View Full Version : Thinking of giving it a try.

01-23-2006, 04:46 PM
I am interested in trying one of the tailwaters in Tenn. I have heard that the fishing is good but I'm not sure where to begin. I have heard that both the Watauga and Holston are good. I would be wading. Is one better than the other considering I would be wading? What about the dam releases or maybe it's better worded realeases from the dam? :D Can you explain that to me? I have been to the TVA website but they seem to say only that there will be a release sometime between certain set hours. How can I make sure I'm safe and also know when the fishing might be good in relation to the releases. Sorry this is so wordy, any help is greatly appreciated.

01-23-2006, 05:27 PM
hey there out4trout,

Getting to know tailwaters takes some time and your on the right track researching them. Tailwaters can be a real blast as they often hold fish of much larger sizes that those common in our mountain streams. However, they can be dangerous if one is not wise to the tailwater and the characteristics of tailwaters.

Around here, with TVA in charge of most of our hydroplants, we're provided with a predicted release schedule that's usually put online the afternoon prior to the next day. You already know the website, but for those that don't, Byron has links on the new website.Now, this is a predicted schedule and always subject to change. I'd say for the most part TVA does about 90% system wide in keeping true to their posted schedules. So for this reason, it's wise to always pay attention to your surroundings while in the stream. Rising water comes on fast, but if your tuned into your enviroment and the facts of the river.....you will have enough time to reach high ground once you notice amd HEAR the water coming.

When TVA does stick to their schedules, it's good to know the layout of the river. Things like how long the water takes to make it down river after they've turned it on are good things to know. That way you might be able to fish a few hours longer after the water has come on. Likewise, it might be nice to know how long it takes the water to drop in certain areas after it's been turned off. Most of our tailwaters are best waded with the water off. The Hiwassee can be waded in several places with the water on but it's the exception of the bunch. For the particular rivers you mentioned.....I'd say neither river is wadable with water running from the dam. Of course wilbur dam (Watauga) has a constant flow generator that runs a hundred or so cfs .....so for the Watauga, any flows that say one or more for long periods of time should be avoided.

Access to water can be a tough question. A lot of our tailwaters lie on a good amount of private land. However, most of them (some better than others) offer great public access too. Public access includes wade in areas and boat launches. You can find these access by getting out your delorme topo and just driving around, as well as the folks on this board and others like it.

Look for buddies to tag a long with and or think about hiring a guide for the day. The best way to learn a tailwater and it's characteristics in a short amount of time. I'm sure Byron can direct you in the direction of a great guide up in that neck of the woods.

Byron Begley
01-23-2006, 05:55 PM
Excellent advise Rocky. Byron

01-23-2006, 11:33 PM
It took me a while get on a tailwater - there was that intimidation factor what with all the stories of people getting hit with high water unsuspectedly and all the stories of how "technical" of water it is.

But checking the tva site is a good place to start and keep up with it by phone before you head out - sometimes it changes (especially with a weather system change and rain is in the forecast) and ruin your plans. Only a couple of times have I been surprised with the water coming up with out warning. It pays to have an exit route on hand, though you'd rarely need to use it, its nice to have an idea where you'd go if the water should rise unexpectedly...

That being said, I fish the Clinch mostly and the South Holston when I can. I'm a wader though I have a buddy with a drifter and thats a different part of our sport all together.
When I see 1 generator for than an hour, its usually not wading time unless you can hit areas down stream before the water reaches there and then jump higher when the water comes down after it stops generating. Sometimes there are frequent 1 hour , 1 generator "pulses" with alternating non generation periods - that really only affects ya if you are right near the dam. the effects are minimal down stream, but the fish know and can cause hatches and feeding.

On the Clinch, it takes about an hour on 1 generator to fill the wier pool and gives an 1.5 - 2hr window to before it hits Millers Island a popular wading spot - and a good 6 hours before gettin down to the 66bridge...but if I know 2 generators are coming, I give myself a 30 min slot @ Millers and 4hrs to the bridge. Knowing the drain times can help you get to low water and plan you day better, but remember - it takes much more time to get to wade water after the flow stops.

As for bugs, I don't claim to be an expert on tailwaters - though I've put my time in on the Clinch and i can tell you the majority of the stuff you'll need to use is in the 18 - 32 range with 20/22 a good place to start with the midges and black flies. Scuds and sowbugs are a staple, I tie mine in a 20...in the spring, sulphurs provide some meat in 14,16...South holston the same, but throw in blue wing olives in the winter and the sulphurs are prime all summer long.

Something else to remember - when the waters low, these fish tend to stack up in deeper pockets, but don't pass up the ankle deep stuff - you'd be surpised what lurks in the small white watered seems...

I know others have much more info and probably better - just my two sence worth.


01-23-2006, 11:42 PM
Uhh, Check that - i ment Hiway 61 bridge near the Jail...


01-26-2006, 04:19 PM
Thanks everyone, your advice is a great help for me and a great place to start from from. :)

01-27-2006, 10:32 AM
I know you mentioned the Watauga and Holston. *I haven't yet managed to get up and fish those tailwaters, but I can give some advice from my own experience. *If you're a wader, the Hiwassee tailwater is tough to beat. *You can wade at least in a few spots on pretty much any generation schedule other than spilling. *On one generator or none, you can wade an enormous amount of water. *I highly recommend it if you're ever down that way. *There's a website out there that gives a lot of good info on wading the Hiwassee (http://www.hiwassee.net). *Definitely be careful no matter which tailwater you fish,


01-30-2006, 01:31 PM
First thing to do is make a stack of rocks right where the water meets the bank. This way you can keep an eye on those rocks and determine if the water is going up or down. I fish the cumberland tailwaters on a regular basis and work out in the middle of the river most of the time.

I have a waders belt!! (Keeps water from filling your waders) I suggest everyone to use one of these. I had a friend step in a hole by accident on a stream and water rushed into his waders causing him to sink. Just so happened I was within a few steps of him and was able to grab him before he went under. I would also look at getting a sospenders life vest especially if going alone.

When you are in fast moving water always face the flow. You never want to turn your back to the flow in fast moving water. Take your time and get your footing when wading deep water.

If you really want to be safe carry a throw bag or take one of the bigger Gatorade bottles. Cut a hole in the bottom to run a rope through and tie a knot. Then stuff a fair amount of rope in the bottle which makes an awesome throw rope. If you fall and someone throws you one of these hold onto it with your back facing up stream and hold the rope in the hand closest to the bank.

Some of this is might seem a little extreme but I have done swift water rescue and serious kayaking so I have seen people get swept away in current that was not that fast moving. If you do fall in rapids and have a life jacket on don't try and stand up. There is a chance your foot could get hung up, wait until you are through the rapids then try to stand up.