October Fishing Forecast

Mountains

October is one of those idyllic months in the mountains. Sure, the fishing can be good, but it’s just as much about the feel. Days are shortening, temperatures are cooling and leaves are changing. I can not imagine a better backdrop for standing in a river and waving a stick!

This year things are looking better than usual. September and October are typically pretty dry months around here. So often, while cooling temperatures are cooling and fish are getting active, low water has them unusually skittish. But this year we had a wetter than usual September, including visits from two tropical storms. Fishing should be great!

Expect better fishing from late morning through late afternoon most of the month. And starting around the middle of the month, begin scanning the tail end of pools for large, pre-spawn brown trout.

While hatches are not as frequent or robust as we might see in spring, fall does bring a number of aquatic insects out, particularly caddis. Most of your standard mountain patterns should still be productive, but patterns in the caddis family should do even better. Staples like the Elk Wing Caddis are great and larger, orange dry fly patterns like Stimulators and Neversinks will make a nice representation of the large ginger caddis. Wired Caddis and tan, orange or rusty soft hackles should fit the bill below the surface.

Clinch

As always, the Clinch is pretty hit and miss with generation schedules. Recently, they have not been releasing in the morning, allowing for a small window of wade fishing.

Not a lot changes on the Clinch when it comes to fly selection. Zebra Midges in size #18 and smaller are productive most days. Really any midge pattern in that size range is worth playing with. Small Pheasant Tail Nymphs are also a good bet.

August Fishing Forecast

Mountains

I don’t typically think of August as one of the better fishing months in the mountains. Historically, it is one of the hottest months of the year and we don’t usually get the near daily thunderstorms that are common in July. However, this year August is off to a better than usual start.

July was unusually dry this year, as was June. So, we’ve been in a bit of a drought of late, and we’ve seen a lot of days in the mid 90’s. But things started to turn around the last week of July with temperatures cooling slightly and rainfall showing up most every day. It looks like that trend will continue into at least the first week of August. Hopefully, that will be the case all month.

Even with milder temperatures and some rainfall, August will still be warmer and drier than seasonal norms. Expect better fishing early and late in the day when temperatures are cooler and try to seek out streams with more tree canopy and at higher elevations.

Hatches are sparse this time of year. Terrestrials like ants, beetles and inchworms will main items on the menu. The few aquatic insects that do hatch this time of year are typically yellow, so a yellow dry fly in the #18-14 range is a good bet.

Clinch

The Clinch has sort of settled into “summer mode” with generation schedules. On most days, generators will be off until mid to late morning and one generator will run until early evening. Of course, this is always subject to change so be sure to check that schedule the evening before you go.

Not a lot changes on the Clinch when it comes to fly selection. Zebra Midges in size #18 and smaller are productive most days. Really any midge pattern in that size range is worth playing with. Small Pheasant Tail Nymphs are also a good bet.

Getting Started in Fly Fishing

Getting into fly fishing can seem overwhelming. And one of the most overwhelming aspects can be the gear. You see fly fishers on the stream who look like members of SEAL Team 6 with the arsenal of gadgets, gear and packs strapped to various places on their bodies. If you walk into a fly shop, it gets even more complicated when you see the endless displays of rods, reels, lines, tools, waders and thousands of fly patterns. Where in the world do you start?

First, it’s important to understand that there are things that you need to go fly fishing and there are other things that might just make a certain task easier but aren’t essential. And there are other things that are just fun or cool! Listed below is a list and description of necessary items to get going in fly fishing. From there you can add all of the extra bells and whistles you want.

The Essential Essentials

Fly Rod: Probably goes without saying but you’ll need a fly rod to get started. Rods vary in size and what exactly you need depends on where you plan to be fishing and what you plan to fish for. And prices are all over the place. You don’t need a $1000  fly rod to get into the sport, but buy the best rod you can afford. Learn more about fly rods.

Fly Reel: The reel will need to be an appropriate size to match the rod and line size you’ll be using. For most freshwater fly fishing, the reel is more of a line storage device than a fish fighting tool and it doesn’t require much of an investment. In saltwater fly fishing, the reel is probably the most valuable piece of equipment and you will want to invest a significant amount of your fly fishing budget. Learn more about fly reels.

Fly Line: The fly line is a critical piece of the equation as it is the weighted line that you will be casting. You don’t need a $100 fly line to start fly fishing but, like the rod, a good fly line can make a big difference and you should buy the best you can afford. Learn more about fly lines.

Terminal Tackle

Leader: The leader is the tapered, “invisible” connection between your fly line and the fly. It provides the critical transfer of energy during the cast that allows the fly to land properly on the water. The skinny tippet end of the leader allows the fly to drift properly. Leaders are relatively inexpensive and are something that you will replace regularly. Learn more about leaders.

Tippet: When you buy a leader, it has a tippet section built in. It’s the thinnest part of the tapered leader. You will want to have spools of tippet material to rebuild or alter the leader as the tippet section gets shorter through the process of changing or breaking off flies. Learn more about tippet.

Flies: Flies are what we use as lures in fly fishing and there are A LOT of choices! Sometimes specific flies that match a hatch are required but often, a few generic fly patterns are all you need to catch fish. Get started with a basic selection of generic patterns and add to them gradually. Learn more about fly selection.

Tools & Gadgetry

Nippers: I suppose you could use your teeth but I’d recommend a pair nippers for cutting your line. Nail clippers will work in a pinch but they are made of incredibly cheap metal. You’ll start seeing nicks in the blades almost immediately and it won’t take long for them to rust. For about $10 you can get a pair of stainless nippers that will last a whole lot longer and they include a nifty “needle tool” for clearing the hook eye. Learn more about nippers.

Hemostats: I use these for everything. They’re helpful for hook extraction, crimping barbs, crimping split shot… you name it! You can use the ones your buddy that works at the hospital gave you, but those are built to be disposable. They’re fine to get started but I wouldn’t wait to long before buying some durable ones made for fly fishing. Learn more about hemostats.

Fly Box: You’re going to need something to put those flies in. An Altoid box might do the trick in the beginning but it won’t take long to outgrow that. There are a lot of different sizes and styles of fly boxes to suit any organizational and storage needs. Learn more about fly boxes.

Not Essential but Pretty Darn Useful

Strike Indicators: If you’re going to do much nymphing, particularly in slower water, you’ll want some of these. Just don’t call them bobbers. They come in a variety of styles, shapes and colors. Learn more about strike indicators.

Split Shot: Again, if you plan to do much nymphing, this will be something you want. Many nymphs have their own weight built in but some don’t. And some that do need more. These are just small weights of various sizes that can be crimped on to leader to add weight. Learn more about split shot.

Polarized Sunglasses: It’s all I can do to not put these on the essential list. Polarized glasses cut glare on the water allowing you to better see the stream bottom, your fly and sometime the fish. I never fish without them. Learn more about polarized sunglasses.

Fishing Pack or Vest: While not essential, you’re going to need some way to carry all of this stuff around with you on the stream. You can probably find something to get you by in the beginning. For me, it was my uncle’s marine shirt with the two big chest pockets. But you’ll soon want something designed for the task. Learn more about packs and vests.

Waders and Wading Boots: How soon or how badly you need these items will depend on where you fish and what time of year you fish. Learn more about waders. Learn more about wading boots.

July Fishing Forecast

Mountains

Most years, things really start to heat up in July. Lower elevation streams will typically not fish very well as water temperatures are just too warm most of the day. If you’re bound and determined to fish low elevation streams, get there early. Most will be fairly active from sunrise until probably 9 or 10 o’clock. They may also turn on for a short period just before sunset.

Mid and especially high elevation streams are the places to be in July which usually means you need to plan on doing some walking. While it’s not an exact science, for every 1000′ you gain in elevation, the water temperature drops about 4-degrees. That can make a huge difference in fish activity!

July is usually a fairly wet month. While we don’t often see the huge, organized rain systems of spring, afternoon thunderstorms seem to pop up daily. Consequently, water levels tend to stay at pretty good levels all month.

Hatches are sparse in summer. While there will most certainly be sporadic mayfly, stonefly and caddis sightings, they’re not abundant enough to get the fish keyed in on a particular bug. So, generic “prospecting” flies should cover most situations. Dry flies in yellow and chartreuse are especially productive.

Of course, summer is also terrestrial time. Be sure to include a selection of beetles, ants and inchworms in your fly box!

Clinch

The Clinch finally started showing some decent wade schedules in June. However, as is often the case, they all to nothing and on many days, there wasn’t nearly enough flow. Typical July flows usually have wadeable water in the morning with afternoon generation.

Not a lot changes on the Clinch when it comes to fly selection. Zebra Midges in size #18 and smaller are productive most days. Really any midge pattern in that size range is worth playing with. Small Pheasant Tail Nymphs are also a good bet.

June Fishing Forecast

Smoky Mountain Rainbow

Mountains

I like June. It’s still mild enough where lower elevations fish well most of the month, at least early and late in the day. But the real action is in the mid and high elevations, mostly up the trails. Hatches are usually still happening and terrestrials like beetles, ants and inchworms are beginning to make regular appearances.

As mentioned above, we should still see decent hatches throughout the month. March Browns will still be hanging around. Yellow Sallies will be abundant and so will sulphurs, particularly early in the month. And most streams will see sporadic good hatches of tan caddis.

These hatches will pop off sporadically through the day and even when you don’t SEE a hatch, the fish have seen enough stuff where they’re usually looking up. Sometimes the main event, usually a heavy mixed bag of sulphurs, Light Cahills and Sallies, won’t get going until near dark.

In any case, we’re entering the “yellow season,” when most of what hatches is yellow or at least lighter in color. Yellow Stimulators, Neversinks, yellow Parachute Adams, etc. will be good dry fly choices for a while.

Clinch

This really should just be a copy and paste forecast for the Clinch. The river that seems to just perpetually have two generators going still has two generators going. It seems that it might be lightening up just a little and we are starting to see some drier weather, so maybe… just maybe, we’ll start seeing some better wade schedules this month.

If we do, you’ll see the normal daily hatches of midges. Play around with some weird patterns or go with the ol’ staple black Zebra Midge. A Pheasant Tail Nymph is also a good bet this time of year.

There may still be remnants of a sulphur hatch hanging around. It’s been really sporadic in recent years but some days will show pretty heavy hatches. Sometimes it just depends what part of the river you’re on. In any case, it’s always a good idea to have at least a small assortment of sulphur patterns with you this time of year.

Rob’s Steroid Sally

Rob's Steroid Sally
Steroid Sally Top

Little Yellow Sally stoneflies are one of the most prolific hatches in the Smoky Mountains. Most years, we begin seeing the first ones around mid April and they tend to hang around until sometime in July. They’re small, dainty and bright, usually a bright yellow to sometimes chartreuse color.

For years I tied and fished very exact imitations of these bugs, and I still do on more heavily fished rivers where fish seem to be a little pickier.  But those smaller, more delicate versions are harder to see on the water and they have a tendency to sink in faster currents. Both of those features can spell trouble, or at least frustration, when guiding a beginner angler.

Yellow Sally
Little Yellow Sally

As a fisherman and especially as a guide, I like simplicity and versatility. The more variables I can remove from a situation (like a sinking dry fly), the better I can put clients in a position for success. Additionally, in many of the backcountry streams in the Smokies, the fish are not overly particular on fly patterns. Not spooking them and getting a good drift will usually produce strikes more than fly pattern. But if you can have a fly that is at least in the same ballpark of color, profile and/or size as the naturals, you’ll stack the deck even more in your favor.

So a few years ago, I began creating a fly that would be highly visible, extremely buoyant, durable and at least vaguely suggesting a Yellow Sally. I ended up with a beefy foam bug about two sizes bigger than a typical Yellow Sally – hence the name “Steroid Sally.” And if I’m being totally honest, I designed it more as something to support a dropper nymph than a dry fly to cast to rising trout. It would basically be an edible strike indicator.  But you guessed it… the trout loved it.

Rob's Steroid Sally
Steroid Sally Profile

Though no dry fly is totally unsinkable, this one is probably the closest I’ve found, at least in the smaller, trout fly category. It has become a go-to dry fly for me from late spring through early fall. And while yellow is still my favorite color, variations in orange, tan and lime green have also been very productive.

It has quickly become the most frequently requested fly for the custom tying orders I do in the winter.  Give me a shout if you want some or check out the recipe below if you want to tie some for yourself.

Rob’s Steroid Sally

  • Hook: 3XL Dry Fly #12
  • Thread: 8/0 Yellow
  • Lower Body & Head: 2mm yellow foam
  • Top Body: 2mm lime green foam
  • Wing: Yellow floating poly-yarn
  • Legs: Small round rubber, yellow

Landing and Handling Trout

Smoky Mountain Rainbow
A lovely release

It all finally came together. You made a good cast to the right spot and your fly is drifting down the current for mere seconds before a trout intercepts it. You react quickly with a smooth lift of the rod and the fish is hooked. Maintaining steady pressure, you resist against the trout’s evasive maneuvers and inch him closer to you. Now what?

For many, this is when a panic party ensues in an attempt to wrangle the trout and remove the hook from his mouth. You end up dropping your rod in the water and filling the reel with sand all while tying yourself up in a web of fly line and leader. For others, this may be when they begin a long, slow process of torturing the fish in an attempt for that perfect photo.

Catching a fish should be a fun experience and it should be quick and painless for you and the fish! Here are a few tips to show you how:

Playing the Fish

The first rule here is you want to make the fight as quick as possible. Don’t try to keep the fish on longer than necessary in order to feel it more or hope he jumps. Put solid, steady pressure on the fish with the rod and get him in as soon as you can. This is a stressful experience for a fish. Trying to extend the fight only exhausts the fish and can reduce his chance of survival.

Playing Fish with Side Pressure
Good use of side pressure

This is especially true with bigger fish. Certainly it will take longer to bring in a large fish, but it shouldn’t be an all day affair. Don’t be afraid to use that flexible lever called a fly rod to put pressure on the fish. You always want to have a bend in that rod and try to do the opposite of what the fish does. If the fish runs to the left, drop your rod to the right and put side pressure on him. If he goes to the right, drop your rod to the left. If he runs straight away, hold the rod straight up.

Try to always have a bend in the rod and never point the rod tip toward the fish. If he pulls so hard that the rod tip is being pulled forward, let him take some line while still maintaining that steady pressure. If you find yourself at a standstill with the fish where he’s not really running or coming to, try to bring his head to the surface. This will usually accomplish one of two things. He’ll either submit and slide right to you, or he’ll make another run and hopefully burn off one last bit of energy so you can land him. Remember that you want to be the one in control – as much as possible! All of this will not only help ensure that the fish will stay on the line, but it will shorten the fight, which benefits you and the fish.

Landing the Fish

I see a lot of people, beginners mostly, bring in line to where the fish is just inches from the tip of the rod. This habit probably comes from fishing with a shorter spin or bait rod. But your average fly rod is 8-9′ long and if you reel or strip your fly line and leader all the way into the rod guides you’re going to encounter three problems.

First, if it’s a large fish that decides to make one last run, the knot connection between the leader and fly line can easily get hung in the guides resulting in a break off. Second, if you pull that much line in, it leaves the fish close to your rod tip and you can’t reach him without sticking your rod in the water or trying to set it on a bank. Not only does that increase risk of damage to your rod and reel, it’s just really awkward. Third, if and when you do get hold of the fish, you don’t have any slack line, which makes it extremely difficult to remove the hook.

Landing a Trout
A nice example of landing a fish

Always try to leave at least a little bit of fly line past the tip. To land the fish, reach your rod up and behind you and grab the fish or the end of the leader with your other hand. Once you have it, bring your rod back down and forward and you’ll have slack line for easier hook removal. A landing net makes this process easier, where you just scoop the fish in the net rather than grabbing it. I don’t usually fool with a net in the mountains because your average fish isn’t very big and can be easily managed by hand. I always try to have a net in places like tailwaters where I’m more apt to catch bigger average fish.

Handling the Fish

There’s a reason we don’t see fish walking around in our yard. They can’t live out of water. And the longer we keep them out of water when landing them, the more harm we are causing them. Try to make this process as quick as possible.

I will often not remove the fish from the water at all. I land them as described above but rather than grabbing the line or fish, I will simply clamp the fly with my hemostats. With a little twist of the wrist, the hook usually comes right out and the fish swims away happy and unharmed without ever coming out of the water. You can do the same with a fish that has been netted. Just put the hemostats on the fly while the fish is in the net. This works even better (as does any hook removal) with barbless hooks. I almost always crimp the barbs on my hooks and encourage you to do the same.

The only reason I can think of that you would need to remove the fish from the water is if you’re going to take a picture of it. Actually, you can get some pretty cool pictures of the fish in the water, but if you want to be in it too, than the fish will need to come out of the water – or you’ll need to go in!

Photographing Fish

If you are going to handle trout, it is important to first wet your hands. They have skin, rather than scales, that contains a “slimy” protective coating. Dry hands can remove or damage that coating making them more susceptible to disease. Now back to the obvious statement above, fish don’t live out of the water, so try to do this as quickly as possible.

Don’t hold the fish in one hand while you fumble around to pack or vest looking for your camera. And most definitely don’t walk downstream with the fish so your buddy can take a picture. Preparation is the key here.

For starters, keep your camera in a place that’s easy to get to, not tucked away in your backpack. Try to keep the fish in the water until the camera is out, on and ready. Then grab the fish gently (with wet hands), take your picture and get him right back in the water. Remember you’re not shooting the cover of Vogue. You don’t need ten different poses from the fish. Get one or two quick shots then get him back in the water.

I can’t resist a brief rant here. You don’t need a picture of every fish you catch! I definitely understand getting a couple of photographic memories from the day. I certainly do the same. Maybe get a shot of the two or three bigger ones, or maybe that one that was just a little more colorful. But your Instagram followers don’t need to see fifteen pictures of what looks like the exact same fish. I know. It’s the world in which we live.

Tips for Better Photos

Face cropped to protect the innocent

While we’re on the subject of photographing fish, there are a few things to keep in mind that will be better on the fish and will result in a better photo. The first thing is to show the fish to the camera, not your hands. Don’t grip the fish like it’s a baseball bat. The fish won’t love it and you’ll be disappointed in your picture. Instead, gently cup the fish from behind so that you can see as much of it as possible. I recommend one hand for smaller fish and two hands for bigger fish – assuming you have someone else to take the picture.

The guitar pose

Try to avoid putting pressure on his fins and certainly try to keep your fingers away from his gills. Hold him right-side up (yes, a lot of people hold them upside down) and try to extend him away from your body a little, rather than pinning him against your body like a guitar.

While I do recommend handling the fish as little as possible, I do suggest holding the fish for a good photo, even if it’s in the net. Many anglers try to hold the line with the fish suspended. This results in a rotating fish and a “Hail Mary” for the photographer, attempting to snap the shot at just the right time in the rotation.

The million dollar question is what to do with the rod. The trendy thing for a while was for anglers to put the rod in their teeth. More recently, folks have taken to resting the rod behind their head on their shoulders. Y’all are stuck with my opinion here, but my opinion is that both of these things look stupid. If you’re near the bank, you can set the rod down. If you’re not, just stick it under your shoulder. But it’s your picture and if you want to stick your rod in your mouth like a dog with a bone, have at it!

Releasing the Fish

Smaller fish tend to be a bit more resilient. Typically, you just set them back in the water and they dart away. Bigger fish, however, tend to need a little more time. They are often tired from the fight and will sometimes want to float on you if you just toss them back in the water. This doesn’t mean that you need to do some weird version of fish CPR that I’ve seen many anglers attempt.

Releasing Trout
A nice release

Just find a little slower patch of water out of the main current and set the fish in it. Before you let him go, simply keep a hand on him underwater, gently supporting him and keeping him upright. The fish will soon begin to wiggle his tail and eventually swim away on his own power.

May Fishing Forecast

Mountains

My goal is always to get the newsletter out on the first of the month and of course, this forecast goes in the newsletter. With the park waiting until the absolute last second to announce whether or not they will be reopening on May 1st, I’m just writing this with the assumption that they will. Even if they don’t, the stuff below will still be going on… we just won’t see any of it!

We had a really good April around here. Weather was pretty mild and other than a couple of high water events, water levels were pretty good. It makes sense that we would see one of the best Aprils in a while when the national park is closed and nobody could travel here to fish! Hopefully we can make up for lost time this month.

If you’ve spent any time fishing with me or reading these newsletters, it’s probably no secret that I consider May to be one of the best months of the year for fishing. Most of the bigger spring rains have blown through and temperatures are usually very mild. It’s typically cool enough for the lower elevations to fish well and warm enough to get things going up high. You nearly always have almost every fishing option available.

I have no reason to think this May will be any different. We should see good hatches throughout the month. Hendricksons will likely still be hanging around early in the month with March Browns showing up soon after. Yellow Sallies will be abundant and so will sulphurs, particularly by mid month. And most streams will see sporadic good hatches of tan caddis.

These hatches will pop off sporadically through the day and even when you don’t SEE a hatch, the fish have seen enough stuff where they’re usually looking up. Sometimes the main event, usually a heavy mixed bag of sulphurs, Light Cahills and Sallies, won’t get going until near dark.

In any case, we’re entering the “yellow season,” when most of what hatches is yellow or at least lighter in color. Yellow Stimulators, Neversinks, yellow Parachute Adams, etc. will be good dry fly choices for a while.

Clinch

Ahh, the Clinch. The river that seems to just perpetually have two generators going. They’ve been going non-stop this spring and probably will continue until we can get a dry spell.

When we do, you’ll see the normal daily hatches of midges. Play around with some weird patterns or go with the ol’ staple black Zebra Midge. A Pheasant Tail Nymph is also a good bet this time of year.

May is usually when we start seeing sulphurs on the Clinch. It’s been really sporadic in recent years but some days will show pretty heavy hatches. Sometimes it just depends what part of the river you’re on. In any case, it’s always a good idea to have at least a small assortment of sulphur patterns with you this time of year.

New Covid-19 Policies

As information and news with the current pandemic seems to change week to week and sometimes day to day, we will be updating this post accordingly. These are strange times for everyone and we will be conducting business a little differently for the time being. Fortunately, I am just one person so I have the ability to be flexible not only in adapting policies to the changing conditions, but to your specific needs should you decide to book a guided trip during this time. Listed below is the most current information I have to share. Scroll to the bottom for current social distancing guidelines for guide trips.

June 5th, 2020 Update: Phase 3 of Park Opening to Begin on June 7th

Visitor centers are scheduled to open on Monday, June 8th. Most campgrounds will be opening at that time as well. The only notable exception is Elkmont, which is scheduled to reopen on June 15th. For a complete, specific listing of openings check the park website.

May 19th, 2020 Update: Phase 2 of Park Opening to Begin This Weekend

Today, the park reopened Clingman’s Dome Road and this Saturday, the 23rd, they will begin Phase 2 of the reopening process. This will include all trails and many of the secondary roads. So now, anglers will have realistic access to places like Tremont, Big Creek, Greenbrier, etc. Some picnic facilities will open but campgrounds and visitor centers will remain closed. Those are projected to open no earlier than June 7th.

Probably the biggest thorn still remaining in the side of fishermen is the road to Elkmont. Until that road opens, which apparently won’t happen before June 7th, it will be very difficult to access the upper portions of Little River and Jakes Creek. But we have access to WAY more water than we did!

May 1st, 2020 Update: New Park Info and Recommendations for Guide Trips

I’ve received a little more clarification on what roads will and will not be open. Pretty much none of the secondary roads will open on May 9th which means there are a lot of spots, particularly trailheads for backcountry locations, we’re not going to be able to get to. It also means that few spots we can get to will likely be pretty crowded.

If you are currently booked for a trip in the mid to latter part of May or considering a booking for that time, I would still recommend a destination like Cherokee National Forest if it works for you. Of course, I can take you to the park after May 9th, but I think it will be first of June before things really get back to normal there. Please feel free to call or email to discuss.

April 30th, 2020 – 2nd Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park just announced that they will begin a phased reopening of the park beginning May 9th. Phase 1 will include the opening of major roads and restrooms but not campgrounds, visitor centers or secondary roads. They hope to begin opening those facilities, secondary roads, etc. approximately two week later.

At this time, I am still unclear which “secondary” roads will open during the initial phase and which will not. But it appears that we will be able to access at least most of the places we normally fish.

April 30th, 2020

While there has still been no official word from the park service on a reopening date for GSMNP, it seems highly unlikely that we will see a May 1st reopening. This is purely speculation on my part, but I think we’ll see some sort of limited, phased in type of opening when it does happen. Exactly what that would look like I don’t know and exactly when that will happen I don’t know – hopefully in the next couple of weeks. I will update this post as soon as I receive any official word.

April 27th, 2020

As of the week of 4/27/20, the state of Tennessee is phasing in business openings while still requiring social distancing practices. This means out of town customers wanting to come fish the area should be seeing more lodging availability in the coming days and weeks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where I conduct most of my guide operations is currently closed. The last official correspondence I received from the park said the park would be closed until 4/30/20. On the park’s website, it states only that the park is closed until further notice. Hopefully we will receive and update this week – I will post it here as soon as I know more.

In the meantime, I will be conducting guided trips to other destinations on a limited basis. If you’re interested in one of these trips, I recommend calling at 865-607-2886 or emailing me directly to discuss. Social distancing guidelines will be adhered to on all trips and are pretty easy to follow on the stream. But there will be a few changes to the logistical side of the trip that we will be following from now until further notice.

  • While we may still meet at a convenient location, clients will need to follow in their own vehicle to the stream or trailhead.
  • Clients are encouraged to bring their own rods and wading gear. If needed, you may still use mine at your own risk. I will be cleaning any loaner rods and wading gear before and after each use.
  • I am still happy to provide lunches for full day trips and assure you that the prep and packaging process will strictly follow all necessary guidelines. However, I realize this may make many uncomfortable and you are more than welcome to bring your own food without fear of offending me! Just please let me know with as much notice as possible.
  • I will be practicing social distancing guidelines on the stream and washing my hands throughout the day. I would ask all clients to please do the same.
  • You are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer along to regularly wash hands. I will try to provide it but it’s a little hard to come by right now!
  • Health and safety take precedence over service and profit right now. If I do not feel healthy and well, for your safety, I will cancel the trip. I expect all clients to to the same.

The bottom line is we still want to go fishing, right?! But we want to be safe and responsible in the process. If there is anything else I can do to accommodate or make your trip more comfortable, please let me know.

April Coronavirus Update

I tried to get Dr. Fauci to join me for this update but he is apparently tied up. So unfortunately, you’re stuck with me. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting weather, hatches and tourist migration patterns, but I’m afraid I’m still trying to learn as I go with pandemic predictions. I’ll mostly tell you what I know with a very little bit speculation thrown in.

The Big Picture:

  • Tennessee has joined many other states with shelter in place recommendations and mandatory closing of nonessential businesses. Restaurants, breweries, etc. are operating with only carryout and delivery options.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently closed to all visitors. They are scheduled to reopen to the public on April 6th but still keep facilities like visitor centers, campgrounds, restrooms etc. closed. We’ll have to wait and see, but I predict that on April 6th, they will decide to keep the park closed completely until the end of April. Again, this is pure speculation on my part.
  • National forests (like Cherokee National Forest) are still open to the public but facilities are closed.

What I’m Doing:

Like most of you, I’m taking this one day at a time but can’t help speculating. I think we’re going to see bans like we have now in place until at least the end of April and more likely until the end of May. All trends just seem to be pointing that way. Since most of my customers are not local, you’re probably not going to have a place to stay when you get here, if you can get here at all.

If you have a trip scheduled with me in April or May (especially April) chances are good it will need to be rescheduled. Again, purely speculation, but I think you’ll be safe rescheduling it for a date after June 1st. I am totally flexible and willing to wait and see before we reschedule anything, but am mentioning this now so you have more date options. I am removing vacation dates, etc. from the calendar and opening every date I possibly can between now and the end of the year to accommodate reschedules and new business.

The same offer certainly applies to local customers, but some of you may still want to go and I will take you. Hopefully the national park will reopen as a destination for us. Tailwaters like the Clinch may be a possibility soon if we can ever get a break from this rain. Streams in Cherokee National Forest will be our other option. It may just require a little longer drive to get to them. For any locals still wanting to go, I can assure you that I am feeling healthy and have been adhering strictly to social distancing guidelines. If that changes, I’ll tell you and we’ll reschedule the trip. I trust that you will do the same.

These are truly weird times and I appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility. Don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email with an questions or concerns. We’ll get through this mess eventually!