It’s been a tough season. Anyone who follows fly fishing around the Southeast knows that, but we’re glad to say that we just had what may have been the best few days we’ve seen all year long. Tailwater flows are great, smallmouth bass are looking to the surface for poppers, and trout in the Smokies are active with ideal stream flows and temperatures.
To be honest, though, there is a “but” to this glowing fishing report. A front has essentially stalled right over us and strong afternoon thunderstorms have been imminent. What we’ve seen is excellent action in the morning and early afternoon, then everything literally shuts down as the storm clouds build and the skies get dark.
Our morning session on the Clinch was fantastic even with the water at rock bottom low levels when things can be difficult. As the water rose in the afternoon so did the storm clouds. We look forward to higher flows around 3000 – 3500 cfs on the Clinch but the fish quickly lost enthusiasm and we pulled over a couple of times to be a less attractive target for lightning.
The smallmouth bite has seen the same pattern. Things have started off a little slow and by about 11:00 or so the fish really seem to be moving well. We’ve focused our efforts primarily on slower currents about 2′ – 5′ deep. The fish have been very eager to come to poppers and primarily come from areas of cover but cobble bottoms always hold good numbers of fish too.
Mid August is often a seasonal low point in the Smokies with low water and hot weather. This year it’s been anything but hot and dry. The almost daily storms are keeping flows up, but fortunately not high. In fact, it’s almost perfect. Even as the drift boat is getting a workout, there’s no reason to avoid the Smokies.
This is the perfect time for a hike into the backcountry and do some dry fly fishing. No one will ever claim that the Smokies are home to vast numbers of large trout, but they are 100% wild and you’ll be hard pressed to find trout in a prettier place.
There’s a good chance that the fish in the Smokies will take you favorite fly. We’re skewed toward a #14 Parachute Adams, Thunderhead, or #16 Stimulator but a variety of flies will work. Large golden stoneflies are buzzing about so you might considera #8 Tellico Nymph on Little River, the Oconaluftee, or Deep Creek if you have ambitions of hooking a large brown trout.