If you haven’t heard the rumors yet, there have been significant shad kills on much of our local lakes/tailwaters. The Holston got an especially heavy dose last week, but before you get too excited, it seems that the fish got there fill quickly, and then settled down. Andrew and I floated from Cherokee Dam to Tampico last Friday. Thousands of gulls swarmed beneath the dam and at various places down river. Dead and live Shad alike were ample throughout the water column. I fished streamers, I dead drifted shad patterns, I nymphed, I midged, I did everything I know how to do with a fly rod, and I caught nothing. Aside from not feeling a bent rod all day, we also did not even see the first sign of a trout, or a smallmouth, or anything that swims for that matter. Water temps are incredibly cold, both on the Holston and Clinch tailwaters. Temps in the low 40s have fish lethargic on the Holston. I would guess they gorged themselves early on the protein rich bounty and now are stuck to the bottom trying to digest in the bitter cold water. Fishing shad kill scenarios are very dependent on timing it right; I’ll likely head back up there sometime this week to see if fish have started feeding again. While cold water may have the Holston trout hunkered down, the fish on the Clinch River below Norris Dam don’t seem to mind.
The water temperature variation throughout the year on that tailwater is much narrower. The cold snap has fish feeding actively on midges and also willing to chase smaller streamers. Brett got out Sunday and waded much of the upper section, finding success through the rain on a variety of sub-surface midge patterns fished below a yarn indicator. Tan, olive, and black tungsten midges with biot style bodies have been working well. If midge fishing doesn’t have your interest, a small streamer pattern fished on low water or generation has been productive recently. A BH Wooly Bugger or a Triple Double streamer will likely pick up some quality trout, especially if you focus in deeper runs and heavy current lines. We like to swing these flies at the end of a drift as well, and many times the swing is where we get fish to strike. If you are streamer fishing from the boat, get the fly in the water as much as possible, and if you are not getting much attention with big streamers, remember to downsize. Brett also streamer fished from a boat with Christian yesterday, and they had plenty of action to stay entertained.
The GSMNP has been very cold over the last couple of weeks, with ice and snow covering the mountains and streams in numerous areas. Temperatures this week look like they could raise water temps back up to fishable but rain today and Sunday may keep flows pretty high. It is probably best to keep you attention focused here in the Valley. If you do head up to the park, I would focus on nymphing deep unless you see some bugs coming off. Tight-lining with indicator tippet is a great way to get flies deep and increase your mountain stream success rates. Whatever you decide to do this weekend, be safe and mindful of other anglers. As always, we are here to help you so stop by or give us a ring and let’s get you ready for your next outing on the water. We would love to have you swing by the shop or feel free to give us a call at 865-200-5271.