First Snowy Weekend of Fly Fishing in the Smoky Mountains

It was a cold autumn weekend here in the East Tennessee Smokies. We fished in blowing snow last Saturday and while it wasn’t bad by mid-winter standards, it was a little shocking for early November.

A light dusting of snow fell from the upper ends of Elkmont and Tremont all the way to the crest of the Smokies

Charity and I were both on the streams and focused our anglers on fishing with nymphs. We both saw a few fish looking up, but nymphing was the clear path to success. Both of us rigged our anglers with dropper rigs; mine with a Zelon Nymph and Pat’s Nymph and Charity used a Prince Nymph with a Pat’s Nymph. Both of us found the Pat’s Nymph to hook nearly all of the fish.

This week will have some beautiful weather. We’re expecting sunshine and 60’s all week long so the stream fishing should be excellent. The Clinch River is continuing its perfect float schedule so we may make it over there as well. Nymphs and streamers have been excellent on the Clinch and I even had some anglers pick up a few fish on dry flies as well last week. Midges and small black caddis are hatching all day long and we’re finding plenty of willing fish in slow currents along the bank.


  1. bobby sullivan says:

    I am going to the Caney Fork Tailwaters for a few days this week. Can you recommend flies to use???

    • Bobby,
      The Caney isn’t a river we fish very often, but there are a few patterns that should work for you. A zebra midge in #18-20 should produce as well as something along the order of a Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph in #16-18. Small soft hackles can work as well. Black Woolly Buggers in #10 are always a fail safe no matter where you go. Not the fly to start with, but can usually turn some fish if nothing else seems to work. Good Luck!

  2. Ian, will trout rise on warm afternoons for dry flies even in the dead of winter, or is that an exercise in futility? Just curious.

    Hope all is well with you and your family.


    • Hi Collin,
      It’s really about the water temperature. If the water temperature makes it over 45 you might have a shot with dry flies. Having said that, you’ll almost always do better with nymphs in the same setting. Shallow riffles or pockets that are about two feet deep are the best places to look for a trout to eat a dry fly in winter. Plus, with some experience on any stream you’ll likely find spots that will hold a riser about 90% of the time.

  3. Kevin Caiaccio says:

    What size nymphs are you currently using in the Smokies?

    • Hi Kevin!

      We’re using quite a range of sizes right now. On the large end we’re using #10-12 Prince Nymphs as usually keep them handy into March. The Pat Nymph is #12-14 and the Zelon Nymph is #14-16. I like to fish a dropper rig that combines two of those. Some days fish will be on the bigger fly and other days the smaller one.

  4. I’m glad I got a few Pat’s Nymphs in your Fly of the Month in 02-2010!!

    • John, That fly is really underestimated because it’s so unassuming. I’ve tied it at shows and can see the look of doubt in people’s eyes, but it is so good with wild fish. I think it’s a lot like an Adams; it has a generic color scheme and looks like whatever a fish has on its mind.