Abundant Rain Makes Fly Fishing in the Smokies Easy, but Tougher in Other Parts of East Tennessee

We’re certainly in the middle of a wet thunderstorm season here in East Tennessee, receiving heavy downpours somewhere everyday. This has kept the trout streams in the Smoky Mountains full and the fish are happy. We’re still experiencing water levels similar to March and April and it’s a nice change after two previous years of record drought.

We’ve had a good run on the Holston and Clinch Rivers, but that might be near an end. All this rain has filled the Norris and Cherokee Lakes and we expect TVA to continue generation from those dams. The Clinch has a good weekend schedule so we’ll continue to float there on Saturdays and Sundays, but it may be a while before we’re back on the Holston.

This rainbow was caught on a dry fly during an excellent Sulphur hatch on the Clinch

This rainbow was caught on a dry fly during an excellent Sulphur hatch on the Clinch

The Sulphur hatch on the Clinch is the best we’ve seen in 10-12 years. The number of mayflies on the water was impressive, but the consistency of the hatch was even better. We’ve been able to expect the hatch to start around 2:00 every afternoon. The bugs would continue to hatch even as the water rose and some of our best dry fly fishing has been late in the afternoon when the river is full. The Clinch River with two generators running is not typically a good fly fishing destination, but we’ve done relatively well under these conditions when we would normally wrap things up and float on out to the boat ramp.

Smallmouth Bass

Fly fishing for smallmouth bass is the real sleeper during the summer months. Fly fishers who aren’t comfortable fishing the relatively tight confines of the Smokies should get out and cast for smallies.

Another nice smallie caught on the fly on the Pigeon River

Another nice smallie caught on the fly on the Pigeon River

Many of the best smallmouth rivers and streams are muddy right now due to the abundant rains, but anglers should not forget this overlooked resource. Virtually every trout stream in Tennessee transitions into a smallmouth bass river and these fish are the perfect target for fly fishers.

The Pigeon River and Nolichucky Rivers in East Tennessee are the best known bass rivers, but fly fishers should remember that other names they associate with trout have superb bass fishing. Tellico River, Little River, and the Little Pigeon River are very good for smallies and the scenery is very similar to what you’ll find on the trout sections.

Wading a long riffle on the Pigeon River

Wading a long riffle on the Pigeon River

We got out on the Pigeon River over the weekend and found it relatively muddy around Newport, but visibility was good enough to pick up a few fish. Water is clearer up towards Hartford. Brown and Orange Clousers picked up several fish along with poppers fished in slower currents.

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