Watching River Flows and the Weather Forecast

I won’t lie. It’s been a pretty frustrating couple of weeks for us and likely other fly fishing guides across East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain region. Depending on the day, sometimes even the hour, we have flows that are blown out or fishable. That’s forced us and our anglers to be as flexible as possible.

Underwater brown trout

The fish are happy… When the flows are right.

We’ve had some anglers who showed up to fish for smallmouth bass, but due to muddy rivers they settle for trout fishing in clear water. Others who came for trout ended up catching smallies because there was some good water there while all the trout waters were too high. And then there’s been the days when there just wasn’t anything to do but sit it out all together as the high wind and flashes of lightning rolled in just as we were to start.

Yeah…. It’s been tough.

On the up side, the fishing has been very good when the water levels are negotiable. It’s pretty unusual to see streams this high for this long in June in the Smokies. This is something we expect in February, March, and April but it doesn’t seem to be bothering the fish at all. We’ve had several occasions when we fished what was available and the fish were exceptionally cooperative. (Thank Goodness!)

In the Smokies the fish are eating a wide variety of flies. Nymphs fished in the deep spots are producing well, but the good news is that the fish are more than willing to rise to dry flies. The standard patterns are all working. Parachute Adams, Stimulators, Elk Caddis, and Thunderheads have all been fooling fish lately.


It’s been a tough summer on the tailwaters too. The Clinch and Holston Rivers have both been running all generators this week, so nothing to fish there. The good news is that there looks like some relief in sight this weekend with reduced flows.

The South Holston has had some good flows this week to please both waders and floaters, but the typically reliable Watauga has been running very high this week. Knowledgeable locals with a boat can float the Watauga under these conditions, but it’s not something most people look forward to.

Even the Hiwassee has extremely high flows. It’s usually a floater’s river in the summer, but flows about twice the volume of normal make the river very dangerous. This shouldn’t last long, but keep an eye on flows before you head that way.