Congratulations. If you are new to East Tennessee, you just made it through your first False Fall. You know those days that were brisk in the morning, mild highs during the day, and the chill that crept back in once the sun went down? Yeah that’s a false fall. Now we’re facing down days that compare back to a mild summer. Locals, you know the drill. The immediate forecast shows rain for the next few days. The long-range forecast shows mostly two-weeks of 2nd summer.
The good news is that the freestone streams, usually low and warm by this time of year, are in good condition. The GSMNP is fishing pretty darn good. Plenty of cold water is pumping through our streams. I’ve seen larger golden stones still scurrying across the rocks, and a few October caddis fluttering about. In my experience, you can get away with some larger flies in the fall as fish are feeding heavily to bank away calories for the spawn and the cold winter ahead. Fish are still taking dry flies; I would use a beetle/black Chubby Chernobyl or an orange Stimulator or Elk Hair Caddis. The October caddis can be quiet large so don’t be afraid to up the size of your dry (#10-#12). Nymph patterns have been producing good numbers of fish. Patterns such as Pat’s Rubberlegs, BH San Juan Worms, BH Red Fox Squirrel, BH Copper Johns, BH Princes, and BH Pheasant Tails do well. Fish a larger one on top with a smaller nymph dropper on the bottom. If fishing gets slow, or the water is higher and stained don’t be afraid to throw some streamers such as Sparkle Minnows or Galloup’s Mini Dungeons.
The tailwater fishing on the Clinch has been decent. Reports of good and bad days roll through the shop. Floating has yielded some good results lately. The generator schedule has been accommodating to both the wading and boat anglers recently. Keep an eye on the flows as this may change with the recent bump in rain and fall reservoir drawdown on the horizon. The standard menu is still in play; Zebra Midges, Mercury Midges and small BH Pheasant Tails are the go-to. For midges, natural colors (copper, brown, tan, and black) in the #18-22 range and Pheasant Tails in #16-20 have done well. It would behoove some of you to attend the TU Clinch River Chapter’s meeting on Oct. 14th at 6PM located in the Appalachian Room at the Norris Dam State Park (125 Village Green Cir. Rocky Top, TN 37769). The meeting is to discuss the findings of rainbow trout natural reproduction in the Clinch River, but that entails a lot of other details (stockings, minimum flow, harvest, etc.) As for the Hoslton, always make sure to check the water temperatures before targeting trout, but I will save you the drive: it’s still too warm. Lay off the trout on the Holston for now and wait for lower temperatures. But there’s always smallmouth…
The smallmouth fishing has been good. Fall can be a time for big fish. They’re putting on their feed bags for fall and looking to fatten up quickly. The tailwaters flows haven’t been very conducive for smallmouth, but the freestone streams have been producing fish when the flows are good. Bouncing crayfish on the bottom, stripping streamers in slower water and the occasional popper action on warmer days will all catch fish. Target the slower water, as fall rolls in the fish start to transition to their cool weather haunts. Look out for fish hunting large schools of shad on the reservoirs and on the slower sections of the rivers. Find a school of shad and get ready to find groups of hungry bass hanging around.
Fall can be one of my favorite times for carp fishing. The fall drawdown opens up a lot of flats back to wade fishing. Just like other fish species, they have one job right now: feeding. Find a feeding fish and you have a good shot at getting a take. The big fish will also reveal themselves during this time. They seem to be less timid as they’re just shoveling down calories.
Load your boxes with Whitlock’s Swimming Nymphs, Barry’s Carp Fly, McTage’s Trouser Worm and Montana’s Carp Hybrid.
Good luck and get out there.