French Broad River
French Broad River Fishing Report
I made it out on to the French Broad River below Douglas Dam on a spectacular day Sunday. In a reversal of last year's conditions, the drought in Western North Carolina has Douglas far below its normal capacity for this time of year so TVA has had the taps on the dam turned off for the last couple of weeks. The result has been a rapid rise in the temperature of the river from just a few weeks ago (62 degrees) and the fish have been responding appropriately. Bowman's Shoals below Huffacker Ferry access was alive with spawning buffalo which were so think it seemed possible to walk across the river without touching the water. On the lower end of the river the skipjack shad, white bass, and hybrids have all begun to arrive in significant numbers. Small mouth fishing is still a bit hit or miss in terms of numbers, but when you hit it tends to be a significant fish. With the other tailwaters blowing incomprehensible amounts of water, now is the time to give the French Broad and its warm water species a shot. Give us a call at the shop if you're interested...
If smallmouth fishing is your game, then look no further than The French Broad River and its tributaries. This 213 mile river meanders out of North Carolina into Tennessee, skirting through the region of The Cherokee National Forest before impounding into Douglas Lake. This river was a huge factor in the settling of lands west of the mountains of western North Carolina. During the frontier days a steady flotilla of flatboats came down stream as people began to settle what was then the wild west of Tennessee.
Wading opportunities are somewhat limited on the French Broad as it leaves TVA's Douglas Dam due to private ownership and shorelines that can be somewhat silty in nature. However, if you have a watercraft you are in for a real treat. This river moves slow and lazy and the scenery is beautiful. A canoe is the ideal transport for the angler who is in search of a good outing.
The best plan of attack for the beautiful smallies on the French Broad is a six or seven weight rod with sinking line and a box full of streamers that could pass for crawdads. Find a small feeder creek, tie on a wooly bugger or similar crawdadish fly and cast just beyond the point where the feeder enters the river, letting it drift back. And hang on.
As you head further downstream, the river deepens and enters an industrial area on the fringes of Knox county. If you are fishing that low on the river, you would be well advised to be aware of large commercial watercraft that frequently are bringing goods and material up to the park. Beyond that lies the confluence of the Holston and French Broad. The point where these two rivers meet is a swirl of conflicting currents and a popular gathering spot for feeding fish. Shortly after sorting the pecking order, these currents settle down and become the mouth of the Tennessee River system as it grows and pushes through Knoxville and beyond.
Archived French Broad River Fishing Reports:
TVA has been forced to run what water they've got through the Valley systems this spring and that means that Douglas Dam has been the go to Dam for electricity thus far as both Cherokee and Norris Reservoirs are still well below summer pool. This also has meant that the French Broad below Douglas Dam is still running cooler than normal for this time of year. I've had good luck in the mornings on falling water with top water bugs thrown tight to the bank or mid-river structure. During the day, particularly if the water is stained up a bit from last night's thunder-boomers, the best bite has come on olive colored crawdad patterns bounced along the bottom. The bottom end of the river is fishing best as it has the warmest water temperatures. If you haven't been out on the Broad this year, give us a call and we'll get you out there as we have access to all portions of the river and can find the low water.
I made a run up the French Broad from the ramp on Kelly Lane up to about the confluence with the Little Pigeon. The water was cold, trout cold, but despite this there were plenty of bugs popping off in the riffles and the majority of small mouth that we found were in the riffles and caught on top water bugs. A few were taken on clousers but the water needs to warm up a bit before the real action starts to happen. We did manage a mess of crappie on clousers and the carp were beginning to get active. Oddly enough, Douglas is above full pool and so TVA has been running a lot of water through since the beginning of the week but the flows are tapering towards the weekend so there should be some lower water schedule in the mix for the holiday weekend.
The French Broad below Douglas Dam is receiving favorable flows and the bass action is heating up. We are beginning to see post-spawn bass working the fast water looking to regain some weight and that means that anglers are catching some good sized bass. TVA has been running a little bit of water through the dam in the afternoons and that flow seems to have pleased the bass. The topwater bite is still a ways off but I have seen a number of June Bugs in the area and so that should change once the hot weather returns to us again next week.
Despite last week's bad weather the Valley saw very little accumulation of actual precipitation and the results have been low clear flows on most if not all of our tailwaters and freestones. The French Broad hasn't been an exception. While early spring fishing on the Broad was a little slow due to colder than normal water temperatures, that trend has been reversed of late due to the warmer weather and the lack of water coming through the dams. While small mouth fishing isn't yet hot an fast, it is improving steadily. While most fish are currently still on their beds in full spawn mode, a few have slipped off and are looking for a bite to eat. I expect this trend to continue over the next two weeks with the bite for big bass improving significantly. TVA has begun to push a minimal amount of water through Douglas this week in order to fill Ft. Loudon Lake. It shouldn't have much of an effect on the fishing given that the flows are coming downstream late in the day.
Fall is officially here in East Tennessee and that means Small Mouth Bass fishing is fantastic. The early mornimg blitz is all but done and while the fish are still a little more active in the early morning hours the colder temperatures make it tough for the angler to get out there before the sun is fully up. The bass are currently schooling up and falling back into the deeper holes on the rivers. Concentrate your efforts on the longer pools and deeper runs. We've been having great success working large crawfish patterns worked slow along the bottom. This is not the most exciting form of fishing but it can be one of the most effective. Don't be surprised if you pick up a lunker carp utilizing this method as they are on the Fall feed as well. TVA's flows haven't been outstanding during the week but the weekends have been fantastic.
I've had the good fortune to fish the French Broad River below Douglas Dam on a number of occasions here in the last few weeks and it is fishing extremely well. The main bite for small mouth bass is occurring at day break with first light. While the work ups on small shad (2 to 4 inches) seems to have cooled over the last week or so the top water bite is still strong and I've had very good luck with baby blue wiggle minnows through mid-morning. Once the sun is officially up and above head the fish seem to be a bit more circumspect and thus a more cautious approach is needed. Again, crawdad patterns fished low and slow have been the go to fly after nine o'clock or so. With the river running a bit stained after the recent rains, the chance to hook into a trophy bass is truly there as the big boys and girls get their feed on in anticipation of the coming winter. Carp aficionados need not despair as the carp fishing has been off the charts as well of late. Water temperatures are still in the upper 70s and the carp, not wanting to be outdone, are getting their feed on as well. While this may ordinarily give an angler pause on which species to pursue, fear not, as more often than not if you can spot a large carp on the feed you will find a satellite bass or two on their haunches attempting to pick up a free meal. They're calling for rain starting tonight (Tuesday) and on into Wednesday and Wednesday night. While an abundance is not predicted, I'm hoping for just enough to stain up the water sufficiently for me to get back and replicate some of last week's catches. Fall on the French Broad is hard to beat...
The mystery of the missing bass on the French Broad River below Douglas Dam may have been solved over the weekend in the pre-dawn hours. I spent two early mornings on the river over the holiday weekend and to say that the feed is on at daybreak is to put it mildly. From about first light until the sun crests above the horizon the fish are feeding heavily on what appears to be small gizzard shad about two inches in length. As soon as the sun gets up, however, the party is over. I had limited luck during the early morning hours on wiggle minnows on a floating line fished slow ala a Zara Spook. I did better (on the second morning) fishing a Tom's Tantrum in white slow on a floating line. That said, my largest fish came on a stealth bomber along the bank once the baitfish bite had slowed. While the bite slows significantly after the sun crests it's not as if it's over completely, it's just that you have to work a bit harder for the fish and you are more than likely relegated to catching more average fish since the larger fish are getting their job done in that first hour of the day. If you're interested in a trip give us a call at the shop and we can hook you up, 865-200-5271.
The French Broad River below Douglas Dam is presenting fishable flows but most anglers are having a hard time locating the fish. When I've had a chance to get on the river I found a similar situation with small mouth bunched up in schools in low water but spread far and wide. This may be in part due to the high water scenario which has dominated the year thus far but it may also have to do with the bi-weekly tournament occurring on the river every second Saturday. If you haven't been to the Kelly Lane boat ramp on one of these Saturdays then you've missed the forty to fifty trailers in the lot. Needless to say, I am incredulous that this fishery can sustain that type of pressure without suffering a detrimental impact. The upsdie, hunting season is not too far off and that may be just the thing the French Broad needs in order to turn on again.
At long last the French Broad below Douglas Dam is presenting some fishable flows if only with narrow windows. From experience, any average outflow below about 11,000 cfs will produce periods of low water where anglers can find willing fish. While the generation from the dam is still exceptionally high (18,000 cfs) for the better part of 12 hours, the remaining generation is next to zero with only the occasional pulse. This high-low schedule gives the fish a respite from high water and the angler a chance to chase them. Not surprisingly, the fish are a little skittish on the lower water having become accustom to 6 to 8 feet of water over their heads. Most small mouth are still hanging in deeper pools but are willing to dart from cover to chase down well presented streamers. Carp are working the deeper flats and on occasion larger bass may be hanging off their tails looking for a free meal. Flies that present well to spooky bass, such as Tom's Tantrum or a bead chain clouser, are producing better than others.
TVA is still pushing a ton of water through the French Broad River below Douglas Dam making it unfishable at present. The good news is that the generation schedule has been throttled back significantly and the lake level is only a foot or so above TVA's expected elevation range. This bodes well for float-able/fish-able flows by the weekend or early next week. At present, the small mouth are still a little confused with respects to what they're supposed to be doing with all the water and cold weather we've been having here in East Tennessee this spring. The free stone rivers associated with the French Broad drainage are holding significant numbers of trophy small mouth in a variety of stages from pre-spawn to spawning to post-spawn. Expect them all to move into a post-spawn mode in then next two weeks and drop back down into the main river. When that happens, hold on.
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