Copyright 2020 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Clinch River Tennessee
The Clinch River is a tailwater trout fishery located just
north of Knoxville, Tennessee below Norris Dam near
the town of Clinton. It is stocked with rainbow, brook and
brown trout by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources
Agency. Both the rainbow and brown trout holdover from
year to year because the stream stays very cold even
during the summer months. The main attraction of this
stream is its huge brown trout. Fly fishing the Clinch
River can be challenging at times but equally as
The river can be waded when they are not generating
water through the dam. It can be fished from a drift boat
when they are operating the turbines. Some of the best
brown trout fishing occurs when the river is running fast
Anglers that are familiar with the schedule of the dam
discharges can time their fishing locations such that they
can fish upstream until the dam begins to generate
power and then move a few miles downstream and fish
for a good time prior to the high water arrival. Caution
should be used anytime you are fishing the Clinch.
There are two basic ways to fish the Clinch that are
almost opposite of each other. One requires the use of
tiny flies and the other requires large streamers.
The opportunity exist to catch a large brown trout on a
streamer when the water is running high and fast. Heavy
weighted streamers can produce some huge brown
trout. It takes a lot of casting and retrieving but if you
can keep it up, chances are good that you will hook up.
Midges are the number one type of flies for the Clinch
River. Midge larva, pupa and adult imitations will catch
trout year-round. There are not many hatches on the
river other than midges which hatch throughout the
year. There are a few mayflies and stoneflies and there
are a few caddisflies that offer some dry fly opportunity
at times. Small flies from a hook size 18 down to a size
26 are considered the thing for the Clinch. We have
taken several samples from the stream that indicated a
huge amount of midge larvae exist about anywhere the
bottom is checked.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Clinch River:
The Clinch can be a tough river to fish for some anglers.
Its water stays clear and cold and it flows smooth in
many places you need to fish. Success demands long,
light leaders and tippets under these conditions. Most of
the time the flies you will be using will be no larger than
a size 18. Midges are the main aquatic insect that you
will need to imitate.
There is a weir dam located about a mile below the dam.
It forms a large pool of slow moving water. Although it is
usually full of trout, they are very difficult to catch. We
suggest you don't waste time there unless you just enjoy
In the Miller's Island area there is a public boat launch
area which provides a good place to fish if you are
planning on wading. The water isn't as smooth flowing
as it is in most other places and it is somewhat easier for
many anglers to fish. There are some riffles and runs in
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 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 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The fly-fishing season is year-round on the
It is possible to catch trout on the coldest
days of the winter.
Springtime is prime time on the Clinch River.
The best way to fish the Clinch River is to
float it. If you use your own boat be sure you
are aware that it does have a lot of shallow
rock ledges. You can tear up a boat fairly
easy if you are not careful. The best time to
fish the river from a drift boat is during the
times one generator is operating. Two
generators operating brings about some fast
moving water. It is certainly possible to catch
trout under these conditions but you will drift
down the river very fast. It is also possible to
drift the river in a canoe provided they are not
running any water. You can move around the
river and stop to wade when the conditions
Fly Fishing Guide, coninued:
The two big things to keep in mind is that the
water discharges are of utmost importance
on the Clinch River. You have to fish
according to what the dam is doing. The
other thing to keep in mind is that fishing dry
flies is usually not the way to go. If you don't
like fishing nymphs and/or streamers, they
you would be happier fishing somewhere else
other than the Clinch River.
Clinch River 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 Clinch 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 quite a few
caddisflies that emerge on the Clinch River
but the hatches are not consistent day in and
day out. There is a sulphur hatch that can be
good at times. It is about the only mayfly
hatch of any importance. It starts in late April
and peaks during May. By the first of June it
has ended in most areas. Many days you will
be lucky to see midges on the surface. Most
of the fly fishing should be done subsurface.
The river has a population of both scuds and
sow bugs and at times it seems they are the
preferred food of the trout. However, as
plentiful as they are, imitations of them don't
There are several species of Cinnamon
Caddis. They can hatch off and on from June
through the month of September. LIttle
Sisters are also present in limited quantities.
They hatch in late June and on into the first
two weeks of July. Other species are present
but not in large quantities.
This is an excellent river to fish large
streamers in for two reasons. When they are
running two generators, it is about the only
way you can fish it. The other reason has to
do with the huge brown trout that exist in the
river. Fish from twenty to thirty inches long
are not uncommon. They are used to eating
large baitfish. This method requires a lot of
cast and plain work but it can be very
effective. Just don't expect a fish every few
minutes. When you do catch one, it most
likely will be a good one.
The best conditions for a drift boat trip is
when they are running one generator. You
can occasionally catch trout on a dry fly
provided a hatch is occurring when one is
running but most often, you will need to fish
subsurface. It is also possible to catch a trout
on a dry fly midge imitation. It depends on the
water levels and flow conditions and of
course, the hatch.
Most of the time you will be better off fishing a
midge larva or pupa imitation. If you notice
any midges hatching, go to the midge pupa
imitation. If you don't, fish a midge larva
imitation. We prefer to fish either of them
without a strike indicator, but they do work
fairly well on the Clinch. 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 water.
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.
Don't forget streamer flies. They work great,
especially when the water is running high and
fast, or when it is off-color from heavy rain.
Double or tandem rigs are popular on the
Clinch. 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 Clinch
tailwater. Our Scud and Sowbug imitations
are the best you can buy. Our Sulphur
imitations work great on this river as well as
any where else for that matter.
The hot days of summer will produce fish if
the right tactics are used.
Autumn is a great time for fly fishing the
Clinch River and the best opportunity to catch
a large brown trout.
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Fishing Report Updated 01/18/20
Clinch River Fishing Report - 01/18/20
Discharges and stream levels are above a normal level. Midges (creams and reds) are
hatching, and sculpin streamers are working. Fish the midges with the larva and pupa rigged
in tandem for the best results.
7 Day Weather Forecast: There is a chance of rain today, otherwise clear for the next
week. Highs will range from 34 to 48 and lows from 21 to 30 degrees.
Recommended Trout Flies:
Rate: 2740 cfs
Level: 3.56 ft
Afternoon Water Temperature: 46
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, White Belly Sculpin & Articulated streamers, size 4/6
Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin, size 4/6/8
Aquatic Worms, size 12, brown, tan and others
Scuds: size 14
Winter Stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults.
Black Flies, size 18,20, larva, pupa and adults.
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
Be sure to check the TVA release schedule shown above. If no turbines are running,
you can wade the stream. If one is running, you can float the stream.
Unless the flows are very high, and unless you know something is hatching, we still
think the best strategy 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.
Scuds will work well year-round.
Aquatic worms are working.
Our Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin & articulated streamers are great flies to use
The Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin are good flies to use.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Black Flies are hatching.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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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