Angler Fishing the Clinch River

Fishing the Clinch River by Gary Verholek

Normally, I don’t like to fish the Clinch on Fridays, because it’s often quite crowded, at least by comparison to other weekdays.  I definitely don’t fish there on the weekends - the fishermen outnumber the fish.  But… based on the TVA discharge schedule published on their website Thursday evening, it appeared that they would run a reduced flow.  Since Tuesday was such a productive day, it seemed like a good idea to try again while the fish were dumb and happy. 

Leaving before 6:30AM, I covered the 30 miles and got to the river a little after 7AM.  The fog lay thick over the cold water.  With only the edge of the water visible, the first thing I noticed was that the flow was still high and fast.  The two-generator flow had stopped at 1AM, but the river hadn’t drained down at the Second Baptist Church parking lot.  It appeared to be running at least 12” – 15” above normal minimum flow.  I leisurely lined my rod and selected some flies.  I opted to use a #12 parachute Adams (instead of my normal Thingamabobber) for an indicator and a #16 Zebra Midge dropper tied on with 6x fluorocarbon.  Slowly donning my waders to kill time didn’t work; the water still hadn’t receded.  Finally, around 7:30AM I entered the river and felt the strong, cold flow from Norris Dam, some 12+ miles upstream. 

I couldn’t see more than about 50 feet in the fog, but it quickly became evident that I wasn’t the first on the river.  A spin fisherman was working my favorite riffle, so I moved up stream to another ledge that had produced on Tuesday.  Quickly enough, I hooked a small rainbow on the Midge.  Then a small Brown hit the Adams dry fly.  After another hit and miss, the action stopped.  I moved further out along a ledge and into the heavier flow, but could not see the Adams.  I decided to put on an olive Wooly Bugger and work the pools below the ledge.  I worked out across the flow and back, and finally a nice Rainbow took the Bugger. 


It was now about 10AM, the fog was thinning and the river level was receding.  I decided to go to the Thingamabobber and Midge that produced so well for me before.  I took a couple of small Rainbows, before I was able to see that my riffle downstream was vacant.  A fisherman had been working Soft Hackle flies through the area, but he moved further to the center of the river.  I quickly moved downstream and set up where I could drift the midge through the soft water below the long, lateral ledge.  Good move.

I began to pick up several nice Rainbows in fairly quick succession.  I’m sure glad I brought the net, and I’m equally glad I use a reel with a good drag (Lamson Velocity 1.5 on a 5-wt TFO TiCr) to save the 6x tippet.  I caught and released several fish over 12”, including a nice fat 15” Rainbow.  The soft hackle fisherman was getting nothing while I kept catching fish.  Feeling rather smug, and anxious to keep the parade going, I got careless with my backcast and tangled the indicator and midge.  The fine 6x tippet couldn’t be salvaged, so I cut off some of the tangle and re-tied the Midge tippet to the indicator.  The dropper was now about 14” long.  The fish ignored me.  I retied the Midge on a longer 20” tippet and the catching resumed. 

By about 11AM, the water had reached normal low flow, and the fog cleared.   The run where I picked up a half-dozen fish went quiet, so I began casting up into the base of the ledge, letting the Midge drift through the soft water.  I quickly caught two more nice Rainbows.  It was near lunch and I was getting hungry, so I did the old “one more fish” routine.  It wasn’t long before a small Brown trout called my hand.  I decided to call it a day. 
The soft hackle fisherman called over to me and asked to see what I was using.  I showed him the Zebra Midge I had on and gave him one I had tied.  Before I could get out of the water, he had a fish on.  That fish was almost as satisfying as the ones I was catching.

Please also check out our main website for daily fishing reports, message board and online catalog.
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust