Shaping Up to Be a Great Fall Season in the Smokies

We’ve had an unusually cool late summer and experienced a couple of weeks of early fall temperatures here in East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. In fact, with water temperatures in the high 50’s here in Townsend you know it’s much cooler up in the park so we brought our waders out of summer retirement before Labor Day even arrived. It looks like we’ll be seeing some warmer temperatures again next week, but the cool weather has been absolutely wonderful!

With the cooler mornings and warm afternoons we’ve been fishing a dropper rig more than anything. There are some fish that are happy to rise to a dry fly while there are others that don’t seem willing to rise at all, so the dropper rig is a good way to fish for both at the same time. Our primary choices have been #16 Stimulators with a #16-18 Pheasant Tail or Zelon Nymph about 24″ underneath. The fish seem to be on the dry fly pretty good by mid-afternoon, but there are still plenty that take the nymph so we’ve been sticking with this set up almost all day long.

Since water temperatures have been in the 50’s in the medium to lower elevations that means that you can be sure the water is even cooler up high. In fact, brook trout have already started to spawn in the highest elevations.

A drop dead gorgeous brook trout from a high elevation stream in the Smokies

And another sign of autumn that most people don’t think of when they think of fall in the Smokies is bugling elk! We’ve seen some big boys out on the NC side of the gathering their harems. What a sight!

A large bull elk along the Oconaluftee River in the Smokies

As always, floats are unpredictable in the fall season as TVA is lowering reservoirs for the winter. This means increased flows from the dams. The Clinch may have some good flows, but things have been somewhat different each week that’s gone by. While the weather is beautiful in the fall the conditions for floating are much more consistent in the spring.