Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Hatches and Flies for the Clinch River Tennessee
There are a few mayflies and quite a few caddisflies that emerge on the Clinch River but
the hatches are not consistent day in and day out. There is a sulphur hatch that can be
good at times. It is about the only mayfly hatch of any importance. It starts in late April and
peaks during May. By the first of June it has ended in most areas. Many days you will be
lucky to see midges on the surface. Most of the fly fishing should be done subsurface.
The river has a population of both scuds and sow bugs and at times it seems they are the
preferred food of the trout. However, as plentiful as they are, imitations of them don't
There are several species of Cinnamon Caddis. They can hatch off and on from June
through the month of September. LIttle Sisters are also present in limited quantities. They
hatch in late June and on into the first two weeks of July. Other species are present but not
in large quantities.
This is an excellent river to fish large streamers in for two reasons. When they are running
two generators, it is about the only way you can fish it. The other reason has to do with the
huge brown trout that exist in the river. Fish from twenty to thirty inches long are not
uncommon. They are used to eating large baitfish. This method requires a lot of cast and
plain work but it can be very effective. Just don't expect a fish every few minutes. When you
do catch one, it most likely will be a good one.
The best conditions for a drift boat trip is when they are running one generator. You can
occasionally catch trout on a dry fly provided a hatch is occurring when one is running but
most often, you will need to fish subsurface. It is also possible to catch a trout on a dry fly
midge imitation. It depends on the water levels and flow conditions and of course, the hatch.
Most of the time you will be better off fishing a midge larva or pupa imitation. If you notice
any midges hatching, go to the midge pupa imitation. If you don't, fish a midge larva
imitation. We prefer to fish either of them without a strike indicator, but they do work fairly
well on the Clinch. You should add a small amount of split shot above the larva imitation
and adjust the indicator depending on the depth and speed of the water.
You can fish imitations of scuds and sowbugs the same way as the midge larva flies. Add
some weight to the tippet a few inches above the fly and fish them on or just above the
bottom. Strike indicators can also be used with them if you prefer.
Don't forget streamer flies. They work great, especially when the water is running high and
fast, or when it is off-color from heavy rain.
Double or tandem rigs are popular on the Clinch. Some anglers fish a larger mayfly nymph
and a small midge larva or pupa together. Others fish two midge flies a few inches apart,
both a midge larva and a pupa imitation. We don't prefer these multiple rigs but they do
If you haven't done so already, please give our "Perfect Flies" a try. We feel sure you will
find them to be very effective on the Clinch tailwater. Our Scud and Sowbug imitations are
the best you can buy. Our Sulphur imitations work great on this river as well as any where
else for that matter.
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