Spring Weather Roller Coaster in the Smokies and East Tennessee

You always know it’s spring in East Tennessee because of the stomach churning roller coaster ride you’ll see with the weather. I say “stomach churning” because when you guide for a living you’re always living in fear of anything that wrecks a day or even worse, shuffles the calendar. Over the years we’ve gotten to be experts at what we call “guide calendar Tetris” where you re-shuffle the calendar based on how long folks are in town, what dates are open, and how water levels are.

Spring day fishing the Smokies

A beautiful spring day of fly fishing the Smokies

While spring has our most unpredictable weather, it also features some of our best fishing. The streams in the Smokies have been as good as we’ve seen them in some time. We’ve been guiding a long time now and it’s pretty impressive for us to look at how things have changed. A sizable portion of our anglers want to go for native brook trout and it wasn’t all that long ago when there were relatively few places to go for them. Now we have several streams in easy reach of Townsend that are excellent.

Smoky Mountain brook trout

A colorful brook trout from a recent trip in the park

April and May are typically our best months for floating our local tailwaters and some real dandies have been caught on dry flies no less. Unfortunately we had flooding rains and our local reservoirs rose beyond full. TVA’s first priority is flood control and our local releases reflect that.

Pete Yeoman's is happy to get another nice fish on the Holston.

Pete Yeomans is happy to get another nice fish on the Holston. This was the last day with good flows.

Right now it’s looking like it may be close to two weeks before things get in order, but that depends on several factors. Perhaps the most important factor is how much rain we see in the future. Anything that adds water to already full reservoirs means in needs to come on down the river.

On the up side we should have more than enough water for the summer season. We’re just hoping it’s not like 2013 when we were washed out of numerous days throughout the season because of abundant rainfall. This shouldn’t be the case but we’re hoping for the Clinch and Holston Rivers to get back in shape real soon as both have been fishing incredibly well this season.

I’m a little aggravated with myself as I’ve found I really haven’t taken any pictures for myself in the drift boat this season. Folks have been catching some great fish and I’ve been using their cameras or phones to take photos for them but neglecting myself. Most of the trout have been coming on small nymphs, but we’ve seen periods of excellent dry fly fishing. Trout are numerous in the Holston this year with fish across all size ranges. We’ve landed trout from 10″ up to 21″ on the Holston with fish in the 12-16″ range being plentiful. Water temperatures obviously held up great last year as there are plenty of nice fish in the mix.

The Clinch River is at a historic high point for trout populations with sizes nearing historic highs. We’ve done very well over there this spring, but we still rate the Clinch as among the toughest rivers we’ve ever fished as the trout are exceptionally fickle. One day it fishes extremely well and the next it’s tough to do anything with them. That’s something we’ve grown accustomed to, though, and much of it has to do with a good water level and, most importantly, a good drift. Clinch River trout can never be compared to delayed harvest stockers like you’ll find in some other rivers.