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Cold weather fishing presents challenges

George Thwaites • Jan 26, 2007 at 12:06 PM

If we lived in Minnesota instead of Tennessee, the weather would be a lot colder. Somewhat ironically, we'd probably have more opportunities to be comfortable while winter fishing.

The reason? A lot of Minnesotans have heated ice fishing huts with all the amenities. I've never experienced it, but I have seen it on television. Those folks up there know how to make the best of a bad winter.

Our lakes never freeze over. If you want to go fishing in January around here, you pretty much have to bundle up and face the elements without shelter. While we haven't been dealing with anything terribly harsh, the 40s and 30s can be plenty fatiguing.

Obviously, if you get dunked at this time of the year it can be downright life-threatening. Hypothermia is no laughing matter. Anglers who have the right gear and know all the layering tricks can expect to fish in relative comfort and safety. Whether it's worth it kind of depends on where you're headed.

Terry Miller at M&M Sporting Goods and Polaris on Stone Drive in Kingsport reports that Cherokee Lake is a worthwhile destination for winter bass action. Duck feather flies have been very productive, both tight-lined and twitched 10-feet below a float.

"The water is excellent ... right at 44 degrees," Miller said. "The best fishing has been up in the river."

Kenny Harville at Kenny's Bait & Tackle on Highway 75 near Boone Dam reports that it took 15-18 pounds to finish in the money in Sunday's bass rodeo on Boone Lake. The duckfeather fly dangled 8 feet below the float has been the ticket there.

Mark Cross at Lake View Dock in Bristol reports that some South Holston anglers have been fishing the duckfeather fly 12 feet and deeper off the points. Overall, fishing has been slow.

Duckfeather flies, blade baits and jigging spoons are pretty much go-to lures for bass anglers on Watauga Lake, as well as on Norris and Douglas. A few saugeye and walleye seem to be moving on Cherokee.

The fly fishermen of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia keep proving that they're some of our region's most rugged individualists. They aren't afraid of any stinking cold weather!

Johnny Wood at WCYB-TV5 in Bristol has been braving the chill to fish the South Holston trout tailwater with the tiniest of flies.

"TVA generates the Watauga and South Holston until late morning and then the wade fishermen suit up," Wood said.

"The trout seem to be feeding well on the ‘Almost Invisible South Holston BlackFly.' Tyers replicate the critter by taking a Size 30 or smaller hook, wrap it with some black thread and tie on a tiny bit of wing in either gray or off-white."

Eddie Wyatt at Fly Shop of Tennessee in Johnson City reminded anglers that cold weather tends to bring out the best in the Ft. Patrick Henry tailwater. Of course, tiny midge and caddis pupae patterns are still the main offering. Keep an especially close watch on generating below this dam. It can turn on in a hurry.

Brad Barnes at Mahoney's Sportsman's Paradise in Johnson City has been going out every day this week. He's run into a few Blue-Winged Olive hatches on the most miserable days. But he pretty confidently reports that the fishing is slow.

"We've had a late afternoon midge hatch, but the fishing is slow," Barnes said. "If you catch the Doe (River) on a warm day, it's fishing pretty good and so is Stoney Creek. But mostly, mountain streams have been slow."

The Tao is rolling in a slightly different direction on Whitetop Laurel in Virginia, where no fewer than four anglers told Bruce Wankel at the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop in Abingdon about fishing in Thursday's snowfall on Whitetop.

George Thwaites is a sports and outdoors writer for the Times-News. E-mail him at gthwaites@timesnews.net. For more information on fishing in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina, be sure to catch Johnny Wood's Fishing Report on WCYB-TV5 Thursday mornings at 5:45 a.m., 6:15 a.m. and 6:45 a.m.

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