Tennessee anglers have many options to choose from when going trout fishing. The Caney Fork River is one of the great trout tailwaters the state has to offer. Cold water from the depths of Center Hill Lake is released at the base of Center Hill Dam where a an excellent trout fishery is born. Rainbow, brown, and brook trout flourish from here downstream for the next 15+ miles. The Caney Fork is one of the more popular trout streams in the state. This is due to plenty of wade access, several boat ramps, and proximity to Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. A Caney Fork River fly fishing guide can help shorten the learning curve and get you catching trout quickly.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: Wade Versus Float
Most anglers prefer a guided float trip on this river for several reasons. First, fishing out of the boat is more relaxing. Also, visitors on float trips have the chance to see sections of river that wade anglers cannot easily access. Finally, there are usually more and better shots at larger fish as well during float trips. If you are looking for a Caney Fork River fly fishing guide, then I hope you will consider myself, David Knapp of Trout Zone Anglers. Here is what a day on the water with me would be like.
Our trip will be scheduled around the generation schedule regardless of whether it is a wade or float trip. The Center Hill Dam is operated by the Corps of Engineers. Anglers are not at the top of the list of priorities when it comes to releases from the dam. Power needs and water management rank much higher than anglers. A normal day will start when we meet sometime between 6:30 and 9:00 AM. Depending on generation schedules those times could vary even more.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: The Beginning
I prefer to meet anglers at the takeout ramp. When you are finished, all you have to do is get in your car and leave instead of waiting for me to drive you back to the put in. If you bring your own fly rods, we usually put them in the rod tubes before heading up to the dam or wherever our launch point is. Once we arrive at the launch, I quickly throw any last second items in the boat. I’ll do any necessary rod rigging as well. After launching, I like to row into the middle of the river and then drop anchor. We will go through the terminology and techniques for the day and hopefully catch the first trout or two.
Every trip begins with a quick lesson and reminder for all anglers about fishing out of the boat. If we have two anglers for the day, it is important to pay attention to each other. I remind both anglers to check on the other before casting. If beginners are on the boat, we cover casting and everyone gets a quick refresher on mending which is essential to fishing effectively out of the drift boat. Once everyone is dialed in with the necessary techniques, the anchor comes up and we start drifting.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: The Methods
The Caney Fork River is known as a midge factory. Nymphing usually produces the best numbers of fish. If we are out on low water, then a dry fly with a midge dropper may be the ticket. Regardless of how we start, I start showing anglers how to pick good places to cast. Often, we will spot a good fish and stop to sight fish. That produces some of the most exciting moments of the day. Many anglers struggle with spotting fish. Having an experienced Caney Fork River fly fishing guide can help more with finding fish than anything else. Knowing what flies the fish wants to eat doesn’t hurt either.
In addition to fishing subsurface, we sometimes can also fish streamers or dry flies. Terrestrials normally account for the best dry fly fishing of the year. Hoppers, beetles, and ants all account for some great fish over the course of a season on the Caney Fork River. A Caney Fork River fly fishing guide will know when to fish each of these patterns. Sometimes a good sense of smell can help also. Sound crazy? Check out this article about fishing Japanese beetles.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: Catching Trout
Usually, this part takes less time than getting anglers to cast well. In fact, I’ve had people catch 20″ trout within 10 feet of the front of the boat. Most of the time, we catch our first fish just a few yards from the boat ramp. By the time we pass the last wade fishermen, anglers are dialed in with both their casting and mending and trout are coming to the net with regularity. The first good holes usually call for either dropping the anchor or back rowing to fish them again. Your Caney Fork River fly fishing guide will know which holes are the best and which ones to row on past. This can vary week to week.
Sometimes we will stop and get out to wade. Most anglers enjoy the opportunity to get out and cool off. Stalking trout on foot is just as exciting when you don’t have to contend with the crowds closer to the access points.
Anglers will also have the chance to enjoy various birds and wildlife in between hooking and landing fish. Often sighted along the banks or swimming in the water are mink, muskrats, and beavers. We see osprey and bald eagles fairly regularly. A treat you will enjoy on every float are good numbers of great blue herons. Along the river we often see deer, squirrels, and wild turkeys. River otters, bobcats, and other less common wildlife are seen occasionally.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: The Lunch
A mile and a half or two into the float is approximately where lunch usually happens. In the heat of summer, it feels amazing to pull up in the shade and relax for a little while. I’m a firm believer that people fish more effectively after a short break to rest and get some food in them.
Full day trips include drinks and lunch. Water and Gatorade are always in the cooler, although some clients have specific requests such as a favorite soft drink. The lunches are always filling. Maybe too filling. We usually have a lull in the fishing after lunch. I’m never certain if it is just the semi-normal midday doldrums or if it has to do with getting too comfortable and relaxed.
People rave about our lunches. The sandwiches are big, usually featuring turkey, roast beef, or something along those lines, and would make a full meal on their own. If you like Greek pasta salad, make sure and put in a special request when you book your trip. Some people come back to fish with me just for the pasta salad. Other times we have potato salad. On all trips I have a bag or two of kettle cooked chips along.
Dessert is normally chocolate chip cookies or a Snickers bar. Dessert is often saved for a mid-afternoon snack when the anglers need a pick me up to get them focused again. A little sugar boost can work wonders in catching trout.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: The Second Half
As we finish our food, the trout rising nearby start getting our attention. Before long, the boat is back in the current and we are drifting our flies over rising trout. If we have not seen any big fish yet, we usually get some good shots immediately after lunch. In fact, the Double of the Year (each angler hooking up at the same time) came just after lunch one day. The second half of the float features more large deep holes which always offer the potential for trophy sized rainbow and brown trout. As a Caney Fork River fly fishing guide who is on the river nearly every day, I usually have a good idea on where to find these fish.
As the shadows lengthen, fish begin to feed on the late afternoon midge or blackfly hatch. Fish will rise eagerly, but will usually take a midge pupa over a dry fly. We switch our rigs or pull out a different rod that is already rigged and ready. Next, I get back on the oars and maneuver the boat into position for anglers to target rising trout. Every Caney Fork River fly fishing guide has a preferred technique and this is mine. Watching that dry fly is my favorite part of the day. Usually it will suddenly suck under, the angler lifts the rod, and a feisty trout is on the other end. Trout will attack the dry fly just enough to keep things interesting, but most eat the midge dropper.
A Day On the Caney Fork River: The Conclusion
A full day fishing on the Caney Fork is a lot of fun but like most good things does eventually come to an end. By the time we pull up at the takeout ramp, everyone is happy but also glad to finish an awesome day on the water. Before we even pull the boat out of the river anglers usually start making plans for a return trip.
Choosing A Caney Fork River Fly Fishing Guide
As you choose a fly fishing guide for your trip to the Caney Fork, I believe that the most important part of the equation is finding someone who you will enjoy spending a day on the water with. Please feel free to call and chat with me a little before booking. I prefer to get to know my clients ahead of time. An email or phone call is a good way to accomplish this.
My first recommendation for a guide on any river is to pick someone who considers it their home waters. During excellent years, guides come from all over to take people fishing on the Caney Fork River. I know for a fact that the regular guides on the river consistently put anglers on a lot more fish than the occasional visiting guide. If you want to explore other options, I am always glad to recommend another guide or two. The best guides operating on the river know where to find the fish and what the fish are eating.
Regardless of who you select as your Caney Fork River fly fishing guide, I hope you enjoy getting to know this Tennessee treasure.
Caney Fork Wade Trips
Wade trips obviously differ from float trips, but may be a better choice for those who are wanting to learn the river for themselves. On full day wade trips, we will normally fish at least two and often three locations on the river. This is a good way to gain an introduction to fly fishing the river with a Caney Fork River fly fishing guide. This is essential if you hope to return and find fishing success on your own. For those wanting to see all of the access points, a quick auto tour of the river can accomplish this even if we don’t fish at every access point. On all wade trips, be prepared to walk and wade up to a half mile or more from the access point/vehicle. Also be prepared to carry your own water and snacks.