Tennessee is home to countless creeks and small rivers that flow through the beautiful valleys of this gorgeous state. There is a lot of water in Tennessee, in the form of free flowing water, reservoirs and the nature-made lake: Reelfoot Lake in Tiptonville. Every reservoir is fed by creeks and rivers and those creeks are calling your name.
If you haven’t yet experienced floating a creek in a kayak, and better yet, fishing down a creek in a kayak in Tennessee, read on to learn how you can full enjoy this past time.
Quiet currents that carry you through unspoiled valleys with views you can only see from the river set the stage. Shallow water in narrow creeks that you can cast from bank to bank assures the fish aren’t too far from your lures. Lack of fishing pressure also put the fish in a biting mood creating a fishing experience that is hard to beat.
There are a few areas like the Caney Fork River that offer trout fishing, while creeks offer bass, crappie, muskie, and blue gill. Since Jackson Kayak started making boats in Tennessee, quite a few places have begun rental programs on these stretches of river. Caney Fork Outdoors in Silver Point, Tennessee (931-858-5222) will not only shuttle your kayak back to the put-in, but always have great tips for catching some of the biggest trout.
Bass and muskie fishing can be done at Smooth Rapids in McMinnville, Tennessee. Running down the Barren Fork into the Collins River and taking out at the end is a wonderful float with epic fishing. I did this trip for the River Bassin Championships which was filled with tons of action you can experience yourself.
Here are a few tips for fishing on Tennessee’s creeks
1. Pack light. You won’t be using boat ramps, so you need to make it as easy as possible to get your kayak in and out of the creek. Bring no more than four rods, consolidate your tackle into a bag, and bring only what you need for food and drinks; skip the cooler.
2. Wear your life jacket and dress for the weather. If it is cold, bring extra clothes in a dry bag.
3. If you are doing the run without commercial help from an outfitter, you’ll need two vehicles and friends for running “shuttle.” Leave the boats at the put-in and then drive both vehicles to the take-out and leave one there. Make sure to hide the keys where you can find them when you arrive.
4. Avoid the creeks after a big rain. Give it a few days if the rain was more than 1”. Rain accumulation of .5” or less shouldn’t make the creeks overly muddy. The water will be clearer the longer the period between rainfalls.
5. Wear water shoes. You may need to pull the boat over shoals.
Some fishing tips for catching Kentucky spotted and smallmouth bass on Tennessee’s creeks:
Typically, you can use moving baits such as a strike king swim jig, spinner baits, and shallow running crank baits like a square bill and the fish will be very receptive to eating them. Try fast-moving baits first so you can cover more water and catch more fish. If the bass are being stubborn with the fast baits, a finesse jig or shaky head worm will most likely do the trick. Most of the creeks in middle and eastern Tennessee are rocky bottoms and often bedrock, making fishing easily enjoyable. Laydowns are abundant and the bass love to hide out in the thick of them. Maneuver your lure into their hiding spots and you will most likely be successful.
If you only throw two main colors (white and green pumpkin) you will have what you need to catch fish in a creek. Many of the central and eastern Tennessee creeks will also produce Muskie on your trip. Catching a more than 20-pound Muskie unexpectedly, and in shallow water, is one of the exciting experiences a fisherman can have.
Tips for catching trout:
Rivers such as the Caney Fork, Watauga, and South Holston are amazing trout fisheries and fly fishing is the most common method of catching these rainbow and brown trout. Streamers are the most commonly used flies, but midges, dry flies, and nymphs also produce. If you want to get into smaller creeks, you can float some sections of the Tellico River and Hiwassee River as well.
See you on the river!