By Vernon Summerlin
The trout fishing in Tennessee has taken off. Discharges from the turbines have reached a steady state and fish in the streams below Center Hill, Tims Ford, and Dale Hollow Dams are settling in for their summer runs.
In getting a bead on where trout anglers should go for the best trout fishing, Jim Mauries of Cumberland Transit in Nashville recommends the Caney Fork, Elk and Obey Rivers. The first two are his personal Middle Tennessee favorites, although there are a lot of fish below the Dale Hollow Dam.
“The Caney Fork and Elk will hold trout all year,” he says. “Some tailwaters don’t provide good habitat all year when the rains are sparse and the temperatures rise. The waters released through other dams are cold and the fish don’t die but the habitat and trout don’t hold up as well as they do in the Caney Fork and Elk.”
The trout streams not below dams west of Nashville have some hold over fish and some fish get to a nice size but they become sluggish in summer. Their quality fluctuates with the seasons.
The best trout fishing is from Tims Ford Dam downstream about six miles. Historically, there have been trout down to Fayetteville.
Rainbows make up most of the trout population in the Elk and Caney Fork Rivers. You will probably catch more browns on the Caney Fork. Rainbows are easier to raise in hatcheries for stocking while the brown trout becomes “wild” soon after being released and it is more wary. Your best bet for catching browns is from sunset to shortly after dawn.
“Typically, once the spring rains slow down and the generation schedules flatten out, trout start moving into more predictable patterns. There are more insects and there is more for the fish to eat. The huge volumes of water discharged earlier this year scoured the stream beds of insects and it takes awhile for them to return,” says Jim.
Flies for Middle Tennessee: He says for Middle Tennessee tailwaters; always carry a selection of midges. A midge is any of the various gnat-like insects. Midges are the predominant hatch on the Caney Fork River. Other insects hatch from time to time but there will always be midges. When trout key on the small insects and you don’t have any, you won’t have any trout.
Midge presentations: One is a dead drift when mimicking a nymph. The other is when it is emerging. For imitating an emerging insect, Jim fishes it like a wet fly – cast, let the fly swing, and then rise. There are three points trout hit this presentation after casting across the stream and putting a mend in the line. A mend is where you flip a little slack in the line. Those three points are as it swings downstream, at the end of the swing when it pauses, and when the fly begins to lift to surface mimicking an emerging midge. To imitate an emerger, you must leave your line in the water after it is fully downstream so the current lifts the fly to the surface.
Depending on what stage the trout are hitting, you may need to fish a midge on the surface like a dry fly. You can interpret the rise by watching the fish. If the trout rises and leaves a ring on the surface but does not break the surface, they are feeding on the emerger. If the trout’s mouths break the plane of the surface, they are eating adult midges on the surface. You should select your fly accordingly.
Jim names the best patterns for our area: The Disco midge imitates the larvae. He recommends pearl or red colors in sizes from 18 to 22. The Palomino midge has been the best imitation emerger for the last two years. The best colors are black, gray and dark olive in sizes 18 to 22.
For the surface midge, a small parachute Adams or Griffith’s Gnat in peacock or black in sizes 16 to 20 are two good choices. These represent a midge cluster.
Other bugs for your box should include dark olive to gray scuds, sizes 14 to 20; gray to black sow bugs (an aquatic version of the rolly polly or potato bug) in sizes 14 to 16; a selection of streamers to represent baitfish and crawfish, and Woolly Buggers, Zonkers and Muddler Minnows from a size two to 14. The bigger fish hit these larger flies.
Jim recommends using an eight-foot, five-weight or nine-foot, six-weight fly rod system. He uses a tapered leader and gives us this formula to determine what size to purchase. Remember to divide the hook size by three and that gives you the X value. If we want to use a number 22 midge, divide by three, that’s a 7X tippet and a 7X tippet is 1.2-pound test line. We’re talking small!
Jim considers the South Holston, Clinch and Hiwassee Rivers and Abrams Creek to be the best trout streams in Tennessee. For more fly fishing information contact Jim Mauries at Cumberland Transit, 615-321-4069.