Let’s get straight to the point. We haven’t been on the water a ton lately. The weather has been a real rollercoaster with high water or cold snow and ice more often than not. I’ve been cranking out flies at home in anticipation of lots of fishing on the horizon. If you are wanting to get out, the Great Smoky Mountains will generally be your best (albeit not great) bet when flows allow. With lots more rain in the forecast, I expect water to be high more often than not.
Great Smoky Mountains Report
A few bugs are making an appearance some days. We’re still a ways off from the prime spring hatches, but they will be here soon now. Blue quills often start hatching by February 20, and almost always by March 1. Quill Gordons always come shortly after the blue quills start. When you don’t see bugs, nymph with pheasant tail nymphs, Tellico nymphs, caddis pupa, or junk flies like worms and eggs. Streamers are also a good idea this time of year. I’ve caught more nice streamer trout in February and March than any other time of the year. Try darker sculpin patterns or baby brown trout (1-2 inches) or baby rainbow trout (2-4 inches).
Clinch River Report
The Clinch River has been mostly high as of late. The two generator flows have been tough, but if you can catch it on a day with a lower two generator flow (6,700ish cfs), then fishing can still produce a little on float. The higher 8,100+ cfs flow is downright tough. Streamer fishing is probably best on those flows, but deep drifting worms, midge, and pheasant tails might get some bites as well. Use plenty of split shot to get those flies down in the big water.
Caney Fork River Report
The Caney Fork has been mostly tough. We’ve finally seen flows going up which is a great sign for the shad kill. Lake surface temperatures still need to drop a little more to really get this event going. Don’t be surprised if you show up to the river and find shad are featured on the menu. Otherwise, throw streams, hit the banks, and hope for the best. This time of year is a good time to catch a big brown trout, but you’ll often go through a lot of casts to make that happen.
Musky Rivers and Lakes
The musky fishing has been decent as of late. Fish are starting to fatten up as we head towards the spring spawning season. We generally quit messing with musky by late March for this reason. Of course, about then, smallmouth bass streams and also the trout fishing is really taking off so its not hard to pry ourselves away.