Water levels continue to drop towards normal on the mountain trout streams. On the tailwaters, we are still looking at a few days of high water at minimum. With warming temperatures, the mountain trout streams will be fishing well along with the smallmouth streams and rivers as water levels approach something more reasonable than the high levels we’ve been seeing.
Great Smoky Mountains Report
The Smokies have seen high water for an extended amount of time. In fact, I can’t remember too many times that the water has stayed this high for this long. Of course, it only takes one dry spell to get back to low water conditions, so let’s hope for normal rainfall in the mountains from here on out as we approach summer. Before all the high water, we were beginning to see little yellow stoneflies. I would be ready with some yellow Stimulators and any other favorite dry fly. Right now, with the higher water levels, stick to those high floating dry flies for sure. Nymph imitations are a good bet as well. I personally like a Tellico nymph, but there are some other excellent stonefly nymph imitations for these bugs as well.
Hendrickson mayflies should be starting soon. I would have some of them on hand as this is the time of year for them. When the dogwoods bloom, expect Hendricksons. Of course, not far behind will be sulfurs, pale evening duns, and other spring goodies. Blue-winged olives can hatch at any time as well, but especially on rainy or overcast days. As leaves start to appear, expect some big green inchworms soon as well. Ants are another favorite terrestrial that the fish will be watching for now as things warm up.
On high water days, don’t neglect the streamer box. Winter into spring is my favorite time to streamer fish. I would highly recommend having some darker sculpins and maybe some crawdad imitations. Wooly buggers are always good and will suggest a lot of possible snacks for those big browns.
Unfortunately, the tailwaters continue to feature much higher water than we like to fish. I would recommend looking at freestone rivers and streams for at least another week. The Clinch River is closer to being fishable than the Caney Fork River. The Caney is probably a minimum of two weeks out and that assumes we don’t get any more rainfall and might still be optimistic. The Clinch could possible see more reasonable flows within another week or week and a half. Once the water levels start dropping, nymphing will probably be your best bet on the Clinch. The Caney Fork trout have probably been seeing shad on this high water, so white streamers should be included in your game plan for that river. The Clinch River fish might be seeing some shad as well with flows this high.
The Clinch is getting close to the annual sulfur hatch IF it happens this year. Last year, the hatch was just about nonexistent. The fish still ate sulfur nymph imitations well, but we never saw many duns unfortunately. Pheasant tail nymphs size #16-#18 should be in your box for the Clinch this time of year. With the high flows, worms are also a good bet until flows come down significantly. Spring caddis are also something to look for on the Clinch, especially on low water days.
Until flows come down a lot, I’d plan on streamer fishing on the tailwaters. Just wait for flows to drop a little into the safer range.