Fly fishing has been tough the last few weeks. Tailwaters are running much higher than most sane people would prefer to fish them. The cold of winter has finally settled in meaning that fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains is possible but not as productive as it might be during warmer times. That said, here are your best options if wanting to get out and fish.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The fishing is good if you hit it on days when the water temperature is rising. Those days come around once or twice a week if we are lucky which means that it may or may not coincide with days off from work. Nymphs and midges fished deep will be your best bet but don’t forget about the possibility of fishing streamers. You won’t catch many trout, but the ones you do catch will be quality fish.
Caney Fork River
The river has been running over 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for a while now with no obvious end in sight. The probably reduction in flows looks to happen late this month or in early February if we don’t get much rain between now and then. That may be asking too much. In the meantime, stay home and tie flies unless you want to take a fast boat ride and chuck big streamers. Your reward? Maybe the largest trout of the year (or of your life?). On the other hand you may just get a sore shoulder from casting heavy rods and big flies all day. Either way, you will enjoy time spent outside. Cold weather brings the increased likelihood of a shad kill. If this happens, it is the one fishing event you won’t want to miss for 2016 in Tennessee. Stay tuned here or are at the Trout Zone so you know when this great fishing has started.
Unfortunately, the Caney Fork River basin was not the only recipient of heavy rainfall in December and early January. For now, most area tailwaters are flowing at or above the higher end of what I would consider reasonable flows for float fishing. Looking for wade fishing opportunities? Forget it for now unless you want to drive to upper east Tennessee. The Watauga looks like an option but that is it. Hire a guide if you must fish the Clinch, Holston, Hiwassee, Cumberland, Obey, Elk, or South Holston River and enjoy the day from the safety of a drift boat. Deep nymphing or streamers is the most likely game anywhere you go right now.
Smallmouth and Musky
Our musky rivers have settled down and are in great shape now. If anything, they may soon be lower than I like to get the drift boat down. Smallmouth bass are an option better saved for spring, but that will be here before we know it.