If you live in Middle Tennessee and you want to fly fish for trout you have two choices. You can go to the Caney Fork River or you can mow the yard. If the Caney is screwed up you might as well troll an olive wooly bugger behind your riding lawnmower and for the last year the Caney has been screwed up. I have had the good fortune to fish with Miles Warfield who knows the river so well that he ties flies for the day. Miles knows the hatch concentrates on the drift and presents the fly in a way that no self respecting trout could resist. When no one else on the river is having any luck, Miles is catching fish. For the last year even Miles hasn’t caught fish.
First there is the dam. It’s failing or so the Corp of Engineers is warning. The contract has been let to fix it and they are making good progress and in just six years the repairs should be finished. Add a very wet fall and winter. Because of the repairs the water level for Center Hill Lake is kept artificially low and when it rains they let lots of water through the generators. The water is murky and as the recent run off is warmer, that raises the temperature of the tail waters coming through the generators. Then there was the flood in early May. Though the Caney Fork watershed did not get the 15 inches of rain that Nashville got in 36 hours, the rain that did fall pushed the Caney Fork to levels I’ve never seen. When the generation schedule finally settled down fishing that was poor just got worse. The old hands at the fly shop said it would be years before the river returned to its normal trout producing self. Miles got so disgusted he moved to Mississippi to be a research fisheries biologist. MISSISSIPI. They don’t even have trout in the meat section of the grocery store. Carp yes, trout no. Below is a picture of the only way I get to see trout. And Miles’ Aunt Betty made that possible. That is until last Friday evening.
They have been restocking the river and some of the trout that weren’t washed down to New Orleans have returned. I got in the river about 5 in the afternoon at the boat ramp just below the dam. The fog was already beginning to form on the surface, there was no wind and best yet almost no one there. Within two hours I had released over 15 rainbows, 1 brown, 1 brook and 2 shad. Shad count, don’t they? All were caught on black zebra midge. The fish were mostly recently stocked but a few were more mature and one topped 14 inches. So the Caney is back, but don’t tell anyone.