We’re well into September and it looks like we’re wrapping up what’s been the hottest week of the year. It came a little late but we’re not complaining. In just a few days we’re looking at temperatures in the 70’s and low 80’s and it’s only a few weeks until October with its cool mornings and mild days.
Fly fishing has been pretty good almost anywhere you look around East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains right now but the drift boat has been getting a work out. We’re always a little nervous when we schedule floats in September and October because flows may or may not work out as TVA is draining reservoirs so it’s hard to know if the rivers will be too high or just right. Fortunately we’ve been able to hit it right on the Clinch for trout and the Holston River for smallmouth.
The Holston continues to fish like a champ as smallmouth are all over popping bugs, and the size of the fish hasn’t been bad either. Mornings are a little slow but once the sun gets up on the water the fish have really been moving. The most impressive thing has been how many fish we’ve seen before casting the fly. The sight fishing for smallmouth bass has been fantastic.
The trick here has been to hit the water right. There has been plenty of generation from Cherokee Dam so you have to hit that window of low water for the fishing to really hit on all cylinders. Depending on where you are the river can be full to the brim or bottomed out. Find the low water for the best topwater bite.
The Clinch River
Construction continues on the weir dam on the Clinch River below Norris Dam so flows are about as good as waders could hope for. Floaters need to pay close attention so they don’t find themselves grounded on extremely low water at a bad time, but this shouldn’t happen if you pay attention to the generation schedules.
There have been good numbers of caddis fluttering about the river, but to be honest, they sure aren’t hatching while we’re there. I expect they’re emerging late in the evening or very early in the morning. There is very little insect activity during the day but the fish are taking all the standard nymph patterns that you’ll find in Clinch River anglers’ fly boxes.
Tim Hey was all smiles after he landed this 20″ brown trout on a #18 Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph. It was particularly gratifying as he told me on the way to the river he’s always dreamed of catching a large brown. Like I told Tim, there are plenty of big browns in the Clinch, but they just don’t show up on the end of your line very often.
We were also fortunate that he hooked the fish in a relatively clean section of river without any deadfalls or snags in the river for the fish to run into. I anchored the boat up in a shallow spot as he played the fish and waded out to net the fish so it wouldn’t have a chance of tangling up in the oars or be on long enough for the hook to simply pop out.
Tim did great on the Clinch landing rainbows and brook trout in addition to a couple of browns. His time on the Holston was pretty good too…
Tim is from Indiana and couldn’t believe how clear our smallmouth rivers are. He’s never sight fished for smallmouth or just as well, seen them come to a popper from 20′ away and seen the entire approach and eat.
With all the time behind the oars I have to remember the Smokies are fishing pretty darn good too! Even though the weather has been hot the nights in the mountains have been pretty cool so water temperatures have been great. This is a great time to do some hiking into the backcountry while you can move light without waders to drag you down.
Dry fly fishing will be excellent on any stream where a hike is done before you cast to the water. Larger roadside streams like Little River will take a little more skill to hook fish on a regular basis right now but terrestrials like ants will certainly fool fish. Droppers with #16 or #18 beadhead nymphs will also do you right.