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!
This is the weekend where everything pops. Last night's rain may dampen the coming out party in the mountains a bit but the rain seems to have hit certain drainages harder than others. As I type Little River in Townsend is flowing at 700 cfs having jumped up from about 400 cfs last night. That's a lot of water and should be pause for concern if you're headed up that way tomorrow. On the other side of the mountains the Little Pigeon river rose about a 6 inches overnight but has appeared to have crested and started back down. Likewsie Catalooche Creek jumped from about 113 cfs cresting at 164 cfs this morning at around 6 am. If I were headed to the mountains in the morning I'd probably pick something on the eastern side of th park. Fish in the park are looking up so if I was prospecting anywhere tomorrow I'd employ a dry dropper rig of some sort to hedge my bets. The fish are hungry and looking for food so you should have good luck with both dries and nymphs.
In the valley the Holston River below Cherokee Dam will be wadable all weekend with minimum flows predicted. While there are plenty of reports of sporadic caddis on the Holston the fish haven't seemed to have found them with very little surface activity being reported. I'd still focus my attention on midges on the Holston and I'd focus my attention in the slower flat water as opposed to the riffles and the runs.
The Clinch looks like it will have a mix of wadable and floatable water over the weekend with the predicted average being 1000 cfs. I expect they'll run a schedule similar to the one they ran today where they ran one generator in the morning and then cut them off in the afternoon. Like the Holston, I'd keep my fly selection on the small size and mainly pull from my midge box. While there is enough mayfly nymph activity going on in the river, the fish still seem to be fixated on the abundance of midges that are around. Color hasn't seemed to matter too much with anglers reported good luck with red, olive, and black.
The white bass bite is sure to be fantastic in and around the forks of the river. If you haven't gone and caught these guys you are absolutely missing out as they are a blast on a fly rod. Personally, I've got small mouth on the brain so I'm going to head out and see if I can figure out where they are in the pre-spawn cycle. Wherever you decide to go, be safe and have a great weekend!