The Latest from the Smokies plus Our Predictions for 2012

It’s been a long holiday season for us that began over a week before Christmas and went on into New Year’s. While it got a little tiring it was only because we’re blessed to have a ton of family to spend time with.

Mild weather through the end of the year and some negotiable tailwater schedules led to some excellent opportunities. Unfortunately we’ve only had a few chances to spend a few hours on some local streams near Townsend. Little River, Tremont, and Abrams Creek all fished quite well last week.

Winter nymphing in the Smoky Mountains

The recent surge of Arctic cold has put a damper on things. I tried to do some fishing yesterday but the air temperature of 35 coupled with 20-30 mph winds just made it miserable so I cut it short, came home, and watched football by the fireplace. Stick with the heavy nymphs for now and look for the milder weather in the extended forecast.

Here are a few predictions for 2012 I’ve put together:

Tailwater fishing will continue to be tough in the area around Knoxville.
2011 was a wet year in East Tennessee and rainfall totals were over 9″ above average at the airport. This translated into high flows for a good chunk of the year. It looks like this trend will probably continue for at least a few more months. We almost always get good flows in the spring but last year the reservoirs filled so fast the window wasn’t as long as it usually is. There is an upside though…

There will be excellent numbers of large trout in the Clinch, Holston, and Hiwassee Rivers. All of these rivers have been too high to fish quite a while. High flows on these rivers are also good for trout, regardless of what anglers think. Sure, you can’t catch many fish when flows are that high, but it doesn’t have any adverse effect on the fish. In fact, these stable flows on the Clinch will probably allow some fish to spawn without redds getting dried out. We’ve seen some brown trout in the Clinch over the past few years that look wild and seen them spawning. Most years those redds will end up high and dry when generation ceases, but that didn’t happen this year.

The Quill Gordon hatch will start early this year. This is one of the top events of the year in the Smokies and I’m going out on a limb and predicting it will arrive early in 2012. Back in 2010 and 2011 we had exceptionally cold winters that just continued to drag on well into March. We even had one cold snap in May last year. The Quill Gordons were essentially on time, showing up by March 10, but after looking at this year’s predictions for a mild winter I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’ll see them around March 1 this year, perhaps even earlier. Two of the best trout I’ve ever caught in the Smokies came to dry flies on the 27th and 28th of February during Quill Gordon hatches.

We’ll see and hear about a lot of big brown trout in the Smokies in 2012. We saw, missed, hooked, and landed good numbers of large browns this fall and those fish aren’t going away any time soon. This is likely the long term upside from the droughts of 2007 and 2008. Brown trout weren’t affected so much as rainbows and had a bit of a population surge. This bump in large brown trout numbers is almost certainly the result of those fish growing up and having good water conditions to prosper.

Ian will receive Husband and Father of the Year honors for 2012. I like to think of myself as a good husband and family man, but the whole world will see what a great guy I am as I hold things down here in Townsend while Charity heads out to fish in Patagonia in February. Hopefully she’ll be able to do some blogging from waaaayyyy down under.

Expect some cool stuff from R&R Fly Fishing besides the old stuff. Yes, we’re still doing our Hazel Creek Fish Camps and our annual trip to Yellowstone Country, but you can expect some new products this year. Soon you’ll see leaders and tippet from R&R Fly Fishing along with a few other cool items.

Fly Fishing with Streamers - Advice from the Guides


  1. The great thing about dumb questions is that we usually know the answer!

  2. I predict I will be fishing with you guys again in 2012, whereupon I will have a great time while y’all will yet again patiently field my dumb questions!