Mid-week has arrived once again and instead of being out on the water I find myself sitting at my desk pecking out another fishing forecast for the weekend. Per last week, the fantastic weather has persisted and as predicted I have managed to get out and about on a couple of occasions. When not occupied with the task at hand (fishing), my attention has been repeatedly drawn to the sky watching the menagerie of migrating birds as they head south along with the cooler weather. It has been nothing short of stupendous.
The fishing? Well, it has been pretty good to great if you can get TVA to cooperate and/or you have made it up to the mountains. Alec (pictured) and I made it up the Clinch on Sunday. TVA had advertised three hours of one generator from ten till one but threw us for a loop when they bumped the flows up to 8,700 cfs at noon. Suffice it to say, the fishing was pretty good prior to the extra dump of water but fell off precipitously thereafter. I was out on the Clinch prior to that when the flow was a sustained 6,700 cfs. The fishing was outstanding. I am not sure what it is about 6,700 cfs but I would almost rather have it than the dreaded 4,500 cfs that TVA occasionally throws at us. Keep your eye on the flows as they have been all over the board of late but there has been some pretty good opportunity for the boating angler.
The flows in the mountains are very nearly perfect given this time of year. October typically presents very low flows in the mountains so to see nearly double the average flow this time of year means good things for the mountain angler. By all accounts, the GSMNP is fishing fantastic now. As the day light hours wane the fish in all East Tennessee’s waters respond with greater and greater feeding activity. The Fall can be one of the best times to fish. It can also be one of the trickiest from a weather and water perspective.
Point in case, here comes Delta, the next hurricane headed for US shores. While it is still not entirely clear how much precipitation we will receive out of this system the prospects of it have TVA spooked. Who can blame them? The Tennessee Valley had the wettest 12-month period ever from October 2019 to September 2020. We have received 75.74 inches of rain, which is 150 percent of normal and beat the previous record by 2.8 inches. We keep breaking 100-year-old records. If we get significant amounts over the weekend you can expect TVA will turn off some of the taps on most of the Valley’s tailwaters to hold back water from downstream assets. This may give some us wading anglers and opportunity to get out there.
Of note, Cherokee Dam, above the Holston River if off today during the daylight hours. While it may be tempting to get out there and chase after Trout on the upper stretches, please do not give into temptation. I went up to the dam last week and put a thermometer to the flow coming out from the dam and it came back an alarming 72 degrees. That is the temperature of the water coming out from the bottom of Cherokee reservoir. Can you imagine what the temps must be on a sustained low water schedule on a sunny day like today? Suffice it to say, too hot to safely angle for and release trout.
Since we are talking about weather trends, water temperatures, and the Holston River, it is worth mentioning what the last four years of unprecedented rainfall has done to the small mouth population in the lower Holston. Suffice it to say, it is not good. The last three years I have witnessed small mouth on their beds in July. Typically speaking, they should have completed that process four or five months prior in either March or April. Extremely high flows during the first part of the year and through the month of May have probably prevented them from doing so. As a result, recruitment in the last four years has been extremely poor. Sections of river where I would typically expect to catch fifty fish on any given day are baren. While there are still big fish around, the small ones have simply disappeared. That’s a disturbing trend for someone who’s principle love is chasing small mouth bass on some of the prettiest water in the southeast.
Tailwater populations crash and rebound rather predictably due to a myriad of external factors. Nature is cyclical so some of this is nothing new. What is disturbing, of course, is the number of high-water years we have now had in a row. It is unprecedented and frightening for anyone that makes a living off the area resources. Hopefully, we can catch a break sooner rather than later. Regardless, it is probably time to start having a discussion on how changing weather patterns are going to impact the area financially.
As we head into the weekend keep your fingers crossed that Delta does not have too big an impact on the area. If you do get out there, be safe and have fun!