Smokies Fishing Report

Smoky Mountain Brook Trout

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 170cfs / 1.91 feet
Pigeon: 451cfs / 2.05 feet
Oconaluftee: 538cfs / 1.91 feet
Cataloochee: 109cfs / 2.65

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 55 – 59 degrees
Mid elevations: 52 – 56 degrees
High elevations: 50 – 53 degrees

Current Conditions

Fishing is good in the Smokies right now. Water temps are sitting pretty and so are levels. And most important, at least for my sanity, is the crowds have dropped to “reasonable” levels. We’re in a very mild weather pattern and it looks like it may stay this way for a little while. Overnights and mornings are cool with nice warm-ups in the afternoon. Expect your better fishing to be from late morning to late afternoon.

Projected Conditions

Though overall we’re in good shape, it looks like we’ll see a minor setback this week. Rain is expected Wednesday and with it is a pretty significant cold front. Highs on Wednesday aren’t expected to get out of the 40’s and Wednesday and Thursday night lows will hit near freezing. While I don’t think this will have long term effects on fishing, I’d expect pretty slow activity on Thursday and Friday.

Tips

Fish are beginning to spread in the stream more and activity is picking up in riffles and pockets. However, without full tree bloom, fish may be spooky in the bright sunlight. Seek out locations near shade lines. Fishing is starting to get productive even in the mornings in the lower elevations. For mid and high elevation streams, I’d try to focus on the afternoon.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

Fish are really beginning to look up now and most fish on my trips this past week were taking dry flies. Hatches are fairly diverse right now with very few heavy hatches of one insect coming off. Blue Quills (#18) and Light Hendricksons (#14) are accounting for most of the mayfly activity. Red Quills (#14-12) should begin showing up in better numbers and you may even see a few March Browns (#14-10) showing up early to the party.

There are a lot of small dark stoneflies but the adults don’t spend much time in front of the trout. A #18 Pheasant Tail is a respectable imitation for the nymph. A lot of #16 dun caddis are out and about and starting to see some larger tan caddis in a #14. And I’m seeing a few Yellow Sally Stoneflies. Expect more of them toward the end of the month.

You can certainly carry exact imitations of any of the flies mentioned above. But with so many different bugs and no large numbers of any, keeping your fly pattern fairly generic is not a bad idea. A Parachute Adams and Parachute Hares Ear are really good all-purpose spring dry flies. Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs also do pretty well. On many of the backcountry streams, caddis have been the ticket. An Elk Wing or Neversink in #16 – 14.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. My most consistent producer has been a creation of my own that I call an Early Spring Nymph. I’ll include the pattern in my next newsletter. Until then, an olive Hares Ear is pretty similar. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

For the featured fly, I have the Neversink Caddis. The yellow body version, which is great, is pictured but I’d play with other colors, too. The tan body has been working great lately. It fished well by itself but is also a nice, buoyant fly to support a dropper nymph. Two Fly Rigs.

Featured Fly

Neversink Caddis
Neversink Caddis

Smokies Fishing Report

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 253cfs / 2.17 feet
Pigeon: 645cfs / 2.35 feet
Oconaluftee: 727cfs / 2.18 feet
Cataloochee: 164cfs / 2.81

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 55 – 59 degrees
Mid elevations: 52 – 56 degrees
High elevations: 50 – 53 degrees

Current Conditions

We’ve gotten a nice, long break from the heavy rains and sharp cold fronts and conditions are actually begining to stabilize. What has not been going our way is an unprecedented number of tourists… and when you’re talking about what is already the most visited national park in the country, that says a lot! It seems to be the perfect storm of spring breakers and Covid shut-in refugees and I’m hoping it slows soon. Right now our national park is being loved to death. With so many people out and about, it may be a good time to brush up on your Stream Etiquette.

But if you can manage to find a quiet place away from the masses, fishing is getting pretty good. Mornings are still a little chilly and it still needs to warm up in the high country. But most everything is fishing well with low elevations and afternoons being the real highlight right now.

Projected Conditions

We have a slight cold front and a little bit of rain in the forecast toward the end of the week but all and all, it looks like a good week ahead. I don’t expect drastic changes in water temperatures or levels. As we get a little farther into April, hopefully spring breaks will wind down and a little of the tourist traffic will decrease.

Tips

Fish are beginning to spread in the stream more and activity is picking up in riffles and pockets. Without full tree bloom, fish may be spooky in the bright sunlight. Seek out locations near shade lines. Fishing is starting to get productive even in the mornings in the lower elevations. For mid and high elevation streams, I’d try to focus on the afternoon.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

Hatches are fairly diverse right now with very few heavy hatches of one insect coming off. There are still a few Quill Gordons (#14) hanging around but Blue Quills (#18) and Light Hendricksons (#14) are accounting for most of the mayfly activity. Red Quills (#14-12) should begin showing up in better numbers and you may even see a few March Browns (#14-10) showing up early to the party.

There are a lot of small dark stoneflies but the adults don’t spend much time in front of the trout. A #18 Pheasant Tail is a respectable imitation for the nymph. A lot of #16 dun caddis are out and about and starting to see some larger tan caddis in a #14. And I saw my first Yellow Sally Stonefly of the year. Expect more of them toward the end of the month.

You can certainly carry exact imitations of any of the flies mentioned above. But with so many different bugs and no large numbers of any, keeping your fly pattern fairly generic is not a bad idea. A Parachute Adams and Parachute Hares Ear are really good all-purpose spring dry flies. Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs also do pretty well.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. My most consistent producer has been a creation of my own that I call an Early Spring Nymph. I’ll include the pattern in my next newsletter. Until then, an olive Hares Ear is pretty similar. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

For the featured fly, I’m going to suggest a Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. It’s a great generic pattern that does a great job imitating a number of emerging insects. I frequently fish it in tandem as the top fly in a double nymph rig or as a dropper behind a dry fly. Two Fly Rigs.

Featured Fly

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail

Smokies Fishing Report

Early Spring Fishing in the Smoky Mountains

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 579cfs / 2.77 feet
Pigeon: 1160cfs / 2.97 feet
Oconaluftee: 1130cfs / 2.67 feet
Cataloochee: 273cfs / 3.16

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 48 – 52 degrees
Mid elevations: 46 – 50 degrees
High elevations: 42 – 47 degrees

Current Conditions

We are currently in what I would call a recovery stage. It may not be great but it’s definitely heading in the right direction. Water levels have been slowly dropping from last week’s big rains but streams are still a little on the high side. Water temperatures took a big dive too from a significant cold front, but they are slowly climbing back into the 50’s.

Projected Conditions

The week ahead is looking really good. By mid week, temperatures and levels should be pretty close to normal for this time of year. More rain is in the forecast near the weekend but right now, it doesn’t look like the significant systems we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. Hopefully it won’t play too much havoc on water levels. As always, keep an eye on those stream gauges – reading stream gauges.

Tips

We’re easing back into “typical” early spring conditions. 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. Finding Feeding Trout in Early Spring.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

I had to cancel most trips last week due to high water so I haven’t really had a chance to see if we have any new hatches starting up. I’ll learn a lot more in the coming days. For that reason, I’m keeping the hatch info below the same as last week. However, based on experience and pure speculation, we’re getting to the time when Quill Gordons may be winding down and you may see more Blue Quills and Light Hendricksons. Carry Parachute Adams in sizes 18-14 and you should be in pretty good shape.

Quill Gordons are still popping off here and there. Again, it just depends where you are. I’ve been on pools where I only see two or three, and two pools up they’re coming off everywhere you look. They could show up at any time but mostly, we’re seeing the better hatches mid to late afternoon.

Standard Quill Gordon patterns should work well for topwater, so will a Parachute Adams – sizes #14 – #12. Everyone seems to have their favorite Quill Gordon nymph imitation. Mine is an olive Hares Ear. When the hatch is coming off pretty good, I always do best with an emerger, and my favorite is a Mr. Rapidan Emerger.

Blue Quills are coming off in better numbers in sizes #18 – #16. You’ll probably still run into some Blue Wing Olives, and there is always an assortment of dark caddis and stoneflies this time of year. A size #16 grey Elk Caddis will do the job for most of them. Otherwise, a lot of your favorite attractors should do fine. For early spring, I always like flies with peacock herl, Zug Bugs and Prince Nymphs in particular.

For the featured fly, I’m going to suggest the Red Fox Squirrel nymph for no other reason than it always seems to be a good early spring pattern for me. Clicking the link will give you a lot more info on this fly.

Featured Fly

Red Fox Squirrel Nymph