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.