Fall Fly Fishing in East Tennessee and the Smokies

We’ve been home from the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone Country for just one week but it seems like it’s been much longer than that as we’re embroiled in our fall guiding rush. Autumn has arrived in the Smokies as we’re seeing more color in the park everyday and we’ve already seen the first frost of the year in the mountains.

Looking down the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River valley from near Newfound Gap

Looking down the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River valley from near Newfound Gap

Water temperatures even in the lower elevations are in the 50’s and the fish are energized. Dry fly fishing in the afternoons has been excellent with many fish looking to the surface and even some steady risers. The fish are taking a variety of midges, Blue Wing Olives, and a few caddis. You don’t necessarily need to “match the hatch” but you will find better success with small fly patterns.

A Blue Wing Olive seen in the Smokies this week

A Blue Wing Olive seen in the Smokies this week

Even though the bugs are small you don’t need to go to extremes. You’ll do fine with a #16 Parachute Adams if you don’t feel comfortable fishing something smaller. Honestly, a #16 will be easier for you to see in choppy water and even though it’s not the best imitation you’ll probably fish it better and miss fewer strikes.

We’ve been out on the bigger rivers as well but to be completely honest TVA’s generation schedules are giving us indigestion trying to make things work. Ian was scheduled to take Pat Segraves on a float for trout but flows on the Clinch weren’t good. There was a window for some good water to chase smallies on the Holston, though, and Pat does like his smallmouth. Fortunately the smallmouth fishing was at least as good as he could have hoped for with trout on the Clinch.

This chunky smallmouth slurped in a popper

This chunky smallmouth slurped in a popper

The popper bite was pretty good and Pat boated plenty of fish along with a number of misses and refusals. Expect this to start falling off as the weather is cooling off. The smallies will continue to eat for a few more weeks but they won’t be quite so aggressive on the popper.

As I mentioned earlier, flows on the Clinch are giving us some heartburn as the powers that be at TVA have been running the river at high flows during the day while turning the generators off at night. While we completely understand that TVA’s main roles are for flood control and power generation it would be nice if fishing was somewhere in the equation outside of weekends. A more even flow of one generator would allow for great fishing while still draining Norris Lake at a similar rate.

But we’re not in charge….

Anyway, fishing on the Clinch has been pretty good when the flows are right. Midges are out there but to be honest it seems like the fish are more interested in the small black caddis that are hatching as well as the Sulphurs that are STILL hatching. Small nymphs around size #18 are the way to go as always.

Flows from Cherokee Dam on the Holston are better than the Clinch right now but the cold water from the lake is gone and water is emerging around 70 degrees. The fish should pull through OK since cooler weather is here and the water won’t get any warmer. It won’t be long before the water cools down but the trout in the Holston are not happy campers right now. If you want to fish the Holston find the window of lower water down the river and get on the smallmouth while water is still warm enough to keep them active.