River Information

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.

Banner Day on the Broad
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: September 26, 2017
The gravel crunched beneath my tires as I pulled into the parking lot. I stepped out of the truck and felt the heat hanging in the air. Waiting only on myself, I quickly slipped on my wading boots and rigged my seven weight with the usual carp nymph. Tough fishing on previous outings had me second-guessing my methods. Was my fly the right color, weight, profile, etc. I proceeded down the trail as I buried these questions under some positive thinking. I made my way down to the banks of the French Broad. The water was cool and clear. I waded through the lush green aquatic vegetation and carefully advanced downstream. It didn’t take long for me to spot the first carp. An average sized fish cruising the edge of a thick grass bed came right for me. A heavy plop of the fly hitting the water sent him running. “Here we go again”, I thought.

Before I could complain about the spookiness of the first fish, another one came cruising out of a log jam and into casting range. A quick cast put my fly ahead of the curious carp. I gave a slow strip as I saw the carp turn towards the fly. Gills flared and those big yellow rubber lips inhaled my offering. The fight was quick and dirty. I could feel the sheer power of this solid sucker as it peeled drag attempting to bury itself in the thick grass. Finally, I got his head up and got him in the El Jefe. After weeks of frustration with finicky fish, I was beyond stoked to get a nice carp in the net. I went on to have the best day of carp fishing of my life. All in all, I landed four more commons, broke off two more and botched a handful of other opportunities. Banner days like this are what keep me coming back, despite the weeks of frustration that preceded this day.

French Broad Fishing Well
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: July 9, 2015
The French Broad River below Douglas Dam is fishing well on favorable flows throughout the week. TVA is currently being generous and typically turning on the generators for about twelve hours every day starting at noon. This provides the boating angler with some nice water on the lower stretches of the river for the better part of the day. The main flows are still relatively cool and that's pushing the better small mouth into the slack water eddies in search of warmer temperatures. Focus your attention out of the main flow as the water falls and then move into the more likely holding spots later in the day as the lower water warms. The topwater bit has yet to develop so streamer fishing is still the ticket.
French Broad Warm Enough and the Bass are Coming Off
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: May 19, 2015
The flows on the French Broad River below Douglas Dam have been hovering around 1000 cfs for the last two or three weeks and that is just low enough to allow the water to heat sufficiently to get the small mouth bass increasingly excited. While I'm still seeing plenty of fish on their beds, I'm also seeing an increasing number of post-spawn fish pulling off the bed and setting up in feeding positions. This trend should continue through the weekend and by next week the small mouth bite should effectively be in full swing. Lisa Bell and her father Lee got out on the water with me last week and Lisa caught her first small mouth in addition to a number of white bass and all the skip jack shad she could handle. The white bass, while still in the river, have dispersed and moved out and about. As a result, you can expect to pick up a pocket of whites here and there but can't count on the large numbers of fish we were seeing as late as last week.
French Broad Bass Coming Off Their Beds
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: May 12, 2015
Flows on the French Broad have been ideal throughout the Spring thus far and the fishing has been fantastic for white bass, hybrids, skip jack shad, and the occasional striper. The small mouth bass have been a different story thus far with most of the bass being locked up in their love dance on their spawning beds to date. That story is beginning to change. Low flows and warm temperatures have expedited their time on the beds and some of the early spawners and larger fish are beginning to move into post-spawn positions looking for a meal. The bigger fish tend to be holding in eddies beside larger flows with the smaller fish moving into the pools above and below riffles. Be patient and look for your target as the low water makes for weary fish.
French Broad Coming into its own with a Mixed Bag
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: April 14, 2015
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...
French Broad Bass Bite Improving
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: June 16, 2014
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.
French Broad Not Yet Fantastic, but Close
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: May 20, 2014
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.
French Broad Bassassins Happening Now
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: May 15, 2014
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.
French Broad Bass Action Starting To Happen
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: May 6, 2014
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.
French Broad Stained but Fishing Well
Written by Allen Gillespie
Published: September 24, 2013
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...