It's hard to buy things like peace of mind, tranquility and an understanding of nature. But Tennessee's many streams do just that and much more for free.
(Clear Fork, Big South Fork)
And hey, Tennessee creeks are where I first wet the famed hook; these streams are also a time machine for me. In fact, I wish I could go there now and land an old memory or two.
Tennessee has many streams, but it is those located in the Middle and East sections of the state that I have fished the most, and everything they offer me, they offer you. You can literally wade off into their cool clear waters and escape the hectic bustle of everyday life.
There may be few better places to go in the summer heat. For me, it beats a water park, fins down.
You can catch anything from sunfish to mudcats.
Opportunity abounds, especially in the summer.
Some of these streams offer all species of bass: spotted bass, smallies and largemouth. This is because the habitat is ideal with lots of gravel, rock and sand bottoms, constantly flowing (well-oxygenated) water, and ideal cover. Also, the fishing pressure is often next to nothing, so you can enjoy some solitude. Do you remember me saying something about an escape?
There's not a lot of cost involved in stream fishing. You don't need a boat, and if you fish the warmer months, you really don't need a pair of waders. Just rod, reel and essential lures.
The current is always present. In fact, you feel a part of it when you wade.
It's something that can prove an initial challenge for anglers new to fishing current, because it takes some adjustment for you to be able to "feel" your presentation or keep track of your lures. Fishing downstream and making retrieves into the current, or maybe even in the cross currents, will allow you to better "feel" for your baits, while also making it better to detect strikes. Remember to start your retrieve instantly. Your lures will also seem more realistic as they come into the current, and most fish also face upstream (where food often drifts from), so your presentation is more apt to be in a fish's face.
Current edges or seams, where fast and slow water meet, are places to look for to fish. Try to keep steady pressure on your line. Baits with weed-guards will help keep you from becoming snagged.
Look for various contour formations and remember that different locales can mean different species of bass. Largemouths like naturally slow waters, or areas around any object that slows the current. Smallmouths and spotted bass like areas with more current, or will be caught near it. Dips and pockets always seem to hold fish.
The down-current sides of cover like points, stumps, and rock piles are great places. Fish often wait there to dart out and attack a passing meal.
A branch entering the stream is also often a good location, and again, the down-current side is most likely going to be the preferred hangout for a fish.
Always remember a spot you deem to be good will be even better if it lies in the shade.
Stalking is a term most often associated with hunting, but when stream fishing, it pays to use stealth, too. Fish are aware of uncommon vibrations in the water, especially along a small creek bank. Take your time, work each hole you come to slowly and methodically.
And speaking of slow, that's the kind of baits you want to use, too the ones that perform with slow presentations: jigs, worms, artificial crawfish. Small crankbaits and spinnerbaits can also be productive. Fish them slowly, because they look more natural and repeat casts often to the same spot because it will entice more strikes.
(Caney Fork River)
Huge bass may not gravitate toward the streams, but these current dwellers put up a fight on light tackle. Also, the smaller environments can only produce so many fish. So protect populations and practice catch and release.
Also, note the small towns near the streams you decide to fish. Most have lodging and quality places to eat and explore. For example the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg is one of many side-tour opportunities, near mid-state streams. This exploration of the area in your down-time will add even more entertainment value to your trip.
‘Til next time, catch one for me…in Tennessee!
*All photos by Chuck Sutherland