Guided Trips


Things have changed a lot since the last report. Unseasonably warm weather has kicked off the first hatches of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains while an extremely wet February means all of the tailwaters are blown out across middle and east Tennessee.

If you want to fish in the Smokies, nymphs and streamers will be your best bet unless you encounter a hatch. In that case, Blue Quills and Quill Gordons should be in your arsenal as well as Blue-winged Olives.

For now, just forget about the tailwaters in the short term. continued rain means it will be at least another month before the tailwaters are fishable again. With luck, we can start thinking about some streamer float trips on the Caney Fork in mid to late March, although that may be optimistic. In the meantime, head for the mountains and enjoy chasing the wild trout there.

Photo of the Month: Breaking Cabin Fever

Photo of the Month: Breaking Cabin Fever

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Changing River

This past winter, minor rumblings erupted into widespread complaint about the Caney Fork River here in Tennessee. Unethical anglers had simply taken too many large fish out of the river during the spawn. After fishing throughout the winter and spring and not finding the same numbers of large fish, many people concluded that the river was toast. Fortunately, a changing attitude about the resource now prevails and many fisherman are moving towards catch and release as a way to keep good fish in the river. So far this summer, I have not seen as many fish leaving the river on stringers as in the past. This is in no way to say that people are not keeping fish anymore because they are but I believe that an attitude shift is taking place.

Current regulations allow fisherman to keep 2 brown trout with a minimum length of 18". The problem with the current regulations is that it is producing a river full of fish up to 17" but not nearly as many over that as the river is capable of supporting. Based on the number of complaints and suggestions this spring to TWRA, we will probably see some new regulation proposals this fall for the river. It would be nice to have a slot limit of 16"-22". I really do not mind people taking fish as it is their legal right but it would be nice if the fish were allowed to grow just a little longer before harvesting. Brown trout in the 18"-22" range are really the perfect size. There will still be larger fish, but the river could support a large number of fish in this range and the fishing opportunities would be exceptional.

The floods we experienced this past spring also severely damaged the river and raised the water temperature of Center Hill Lake. As a result, current water temperatures on the tailwater are running a little warmer compared to other years. The flushing the river received during the high water episode actually does not appear to have damaged the actual river. The huge weedbeds are still intact and the river has not changed too much. The fish populations on the other hand took a significant hit. Prior to the high water, you were guaranteed to hook several hard fighting rainbows in the 16"-18" range in a fishing trip if you knew where to look for them. Now it seems that the overall number of rainbows is quite low. I don't want to make any generalizations based on just a couple of fishing trips but I would have to say that the number of quality rainbows has definitely decreased. On a positive note, the brown trout population seems to be doing very well. There are good numbers of fish in the river from 5"-6" all the way up through 17"-18". Larger fish are there, but it often takes a change in tactics to find them.

The shift in the fish population is definitely significant. Fisherman will probably fish the river and think it is much worse off than it was and in some ways they would be correct. However a change in your tactics will allow you to continue to catch fish. Numbers of brown trout are definitely up but these fish will still eat similar flies. Sight fishing opportunities abound if you know where to look and are proficient at spotting fish. The bug life on the river seems to be doing well also. Midge hatches are still the main fare for the resident trout but scud and sow bug populations are also doing fine.

Overall I would say that the Caney still has a lot of potential. I really do not expect much from it for the rest of the year but with the slowly changing attitude of the people who fish it and regulation changes from TWRA, I believe it can still be a quality trout stream to rival any river in the southeast.


  1. good post! Lets hope the river can recover, a few bad apples can ruin the whole barrel... er, river.

  2. Beautiful fish. Shame people keep them. Grocery stores sell trout that are raised on farms. Trout in wild streams should be left for the sportsmen to enjoy. Just my humble opinion though.

  3. Great photo, I always enjoy them, butI get so disgusted with what I see happening to our streams by those who do not care.



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