Another weekend is in the books and despite the cooler than average temperatures we've had some pretty stellar fishing in and around East Tennessee. The Holston River below Cherokee dam continues to have ideal flows for both wading and boating anglers. The river is currently experiencing good numbers of caddis (size 18, olive) throughout the day with higher numbers popping off when the sun is out and in full effect. While the fish are pretty happy to eat a dry fly, you will find a good number of fish still fixed on emerging caddis so don't hesitate to try a swung we fly if your dry isn't getting any love. We are also seeing an increasing number of sulfurs on the water and while I have yet to see fish actually on the sulfurs I have had at least one angler tell me that he had a good day fishing sulfur dries. The unstable spring weather we've been experiencing still has the fish keying on a good number of midges. Over the weekend the nymph my clients had the best luck with was a size 18 red zebra midge.
The Clinch River below Norris Dam is fishing very well with favorable conditions for the wading angler but tough flows for those wishing to float the river. TVA has been sticking with a low water regime in the mornings with one generator typically in the afternoon. While there is sporadic sulfur activity on the surface the bugs are still not out in numbers great enough to get the fish to rise to them consistently. Your best bet for consistent action on the Clinch is going to be a bead head pheasant tail or a split case sulfur. I suspect the best fishing on the Clinch is still a week or so out. This Sunday, May 22nd, marks the beginning of the recreational schedule on the Clinch. I suspect having flows on the river earlier in the day may encourage the bugs to start coming out in mass. A stable summer weather pattern wouldn't hurt either.
Flows and temperatures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are nearly perfect. Cool temperatures in the mornings may make the fish a little sluggish early but they should be happy and looking up later in the day. If I was up there this today I'd likely fish a dry dropper rig until the fish told me it was time to get rid of the dropper.
Finally, the small mouth bass bite is getting good. While walking the dog the other day I noticed my first June Bug crawling around on the sidewalk. That can only mean one thing: top water time is approaching fast. Thus far I've had good luck with streamer patterns but if we get a good calm day and some warm temperatures I think it's time to get out the poppers and stealth bombers.
With so many options here in East Tennessee you can be assured that no matter where you decide to fish and whichever species you decide to chase, you're going to have a great day! Get out and play.
Dry fly season is upon us here in East Tennessee and the fishing forecast for the weekend is shaping up to be fantastic. We got a welcomed dose of rain yesterday evening and that extra water in the lowland tailwaters will hopefully entice the hesitant hatches to get going in full force. A little bit of a cold snap is expected for the rest of the week but the warm temperatures are expected to return by the weekend. This warm weather coincides perfectly with the continued lower flows predicted by TVA on the Valley’s tailwater fisheries and anglers can expect to be rewarded with significant hatches on both the Clinch and Holston rivers.
The Holston River below Cherokee Dam is finally showing significant signs of life with nice hatches of both crane flies and caddis flies, mixed with a sprinkling of sulfur may flies. While I have yet to see a full fledge hatch on the river, my best catches last week were all on size 18 elk hair caddis. On the Clinch River below Norris Dam, anglers are beginning to report the arrival of sulfur mayflies. While sightings have been largely sporadic to this point I did get my first credible report of a full blown sulfur hatch on Sunday when most anglers were off the water due to the weather. With both rivers expected to have wadeable flows over the weekend anglers should make every endeavor to get out there as this will truly be the first weekend where dry fly fishing on the tailwaters is going to be not just an option but indeed your best bet.
Closer to home, the waters around the Forks of the River on the lower portions of both the French Broad and Holston River is absolutely polluted with Skip Jack Shad. The shad run this year is as thick as I can recall in recent history with nearly every cast producing a fish in the better waters. Smallmouth bass are in spawning mode on the freestone streams in and around the East Tennessee area but have yet to become active on the larger rivers due to lower than average water temperatures. This may change over the next week as lower flows and higher temperatures prevail.
Anglers in the mountains are having good luck with a variety of hatches still coming off. Yellow sallies are just now beginning to show up in the mountains but it won't be long before they are in full force. At present you can expect to get some action on caddis, Hendricksons, stimulators, and adams. While dries should work later in the day you should expect to need to pull out the nymph box early and often.
It's been about ten days since our last fishing report and with good reason. The wind. It feels like the wind has been blowing for about three weeks straight. It's blown enough where I have personally opted to stay in the shop and do important work rather than play hooky on the water. Rock Cox was in the shop last Thursday and we were both joking about the wind. Despite the weather, Rocky said he had been on the water twenty days straight and the fishing had been solid. I had to concur. When I have managed to get out and about either on a guide trip or for myself, the fishing has been surprisingly good.
Both the Clinch and the Holston have been good, slow, and great on any given day with some days being a bit of everything. These unsettled weather days have meant that fishing can be great at one point in the day and slow at other times, the action being subject to the whims of the ever changing barmetric pressure. We've yet to see any appreciable bugs on either of the tailwaters although a few sulphurs and caddis are being seen. If the rain holds off and these low water conditions prevail, it shouldn't be too long before we see some great dry fly action on both rivers. As it stands right now, bead head pheasant tails and a variety of zebra midges seem to be doing the job admirably.
John was up on Norton Creek over the weekend volunteering his time for the very worthy cause of Casting for Recovery. It was, of course, very cold in the mountains over the weekend and John said the fishing was slow. While the Smokies are seeing a lot of action in terms of the spring bugs (light cahills, march browns, hendricksons, and blue wing olives), the cold temperatures dampened their activity. Despite the tough conditions, the ladies participating in the Catching for Recovery weekend had a fantastic time. I have a good idea why, John looked beat up and worn down yesterday morning. He and the other volunteers put a lot of time and effort into making sure the event was a success despite the weather.
I've been getting a lot of inquiries either by email or phone concerning our warm water fisheries. Anglers are wondering if the small mouth bite had begun yet. The truth of the matter is I didn't really have a good answer for them. I did some poking around a couple of weeks ago and while the white bass bite was off the charts the small mouth were still few and far between. I think that has changed. I snuck out for a bit on Sunday with the intent of catching more white bass and skipjack shad. Both of these species are in the process of making their migratory runs up into the French Broad and Holston Rivers. For me this more than any other event marks the beginning of Spring. The wind on Sunday, mercifully, laid down and while it wasn't exactly warm it wasn't too cold either. While I managed quite a few skipjack over the course of the day, the real surprise was the quality of small mouth I put in the boat. I caught several nice and fat pre-spawn fish holding in fast water lies looking for easy meals. Fat enough and nice enough that I'm going to have a hard time sitting int he shop the rest of the week getting all my busy work done!
Fly Fishing 101
3 Rivers Angler, your local fly fishing resource, is offering "fly fishing 101″ lessons on fly casting and outfit rigging at absolutely no charge. Each classs teaches the basics of rigging, casting and other intro to fly fishing skills. All of the gear and instruction is provided free of charge. Space is limited so please make sure to sign up well in advance.
You should be at least 12 years old. Bring a fly rod and reel with line if you have one, (if not, one can be provided in the beginning.) We'll be covering "what to buy" during the first class session so it is something that we can work around if you do not have one to start. Bring a notebook and pen to take notes.
Course space is limited to 6 students.
2016 Fly Fishing 101 April Schedule
Saturday April 23th 9:00 AM
Wednesday April 27th 5:00 PM
Satruday April 30th 9:00 AM
Spring arrived early in East Tennessee and the abundance of warm weather and low water has had anglers out in droves over the course of the last two weeks with a varied results. Mixed weather with persistent cold fronts has meant that the fishing has wavered between hot and not depending on the time of day or the body of water your fishing.
The smokies got a healthy dose of rain overnight on Thursday and as a result the stream levels jumped up significantly on Friday cresting later in the day at just over 800 cfs on the Little River in Townsend. As of this morning levels on the Little River have recexded to a very manaegable 400 cfs and should continue to drop throughout the weekend. Provided the water temperatures don't drop below that magic mark of 50 degrees, fishing should be great in the Park this weekend. I'd look for the better fishing to occur in the afternoon after the sun has warmed the waters a bit with anglers having good luck on a variety of both dry and wet flies.
Down in the Valley the tailwaters are on a fixed low water schedule while TVA fills the reservoirs for summer time activities. Both the Clinch and the Holston have been fishing well in between storm fronts with the Clinch probably providing a little bit more consistent action. We've been getting a few reports of sporadic (very) sulphurs on the Clinch but the hatch is still a ways off. Most of the action on the clinch has been on midges and beadhead pheasant tails in a variety of sizes. On the current low water regimen TVA is giving us, anglers will need to employ some significant technical midging skills in order to be successful so this means long leaders and light tippet.
The story is largely similar on the Holston where we are seeing pods of fish porpoising on midges in the flat water sections of the river. Those of you who are used to catching fish on the Holston in the riffles and faster water may do better to try and forgo the moving water and seek out stretches of flat water were the better midging seems to be occurring. Like on the Clinch, long leaders and light tippet paired with small flies seem to be just what the doctor ordered.
If you are looking for some consistent streamer action look no further than the lower stretches of both the Holston and French Broad Rivers just above their confluence east of Knoxville. The white bass are out in force and there are reliable reports that the skipjack shad and bigger striped bass are beginning to show in numbers as well. If you are trying to get your kid hooked on fishing this is one of the greatest opportunities we have in the East Tennessee area.
Wherever you choose to fish this weekend, have a great and safe time!
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