Phil Duke's Middle TN Report
Photo altered to protect the guilty.
My apologies to the editor in chief for accepting the position of Tennessee editor, writing one article in September, and then going silent. I also wish to apologize to my fan. I had one response to my first article and I would like to take this occasion to thank my loyal fan and youngest daughter.
My absence is a function of conditions beyond my control. Unfortunately, the Army Corp of Engineers in league with The Tennessee Valley Authority have seen fit to make the Caney Fork River unfit for a fly fisherman who depends on a pair of waders to enter the river. September saw the watershed have over four times the average rainfall and October was not much better. Couple this with a dam determined by the Corp as being in danger of collapse and you have a generation schedule that kept the river rolling and unfishable except for those willing to fish from a boat. I don’t have a boat.
That was September and October. November saw a return to average rainfall and soon the Corp returned Center Hill Lake to a safe level so that repairs to the dam could continue and stopped generating around the clock. Unfortunately the TVA turned on the sluice that turned the tail water side of the dam into a geyser that boils up ten feet above the stream level adding 1800 cubic feet of water per second to the stream flow. The sluice was added to the apparatus of the dam to aireate the water to prevent fish kills due to low oxygen levels. We have seen fish kills in late summer and into fall.
I visited for the first time in two months late Friday, Nov. 13. The generation schedule showed that only the sluice was activated. I wish I’d had my camera with me as the boiling water at the bottom of the dam is impressive.
I walked down to the boat ramp just below the dam. I normally fish there shortly after the generators are turned off as it takes several hours for access points down river to be accessible. There are usually fish to be had there but they tend to be small as this is where the river is stocked but if you take the path from the parking lot at the dam and follow it down stream about one half mile there is a set of stairs which takes you down to the gravel bar next to a stream that terminates into the Caney. Unfortunately that path takes a lot of fisherman to the same spot but if you can get some elbow room the fishing can be pretty good.
When I arrived about 4:15 in the afternoon the parking lot was almost empty. There were a couple of fishermen walking up from the dam and I inquired as to their luck and they replied that had not had a strike and had not seen anyone else catch a fish either. I walked down to the dam and saw the water made rough by the sluice and noticed two seasoned citizens on the bank each with a line in the water. While I was marveling at the turbulence caused by the sluice each reeled in a small trout, put them in a fish basket with several already in captivity, rebaited and resumed fishing. The power baiters seemed to be doing just fine in troubled waters. I stayed no more than five minutes and walked up to the trail leading downstream. It is a short walk on a wide path covered in fine gravel.
When I got to the stairs there were a pair of long rodders leaving the river. They had been there for about three hours and had no luck at all. They had thrown everything in their fly box and not had a strike. The sluice was sending water over the second step from the bottom of the stairs and there was about two feet of water over the gravel bar. One of the two fishermen who I had talked to said after two hours and no action he climbed the stairs, sat on the highest tread and brought out a bottle of wine and spent the last hour drinking away his troubles. I decided to spend Saturday raking leaves.
Word has it that the TVA will suspend the sluice in December. If the rain heavy rains do not return the river will once again be fishable and as the fish have had plenty of time to fatten, this could be an interesting winter on the Caney Fork. In the meantime I’m headed to the Harpeth.
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