Hiwassee River

by Southeastern Anglers

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


Fly Shops

  • Reliance Fly and Tackle


  • Reliance Fly and Tackle

River Description

The scenic Hiwassee River in Reliance, Tennessee is considered a tailrace fishery. The constant water temperatures provide for year-round trout fishing here. The Hiwassee Headwaters form on the north side of Unicoi Gap in Towns County, GA. The river is spelled Hiawassee in Georgia. It drains 750,000 acres. It flows 11 miles through a tunnel to Apalachia powerhouse. Our most popular float trip is from the powerhouse to Reliance, which is six miles and provides for a full day of good fishing. This section requires a competent Hiwassee River fly fishing guide. The next section is from Reliance to Hwy. 411, which is also 6 miles; from the powerhouse to the Hiwassee’s confluence with the Ocoee River is 20 miles. Please practice safe wading practices and be sure to check the generation schedules before you go.

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

The Hiwassee River can be divided into three distinct sections. Each section has its own unique characteristics and each section fishes best at different times of the year.

The upper section which is the powerhouse to Reliance; This is the Hiwassee river guide’s favorite section. The upper section is the most accessible and receives the greatest fishing pressure, except for the Gorge below Big Bend parking lot which has no road accessibility. The upper section boasts all major aquatic eastern insect hatches. Midge, caddis, stonefly and many mayfly species are present. This section is famous for its sulfur hatch in May and it’s Isonynchia mayfly in the summertime. Wading access is available roadside and the three mile John Muir Trail parallels the section from Childers Creek to Big Bend parking lot.

The middle section, which is Reliance to Highway 411. The middle section (from Reliance to Hwy 411) also usually fishes best early in the season; April, May and June. This is the easiest section for wading, but can also be floated with one turbine generation. This section is also predominantly known for its caddis hatches. Access for wading can be found at roadside picnic areas and Taylors Island.

The lower section, which is Highway 411 Bridge to Patty Bridge, usually fishes best from March to early May and is known for its huge caddis hatches.

The Fishing

The Hiwassee River is most noted for it’s wonderful dry fly fishing, as top water action can be found most anytime of the year. The hatches change with the calendar, as we’ll see many species of insects throughout the year. Our year begins for us in the spring with the early mayflies followed closely behind by the large hatch of grannom caddis. Late spring ushers in true blue winged olives and the beginnings of the sulphur hatch. The little yellow mayflies wrap up just as the large isonychias are beginning to get active in the summer heat. The Isonychias are one of our premier hatches as everyone loves fishing large dry flies and the hatch lasts through the summer and into late fall. Our Hiwassee River guides have their own special patterns. Big October Caddis keep us busy through the late fall as we wrap up the year with little baetis and white streamer patterns. The winter season can see many faces, sunny 60-degree days or gray, blustery days where the high temperature never reaches 40. The fishing holds well as the winter bite can range from baetis, little stoneflies, or even large white streamers for shad kill fish. this is delayed harvest season for our largest trout of the year.

The Hiwassee is a great river for the new fly angler as well as a seasoned fly fisherman, as catch rates are usually high. Our Hiwassee river guides love to teach newcomers here. The Hiwassee River is also a great destination for corporate outings involving 4 – 10 anglers (call for details on large multi boat trips).

Suggested Flies

  • Zebra Midges
  • Tungsten Bead Head Pheasant Tails
  • Iysonichia Nymphs and dries
  • Prince Nymphs
  • Zug Bugs
  • Gray Caddis
  • Adams
  • Streamers

Suggested Rods/Reels/Lines

9 foot 4,5,6 or 7 weight rods with matching reels and floating fly lines, unless throwing streamers, then use sinking fly lines

Creel Limits

For detailed information on trout stream fishing regulations, see the trout section of the Tennessee Fishing Guide.

Tennessee Fishing Regulations

Purchase a Tennessee Fishing License

Public Access Points

  1. Power House Ramp
  2. Tower Creek access
  3. Big Bend Parking Area access
  4. Childers Creek Parking Area access
  5. Reliance Ramp
  6. Highway 30 Pull-offs
  7. Gee Creek Ramp
  8. Highway 411 bridge ramp


Getting There

From Insterstate 75 you need to cut over to Hwy 411 by either Hwy 60 in Cleveland, TN or Hwy 30 via Athens to Etowah.  Once on Hwy 411 you need to turn on to Kimsey Hwy towards Reliance, TN

Local weather forecast.

Tennessee Fly Fishing