100 Best: Hiwassee River
Location: Southeast Tennessee
Type of stream: Tailwater
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Browns, Rainbow
Supporting Services: Reliance, Chattanooga
Short take: Tailwater as broad as its browns
Handicapped Access: Possible
Closest TU Chapter: Hiwassee
From the Appalachia dam powerhouse down to the L&N Railroad Bridge at Reliance, the Hiawssee is the broadest and shallowest of East Tennessee’s famed tailwaters. At times it comes close to a quarter mile in width. The river clatters over low transverse ledges and bars of small round river rock. Riffles aerate the flows adding oxygen. Three large islands break up the river into channels that can fish like freestone streams.
Once designated a trophy trout stream, the Hiwassee is now managed as delayed harvest water, a change which provoked yelps from the angling community. State biologists saw it differently. They believed that restricting the river to catch and release artificial lures only from October through February would give browns and rainbows time to grow over the winter. In addition, they proposed that during the regular season anglers could keep only two browns in their seven fish limit. The change in regs was approved in the spring of 2011. Dane Laws, of Southeastern Anglers and who has guided on the river for many years, reported as this was being written in 2012 that the new regulations and a mild winter appear to have improved the river. However, the jury is still out.
When turbines are running, anglers can still find good fishing in shallows around the islands and along the banks. Arrange to float the river then. Throw big streamers or if you’re a hardware hurler, fish small minnow or crawdad like plugs or cast spinners or spoons. Hiwassee hatches are prolific and varied.