Category Archives: Tailwaters

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

Watauga 2/11/08

Made to the Watauga two weeks in a row. I had a regular customer, Ken, who had just purchased a new Orvis Zero Gravity Helios, this rod has been getting crazy reviews. Ken had never fished the Watauga or out of a boat. He purchased the rod to take out west this summer. I didn’t think the rod should sit in the closet until his Montana trip, so I invited him to go fish the Watauga from Dong’s drift boat. Also along for the ride was Clay Aalders Owner/Guide of Smoky Mountain Gillies. Clay hasn’t been guiding much because of the weather, so we’ve had the opportunity to fish together quite a bit.

The day started out really cold and unfortunately stayed that way. We were busting ice off of the guides untill about 1pm. Luckily the wind wasn’t howling and the sun would poke through the clouds a little giving us a short burst of warmth. We started fishing around 9:30am and I worked the boat fairly quickly down to the the old River Ridge campground, so that we could get out and do a little wade fishing.

Once down to the River Ridge area, Clay and Ken quickly began picking up fish on caddis pupa patterns. Fish ranged from 10 to 14 inches. We all consistently hooked fish for about 2 hours before moving down stream a little to the Caddis riffles. When we got down to the Caddis riffles we noticed one boat parked on top of them. Not usually a bad sign, but this boat had passed us almost 2 hours prior, so I’m sure the hammered the fish. All the same we stopped to fish it anyways.

I didn’t expect the fising to be off the hook, but to my surprise we all started catching fish. Both Ken and myself caught our biggest fish and we had a double. To add to the excitement, Clay completed his slam. I guess the group before us hadn’t spooked the fish as bad as I and feared. Fishing the rest of the day was a little slow, but I think everyone had already had a banner day and the rest was icing on the cake.

The flies of the day were Rubber Legged Copper John, IKO Caddis Pupa, and Cased Caddis. Fish to boat were in the 60 range and 10 to 16 inches. Another good day on the water with better friends.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Watauga 2/02/08

I got the opportunity to go back with Doug and Kris for another day on the water. We got started around 8:30 am and floated from the Elizabethton Launch. The day started at a bone chilling 24 degrees as we shuved off and started the float. There were a few trucks at the launch and 3 boats launched all around the time we started our drift. We knew it would be a good day, seeing as the high temperature was supposed to reach 55 degrees with clear skies.

The day started off the same as the last time we floated, maybe even a little slower. It started off slow but picked up rather nicely. We snagged decent fish at a moderate pace until making it down to the caddis riffle. Kris finished off his grand slam (a bow, a brown, and a brookie) just before coasting in. We anchored the boat and set off to wade in knee high and make waves in a different way.

Here’s some of that early action!

Here’s some of Kris’s handy work with the net!

Kris offering the fish a moment of peace. What dreams are made of!

Doug and Kris ventured downstream killing fish as fast as they could while I ventured upstream of the boat towards a slower moving but promising looking riffle. This seemed to pay off upon loosing half of my leader to a brute of a fish. I was a little disgusted, after losing my flies and having to wade into the hole to retrieve my indicator. After retrieving my indicator and re-rigging I made a long cast above the riffle and floated it through. I felt the tug and on pursued a good fight. I brought to hand a solid and extremely fat 15, or so, inch fish.


Now, after making the initial probe with a hook up, I knew it was time to get serious and make the cast I wanted to take. The seam of the riffle where I knew a big fish would lie. The cast was made, a steady drift followed, then a very abrubt stop with a dissapearance of my indicator followed. Hooooook settt, I believe I murmurmed to myself. This 18” fish, set of with an arial display, followed by several rolls, and consistant dives to the bottom and back into the current. I yelled down to Kris “This is a good one!” Kris started towards me, as I brought the fish to net. In the process of landing and hook removal my camera decided to make a sacraficial leap of faith. Damn! Luckily the camera strap somehow managed to land on my pinky finger but didn’t manage to prevent the camera from taking a bath. Damn again! Kris came to my aid, and was also kind enough to snap a picture or two. Though I will say the picture is a less then desirable picture of myself. But that’s not why where here and I’m not posing for PlayGirl anywho! No, I wasn’t sneezing, I believe I was saying “Huh?”

Either way here’s the fish porn.


We settled back into our slots. All three of us had a section of water we were working when it happened. TRIPLE! I beleive Doug shouted when I hooked up on a fish. Doug and Kris were both in mid fight when I hooked into another fish making Doug shout “Triple!” That’s a good feeling and I would imagine that it doesn’t happen all that often on the Watauga in 30 degree weather. I managed around 8 to 10 fish from my little honey hole, and I believe they both managed at “least” 10 fish a peice, from their little section of river. By this point and time I’ve witnessed a grand slam, a fish over 20, and now a triple. Not much else to do now but enjoy the rest of the float downstream!

I did get to enjoy the rest of that float and even got the opportunity to row Doug’s new Hyde Low Pro. I will say I had an idea of rowing and thought I knew how easy it would be. I started off just trying to move the paddles in sync, a feat in itself! I never moved the boat in circles and it’s definately something that takes a little muscle memory. It’s alot more sensitive than it looks like it would be and takes a little coordination. It was nice to get to sit down and give it a try. Now, I just have to work on getting one of my own. I managed to row in a straight line for about 100 yards before finally kicking the boat around to float forwards and anchor off. We stopped at a good riffle that was already tied up with another boat and it’s fisherman. Doug and I stayed in the boat, while Kris got out and worked down to the other guys. Doug’s ankle was hurting, and I was just completely satisfied with what we had already accomplished. Kris worked the riffle where the other two guys where and we floated down to pick him up. We worked another good section of water, picking up a few more fish before settling down on another good spot while in the boat.

Kris and Doug managed quite a few nice fish in a sweeping, slower, deeper run of a riffle. I managed myself out of the boat and downstream of the guys. Something I forgot to mention, is somewhere between the campground and my current location I had lost my only working fly. I got a few hits the rest of the day but nothing seemed to locate fish the rest of the day, at least for me.

Here is a pic, courtesy of Kris, of Doug’s fish.


We floated on down through the last sections of water picking up another fish or two. We passed two anglers hooking up on every cast. We anchored off about 50 yards past them to see if we could manage the action ourselves. I re-rigged while Kris hooked up on a few more good fish and I believe I even managed one or two more.

Here’s a picture of one of my last fish of the day.

We anchored up and floated down to the steam plant to pack in for the day. I believe we pulled the boat out around 6:00pm, and talked to a few guys about their day on the water. No one really complained and there was three smiles on three individuals faces for sure. Over all, it was an excellent winter day on the Watauga. One that won’t be soon forgotten. Everyday that I get to spend on the water, is building a lifetime worth of memories and something to pass on to my friends and family.

~Brett

facebookmailfacebookmail

Caney Fork 2/01/08….This time it worked…….

Alright, so if you read the last post our previous trip didn’t go so well, but it was a good learning experience. I’m not sure what I learned though. Clay and Sean proably learned not to go on wild goose chases with me.

So I’ve had some really good days on the Caney Fork the last couple of months and in talking with Clay, he was wanting to check it out for himself. With that we decided to hit up the Caney Fork. We left Knoxville around 7am and got to the Caney around 8am, due to the time difference. I missed the exit for the dam and proceeded to the next exit. We took the round about way and I showed Clay the Betty’s Island access along with a few others. We took a tour of the dam and looked at the crazy leaks coming out of the bluff, which always makes me a bit uneasy, untill I start thinking about the fishing and forget about the possibility of being washed away.

We stoped first at a pull off along Lancaster Road that I had never fished before. As we were rigging up we could see some fish rising on the far bank. After climbing down to the river we saw that the fish were rising to some very small midges. We both tried some nymph rigs to start with, but that produced no results, so we switched to some small Griffs Gnats and began picking up a few small fish. About this time it started sleeting and the hoods came up. A little while later I switched to a dry dropper rig. My dry was a large Parachute Adams and the dropper was Bead Head Pheasant Tail type nymph tied by Steven “Bubba” Dark. I think he calls this one Just Add Water and that is about the truth. I stuck a few more small bows before heading off to another location farther down Lancaster Road.

Our day almost came to an abrupt end as we had placed our rods in the back of my truck with the bed topper propped up. I thought it would stay in the raised position as we drove down the road a few hundred yards, but due to the high winds I was wrong. I looked back to see that the bed cover was no longer in the up position and for a second I thought of not even telling Clay and just driving home, as I envisioned our rod tips dangling by a bit of fly line and leader. I gave in and pulled over very quickly, we both expected to find two broken rods, but to our surprise they were both okay. I guess the fishing gods had blessed us this day.

Okay, disaster adverted and on to the fishing. This second location is a spot that I had witnessed some very large browns spawing back in the fall. After getting into position we found some very nice sized fish rising to emergers and small midges. Rigged with dry dropper rigs we began to pick off fish after fish. At times they were rising all around us. Nothing gets my heart racing more than seeing fish sip dries off of the surface. We both caught some very nice fish during the small hatch. Afterwards I started getting a little creative and swung a Wiggle Minnow down the entire run. I didn’t get any firm hook ups but I did get five or six very aggresive follows. Oh I also didn’t mention the twenty mile per hour wind gusts, the fish didn’t mind and we didn’t mind as long as they were on the end of our line, but it did make things difficult at times.

This trip turned out the be very successfull and I’d say we landed around fifty fish toghether with a few really nice ones tossed in the mix. The Caney Fork surprises me every time I go and I always leave planning my next trip.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Holston River 1/13/08

So Doug and I had a plan to fish the Caney Fork, and get up really early so we could make the long drive. Unfortunately it didn’t happen as planned. We both apparently slept through our alarm clocks. I know that shouldn’t be an excuse, but oh well. Since we ruined the possiblity of doing a long day trip, we thought we’d salvage it with a short trip up to Nance’s Ferry on the Holston.

We got on the river about 1pm and fished the closest riffle to the boat ramp. We immedeately started catching fish on nymph rigs. I think the fly of choice ended up being a black zebra midge under a bead head soft hackle pheasant tail. We worked our way up to the top run catching fish the whole way up. Doug pulled some nicer fish out of the heavy water. We then focused our attention on some risers and picked off a few with dry dropper rigs.

We were off the river by 4pm and I think we landed at least 30 fish between the two of us. A bonus was the when the sun came out and turned a gloomy January day into a great day to be out on the river with a good friend.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Watauga 1/05/08

Well, I can’t think of a better way to start the year off than by hitting the river with new and old friends. The day started out before light, hitching the boat up and heading out towards JC to hit the Mighty Watauga. The generators were off and reports had been coming in all week of pigs being caught…nuff said. Kris and I had planned on fishing all week…something that doesn’t happen very often anymore with our conflicting work schedules. And after some arm twisting, new friend Romer agreed to come along. I’d met Brett sometime ago while working at Orvis and was more than happy to have him along. Since the recent closing of the campground at the start of the “quality zone” the usual half day trip from the campground to the bridge is no more. So, we decided to put in at the TVA access and float down to Persinger Bridge. Although I’m pretty sure that this spring with hold some insane fishing due to the closure and lower wade fishing pressure, I liked the old way, being able to fish the lower section more thoroughly. But anyway…we’ll see. Back to the fishing, it was alittle slow at first. We spoke with another drifter and he said that the day before was slow until the sun hit and warmed the water alittle. He was right on. We really didn’t catch much of anything until things warmed up and even after than it wasn’t the typical “knock your waders off” type of action usually found there. Kris had a nice catch site fishing a slower section. There were a couple nice fish probably 18 and 20 inches respectively feeding at the bottom just behind a small shoal. Brett and I both saw the fish and the take. Kris saw the fish but has learned to just watch the indicator. Things went slow-mo, then…fish on. I had my shining moment when we anchored up just below smallings bridge. I probably caught 8-10 fish in a matter of thirty minutes. Just had the right combination at the right time. One of those times where you just, “act like you’ve been there.” Romer tied into several nice fish throughout the day and really started to figure ’em out through the shoals. Romer is a great caster and a hell of a fisherman…and welcome in my boat any day…Just have to get him up to speed at the oars.
I don’t care what anyone says…fishing from a drift boat is a different ball game. Yes, it is (imho) more fun and you can more easily fish the entire river, but everything from your length of cast to mending to constantly changing flies due to the constant changing river bottom can be alittle over whelming the first time out. That being said, when everything comes together it’s a beautiful thing. Just one more facet of this addiction we call flyfishing.

One side note:
Kris actually stayed awake the whole ride home!!!

facebookmailfacebookmail