We have had more than enough rain over the last few weeks here in East Tennessee. I saw an article on WBIR’s website that showed this February as Knoxville’s 8th wettest February on record. This has severely limited our fishing opportunities as of late. Our area reservoirs are beyond full, and most of them are either spilling or sluicing. We still have a long way to go before we start seeing consistent wadeable flows on our tailwaters. A few Sundays ago, we were able to make it out to the Clinch before they started spilling. We caught a handful of nice slot-sized rainbows before the water got too murky. Every fish I caught was between 14 and 17” and strong and healthy. We can only expect them to have that same fight once they stop spilling.
Our freestone streams are starting to show signs of Spring's arrival despite a recent snow that fell in the highest elevations of the smokies this week. Reports of early spring hatches have been trickling in. This means Blue Quills and Quill Gordons are starting to pop in some of the lower elevation streams. You are more likely to see these hatches during a warm spell, and later in the day. It looks like we are going to see more rain this weekend. However, we will see temperatures jump back into the 60s for at least a few days. This warmer weather moving in might trigger more of those Blue Quill, Quill Gordon and BWO hatches.
If you are going to fish the mountains this weekend, I would have a handful of Quill Gordon dry flies in sizes #14 and #16, Blue Quill dries in #16 and #18, and parachute BWO’s in sizes #16 and #18. If you don’t get any hatches, I would count on fishing deep with a double nymph rig. Your standard pheasant tails, prince nymphs and hare’s ear nymphs in size #14-#16 are good choices. In addition to fishing a smaller nymph, I would use a heavier stonefly nymph as a point fly. I was able to get out this week and fish Abrams creek despite the cold snap and high flows. I did not expect to see much of a hatch and tying on a dry fly did not cross my mind. I did have success tightlining a heavy stonefly pattern and a #14 Hare’s Ear Caddis Pupa with plenty of split shot. Despite the cool water temps, fish were in a feeding mode. It was probably a 50/50 split on trout taking the top caddis pupa versus the large heavy stonefly. The key was putting enough weight on my rig to get my flies dragging bottom.
There is a chance for thunderstorms on Saturday and the freestone rivers are liable to rise quickly with heavy rains. Whatever you decide to try and do this weekend, be sure to check the radar and the flows and be safe!