Fish While You Can

We’ve entered that shoulder fishing season now that really isn’t one of those main events of the year, but perhaps the most important. No, it’s not the ever popular spring dry fly fishing or colorful falling fishing but the “get it while you can” fishing. We’re quickly moving into late November and the weather is wonderfully mild. Even more important when you consider we saw some snow less than a week ago, so you can be sure this nice weather won’t last much longer.

A beautifully mild morning in the Smokies for November

A beautifully mild morning in the Smokies for November

Leaves in the Smokies will likely clear out of the streams after a strong front passes through on Sunday night. Most of the leaves are down and any rise of the water will serve to flush most of the leaves down the watershed. Even better the warm rain will certainly energize the fish, particularly brown and brook trout which are starting to come off spawning redds and will be feeding to make up for spent energy.

Just as well on another front, area reservoirs are essentially at their winter levels so  TVA has started to moderate flows on our local tailwater rivers. This usually means we can expect more fishable flows more frequently, but as usual TVA keeps us waiting a little longer. The Clinch has had some pretty good flows recently and water temperatures in the Holston should be much cooler now that water in Cherokee Lake has cooled down into the 50’s, but to be completely honest flows are favoring those with boats over those who would wade. Tailwater anglers without a boat need to look to the South Holston and Watauga if they want to fish from their hind legs.

As guides who live on the edge of America’s most popular national park this also means that we can take advantage of fewer people around to visit places in the Smokies we usually avoid because of crowds. This weekend I took David Howard to fish on Abrams Creek. David has fished with us for years, but we rarely take anglers to Abrams Creek because of traffic congestion in Cades Cove. Believe it or not, annual visitation to Cades Cove rivals that of Yellowstone National Park.

We found the cove with only light traffic on Saturday morning, but quickly remembered why it’s such a popular place because of it’s stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. On the approximate 6 mile drive through Cades Cove to Abrams Creek we saw numerous whitetail deer, turkeys, and a coyote hunting field mice. After we suited up and started down the trail we caught a glimpse of a black bear crossing the stream before disappearing into the rhododendron. All this before we ever made the first cast.

A coyote hunts field mice in Cades Cove

A coyote hunts field mice in Cades Cove

Cades Cove Buck

Even as we were on the stream a little early I thought I’d let David test the waters with a dry fly. I had a dropper rig ready if the #14 Parachute Adams didn’t succeed, but the nymphs stayed in the box all day long as we quickly lost count of the many, many rainbows that came to the dry fly.

Bright Rainbow Underwater

All of the fish were of modest size but exceptionally colorful. As morning turned to midday we were moving from one stretch of water to another when I noticed a large black object slowly moving up the slope from us. The usually means one thing in the Smokies….


We were able to observe this bear safely for quite some time as he maintained his distance. While he was clearly visible it was a challenge to get a clear photo of him. Over the course of the day we saw another bear eating acorns on the ground as we exited Cades Cove plus a sow with three cubs on Laurel Creek Road on the way back to Townsend. A sever bear day! Not bad…

The weather this week looks great across East Tennessee and the Smokies so take advantage of it before winter’s grip comes tight.