This is a general breakdown of what to expect seasonally in East Tennessee. Of course, as the old saying goes in this area, if you don’t like the weather just wait a day. We’ve had 70-degree days in February and snow in May, so there are always exceptions—a lot! But this will give you an idea of average conditions. Also note that these seasons are not broken up in the same way as a traditional calendar. Rather, these are divided as fishing seasons.
Spring (March 1— May 31)
This is one of the best times to fish the Smokies, particularly late spring. We generally have more water in the streams at this time and it’s when our best, most consistent hatches occur. From early March through mid April, it’s a little more hit and miss with weather patterns. Cold fronts and heavy rains can change things at a moments notice, but when it’s good, it’s really good! Weather patterns and fishing conditions are more stable from mid-April through the end of May. May is also a great month on the Clinch during the annual sulfur mayfly hatch and it’s when our warm water fisheries (carp and bass) begin to turn on.
Summer (June 1—September 15)
The first part of June is often very spring-like and can be great fishing. As we get more into the summer and temperatures begin to rise, low and mid-elevation mountain streams, particularly larger ones, begin to “slow down” as water temperatures warm. Better fishing will be found on smaller, more canopied streams and at higher elevations during much of the summer. Tourism also peaks at this time, making it advantageous to venture a little more off the beaten path.
The first part of the summer is usually pretty good wade fishing on the Clinch but mid summer often sees heavier water releases as power demands increase. This is one of the best times of year to fish the carp flats, with August and September being two of my favorite months.
Fall (September 16—November 30)
Conditions get mild again and fishing can be great in the mountains. It’s a dryer time so it’s a pretty safe time to schedule a trip and avoid rain but that also means water levels are lower and fish are a little spookier. We see a little more rain in November, but temperatures are still fairly mild, making for good fishing through the end of November most years. November is a great time to fish Delayed Harvest water! We get excellent fall color in East Tennessee, so this is one of those times when it’s great to be on a mountain stream regardless of how good the fishing is!
For the gamblers, this is one of the best times to fish for stripers. It’s a gamble because they’re migrating and their patterns are pretty erratic. There are some days when we just can’t seem to find them, but when we do… Well, how often do you get a chance for a 20lb freshwater fish on a fly?!?
Winter (December 1—February 28)
This is the toughest time for fishing in the mountains. December can sometimes stay mild, allowing for some decent fishing in the afternoon, but you won’t find much happening in January and February. The Delayed Harvest streams will be the best bet at this time, December is usually a great month for that. The Clinch will fish well in the winter too, as long as we can find decent water releases. In general, winter is a better time for local folks with a more flexible schedule to book. There are some days, particularly in January and February, where major weather systems or simply dangerous road conditions may not permit us to go.