High water a factor for local fishermen, wherever they go

George Thwaites • May 23, 2013 at 10:47 PM

The TVA system ultimately flows into the Mississippi River — which has got an awful lot of excess water in it.

Northeast Tennessee is pretty much the TVA’s first line of flood control. With the Holston, Clinch and Powell watersheds continually absorbing thunderstorm run-off, fishing in the region is going to be affected.

Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton said he encountered Cherokee at 1,072.5 feet— an elevation he can’t remember seeing since he was a teenager.

“Most people see the elevation on Cherokee at 1,068 and say ‘It’s full!’ Well, not quite,” said Colyer. “What’s officially considered full pool is 1,075. And we’ve been getting pretty closed to that.”

The TVA has been pushing water out of Cherokee as much as downstream conditions will allow. But as Colyer anticipated, the lake level is unlikely to drop any time soon. Elevations of 1,072+ are already projected for the weekend.

High water means a lot more loose trash floating around on Cherokee (and other area lakes) than is usual for Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of the summer boating season. All the driftwood has already cost numerous anglers in terms of broken transducers and prop damage.

In bass fishing terms, the high water has submerged a lot of green bankside vegetation. This is excellent cover for flipping. The leafy stuff provides more shade as well as a boost in local oxygen concentrations.

“You can throw flippin’ jigs if you want, but I like to throw Brush Hogs,” said Colyer. “The fish like those big baits on Cherokee.”

South Holston Reservoir is brimming with water but the lake remains the favored destination of area bass anglers.

“We’re over-full and coming up. The water is a little dingy for South Holston, but not real bad,” said John Slagle at Lake View Dock. “They’re moving off the banks. Pig-and-jig or even a drop-shot rig is working well right now.”

Trout fishermen continue to pick up nice rainbows and lakers on South Holston, both trolling spoons and Super Dupers during the daytime (depths of 15 to 25 feet) or fishing natural and dough baits under the lights at night.

Slagle’s son, Joe, is fishing in the Cabela’s National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship on Pickwick Lake. Slagle and Tennessee Tech fishing partner Cliff Dye moved into No. 2 spot after Day 1 weight of 22.78.

While the weather has created mixed results for hard-tackle anglers in the region, fly fishers don’t have much to be happy about.

Huck Huckaba at Eastern Fly Outfitters in Johnson City received a guide report from the South Holston tailwater on Thursday afternoon.

“Guys floated the upper section of the South Holston today and they said it was tough and nasty,” said Huckaba, who could observe the muddy Boone Lake backwaters from the shop.

He noted that trout were rising to sulphurs on the South Holston tailwater both before and during Wednesday’s storm. But he believes that big, dark streamers will be the most effective flies until the water clears up a little.

Needless to say, mountain stream fishing in most places has been tough. If you like to hike back into some of the first-order streams to find fishable small water, you still need to be careful. Some of those tight little holes can be death-traps if you get caught unawares by a flash flood.

Smallmouth fishing in the rivers isn’t much more promising. The Holston and Nolichuckey in Tennessee and the North Fork of the Holston, Clinch and Powell rivers in Virginia have all been pushing a lot of mud.

George Thwaites is a Sports and Outdoors Writer for the Kingsport Times-News. Email bragging photos of your trophy fish to: gthwaites@timesnews.net. Follow him on Twitter @KTNSptsThwaites.

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