Spring Fly Fishing Has Arrived

It was a beautiful weekend with an abundance of sunshine and warm weather. Streams in the Smokies were running a little high and the water was still down in the low 40’s so fishing was predictably on the slow side, but it was one of those days we always enjoy.

Charity gets her little man to the best spots

Charity gets her little man to the best spots

Last week it was snowing, the river was flirting with flood stage and only a few degrees above freezing. In spite of the sunny skies and warm weather we knew better than to expect spectacular fishing to materialize virtually overnight. The reason I really enjoy days like this is because you really see things coming together.

Brown stoneflies were hatching along the banks while some Blue Quills hatching in the main runs of water and even a few large Quill Gordons flew by us where we watched from the bank. We only saw one fish rise, a smallish brown trout that leapt about 6″ out of the water at a clumsily fluttering Quill Gordon mayfly and missed by a mile. It’s always fun to watch the fish miss the fly when you spend so much of the year missing them when they eat.

The more you see days like this in early spring and every other season, the more you realize good fishing and bad fishing don’t just happen. There’s an undeniable ebb and flow to all of it. Most people no longer have the chance to see this happen on a daily basis. Even as our lifestyle keeps us firmly locked out of higher tax brackets we never regret the life choices we’ve made to be able to witness the small details in the world that are so meaningful to us.

We considered spending the day up Lynn Camp Prong for the opener after the stream has been closed for seven years, but we decided to pass. After weeks of awful weather we knew that the gorgeous weekend would get everyone out, and this coincided with the biggest thing to happen in Smoky Mountain fly fishing is some time. I’m never opposed to walking further than anyone else, but when the conditions are marginal and I’ve got two kids eager to catch a trout I’d rather take an easier option.


A wild brown trout in Little River scans the current for hatching insects

We did raise a few fish to bushy dry flies and surely could’ve done pretty well with nymphs, but it was just one of those days when we couldn’t bear to fish a nymph for very long. Besides, it was just so nice to sit in the sun with the stream lapping out our ankles while we identified what bugs were floating down the stream or flying past.

This week looks like the mountain streams will be the main place to fish as the tailwaters are running a ton of water. All that melting snow and rain has TVA scrambling to keep the reservoirs from getting too high too fast. Norris Lake almost made it to summer pool in just a few days and we’ve only just entered the wet season in East Tennessee so TVA is trying to maintain some buffer to prevent flooding.

The rain in this week’s forecast could make for some high water everywhere, but it will certainly get water temperatures much warmer than they’ve been and jump start all the hatches.


  1. jim brady says:

    Lovely picture of Charity ferrying her son across the creek. Reminds me of doing the same for my brother when I was 13 (we only had one pair of hip boots to share). Unfortunately, I dropped him halfway across. He just turned 66 so it wasn’t a life threatening event.

  2. Hey Ian, me and a few friends are going up to the Smokies on Saturday. Do you have any tips or streams that will be good spots for Brook Trout. Anything will be of help. Thanks!

    • Water could be high on Saturday so it’s very hard to know at this point how things will be. Your options for brook trout are pretty limited anyway without a bit of a hike. Lynn Camp Prong could be pretty good, but expect more anglers than usual since this stream has recently been all over the news. I also wouldn’t bother hiking if the water is high at the trailhead. You might consider checking upstream of the Chimneys trailhead along 441. This stream sees frequent flash floods in the summer and as a result its stream bed is wider and can handle more water even as it looks almost dried up in dryer conditions.

      The best advice is the water is obviously high might be to wait a day to less the streams fall out a little bit. You can get a sense of that on our Stream Levels page.
      Good Luck!

  3. Hey Ian,

    We are headed up from Florida to Smokemonte on friday for a few days. Any suggestions on anything that wont be blown out on the Carloina side??



    • Hard to know at this time what will be too high and what won’t. Right now it looks like the bulk of the rain is west of the park, but that can always change. You may just have to drive around each day to get a sense of what’s fishy and what’s too high. The good news is that the rain should stop by Saturday morning and it looks like we’ll be going into a prolonged dry period after that.

      • Awesome thanks….If you can make it over there I would be happy to treat you to dinner one night for all the advise you have given us over the last few years…. We will have my 5 year old son as well on his first guys only fishing trip 🙂 If you are busy I understand. Take it easy. We will be at smokemonte through Tuesday morning.!!!