Some of you likely have heard that the Clinch experienced a fish kill near the weir dam last week. Though this year is worse than what has happened at other times, the vast majority of fish are unaffected by the turnover. That said, the area immediately around the weir dam will not be fishing well for a little while. Otherwise, fishing is picking up as the fish settle into this new cooler weather pattern, and other opportunities are opening up around the area or stabilizing.
The mountains are fishing really well. The water is cold, but the flows are excellent and the lower elevation streams where the bigger fish lie are really good. It’s not going to be super important to get out early when you fish, and the rising temps will increase activity. Use size 14 or 16 buggy nymphs, like a hare’s ear, red fox squirrel, or rubber-legged pheasant tail and fish near the bottom. Flows will likely rise with the rain coming in today and that will raise the water, but they should recede to good levels by Saturday. In shallower tailouts, perhaps try a dry dropper with one of the previously mentioned nymphs and an orange caddis for a dry dropper rig, which produced several fish on a guide trip I took Tuesday.
On the Clinch, size 20 or 22 olive, cream, and crystal midges are working as they usually do, though some are finding success with pheasant tails as well. The browns will likely spawn next week around the full moon on the 12th. It goes without saying that everyone should let them do their thing when they get on the redds, but you can go after them while they’re still aggressively showing their dominance and moving upstream.
The Holston should be cool enough to fish for trout. We heard that the temps were in the high 60’s a little over a week ago, and the cool night should be dropping that further. This will certainly be the case next week as temps drop further, with snow in the forecast for Knoxville! A standard size 16 pheasant tail will get the job done.
It suffices to say that it’s been a weird weather year. Between near-Biblical amounts of rain early on, equally ecclesiastical drought, and now snow on the forecast in early November, it’s been an awfully odd year. But then again, that’s when some of the best stories are made, particularly in the South where every good yarn starts with “arctic” conditions or woefully oppressive heat to set the scene.
Whatever the weather throws at us, get out and make those memories, because the memory of big fish caught during a weird year like this will be a common meeting place for you and your buddies decades from now.