Copyright 2017 James Marsh
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Fly Fishing Caney Fork River
The Caney Fork River Tailwater is located below
Center Hill Lake and Dam in middle Tennessee, just off
Interstate I-40. It is stocked by the TWRA (Tennessee
Wildlife Resources Agency).
The stream averages from thirty to ninety feet wide and
flows slow whenever the turbines are not running. The
water flows from the deep water of Center Hill Lake
through the dam at about fifty-five degrees year-round.
The river can be waded, fished from the bank or fished
from a canoe, water craft or drift boat.
It is always advisable to check on the discharge
schedule prior to fishing Caney Fork because it greatly
affects how you must fish the river. The water rises
suddenly and fast. There are three primary access
areas - the dam, Happy Hollow, and Betty's Island.
Caney Fork Tennessee
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The photo below and several others
of this river are the property
of David Knapp. David is an expert
on the Caney Fork and the owner of
Trout Zone Blogspot.
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 to 12 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.
Fly fishing the Caney Fork River Tailwater is
good year-round. There is no closed
Fishing can be good most days during the
winter months. Avoid the coldest days.
Spring fishing can be great provided there is
a normal amount of rainfall prior to your trip.
It strictly depends on the release schedules.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Caney Fork:
Small flies are the key to catching trout from the
Caney Fork Tailwater. The trout feed mostly on
midges and the most effective flies are midge larvae
and pupae imitations. At certain times of the year
streamers also work good.
The Caney Fork section that holds trout extends from
the Center Hill Dam all the way down to the
Cumberland River. You can wade the river, fish it from
the banks, or from a boat. Canoes work well when the
current is slow. Drift boats work only when the dam is
generating enough current to clear the rocks,
otherwise, the river is very shallow.
The river bed consist most of small, small size cobble
and is fairly easy to wade in most places. There's a lot
of moss covering the bottom which helps maintain its
aquatic insect population. The number of aquatic
insect species is rather low but it has a good
population of those that do exist there.
The area below the dam can be fished from the
manager's resource area, or you can cross the dam
on highway #141 and fish from several access points
from pull off areas along the road. There's also an
access at Happy Hollow with a boat ramp. Betties
Island is another point you can access the river and
launch a boat.
There are usually a lot of bait fishermen on the river.
The state stocks a huge number of trout and the
locals take advantage of it. The river can become
crowded at times.
When it comes to fly size, it seems you need to go
from one extreme to the other. We think the best
method, day in and day out, is to fish imitations of
midges. The naturals range in sizes from a hook size
20 up to 26 and smaller. They are very plentiful. Scud
and sowbug imitations also work great at times. Black
flies are another very plentiful insect and imitations of
them work at times. On the other end of the size
spectrum are the streamers that imitate baitfish. They
consistently work for the larger trout in the river.
When you are fishing BWOs, midges, black fly, scud
and sowbug imitations, we recommend a long, light
leader at least 9 foot long. Lengths including the
tippet, are better in the 12 foot range at times. The
leader size for these small files should be a 6X, and if
the trout feeding on midges and become rather
difficult to catch, you may even want to go down to a
Caney Fork Hatches and Trout Flies:
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
Caney Fork 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.
There are a few mayflies and caddisflies that
emerge on the Caney Fork River but the
hatches are not consistent day in and day
out. Blue-winged Olives hatch at different
times of the year, depending on the species.
The baetis species normally hatch from
January through March and again during
October and November. There are species
of Little BWOs that appear occasionally.
The river has a good population of both
scuds and sow bugs and at times it seems
they are the preferred food of the trout.
Black flies also are very abundant. We have
imitations of the Black Flies' larvae, pupae
There are at least two species of Cinnamon
Caddis. They can hatch off and on from
June through the first part of October. LIttle
Sister caddis are also present in certain
areas of the river. They hatch in late June
and on into the first two weeks of July. Other
species are present but not in large
When they are running the generators,
streamers are usually the preferred flies.
There's a lot of shad in the river as well as
other species of baitfish and minnows. The
river has some huge holdover brown trout.
Trout from twenty to twenty-five inches long
are not uncommon. They primarily eat
Most of the time you will be better off
fishing a midge larva or pupa imitation. If
you notice any midges hatching, use the
midge pupa imitation. If you don't, fish a
midge larva imitation just above the
bottom. We prefer to fish either of them
without a strike indicator, but strike
indicators do work fairly well on the Caney
Fork River. You should add a small
amount of split shot above the larva
imitation and adjust the indicator
depending on the depth and speed of the
You can fish imitations of scuds and
sowbugs the same way as the midge larva
flies. Add some weight to the tippet a few
inches above the fly and fish them on or
just above the bottom. Strike indicators
can also be used with them if you prefer.
Double or tandem rigs are popular on the
Caney Fork. Some anglers fish a larger
mayfly nymph and a small midge larva or
pupa together. Others fish two midge flies
a few inches apart, both a midge larva and
a pupa imitation. We don't prefer these
multiple rigs but they do catch trout.
If you haven't done so already, please give
our "Perfect Flies" a try. We feel sure you
will find them to be very effective on the
Caney Fork tailwater. Our Scud and
Sowbug imitations are the most realistic
and most effective imitations you can buy.
One method to use fishing streamers
requires a lot of cast and plain work but it
can be very effective with there's a lot of
current. They also work sight fishing to
individual trout, especially during the late
Fall and early Winter when the brown trout
are in the process of spawning. Our
"Perfect Fly" Shad, is an excellent
streamer to use on the Caney Fork River.
The water is still released at around
fifty-five degrees even on the hottest days
of summer. Fishing can be good if you can
avoid the recreational boaters.
Fall is the favorite time of many anglers
that regularly fish the Caney Fork. The
brown trout spawn in the Fall and a lot of
large trout are usually caught.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated 02/22/17
(Bottom Of Page)
Caney Fork River Fishing Report - 02/22/17
Make sure you check the release schedule. There continues to be some good trout caught
on streamers, especially our Brown and White Belly sculpin patterns. Fish the midges with the
larva and pupa in tandem. If the water gets stained, fish the Black Matuka sculpin streamer.
7 Day Weather Forecast: There is a chance of rain today and tomorrow, and next Monday
and Tuesday, otherwise clear for the next week. Highs will range from 50 to 77 degrees and
lows from 29 to 58 degrees.
Recommended Trout Flies:
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, size 6
Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin, size 4/6/8
Scuds: size 14
Winter Stoneflies, size 16 and 18, nymphs and adults
Black Flies, size 18/20, larva, pupa and adults
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
There are no changes in our recommended strategy. Be sure to check the TVA release
schedule shown above. Our Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin streamers are great
flies to use anytime. The Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin are good streamers to
Scuds work just about anytime but with fewer hatches of other insects taking place,
become even more important.
As long as the water is not too high, a good option is to fish a tandem Midge rig under a
small strike indicator with the midge lava as the bottom fly and the midge pupa as the
top fly. Fish the adult midge only when you observe trout feeding on the surface.
Imitations of scuds are always good flies to use on the Caney Fork.
Winter stoneflies will begin to hatch soon.
Black Flies will begin to hatch soon.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
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.
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