Tennessee has some of the best fishing around, and Chattanooga is no exception. While the Scenic City gains most of its notoriety from bass fishing at Chickamauga Lake, a network of tributaries and smaller independent streams are increasingly putting Chattanooga on the map when it comes to fly fishing. Knowledgeable guides are around every corner ready to lead both float and wade trips, and several companies will even plan and chaperone international fly fishing trips for the right price. In addition to guided trips, numerous instructional opportunities and local bait and tackle shops ensure that residents and visitors alike have both the skills and the supplies necessary to make the most of their time on – or in – the water.
Located in southern Tennessee not far from the Georgia border, the city of Chattanooga is an oasis for watersport enthusiasts of all kinds. The Tennessee River bisects the city, and the dammed Chickamauga Lake is just miles northeast of downtown. Roughly 20 miles to the west is another dammed lake – Nickajack Lake. Fishing downstream from these dams offers opportunities to catch crappie, bluegill, walleye, striped bass, or other baitfish. Locals find the best success wading these areas and utilizing streamers. A stone’s throw from Chickamauga Lake is another option loved by locals – Lake Junior. This small pond is stocked every winter with 6,000 rainbow trout and is one of the only options for trout fishing close to downtown.
For those wanting even more options without the long drive, there are several watersheds northeast of the city that are worth checking out. North Chickamauga Creek is about 20 minutes from downtown, and the rushing creek that traverses through the valley is great for local trout fishing. This creek is stocked each spring at two locations with rainbow trout. Another 10 minutes north, Big Soddy Creek Gulf is gaining popularity. In the spring of 2022, this stream was stocked with rainbow trout for the first time, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency released 300 fish into the stream with plans to return at least once a year.
While there are certainly several options for those wanting to fly fish close to Chattanooga, most anglers in the area prefer to drive a little farther for a day on the water. A favorite by far, the Hiwassee River routinely makes it onto compilations of the top fishing spots in the state and is only about an hour from downtown Chattanooga. Rainbow, brown, and brook trout are plentiful here, and in the summer, large striped bass can also be found in this river. Hobbyists and professionals alike recommend targeting the bass with large streamers that imitate trout.
Runner-up for the favorite day trip locale is easily the Tellico River. While rainbow trout are most prominent, brown trout can also be found, and anglers note that the fish coming from this watershed are frequently much larger than their other catches. There’s even a fly named after this river, so make sure you’re using a Tellico Nymph #10 – #14!
Other honorable mentions within a few hours of Chattanooga include Little River, Clinch River, Citico Creek, Cane Creek, Collins River, Elk River, Toccoa River, and the Ocoee River.
When it comes to fly fishing, knowing the best spots is only half the battle. You’ve also got to have the gear in order to make a catch. Fortunately, the Chattanooga area has one fly fishing outfitter committed to serving the community. The Hatch Outfitters sells everything from waders and apparel to terminal tackle and flies – but it’s not all about the gear. The Hatch Outfitters is a fly fishing hot spot, and the shop prides itself on helping foster a sense of community. On the first Friday of each month, the outfitter hosts a Fly Tying Night, and there are also several annual events for both professionals and hobbyists. Held in conjunction with the yearly fly fishing film tour, the Spring Kickoff is the perfect place to meet like-minded locals; vendors, food, music, beer, and raffles are the bread and butter of this family-friendly event, which also happens to be free! In addition, The Hatch Outfitters offers an array of guided trips, casting lessons, and even a newsletter for curious customers, making it the perfect one-stop shop for all things fly fishing.
EDUCATION AND EXCURSIONS
In addition to the educational and outing opportunities provided by The Hatch Outfitters, there are several fishing charters throughout the area. Guides with decades of experience are eager to take beginners and advanced fishermen alike out on the water for a day. When it comes to dedicated fly fishing excursions, Rocky Top Anglers near Knoxville is leading the pack. The company services the Hiwassee, Cumberland, Holston, Clinch, Caney Fork, and Toccoa Rivers and offers both half-day and full-day float and wade trips. Designed for one to two anglers, these trips prioritize safety and personal attention, and Rocky Top provides all equipment necessary, as well as lunch or snacks. In addition to guided trips, Rocky Top Anglers also oversees a drift boat rowing school and several instructional classes on fly fishing and fly tying. Back in town, Chattanooga Fly Fish offers customizable instruction and guided trips. In addition, Chattanooga Fishing Guides and Scenic City Fishing Charters offer a wealth of information. While both of these companies are tailored to bass fishing around the city, one of their seasoned anglers can point you in the right direction for additional fly fishing education.
For those in search of something a bit more casual, there are also several groups dedicated to the sport. Chickamauga Fly & Bait Casting Club is a community of volunteers that maintains a tract of land in nearby Soddy-Daisy. This members-only organization enjoys regular maintenance or work days, potlucks, holiday gatherings, and the like, and members also have access to amenities such as a clubhouse, boat slips for rent, and kayak/canoe racks. Another members-only club located about an hour north of the city is Dunaway Hunting and Fishing Club. Designated a blue ribbon fishery, Dunaway’s 95-acre lake contains mostly bass and sunfish, although a five-acre spring pond adds bluegill to the mix and is stocked with trout in the winter. Two additional fishing ponds make this club an angler’s paradise just waiting to be discovered.
Regardless of if you are looking for fly tying friends or just want to know the best local spots to soak up a little seclusion, the Chattanooga area has got you covered when it comes to fly fishing. With lakes and rivers galore, a network of resources grows stronger every year and continually celebrates the natural beauty of the Chattanooga area.