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Peyton and I loaded up the truck around 6:00 am and headed to Gatlinburg Tn for the 2nd annual Battle Of Gatlinburg One Fly Royale hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains Trout Unlimited,Tennessee's oldest Trout Unlimited chapter. With the Great Smoky Mountains as the backdrop, excitement was definitely in the air as the cars lined up along the street adjacent to the stream that we would be fishing. The first person I met out of the truck was Trout Unlimited president John Reinhardt who looked to be recruiting beat monitors. He asked Peyton if he would like to be a beat judge when Peyton informed him that he could not....... because he was fishing in the tournament. "How old are you?" John asked. "Thirteen" said Peyton. "Well you will be the youngest competitor we have ever had in this tournament". Peyton is pretty used to hearing things like that, but I had the sneaking suspicion that they would get to know him much better as the tournament progressed.
A one fly tournament brings in a whole new element to angling and especially to competitive angling. Once you loose a fly, whether that be to break it off in an overhanging tree or on a rock on the stream bottom, or even on a fish...........your out. No matter when it happens. If it happens within the first five minutes of the tournament, your still out. If your fly gets ripped to shreds on the first couple of fish, it doesn't matter. If the fly you choose is not liked by the fish, it doesn't matter. Its your one and only fly for the entire duration, till the end.........or in a lot of anglers case...........until you loose it. Having only one fly choice and the added risk of elimination if said fly is lost, brings a level of strategy of pros and cons that an angler rarely ever has to think about. One that if thought about more often in my opinion, would make us all better anglers. With this level of ramification, one really has to employ a cost/benefit strategy for the tools he chooses. Which size tippet will I use? What technique will I utilize? What weight of fly? and so forth. If I use too light of a tippet, I will be more susceptible to breakage? But if I use too heavy a tippet, I might not catch as many fish. If I use a heavy fly, I might snag on the bottom and break off, but if I use too light of a fly, I may not get down to where the fish are in the more turbulent waters? All valid concerns...........so what shall one do?
Peyton and I decided to use a technique that has worked well for me in the past when the situation calls for applying various different methods on varying or unfamiliar water types with out set up changes. This method requires a set up that allows for flexibility and that is dynamic its application. To learn more about the techniques we used and many others please click here. When it came to fly selection, I opted for an attracter fly pattern that I tie called the Neon Leon that incorporates some flash along with natural buggyness. It is reinforced with 5x tippet for extra durability. To learn how I tie this fly click here. Peyton used his confidence fly which is a soft hackled tag nymph. He uses brushable super glue to keep the soft hackle from unraveling which is the typical issue when it comes to soft hackle flies. To see how he ties this fly click here.
A very good take away from fishing a "One Fly Tournament" is that fishing only one fly forces the angler to do two particular things that most anglers do not usually do. For one, it forces them to keep their fly in the water! There is no time wasted from constant changing and tying on different flies. I learned a long time ago that the angler that keeps his flies in the water the longest, catches more fish. It just makes sense. Since there are no fish flying in the air (at least in the waters that I have fished) that our flies need to be in the water. I learned this lesson the hard way, by spending a lot of my time in my early years rigging and re-rigging while watching the anglers that knew better catch all the fish.The second thing it teaches us, is to have confidence in your technique and not your fly! Since we only have one fly, we are not second guessing our fly selection and we are focusing on our application. How many times have we been told and how many times have we have read, that it's not the fly that matters most.........its the technique.
After the three hour session was over, and all the scores where tallied, I ended up taking first place with 478" inches of fish and Peyton ended up taking second with 421" inches and we both ended the session with the same fly that we started with.