Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Hiwassee
River In Tennessee
The Hiwassee River begins in the
mountains of Northeastern Georgia.
Appalachia Lake provides the water for
this tailwater through a pipe. It is
released at the Appalachia Power
House about ten miles from the Lake
and the Appalachia Dam. In many ways,
fly fishing on the Hiwassee River is
similar to fly fishing on many highly
praised western Rocky Mountain trout
streams. If it were not for a different
kind of trees lining the banks, you may
not notice the difference.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 and 6X, Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 line size
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The best way is to fish for the holdover trout is to try to match the food that is most
available at the time, because you will still catch just as many recently stocked trout as
you would otherwise.
There's are a large number of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and other aquatic insects
in this river. There's also plenty of baitfish, sculpin and crustaceans for the trout to eat.
If you are fishing prior to a certain insect hatch, it is usually best to fish imitations of
their nymphs or larvae. Midges are always present. Trout can be caught year-round on
imitations of their larvae and pupae. Streamers also work great at times.
The fly-fishing season is year-round on the Hiwassee River.
It is possible to catch trout on the coldest days of the winter but the best times to fish
would be during the spells of warmer weather that occur frequently.
Springtime is the best timefor fly fishing the Hiwassee River. That's when most of the
The upper area above Reliance, which is approximately six miles long, is the most fished
area of the river. Most of it can be fished from a road that parallels the river, except in
the Trophy Section, which is well off the road. There is a trail that follows the river
through the Trophy Section and you have to walk a short ways to fish it.
The section of the river from Reliance to the Highway 411 Bridge is quite different from
the upper section. The bottom is much more level and the stream can be waded easier.
This section is usually not crowded and there are several areas you can access the
The fishing techniques vary depending on whether you are fishing for newly stocked
trout or larger holdover fish. Basically, for the first few months, the newly stocked trout
can be caught on just about any fly, although nymphs work far better than dry flies most
of the time.
Hatches and Trout Flies for the Hiwassee River:
Our information on aquatic insects is based on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly suggestions on imitating the most plentiful and
most available insects and other foods at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike the
generic fly shop trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the insects in the Hiwassee
River and in all stages of life that are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish better,
more realistic trout flies, have a much higher degree of success, give us a call. We not
only will help you with selections, you will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of
the thousands of our customers will use nothing else.
This is one tailwater that has a very large diversity of aquatic insect hatches. Fish can be
caught on a dry fly just about the entire year. Even on nice, warm winter days, the dry fly
can bring the trout up to the surface.
The midge is the most consistently available insect in the river. Most anglers ignore it
when other insects are hatching as well as during the spring, summer and fall seasons,
but you can actually do well with midge larvae and pupae imitations year-round.
Blue-winged Olives, consisting of several different species, hatch just about the entire
year. They can hatch as early in the year as January but they are far more reliable
starting about the middle of March. Most species are bi-brooded and they usually hatch
again in mid September. Hatches of Little BWOs, Small BWOs, and other tiny species of
BWOs may hatch anytime from late spring through December.
Winter Stoneflies are usually present as early as January. Little Brown Early Season
Stoneflies show up about the end of February. Both of these hatches last about a month.
Nymphs are your best bets for the early stoneflies.
Little Black Caddis (American Grannoms) start hatching about the first of March and last
through most of April, depending on the water temperatures. This hatch can be heavy for
a few days.
There is a light hatch of Hendricksons that takes place in April in parts of the river. It is
not consistent and not very reliable, but if you happen to catch it right, it can be
rewarding. There are a few Light Cahills that hatch about the middle of May, but they
are not very reliable. Water levels, discharges and water temperature can drastically
affect these two mayflies.
From about the first of May, all the way through September, Slate Drakes (Isonychia
Bicolor) mayflies hatch off and on. These mayflies usually hatch in short spurts. It can be
heavy at the first part of the long hatch period and then drop off to occur randomly until
near the end of the hatch period, at which time it can again be rather heavy.
May and June usually brings on some decent hatches of Golden Stoneflies. They can
hatch for as long as a couple of months.
In June, you will also find some Little Yellow Stoneflies most anglers call Yellow
Sallies.Sulphurs usually start hatching around the first of May and the hatch can last
until mid June and even later. It can provide some excellent fishing. Little Mahogany
Duns hatch in June but not in heavy concentrations.
There are sparse hatches of Tricos in some of the lower, smoother water sections of
the stream with soft bottom. They can hatch anywhere from July until mid October.
This hatch is greatly affected by water levels. There is also a sparse White Drake
(White Fly) hatch that occurs in September. These are burrowers and exist where
there is soft stream bottoms, mostly in the lower end of the tailwater.
Caddisflies represent a large part of the aquatic insect population. There are several
different species. The majority are net-spinning caddis consisting mostly of Cinnamon
Caddis. Several species of them hatch from about the first of April through August.
There's also some Little Sisters. Green Sedges start hatching in May and last through
June. You will find them in the upper section. From about mid August until mid
November, two species of Little Brown Caddis will hatch. In the fall during the month
of October, the Great Autumn Brown Sedge hatches. These are large caddisflies that
can produce some good trout provided the hatch is fished correctly.
Streamers, imitating Sculpin and a variety of imitations work well just about anytime,
especially for the larger holdover trout. Streamers, imitating Sculpin and a variety of
There's also a lot of craneflies, black flies and moths (helligramite) larvae in the
water. and moths (helligramite) larvae in the water. Imitations of these insects will
work good at times.
The terrestrial season runs from about the first of June through the first frost.
Grasshopper, ant and beetle imitations will catch trout during this time. We even saw
a flying ant fall on the stream during August a few years ago.
As always, we recommend our "Perfect Flies". They are not only the most realistic
imitations of insects and other trout food you can buy, they are the most effective flies
you can use. We hope you give them a try. You can match anything that trout eat in
the Hiwassee River using them.
Late summer can be tough occasionally, but you can still catch plenty of trout provided
you use the right strategies and methods of fishing.
Autumn is the second best time for fly fishing the Hiwassee River. The fish can
cooperate about as good as they do during the spring months.
|1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them
to you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
The current schedule shows them running water today and tomorrow, with a break in the
early afternoon. It will likely increase at some time within the next week. There is a lot of
rain in the forecast after tomorrow. Midges, creams and reds (blood midges), Winter
stoneflies and Black flies are hatching.
(See Hiwassee River Headlines Archive at Bottom of Page)
Map of Hiwassee River
10/14/15 Anglers are scoring well with streamers,
especially our Brown and White Belly sculpin. Brown trout
are in the pre-spawn and spawning process. It is a good
time to catch a trophy. Several insects are still hatching
although it will slow down due to the bright skies. Using
flies that are imitative of the naturals will increase your
odds of catching them all.
10/21/15 There have been some good reports come in
recently from out customers fishing the Hiwassee. Good
numbers and good sizes of trout were reported. Great
Autumn Brown sedges are hatching and bringing trout to
the surface to eat the egg laying females. Blue-winged
olives are hatching and some trout were taken on the
surface feeding on them.
10/28/15 The weather is going to be mild for the next
week but there is rain forecast every day but two. They
don't expect any heavy amounts. There are going to be
high wind for today and tomorrow. Blue-winged olives are
hatching good on these cloudy, rainy days. Brown trout
are in pre-spawn mode and very aggressive.
11/04/15 We are experiencing some very warm weather.
The cloudy days helps bring about some nice Blue-winged
olive hatches. The Delayed Harvest season is the best
thing that has ever happened to the river. The Brown
Sculpin streamer is continuing to produce some very nice
brown trout. Some of them are spawning, so be protective
of their redds. There is a very limited chance of
reproduction in the Hiwassee as it is.
11/11/15 There have been only a couple of times it was
possible to wade this past week. Discharges have been
heavy due to the amount of rain in the headwaters.
Hatches are still around to some point, but are getting
down to a minimum. Within a another week or so, it will be
back to midges and Blue-winged olives but the warm
weather has refused to leave.
11/18/15 This river has been producing a lot of trout,
especially in the "catch and release" section lately but only
when the stream levels allow you to wade or decent
enough to use a drift boat. The cloudy weather really helps
the Blue-winged olvies emerge and those and midges are
the only things hatching. The Brown Sculpin fly caught
several good brown trout during this past week.
11/25/15 The Hiwassee has finally begin to settle down.
There has been a lot of rain and the lake levels have to
stay at Winter levels. The discharges have often been high
the past two weeks. It should be much better and wading
anglers have a much better shot at wading the Delayed
Harvest section. Hatches are down to mostly midges and
Blue-winged olives, but don't forget the Brown Sculpin.
12/09/15 Wow! Looking at the weather forecast you would
think it is the first of April. The weather is going to be
unseasonably warm this coming week. That will have little
effect on the water temperature near the discharge but
maybe some downstream a good ways. I know it sounds
strange, but we just added Winter Stoneflies to the list.
They will begin to hatch before the month is over.
12/16/15 The weather forecast just continues to be
exceptionally good for this time of the season. The stream
levels are finally settling down and there should be some
very good opportunities for wading as well as drift boats
for the next few days. There is a chance of rain tomorrow
but that is it for the next week. Midges, little Blue-winged
olives and the Brown Sculpin streamer are the flies you
need to be using. Keep up with the latest information by
clicking the above link to our weekly updated fishing report.
12/30/15 With all the rain that has fell in the last several
days, you would think they would be running water every
day but that isn't the case. Again, they are showing no
releases for the next two days. I think that is to hold up
putting anymore water in the stream it feeds. There is rain
forecast today and then ending. Fishing should be great
with the wonderful warm weather we are having. I hope
you take the opportunity to catch some trout and Happy
New Year to you. The release info above is incorrect
thanks to a very misleading TVA website that someone at
TVA needs their ass kicked for releasing.
01/06/16 A customer called to tell us the TVA website that
shows they are not running a generator is misleading.
They are discharging lots of water. Someone needs their
butt kicked but they probably think it is funny. I added the
USGS real-time flow link because the TVA link is
worthless. The White Belly sculpin has been getting some
of our regular customers some big trout on this river.
Midges and little BWO nymphs should do well. The BWOs
may hatch as warm as it will be.
01/13/16 The river is very high, flowing at 11,600 cfs at
13.79 feet. It needs to come down to be worthwhile to
fish. We are trying to get a firm estimated date as to when
this will occur from the TVA.
01/20/16 The TVA is running a good bit of water, more
than you can safely wade. Based on the weather forecast
with lots of rain and snow, it is likely high discharges will
continue. We can only keep a close check on them. Drift
boats can fish but high discharges adversely affect them at
times, depending on the flows.
01/27/16 You guessed it. They are still running a lot of
water, too much to wade and really, too much to use a
drift boat. Fishing would be fine if it wasn't for that. The
weather is going to be nice and warm this coming week.
We are stll trying to get a firm estimated date as to when
this will occur from the TVA.
02/03/16 The headlines is the same old headlines, thanks
to whatever it is the power company is doing with the dam.
It is good flows for a jet boat, but I wouldn't try that unless
you want to knock a hole in the bottom of it. What can I
say other than the river is messed up big time.
02/10/16 Stream levels are still running high and the power
company will be running two or m re generators today and
tomorrow. You will just have to watch the discharge
schedule. The water is cold and the weather is going to be
colder than normal. Midges, Winter stoneflies and Black
Flies are the insects you will need to imitate when you can
02/17/16 The weather is going to be much warmer this
coming week with a little rain forecast through the
weekend but more this coming week. The discharges are
running 5580 cfs right now. Midges, winter stoneflies,
black flies, and little BWO nymphs are the insects you
want to imitate. Make sure you check the levels.
02/24/16 The stream is back up too high to fish due to
heavy rain. It will continue through tomorrow, then clear
up. You will have to keep a close check on the discharges
and levels, but it will most likely be high through the
weekend. Midges, Winter stoneflies, Little Blue-winged
olives and sculpin are the foods you should be imitating.
03/02/16 The discharges are very high right now. About
the only choice is streamers when the water is this high.
When and if it settles down, the Blue-winged olives should
be hatching along with Midges, mostly reds (blood midges)
and creams. We recommend fishing the larva and pupa fly
in tandem and the adults only when the are feeding on top.
03/09/16 The TVA schedule shows they will be lowering
the amount of water that is being released today and
tomorrow. The information may still confuse you because
they show no generators running, yet higher water flows.
The bottom line is, Tuesday and Wednesday and maybe
beyond will be good conditions for fishing the tailwater.
03/16/16 The river is in pretty good shape and it should
remain that way. There is a little rain in the forecast for
this coming weekend. The levels are okay at this time, but
be sure to check them. Midges, with the larva and pupa
fished in tandem, is still the best setup. The warm weather
has had little effect on the water.
03/30/16 The river is down for a change and very easy to
fish, for a change. You should start seeing some little
Brown stoneflies on the banks and in the bushes. They
should start hatching any time, if not already. Also, it is
time for cinnamon caddis, size 18 to start. They should
show up any day now.
04/06/16 The Holston has been good to our customers the
past few days. They have been catching good numbers of
trout and smallmouth bass. The bass has mostly come on
streamers and the trout, mostly on midges, larva and pupa
fished in tandem. Blood midges and cream midges are
hatching. The discharges will be low the next three days.
04/13/16 Note, they are running water for about an hour
every few hours. Be sure and check the TVA discharge
schedule linked below. The river is flowing a little above
normal right now, but you can fish it by boat or wade in
certain areas if you use caution. Midges. little Brown
stoneflies, Cinnamon Caddis and Blue-winged olives are
04/20/16 The stream levels have been good for the past
few days. There is some rain expected the next couple of
days, so watch the discharge schedule. Wading anglers
have had some good opportunity lately and we expect it to
continue with little effect from the rain coming. There are
lots of caddisflies on the water, little BWOs continue to
hatch. This coming week should be a good one to fish the
05/11/16 We received mostly all good reports for a
change. Two customers did very good, with large numbers
and some nice size browns. Hendrickson (the females)
and the Red Quills (the males) are still hatching on the
lower end of the river but near the end. Cinnamon Caddis
are hatching good.
05/25/16 The river is in good shape most of the time. The
levels vary a lot and will probably vary more this coming
week. There is a lot of rain in the forecast for the next five
days. Several hatches are underway but mostly consist of
caddis. Cinnamon caddis, BWOs, and some Slate Drake
are starting to hatch. Sulphurs are starting to hatch.
06/15/16 The river has provided some good opportunities
this past week. Since school is out, you can expect a lot of
non-fishing traffic to be on the water spooking trout, but
that is minor compared to many other problems that could
exit. Hopefully, the good flows will continue and anglers will
be able to continue to catch plenty of trout.
06/30/16 The Hiwassee is in good shape most of the
time, with discharges that allow anglers to wade much of
the time. Drift boats are usually in good shape but there
are a lot of recreational boaters on the water spooking the
trout. It is best to fish early and late in the day, not only to
avoid the people but to catch the caddis egg laying activity
07/06/16 The discharges are high today and usually are on
the weekends. There are a lot of recreational boaters on
the water on weekends. You would need a drift boat to
fish today. You can wade safely in selected spots with one
generator running, but not too. Lots of caddisflies are
hatching. They provide the most opportunity right now.
07/13/16 The power company will be running two
generators again tomorrow afternoon. The best wading
opportunity will be in the morning. The best caddisfly
hatches and egg laying activity is in the afternoon. It isn't
exactly what anglers would prefer. We didn't receive any
reports this past week. There is a chance of rain everyday
this coming week.
07/27/16 The discharges are low at this time and wading
would be possible about anywhere. For the past two
weeks, it has been up and down but usually up with little
opportunity to wade. Drift boats have had problems at
times with the high discharges. There is rain in the forecast
everyday this coming week and you will have to watch the
08/03/16 The river is flowing a long rather fast and high as
it usually is in the afternoons. You can get in a few hours a
day when they are not running a lot of water. School is
starting back and that is going to reduce the number of
tubers and recreational boaters that have been a problem
for anglers. Lots of caddisflies are hatching. It is going to
be a hot week ahead.
08/10/16 The discharges and stream levels have been
running low lately, allowing plenty of wading opportunities.
The lower part of the river is getting warm. There have
been some strippers caught in the lower section. Lots of
caddisflies are hatching including cinnamon caddis and little
Sister caddis. Slate drakes are also hatching.
08/17/16 We didn't receive any reports from anyone
fishing the last week. There have been times you could
wade but most of the time the water levels were too high.
There are some breaks where one turbine is running. It is
possible to wade in some places with one running but you
have to be careful. Wading is best when they turbines are
08/24/16 There's a good chance of rain everyday this
coming week. That means cloud cover and that's a help.
We received more reports of good numbers of trout being
caught this past week. There are some good caddisfly
hatches taking place with both Cinnamon Caddis and
Green Sedges. Little sister caddis will be starting soon.
08/31/16 The weather is finally turning a little cooler and
this will help the middle and lower sections of the river. It
looks like they will be running two generators this coming
afternoon and that has been the pattern. In case you are
new to the Hiwassee, you have to check the schedule to
know when you can wade. With one it is tough most
places and with two, a don't wade situation.
09/07/16 The river is usually high in the afternoons but of
course, this is subject to change. They are usually running
one to two generators afternoons and none in the
mornings except for maybe an hour. With this schedule,
mornings is the best time to fish. Cinnamon caddis are sitll
hatching good. There are a few little BWOs.
09/21/16 They are still running two generators in the
afternoons. That makes morning the only good time to fish
is you wade. Drift boat guys could do okay in the
afternoons but few are fishing. The weather is still hot and
there is little chance of rain until the first of next week.
09/28/16 The hatches are sporadic thanks to the off and
on discharges of cold water. Nothing last long enough to
have any consistency. You can catch trout but you need to
do a lot of moving around and changing strategies often.
The weather is cooler and that is helping the middle and
lower sections of the river.
10/05/16 It is getting downright boring and not much fun to
continue to write about very low water but that is what you
have. The only good news lately, is the temperature of the
water is down and the fish okay. You can play hide and
seek and still catch some fish, but it is very low. Hopefully,
this will soon change.
10/12/16 he discharges and stream levels are low and
wading opportunity about all the time. It should continue to
be low this coming week based on the rainfall expected.
We think you will have plenty chances to wade and fish
about anywhere you want to. There are opportunity to
catch brown trout on our Brown sculpin and some good
Blue-winged olive hatches.
10/19/16 The discharges and stream levels are all over the
place. Looks like they are running two generators most all
day today and two tomorrow afternoon. It must be they
are expecting a good bit of rain. Anyway, you better make
sure you check the schedule. It is tough to fish two even
from a larger drift boat.
09/26/16 The river has been in pretty good shape most of
the time. There has been little to no rain the past month
and the area is in a general drought. They still manage to
run two generators at times, making it not safe to wade.
Those fishing from drift boats have done
well even then but you have to watch the schedule to know
when you can wade.
10/30/16 Rain is falling as I write this. The lake level is real
low and this is going to be a big help. You will have to
watch the discharge schedule and stream levels closely
before driving very far to fish but it may take a few days
before it changes. Midges and Blue-winged olives are
the major hatches.
12/07/16 Midges and Blue-winged olives are still hatching
good. Fish the midge larva and pupa imitations in tandem,
with the larva the bottom fly. You may also find some
small Blue-winged olives hatching. They do much better on
the cloudy, overcast days. The Brown sculpin streamer
should still catch larger trout. Fish it under low light
12/14/16 The discharges and stream levels are still running
low, allowing anglers an opportunity to wade most of the
time. Of course, that is always subject to change. There
has been some rain for a change and more should come
this weekend. Midges, Creams and Reds, are still the
main insects hatching.
12/21/16 The discharges will vary but there should be
plenty of opportunity to wade. There are lots of midges
hatching. The reds, or blood midges, are thick. By the
way, the adult red midges are black and white not red.
The Cream midges are also hatching. Winter stoneflies are
hatching in some sections. Fish the nymph near the banks
late in the day.
12/28/16 The stream levels continue to be low allowing
opportunity to wade safely and easily. This is subject to
change. There is rain in the forecast about everyday this
coming week. Make sure you check the levels. There are
Winter stoneflies, Blackflies and Midges hatching. The
midges are Creams and Reds, or blood midges.
01/04/17 With the much colder weather ahead, we think
the best water will be upstream near the dam. The water
will be much colder downstream a good ways. Midges,
Cream and reds, Winter stoneflies and Black files will be
the only insects hatching. Fish the midge larva and pupa
imitations in tandem with the larva the bottom fly. You can
do this on an indicator.
This is a very scenic river that is heavily stocked by the State of Tennessee. Rainbow,
brown and a few brook trout are stocked. There are plenty of holdover trout that
survive each year to grow into large fish.
Description of Hiwassee River, Continued:
This is one tailwater with a large diversity of mayfly, caddisfly and stonefly hatches, not to
mention the midges that are standard table fare for the trout in most tailwaters. The
discharges are at a perfect temperature for many species of aquatic insects. Dry fly
fishing is very good in this river.
From the dam down to the highway bridge at U.S. #411, the river flows through the
Cherokee National Forest. State highway 20 runs alongside much of the river, providing
easy access to just about all of the water. The three mile long Trophy Trout section
usually holds the largest trout.
The Hiwassee River is the first designated "Delayed Harvest" trout stream in the state of
Tennessee. It is "catch and release" only from October 1st. to February 28th. Only
artificial lures and flies can be used.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Hiwassee River:
When the river is low and no turbines are running, it is usually necessary to go to longer
and lighter leaders and tippets. During high water, streamers work well due to the large
numbers of forage fish in the river. The river is wadeable when the water is low and the
turbines are not running. It can be waded in some areas when one turbine is running, but
it must be done carefully. A driftboat is the best way to fish it when the turbines are
running. You will see a lot of other types of watercraft on the Hiwassee, including
everything from canoes to kayaks.
The river changes character from the dam to the Highway 411 Bridge. Below the dam,
with water running, you can find several areas where the water will be rough and look
more like a white water rafting stream than a trout stream. There are layers of rocks
called shoals that provide a varied bottom structure. There are long runs, riffles of all
lengths and short pool-like areas. Especially in the upper section of the river, the
appearance of the river varies greatly with the amount of water being discharged, or of
course, not being discharged.