November Fly Fishing Is Here

There are still some pockets of fall color in East Tennessee but the Smokies are quickly transitioning out of that phase. The tops of the mountains are bare and look like winter. Further down the slopes the vibrant yellow, red, and orange is beginning to fade to brown with a few exceptions.

Abrams Falls in Autumn

David & Merle Libby submitted this beautiful photo of Abrams Falls from last week

We’re seeing brown trout and brook trout paired up on gravel too. Occasionally we’ll see these fish move from the tails of pools toward the head to get a quick bite to eat, but for the most part you could say that they’re a bit pre-occupied.

Spawning Brook Trout

A pair of brook trout on a spawning redd

The good news is that the fishing has been nothing short of exceptional. Fish are rising to dry flies extremely well. Most of the fish you’ll encounter will be rainbows since the browns and brookies have their minds on more pressing matters, but don’t be surprised if you do catch a nice brown or brookie. They still have to eat.

We’ve experimented for some time with different dropper rigs early in the day. While some fish are eating the nymph there has been a sure preference for the dry fly. Bushy Stimulators are hooking fish, but more trim flies like a Parachute Adams in #16 are simply killing it. In fact, we’ve almost given up on the idea of nymphs all together since most of the fish are ignoring them.

The bad news is that this just won’t last for more than a few weeks. November always turns to December and the water will get warmer and the days shorter. Nymph fishing will soon become a fact of life so enjoy the dry fly fishing while it’s here.

Fall Rainbow Elkmont

Daniel caught this beautiful rainbow by sight fishing to it after we spotted it rising from the trail


It’s been a long wait, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be back on the tailwaters before too much longer. Flows on the Clinch have subsided somewhat but are still less than perfect. Waders can fish on the lower end down around Clinton before the river rises around lunch time.

There have been a few days where the “Clinch River Flip Flop” will work. That’s where you fish early on the low end until the river rises. In the meantime flows at the dam have cut off and you can fish the afternoon on the upper end at Miller’s Island or the weir pool after flows come down. Expect the typical Clinch River fly selection of Zebra Midges and other small beadheads.

Norris Lake is just about at winter pool where TVA likes it and this is almost a month early. This gives us hope that flows will subside even as the lake will probably come on down a few feet more. They just shouldn’t need to push as much water to do it.

The Holston River isn’t quite so close as the Clinch, but flows have come down a bit there as well. Water temperatures are probably coming down, but probably a touch high. As the lake falls warmer water starts coming through the turbine. Fortunately our cool weather and longer nights should be cooling Cherokee Lake as it gets shallower.

The Watauga has perfect flows right now and the South Holston has water to suit waders or floaters as long as they watch the clock and position themselves right for the water they need. The Hiwassee is still running high, but will fish fine for the extremely limited pool of folks with a boat and can handle it on this tricky river.


  1. Beautiful fish!