The Clinch River Fishing Report
TVA has been running some extremely erratic schedules on all of East Tennessee's tailwaters here for the past few weeks and the Clinch has been no exception. The only bright spot in their lunacy has been an occasional low water spell for the wading angler and some rather exceptional flows for the drift boat angler. While the flows have cooperated on occasion, the fishing on the Clinch River below Norris Dam has been on and off depending on the day and the angler. General consensus, however, states that whether drifting or wading you are much better off focusing your efforts on the upper section of the Clinch from the dam down to Peach Orchard Access. While this is pretty typical this time of year while the fish go through their spawning motions, I spoke with Mike Bone the other day and he said that he felt that this year the lack of fish on the lower portion of the Clinch was even more pronounced. He suspects that this may be in part due to decreased stockings associated with the 2008 USFWS directive. Only time will tell...
Norris Lake and the Clinch river are located 20 minutes north of 3 Rivers Angler. Norris Lake was formed in 1936 when the Tennessee Valley Authority began creating a hydroelectric dam system in East Tennessee.
Norris Lake is a 34,213 acre reservoir that is widely noted as one of the clearest and cleanest lakes in the southeast. Most all of the typical warm water species are present and currently a movement is afoot to establish a slot limit for the smallmouth bass population. Norris can be a tricky water to fish because it is so clear and the vegetation so often associated with fishing is minimal. If you fish Norris, focus on rocky banks and feeder creeks as these are the most likely holding spots. If you are fly fishing, a 7wt rod with sinking line is recommended.
Below Norris Dam is the Lower Clinch River. This section of the Clinch, as with all rivers within the TVA system, is regulated by the electrical generation schedule. A 12.5 mile coldwater fishery, the Clinch sustains a healthy population of fish, most all of which were stocked into the river. Average size of a trout gleaned from the Clinch is going to be somewhere between 10 and 13 inches, but don’t be surprised if you hook into something much bigger. The state record Brown Trout was caught here (28lbs. 12 oz.)
Most of the insect life on the Clinch is small in stature. It is not uncommon to see trout sipping wildly on the surface of the river yet no insect hatch is apparent. Simply put, some of these bugs are to small to see very easily, but don't be discouraged, midges in size 20 or 18, pheasant tails in 18-16, sow bugs and scuds are safe bets anywhere on the river. It also might be a good idea to pack some Sulpher dries and a few Griffiths gnats as well. Caddis can be seen on occasion. A 9 foot five weight rod is optimum, though it is not out of the question to step up a few sizes and cast streamers when the generation schedule raises the water levels
Archived The Clinch River Fishing Reports:
I played a little hooky today with fellow 3RA pro-staffer Jeremy Nelson whilst making the rounds in Norris visiting old friends. We made our way down river on the Clinch to catch the falling water about mid-river on a full-off flow on the Clinch below Norris Dam from . It appears that the work on the weir dam has resumed just in time for the higher flows rolling on the French Broad and Holston. We fished for a few hours mid-day with limited results which prompted me to hit the high grass on the edge of the river and rest my eyes. Jeremy was a little more intent on making his time out count and managed a few fish on midge patters in the faster water. There were a few risers here and there but in all likelihood we left a bit before the real party started. I suspect further, that we really missed the better fishing early in the AM up above the weir or near Miller's Island. The fish should settle down into this new new low-flow regime and, of course, the good news is there is wading available throughout the day up and down the river. I'll be back with my game face on the next time...
TVA has been punching out some very favorable flows for wading anglers on the Clinch River below Norris Dam here of late and that trend appears as if it is going to remain through at least the end of the week. That's great news given the crazy spring and summer we've experienced here in East Tennessee. Most of the reports I'm getting from anglers on the Clinch have been some what of a mixed bags. Anglers over the weekend reported tough times with low catch rates and high levels of frurstration. More recent reports from reliable sources indicate that you may have to dig a little deeper into your fly box if you want to consistently catch fish on the current flows. If you haven't already, give a size 14 copper john a shot. Of course, with low flows comes spooky fish, get out the flurocarbon and 6x.
I stole a couple hours early this morning in advance of the arriving weather front to hit the Clinch River below Norris Dam. Generation was a solid 9,300 cfs through the night and despite it the streamer bite was still going relatively strong. I managed seven rainbows in about an hour and a half and had at least one follow from a decent brown. Contrary to conventional wisdom, white was not my color of choice. Muted autumn colors are working much better. Try olives, browns, and yellows. It takes at least a 300 grain line to get the fly in the zone. No salmon eggs needed.
Word on the street is that TVA has suspended work on the weir dam below Norris indefinitely with the advent of last weekend's rain. With that suspension comes the end to the low flows we've been privy to over the last couple of weeks and with them the excellent dry fly fishing. Fear not, however, as I can confirm that the hatch has continued unabated despite the 9,300 cfs cranking from beneath Norris. Scott Anderson, owner of the Montana Fishing Company and an East Tennessee native, was is in town yesterday and we decided to give the Clinch a go despite the high flows. During the middle of the day, at the peak of the hatch, the streamer bite was descent if not pretty good. Sometimes you just gotta play the hand your dealt, and sometimes you might even just get lucky.
Floated the Clinch yesterday on an slightly improved and definitely unexpected rec. schedule that TVA threw at us out of the blue (0ff till 11, 1 generator 11 - 4, and 2 or More from 4 on). On low water the fish were tough and spooky, as to be expected. When the first generator caught up to us the fish were willing enough on a bead head pheasant tail but the top water bite and hatch was extremely sporadic. The bugs finally did show at the end of the day (6:30 or so) on the lower portion of the river but their emergence coincided with the arrival of the 2nd pulse of water from the Norris Dam upstream. The fish were up for about thirty minutes or so before the heavy water forced them back down. The good news is that there are plenty of sulfurs to go around, you've just got to catch the water right in order for the fish to be willing.
Low water is back on the Clinch River below Norris Dam after what feels like a long, long time. Maintenance on the weir dam is the culprit and for once I'd say we're all happy about TVA's determination to attempt a little good. The good news is, of course, not only does the maintenance comes when we all could use a little fishing time and its also coinciding with a descent sulfur hatch. Bugs are showing mid-day sporadically and building. The kicker here is that there is a new player on the block in the form of some larger than usual sulfurs (size 12/14). If you're headed up that way make sure you have a few bigger bugs in your box.
The Clinch River below Norris Dam is back on a day time low water schedule as work on the weir dam resumes. This is great news for the wading angler, although, not entirely so. The low flows will also mean wary trout. Most anglers are reporting very good fishing early in the morning before the fog burns off entirely and then slow fishing from then on. Sulfurs are beginning to pop and the reports are mixed as to whether the fish are keyed in on them. This should improve as water temperatures increase and hopefully the afternoon bite will increase as well. The forecast is for spotty afternoon showers for the next couple of days. Clouds equal cover and cover equals comfort for the fish. If I could sneak away from the shop I'd be up on the Clinch in the afternoon hoping for a passing rain shower.
Mercifully the Clinch River below Norris Dam actually is posting some wadeable/float-able flows over the weekend. Reports of sulfurs in good numbers are trickling in from yesterday's anglers. Most reported good fishing early but frustrating fishing in the afternoon. While the bugs were out in decent numbers the fish weren't really keyed on them yet. This may be a good sign as the good fishing may still be out in front of us.
Finally, rumor on the street is that the weir dam, damaged last year during our winter high-water flows (and probably degraded further this year) is set to be repaired sometime in the next couple of weeks. From the sounds of it, this will require a low water flow for a week or two while repairs are made.
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