Great Weather but Slow Fishing on Our First Float of the Year on the Holston

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The weather last weekend was absolutely beautiful here in East Tennessee. Even better, TVA cut generation back dramatically at Cherokee Dam. Charity and I hitched up the drift boat and headed for the Holston!

One of a few fish we picked up on a weekend float

One of a few fish we picked up on a weekend float

We should really know better by now, but I don’t think we do. Here’s the set up: It’s been cold and snowy in the Smokies and the tailwaters have been running water non-stop for months. A few days of warm, sunny weather come along and TVA cuts generation so the tailwaters are fishable. We all run for the rivers, but the fishing just doesn’t quite live up to our expectations.

Snow melt in the Smokies kept the streams as cold as ever and the fish were generally locked down. I did pick up a decent brown trout on a dry fly this Saturday and got cell phone video of the fish to prove it.

It was the first time in months that the water was off for any appreciable length of time on the Holston and I think the bugs and fish were just freaked out. I’m sure they got pretty used to holding in places at 14,000 cfs that were high and dry at 400 cfs. There were a few midging trout, but only a few seemed to be in a rhythm and even those fish shut it down if we put a fly anywhere near them. Here’s a quick look…


We picked up a few fish by keeping the fly in the water drifting into them with the boat. Late in the day we stripped streamers through a few favorite locations and had a real flurry of activity. None of the fish were very large but it was a great to feel the sun on your face and row the boat.

Of course, as the days go by we can expect the fishing to only get better. Nymphing in the Smokies should fish pretty good this week as temperatures will be moderate, yet still wintry. Winter stoneflies and Early Brown Stoneflies should start to appear and we’ve seen plenty of cased caddis moving around. Blue Wing Olives, Blue Quills, and Quill Gordons are probably two weeks or less from hatching.

Right now the South Holston, Watauga, and Tuckaseegee are the best big rivers to fish. Generation is favorable and the fish are eating.

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  1. squeaksmith says:

    Ian, Just in off S Holston wading all day…blackflys in the am…BWOs all afternoon….3+hrs of risers….released 60 browns and bows….bows on redds…in full color….go fish buddy. Squeak

  2. ron vaughn says:

    it’s freezing here and your talking stoneflies and quills. nice to know though that it only gets better from here. good reports, can’t wait to get there. best wishes for a good season. ron