Hiwassee River Fishing

The tail waters of the TVA’s Appalachia Powerhouse create one of Tennessee’s finest trout fisheries. Clean, cold water from Appalachia Lake, just across the North Carolina border, flows through an 8-1/2 mile long tunnel to the powerhouse in Polk County, Tennessee. There, the water produces 75,000 kilowatts of electrical power and creates a 20 mile long trout fishery.
Much of the Hiwassee is under General Regulations. That section of river from the L&N Railroad bridge upstream to the US Forest Service Picnic Area below Plum Creek (“The Big Bend Parking Lot”) is subject to special regulations. The daily limit and possession limit in that section is two fish with a minimum length of 14″ and fishing is restricted to artificial lures only (treble and even multiple treble hooks are allowed). Possession of bait or undersize fish is illegal in the special regulation section.
The Hiwassee is a state Wild and Scenic River in the section discussed here. No alcoholic beverages are allowed on the river or at access points. Float tubers must wear a Coast Guard approved flotation vest. Float tube users are cautioned that manufacturers do not recommend the use of their products in moving water.

Getting There
From Chattanooga , take I-75 North to the first Cleveland exit (Highway 64 bypass— follow the signs for the Cherokee National Forest). Take 64 East to Highway 411 North. Go through Benton and continue to Highway 30 East (you turn right onto 30) to Reliance (Webb’s Texaco Station).
From Chattanooga, take I-75 North to the first Cleveland exit (Highway 64 bypass— follow the signs for the Cherokee National Forest). Take 64 East to Highway 30 (17.2 miles). Turn left onto Highway 30 and head northeast for 8.2 miles to Reliance (Webb’s Texaco Station). (This is the route shown on the map.)
To reach the powerhouse, cross the river on the bridge and take the first right after the railroad tracks. (The lower access point to the section of the John Muir Trail through the Big Bend is the parking lot in the big left-hand curve). At Adams Store, turn right and then take the next road to the right (marked “Appalachia Powerhouse”). The road ends in a turn-around near the powerhouse.
About the River
The flow rate and, therefore, the depth of the river fluctuates with the generation schedule. It is critical that you understand what the flow schedule means and that you call before each outing. To get the flow schedule, have a pencil and paper ready and call 1-423-751-2264 (local Chattanooga call). You must call from a touch-tone phone. When the message begins, press 4. When the next message begins, press 22. You will then be given the last eight hours’ flow rate in cubic feet per second. To skip the flow rate, press the # key. Write down the generator flow information you are given. The Automated Information System is updated between 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM Eastern time for the following day.
In 1991, the TVA implemented a minimum flow policy for the Hiwassee and other tributary rivers and it is having significant positive effects on the fishery. Generator pulsing involves operating a minimum of 1 generator for 1 hour our of every 4 hour period. This causes great fluctuation near the powerhouse but the flow several miles downstream is more consistent. The pulses are reflected in the operating schedule. Pulsing will shorten the time it takes for increased flow to reach downstream areas and reduce the differential water level between no generators and two generators. A steady generator raises the water level about 18″ and the flow moves about 2-1/2 miles per hour. The water rises earlier when there has been a lot of rain or when the river is still charged from the last flow. Here are some reference points and very approximate times it takes for rising water to reach them.

Tackle Tips

    Most anglers prefer 8-1/2 ft to 9-ft rods with 3 to 6 weight WF floating lines. A 9′ 5X or 6X leader is very useful. A foam strike indicator is great for nymphing. Chest waders are appropriate and felt soled boots are a must.  A wading staff is helpful, especially during high flows. Other useful accessories include polarized sun glasses, sun screen, a brimmed hat, and a landing net.

Fly Patterns

Spring Patterns

  • Blue Winged Olive (& Emerger) #14-18
  • Light Cahill #12-14
  • Quill Gordon #12-14
  • Rusty Spinner #14-18
  • Sulphur Dun #18-20

Summer Patterns

  • Isonychia (Dry & Nymph) #12-14
  • Elk Hair Caddis (Bright Green) #14-16
  • Terrestrials (Ant, Beetle, Hopper) #8-18

Fall Patterns

  • Blue Winged Olive #12-18
  • Muddler Minnow #10-14

Winter Patterns

  • Tellico Nymph #12-18
  • Elk Hair Caddis (Black) #14-16

All-Year Patterns

  • Woolly Buggers (Olive & Black) #8-12
  • Prince Nymph (Standard, Bead Head, & Flashback) #12-18
  • Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph (Standard, Bead Head, & Flashback) #12-18
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph (Standard, Bead Head, & Flashback) #12-18
  • Elk Hair Caddis (Olive & Brown) #12-18
  • H&L Variant #12-14
  • Royal Wulff #12-14
  • Parachute Adams #12-18
  • Parachute Olive #12-18


This is classic big water angling. Match the hatch during emergences and try nymphing otherwise. Even the stockers get selective quickly so be prepared to change flies until you find the right one. Streamers can be productive at many times.
Wading the shoals and fishing the pools just above and below them are the most commonly used strategies. During the spring and summer be sure to stay until dark since spinner flights and caddis often appear right at sundown. Pay attention to the generator schedule and plan moves accordingly.

There are several nice places to stay on or near the Hiwassee.
Gee Creek State Campground is on the north shore of the river. Take the gravel road to the right (east) just across the Highway 411 bridge.
Quinn Springs Campground is a small US Forest Service campground on Highway 30 between 411 and Reliance.
Hiwassee Outfitters has a private campground just east of Reliance (take the gravel road at the sharp curve just east of Reliance.
Big Lost Creek Campground (USFS) is also nearby. Head east from Reliance on Highway 30 until you reach a gravel road that bears to the left, with a USFS sign designating a campground. Big Lost Creek Campground is about 7 miles.
Southern Memories Bed and Breakfast
Southern Memories is a pleasant place to stay, just minutes from the River on Highway 411 between Benton and Highway 30.
Hiwassee Oaks
Hiwassee Oaks offers rooms (some with kitchen facilities) at the intersection of Highway 30 and Highway 411.
Tannessee Lodge
Tannessee Lodge provides rooms and meals in the nearby Greasy Creek community.

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