Late Summer and early Fall can mean less than ideal conditions for trout and difficult fishing for trout fisherman. This is true for most trout fisheries but especially true for the Clinch River, which some locals lovingly refer to as “The Grinch”. Knoxville’s flagship tailwater generally hovers in the low 50’s come hell or high water. In wet years, like 2013 and now again this year, TVA has to move lots of water to keep Norris Lake within its operating guide. As a result, the oxygen levels take a dip, and the water temperature that is normally stinging cold most of the year is a comfortable wet wade at 61-63 degrees. Though plenty cool enough by the standards of most ethical anglers, the warm conditions our fish are encountering have them relatively stressed out.
Given our current situation, here are a few tips for making friends with The Grinch and leaving her fish as healthy as when you hooked them.
Rig heavy. Fish will literally fight themselves to death right now and I’ve seen it first hand. If you’re fishing the low water schedule leave the 7x at home. If you’re fishing a release of water, up size your fly and and reach for the 4 and 5x. Clinch river trout have plenty of spunk and if played too long in these conditions they will sometimes go belly up on a joy ride.
If you need to get a picture have a plan. I’ve seen it too many times – a fish is landed, the angler is on cloud 9 and breaks every rule of fish handling in the meantime. Know where your camera is, know your angles, have your camera adjusted to the right settings before lifting the fish out for a quick photo-op. It is essential this time of year that the fish is out of water for as little time as possible.
Keep your distance from other anglers. Especially on lower flows, the glassy nightmare that can be the The Grinch will turn on you in traffic. Take the far side of the river, speed up, or slow down. Even if means getting low holed, if you give the water time to rest the fish will feed again.
Fish Streamers on the big water. Aside from being my favorite way of fishing, streamers allow you to rig very heavy, meaning you’ll get that fish in the boat while he/she is still green and release it to swim another day
Get out there, keep fishing, keep making memories, and keep ’em wet! As always, if you find yourself interested in learning about our rivers, the sport of fly fishing, or just want to have a fun day on the river drop me line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-363-8180