluttonous, but fishing is the hobby/profession that I spend 95% of my time pursuing.  Just ask my wife.

I purchased the 10’ 3wt H2 to take with me to the 2013 Fly Fishing Team USA National Championships.  I tight line nymph a lot, not just in competition but that is why I started using the technique.  I also dry dropper fish while holding my line off the water.  I was fishing the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers in Basalt Colorado, and I knew that I needed hold my rod high all day for 2.5 days, and fish small flies on light tippet to finish well in the competition.  Stomach Pumps a month before the competition revealed bellies FULL of baetis nymphs (18-22).   To fish patterns that small I would need tippet in diameter .004”(7x).  The reason I list diameter is because in competition split shot is not allowed, and sinking a size 16 nymph with a bead diameter 3/32” is challenging to say the least.  The smaller diameter tippet slices through the water easier and allows the nymph to sink faster.   The problem with that diameter tippet is that the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan commonly produced 18-20” fish and the largest caught during the tournament was just over 25”.  That is a serious strain on tippet that breaks between 2.5 and 3 pounds of pressure.


(Big Rainbow Caught by Author’s Wife on a H2 10′ 3 wt

The first problem is the easiest to counter.  The ORIS H2 10’ 3wt. is the lightest rod of its size in the world, period.  I am amazed how long I can high stick with it, and still never feel it in my arm or shoulder.  I have always been drawn to the Helios series for that reason.  The extra foot in the 10’ version gives me greater line control while holding line off the water.  It also gives me a steeper tippet/water entry angle which improves my ability to drive nymphs down if I need to.  The 7x tippet helps achieve greater depths as well, but as I outlined before doesn’t provide much leeway while fighting big fish.  The 10’ 3wt does an awesome job buffering shock to the small tippet.   It is amazing that a fast action rod like the H2 can be so forgiving in the top of the rod while still casting at the highest level.  I broke off only two fish in the Roaring Fork’s HEAVY current, and that was far fewer fish than I gained by going small on tippet.  The soft aspects of the rod also help with very small fish.  I also caught several fish in the 8.5”-10” range, and with stiff rods they often bounce off the barbless hooks.  The 10’ 3wt. kept those fish on the hook like they were glued on.  Lastly by dropping from a 10’ 4wt to a 10’ 3wt I gained a great amount of sensitivity.  Often while tight line nymphing, the angler feels, not sees, the fish eat, with  small flies the takes are very subtle.  The 10’3wt registers those take better than any rod I have ever fished.

If you have several rods already and are looking for the ultimate light line, small fly rod for wade fishing give the H2 10’3wt a try.  It is my new go to rod, and I have fished flies as large as size 8 streamers on it.  Try it with some light tippet and I think you will see your fish numbers go up.

Brown Hobson is the Owner/Guide at ORVIS Endorsed Guide Service Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC based in Asheville, NC.  He is also a member of the NC Fly Fishing Team and a 2014 Fly Fishing Team USA member.

Catching Suspended Trout

By Brown Hobson

Most fly anglers who have fished for trout a few times or more understand that most of trout’s diet is consumed sub surface.  I have heard stats that suggest trout consume over 90% of their food under water.  That means a Thingamabobber with split shot or a heavy Czech nymph rig dragging the flies to the bottom will work all the time right?  While nymphs on the bottom (we have a blog post on adding split shot coming out early in 2015) will often work that is not always true.  Fish in lakes suspend in the current why wouldn’t river trout?  The answer is they do and nymph fishermen often miss out on those fish that are in the middle of the water column.  I was guiding a few weeks ago and could see trout feeding and couldn’t catch them with my standard nymph rig (nymphs within 12 inches of the bottom).  I saw an occasional trout rising and more trout darting back and forth in the riffles feeding.  A long time ago I learned that I must change not just flies, but rigs whenever I am not finding success catching fish.  So we took the strike indicators off our leaders and switched to a Parachute Madam X Dry Fly with a Soft Hackle about three feet deep tied off the bend of the PMX Dry Fly.  Many of you know this rig as a hopper and a dropper or less specifically a dry dropper.  We instantly started catching trout on both the dry fly and our dropper nymph.  We had the exact same soft hackle on our nymph rig, but it wasn’t getting eaten.  I knew they were eating caddis pupae and that the soft hackle should work because I saw caddis pupae in a stomach sample I had taken earlier in the day.  Obviously we had the right fly in the wrong part of the water column.   As soon as we got the fly off the bottom and in the middle part of the column fish nailed it.  They also ate our dry fly.  There were no hoppers or stoneflies out, but the trout were only a few feet from the surface and were opportunistically taking our dry.  This great dry dropper action lasted a few weeks, but I still do catch most of my fish under strike indicators close to the bottom.  I do always remember to try dry dropper rigs if I get stumped nymph fishing, and usually have a couple extra dry dropper rods rigged in my boat so I can switch easily.  If you don’t have the luxury of carrying two rods try the ORVIS dropper box.  It lets you pre tie Dry fly and Droppers and carry them tangle free.  Below are links to an ORVIS Blog article from Cliff Weisse of Three Rivers Ranch on how to rig dry droppers and a link to the ORVIS Dropper Box.


Why Float Trips Are More Productive Than Wade Trips During The Summer

By Brown Hobson


We get a ton of requests for wade fly fishing trips during the summer months and it makes sense because many tourists flock to the mountains to escape the heat and the idea of standing in a cool mountain stream is very appealing to all human senses.  The problem is that what is cool to us as humans isn’t necessarily cool to trout.  The trout fishing world generally accepts that trout feeding slows down as the water temperatures climb into the mid 60s and drastically slows at 70.  There are exceptions to every rule and our guides find we can fool trout and successfully release them in these temperature ranges, but we don’t get the number of eats we would like to for our clients.  During the summer the small North Carolina trout streams that were teaming with insect life and feeding fish in May have temperatures approaching 70 every day.  We still catch fish, but generally %50 fewer fish than we do fall, winter, spring.  For some of our clients that is ok.  They really want a wade fishing experience and are happy to be out on the water in a beautiful place and catch a few fish in the process.  For those clients who want to see a trout river at the peak of its fishing potential the Watauga and South Holston tailwaters in Tennessee are the place to be during the summer.   A tailwater trout river is fed by a deep reservoir that supplies cold water from the bottom of the lake upstream.  That means even during the heat of the summer we have water temperatures that are in the optimum feeding range for trout and the insects they prey upon.  Many of our clients ask why Tennessee?  The answer is that the only tailwater river in North Carolina with cold summer temps is the Nantahala.  It is farther from Asheville than the Tennessee rivers and has a million whitewater rafters during the summer.   The Watauga and South Holston are big rivers that are most productively fished from a raft or drift boat.  That allows anglers and guide to move from spot to spot on the river efficiently and stealthily.   They also are wide open and allow easy casting with out worrying about constantly snagging trees.  We are now offering summer half day and full day fly fishing float trips.  Half Day trips are $350 and include 4 hours of fishing and a light lunch.  Full Day trips are $425 and include 7-8 hours of fishing and a shore lunch.

Land More Fish Using Your Trigger Finger

By Brown Hobson

At the end of every fishing trip, on my drive home, I think of ways I could have gotten my clients to catch more fish that day.  Should I have recognized a feeding pattern faster?  Could I have taught them a new angling technique?  At the end of the season I go through the same ritual only magnified.  I found many things last year that I can improve upon.  One of the areas of my improvement I thought would benefit a large portion of the angling community.  I noticed lots of days of good fishing (lots of eats) didn’t produce the number of fish in the net I wanted.  My clients were casting and mending well, but losing trout between the eat and the net due to slack line.

I always teach beginners to immediately put the line under their rod hand trigger finger the instant the fly hits the water.  Line Held Tightly Between the Cork and The Anglers Index FingerIt is often awkward at first, but becomes instinctive after a short time.  That is the most important tip I show them all day.  It often translates the first eat into a landed trout, and frequently can double the number of fish they land.  I see clients too often set the hook with the rod in one hand and the line in the other only to be stranded after the hook set with their hands five feet apart, and no way to retrieve the trout without creating a slack line.  I do see creative anglers use their teeth to hold line while they strip, but that only works occasionally.  The most effective way I’ve found to land fish after the set is to never remove the line from your rod hand trigger finger.  Once you set the hook you use your free hand to strip line from just below your trigger finger (see photo) and you can rapidly make subsequent strips while never taking your eye off the fish.  Constantly watching the fish and not your line allows you to react much quicker to any runs or direction changes.   Work this trigger finger tip into your angling routine and I guarantee you will land more fish and more of the larger smarter fish that have developed fighting skills to outwit anglers.

Brown Hobson is the owner and one of the guides at Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC.  Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC is based in Asheville, NC and is ORVIS Endorsed.  To ask questions about this article or to book a day of fishing with Brown call or E-mail.



Brown Trout Nominated as ORVIS Guide of the Year

For more than twenty years, the Orvis Company has been recognizing excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides (ELOG) program. Fly Fishing guide Brown Hobson has been nominated for 2013 ORVIS Guide of the Year. We are proud to have him on our staff. Call to book a trip with one of the top guides in the country.

Orvis Trout Bum of the Week!

The Orvis Company has given guide Brown Hobson the honor of being named Trout Bum of the Week. Read the interview at the link posted!

View the entire Article Here

WNC Fly Fishing Expo

Brown Trout Fly Fishing and ORVIS Asheville going to be at the WNC Fly Fishing Expo Friday and Saturday, Come by and check out some good deals, talk with Fly Fishing Team USA member and Brown Trout Guide Brown Hobson.

Expo Hours: Friday 2PM-9PM & Saturday 9AM-4PM