Tennessee Fly Fishing: Top 7 Places for the Best Trout Fishing


By Taylor Klarman

If Tennessee fly fishing is on your bucket list or you’re a Tennessean just looking for the next best creek to fish, this guide is for you! We took some time to highlight our top 7 rivers that have the best fly fishing opportunities in the state. Whether you’re wanting to hop on the tailwaters or hit the streams in our beautiful mountains, this guide is for you! With our regions temperate climate, it makes for the perfect habitat for supporting healthy trout populations year round. This guide will cover the best waters to fish, what kind of trout you can find, and the best flies to use when fishing there. Grab a drink and come see why these trout fisheries made our list!

Taylor Klarman

1. Tennessee Fly Fishing: South Holston River

The South Holston River, or SoHo as locals call it, is one of the best blue ribbon trout streams in the nation. Anglers come from all over the United States to access this famous tailwater. Since it has great water temperatures year round, it’s home to a variety species including brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and even stripers making their way up from Boone Lake! It’s also known for its abundant number of wild brown trout.

The South Holston hasn’t been stocked with brown trout since the early 2000’s due to its excellent water quality and environment. This has, of course, created an excellent habitat for the trout population to thrive in. Boasting nearly 8,500 wild trout per mile, this puts it at the top of the list as our #1 for this Tennessee fly fishing list! Book your next fly fishing trip on the South Holston River with us and experience this beautiful fishery!

From South Holston Dam to Bluff City, there are numerous access points for the wading angler. With the entirety of this section of river being navigable by boat, it offers plenty of opportunity to chase after those trophy trout that it’s known for. The size of the fish here average around 8-12 inches. It should be noted that there is a spawning section of the river that is off limits to fishing during certain months of the year. You can check out our ultimate guide for South Holston River trout fishing to learn more about that. We also included the best sections to wade and float fish in that guide as well.

Photo Credit: Hunter Palmer

2. Tennessee Fly Fishing:

Little River (GSMNP)

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) lies this gem of a trout stream. Some would say that there is no better Tennessee fly fishing than right here in the GSMNP. Don’t let the name fool you though, this is anything but a river. It’s more of a large stream. You’ll find browns, rainbows and brook trout here. Some of the sections will have some day use swimmers in the pools and such, but by in large, much of the stream is open for anglers. There are some sections that are difficult to access, especially in the higher elevations, but most of the stream is accessible for wading. With it’s convenience to Knoxville, this stream is a must fish every fly fishing enthusiast. One thing to mention about the park is that either a TN or NC fishing license covers both sides, no matter which side your license is on. Check out their site for more information and an in depth map of the park.

Lower Section from Townsend to Sinks

You’ll still find some wild rainbows and browns through this section, but they aren’t as prevalent as they are upstream. You may be able to find some bass that have wondered upstream from the lake through here as well. This is also a very popular section for whitewater boaters, so you’re better off fishing upstream toward the more wild sections.

Middle Section From Sinks to Elkmont

As you make your way upstream from the Sinks, you’ll pass several parking spots on the side of the road that you can access the stream from. About 2 miles up the road from the Sinks is Metcalf Bottoms. There is a picnic area here that you can park at and access the stream and the fishing is pretty phenomenal here. During some of the prolific hatches, the pools are stacked with trout and it’s a good day for dry fly fishing. There is about 6 miles of stream from Metcalf until Elkmont. There is an abundance of trout here as well as some big fish that like to hide in the deeper pools.

Backcountry Section above Elkmont

This section is our favorite because it’s far away from the crowds. This area of the Little has far less fishing pressure than the downstream sections, primarily because of the extra effort required to reach it. This is truly the section to chase after wild trout. With the geography being a bit more steep, this also means you won’t find as many big fish here either. As the stream narrows here, that means that technical fishing and casting techniques are needed. There are several backcountry camp sites that parallel the river, but you’ll need to get a permit for them through the park service. Brookies increase in population as the elevation does. If you’re looking for a great camping trip to accompany your fishing, this section is for you!

Photo Credit: Lane Kelly

3. Tennessee Fly Fishing: Hiwassee River

The Hiwassee River is a north-flowing river that originates in North Georgia and makes its way through North Carolina and into Tennessee. It’s noted for being the first river in Tennessee to be classified as a State Scenic River. This is a fantastic fishery that is good for anglers of all skill levels. There are some sections that prove to be a bit more difficult to fish, but that is primarily due to accessibility reasons. The average fish here is generally 9-12”, but there are some big ones lurking throughout.

Upper Section (Powerhouse to Reliance)

The upper section is the most popular by far. You’ll find most all aquatic insect hatches through here. This section is most popular for its sulfur and Isochonyia hatch in late spring and early summer. Roadside access is pretty open along the way, except for a couple of spots. There is also the John Muir Trail that parallels the river as well.

Middle (Reliance to HWY 411)

The middle section is generally best fished from spring through early summer. Wading is really accessible here, but you’ll have to be careful if they are generating water or not. It can be floated during generation, but wading becomes more difficult.

Lower (HWY 411 to Patty Bridge)

This section is generally best from late winter to late spring. The caddis hatch during this time is pretty hot and we’ve seen some big fish pulled out of here as a result.
Part 2 in the next edition of The Angler Magazine

Taylor Klarman is a retired United States Marine. He finished his last tour in 2013, shortly after he was retired. The long road of completing a master’s degree in business and working various jobs was just not enough to fill the vessel of life. Fishing has always been a pillar of Taylor’s life as he is a native of Mobile Bay, Alabama. He grew up competing in the thriving fisheries from Florida across to Venice, LA as the crow flew. Fortunately, The Marine Corps took him to many places in this life and freshwater fly-fishing became his addictive pastime while in the service. View all posts by Taylor Klarman at https://riverrunangling.com/blog author/anglingrocks