August has arrived and fishing opportunities abound in East Tennessee if you are looking to make most of your last days of Summer. The Clinch River below Norris Dam has been offering some very favorable schedules for both the wading and boating angler. You can pretty much count on split days of generation throughout the week, with wading available in the morning hours, followed by dam release.
Morning hours thick with fog offer a short window of easier fishing before the sun heats things up. By about 11am you can count on low and clear water accompanied by tricky fishing. When the fog layer burns off, it is best to be fishing long leaders with fine fluorocarbon tippet. Caddis are a top menu item at the moment, and we are seeing black and tan varieties in small sizes, most no bigger than a #16. Fish are eating bugs on the surface, as well as when they are emerging. Swinging hackles to fish eating just below the surface should serve you well, along with dry flies in the film. If you are not on the water during a hatch, this is a good time to get creative and experiment with some larger insect patterns. Late Summer in our area provides a rare opportunity to fish terrestrials on the Clinch. We have a large selection of these flies in stock, so if you are looking for some good options we are happy to show you a few. The sub-surface game has been one of trial and error per usual. Standard fare of midges in small sizes are good flies to cycle through until you can match color and size appropriately. Lately we have found success using Olive and Grey.
I personally have been favoring the WD40, which additionally is a great anchor fly to trail hackles behind. This allows you to dead drift and swing, maximizing your presentations on every cast. The low water puzzle requires more thought this time of year, and there are a few important things to keep in mind. Minimize your false casting as much as possible, you're not on the set of "A River Runs Through It." Wade with stealthy intention and fish long presentations down stream. Patience is the name of the game, and it may take you multiple fly patterns/presentation styles before you figure out the X-factor. Floating anglers have done well with streamers during low-light hours. Larger jig nymphs, and attractor patterns fished deep below indicators are best used out of the boat during generation.
If you are willing to make the drive, some of the tailwaters further East are worth focusing on right now as well. Sulphur activity on the South Holston has remained consistent recently, and if you are lucky you may find some larger fish taking spinners as darkness falls. That is the exact situation that I found myself in recently, which produced the brown pictured. I have heard numerous reports of high numbers days up there lately, and it is always nice to mix things up a bit and fish some new water. We have all the patterns you need, and if you have the dry fly itch, this is your best option at the moment.
The lower reaches of the Holston proper below Cherokee Dam have also produced very well over the past couple of weeks, and the fishing should remain consistent. Smallmouth have been out in force, feeding on top water patterns, as well as the usual baitfish imitations like Clouser minnows. Carp are active as well, and often times we find larger smallmouth mixed in with them, feeding on forage that carp churn up off the river bottom. Morning and evening hours will likely offer the best bite, but the heat of the day is a good time to get out and have a swim or sight fish carp on the flats. Fishing on the downstream side of riffles or shoal breaks will offer a mixed bag of fish willing to take flies. Large Drum, Bass, and Carp will all be stacked in these areas eating on the bottom. Slow presentations with Crayfish flies in these areas is a good way to catch a little bit of everything. We look for water that is well oxygenated, where current seams push all the forage into a concentrated area. The French Broad has been pushing a lot of water this week, but keep an eye on flows for a chance at another warm water option.
If you are wanting to spend some time up in the park we recommend heading for higher elevation streams. Water temps down low this time of year are a bit high and the fishing slows down. This plays in the angler’s favor though, as high elevation streams offer solace from the Summer heat. Our only native trout species, the Southern Appalachian Brook trout is a great target this time of year. These beautiful fish are almost always eager to eat a fly, and their coloration alone makes the hike up worth every step. If this type of fishing is new to you, come by the shop and we can show you some areas to focus on. Fly selection is very simple, with traditional patterns working best. Green weenies are are great choice this time of year, as the inchworms are bountiful in the overhanging foliage. We like yellow colored dry flies as well, including Yellow Sallies, Humpys, and Mr. Rapidans.
For those of you who prefer to chase the larger predator fish, striper are eating well below Melton Hill Dam. This is a dangerous environment so if you do take the boat up there, be mindful of generation schedules and other anglers on the water. Stripping streamers along the rip-rap banks with sinking lines is a great way to feel one of the best bends you can put in an 8 or 10wt. Make sure you have a reel with a good drag, and be ready to chase a fish down with the trolling motor if you have to. Again, morning and evening hours are your best windows.
Whatever you decide to chase this weekend, be safe and mindful of others on the water. If you have any questions or need some help, swing by the shop and we are happy to assist you. You can also give us a call at 865-200-5271.