It had to happen at some point. Water levels throughout East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain region are finally pretty close to normal. If you want to nitpick and point out that stream flows are still way above average you’d be right, but they’re finally below the 75% mark and well below daily records. We were seeing both for quite some time.
Our tailwaters have flows that are pretty good, the Smokies have near perfect flows that are much better than you’d normally find in August, and the smallmouth bass are looking up consistently. A pretty good trifecta!
Yes, we’re fishing the Smokies and guiding most days of the week, but you might say that we typically think of August as the peak of the smallmouth season. This year we’ve had plenty of mild weather but most years it’s brutally hot in August and stream flows have bottomed out. Smallmouth eat poppers great under these conditions and that’s a trait to endear them to any fly fishing guide.
Flows on our large smallmouth rivers are a bit sketchy, but let’s be honest. We’ve gotten pretty used to it this season. The lower Holston and French Broad Rivers both have pretty good flows depending on where you are downstream of Cherokee and Douglas Dams. Weekend flows are clearly the best for recreation but you can find some good water through the week if you know how to time the flows.
Right now your basic dry flies will do just fine on most mountain streams. You’ll probably want to keep a few beadheads handy for the larger streams like Little River and Abrams Creek, but you should be able to raise fish most places. Terrestrials are finally starting to come around with the warmer weather so beetle and ant patterns are always valuable in late summer.
The Clinch has had some really nice flows for waders but things were really a bit low for floating last week. This week it looks like there are some increased flows, but leaving plenty of room for waders and making it more attractive for floaters.
While water temperatures on the Holston River are not exceptionally high, it’s probably best to leave them alone. You could fish early, but keep an eye on water temperature because it will spike by afternoon. We’re gratified to see that the trout should pull through this year even as the truly cold water from Cherokee Lake was depleted early as waters had to be flushed to prevent flooding.
Up on the South Holston it’s primarily a wader’s river but boats can launch with generation late in the afternoon. The neighboring Watauga is settling down but still pretty high compared with normal standards. Floating is more negotiable here than the South Holston and waders will really have to keep their eyes open or just focus their efforst on the South Holston.
The Hiwassee is generally too high for waders, but that’s only a normal late summer situation. Water temperatures are still good and floaters will find some great fishing.