Four Best Tailwater Trout Fisheriesof the Region’s
In addition to being harmful to the environment, dams also have a negative effect on the natural cycles of the organisms that live in them. Most of the East's major waterways are now filled with manmade reservoirs. This has destroyed the native aquatic ecosystems that were once there.
Despite the controversial nature of dams, they still provide numerous opportunities for fishing. The federal and state agencies that built these structures intentionally altered the water conditions in the dams to make lemonade out of lemons.
In most cases, the conditions in the water are altered to increase the oxygen levels. This can be done through the addition of aeration systems and the release of hatchery-reared fish. These conditions have allowed the populations of trout to flourish and grow.
Contrary to popular belief, tailwaters are not the same as the streams that people commonly associate with trout fishing. These large rivers are known for their nutrient loads and water conditions, which support a robust population. Also, good tailwaters provide ample forage for fish.
Some tailwaters feature 20-inch trout, while others have large fish that can reach 30 inches. Brown trout are known to dominate the state record lists. These fish have been caught from various fisheries.
Although big rivers are known to provide excellent fishing opportunities, they can also be dangerous for the fish. Their flow patterns can change rapidly due to the amount of water that's being released. Dams are required to post their scheduled water releases online, but these are often conducted without warning.
Although it's usually recommended to plan your trip around the release of water, it's also important to stay aware of the water's conditions. If the water level starts to rise, it's time to move to the bank.
For those ready to cast, here’s a look at four of the South’s best tailwater trout fisheries.
The construction of dams has become a vital component of modern civilization. Due to their role in controlling flood control and managing the nation's waterways, massive federal projects have been instrumental in the country's industrialization.
The Jackson River of Virginia
According to Doug Lane, the founder of the fishing guide company, Angler’s Lane, the Jackson River can be challenging. But, it also provides excellent fishing opportunities.
The tailwater of the Jackson River crosses through Alleghany County and is known for having some of the best wild trout in Virginia. The water quality and habitat along its length between Covington and Lake Moomaw are some of the factors that make this area a great fishing destination.
When the Gathright Dam was constructed in the 1980s, the state's Department of Wildlife Resources started stocking the river with rainbow and brown trout. Since 1997, the agency has not restocked the river.
There are six public-access points along the river, which are located between private lands. Although there are plenty of areas for fishing on low water, the river is best explored through a shallow-draft boat.
Sampling by the DWR revealed good numbers of brown trout ranging from 16 to 18 inches, as well as scads of rainbow trout that can reach 12 inches. Fly fishers are known to exert a lot of pressure on the river. In order to produce trophy brown trout, the length of these fish must be 20 inches or shorter. One brown must be kept as part of a daily limit of four fish.
Lane noted that there are plenty of big fish to be caught in the river, and those who know what they're doing should be able to land a big one. He advises going with a low expectations and hoping for the best.
The river is known to produce consistent year-round hatches, such as blue-winged olives. In April, the river experiences a caddis blizzard, which can be hard for dry-fly fishermen to deal with. During spring and summer, the river also experiences a late summer hopper bite, as well as stoneflies.
According to Lane, the best technique during the year is to use small Baetis nymphs, which are usually anchored with a size 8 to 10 stonefly. Caddis nymphs, such as the Green Monster, are also deadly.
To avoid trespassing, anglers should always obey the signs posted on the private property along the river. A 1996 lawsuit was carried out on the basis of a Crown Grant issued by King George II, which allowed the property owners to restrict fishing on a two-mile section of the river.
The Clinch River of Tennessee
According to Stranahan, the typical technique for low-water fishing is to use small tippets and 9- to 12-foot leaders. He also suggested using CDC midges and pheasant tails in combination with small Zebra patterns. When the conditions are right, he said that sinking lines and imitation fingerling rainbows are ideal ways to target giant fish.
East Tennessee is known for its tailwater trout fisheries. Numerous rivers, such as the South Holston, Hiwassee, and the Watauga, are known for producing large and strong fish. The waters of the Clinch River, which is northwest of Knoxville, are ideal for those who enjoy fishing for big and selective trout.
Bill Stranahan, a guide based in Tennessee, said that the river is referred to as the "Cinch" or the "Grinch." He noted that it can be challenging, but on certain days, the fishing can be epic.
The Tennessee River feeds the waters of the "Cinch" through the Norris Dam in Anderson County. Due to limited reproduction, the population of trout has been propped up with heavy stocking. This isn't a typical fishery, as the hatchery fish that make it through the initial onslaught are given favorable conditions for fast growth. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 40 percent of the rainbow trout that were collected in the river were within the 14- to 20-inch protected limit.
The river is known for producing large and strong fish, which are often on tiny flies. It also has a clear and consistent year-round food supply, which is mainly the midges. High water can provide excellent fishing opportunities for large articulated streamers. One of the biggest brown trout that was caught in Tennessee weighed over 28 pounds.
The waters of the "Cinch" are approximately 13 miles long, and there are seven access points that are located along the river. Wading enthusiasts can use the low flows to fish for large and selective trout. There are also plenty of options for float trips.
The Nantahala River of North Carolina
According to Ken Kastorff, a guide based in North Carolina, the fishing in the Nantahala River is often overlooked. He noted that the river offers a variety of activities that are both fun and challenging. One of these is a rafting trip that allows participants to fish while riding a raft.
The tailrace of the Nantahala River originates from Nantahala Lake. It flows over the mountains and into the gorge at the top of Nantahala Gorge. The water is released at a steady 45 degrees, which provides ideal oxygen levels for the fish. The fishery for tailwater trout runs about eight miles long and is located near the town of Fontana Lake.
The tailwater of the river is similar to a flowing mountain stream. During the generation phase, it flows through a raging torrent, and most anglers flock to this area when the water is low. However, it's not the best time to fish this area. The fish are often attracted to the surface pools where large numbers of bugs, such as blue-winged olives and midges, are laid. It takes a lot of delicate presentation to get a fish to eat a small fly.
During water releases, which occur in a narrow gorge, Ken prefers fishing with the experienced riders of the river. The fishery is unique, and it's recommended to hire a guide. The river's various sections are known for their moderate to rough conditions, but they can still be fun to flip a raft and make a yard sale. It requires special equipment and tactics to hit the fish in each run.
One of the most important factors that an experienced fisherman must consider when it comes to catching fish in the Nantahala River is the timing of his or her actions.
The tailwater of the Nantahala River is populated with a variety of brown and wild trout, as well as a few species of brook trout. Although typical fish measures around 9 to 15 inches, the river can produce large brown and 30-plus-inchers. In North Carolina, a record of 24 pounds, 10 ounces was caught from a pool near the powerhouse.
The only drawback to this area is the presence of all the paddlers. Since every few minutes, a flotilla of rafts with helmets and other non-swimmers passes through, and these individuals will often ask how the fishing is going. It's important to inform them that the traffic does not affect the fishing.
As Kastorff put it, “It’s a good thing boats don’t spook these fish, or they’d starve.”
One of the most popular attractions of the Nantahala River is the beautiful stretch of water that's upstream of the Nantahala Gorge. It also features a variety of activities, such as rafting through the gorge. But, one aspect of the river that's often overlooked is its tailwater trout fishery.
The Chattahoochee River of Georgia
Although the state of Georgia stocks rainbow trout in this section of the river, the brown trout are the main attractions. They are known to reproduce naturally and make up a significant portion of the river's overall population.
River Through Atlanta Guide Service's Chris Scalley is a local who has logged a lot of hours on the river. He's a champion of the area's waters, and he helped develop the river into an enjoyable fishing destination.
According to Scalley, he has been able to catch wild brown trout from the dam at the city of Buford to the islands at Island Ford since he was a kid. He noted that the area's various gravel bars are known to be spawning grounds for the fish.
In 2005, the state of Georgia decided to stop stocking brown trout in order to test the population's long-term viability. According to Scalley, a good day of fishing would involve catching several brown trout in the 14- to 16-inch range.
Large brown trout can also be found in the river. In 2014, a 20-pound, 14-ounce fish was caught in the river. There have been several monster brown trout caught in the area.
According to Scalley, these large fish are usually caught by individuals who are willing to spend a lot of time fishing without a break. For consistent action, he usually uses a large black stonefly with a San Juan Worm as a bait. He also fishes for brown trout using a small Baetis Nymph.
According to Scalley, when he started his company in 1994, many people didn't believe that the river could be a fishery. They didn't realize how beautiful it was or how potential it was.
The US Forest Service has numerous recreation areas along the river where boats can set up. There are also several areas where wading enthusiasts can access good shoals. Due to the area's limited riverside development and bedrock shoals and forested banks, it can be hard to forget that you're in a major metropolitan area.
The tailrace of the Chattahoochee River, which passes through the northern suburbs of Atlanta, is regarded as one of the best urban trout fisheries in the country. The Hooch, which is fed year-round with a combination of 40- and 50-degree water, provides the river with ideal conditions for its population of brown trout.