Up until fairly recently, they were tickled with the smallmouth angling in the river. This week: not so much.
Rainy runoff has muddied the waters in rivers all over the Tri-Cities area. Fortunately, the reservoirs are still for the most part fishing well.
“This week, it’s just been too muddy to fish,” said Andrew Walsworth, who expects the action to improve if the river is allowed to clear up just a little.
“A lot of people have been catching fish on swimbaits and soft plastic worms. The soft plastic crawfish and anything crawdad-like was also working well,” said Walsworth, who reported that spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and jigs were catching bass on nearby Ft. Patrick Henry Lake.
Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton reports that the fishing in the Powell and Clinch rivers was going gangbusters on grubs and the regular Zoom Fluke before the latest gush of mud.
He thinks that even with the high coloration, the rivers are more fishable than many anglers realize. At any rate, he things they’ll clear out fairly quickly if the weather cooperates.
“Another thing they were catching nice smallmouth on was the three-inch Senko. Rig it wacky and just let it drift with the current,” said Colyer, who noted that green pumpkin and watermelon remain the go-to colors.
Do they think it’s a minnow? Do they think it’s a hellgrammite? Who knows? They just hammer it.
The TVA has dropped the water on Cherokee Lake a couple of feet, improving the bass fishing round the submerged bushes. In addition to flipping, anglers are also working the water in those areas with ChatterBaits.
Night fishing has been good with Texas-rigged Baby Brush Hogs on the main and secondary points. Swimbaits are good on down to 20 feet. Up top, Ribbit Frogs are out-fishing buzzbaits in many instances.
Rex Pendergrass at Watson’s Marine in Bluff City reports a nice early and late topwater bite on Boone Lake — Zara Spooks, Pop-R’s and the like. South Holston has had some early topwater as well as a bite on mid-range running crankbaits. The good old rootbeer pig and jig is also in play.
The big news off Watauga Lake has been the walleye fishing, which has been exceptional even with the high water levels.
“I’ve heard tremendous reports from walleye fishermen,” Pendergrass said. “Bandits came out with a long spoonbill walleye plug of its own. I’ve sold a ton of them this year.”
He’s also moving a lot of Lucky Craft jerkbaits, which are popular with fishermen who are cruising for big trout in the tailwater rivers. The 112 Slender is the model most used for bigger trout, he said.
Guys who prefer to fly fish for trout in South Holston, Watauga and Ft. Patrick Henry tailwaters are eager to see if they’ll clean up for the weekend.
“Who can tell after all this rain? They all might be blown out,” said Todd Boyer at Mahoney’s Sportsmans Paradise in Johnson City.
Boyer, a guide and innovative fly tyer (the now-ubiquitous Wiggle Minnow is his original design) hasn’t been able to even get on the raging Nolichucky lately, much less fish it. He’s seeing a lot of mud rolling out of the Doe River into the Watauga and even a lot of murk fairly low on the South Holston. But they may be area fly fishers best hope for weekend angling.
“The sulphur (mayflies) have been the thing on both the South Holston and Watauga. You might still find a few caddis coming off on the Watauga, but sulphurs are the main insect hatch,” Boyer said.
George Thwaites is a Sports and Outdoors writer for the Kingsport Times-News. Send your trophy fish photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org.