Fly fishing the Caney Fork River is one of the treats that Tennessee has to offer fly anglers. This slow moving stream features an easy to wade gravel bottom. The gentle flows are perfect for our drift boat as well. Visiting anglers would do well to spend at least their first day with a fly fishing guide to learn the subtleties of the river. If you choose to fish the river on your own, then read on to learn more about how to find success fly fishing on the Caney Fork River.
Finding the Trout
Many anglers feel intimidated when the first lay eyes on one of Tennessee’s tailwaters. The Caney Fork River is no exception. The river is large compared to mountain standards. Thus, anglers are often intimidated and wonder where to find trout. The truth is, trout are everywhere on this rich tailwater, but there are a few spots that anglers can look to increase the odds.
The golden rule of finding fish on the Caney Fork River is that structure is everything. Sounds simple enough right? Logs, weed beds, drop offs, even the occasional rock can be the type of structure trout are looking for. Subtle troughs, and even the shallow shoals themselves will hold plenty of fish under the right circumstances. To really excel at finding trout, you need a good idea of the food they are consuming.
Matching the Hatch
Trout feast every day of the year on massive numbers of midges and black fly larvae. The fish are primarily eating larva and pupa. However, at times, they may also key in on adults or emergers trapped in the surface film. One key to success is in learning to effectively identify rise forms. What many anglers take for fish feeding on the surface is actually trout chasing pupa in the drift. Becoming truly effective at matching the hatch on this tailwater requires tying your own flies or buying from someone who ties very exact midge imitations. If you need slightly more generic midge imitations, a good Zebra Midge is hard to beat. Need to know how to fish a midge? Check out this article on Fishing the Zebra Midge.
Other insects, including caddis, mayflies, and craneflies, are important less often but can nevertheless turn an otherwise slow day of fishing into something to remember. Sow bugs can be more important up close to the dam. The best fishing for fish taking caddis or mayflies is usually from the I-40 Rest Area downstream. By the time you get below Betty’s Island, improved habitat provides some great insect hatches. This section of the river is less pressured due to lack of wade access. The best way to fish the lower river is from a boat.
Terrestrials can be important throughout the river at the right times of the year. Beetles, grasshoppers, and ants are the most productive although cicadas and other bugs can be important under special circumstances. The periodic cicada hatch is something amazing to behold.
One of the best things about the Caney Fork River is the sight fishing opportunities for large trout and other game fish. Large rainbow and brown trout can often be taken on very exact midge imitations and sometimes even on dry flies and terrestrials. These big fish take very precise presentations, but the rewards are worth the trouble. The large brown trout at the top of the page took a tiny midge fished on 6x tippet.
Other Game Fish
In addition to trout, anglers can find an occasional walleye, bass, striper, and even buffalo and carp. For anglers willing to explore, these fish rarely ever get many anglers excited so you should have the action to yourself.
Guided Fly Fishing on the Caney Fork River
Whether you are an angler looking to improve your skills, or a beginner just wanting to catch that first trout, a guided fly fishing trip on the Caney Fork River will help you both learn and catch trout. For anglers looking for a relaxing day on the water, a guided float trip may be just what you are looking for. Operating out of a Clackacraft drift boat, I enjoy rowing fly anglers down the river in the pursuit of trout. If you are looking for a chance at large trout, this is the trip for you.
Other anglers may be looking for some help learning how to wade fish the river so they can return on their own. Accordingly, I offer guided walk/wade trips as well. These trips have an emphasis on instruction and learning the details of fishing midges and other food items that the trout are eating. Occasional fly fishing tailwaters classes will happen from time to time as well so check back for more information on those.
Where to Fish on the Caney Fork River
Access is easy on the Caney Fork River. Most anglers fish near the boat ramps on the river. However, there are a few wade only access points as well. Solitude becomes more likely the farther you travel from the dam. Finally, if you are new to the river and want to explore on your own, check out the Caney Fork River access map below. As with any tailwater river, always check the generation schedule before going fishing or floating. Check the generation schedule for the Caney Fork River HERE.