Best 100: Tellico River
Location: East Tennessee
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Brooks, Brown, Rainbow
Supporting Services: Tellico Plains
Short take: With off road vehicles banned from its headwaters, the Tellico has recovered
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Clinch River
From the mouth of Turkey Creek upstream to the confluence of the North River, the Tellico is managed as a delayed harvest fishery. Thirteen miles of the upper river are stocked almost weekly with approximately 5,000 8-inch to 12-inch rainbows from the Tellico. That’s why you’ll have to purchase a permit costing $5.50 per day to fish the river or its similarly stocked cousin, Citico Creek. The fees help offset the cost of stocking the river. Catch and release and artificial only regulations apply from October 1st to March 15th. Mild winters place less stress on holdover trout, and the river has become well known for trophy sized ‘bows and browns. Fish the Tellico spring and fall.
Heavy stocking and the fact that the river flows through the Tellico Wildlife Management Area which is open to hunting during appropriate seasons ensures that the six campgrounds along the river see lots of use. But the river is long enough that a quiet reach can be found if you drive far enough. Its main tributaries—the Bald and North rivers—provide stellar small stream dry fly activity for wild browns, rainbows, and brook trout.
The U. S. Forest Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Council of Trout Unlimited, Conservation Fisheries, Inc., and others are collaborating in the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout Foundation to pioneer a model hatchery for the native trout of the region. This facility is located on the grounds of the Tellico Hatchery and shows promise as an inexpensive prototype that can be replicated throughout the Southeast.