Spring Fly Fishing Continues to Build in the Smoky Mountains and on Tennessee’s Tailwaters

Fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains continues to build as spring progresses. Hatches are beginning earlier in the day, sometimes as early as 11:00 AM, and continuing a little later into the afternoon. Most of our experience in the national park has been on Little River but you can be sure the same trend is happening on Deep Creek, Cataloochee Creek, the Oconaluftee River, Greenbrier and other water inside GSMNP and the Cherokee National Forest.

There were a couple of relatively slow days of fishing in the park this last week as a front passed through, dropping some rain and bringing temperatures down a few degrees. There was even a dusting of snow on the mountain tops.

Fly Fisher in the Rain

Rain? Who cares; the fish don’t mind getting wet.

Charity, Tim, and I had a crew of spring breakers up from Auburn this last week. The guys were exuberant and enthusiastic about the fishing, even fishing through some heavy rain. Their attitude was, “We came to fish! Let’s do it!”

The hatches were OK the first day they were on the water and they rose a pretty good number of fish. The second day saw higher water and the water had dropped from 53 degrees to 47. That’s not a bad temperature, but the sudden drop put a chill on the bite give them a tougher second day. The boys caught some fish, learned a ton, and had a great time.

Auburn spring break crew

Ethan, Jared, and Adam enjoying lunch and some sunshine along the river

Meanwhile, back in the drift boat…

Even as the fishing slowed in the Smokies it held up on the Holston River. I took a pair of anglers, Tom and Fritz from Cincinnati, for a float down the Holston River. The guys did quite well, catching a good number of trout, the largest taping out at 15 1/2″ long. All the fish were caught on subsurface patterns, either midge pupa or small Beadhead Pheasant Tails. The midge hatch has calmed down from where it was a few weeks ago and we haven’t seen much in the way of caddis yet.

Swarm of midges on the Holston River

A swarm of midges over our heads

We’ve been fishing pretty high on the river for the past few weeks so the caddis might be getting started further downstream. Of course we’re probably pushing things just a little. The hatch typically peaks around the first of May.

And then back again to the Smokies…

Weather was absolutely beautiful on Saturday. I took Sam & Keith Looper for their first fly fishing experience in the Smokies. Because of the great weather and the few extra anglers in town for the Easter weekend I walked the guys in for some trail side fishing. We had the river completely to ourselves and the fish were eating well. We started with nymphs but switched to dries by noon.

Fly fisher works a productive run of water.

Sam was completely smitten by the streams in the Smokies, amazed by their beauty and how different the fishing was from his familiar Middle Tennessee tailwaters. Sam fed a ton of fish but took a little while to get the timing to hook them. Wild fish in the Smokies are way faster than what you find in the Elk and Caney Fork!

Rainbow trout caught by a fly fisher in the Smokies

The dry fly fishing was superb!

The Loopers had a great time, learned the essentials, and got the timing down to hook some fish.

This week looks like classic spring weather for East Tennessee. There are snow flakes falling as I write this, but it will be 70 in a couple of days. We’ll keep you posted on how it all fishes.