After another round of rain last Friday we’re in a nice period of mild and sunny weather here in East Tennessee and across the Smoky Mountain region. We’re way ahead in the rainfall department so every time we another front passes through we see a jump in stream flows.
Stream levels are fishable but were relatively challenging over the weekend. By Sunday flows were much better and continue to fall everyday. Your best bet for success in the Smokies right now will be to leave the short “weed whacker” rods at home and bring your longest rods. Long fly rods will give you the best shot at a good drift across swift rapids where fish are holding comfortably. In fact, our 12′ and 13′ Tenkara rods have been very effective in helping us reach lies where our 9′ fly rods couldn’t quite get a good drift.
We love dry fly fishing as much as anyone out there, but don’t be too much of a purist. Nymph fishing has been outperforming dry flies on the larger streams and we’re even sticking with dry and dropper rigs on the smaller streams. Stimulators have been good dries to use as they’ll hold up a #16 nymph with ease, are easy to see, and imitate any of the several stoneflies we’re seeing buzz around.
The tailwater situation has been particularly tough with all the wet weather. April and May are generally our most stable months with regard to flows from our TVA dams, but things have been somewhat erratic lately. The Watauga and South Holston have been too high for wading, a condition out of character for these rivers. The South Holston has great flows for floating, but expect plenty of boats as the Watauga is well beyond optimal flows.
The Clinch River has great flows for wading, but heavy rain last week had small tributaries running high and muddy into the river. The best water has been upstream of the I-75 bridge. We’ve heard some good reports from Millers Island and weir pool, but those spots are usually crowded before you make the rest of the river tough to fish.
The Hiwassee is usually a wade fisherman’s dream in April, but flows are better suited for floats this spring as well. We’ve heard some good reports about dry fly fishing with caddis, but most anglers with boats treat this river with enough respect to avoid it. Both Hyde and Clackacraft know the name Hiwassee as they have patched holes in boats that happened there.