Cold in the Smokies and High Flows on the Tailwaters

We’re looking forward to some mild weather that’s been forecast for East Tennessee this week. It’s been pretty cold up in the Smokies even though the weather has been relatively mild for January. Water temperatures in the Smokies haven’t topped 40 degrees in some time. That means that while fishing isn’t an exercise in futility, the fish aren’t jumping on the hook either.

Charity fishes a pair of nymphs in a pocket of calm water on Little River

Charity fishes a pair of nymphs in a pocket of calm water on Little River

This is a time when your ability to read the water is at a premium. Deep, slow pockets will always produce the best under these conditions. The depth of your nymphs will mean the difference between some success and none.

A few days back we fished one of our favorite runs of water at Elkmont and were astonished that we didn’t get so much as a tap; the strike indicator never even jiggled just a little. Charity slid it about a foot further up the leader to drift the flies about four feet deep instead of three feet. First drift after that she hooked a fish.

Don’t be afraid to use heavy flies, add a split shot and tinker with the depth your drift.


It’s been a pretty grim story on the tailwaters, or at least the ones we frequent. Recent rains have brought lake levels up dramatically. Norris lake rose almost five feet in a single week. Anyone familiar with TVA operating practice knows what this means: high flows from the dams.

I’d like to think this will end soon, but with more rain in the forecast this week we may not be on the Clinch or Holston for a while. The South Holston has some decent gaps in generation and the almost always reliable Watauga has flows friendly to wading anglers. The Hiwassee has high flows this week, but anyone with a drift boat or raft (and a high level of competency rowing it) should find some success there. In fact we’ve given some thought to heading that way soon. We’ll keep you posted when we do.


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