Tag Archives: Caney Fork

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


Southern Brookies
Southeastern Fly
Trout Zone Anglers
Tennessee on the Fly

Fly Shops

Orvis Nashville
Fly South
Cumberland Transit
Jones Fly Co.


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


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


Its all about location…

We are blessed here in Tennessee to have several great spots for trout.  Tailwaters and wild streams abound here in the Volunteer state, and no matter where you live, you are close to great opportunities to fly fish for Rainbows, Browns and Brooks.  This brought a thought to mind.  What spot in our state is the best place to live if you fly fish for trout?

The primary criteria I used in my assessment was drive time to various locations.  It might be that you live five minutes from Tims Ford, but if you want to fish the South Holston you better be ready to drive.  I was in search of the single spot where, with a reasonable drive time you could reach more than one trout fishery within the state.  It was very tempting to expand the search so that I could include the wonderful opportunity found in North Georgia, Southern Kentucky, and North Carolina; but Tennessee is the criteria. 

There are several bodies of water that I did not include.  Not because they are bad locations, but I just thought it would be easier to use the high producing locations that can easily accommodate a lot of anglers.  The rivers/ locations I used are: Caney Fork, Clinch, Holston, South Holston, Watauga, Hiwassi and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I also tried to avoid an “as the crow flies” philosophy when determining distance.  Anyone who is familiar with Tennessee and East Tennessee in particular knows that you might be just over the mountain from a location, but getting there is a little more involved than just hopping over the ridge.  It had to be from point A to point B drive time.

After consulting several mapping services and calculating the quickest drive time to each location, here is what I found. 

If you are an avid fly fisherman in Tennessee and your primary target is trout, the best place to live which gives you the most opportunities to fish multiple rivers in pretty much the same amount of drive time is….

Masterson Road in South Knox County Tennessee.

If you are a fly angler for trout and are lucky enough to live on Masterson Road, here are your relative drive distances to fish each of the subject waters.

129 miles to the Caney Fork (2 1/2 hours)

129 miles to the South Holston. (21/2 hours)

104 Miles to the Watauga. (1 hour 45 min.)

65 miles to the Hiwassi. (1hour 15 min)

39 miles to the Holston (45 min)

38 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (45 min)

31 miles to the Clinch River (30 min)

Keep in mind that this is drive time based upon legal driving speeds.  Depending on how badly you want to be in the water, your drive times may vary.

If you live within a good rock throw of any of these waters, consider yourself lucky.  Those who live in Clinton, Bristol, New Market, or Townsend have immediate access to trout and if you are one of those people my hat is off to you for your selection in location.

But if you are like the majority of us and have to drive more than ten minutes to get to the river, then you might want to consider Masterson Road in South Knox County.  I mean its always good to have options isn’t it?


Caney Fork 8/26/2009

If you hadn’t read my previous post last Friday was awesome! Twenty inch fish rising to dry flies. I don’t think I can imagine anything better.

Well Doug and I thought it would be a great idea to check it out again. TVA was going to generate one hour later than they had the previous trip up. Other than that it was for the most part the same conditions. We dropped the boat and were fishing by 7am. We started picking fish up on dry/dropper rigs, then switched to streamers for a bit.

At a real nice riffle section, we both got out and did a little wade fishing. Doug was fishing a dry/dropper rig and landed a few fish. I was using a double nymph rig with a zebra midge on top and a sow bug on bottom. I had landed three fish fairly quickly and the fourth fish was a really nice brook trout.

That’s when I realized there was something wrong. With every flip of his tail I had a terrible pain growing in my finger. Oh no, I’m hooked, fish is hooked! I grabbed both lines and broke the fish off, so I could check the damage. He got me good, the size 14 sowbug was completely buried in my finger along the side of my finger nail. I gave it a few tugs with my hemostats, but it wouldn’t budge, this was going to be brutal, I thought.

About that time Doug rowed up and I hoped in the boat. There was no way we were going to cut this fishing trip short for a teeny hook in my finger, but I had to get it out some how. Doug most graciously offered to do it himself, but I didn’t go for that. Especially when he had that half grin on his face. So after much haggling from Doug and having soaking my hand in the cooler to numb everything, I man upped and with one quick pop ripped it out. It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it’d be, but wow it stung!

Okay back to fishing and after all this drama we were up on the good stretch where we’d done so well the week before. It took a little time for the fish to start rising again. The only thing left now was for us to put the fly in front of them and not mess it up. We fortunately had some great success. I’ll let the pictures speak for them selves.

We did have two fish break us off and I missed a few again, but was much better on my hook sets than our last trip. One of the coolest moments was when I had a really nice twenty plus inch Brown jump about three feet out of the water! It was absolutely insane.

Definitely a great way to spend the day after my birthday, with a great friend on a great river catching some great fish.

Kris Maurer


Absolutely Insane! 8/21/2009

Sometimes you get surprised by a river that you thought you knew. Doug and myself both had Friday off, so of course we had to go fishing, like there is anything else to do on a day off. The Clinch was again blown out and I had just been up to the South Holston and needed to try something else. On a whim we checked out the Caney Fork generation and to our surprise the generation schedule looked great. We had not been on the Caney since early spring, so it seemed like a logical choice.

Steve Sylvis had recently been up in Knoxville, we had wanted to fish the Clinch, but it didn’t happen, so we ended up in the mountains. I gave Steve a quick call on my way home to pick his brain about floating the river. Steve runs Xtreme Trout and is probably one of the best guides on the river. Well we lucked out and Steve agreed to meet us and fish! Sweet! there is nothing better than fishing with a great friend and guide on his home water. The generation was such that we needed to meet very early to get ahead of the water. This required a 4am departure time from Knoxville. Doug gave only a few grunts and grumbles when I told him what time we were going to leave.

We arrived at the boat ramp about 25 mins early. We were scheduled to meet Steve at 6am, I always try to be early for fishing trips, it doesn’t always happen, but when you are meeting up with someone that has agreed to show you the river at no charge, early is a good thing. After dropping the drift boat in and running a quick shuttle, Steve hopped on the sticks right off the bat and I lucked out with the front of the boat and Doug took the back. After pushing off the boat ramp we immediately started sticking fish. I had a grand slam within my first ten casts and not more than a hundred yards from the ramp! I thought to myself that this could be one of those days for the record books, but kept my mouth shut, not to jinx us.

Within thirty minutes Doug and I must have landed twenty fish on dry dropper rigs. We were catching mostly smaller fish, so I decided to switch over to a small streamer in hopes of catching something a bit larger. After a few quick pointers from Steve on my streamer stripping methods, I was hammering them. After three fish to the boat, Doug was giving up his dry/dropper for a streamer as well.

We continued to fish streamers until the water came up. They were doing a two hour pulse and we pulled the boat over to wait out the water and eat a little lunch. My wife had made some killer brownies the night before and I had a sweet tooth to satisfy. After lunch we noticed a few fish rising here and there, but nothing crazy. Then underneath some over hanging trees we all spotted a pretty decent fish rising.

We rowed over to get in casting position with our dry dropper rigs. First cast I missed him and it looked to be a good sixteen to seventeen inch Brown. Then Doug missed him and finally I farmed him one last time. We backed off to rest him for one last shot, then I noticed another fish farther up under the tree, which seemed to be a bit bigger. I retied with a rubber legged parachute hopper and botched the cast really bad, however this brown materialized just as I was picking my cast up and he bum rushed the hopper. We all freaked out, this was not the fish we had been casting to, he was much bigger. I of course pulled it away from him. After resting the run a little longer I threw a better cast up under the tree again and gave it one twitch. That twitch was the key and the behemoth rose and ate the hopper! This time I was on point and fish on!

I had done everything right up to this point, but then I realized that I had just stuck my largest fish on a dry fly and I was fishing my 3wt Helios mid-flex! I came out of my haze and hear Steve telling me to take it easy, take it easy. The monster then decided he wanted to make a run and do some huge head shakes. With that the hook slipped loose and the line went limp. We all looked at each other, jaws dropped to the bottom of the boat and asking each other if that just really happened.

Okay so I just lost my largest ever trout on a dry fly. Wait, what river are we on? Oh, the Caney Fork. What fly did he eat? A hopper. Really, did that just happen? Yeah!

So the excitement was over, right? Wrong, we dropped down just fifty more yards and again found rising fish in the trash line right along the bank. Doug throws a para-adams, no luck. We start to move farther down stream and I throw a long cast up to where Doug had just been casting and Wham! Fish on, a big Rainbow. This time I was bound and determined not to loose him. Not this time brother, fish in the net! By this time we were absolutely freaking out. Steve said it was his second largest rainbow to the boat that had not been caught on a streamer.

“So, Doug do you want a rubber legged para-hopper,” I asked? “What do you think” was his reply. Doug’s first cast and bam! big brown on. Yeah, hopper fishing! There were a couple points when I thought he might loose the fish, but not this time.

Doug’s second cast, slurp, yes another fish on the hopper, this time another big rainbow. Seriously are we still on the Caney Fork, is this really happening?

After all of this commotion we did not see any more fish rising, so we floated on out. I don’t think any of us cared if we caught another fish all day. We had already had one of the best days imaginable, and left content.

Tips from the trip: Para-adams with a midge dropper on 6X floro, White streamers on Class II Density Compensated sinking line. Don’t get caught with blinders on, think outside the box. Rising water, trash lines, summer, beetles, hoppers, fish the trash.

I’d like to give another shout out to Steve, he is one of the best guides I’ve ever been in the boat with. Check him out at Xtreme Trout

Kris Maurer


One More Day to Go!

I am sitting in bed, I can’t sleep because I’m anticipating fishing with Steve Sylvis from Game Fair Ltd. Doug Moore, myself, Steve and one of his friends have been planning to get together for sometime now. We’re scheduled to float the Clinch Wednesday and Thursday(Generation permitting). He’s got a presentation with the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited Thursday night.

Steve is about as true a Troutbum as I can think of. The first time I met him he had a beard that hung half way down to his belt and you’d swear he’d just crawled out of the mountains. I thought man he is the real deal. He dosen’t have the “long” beard any longer, but still smells fishy. Last year he spent the summer guiding in Alaska and has some absolute killer stories from being out there. Besides trout he also chases Redfish, Stripers and who knows what else.

Steve manages Game Fair Ltd’s Hunting and Fishing Department. I know most of the folks over there by name now and they are all great people. Seeing as how we’re all in the same business it’s good that we can get along. I think it is better for us all that way. Steve also runs www.xtremetrout.com and as recently published a killer map of the Caney Fork.

The Caney fished off the Chain last year. I made about nine trips over there throughout the fall. It gets a bad rap for weekend fishing, but if you can hit it during the week, it can be awesome.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the generation.


Not boxing the waders just yet! Caney Fork 08-24-08

On a whims notice we decided to float the Caney Fork today. Seeing as I’m headed out west for 9 whole days I just couldn’t bring myself to box the waders up for shipping two weeks early! My father, Doug Moore and myself all toted off to the Caney. We started off early floating from the dam to Happy Hollow at around 9:30am with the generators cutting at 10am.

Lemme tell you, when there pumping full steam, they are pushing some water! A sick amount of water…Not only were they pumping water they were sluicing as well to the tune of around 5300cfs (I think). At any rate the boat launch looked like a canoe/yak parking lot and everyone was looking at us and this funny looking boat! We quickly launched and I managed to snap a picture of the release as it was teetering off….that’s about a 15′ wall of water coming out! The wake was rising into the gun whales of the boat!

Flows from the dam.

The hatch we had to contend with all day! The big bug riding in the film behind Doug!

Just as the dam was almost out of sight they cut the water off and the current slowed slightly. Dad hooked into the first fish of the day in the first 15 minutes of our float! It put gigantic smiles on every ones faces as he had a FAT 16” brown tug tightly on his line!…………….Just about the time I started looking for my net! Oh crap, well so much for that….I forgot the silly thing at the house! You know that makes for a good day! Leave the net at home!

Here’s a shot of that beaut of a fish!

I believe I manned the oars till the halfway point of the float and Doug hadn’t managed anything off the back of the boat and wanted a break…So a break I gave him. I had probably been casting for around 30 minutes and stuck a pig of a male brownie. He put a nice bend in a 7wt Helios, and upon bringing him boat side he measured in at 20″! Beautiful coloration’s almost in full spawn colors!

Bending that 7wt Helios!

He’s forming what will one day be a nice ugly kipe!

This is for your Doug, I cropped you out of my fish picture just like you said I would!

Gosh, a trout makes anybody look good! HA HA!I relinquished the rod at this point hoping Doug would get the S word (no I’m not referring to the 4 letter version I’m referring to the 5 letter word that ends in K and stinks when you hit one with a car!) Your welcome Doug! If you all haven’t already figured it out we left with him getting the S word! We floated over some really nice fish all day! Several really large browns, and bows!

Dad managed to pick up some more nice fish throughout the day, all fat and ranging around the 10 to 14″ mark. Including one beautifully colored stocked tail water brookie…These guys were amazing…Everyone one that got brought to the boat was gorgeous!

Here’s some of that coloration!

A little of Doug’s handy work!

That fish landed dad his Caney Fork Slam! Here’s his bow!

Doug got tired of ripping streamers and handed the rod back to me and I finished my slam about an hour before we took out! Landing a bow and, believe it or not, a brookie on a streamer the same size as him!

Here’s one of my last fish for the day.

So all in all, we had a darn good day! We got off the river around 7ish and packed it back in to Knoxville! I immediately went and dropped the boat off then rushed to get all my gear together to ship out! We leave for Yellowstone in less than 10 days guys! I’m sure we will have some excellent reports then! We are going to be fishing the Yellowstone for 5 days and then switching to the Big Horn River in Montana (floating it) for our last three days there! My heart races faster and faster the more I think about it! I’ve been day dreaming about it for weeks! Until then guys!



Cany Fork 05-28-08

Today, like most, we though would wind up to be a stellar day on the Caney. Seeing as it was our first time down for a float on the Caney our hopes were high. I had spoken with Bill Hall about fishig the Caney for the past two weeks and listened to his story of success. Bill accompanied by my father had went to the Caney two weeks prior and absolutely killed them! So after I gained a little insight from those two I figured we would have an excellent day.

They started generating at 9am and were pushing one generator till around 6pm. I’ve been told in the past that fishing during the genereation could be awesome. However something that I later learned was to fish this river on the fall. When they turn the generator off and the water starts to subside. So keep that in mind!

Here’s a picture of the dam, I forgot to get it until we had already started our float.

The river is absolutely chalked full of fish, at least from the dam to Happy Hollow, which is the float we took. It takes about 6.5 hours to float during the generation with stopping along the way. If you wanted to take a straight float through it could easily be done in about 5 hours. Launching a boat is pretty easy and the take out isn’t far away..There are also a few local shuttles, literally a minute away from the dam. This river would also easily accomodate smaller john boats with small outboard motors and would generally keep you in some really great spots on that river. We saw two or three john boats all day and I believe we were the only ones in a drift boat all day.

We started out fishing midges dropped deep below an indicator which managed fish sporradically all day. It wasn’t fantastic fishing. We kept watching fish all day and after looking at all of the nice grass beds we decided it would be stupid to keep fishing that way…..Streamer time!

Here’s a shot of a FAT bow caught on a Steven “Bubba” Dark pattern. This fish took Doug into his backing three times. Made for a good morning! Put smiles on all of our faces.
Playing with Picasa (A photo uploader from Google.com). It made for a cool picture.

Doug made the switch first thwoing on a nice baitfish pattern. Instantly started getting chases. Fish ranging from 10″ to 24″ giving chase to Doug’s fly. After that it became apparent that’s what Kris would have to throw. After thouroughly searching the boat for the same streamer pattern, or even something close, we wound up short. This would prove to make an example of being unprepared. Win some lose some! We came close on a pattern Doug had in his bugger barn but it wouldn’t seem to hold a candle to the fly that Doug had been casting. Yet another lesson we would learn at the end of the day was, take seven weight rods in stead of chucking streamins on five weights all day!

Once we managed the half way point we started to float along side an older gentleman in a john boat. He had just finished motoring up a run and was in the process of hooking and landing a beast. He snatched his boga grips and lifted up the pig. It was a nice fish! He said it was 8lbs, as we glared in amazement! Awesome!

Either way a short time later this nice guy came floatiing by, we think it was his fish. It was a battle trying to net him as he floated by upside down. He showed a little bit of life kicking the net. We finally netted him and tried to revive him. Doug managed to get him moving so let’s hope his nose is upstream and awaiting breeding! I don’t think this guy was 8lbs. though.

Anywho, we managed fish the rest of the day at a moderate pace. It seemed as if the half way point was when things started to slow down. But that’s alright with me, I know what that river is capable of, and now we know what we need to do to be capable of landing them. It’s always good to have a day like this. It certainly made us stop and think and the knowledge gained will go miles in helping us out from here. On a last note, when you go fishing make sure your prepared for what the day will throw at you.

This was an average fish for the day, while chucking streamers.

The Caney Fork is an absolutely beautiful river, and I will be back to fish it very soon! It’s only about an hour and forty five minute drive from Knoxville. The only river closer is the Clinch! So keep that in mind. There’s also plenty of wade access throughout the river.

Until the next float!



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.