Tag Archives: Brook Trout

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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The Tennessee Tour

Let me first say how fortunate I am to live in an area that has such great and diverse fishing opportunities. East Tennessee has everything that a fisherman could ever want. From small mountain streams to tailwaters that fish like rivers in Montana and plenty of lakes in between.

Every year one of my really good friends, Wade, comes into town and we do a little fishing. The past couple of years we have always stuck to the tailwaters, but this year we realized that he had never fished in the Smokies. The streams in the Smokies are a true one of a kind experience, there is really no place that is just like them. So, this year we decided we would hit the Smokies. Day-One, we started on the Clinch and also got to fish with Doug (local east tennessee fishing legend turned corporate selling phenom ;-)). Day-Two we headed up to the Smokies for some small stream fishing and finally on Day-Three the South Holston.

The Clinch fished great. The water was slightly off color and there was a heavy fog on the water when arrived at 8am. We floated from Peach Orchard to Hwy 61. The fishing started off a little slow, but got good quickly and remained good until the 2nd generator caught us. Your standard rig of midges and pheasant tails produced as always under and indicator.

The Smokies, we woke early to find a band of really nasty storms rolling in from Kentucky. They were moving at about 60 miles per hour and looked really gnarly over the pleatau. Wade immediately thought the fishing would be done as he looked at the red masses on the radar screen. However, I had hopes that the storms would break up over the pleateu as I’ve seen happen on many occasion. So instead of rushing out to fish we hung back to see what would play out with the first band of storms.

What other way to wait out a storm than to spend the time cooking up some homemade biscuits and gravey. Let me restate that, this is no ordinary B&G, this gravey was made with Benton’s Bacon!, only the best ever, life changing bacon I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. When you cook it the smells will fill the entire house for days! It’s awesome!

First, wave of storms had passed and we took advantage of it and headed up into the Smokies. My original plan had been to take Wade into a special area that is tough to get into and fish. The only problem is once in this area you are basically stuck in the river until you come out at a trail crossing. When we got up there the water looked a little off color and it was starting to rain again. We knew that there was another storm on the way, so instead of betting our lives on fishing an area that would be subject to flash flooding, we opted for some high elevation road side fishing. We headed up to Walker Camp Prong. The fish cooperated wonderfully and we brought some really nice Rainbow trout to hand as well as a couple really nice brookies (however I left the camera in the car).  Para Adams produced all day as long as you got a good drift.

The South Holston, the fishing was just so so. They had been sluicing 250 cfs for the last couple of weeks and I had heard that the fishing was really good. However, we got there to find that they had completely shut the water off. I mean completely, nothing siltch, no water coming over the grates at all. It seems that they had decided to do a little house keeping on the wier dam. Fearing that it would take forever for them to get the water back on, we headed down to lower Big Springs road. When we arrived the water was about normal for low flow and we fished a couple of my favorite pull offs. There were a few sulphurs rising and the fishing was pretty consistent on dry dropper rigs. Later we headed back up to see if they’d turned the water back on and we fished up near the grates till the sun began to set.

Three full days of fishing go by so fast. It already seems like it happened months ago. There really isn’t enough time.

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The Smokies and Acid Deposition

I just finished watching the Appalachian Trail documentary by National Geographic. It had a brief bit about our acid deposition problem in the smokies and Steve Moore and his crew were featured. We definately live in a beautiful place and we are very fortunate to have guys like Steve, all the Trout Unlimited folks, private individuals and corporations supporting such a wonderful resource. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has helped preserve this jewel in the southeast that is Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Cataloochee Creek GSMNP


Since Kris, Doug, Scott, and Brett are all away at Yellowstone, I figured it was incumbent on me to post an entry. While I won’t claim that I wouldn’t have joined them if I could have (I am 6 weeks from fatherhood right now), you don’t need to travel halfway across the country to find good fishing.

I spent this past weekend camping with Niki on Cataloochee Creek. This is without a doubt my favorite Smokies fishery. Cataloochee is less than a 2 hour drive from Knoxville, just over the NC line off I-40. However, once you make you way up the steep, winding gravel road you are in another world.


The Cataloochee Valley was once a thriving community in the days before the park. There are over a dozen historic homes and buildings still preserved for you to visit. There is a small National Park Campground (around 2 dozen sites) located right next to a section of the stream. It is also the epicenter of the elk restoration efforts in the Park, and these magnificent creatures frequently make an appearance in twighlight hours every evening for your viewing pleasure.


The stream is a true jewel. It is different than the typical Park stream in that it has a much lower gradient that you would find on the Little or Little Pigeon Rivers. It looks like an Adirondak stream in its quiet, vegetation canopied character.


All three species of wild trout can be found within its waters. Browns predominate, though there is a healthy population of rainbows as well. This is the first time I have failed to complete my slam with a brookie as well. (This brookie is from a previous trip)


Due to the predominance of foliage, and lack of large boulders to hide behind, you need to be comfortable with longer casts and stealty movement. However, your patience will often be rewarded as the fish here seem to be a little more gullible than your average park fish, likely as a result of the lower fishing pressure this creek sees.


There are an abundance of larger fish in this watershed as well. This past spring I caught my personal record for the park, a healthy 15″ brown. I have also caught a number of fish in the 10-12″ range, though the average fish is still about 7″.


What I like best about Cataloochee though is the fact that I feel like I am in another world when I camp there. There are nowhere near the crowds that you would find on the Tennesee side of the park. In fact, I did not see a single other fisherman while I was there this weekend. There are miles of water to fish, and the solitude and beauty are truly a thing to be treasured.


As I said, I would have loved to have been able to travel to Yellowstone with my fellow TN Trout Bums, I can hardly complain. Cataloochee Creek is a gem, and you don’t have to drive 3 days, or take an expensive airplaine trip to get there.

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It’s been a while / Gone Fish’n

It has been quite a while since I, or anyone for that matter has posted a blog entry. I think it has something to do with the fishing/guiding season going full swing.

I have spent at least 4 days a week in the National Park over the past 2 months. When asked about this, my standard answer is “I get to go to work in God’s Office every day”. This is more than a pet phrase I learned from Bill Perry in Guide School, it is something that I truly believe.

Back when I was on staff at Beaumont Scout Reservation during High School and College, the Program Director used to remind us that “This might be your 6th/7th/8th week out here, but it is the campers’ only week”.

These two phrases, while they may sound trite, make up the basis of my personal guiding philosophy. I realize that there are folks that spend 51 weeks in an office cubical, staring at screen-saver shots of fish, reading FlyFish Tennessee or other online resources, and wishing that they could be spending the day knee-deep in Greenbriar Creek or the Little River. When I think about this, the sore knees and back, the bumps and scrapes, and the mental and physical exhaustion I face after 4 straight days of guiding suddenly don’t seem so bad.

There is no feeling in the world like getting a new fly-fisherman (especially a child) onto their first wild trout. A close second is the feeling I get when I point out a specific crease/seam/pocket and tell the client to place their fly in that spot – and a fish immediately cooperates by rising to the fly. And at the end of the day, when a client shakes my hand, and tells me that they can’t wait to come back and do it again, I realize that I have the greatest job in the world.

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