Guided Trips


Unusually warm and wet conditions continue to prevail here in middle and east Tennessee. This upcoming weekend is looking like more rain and possibly even severe weather. The wind forecast is bad enough that I wouldn't bother going fishing until Sunday at the earliest unless you can go tomorrow.

In the Smokies, nymphing will be the name of the game, but don't be surprised to see some blue-winged olives from time to time. With all the high water, think streamers, big stoneflies, or worm imitations.

Tailwaters like the Caney Fork and Clinch are still rolling with a lot of water. Both rivers are over 10,000 cfs. While this is still fishable, I don't really recommend it. Flows this high are generally all about swinging for the fences if you feel like hunting a trophy. Many days it won't happen. Once in a while it will. Throw big streamers, hope for a shad kill, and get out there. Those big fish won't get caught if you're sitting home on the couch.

The Caney will produce decent fishing if we ever get flows back down at least a little. One generator would be ideal. Right now I'll even take two. Minimum flow looks a long ways off right now.

On the Clinch, you can throw streamers and also possible nymph up a few fish. If you pick your spots, there are places to nymph even on 12,000 cfs. Let's hope it gets back down to two generators or less soon. Every time we get a big rain event, look for some low water for a day or two or three. TVA will hold water back at tributary dams like Norris to reduce downstream high water effects. This gives those of us who like to wade a day or two to fish.

Winter is our favorite time to get on the musky streams. In between bouts of high water, those will be fishing well for the next few months.

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Photo of the Month: Starting the Year Off Right

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First Fish of 2014

What a great way to start the year! Even though I still have boxes and stuff scattered all around from my move back to TN, I knew that I couldn't wait on visiting the Smokies any longer.  After an early morning, I made it to Townsend and stopped for a while at Little River Outfitters to chat with Byron and Daniel.  As always we had a great time talking about a little of everything.  Eventually the pull of the streams was too strong, and I headed out of town and into the Park.

Driving slowly up Little River, I stopped at several likely pools.  At one stop, I spotted a nice 18" brown sitting right by the bank.  After several casts to judge the drift, I got a good one in there and the fish came over for a look.  Thinking it had taken the fly, I set the hook.  The fish moved back the other direction casually and would not be fooled into a second look.  Oh well!

Several times, fish came charging out to inspect my large offerings, but each time refused at the last second.  I was beginning to think that my day would be done without catching anything, and of course sometimes that does happen this time of year when you are chasing big fish.

I was running low on water by this time with both Nalgene bottles almost empty.  A quick run up to a good spring seemed like the logical solution and would enable me to check out Middle Prong.  The very first hole I hit had a great surprise.  As I was slowly working the pool, a fish came up and ate.  I just barely felt the soft hit but set the hook and was soon staring in surprise at a very nice rainbow of about 14 inches.  Probably it had swam up from the stocked water in Townsend, but it looked healthy and even wild so I'm not entirely certain.

Later, after filling up on water, I was working my way back downstream and stopped at a very nice pool that I know holds good fish on occasion.  The rain was falling by this time and it was getting close to sunset.  The low light conditions were perfect for brown trout to be out hunting.  I worked the top half of the pool thoroughly and then moved down to the back.  Pitching a careful cast out between two trees, I started my retrieve when I saw the golden flash.  Feeling nothing, I continued the retrieve.  On the second pass, the fish made a solid grab.  After a solid battle, I was holding my first Smokies brown trout of 2014, a beautiful 17 inch fish.  Because of the rain, my camera was staying dry in the car, but I still have my memories which sometimes are better.

That fish was another first for me as well: it was the first brown trout I've caught on Middle Prong.  I've seen plenty of them but never actually caught one until this trip.  Not a bad way to start the year and not a bad first brown for me on Middle Prong!


  1. David
    A 17" brown on the Middle Prong is outstanding; what is the largest trout you have landed up in the mountain streams in the park? Glad you made it back to Tennessee. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Bill. The largest I have landed is 22". I wish you could see some of the monsters friends of mine have pulled out. The largest I've seen pictures of were 28".

  2. My dad and I come up there every year around this time. We will be up next weekend. Its usually freezing cold but we have never been up without catching a few. Last year we were up there in during an ice storm. We caught 17 that day. 12 stocked and 5 up in the park. I caught a nice 13" brown, my first and only brown. We are complete novices to trout fishing. We fly fish occasionally but usually use a spinning rod. We are coming up next weekend and I am concerned because it has been so cold. Your blog post gave me a little hope. Can you reccomend any flies that might work out in the park this time of year? Thanks. I enjoy the blog.

    1. Savez, thank you for stopping by. A 13 inch brown is a great fish in the Park so it sounds like you already have some good ideas! The cold weather is definitely a challenge but it is also one of the better times to target the larger browns. The fish still have to eat of course and will take a variety of streamers and nymphs. I would recommend streamers such as Clouser Minnows, Bellyache Minnows, Zonkers, and any type of crawdad or sculpin pattern. Little River Outfitters sells a pattern called a Super Bugger that has big dumbbell eyes that is awesome. The streamer, crawdad, and sculpin patterns should either be fished weighted or with enough split shot to get them down. You can fish a lot of these patterns on spinning rods and I have been known to fish that way on occasion. Whatever you fish them on, don't use too light of line. I stick to a minimum of 8 pound test on a spinning rod and a minimum of 3x tippet on the fly rod (prefer 1x or 2x tippet). When it is extremely cold and the water is high, it is a lot safer than wading around with the fly rod. If you want to use the fly rod, stick to nymphing deep with lots of weight to keep the flies down. Focus on soft water and try some larger stoneflies (#6-#10), Pheasant Tail nymphs (#12-#16), and then some small midge or Blue-winged Olive nymph patterns (#18-#20). I like a tandem rig. Fish the big fly with the little fly dropped off the bend 18" or so. Oh, and when it is cold, slow is generally best with the streamers but vary your retrieve until you figure out what the fish want.

  3. David,
    Thanks for the prompt reply and the great ideas. Many of those I have never had suggested to me before. I look forward to trying those out. I actually caught the brown trout on a piece of a pink trout worm on a very small jighead using a spinning rod ! Thanks again,

    Clint Hathcock

    1. Clint, the browns will eat a variety of flies. Another one that I really never fish but that is quite effective is the San Juan worm. Your comment about the pink trout worm reminded me of it. Really, this time of year, it all comes down to showing them a meal that is worth eating. They won't move much unless the payoff is significant. Obviously a 20 inch brown won't move much for a #20 midge but it would chase a 4 inch sculpin quite a ways...



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