For the past few days it’s been hard to believe it’s still February with temperatures climbing into the high 60s and even low 70s. Hopefully you were able to get out and take advantage of this warmth on the river like I was as it did not disappoint! Not only did this drastic rise in temperature get the fish eating, but there were also even some BWO (Blue Winged Olive) hatches coming off making for great opportunities to fish dry flies!
Smaller midges and nymphs have been the ticket of late, particularly baetis patterns in sizes 16-20. Fishing these below an emerger pattern like a soft hackle or sparkle pupa have been very effective, especially on those warmer winter days. However, be sure to bring plenty of splitshots as this time of year fish will be tight to the bottom in deeper pools and runs.
Delayed harvest waters also continue to produce fish, though they do tend to be a bit pickier as winter goes on. Zebra midges, small stone flies and caddis are good for enticing those pickier winter bites. Be sure to wear plenty of layers and the warmest socks you have as water temperatures are extremely low this time of year. Just don’t let that keep you from getting out there and finding your next great fish story!
Though not everyone is willing to brave the chilling fall weather to fish, those who are can often be rewarded for doing so. Yesterday, guide Joe Kostura and I decided to do so, and boy did it pay dividends. Upon pulling up to the boat ramp in the morning, we were already seeing dozens of fish feeding up top on midges left and right. This was encouraging as we could definitely feel the chill in the air. Between seeing all of this early activity and knowing that we are moving into spawning season, we knew it was going to be a good day.
Almost immediately, we hooked into the first fish of the day. Nothing to write home about, but a beautiful wild rainbow. After about a dozen rainbows between 6-10 inches, we finally got into the first big fish of the day, an 18 inch brooder that put up a great fight! A couple quick pics followed by a safe release and we were back in action. So far, the key had been egg patterns and midges. After landing several more rainbows and a few browns, finally a big, mean, old brown is on the line that we were eventually able to get in the bot. The day had officially been made! 20 inches of thick, juicy, Watauga River butta! This fish had some beautiful fall colors and was exactly what we were searching for. A few photos later, we got him back in the water to hopefully make another future anglers day!
All in all, the fall fishing is seriously heating up on the tailwaters with the fish getting ready to spawn, and hungrier than ever. We highly recommend giving us a call to book your trip to get out while the gettin’ is good!
With the cooler temperatures and the local waters freshly stocked, the local fishing has really heated up here in the Highcountry! Local delayed harvest waters can be very productive this time of year and will only continue to improve as they begin stocking them again in the beginning of November! Productive patterns in these waters this time of year tend to be nymphs and midges, as the cooler weather greatly reduces the number of hatches we see on the surface.
Zug bugs, prince nymphs and pheasant tails are all great go to nymphs, as well zebra midges in colors such as black, purple and olive. However, on warmer afternoons, do be on the lookout for the occasional midges or Blue Winged Olive coming off as this can really get those fish moving. (Also, don’t forget your squrimy worms!!)
Additionally, be sure to have split shots along with you since water levels will begin to rise as temperatures drop and we will see less and less ground water being absorbed from our streams. This means you may need a little extra weight to help get your flies down into the strike zone.
Finally, always be sure to wear warm enough clothing, especially when wading on colder days, and use caution when wading in deeper, faster currents to help avoid any dangerous situation.
As always, have fun out there, and tight lines!