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

Monday, December 28, 2015

December in the Smokies


Fishing Little River in the Smokies

Instead of cold temperatures, this December has brought warmth approaching or surpassing recored levels at times. While it is easy to get caught up in wishing for winter, the warm weather has been a great thing for anglers in pursuit of trout on the freestone streams of the Great Smoky Mountains. December fly fishing has never been better unless you want to target large trout. While the overall numbers of larger fish are down, there are still some to be caught.

Winter fly fishing often loses the social element of warmer months because it is simply too cold to sit around and B.S. about past fishing glory. This year has been the exact opposite. In fact, the other day, a buddy and I sat happily by Little River watching yet another friend slowly work his way through a nice hole. I wasn't even wearing a jacket over my short sleeves. The waders weren't even necessary although somehow I would have felt foolish to skip them. In short, while locations across the west are over 100% of average of snowpack for this time of year, places here in the east of been simmering, but the fishing has been accordingly great.

My favorite personal fishing story from this December happened just the other day. I had already attempted to cast to one rather large brown trout but had failed in my endeavors by spooking the fish. That pool rewarded me with a consolation brown whose colors almost made up for the blown larger fish.

Beautifully colored Little River brown trout

Further up river, another pool offered a shot at another quality fish. Definitely a lot smaller than the spooked fish, it was nevertheless a nice trout. Based on its location in the pool, I was confident that I had located a slightly better than average brown trout.

My buddy Jayson agreed to maintain his vantage point while I slipped below the rock wall for a try at the fish. Having just fished through a section with a trout in seemingly every spot where I expected one, my confidence was flying high. So confident that I was a little surprised when the first perfect cast did not catch the trout. With nicer fish, your first cast counts for a lot, so I was concerned that somehow the fish had spooked.

Thankfully, I could call the Instant Replay official upstairs my buddy Jayson who confirmed that the dark shadow was still a fish. Several subsequent casts convinced me that I wasn't getting deep enough and needed to adjust my drift. There was already enough split shot on my flies to sink a battleship and the fish wasn't sitting too deep. Reaching back with the nine foot five weight Helios for a little extra, I dropped the next cast another three feet further upstream and started yet another drift.

The flies drifted into the trout's window and it ate just like it was supposed to. Textbook sight casting. Merry Christmas to me. You see, sight casting is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of fly fishing. Sure, I love streamer fishing as much or more than the next angler. The tip top of that pinnacle, of course, is sight casting with dry flies, but a good angler adapts to the conditions at hand and that trout had no interest in surface offerings. The fly that fooled this nice fish was a #10 Tellico nymph, the same fly that 95% of my fish for the day came on. I've gotten away from fishing this pattern over the last year or two and that is unfortunate. It really is a great fly.

Did I mind that it wasn't a 20 inch brown trout? Of course not. You take what the stream offers and would be a bad sport if you asked for more. This rainbow trout was somewhere around a foot long, making it a very nice fish indeed. Rainbows over ten inches don't come around particularly often. In any given year I'll catch at best a handful of 12 inch plus rainbows in the Smokies, so this was a good fish for what may be my last day on the water for 2015. The fish came to hand after a glorious aerial display making it all the more memorable.

Rainbow Trout from Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains

The rest of the day was anticlimactic. Both Jayson and I caught some trout, but the best action had already passed. Finally, we ended what was a long day with the agreement to get out again sometime soon on another piece of local water that we have talked about for a while. If the weather holds, that will hopefully happen in the first week or so of January. Just like that, we move from December in the Smokies to January in the Smokies...and February, and March...and the first spring hatches. Just like that.

Little River flows beneath rhododendron

A brilliantly colored rainbow trout from Little River

Pocket water nymphing on Little River in the Smokies

Little River rainbow trout that fell for a Tellico nymph

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