Water Temperatures (approximate)
Low elevations: 48 – 51 degrees
Mid elevations: 44 – 47 degrees
High elevations: 40 – 43 degrees
Streams in the mountains are very high and at the time of this report, still rising. Most streams should crest soon as the majority of the rain has moved on. Expect them to take AT LEAST a few days to get back to a wadeable/fishable level. Water temperatures are getting a lot better which is why I’m keeping the fishing meter in the “slow” category. Temperatures should stay relatively stable over the next few days and fishing could be good later in the week IF the water drops enough. Keep an eye on those gauges and if you don’t understand them, this article on reading stream gauges may help.
Much of this was covered above, but things are looking much better with water temperatures and should remain that way in the coming days. Everything hinges on how quickly the water drops. Right now, the water is way too high for fishing to be safe, much less productive.
We had a lot of rain on already saturated ground, so it may take a little while to get back to a reasonable level. Expect the North Carolina side of the park to rebound before the Tennessee side.
In general, you want to seek out slower water and you want to fish the warmest water possible right now. Try to concentrate your efforts on the middle of the day, stick to the lower elevations and look for areas that get a little more sunlight. Fishing high water can be tough and it can be dangerous. Keep an eye on those water levels. It’s not an exact science but typically, I consider around 2.5′ on the gauge to be the high side of good. Ideally, you want it more around 2′. Between 2.5′ and 3′ might give you a little bit of manageable water in very select locations, but you better know what you’re doing. Above 3′ will leave you very little fishable water and is really just unsafe.
There is very little in the way of hatches this time of year but you may run into the occasional Blue Wing Olive. Small dark stoneflies and caddis may also make an appearance. Most everything coming off the water will be small, in the #18 – 20 range. I would primarily fish dark colored nymphs deep and slow. A black or olive Zebra Midge would be a good bet. I do well with “peacock flies” in the #14 – 16 range this time of year, like Zug Bugs, Prince Nymphs, etc. In the right water, a larger stonefly nymph may entice a nice brown trout. Quill Gordon nymphs should be pretty active in preparation for emergence. A #12 olive Hares Ear does a pretty good job imitating them.