Smokies Fishing Report 9/28/21

Fly Fishing a Smoky Mountain Trout Stream

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 146cfs / 1.79 feet
Pigeon: 231cfs / 1.61 feet
Oconaluftee: 253cfs / 1.41 feet
Cataloochee: 41cfs / 2.26

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 59 – 63 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 61 degrees
High elevations: 53 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

On paper, our conditions are about as perfect as it gets. Water temperatures are great across the board, fall hatches are starting to kick in and water levels, while getting a little low, are great for this time of year.

Projected Conditions

Things are continuing to look good in the coming week with the possibility of a little rain early next week. That rain should just make it better. Brook trout likely begin spawning in the next week or two. Keep your eyes open and if you see fish paired up over a cobbly bottom, leave them alone. We want them to make more! Also keep your eyes open for redds in those kind of pools and avoid stepping on them.

Tips

Pretty much all options are on the table. It’s a good time to start fishing those low elevations again. Water is cooling down and fish are active. Larger browns should be getting more and more active as their late spawn approaches. Stripping streamers through brown trout water probably won’t yield many strikes but may produce that one bruiser! Fishing is pretty good all day but will likely be at its best through mid day, particularly on mid and high elevation streams.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

While water is high, I’d focus mostly on nymphs. I’d fish a pair and try to diversify them. Have one bright and one drab or one big and the other small. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In addition to the standard nymphs mentioned below, I like worm patterns and big, rubber-legged stoneflies in higher water.

For pocket water fishing, it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. Tan and orange dry flies are also starting to work well as fall sets in. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well.

A yellow, orange or tan Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a yellow or orange Stimulator. I’d also carry some tan Elk Hair Caddis in #16-14. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Tellico Nymphs and a favorite this time of year… George Nymphs.

Summer is winding down but terrestrials will still be an important food source for the next few weeks or so. Fish will continue feeding on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

The Doculator is the creation of New Mexico fly guide, Doc Thompson. It floats well and fish dig it. We’ve featured it before in yellow. Try it this fall in orange. It’s as if Doc had the Smokies in mind when he came up with this one!

Doculator

The Bear Necessities

How to Deal with Bears in the Backcountry

“Do you ever see any bears when you fish?” It’s one of the most common questions I get. Probably the only question I get more often is, “Is that your real last name?” “Yes” to both. If you spend enough time in the Smokies, especially in the backcountry, you’re going to eventually run into a bear. In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is thought to have the densest population of black bears east of the Mississippi.

Likelihood of Seeing a Bear

Other than pure chance, the number of bears you’re likely to see depends on how much time you spend in the mountains and how abundant food is. When bears have plenty to eat, they don’t roam around as much. However, when food is in short supply, such as following a drought, bears need to do more looking and that tends to take them closer to trails and roads. I typically spend about 200 days a year in the mountains and I see anywhere from 3 to 40 bears in a year.

On a recent backcountry guide trip, we saw 4 bears in one day! Seeing a bear when you’re fishing or hiking is usually a good thing. They’re pretty and they’re really cool to watch. The key to enjoying bears is knowing how to behave around them.

Concern for Bears

Many people tend to be far too afraid of bears, allowing that anxiety to disrupt what should be a peaceful day in the mountains. Or worse, their fear incites panic when they encounter a bear and they make poor choices. However, on the other end of the spectrum, you have people who do not give black bears the respect they deserve. I routinely see tourists getting far too close to bears when trying to photograph them. And I’ve had more than a few “macho” guide clients chuckle when they learn that I carry bear spray in the backcountry – “They’re just black bears.”

It’s true that black bears don’t get as big as brown bears and grizzlies, but they can still get as big as 600 pounds. It’s also true that black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans. On the list of top causes of injuries in the Smokies every year, bear attacks don’t even rank, which means that, on average, there are less than four a year. As a matter of fact, in the entire history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there have only been two bear attacks that resulted in human death. One of those was just last year on Hazel Creek.

So, I don’t carry bear spray out of an abundance of fear but more as a precaution in case I run into one of those few bears who don’t know the rules. For one thing, I’m in the backcountry far more than, well, the average bear, so I have far more opportunities for an encounter. Additionally, I am responsible for the safety of paying clients and I don’t take that lightly.

In any case, whether or not you decide to carry bear spray is up to you. But I have learned over the years from talking to guide clients and passing hikers and fishermen that most people don’t have any idea what to do when they encounter a bear. Hopefully this article will help a little.  

Black Bear Facts and Statistics

As I typed that header, I couldn’t help thinking about Dwight Schrute. Fans of The Office will understand. Before we get into managing a bear encounter, let’s get a little information on black bears, at least when it comes to the Smoky Mountains.

  • There are an estimated 1500 – 2000 bears in the Smoky Mountains. This works out to roughly four bears per square mile and is thought to be the densest population of black bears east of the Mississippi River.
  • Black bears are omnivores and they are scavengers. They feed mostly on plants, nuts and berries. Black bears also feed regularly on insects (grubs, larvae, etc.) and crustaceans (like crayfish), and they eat meat but rarely kill for it. In other words, they are unlikely to kill a deer for meat but will feed on a deer carcass if they come across it, much like a buzzard.
  • Some black bears turn to scavenging in towns for food, raiding dumpsters and trash cans. This behavior should never be encouraged as it increasing endangers the bear and the humans around the town.
  • While they may appear to be slow and clumsy, black bears are quite agile and can reach speeds of 35mph. They are also exceptionally good climbers.
  • Black bears in the Smokies are usually most active during the early morning and late evening and they typically mate sometime in July.
  • Black bears do not truly hibernate in the Smokies but in winter, do enter long periods of sleep. They may leave the den for short periods if disturbed or during brief warming spells.
  • Their cubs are born during this period of deep sleep, usually in late January or early February.
  • Females with newborn cubs usually emerge from the den in late March or early April. The cubs, which are usually born in pairs, will typically stay with the mother about a year and a half.

Video of Bear Scavenging on Stream Bank

Preparation for Travel in Bear Country

Preparing for travel in bear country mostly means packing to prevent a bad encounter but also to deal with a bad encounter should one arise. Of course, by bad encounter we’re talking about the rare occurrence when a bear behaves aggressively toward you. Any bear will behave aggressively if it feels that it or its cubs are being threatened, and understandably so. If you were at the supermarket and a stranger approached your kid in an unusual manner, you’d do the same! “Problem bears” may behave aggressively if they view you as a source of food. This behavior is rare but may occur from a bear that has been fed by people at some point or that is simply a victim of starvation.

Airtight Food Containers

You can significantly reduce the chances of an encounter with the latter by packing your food properly. Always have any food (including trash after you eat) you’re carrying sealed in an airtight container. Ziplock bags, for example, will do the trick or better yet, cut down on those single use plastics and carry your food in a reusable container. If you’ve ever been on a full day guided trip with me, you may recall your lunch was packed in a sealed container.

Another suggestion many experts make to prevent a surprise encounter is to put bells on your pack when you’re hiking. The idea is that you won’t accidentally startle a bear that might be upwind of you because it will hear you coming. This approach absolutely has merit but it is not one that I personally choose to take. When I visit the backcountry, I enjoy taking in ALL of nature, including the sounds. I want to hear the wind in the trees, the sound of the stream, chirping birds, etc. and not the sound of bells. Furthermore, I don’t want to scare off wildlife.

To prepare for a bad encounter, carry bear spray and a whistle. The whistle can be used to scare off an aggressive bear and also as a signaling device if you get into any other kind of trouble. Keep the bear spray in a place where it is immediately accessible. You likely won’t need it but if you do, you’re not going to have time to rummage through your pack.

Dealing with an Encounter

When you encounter a bear, stop what you’re doing and observe. Many people have heard that you should look big and make a lot of noise when you see a black bear. There is a time and place for that but it’s not every time you see a bear. If it’s far away and minding its business, you don’t want to start harassing it by yelling and waving your arms!

Bear Minding His Own Business

You want to watch and see what it’s doing. Look around to make sure there are no cubs and if there are, that you don’t put yourself between the adult and cubs. More often than not, your course of action will be to do nothing. As long as you’re at a respectable distance, the bear will likely ignore you and go about his business. Bears are cool and fun to watch. Enjoy the show and after it moves on, go back to what you were doing.

Just always be sure to give the bear plenty of space and make sure it has a clear path. You don’t want it to feel cornered. If you encounter one a little too closely, keep watching it and slowly back away. As long as its behavior doesn’t change, it doesn’t feel threatened and you don’t need to worry.

I frequently see bears walking stream banks and turning over rocks for food. If you see this when you’re fishing and the bear is heading your direction, quit what you’re doing, get out of the stream and go to the opposite bank of the bear. Typically, it will totally ignore you and go right by you. In any situation, try not to turn your back on the bear and never run. Running can often trigger a predatory response in a bear that was otherwise minding his own business.

When Bear Encounters Go Bad

If a bear changes its behavior around you, it’s time to get serious. While it may be difficult, try to remain calm and pay attention to what the bear is doing. If it is doing things like swatting the ground or making a quick step and stop (bluff charging) toward you, it is demanding space. If you have bear spray, now is the time to get it out as you slowly back away from the bear. Keep backing away until the bear quits this behavior. As mentioned above, do not run. Black bears can run 35mph! And don’t try to throw food at it. You don’t want the bear to view you as a food source.

If a black bear continues toward you, even after you attempt to give it space, it’s time to stand your ground. Now is the time to look bigger by stretching your arms out. If you’re with someone else, stand together with your arms out. Act big and make a lot of noise. You’re trying to scare the bear at this point. Blow your whistle, bang rocks together, etc.

If, after all of this, the bear is still approaching in an aggressive manner, it’s time to fight. You don’t want to play dead as is often suggested with other types of bears. Blast it with your bear spray. If you don’t have bear spray, use whatever is nearby. For example, in a stream, you are surrounded by rocks that you can throw at it. Or use a stick. Use whatever you can. Just fight.

About Bear Spray

Bear spray is essentially high intensity pepper spray that is compressed in a container resembling a small fire extinguisher. It usually comes with a holster that you can easily attach to your belt or pack. Unlike personal defense pepper spray you might carry on a keychain to spray into the face of an attacking human at close range, bear spray containers fire a cloud of chemical about 30 feet.

While I have test fired bear spray, I’ve fortunately never had to use it for actual defense. If you do have to use it against a bear, it’s recommended that you give a few short blasts rather than emptying the container. If the bear continues approaching after those few short blasts, unload it. Needless to say, after you have stopped the bear, get the hell out of there, go home and pour yourself a stiff drink!

Smoky Mountain Fishing Report 9/2/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 1410cfs / 3.90 feet
Pigeon: 2300cfs / 3.87 feet
Oconaluftee: 1280cfs / 2.86 feet
Cataloochee: 113cfs / 2.65

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 61 – 64 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 62 degrees
High elevations: 53 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

Ida came through mid week and dumped a ton of rain so streams are too high to fish right now. However, all that rain coupled with mild temperatures has dropped water temperatures a bunch.

Water is high everywhere but the North Carolina side of the park is in a little better shape. It will just take a couple of days to drop to workable levels. Across the board, expect fishing conditions to improve greatly by the latter part of the weekend.

Projected Conditions

Once water drops, we should be looking at a great week ahead! As mentioned above, water temperatures have dropped significantly which should have lower elevation streams turning on. Temperatures are expected to remain mild through the week. I’m sure we’ll have at least a couple more bouts with hot weather in the coming weeks but for now, enjoy this little fall teaser!

Tips

Over the next day or two, I’d stay off the streams unless you really know your way around Smokies streams. High water is dangerous and there will be a very limited amount of fishable water. As water continues to drop, use caution and focus flatter, “pooly” parts of the stream.

It will be mostly nymphing in the coming days… fish them heavy and deep. Check out Fishing High Water for a few tips. By Sunday or Monday we should begin seeing topwater activity pick up again.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

While water is high, I’d focus mostly on nymphs. I’d fish a pair and try to diversify them. Have one bright and one drab or one big and the other small. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In addition to the standard nymphs mentioned below, I like worm patterns and big, rubber-legged stoneflies in higher water.

Once the water drops back to normal, you’ll still do a lot of pocket water fishing in the coming weeks. For that, it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. However, we will soon be transitioning into tans and oranges. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well.

But as mentioned, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow, and soon orange and tan to best match hatching insects. A yellow, orange or tan Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a yellow or orange Stimulator. I’d also carry some tan Elk Hair Caddis in #16-14. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Tellico Nymphs and a favorite this time of year… George Nymphs.

Summer is winding down but terrestrials will still be an important food source for the next 6 weeks or so. Fish will continue feeding on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

Isonychia nymphs are very active this time of year. While there are a number of specific Isonychia patterns, the George Nymph has always been one of my best imitations. So, while it’s a great generic nymph all year, I think the George Nymph is at its best in August and September!

George Nymph

Smokies Fishing Report 8/2/21

Smoky Mountain Stream

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 103cfs / 1.61 feet
Pigeon: 169cfs / 1.55 feet
Oconaluftee: 208cfs / 1.29 feet
Cataloochee: 36.2cfs / 2.22

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 64 – 68 degrees
Mid elevations: 61 – 65 degrees
High elevations: 59 – 63 degrees

Current Conditions

Conditions are very August-like. Water is a little low (though we got a little help from some rain yesterday) and temperatures are warm in the lower elevations, reasonable in mid elevations and good in the high country.

Projected Conditions

Temperatures are relatively mild (for August) through the weekend with spotty chances for rain. Enjoy it while you can… looks like we get hot again next week.

Tips

I would completely stay away from the lower elevation streams – this includes really anything under 2000′. Water temps are warm and fish will not be very active. And if you do catch one you’ll be stressing it to the point where it likely won’t survive. Mid elevations should be good in the morning and early afternoon. High elevations should fish well all day but will likely have the least amount of water, so expect very spooky fish.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

Most of your fishing is in pocket water this time of year and it’s tough to beat a dry fly/dropper rig. For a dry fly, I like anything that floats well and that I can see, probably in the size #16-12 range. I prefer something yellow and probably foam. But most any attractor will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills. For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs.

During the heat of summer when hatches are sparse, attention always turns to terrestrials and there are a number of ways to incorporate them on either end of your dry/dropper rig. Fish are feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

This is not the first appearance of the Green Weenie as a featured fly but it’s a terrific fly this time of year. Definitely one of my favorite summer “nymphs” to fish as a dropper.

green weenie
Green Weenie

Smokies Fishing Report 7/4/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 196cfs / 1.97 feet
Pigeon: 257cfs / 1.77 feet
Oconaluftee: 299cfs / 1.52 feet
Cataloochee: 53.1cfs / 2.34

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 63 – 67 degrees
Mid elevations: 61 – 65 degrees
High elevations: 59 – 63 degrees

Current Conditions

Last week’s rain plus the cold front that followed has streams in pretty good shape for July… especially on the TN side. The NC side of the park is a little warmer with lower water levels.

Projected Conditions

Going to get hot again this week with a brief break mid week. Rain possibilities again later in the week. Should be an okay week, especially if we can get that rain!

Tips

If you’re wanting to hit some of the bigger, low elevation streams, get out there early or late in the day. Early will give you the best water temps. Late will give you the best hatches. Mid day will give you lethargic fish! Mid to high elevation streams may slow down a bit in late afternoon but should fish pretty well all day.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We’re still in “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16). They’ll be most active in the evenings. Keep your eyes open and you may even see a few large golden stones hatching here and there.

During the heat of summer when hatches are sparse, attention turns to terrestrials. Fish are feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly. Check out my article Hidden Terrestrials for a different approach to your terrestrial fishing,

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

A soft hackle ant is a great fly to drop of the back of your favorite dry fly in pocket water. Ants are not strong swimmers and presenting an ant pattern just below the surface can be deadly!

Soft Hackle Ant

Smokies Fishing Report 6/13/21

Smoky Mountain Brook Trout

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 199cfs / 1.98 feet
Pigeon: 549cfs / 2.27 feet
Oconaluftee: 506cfs / 1.86 feet
Cataloochee: 64.6cfs / 2.41

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 62 – 66 degrees
Mid elevations: 60 – 64 degrees
High elevations: 58 – 62 degrees

Current Conditions

Water temperatures are getting a little on the warm side in lower elevations but thanks to last week’s rain, water levels are close to perfect.

Projected Conditions

The coming week will start hot but we’re look at some very refreshing overnight lows in the 50’s toward mid week. The second half of the week going into the weekend should be fantastic.

Tips

If you’re wanting to hit some of the bigger, low elevation streams, get out there early or late in the day. Early will give you the best water temps. Late will give you the best hatches. Mid day will give you lethargic fish! Mid to high elevation streams may slow down a bit in late afternoon but should fish pretty well all day.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We’re still in “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16). They’ll be most active in the evenings. Keep your eyes open and you may even see a few large golden stones hatching here and there.

We’re about to head into the heat of summer when hatches are sparse and attention turns to terrestrials. As things continue to warm, fish will begin feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

Featured Fly

A foam beetle can be a killer during the summer and the strikes can be violent. This is just a generic pattern with a thread body, black foam and rubber legs. I usually fish it in a size #14.

Foam Beetle

Smokies Fishing Report 5/31/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 164cfs / 1.89 feet
Pigeon: 359cfs / 1.90 feet
Oconaluftee: 361cfs / 1.60 feet
Cataloochee: 66cfs / 2.44

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 60 – 63 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 62 degrees
High elevations: 56 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

We had another good week of fishing. Water had been getting a bit low for this time of year but we got a little help on Friday. It receded quickly and we could use a little more… particularly on the North Carolina side. Water temperatures are great and fish are active on most streams.

Projected Conditions

A little milder week ahead and we do have a little rain in the forecast toward the second half of the week. Expect conditions to remain pretty constant if not slightly improve in the coming days.

Tips

With days getting warmer, expect better fishing early and late in the day, especially at lower elevations. High elevations should fish pretty well all day. A stealthy approach is always a good idea in the Smokies but will become even more important as water levels continue to drop.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We are firmly into “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16) over the next month.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

We’re also on the front end of terrestrial season. As things warm, fish will begin feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are becoming more abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly.

Featured Fly

The Doculator is the creation of New Mexico fly guide, Doc Thompson. It floats well, it’s yellow and fish dig it. It’s as if Doc had the Smokies in mind when he came up with this one!

Doculator Dry Fly
Doculator

Smokies Fishing Report 5/23/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 154cfs / 1.85 feet
Pigeon: 276cfs / 1.74 feet
Oconaluftee: 408cfs / 1.69 feet
Cataloochee: 81cfs / 2.52

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 60 – 64 degrees
Mid elevations: 58 – 62 degrees
High elevations: 56 – 58 degrees

Current Conditions

The past week has been a good one. Evening hatches have been hit and miss but daytime fishing is getting pretty steady. As is known to happen in East Tennessee, we’ve gone from one extreme to another with weather. It’s been getting hot and we could actually use a little bit of rain.

Projected Conditions

Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue through next weekend. Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Crowds should really start to increase.

Tips

With days getting warmer, expect better fishing early and late in the day, especially at lower elevations. High elevations should fish pretty well all day. A stealthy approach is always a good idea in the Smokies but will become even more important as water levels continue to drop.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We are firmly into “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16) over the next month.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

We’re also on the front end of terrestrial season. As things warm, fish will begin feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are becoming more abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly.

Featured Fly

Yellow Stimulator

Smokies Fishing Report 5/16/21

Eastern Green Drake
Green Drake

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 264cfs / 2.20 feet
Pigeon: 472cfs / 2.08 feet
Oconaluftee: 531cfs / 1.90 feet
Cataloochee: 113cfs / 2.67

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 52 – 56 degrees
Mid elevations: 50 – 54 degrees
High elevations: 50 – 52 degrees

Current Conditions

We’re coming off a pretty weird week… at least for mid May. Another big rain system brought water levels up early in the week. The accompanying cold front played all kinds of havoc with feeding patterns and hatches. It was pretty weird to be fishing in mid May in full waders and a fleece jacket! Things began to stabilize by the end of the week and it looks like that trend will remain heading into the coming week.

My personal highlight of the week was running into a pretty nice hatch of Green Drakes. These are big mayflies that are always rumored to hatch in certain locations in the Smokies but few people ever see more than one or two. This is only the third time I’ve seen them come off in good numbers and they definitely got the attention of the fish. Of course, they barely hatched at all in following days.

Projected Conditions

It should be warm and mostly dry this week. As a matter of fact, it looks like it will be down right hot next weekend. I’m expecting the activity to finally start showing some consistency this week. Fishing should be really good most anywhere but as it really starts warming up next weekend, expect low elevation fishing to slow down a little in the afternoons.

Tips

With things warming and water levels normalizing, fish should begin spreading out more and you’ll likely see activity picking up in the pockets. This is great dry/dropper water. Choose a buoyant dry fly, preferably yellow, and drop your favorite nymph about 15″ off the back. Most days your strikes will be split about 50/50 between the dry and nymph. You can read more about rigging here and you can find more specific fly recommendations below.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We are firmly into “yellow season,” when most everything hatching is yellow in color. Look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16) over the next month.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

We’re also on the front end of terrestrial season. As things warm, fish will begin feeding a lot on ants and beetles. Inchworms are becoming more abundant as well and a Green Weenie can be a killer this time of year. It’s a great fly to drop off a dry fly.

As a matter of fact, lets just make the Green Weenie our featured fly this week. If you’ve spent much time fishing the Smokies, you’ve likely heard of this pattern and probably fished it. Don’t be fooled by its simple appearance… fish dig it!

Featured Fly

Green Weenie
Green Weenie

Smokies Fishing Report 5/9/21

Location

Smoky Mountains

Water Levels

Little River: 287cfs / 2.26 feet
Pigeon: 499cfs / 2.12 feet
Oconaluftee: 538cfs / 1.91 feet
Cataloochee: 75.591.3cfs / 2.57

Water Temperatures (approximate)

Low elevations: 54 – 58 degrees
Mid elevations: 52 – 56 degrees
High elevations: 50 – 54 degrees

Current Conditions

It continues to be a really strange spring. It seems that just as fishing really starts to turn on, we get another major rain system or cold front to set things back. And when I say “set things back,” fishing is still decent, it just hasn’t quite gotten to consistently great yet.

Speaking of rain systems, it’s coming down pretty good as I write this and is supposed to rain into Monday morning. Different models are showing different things, but looks like we may see about an inch and a half of rain tonight, which will likely blow out these mountain streams that are still full from last week’s big rain. You better check the latest gauge readings if you’re heading out in the next couple of days because the ones above will probably look way different in the morning. Reading Stream Gauges.

Projected Conditions

As mentioned above, it’s been a weird spring. Here it is nearly the middle of May and we’re not supposed to get out of the 60’s for highs this week. Overnight lows are staying in the 40’s. And it looks like a decent chance of rain most every day until next weekend.

Tips

If the rain doesn’t screw up the streams, fishing should be okay this week. With these cooler overnights, expect better fishing in the afternoons. Topwater activity has been very good recently. For me, it’s been on tan caddis and Thunderheads, but I’d say any common attractor should do well. If water comes up this week, plan on doing more nymphing. In addition to what’s mentioned below, rubber-legged stonefly nymphs, Wooly Buggers and San Juan Worms are always good in higher water.

Hatches/Fly Suggestions

We’re starting to transition to “yellow season,” meaning much of what you’ll see hatching will be yellow. Blue Quills (#18) and Light Hendricksons (#14) will likely still be seen here and there. You’ll probably see a fair number of Red Quills (#14-12) and March Browns (#14-10) as well.

But look for bigger numbers of sulphurs (#16), Light Cahills (#14-12) and Yellow Sallies (#16) over the next 4 or 5 weeks. Caddis are also abundant this time of year depending where you are. A tan body in a #14 will do the trick.

As always, a good selection of attractors will get you through most situations. Parachute Adams, Parachute Hares Ears, Thunderheads, Adams Wulffs and Royal Wulffs always do pretty well. But as mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to have some dry flies in yellow. A Neversink in #16 – 14 is a staple for me. So is a Yellow Stimulator. I’d also have a selection of Parachute Sulphurs and Cahills.

For nymphs, try Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and Tellico Nymphs. And with so much stuff hatching, now is a pretty good time to start experimenting with soft hackles. Check out my Hatch Guide for complete hatch information.

The featured fly this month is a Sulphur Comparadun. Sulphurs are one of the more reliable hatches in the Smokies. They’ve already started and should be around until at least the end of May. Most any sulphur pattern will fit the bill but if you run across any stubborn, slow water trout, the Sulphur Comparadun is an excellent choice!

Featured Fly

The Smoky Mountain Candy is a fly pattern originated by my good friend, Walter Babb. It is essentially a Thunderhead with a yellow body. Yellow is a great color this time of year. This fly floats well, is easy to see and catches fish… what more could you ask for?!? Order some from Little River Outfitters.

Smoky Mountain Candy
Smoky Mountain Candy