Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 01/22/2020

High flows continue across the area but trends are definitely down. A recent cold snap broke the ongoing heatwave so fishing in the mountains has slowed dramatically. Right on schedule, some of our tailwaters should begin returning to more normal flows for this time of year meaning float trips are certainly possible.

For the Smokies, a warming trend should commence as we go into next week. By mid week the fishing should be decent before the next cold front returns us back to winter again. On warmer days, look for midges and possibly winter stoneflies hatching. Some blue-winged olives will be possible on foul weather days as we head towards February. The best fishing is still a few weeks out, but no longer feels like an eternity. Expect good spring hatches to start in late February or early March with blue quills and quill gordons along with little black caddis and early brown and black stones. By April, things will be settling down with the pinnacle of spring fishing usually happening from mid April through the month of May.

On our area tailwaters, high water continues to be the story. The Caney Fork still has at least a couple of weeks of high flows and that is assuming we don't get any more heavy rainfall. This time of year, that is asking a lot. The high water is good for one thing, however. Shad. Yes, the cold months are prime time to try and hit the famed shad kill and catch a monster brown trout. Same thing goes for the Clinch.

Speaking of the Clinch, the good news is that flows are scheduled to begin dropping tomorrow. A steady two generators will feel like low water after the recent period of two generators plus sluicing. Two generators opens up some nymphing possibilities in addition to our favorite winter pastime, stripping streamers for monsters.

The musky streams are settling into fine shape and will be an option moving forward as well. Remember that bouts of high water will get them stained or even muddy for a few days, but as flows come down the fishing should pick back up.

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Observe, Analyze, Plan, Execute

Some of my most memorable fish have come when I’ve had to work for them. Size doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with making a fish memorable. One of my more memorable fish this summer was just a small brown trout. I remember that fish well for a reason. I caught the fish by formulating and following a careful yet simple game plan.


Often a fish is memorable because of a great cast. Several years ago I was fishing a stream “somewhere out west” that also happens to be one of my favorites all time. The stream had trees lining the banks so the casting conditions were very similar to my home waters here in the Smokies. I had spotted a nice 14 inch brown rising just upstream, but the fish was in a very tough spot to cast into. A branch was hanging low over the stream directly above the rising fish making the presentation difficult, at least to me at that stage in my fly fishing career. The cast would obviously need to be punched up under the limb if I wanted any chance to catch the fish. My first cast was perfect with the fly landing far up under the tree and miraculously not snagging on the foliage. The fish did its part by casually eating the fly and soon thereafter I briefly admired a beautiful wild brown. I’ve caught many browns since then and will no doubt catch more but I’ll always remember that fish with a sense of accomplishment.


Catching a memorable fish generally comes down to the ability to carefully observe and then analyze the situation, planning the presentation, and executing the game plan. Another brown was memorable more recently. Once again it was not for anything particularly great, just a feeling of accomplishment when everything came together exactly as I had planned.

A small deep pocket caught my eye as I moved up the stream while fishing near Elkmont. I knew there had to be a fish lurking because of the depth of the pocket and the quality of water around it. There was just one problem. A branch was lodged between the rocks in the pocket leaving a decent piece of water to present a dry on but no room for error once a fish was hooked. Only one solution would work. If a fish hit, I knew my only chance would be to pull it all the way out of the water and into the main channel where there was room to maneuver without the fish snagging on something in the stream. My first cast produced an explosive strike from a 7 inch brown. The hookset was perfect with just enough extra power to lift the fish away from the potential hazard. If I had let the fish run back into its home it would no doubt have snagged the fly on a branch and escaped. Instead I had a picture and a memory…



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