This past week was quite a roller coaster ride for us fishing guides. It started last weekend with a fresh 4″ of snow in the Smokies that flat out shut down fishing in park streams last Sunday.
Trust me. As a guide it wasn’t pretty. But the weather quickly warmed up and our new drift boat arrived. Talk about making you feel better!
That leads me to the local tailwater scene which has had great schedules for floats. Waders on the Clinch need to pay attention to the schedule to be in the right place at the right time, but they always have somewhere to fish. This past week I was on the Clinch a couple of days floating and the activity on nymphs was very light with virtually no fish moving and very little midge activity.
Those of you who know us won’t be surprised by what that means… Streamers! True to form, streamer fishing on the Clinch this week was spotty. There can be some red hot days with streamers on the Clinch, but it’s almost always a game of endurance and stamina.
I had my turn in the front of the boat and had some excellent responses. There was one mega brown that rushed the fly in an incredible sprint from the shadows only to hit the brakes at the last possible instant. More about that very fish later… Stay tuned. He’s a recurring character in this post.
Later in the day I had another fish slowly approach the streamer from a soft eddy and actually rise to the streamer. This fish was the biggest I’ve seen in a while with a kype straight out of a Freddy Kruger nightmare. I’m not sure if I hit him a tad early or he didn’t really get all the fly with the easy take, but I only felt a slight bit of pressure before the fly zipped out of his mouth. I’ve seen plenty of big fish, but you know it’s bad when a fish leaves me in the fetal position on the floor of the boat.
Midweek I took Jim Gibson and Russ Barnes from Michigan for a couple of floats. Jim has fished with me and Charity many times in the past, but truly loves floating much more than fishing the Smokies. Both Jim and Russ were happy to experience some warmth after leaving Michigan and several feet of snow on the ground.
The Holston fished OK, but not what it’s capable of. The guys caught fish and missed more, but as they were experienced anglers I was really hoping to waylay the fish in a big way. There were some midges in the morning, but no bug activity the rest of the day. We fished mostly nymphs with moments of streamers. Nymphs fished deep with a healthy dose of patience proved the most effective.
Jim has always wanted to fish the Clinch on previous visits but flows never quite lined up he was here. This time he was excited to try the river with a perfect flow for stripping streamers. He even vowed not to tie on a nymph throughout the day.
We usually prefer white streamers on the Clinch and Jim was telling me about one of his favorites, a Vanilla Bugger. He has some big ones so I told him to use one of those. It’s a well known fact among guides that anglers always fish better with fly patterns they believe in. I also told Jim about the fish Charity and I had seen earlier in the week.
As we approached “Location X” I mentioned that this was where a beast of a fish refused my fly earlier in the week.
The rest of the float was relatively uneventful, particularly by this standard. It was great to see a long time friend and customer hook such a great fish!
A series of fronts plagued us late in the week with high winds, rain, and thunderstorms. This kept fish the Smokies less than enthusiastic. They weren’t shut down completely, but they certainly weren’t rising and we only experienced spotty activity on nymphs. Another tough day for the guide ego…
The coming week looks absolutely beautiful, with only one day of sketchy weather in the forecast. The Quill Gordons haven’t left all together, but they are definitely being replaced by Hendricksons. We’re also seeing more Early Brown Stoneflies laying eggs in pocket water and riffles.
Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.