Fishing has been great through 2017. We have had a fantastic year chasing fish around middle and east Tennessee. The fishing will slow down to usher in the New Year, however. Seasonably cold temperatures are moving in and will make things tough, possibly even on the tailwater trout streams.
Where To Fish Right Now
If you must fish right now, I highly recommend heading for a tailwater such as the Caney Fork or Clinch River. The Caney Fork is running a lot of water and that should continue for the foreseeable future. If you have a boat or want to book a guided float trip, some streamer fishing may be a good way to bring in the New Year.
The Clinch has some easier flows if you are a wading angler. Today features a whole afternoon of low water. Tomorrow looks like it will have at least some low water, although not as much as today. Of course, you never know for sure on a tailwater so check the schedule before you go. If you are heading to the Clinch on low water, make sure to take your midge box. Small and dark is usually the theme there. I like a tungsten bead head to get the fly down. Stick with the smallest 1.5 mm beads and carry flies with several colors of bead.
If you want to fish in the mountains, don’t expect much. This very cold weather will make things tough. If you must fish in the Smokies, think nymphs and midges. Get them drifting right on the bottom in the slow and deep water and set on anything. Did I mention set on anything? Takes will be very subtle this time of year.
Cold Weather Safety
I love fishing in winter. Mostly I just like having the streams to myself, but occasionally I do manage to snag a fish as well. Fishing in the winter comes with its own set of hazards. The cold is unforgiving so plan ahead to stay both dry and warm. Always have a change of clothes in your vehicle in case you fall in. Make sure that your gas tank is topped off. Wade carefully, not aggressively. This would be a good time to use a wading staff.
I like to take something warm to drink such as tea or hot chocolate. A small camp stove and teakettle is even better. I like the MSR PocketRocket which will heat water in a hurry. Make that cup of tea stream side! I heat the water using my Snow Peak Titanium Coolest and always have a mug or two to serve the hot drink in.
Hand warmers, a good winter hat, and even gloves can help a lot as well. One thing that I have found is very important is to keep your hands dry. If you must handle a fish, keep a towel close by and dry your hands immediately after you release the fish. Once you get your hands dry, spend a couple of minutes with hand warmers and you’ll be good to go even in temperatures below freezing.
One Last Tip
If you want something a bit out of the ordinary, look into the winter trout stocking program from TWRA. I can trout fish on a couple of area lakes this time of year that do not normally have trout. It is not the same as the Smokies or even a tailwater, but it is better than nothing. If you want to fish a mountain stream, you might also consider the Tellico delayed harvest. Finally, winter and early spring is my favorite time to fish the Hiwassee River. There are places to get out and wet a line and maybe even catch a few fish this time of year. You just need to brave the cold!