Cooler weather has found its way into the valley this week. Rain and cloud cover have been the norm nearly every day. However, the forecast is looking promising for the weekend. It appears the cool weather is here to stay, but we will see some sun over the course of the next few days. TVA has been blowing out the French Broad and the Holston this week, but has managed to keep the Clinch at low-flow for most of the week. These long periods of 0 generation have been welcomed by wading anglers. Lots of folks have braved the nasty weather to target some of the larger browns and rainbows that are congregated in the upper section of the tailwater. The fishing has been good when the conditions haven’t. A #20 black and copper zebra midge was the ticket for me, along with a #16 red zebra midge fished under a small NZ strike indicator. Small streamers have been working well for some anglers that have been committed to throwing them. Sculpzilla in natural or black has been working well. In addition, dead-drifted wooly buggers can be deadly this time of year.
Persistence will pay off this time of year. With so many big fish stacked in water that is easily accessible, you have a good shot at sight-nymphing some quality trout. You can’t always expect them to eat on the first or even second drift, but small changes in your setup can make a big difference. If fish are not eating, try a slight change in depth before you clip off that fly and switch it out. I had to work hard for the large brown pictured above. After I spotted it, I could tell it wasnt' moving for much. I could see it holding and eating a drifting midge or mayfly every once in a while. At that point, I knew my depth and drift had to be perfect to convince this beast to inhale my offering. Finally, after a dozen or so fly changes I drifted into him again, saw my indicator pause for a second and I set the hook. After a short battle, I brought him close enough for me to dip my nomad under his giant head. After a few shots with the GoPro, I pulled him out of the nomad and slid him back into the cold clear water of the Clinch River. If shots at trophy brown trout like this cannot convince you to crawl out of bed on a cold Saturday morning, I don't know what will.
The Clinch is not the only place you have a chance to tangle with a trophy brown. The freestone streams in the smokies have been fishing well despite the colder nighttime temperatures we have seen as of late. Heavy rains earlier this week spiked flows in many of the watersheds on our side of the mountain. The past few days we have seen water levels drop and temperatures remain in the low to mid 50s. Big browns are starting to show themselves on the East Prong of Little River. A friend of ours, Trey Marshall, had some recent luck in the park with both nymphs and streamers. He initially moved this brown with a streamer he swung along the tailout of a run. After the trout settled back behind his rock. Trey switched it up and got him to eat a pheasant tail nymph dropped off a stimulator. Your best bet at hooking some of the larger trout in Little River is going to be on cloudy, overcast, or rainy days. Those trout will be less wary and much more comfortable moving for swung flies and drifting nymphs. Darker nymphs like pheasant tails, prince nymphs, Bird’s Nest and Green copper johns are your best bet right now. As far as streamers go, Galloup’s Barely legal in yellow and brown and Sparkle minnows in various colors have been producing.
If you do get out this weekend, have fun and be safe! As always, if you have any questions please come by the shop or give us a call at 865-200-5271.