A brief respite from the high water on the Clinch will be observed on Wednesday 5/17 as TVA shuts off the taps in order to accommodate the fine men and women of the Project Healing Waters Knoxville Chapter. Per the recreational schedule posted on TVA’s website, flows are predicted to be held to minimum until 3 pm. If ever there was a day to play hooky from work this is it!
If you didn’t have the chance to get out on the Clinch over the weekend it was nothing short of fantastic. The high water over the past two weeks has scoured the bottom and the river is in terrific shape. The fish, not surprisingly, were eager to eat and while there were plenty of sulfurs to be seen there were few reports of fish being keyed in on them. My boat had decent luck on grey zebra midges and the streamer bite was extremely strong.
Get out and play!
After two weeks of spilling, TVA has closed the spill gates at Norris Dam. With the lake level fast approaching 1020, or summer pool, it is once again time to sharpen your hooks! Predicted flows on Friday are 6218 cfs and flows should continue to drop. In order to get the lake level down just a bit further TVA is still sluicing the dam and likely will continue to do so until we meet that magic number of 1020. With only one generator on line the "best case" scenario for the coming weeks may be a round the clock one generator flow. While this is not much solace for the wading angler it is the ideal situation for those with boats. Recreational flows commence on the 27th of May. This is good news for everyone!
TVA backed off on flows on the Holston yesterday and all reports are that it is in great shape and fishing well. Hopefully they’ll give us some fishable flows over the weekend!
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What a bunch of weather we’ve had here in East Tennessee. The month of April apparently didn’t get the memo and came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. As many of you are well aware, TVA has been spilling from Norris Dam since April 25th and will likely continue the spilling operation for at least another week. If you’ve checked the generation on the TVA’s website you should note that it may appear a little misleading. Today, for instance, there was zero generation from 7am to 1pm but the hourly discharge was still in near 17,000cfs. Norris has a generator down at the moment and so one generator is all they can manage. If there is any upside to the rain event it may be that we will get an around the clock one generator schedule after the spilling subsides. That’s great for floating the river but bad if you like to wade.
All of the other reservoirs in the Valley are in similar shape but not quite at the flood stage of Norris. Cherokee is hovering at the 1070 foot range which is right at the top of the summer pool. While TVA has been running two or more generators on the around the clock on during the week but they did give us a break over the weekend. All accounts from the trout section of the Holston were lights out. The caddis have arrived and the fish were eating some dries but still mainly focused on the emergers. I saw a great video the other day on the internet with a great pattern that I think the trout will absolutely love if tied in a size 18 with a green body to mimic the Holston Caddis. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it out this weekend provided TVA gives some fishing opportunities.
I managed to slip out on Sunday and fish the small mouth portion of the Holston. Prior to all the rain the small mouth were in pre-spawn mode and the fishing was pretty darn good. Throughout the tailwater there were large schools of bait fish that the small mouth were schooling up into bait balls and busting throughout the day. When TVA turned on the generators last week the temperature in the river dropped substantially so I was worried that the bite would have gone soft. Thankfully, the small mouths were still eating and their bellies are distended from having eaten some many bait fish. This may be a lunker year for Holston small mouth and Trout.
The French Broad River was absolutely on fire prior to the rains with the white bass and shad runs in full effect. Like Cherokee, Douglas dam is at capacity at 993 feet and TVA has been utilizing the water to generate electricity. I expect that they may slow down over the weekend so we can utilize the river for recreational purposes but only time will tell.
The good news in all this mess is that the Smokies are coming back on line in a big way. While most drainages are still flowing at slightly heavier flows then is normal for this time of year they are well within the range for fishing. The water temperatures spiked with the recent rains and warm weather but the colder air that moved in yesterday has them falling again and the bug life in the mountains is absolutely popping. If you like to catch fish on dry flies this is the time of year to do it and given the state of our rivers in the Valley the Great Smoky Mountains Park is your best bet at the moment.
Wherever you decide to go, have fun and be safe!
Take your pick people. Just like the weather, the fly fishing in East Tennessee is finally heating up. The tailwaters are producing consistent flows, allowing ample wading opportunities for anglers. The Clinch has been producing some quality fish for fishermen as of late. Some big rainbows are pushing up in the upper stretches of the Clinch, especially around Miller Island. Many of which are working on building redds. Don’t be surprised if you see multiple fish in the 18”-20”+ in skinny water. Keep hammering those fish with midges until they stop producing. Olive zebra midges in #18-#20 have been working well. Do keep an eye out for sulphur activity. We’ve been hearing mumbles of some sporadic sulphur hatches down by the jail. But for the majority of the river, it’s still a tad early. However, the sulphur nymphs are absolutely in the water. A #18 split case sulphur nymph is the choice fly to imitate those guys. A double nymph rig with a split case sulphur and a midge hanging off the back would be the ideal setup.
The Holston is also staying on a relatively consistent low water schedule too. Caddis have been hatching off in decent numbers. However, most fish are still keyed in on midges and emergers. Red zebra midges having been producing as well as an assortment of caddis larva patterns.
The mountain streams are back in normal spring flows after some heavy rain events and a cold front last week. After checking the flows this morning, the conditions could not be any more ideal. The USGS gauge for Little River is reading 271 CFS and 55 degrees. As soon as that water temp jumps above 50 degrees, the bug activity increases, and the trout start feeding. Hatches in the Smokies have been a mixed-bag recently. We’ve seen a good number of caddis, stoneflies, and mayflies coming off. A dry dropper is your best setup for the mountains right now. A #16 Tan Elk Hair Caddis with a #16 prince nymph should grab some attention.
Don’t forget about the stellar warmwater action we have in East Tennessee. The smallmouth bite is on fire right now. Lots of solid fish are moving out of the French Broad and starting to stack up in the tributaries near Sevierville. These fish are in pre-spawn mode and are looking to eat anything and everything in their path. Any baitfish streamer will tick em off enough to warrant some explosive strikes. You can’t go wrong with a chartreuse and white clouser in a size #2-#6.
No matter where you decide to go this weekend, enjoy your time on the water and have a safe and fun Easter Weekend!