Tennessee is one of the best kept secrets in the fly fishing world. While famous streams like the Beaverkill, Madison, Yellowstone, and White River get all the attention, Tennessee has some of the most pristine trout streams left in the United States. Limestone streams wind through old growth forest, and many of the best streams are only accessible on foot.
Tennessee has over 845 miles of streams with wild, self-sustaining trout populations of Brook, Brown and Rainbows, and hundred more miles of regularly-stocked streams. These are almost all located in the beautiful Southern Appalachian mountains of East Tennessee. 220 miles of trout streams are located right in the Smokey Mountains National Park. The only ‘native’ trout in TN. is the Brook Trout. Rainbow trout were introduced into the area in the late 1880s from the Western U.S. Brown Trout were imported from Scotland and Germany around the same time. All three species flourish in the cool, clean streams and rivers of the Volunteer State.
Some of the best stream that I fish here are:
- Hiwassee River – my favorite, probably because I live nearby. This is a semi-fast moving small river with numerous rapids up to Class-II. I have fly fished all over the U.S, and overseas, and I would rate the Hiwassee as the absolute best Dry Fly stream in the country, without reservation. It’s a great river for easy floating in a raft, kayak or canoe. Most of the river is wade-able as well. It is also the home of the rare Snail Darter. The Hiwassee is divided in three sections, each with it’s own characteristics. The entire river runs from the Powerhouse in Towns County, west to the Tennessee River just a little northeast of Chattanooga. The Upper Hiwassee runs from the Powerhouse to Reliance, Tn. It is the most popular area and gets the most fishing pressure. It has good access, with a road paralleling much of the stream. All major NE hatches are on this stream. Fishing is great all year here. This section has trophy-size Rainbows, and I have caught many big Browns here as well. The Middle Hiwassee runs from Reliance to the bridge at US Highway 411. There is a free public boat ramp at the Charleston City Dock with a picnic table and bathrooms. This section is best in April, May and June, and has phenomenal Caddis hatches. This section also has a good population of monster catfish, Smallmouth Bass, and Redear Sunfish (Shellcrackers). The Lower Section runs from the 411 Bridge to the junction of the Tennessee River at Patty Bridge. This section is best in March-June, and also has a huge Caddis hatch. It also has bass, catfish and panfish.
- Clinch River – The Clinch runs from the Kentucky border near Kingsport, to the Tennessee River in Kingston, Tn. The best trout fishing is below the TVA Dam below Lake Norris. Here be monster trout. This is where I caught the biggest freshwater trout in my life, a mean 24-lb, 9 oz. Brown Trout with a really bad attitude. The State Record Brown also came from here, and was 28 lbs, 12 oz. 5-10 pounders are not uncommon. And I have never caught a rainbow smaller than 4 lbs here, although I am sure there are smaller ones in there someplace. This is the top destination if you want really, really big trout, but beware, these trout are much more wary than in other places, and the fishing is much more challenging. The State Record Rainbow came out of Ft. Patrick Henry Reservoir, and weighed 16 lbs, 4 oz. I’d like to see some of those streams up North try to match that………..
- Great Smokey Mountains National Park -Near the outstanding tourist destination of Gatlinburg, the best entrance to the park is in Townsend, Tn. At least once a year, me and the Mrs. check in at the Docks Motel. She cruises the wonderful shops, and I assault the park trout population. Fishing in the park is outstanding all year for Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout. These are all wild, and take much more patience and technique to catch. This is classic fly fishing at it’s best. Some of the better streams are Abrams (especially right below the waterfall), the Little River (right behind the Docks Motel), and the Middle Prong. Brown Trout are best in October, and Brookies are best in May-June. Rainbows are everywhere, all year. And while you are there, be sure to stop in at Grandma’s Kitchen for a huge bowl of gravy, and some of the best biscuits known to humankind. Accommodations at the Docks, and the other hotels in the area are as good as it gets, and very reasonable. I’ve already booked my room at the Docks for this year in October. There is a big brown out there with my name on it.
- Tellico -The Tellico River is one of the most diverse rivers in the state. It flows from North Carolina into the Natanhala National Forest, through Monroe County, Tn, and in to the Holston River. It comes out of the Unicoi Mountain Gorge, and across the Tellico Plains. You can fish the mountain part, that rivals the beauty of any stream in the US, or go a little farther downstream and fish the flatter parts. Fishing is great here all year long. There are also rare Snail Darters here. One of my favorite places is below the Bald River Falls, an 80-foot waterfall where the Bald River flows into the Tellico. The trout here are big and mean. 5-7 pound Browns and Rainbows are not unusual. Another good place is Turkey Creek, near Sweetwater, Tn. This is a scenic stream that feeds into the Tellico, and has some of the most beautiful and peaceful scenery your likely to ever see. It proves the saying that trout don’t live in ugly places.
There are many, many more outstanding trout fisheries in Tennessee, much too many to list here. I could go on and on, but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Tn. also has some of the best Smallmouth Bass, and White Bass fisheries around, all of which can be caught on a fly rod. And of course, panfish are everywhere. I regularly fly fish for crappie in Lake Ocoee, lake Chickamauga, and Lake Nickajack. These lakes also have great fly fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass, and one of the fastest growing fly fishing sports, angling for carp. The best way to evaluate fly fishing in TN. Is to come on down, grab a rod, put on your fishing boots and waders and enjoy some real Southern Hospitality, and outstanding angling opportunities.