Drought conditions persist in Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains, but there has been a shift in our weather pattern. Afternoon thunderstorms have become a regular thing as they are every summer in East Tennessee so conditions should not get any worse.
Creek fishing in the Smokies is superb this time of year. A short hike into the backcountry will not only get you away from other anglers and roadside tourists, but will also get you into eager fish. Wet wading is the comfortable way to go and the fish typically rise well to dry flies. Attractors like #16 Parachute Adams, Stimulators, and Wulffs usually get the job done. Major hatch activity has wrapped up by now but watch for egg-laying flights of Yellow Sallies late in the evening. The best fishing will be at elevations of 3000′ and higher, but lower elevation streams are good. Most of these streams have rainbow trout but many have brookies and/or browns.
Tailwater fishing should be good this summer. Dry conditions limit the amount of water TVA can generate which leads to optimal flows to wade. The Watauga and South Holston are both superb rivers with good hatch activity through the summer. Sulphurs hatch in abundance on the South Holston. Comparaduns in #16 are usually the ticket.
Don’t overlook the Hiwassee. Limited generation will provide manageable flows for wading which is unusual in the summer. All of the tailwaters should have ample water for floats as well. Small nymphs fished under an indicator are the textbook route to fish, but dry fly fishing to risers is the fun way to hook up. Streamer fishing for large browns can be very good on the Clinch, South Holston, and Watauga when water conditions are high. Fish heavy sink tip lines with big streamers but don’t expect a strike on every cast. This can be something like work, but bigger than average fish are the payoff.
By Ian Rutter