Even a couple of weeks worth of high water on my local tailwater can seem like an eternity. The last several weeks are starting to seem more like several years. The last time I was on the Caney was last November. Since then, the generation has been pretty consistent at over 10,000 cfs. That's a lot of water no matter which way you look at it. A few brave souls are still out in boats but most people have been trying other spots.
Now, Center Hill Lake is finally slipping below the magical 630 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, in the colder months this threshold has little meaning. Winter pool is much lower than that so while we might start to see TVA cut back on the generation a little, it is doubtful that there will be any wadeable windows any time soon. The active weather pattern looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future, so it is doubtful that the lake will drop very fast. In fact, don't be surprised if it spikes up again within the next week or two.
Thankfully, there are still fish that can be caught. In fact, when I stopped by the river to take a look a couple of weeks ago, there were fish rising in a very accessible spot. I doubt I'll be driving 45 minutes to fish a small section of bank, but I can take comfort in the fact that I could if I really wanted to.
The last few days have awakened the first stirring of spring fever somewhere inside. Visions of Blue Quills, Little Black Caddis, Quill Gordons, and of course rising trout, have been dancing around in my head in several spare moments. I find myself staring out the window. What I'm really seeing is not the dreary sky threatening more rain, but huge hatches with lots of rising trout. As inspiration grows, I'll be heading to the Smokies searching for fish willing to be force fed in the colder water now flowing. Some days will be phenomenal with lots of fish out feeding. Other days will be classic winter fishing with tight-lipped trout hugging the bottom, but thankfully those days will soon draw to a close as winter gives way to spring.
FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 10/21/2016
Current fishing conditions in the mountains have been tough although rain overnight has bumped up the levels on Park streams, especially on the Tennessee side. Be careful as lots of leaves are going to be coming down now with brisk northwest winds behind the cold front. That can make fishing challenging. If you do fish, I would suggest fishing dry/dropper with a #14 Orange Stimulator or Orange Elk Hair Caddis up top and a bead head Green Weenie, Isonychia Nymph, or Blue-winged Olive Nymph (#18-#20 bead head Pheasant Tail will suffice here) underneath. Focus on stealth and accurate casts.
If you are flexible in where you fish, I recommend heading for your favorite tailwater to trout fish. Most tailwaters are offering good flows for wade fishermen right now and the fish are hungry. The Hiwassee River has been recently stocked for the delayed harvest and the Caney Fork continues to fish very well on our guide trips. The Watauga, South Holston, and Clinch Rivers should be great as well.
If musky are on your mind like they are for me, then be patient and hope for more rain. The musky streams and rivers are very low right now and we need some water before safely navigating those streams in the larger boats that are preferred.
A NOTE ON SPAWNING TROUT
This is the time of year that brown and brook trout as well as some strains of rainbow trout spawn. On rivers like the Caney Fork, many anglers choose to target these spawning trout. This is unfortunate, especially this year. There are plenty of pre- and post-spawn trout to target if you want to catch big fish. With low water the norm, the Caney Fork actually has a chance at producing some natural recruitment this year barring any unforeseen high water. The same thing applies in the Smokies. Spawning brown and brook trout are extra vulnerable because of the low water and should be allowed to do their thing in peace. The future of these fisheries depends upon conscientious anglers doing the right thing. If you must fish to spawning trout, please use very heavy tippets and quickly land and release all fish caught. If you want to learn how to be successful this time of year without chasing active spawners, please consider booking a guided trip, and I would be glad to teach you how to hunt these large fish.