Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 12/3/2019

Winter fishing is nearly upon us. Snow yesterday has given way to falling water temperatures in the Smokies. In general, fish will be hunkered down, although by tomorrow they should start to get more active again as temperatures warm. For the next three months, expect many more fish in the slower places in the Park. Think nymphs and maybe streamers but don't be surprised to find fish rising to blue-winged olives or midges on some days.

On tailwaters like the Clinch, brown trout and some fall spawn rainbows are doing their thing. This is a good time to review good ethics when it comes to spawning trout. Remember that these are the next generation of trout and the best thing you can do is to leave them alone. Avoid wading through spawning areas and don't fish for obvious spawners. For the foreseeable future, we should have high water thanks to big rains this last weekend. Fishing out of the drift boat will be very good through the winter with both nymphing and streamer fishing a distinct possibility. Want to swing for the fences and go for just one monster? Streamers will just get better and better going into January and February.

The Caney is slowly coming around. A few shad are coming through the dam, but lingering water quality problems are limiting the fishing. Winter streamer floats will produce shots at larger brown trout for anglers willing to work hard. Next spring should bring good fishing again.

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: Big Fish Chuck Strikes Again

Photo of the Month: Big Fish Chuck Strikes Again

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The El Nino Effect



Fly fishing in the Smokies during the winter months us generally a hit or miss proposition. Some years are better than others for winter fishing while others are downright tough. Last winter, for example, and the winter before were both cold with warm weather a rarity. This year is shaping up to possibly be the exact opposite. Most likely we have El Nino to thank for it.

Generally, El Nino years result in more warm stretches which helps to keep overall water temperatures elevated compared to winter norms. The quality of fishing is directly correlated to water temperatures. That is not to say that fish cannot be caught in cold water. On the contrary, the fish still need to eat but their instinct to feed is triggered by environmental conditions, especially abundant food. When it is very cold, most fish will not move far to seek out food. In cold months this equates to a flurry of activity in the warmest part of the day when a few midges, winter stoneflies, and perhaps some caddis flies all make an appearance.

Another important factor involving water temperature is the temperature trends. Last week, we saw an excellent example of this. The water temperatures were running between 42 and 44 degrees. Conventional wisdom would suggest that fishing would be slow under such conditions, but on the contrary we had a fairly good day for winter with one lucky angler catching a trophy brown trout by Smoky Mountain standards and everyone, including a first time fly fisherman, catching at least some fish. Why was the fishing good on this particular day? The temperature trend.

You see, the previous day saw the water temperature get up to around 43 degrees (as recorded on Little River at the Park boundary just outside Townsend). However, warm overnight temperatures kept the water temperature from falling. That meant that the next morning, instead of starting at 39-41 degrees after the expected night time temperature drop, we were already starting at the previous day's high temperature. The fish responded enthusiastically both to the improving conditions and to our flies.

This winter should see good fishing more often than not. El Nino will bring more warm weather to the region than we saw the last two winters. One of the best parts about winter fishing is having the water to yourself. Sure, beautiful and unseasonably warm weekends are going to have some people out enjoying nature, but for the most part you can find your own piece of water even on the weekends. Can you fish on a weekday? If so then expect to have it more or less to yourself.

The only possibly fly in the ointment is the potential for high water. We will probably have to deal with high water on several occasions over the next few months, but then that is part of winter fishing anyways, at least in these parts.



I plan on taking full advantage of the El Nino Effect this year and get out throughout January and February even on some small streams if possible.  Today would have been a great day to be on the water if I hadn't of been busy. Water temperatures on Little River are in the mid 50s which is more like you would expect in October. I'll most likely get out a day or two this upcoming week. Also, I'm hoping to fish for brook trout a little more this upcoming year. Okay, maybe a lot more.

My goal for the next year is to catch a brook trout a month. I'm hoping to accomplish this on a dry fly to make it even better but will not be above using a dropper if the fish aren't looking up. I might even do it on one of my new Tenkara rods to add another level of novelty. Don't worry though. I'll still be out chasing the big browns on occasion as well!

So, in summary, I expect good fishing to happen more often than not in the Smokies this winter. There will definitely be some cold snaps and probably even some frozen precipitation, but there will be some great fishing on occasion as well. We also probably have a better than average chance of starting the spring hatches early this year so stay tuned for more on that.

7 comments:

  1. This weather, if traced to el nino is fine with me.
    But el winter normal will return soon.

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    Replies
    1. That is what I'm afraid of. In the meantime, I'll continue my wishful thinking!

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  2. Crazy weather this year, so warm all across the East Coast. Glad to see it means good fishing in your neck of the woods. I think the only people complaining are the retailers that sell winter coats!

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  3. That is true for sure. I'm okay with a warmer than normal winter after the last couple of years. So far all I need is a light fleece which is great! Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I'm glad you guys are having milder than normal weather. Colorado got nailed last night and today. Of course it will be nice tomorrow and the roads will be dry.

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    Replies
    1. Howard, I hope you aren't too upset with me but I'm hoping for an epic snowpack for Colorado this year, mostly so my fishing trip next summer or fall happens with plenty of water in the streams and rivers out there...

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  5. It's really not that crazy. We've had plenty of years when temps in December were warm - amazingly enough, even before someone coined the term "el nino." ahem.

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