Category Archives: Tailwaters

Tennessee tailwater fly fishing information, reports, tips and tactics.

Sage On The Water Tour 2017

Sage will be visiting Fly South on April 13th for their On the Water Tour. 2017  Check it out!

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. (March 29, 2017) –Sage hits the road once again to bring it’s On The Water Tour to a new part of the U.S. After a successful tour out West in 2016, famed fly rod and reel manufacturer, brings this fun and informative format to the Southeast.

“We had so many popular stops on our 2016 tour that we decided to replicate that in a new area of the country,” said David Lantz, Sage brand manager. “The Southeast has spectacular rivers and beaches with very passionate fly fishermen, so we couldn’t be more excited to visit them on this year’s tour.”

Starting on beautiful rivers around the Appalachia area and finishing on the flats in Florida, this tour offers anglers an opportunity to bring fellow anglers together to share knowledge and good times. The van is loaded with mountains of rods and reels to try out, and attendees can learn from casting lessons and presentations all while enjoying good food and drink. Anglers can try out new gear, pick up a tip or two or simply share good stories. All are welcome.

In addition, Sage will be stopping at Fly South (115 19th Avenue South, Nashville) on April 13th for Happy Hour.

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New Clinch River Description by Rocky Top Anglers

Rocky Cox or Rocky Top Anglers is one of the best guides on the Clinch.  He shared some knowledge with us recently.  Enjoy.

  • Species: Rainbow, Brown Trout
  • Angler Type: Wade or Boat
  • Access Type: Public or Private

 Guides

Fly Shops

  • Orvis Sevierville
  • Little River Outfitters
  • Three Rivers Angler
  • Smoky Mountain Angler

Lodges/Rentals/Hotels/Campgrounds

Good Eats

  • Harrison’s Steak House
  • Golden Girls Restaurant
  • Waffle House
  • Git’n Go market

Description

The Clinch River originates in southwestern Virginia. It flows southwesterly into Tennessee where it gains water from the Powell River as well as several smaller tributaries. The river meanders over 300 miles from its source, through the rolling hillsides of east Tennessee until it reaches Kingston TN and it’s confluence with the Tennessee River.

The Clinch River was once one of the most lucrative mussel producing rivers in the country. The pearl industry was well established in the Clinch River and its tributaries as well. These industries died out early in the 20th century due to environmental issues associated with coal mining and the damming of the Tennessee River system.

Norris Dam was completed in 1936 and was the first dam completed in the Tennessee River system by the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The dam created Norris Lake, a large, deep lake that collects run off from almost 3000sq miles. Coldwater discharge from the dam changed the environment downstream of the dam. The new tailwater became a perfect place to stock coldwater species, such as rainbow trout. Over the years, many other improvements have been implemented for the improved habitat and health of the river. These improvements include a weir dam (located appx 2 miles downstream of Norris Dam), oxygen injection units in the lake and mandated minimum flows.

These days, The Clinch River is most well known for the trophy trout fishery below Norris Dam. Each year many anglers visit to chase after rainbow, brown and sometimes brook trout. The river is home to the Tennessee record Brown Trout, weighing in over 28lbs. The tailwater is stocked with rainbow and brown trout, with some added natural reproduction. The river produces many trophy fish each year and the average fish is 12” to 14” inches. Progressive regulations on the Clinch tailwater call for the safe release of all trout between 14 and 20 inches, and only one trout per day over 20 inches.

The tailwater flows about 14 miles from the dam to the town of Clinton Tennessee and into the backwaters of Melton Hill Lake. Water levels in the river are dictated by activity at Norris Dam. Norris has the ability to push close to 10,000 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) when both turbines are in operation. Long periods of zero generation will make many parts of the river wadable while any sustained flows from the powerhouse will likely raise the river to unsafe levels for wading. Boaters will need some water flowing from the powerhouse for safe navigation and should be alert while under power for submerged rocks and trees.

Click Here for TVA Generation Schedule

Safety

  • Always be aware of the water conditions and changing levels.
  • Know the predicted flow from TVA via phone or internet app.
  • These schedules are 99% but could and sometimes do change without notice.
  • Boaters should wear a typeIII USCG floatation device, must possess by law enough for all occupants.
  • Pack extra dry clothes and rain gear. Cold water temperatures can cause very cold fog, even in the heat of summer.

Clinch River Drain-Down and Travel Times

The River

The river can be broken up into three sections; the top, the middle and the bottom. The top section, from Norris Dam to the Miller Island boat ramp offers the best public access. Canoes and light watercraft can be launched near the dam at the Songbird Trail Canoe Launch (no actual boat ramp, requires portage to the river). The weir dam access offers portage across the weir dam and wading access. Much of the area downstream of the weir dam is wadable on low water conditions. Miller Island Boat Ramp offers access to larger vessels as well as the most wading areas on the tailwater.

The middle section begins at Miller Island and runs 3.5 miles downstream to the Peach Orchard Boat Ramp. The immediate area around Miller Island offers the best access for wade fishermen on the river during low water. Anglers can wade from Miller Island downstream for one mile to Massengill Bridge. Most all of the adjacent land is private so you must remain in the river bed below the high water mark. There are several road side pull-offs along River Rd where anglers can enter and exit the river. The next few miles has no river access for wading anglers or much wadable water for that matter and is better fished by boat. The river flows deep, even on low flows as it picks up its largest tributary near the I-75 Bridge. Coal Creek is a large tributary that will often muddy the entire downstream tailwater after heavy rain events. Peach Orchard Boat Ramp offers boat access only as all of the water around the ramp is much too deep to wade.

The lower river runs from Peach Orchard to the Hwy 61 Boat Ramp in Clinton, just a little over 7 miles. All of the land adjacent to the river is private and should be respected as such. The land owners are friendly but they don’t want to find you on their land without permission. This stretch of river offers some wadable shoals and plenty of long pools. Again, wading is only possible with low water. Public access can be found at the bottom of the lower section via the Second Baptist Church of Clinton. Anglers can park and access from their property. Much of this area is very wadable under low water to slightly higher water levels. It’s also a very popular destination due to its 4.5 hour lead time on dam generation. The final access on the tailwater is just downstream of the highway 61 bridge on the east bank. The Highway 61 Boat Ramp has a nice ramp and trash cans.

Tennessee Fishing Regulations

Suggested Rods/Reels/Lines

Angling tactics can vary greatly depending on the water flows. Low water flows will allow light nymph fishing, dry fly fishing, wet fly applications as well as light to heavy streamer fishing. Rod choices will run the entire spectrum but long rods between 9’ and 10’ feet work best as they will allow you the best line control during drifts. Four to six weight rods will cover most situations on low water, but a six weight would probably cover the most tactics in one rod. High to medium water flows are usually best covered with streamers and deep nymphs. Although, insects often hatch well on high water and fish can be found sipping them. Again, rod choice is dictated by what you want to do and what you observe. Six to eight weight rods are best when it comes to streamers and sinking lines but a five weight may cover the rising fish best. Long, fine leaders ranging in length from 9 to 15’ and in strength from 4 to 7x are required for most Nymphing and Dry fly fishing setups. The use of fluorocarbon tippets and tungsten weights are recommended for all Nymphing applications. Streamer leaders can be much shorter and beefier. I usually use 4 to 6 foot lengths of fluorocarbon ranging from 8 to 20 lbs for streamer fishing applications.

The Clinch River is a very rich tailwater and has a very healthy biomass. Midges are abundant and available year round. Trout will gorge on midges in all stages of life from pupa to adult. Sow bugs and scuds are also present in great numbers in many sections of the river. These small crustaceans (#12-#22) offer high protein meals and are also a favorite of trout year round. The largest and most sought after hatch of the year are the sulphurs which historically begin late April to early May and continue into early June. Some years the hatch can come early or even extend well into October. Several species of caddis flies emerge in the fall with the small black and green (#18-#20) being a favorite.

  • 4 to 6 weight rods, 9 to 10’ in length for dry fly, Nymphing or light streamer fishing.
  • 9 to 16 foot leaders, tippets from 5x to 7x. Fluorocarbon for Nymphing and streamer fishing.
  • 6 to 8 weight rods for streamer fishing.
  • Short 4 to 6 leaders in heavy fluorocarbon weights 8 to 20lbs.
  • Tungsten bead nymphs; Pheasant tails, midge pupa & larvae, sow bugs. Sizes from #12 – #20
  • Sulphur dries, emergers and nymphs (#14-#18), Midge emergers (#18 – #22), Black Caddis (#18-#22)
  • Terrestrials, Ants, Beetles and Hoppers.
  • Streamers

Public Access Points

  1. Songbird Canoe Access
  2. Clear Creek Access
  3. Wier Dam Access
  4. Miller’s Island Ramp
  5. Peach Orchard Ramp
  6. Second Baptist Church of Clinton
  7. Highway 61 Bridge Ramp

Getting There

The Clinch River tailwater is located just Northwest of Knoxville TN off of Interstate 75. All public access points can be reached in 5 to minutes from exit 122 (Clinton/Norris). The upper river and Miller Island accesses can be reached travelling east on hwy 61 to hwy 441. Turn left onto 441 and travel 2 miles. Turn left onto River Rd to reach Miller Island Boat Ramp and various right of way access closer to Massengill Bridge. Continue on 441 to TVA access at the Weir Dam and along the river via the Songbird Trail. The Peach Orchard access can be reach off of hwy 61 onto Hillvale Rd. Peach Orchard Road is on the left with signage to the boat ramp. Highway 61 Boat Ramp and the Second Baptist Church of Clinton are along the river and just off of highway 61 in Clinton TN, 3 miles west of I-75.

Purchase a Tennessee Fishing License

Local weather forecast.

Clinch River posts and reports!

 

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Updated Caney Fork River Description

We’ve been working with local guides to get the best river descriptions possible.  This one is from Susan Thrasher of Southern Brookies guide service.  Give it a read.  This description will be posted on the site from here on out.  Hope you enjoy.

Caney Fork

by Susan Thrasher of Southern Brookies

Species: Brook, Brown and Rainbow Trout
Angler Type: Wade or Boat
Access Type: Public or Private

Guides

Southern Brookies
Southeastern Fly
Trout Zone Anglers
Tennessee on the Fly

Fly Shops

Orvis Nashville
Fly South
Cumberland Transit
Jones Fly Co.

Lodging

Long Branch Campground – below Center Hill Dam
Edgar Evans State Park – on Center Hill Lake

Description

The Caney Fork River begins near Crossville, Tennessee and is impounded twice over its approximate 140 miles before reaching the Cumberland River. Most notably for trout anglers is the final stretch of river below Center Hill Dam. The dam is located approximately 70 miles east of Nashville, Tennessee. The 16 miles immediately below the dam is the primary stretch of water supporting trout. This section of the river is stocked annually by the (TWRA) Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency at four main locations: just below the dam, Happy Hollow, Betty’s Island and Gordonsville access areas.

TWRA stocks, on average, 220,000 rainbow, brown and brook trout March through November. Due to heavy generation and continually changing water levels, the river does not support any measurable, natural reproduction. However, hold over trout and the occasional stocking of large brood trout, offer opportunities to hook into fish measuring well over 20 inches. Brook trout rarely exceed 14 inches, but the new state record was caught on the Caney Fork in 2016, measuring just over 20 inches.

Generation Schedule

The daily generation schedule at Center Hill Dam is based primarily on power needs and flood control. The frequent releases provide enough cool water to support trout fishing year round. It is important to check the schedule before venturing out. Water levels can rise suddenly and become dangerous. The schedule can be found either by calling TVA #800-238-2264, #4, #37, or through the TVA website. https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Lake-Levels/Center-Hill

Fishing Access

The river is suitable for wading during periods of non-generation; however, the current is too strong for wading under generation. Fishing from kayaks, canoes and drift boats is also very popular during periods of non-generation. Extreme caution should be used when drift fishing during periods of generation and is recommended for experienced boaters only.

Use the link below for public access points and boat ramp locations. http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Portals/49/docs/Lakes/Center Hill/Caney Fork Access Area Map.pdf

Center Hill Tailwater (Caney Fork River) Public Access Points

  1. Buffalo Valley Recreation Area, USCOE, with ramp
  2. Long Branch Recreation Area, USCOE, with ramp
  3. Pull-offs along 141, TDOT right-of-way, river access, no ramp
  4. Happy Hollow Access Area, TWRA, gravel parking area with ramp
  5. Betty’s Island Access Area, TWRA, gravel parking area, no ramp
  6. Pull-off along Kirby Road at I-40, TDOT right-of-way, no ramp
  7. Stonewall Bridge, TDOT right-of-way, river access, no ramp
  8. South Carthage Ramp, gravel parking, with ramp

Creel Limits

For detailed information on trout stream fishing regulations, see the trout section of the Tennessee Fishing Guide. http://www.tnfish.org/files/TennesseeFishingRegulationsTWRA.pdf

The regulations for the Caney Fork River are:

  • One Brown Over 24” may be harvested (under 24” protected; must be released)
  • Rainbows and Brookies under 14” may be harvested (14”- 20” protected; must be released)
  • One Rainbow and One Brookie over 20” may be harvested
  • Total Creel Combined – 5 Trout

Tennessee Fishing Regulations
Please be sure to check current regulations if you are unfamiliar, many of our tailwaters have unique regulations.

Equipment Suggestions

Rod: The most common outfit for fly fishing the Caney Fork River is a 5 or 6 weight rod in lengths ranging from 8.5 to 9 feet.

Fly Line: Weight forward floating lines are recommended during times of non- generation. Sinking lines are necessary during generation to ensure the flies are able to reach the fish due to the swift current.

Leaders: Fluorocarbon leaders and tippet with overall lengths between 9 and 12 feet and sizes tapering from 3X to 6X (depending on fly size) are recommended.

Suggested Flies

Flies: The majority of flyfishing is subsurface with midges heavily favored. Dry fly activity is limited; however, the occasional midge, mayfly and caddis hatches are seen a number of times during the year. Terrestrials, such as spiders, grass hoppers and beetles, are used during the summer months. Streamers produce fish year round.

Patterns to take along:

  • Eat at Chucks soft hackle
  • Zebra midges in various colors
  • Bead head pheasant tail
  • Scuds and sow bugs
  • Woolly Buggers in various colors
  • Guacamole stick bugs
  • Griffith’s gnat
  • Adams
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Streamers

Purchase a Tennessee Fishing License

Getting There

Take Interstate 40 to exit 268, then south on Highway 96 to Center Hill Dam. Buffalo Valley and Long Branch Recreation Areas are on opposite sides of the river just below Center Hill Dam.

Weather forecast for Lancaster, TN

Click here for all old Caney Fork River Reports

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Chatthoochee River

At the recent Orvis Guide Rendezvous I had the chance to hang out and float the South Holston with the guys from River Through Atlanta, Chris Scalley and John McCloskey are the real deal.  They have an amazing fishery that runs through Atlanta w/ a population of 6 million.  Oh, and it also supports wild Brown Trout! Besides trout these guys chase stripers, shoal bass and hybrids on the fly.  As an extra bonus there is also some good duck hunting on the river.  I have said many a time that I would never want to leave TN, because of all the great fishing, but if I had to live in Atlanta, it seems much better now.  Either way this may have to be on the short list of a long weekend road trip.  Below is the full river description that Chris sent me and it will be located in a new section of the blog “More Great Water” or find it here Chattahoochee.

by Chris Scalley of River Through Atlanta Guide Service

  • Species: Rainbow and Brown Trout
  • Angler Type: Boat or Wade
  • Access Type: Public and Private

Guides

Fly Shops

Lodges/Rentals/Hotels/Campgrounds

Good Eats

The River

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is a classic Southern tail-water. Water is released from the penstocks at depths down to 130ft below the surface of Lake Lanier where cold water is sourced year-round. Many people travel through Atlanta’s international airport never imagining there could be a world-class trout fishery just mile away! The 48 miles of designated trout water is surrounded by 10,000 acres of linear public parklands known as the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Visitors will find excellent access points either canoe launches or boat ramps along with amenities like restrooms and endless hiking trails.

3The Hooch is home to two of Georgia’s state record brown trout in recent years. In 2003 an 18 pounder was landed and then in 2013 a 22 pounder both were caught on artificial lures using conventional tackle. Many big Browns are caught and released every year on the fly rod using large streamers or nymphs.

5The GA DNR quit stocking brown trout in 2006 as they discovered there is a self-sustaining population that spawns successfully every year. DNR also stocks approximately 150,000 rainbows from fingerlings to catchable size beginning in March through Labor Day. The possibility of catching both stream-bred and stocked trout makes for great catch rates and aesthetic value during your Chattahoochee River NRA experience.

6A drift boat or some type of watercraft (belly boats/float tube, pontoons, kayaks) are best to access remote stretches of the river but if you are willing to hike off the beaten path there are plenty of shoals and gravel bars to wade. Please note the river is expansive with an average depth of 4.5ft so please wear a PFD and utilize a wading staff for safety. Reminder “check the flow before you go!” at 770-945-1466 also visit www.nps.gov/chat. Buford Dam operates strictly for flood control and power demand but is more predictable than other tail-waters in the South. Another luxury of the Buford Dam project is that the Army Corps of Engineers does its best to NOT release high flows on weekends making Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays fairly predicable for safe recreational flows.

4Bug hatches on the river are prolific in the spring from March through May we experience good caddis hatches. Further downstream 36 miles below Buford Dam both caddis and a variety of mayflies can cause an eruption of rising fish in an 8 mile Delayed Harvest section. This section is closer to town and is stocked heavily from November through May-15th it is artificial ONLY barbless flies or lures, catch and release.  Also two stonefly hatches to note are the little Winter Stoneflies from December through March and the large pteronarcys (salmon flies) in February through April. Use large black to brown Girdle or Yuk bug nymphs to target quality fish. Blue Winged Olive mayflies can hatch year-round and cool overcast days are the best time for them.

Gear Recommendations

  • Waders- because the water is cold
  • Rubber with Studs or felt boots (No Studs in Boats)
  • Wading Staff
  • PFD
  • 9’ and 10’ 4 and 5 weight rods
  • 3x-6x tippet. Fluor when nymphing Mono for dries

Popular Flies

  • Zebra Midges of all sorts, sizes, and colors
  • Pheasant tail nymphs
  • San Juan Worms
  • CDC comparadun baetis and Sulphur
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Beetles and Flying Ants
  • Wooly Buggers
  • Tiny Parachute Adams
  • Eggs Patterns

Tips and Safety

  • Be very careful when wading. If the Corp begins to generate, get out of the water.
  • Check the Generation at www.nps.gov/chat
  • Check the Generation at 770-945-1466

Fishing Regulations

Please be sure to check current regulations if you are unfamiliar, many of our tailwaters have unique regulations.

Public Access Points

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Watauga

brown trout logoby Brown Hobson of Brown Trout Fly Fishing

You can find this river description in our Waters > Tailwaters > Watauga through the navigation bar.

Brown is the owner and head guide for Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC. He started fly fishing in Western North Carolina as a teenager and the passion for catching trout on the fly created in NC propelled Brown’s move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

brown and tyBrown spent 4 years in the ORVIS store in Jackson Hole as a sales associate, fishing manager, and store manager and was fortunate to learn from many of America’s great fly fishermen while there. Seeking milder winters and closer proximity to family, Brown moved to Asheville and started Brown Trout Fly Fishing.

Brown is a member of the North Carolina Fly Fishing Team, Fly Fishing Team USA, is a former ORVIS Trout Bum of the Week, and a 2014 ORVIS Guide of the Year nominee. His fly fishing experience combined with his ORVIS customer service background give Brown a skill set that allows him to provide exceptional days on the water.

  • Species:  Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout
  • Angler Type:  Boat or Wade
  • Access Type:  Public and Private

Guides

Fly Shops

  • Eastern Fly Outfitters
  • Mahoney’s
  • South Holston River Fly Shop
  • Mountain SportsLodges/Cabins/Hotels

Lodges/Rentals/Hotels/Campgrounds

  • Watauga River Lodge
  • Bee Cliff Cabins
  • Merideth Valley Cabins

Good Eats

  • Pals
  • Ridgewood Barbecue

The River

JakeThe Watauga River tailwater flows from Wilbur Reservoir near Siam TN to Boone Lake near Johnson City. The majority of the water that feeds the Watauga is held in Watauga Lake, but just below Watauga Dam is a second smaller lake called Wilbur. Make sure when you check TVA river flows you look at Wilbur Reservoir not Watauga. The river is approximately 17 miles long from Wilbur Dam to Boone Lake and flows through many different sections and townships. The Watauga River is a Tailwater fishery so always check the Generation Schedule before you go.

Click Here for TVA Generation Schedule and select Wilbur Dam from Lakes and Recreation on the right, it is also a good idea to look at the Watauga Dam generation as this is located directly upstream of Wilbur.

The Upper Section – runs from Wilbur Dam to Hunter Bridge. The first half of the river is mostly on private land and is very gorge like. Huge limestone cliffs dominate the sides of the river until the river gets down to Siam. From Siam to Hunter the river is mostly large shallow riffles with deep slow pools between them. The bug life up here is mostly midges, small mayflies, and scuds. Midges hatch year round and BWOs hatch most commonly from Oct-April. This section is the most likely to stay clear if we see big rains. The upper has the highest fish numbers on the whole river.

The Middle Section – runs from Hunter Bridge to the TWRA access at Blevins Rd. The first half of this stretch has many shallow riffles and smaller runs. Once you pass through Elizabethton the river narrows and gets deeper. There are many big ledges separating slow deep pools and even one small waterfall that must be navigated by boat operators. Bugs here are larger than the upper, but many midges are still found along with bwos, sulphurs, caddis, and craneflies. As you move through the middle fish numbers decrease slightly, but average size goes up.

The Trophy Section – runs from Blevins rd to Persinger Bridge in the town of Watauga, TN. This is the stretch of river that receives the most angling pressure, but it has the largest concentration of big fish. Special regulations forbid the use of bait or scented artificial and anglers can only keep two fish per day of at least 14” in length. This allows many more fish to grow to larger sizes. Insects here are midges, bwos, sulphurs, many different caddis, craneflies, and assorted other mayflies. There is no public wade access except at the beginning and end of this stretch.

WataugaThe Lower Section – runs from Persinger Bridge into Boone Lake. The most popular take out is at the River Stone Campground and your shuttle driver can arrange for you to use that access. It does require an extra fee. This stretch has some of the coolest riffles on the river and several long flats that are great for picking off feeding fish on dries. Bugs here are the same as the trophy section.

The Watauga River flow changes dramatically due to releases from Wilbur Dam. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the TVA has a recreational flow schedule they follow. Basically Monday-Saturday there will be no water until noon or so and then they will generate power and release water for rafters. The TVA usually does not release water on Sundays during the summer. The rest of the year the TVA can generate power whenever they want. Check Wilbur Dam for projected releases and always be ready to get out quickly if an unplanned release occurs. The river is not wadeable during a water release and you should plan to float it.  Also, it is important to note that the Watuaga is not for beginner oarsmen and certain sections are very technical and dangerous.

Gear Recommendations

  • Waders- because the water is cold
  • Felt Bottom Boots or Rubber with Studs the rocks are very slick (No Studs in Boats)
  • Wading Staff
  • 9’ and 10’ 4 and 5 weight rods
  • 3x-6x tippet. Fluor when nymphing Mono for dries

Popular Flies

  • Zebra Midges of all sorts, sizes, and colors
  • Pheasant tail nymphs
  • San Juan Worms
  • CDC comparadun baetis and Sulphur
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Beetles and Flying Ants
  • Wooly Buggers
  • Tiny Parachute Adams
  • Eggs

Tips and Safety

• Be very careful when wading. If the TVA begins to generate, get out of the water.
• TVA toll free number 1-800-238-2264

Click Here for TVA Generation Schedule and select Wilbur Dam from Lakes and Recreation on the right.

Fishing Regulations

Please be sure to check current regulations if you are unfamiliar, many of our tailwaters have unique regulations.

Tennessee Fishing Regulations

Click here to purchase a Tennessee Fishing License

Public Access Points

  1. Wilbur Dam
  2. Siam Bridge
  3. Hunter Bridge
  4. 19E Bridge
  5. Blevins Road Access
  6. Highway 400 Access

 

Getting There

From Interstate 81 exit to 57A on to Interstate 26 South to exit 31 on to Highway 321 east towards Elizabethon, TN

Click here for local weather forcast.

Click here to buy a map of the Watauga River!

clinch_upper_tw_ad

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Fried Chicken and Butter

FriedChickenThere is nothing better during a long day of fishing than fried chicken and beer. This tradition started in my teens when I would canoe with my parents and friends in southern MO. I carried the tradition with me to college, which typically also included a frosty beverage or two. Ten years ago I brought this tradition with me to TN and most of my friends  have experienced it at some point or another. I’m sure this is not out of the ordinary as we are in the south. Give it a shot and add some fried chicken to your next fishing trip menu.

DrivingRainYeah, so this was a supposed to be a fishing report so let me get to that. We fished the South Holston on 11/09. I think we were as wet as the trout were as it dumped rain most of the day. Weather like this is the reason that we buy expensive wading jackets, but it isn’t fun fishing in a total down pour. The Brown Trout on the South Holston are getting ready for their annual spawning rituals and TWRA has closed the two normal spawning areas of the river. I typically don’t fish that much in the fall due to a hectic work schedule. However the opportunity arose and I figured one more streamer fishing trip before the end of the year was a good idea.

Version 2My third cast of the day would prove to haunt me for the rest of the trip.  I threw a bad cast and instead of fishing it out I tried to pick it back up and as I did the biggest brown of the day decided to eat.  I had the rod straight up in the air and when I felt her head shake twice it was over, I blew it. It seemed like slow motion, but happened in a split second. Just long enough to haunt me for the rest of the day.  I haven’t throw big streamers in quite some time so I was a little rusty, but I know better than that. You don’t get mistakes when streamer fishing, every cast must count and you have to fish every cast as if that cast is the one. When you BenBentRodstreamer fish you are fishing for the biggest fish of the day. Some days it works out but most days you blow it and miss a true monster. Those are the days that keep you coming back. They are the fish that haunt you in your sleep and are topics for many a tackle and fly tying discussions. I guess if I caught everyone it wouldn’t be fun, as hokey as it sounds it really is about the chase and the eat. I prefer to throw streamers more than anything else. I have seen some true monsters swimming in our East TN waters and the opportunity of landing one on the fly keeps me coming back.

We did catch some nice fish throughout the rest of the day, but that fist one was “The One”.

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Fly Fishing the Clinch River

May 2nd on a Pheasant Tail Nymph
May 2nd on a Pheasant Tail Nymph

Looking back at a few old fishing reports it is evident that May and June is when I have experienced some very good and consistent fishing on the Clinch River. However in years past we have had some very high spring water levels to deal with which has limited the fishing. So far this TVA has been giving us better flows earlier than I have seen in a quite some time. We have already heard of some lower river Sulphur hatches around the Hwy 61 bridge.

On a recent Sunday trip with the wife and dog, although I was not seriously fishing, I did manage some quality fish in a short amount of time. I believe that this action will only get better as we move into June.

At the shop many people come in and say that they have difficulty fishing the Clinch or do not know what to do. I’ll attempt to simplify it here. First a quick disclaimer, that I am not a guide nor do I get to fish as much as I used to, so the below tips are just a collaboration of my observations over the last 10 years.

Sulphur
Sulphur Mayfly

The Bugs: Their are really only two main bugs to worry about on the Clinch in my opinion. The first and most prevalent are midges and the second is the Sulphur. Midges are typically very small in size (20-22), but will be very prevalent at times. The zebra midge is the most common pattern to mimic this food source. When the Sulphurs are active, the fishing will be at it’s peak. The Sulphur is a larger mayfly in size 14 to 18. Pheasant Tail nymphs and Sulphur dry fly patterns are the typical flies to match this bug.

The River: The Clinch River is a tail-water below Norris Lake and Dam. It is a TVA controlled impoundment. The dam is managed for hydro-electric power, flood control and downstream barge traffic. With that in mind the angler on the Clinch River must be ready for anything. TVA does post their “predicted” flows on their website www.tva.gov however this can change at a last minutes notice. When TVA turns on the turbines or releases water for generation it can rise rapidly and it is advised that anglers exit the water during the generation. In general there are no wade fishing opportunities once the generation has started.

brownclinch
Clinch River Brown Trout

The Fish: Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout are the two most prevalent species in the tail-water section. Although the river does hold large Striped Bass and I have heard of an occasional walleye being caught by accident. TWRA does stock both rainbow and brown trout on a yearly basis however there are opinions that some wild reproduction does take place as well. You will typically catch a mixed bag of both freshly stocked fish and hold over fish that will put up a great fight.

The Gear: My friends and I will fish the Clinch with either a nymph/dry fly rod or a streamer fly rod. Here I will only get into the nymph/dry fly rod as talking about streamer fishing is much more advanced and would take much longer and I said I was going to simplify this. The most common fly rod to use will be an 8’6″ to 9′ 4weight or 5weight fly rod. I would always put on a fly reel with a smooth adjustable drag and load the reel with the appropriate weight forward fly line. The water is very clear and the fish are very wise so we always fish a long leader 9ft plus in 4X to 5X and then add fluorocarbon tippet in 5X and 6X to our flies. If I use a strike indicator I will keep it as small as possible so as to not spook the fish. You will also want waders and good wading boots because the water is frigid year round.

leadertippetThe Fishing: When we fish for the day I will typically first check the generation schedule to ensure that we will have some wade fishing opportunities.  You can get an idea of what TVA has been doing over the course of the last couple days by keeping an eye on the generation schedule.  Also note that during May thru October TVA has an advised recreation schedule posted on the generation page, which will give you an idea on the weekend predicted flows.  We will typically rig our rods with one small indicator and down to 6X fluorocarbon tippet for the early morning midge bite, then as the day progresses we will switch over to the Pheasant Tail nymphs.  If we are lucky enough to be there during a Sulphur hatch we may fish a dry fly with a Pheasant Tail dropper.  When you are fishing try to be stealthy and focus on the moving water and seams around drop offs, ledges or any other underwater structure.  The fish will use this as a current break when they are feeding.  Focus on getting a drag free drift and explore different areas and sections of the river.

Rainbow Trout on Clinch RiverThe Regulations: The Clinch River is managed by TWRA as a Special Trout Regulation Zone.  From Norris Dam downstream to Hwy 61 bridge, including tributaries; All trout 14 to 20 inches must be released unharmed.  You are allowed to keep up to 7 fish, however only 1 fish can be over 20 inches in length.  This regulation helps to maintain a healthy catchable size fish.

Stream Etiquette: Many different types of people recreate on the Clinch River.  You will find both fly fishermen and spin fishermen.  There are fly fishing guides that float the river as well as recreational paddlers and kayakers.  Some folks will fish upstream while others will fish downstream.  The point is that everyone is out to enjoy the river and common courtesy should be practiced at all times.  There is ample amount of river and fish for everyone, so spread out find your own area to fish and have a good time.  Be sure to offer up a warm smile and wave for everyone that is out and enjoying the water.  Be safe and have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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C.R. Outfitters moves location!

So I need to apoligize to Cal and Chris, for just now getting this up, but here it is guys. C.R. Outfitters has moved locations, just a little farther down the road from thier old location. Thier new address is:

C.R. Outfitters
3310 Andersonville Highway
Andersonville, Tenn. 37705
865.494.2305
croutfitters@msn.com

I’ve heard some good reports coming from Clinch, when they aren’t running water. Stop in and holler at Chris and Cal, they’ll give you the run down on what’s happening.

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Who needs to go out west when you have the South Holston

Really, I get the same comments all of the time. Those comments are; “Where do you fly fish around here?”, “I can’t wait to go out west.” and “It’s just different out west”. Most of the time these folks have never fished the South Holston or Watauga tailwaters, or if they have, they have not ventured far from the popular areas such as the weir dam where the crowds are.

We are very fortunate in Tennessee to have some true gems such as the South Holston and Watauga tailwaters. You can get a true western fly fishing experinence right here in the east. Especially if your willing to take off during the week and either do some hiking, floating or hire one of our local guides, you can really get away from everything. The day we took these pictures we saw only one other boat and two wade fisherman all day. Pretty awesome if you ask me, oh and we caught a bunch of fish too.

We also got an odd surprise by the last picture. I think it is a Lake Trout, but not quite sure. I guess it may have come up from Boone Lake or gotten stocked by accident by TWRA.

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The Clinch gives up another surprise!

Made it out to fish with a friend that happened to be passing through town.  I had a mid-term to study for, so I could only fish half of the day .  We decided on the Clinch as it is only about 20 minutes from the house.  Plus, it has been giving up some really chunky fish this year.  The fishing was slow at first, but as the fog burned off we got into some really fat Rainbows.  Indicator nymph rigs produced with pheasant tails winning over zebra midges again. 

The big surprise came towards the end of the day when TJ stuck a really nice rainbow.  As he was fighting it to the boat, I hear him start to holler, so I jump out of the rowers seat to see a HUGE striper trying to eat his rainbow.  It was very exciting for a couple of seconds.  TJ said the striper at one point actually had the fish about half way in his mouth.  Also this was no dinker rainbow, it was a 17 1/2 incher (we taped it)!

It never fails, just when the day seems like it will turn out to be normal, something like this happens.  I guess it is things like this that keep me coming back.  You never know what is around the corner.

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