Trout of the Tailings: Fly Fishing for Tailwater Trout in Tennessee

Originally published in the Summer 2003 Fish & Fly

Ask any serioius trout fisherman to name a region of the United States with top notch fishing and most would probably start their list in the Northern Rockies. The largest part of our nation’s population resides in the Northeast so it is inevitable that New York and Pennsylvania would have to be included with their streams that provided the cornerstone of early American fly fishing. Few, however, would list East Tennessee as a top notch destination and that’s just fine with us.

Tennessee’s eastern border with North Carolina is composed of the most rugged part of the Appalachians. Some of the highest peaks in the long chain from Georgia to the St. Lawrence are found here. These mountains wring enough moisture out the atmosphere to water thousands of miles of streams. While most of the streams are home to legions of trout, they all eventually converge in the Tennessee Valley, carved by these waters between the Appalachians on the eastern side and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. With our modern system of interstate highways and jet travel it is easy to forget that this region was our nation’s first frontier and home of Davy Crockett.

The area remained relatively undeveloped well into the twentieth century. Unpredictable river flows in the Tennessee Valley made navigation sketchy at best for barges. All industry of the day was centered around the region’s natural resources, mostly timber. Farms flourished in the rich bottom lands but transporting crops to market was a large undertaking. This was actually one of the driving forces behind the legendary Tennessee moonshine trade. Many farmers found it far easier to haul a few jugs of moonshine over primitive roads than several wagon loads of corn.

The Depression of the 1930’s was the catalyst for development in the Tennessee Valley. The many rivers were the ideal resource for hydroelectric power. Deeper waters with controlled flow also meant improved trade routes. Barges could navigate the Tennessee River from Knoxville all the way to the Mississippi River and New Orleans. Coupled with the opportunity for jobs, dams were built as part of FDR’s New Deal and soon turned rivers into series of impoundments. Many of these reservoirs were not only deep but covered a large area. Water pushed through power turbines came from the cold depths of the lakes and provided bonechilling tailraces. Experimental stockings of trout proved successful in the 1940’s and a new Tennessee tradition was born.

While there are a number of tailwater trout fisheries in Tennessee, it is widely recognized that the favorites are in the eastern part of the state. These are all unique fisheries that provide a diversity of fly fishing opportunities within a few hours of each other. The Clinch and Hiwassee Rivers are large rivers that begin in other states but reach maturity in Tennessee. The Holston River is one of the two forks of the Tennessee River and provides a number of tailwater fisheries in its tributaries as well as one on its main stem.
The Clinch River

The cool, foggy air over the river showed no evidence of the hot and sunny conditions everywhere else in east Tennessee. The supercooled waters emerging from the base of Norris Dam remained in the high forties in spite of the late spring heat wave. While my waders were no longer taking trips to local mountain streams where I was now wet wading, they still remained damp after trips to the tailwaters. Martins and swifts swooped and wheeled over the river intercepting freshly hatched midges before they could make landfall. Millions of their shucks were piling into frothy eddies.

As we waded the shoals upstream of Clinton there was little sign that the trout were taking notice of the midges. All of the flats remained glassy. Only the occasional bird dropping made a false rise ring. A #20 midge pupa tied 12″ above a #16 bead head Pheasant Tail seemed appropriate. A small tuft of orange yarn tied about 36″ above the bottom nymph would help detect the slow takes. Methodically working seams in the riffles proved relatively fruitless. Sixty minutes of fishing had only yielded one missed strike between us.

“Do you know which one he took?” Charity was frustrated and looking for something to get the ball rolling.

“Couldn’t tell. Seemed like the indicator was out of the water pretty high while he was on. I’d guess it was the bottom fly, the Pheasant Tail.”

It made sense that the fish might ignore the mass exodus of midges to the surface if good numbers of larger mayfly nymphs were moving about. The trout in the Clinch River are among the best fed anywhere, including trout farms. A clump of moss removed from the bottom will come alive as midge larva, sowbugs, and sulphur nymphs attempt to scurry back to the water. Only fat trout that knew the menu well would pass up midge hors doerves to save space for an entree of sulphurs.

Five more minutes yielded a second, more productive strike. A chubby rainbow about a foot long was brought to hand, the bead head pheasant tail embedded in its upper lip. The trout had just gotten its breath when Charity hooked up.

“It’s a big one!” Her rod tip had a healthy bend and the reel announced the trout’s run across the riffle. Eventually the fish came closer. “He’s not as big as I thought. I hope he’s not foul hooked.” Another twelve incher came to the net, its head held just above the surface by the hook and tippet.

“Looks like he ate the fly.”

“These are strong fish. If he came off I would have sworn he was at least sixteen inches!” The rainbow was typical of what the Clinch produces. It’s head and tail were small compared to its girth.

“Did he eat the midge?”

“Nope, pheasant tail. Think we’ll get a sulphur hatch?” A splashy rise answered the question. I cast the nymph rig in the direction of the rise. The tuft of yarn stopped abruptly and went under. The hook set sent a fourteen inch brown airborn. The trout had hardly reentered the water before running upstream through the riffles. Long flats above us had a couple of rise rings. I was just getting the brown under control when I noticed Charity cutting the nymphs off.

“You’ll probably do well to stick with nymphs,” I advised.

“I’ll take my chances.”

A sulphur fluttered past. Whooooosh…. A martin dove twenty feet brushing the brim of my cap and snatched the mayfly. Apparently the birds were as aware of the impending hatch as the trout.

We moved toward the flats hoping to find larger fish languishing in the slower currents. Noses poked out of the water and tails waggled. The birds were now swooping lower than ever. Just beneath the surface tiny mayfly nymphs struggled to break the miniscus before being eaten by a trout. Many of those riding on the surface were plucked up by a bird before gaining flight. The excitement of the situation was too much. I took the first available opportunity to throw a tailing loop into my line. The two nymphs, strike indicator, and 6X tippet converged into a gnarly challenge that I faced with a stiff upper lip and a set of nippers. I tried to stick with the task at hand as I heard splashes and slurps.

“Ooooh… Missed ‘im!” I looked up in time to see the inadvertant backcast caused by Charity’s missed strike. I was juggling tippet spools, nippers, and the leader. “Gotcha! Ooooh… He came off!” I looked up in the middle of a blood knot to get a look. There were no less than four rise rings between us. Returning to the knot I had lost my place and had to start over. “Re-fuuuused!”

Once I got the tippet worked out I shouted over, “Whatcha fishin’?” She was intent on the drift and made a mend then reached… reached… “Whatcha’ fishin’?”

She looked up. “Sulphur Parachute. Damn it!!” A fish ate the fly the instant she averted her attention.

I scanned the rows of dry flies in my box and settled on a #16 Sulphur Sparkle Dun. The parachute was drawing strikes but I like the more realistic pattern for the slower currents. I cast the fly at a boil that kept repeating in a nearby feeding lane. A small bird did a quick fly by as the fly drifted to the the waiting jaws of a nice rainbow. There was a flash of silver and pink as I set the hook. Other trout rose steadily showing no concern for their comrade’s predicament. I wondered if they might be taunting him. “I don’t know, Johnny. He looks pretty hungry. I think I hear grease popping out there.” I slid the hook from the rainbow’s upper lip. Maybe he would make fun of the next one that ate the fly.

“What are you using?” Charity had her rod hand on her hip as I played the second fish.

“Sparkle Dun.”

“Which one is that?” She studied her fly box that I filled with the patterns du jour that morning.

“Deer hair wing, brown antron tail.” My reel counted off a hundred clicks as the trout decided he wasn’t ready to come in. Charity changed flies as the trout eventually came to hand.

I made six perfect drifts over one rising fish that refused to acknowledge the dry fly. Probably eating nymphs under the surface but I opted to move to the next fish rather than change flies. It proved a good strategy as the next in line ate on the first drift. I looked up to see if Charity was watching but she was intent on a pod of risers. The fish were intent on eating. Even the flock of birds skimming inches above the water failed to put them down. The trout were unconcerned, content to wait for the next mayfly if one was snatched from them by a bird.

The mist burned off and the afternoon passed quickly. The sandwiches in our vests remained wrapped in celophane and the number of trout we had caught became confused with the number we had missed. Hopes were high we might land a truly large one on the dry fly. Charity had already been broken off by a beast that ran straight for a series of ledges two thirds of the way to the backing. I was intent on one finicky fish, contemplating the switch to a nymph when I heard a hoot just up the river. Charity’s hands were on her hips. The sound of surprise diminished to a coo of disappointment.

“Did you miss a big one?”

“No… I think a bird just pooped on me.”

The Hiwassee River

The first really warm days of the year had come on strong. Doug and Mark were pulling waders out of a duffle bag while I tested the waters to see if wet wading might be in order. I was rushing the season, though, since it was at least two months before I could fish all day in shorts and not do permanent damage to the circulation in my legs. I resigned myself to the waders and joined the rest of the gang busy drawing up the plan for the day. Only one of Apalachia (yes, only one P as opposed to the mountain chain) powerhouse’s generators was in operation. It was scheduled to turn off in about ten minutes. We would have three hours to fish a series of deep ledges before the generator began pushing more water our way. After that we would retire to a set of shallow riffles that would be perfect to fish with the added flow.

The hatch on this mid – April day could go any of several directions. Caddis would be the most likely emergence but there was a good chance Hendricksons would make a brief mid day showing. Blue Wing Olives might appear any day of the year. I hedged my bets and started with a couple of beadheads, a #16 Hare’s Ear and a #14 Pheasant Tail. Trout in the Hiwassee are rarely picky eaters by tailwater standards. A selection of a dozen different midge larva and pupa patterns are thankfully not needed here. Within a half dozen drifts I was hooked up with an energetic brown of about ten inches.

Doug had just taken his first tentative steps into the rough waters. He took notice of the activity on my line and began casting as he made his way across the river. Mark, methodical as ever, kept tinkering with his leader. Another cast and a rainbow took the other nymph. Things were looking good. Two trout in short order and there seemed to be no preference in what they were eating. Doug was intent on a good looking piece of water. I shouted to the bank, “C’mon, Mark! You’re missing all the fun.” He looked up for a moment then returned to his fly boxes.

There were several slappy rises and I glanced at my watch. Right on time. The water level dropped about six inches in five minutes. The Hiwassee is Tennessee’s only tailwater that is easily wadeable with one generator in operation and even has some wadeable shoals with two generators. Now the water was cut to zero generators and ancient shelves of stone began to break the surface. Many of the best riffles become ankle deep as the water falls and trout retreat to deeper waters. Water flowed through the sloped bedrock slots that allowed trout to feed with some degree of protection from overhead predators.

Doug and I had released several more rainbows and browns by the time Mark felt satified with his rig. Finding his spot on the river he shouted over, “Any good ones yet?” We both took a slight pause for a negatory shake of the head, then returned to carefully mending line. None of the trout had broken the eleven inch mark.

The Hiwassee tailwater below Apalachia Lake is perhaps the most fragile of southern tailwaters. Apalachia Lake is among the smallest of TVA’s reservoirs. This serene lake deep in the Southern Appalachians ( two P’s) is only about fifty feet at the deepest point. In contrast, most other TVA lakes that feed troutworthy tailwaters are several hundred feet deep. Water coming from the bottom of Apalachia Lake is cool enough to support trout but long droughts can warm the water enough to make things marginal. The Hiwassee’s wide, shallow nature also allows it to warm even further during periods of minimal generation. Fortunately, this is not often the case. The southern highlands are among the wettest places in the United States and Apalachia Lake usually has plenty of cold water to keep trout healthy in its tailrace.

Most summer time flows favor a float trip over wading. Generation is at a minimum during the best spring hatches. Releases every three hours maintain a minimum flow. TVA lowers lake levels during the winter to make room for heavy late winter and early spring precipitation. Generation increases with the lake level. Regular summer thunderstorms usually keep usually keep water levels high and generation heavy. Some shoals remain wadeable even with two generators pushing water, but a raft or drift boat opens opportunities on the entire river in high water.

Caddis began popping through the surface along with trout noses. Beadheads were still catching fish but the dry fly fishing was what we had come for. The fish were feeding well enough that it was easier to keep track of doubles or even triples than count every last fish. We were all satisfied with the action, but there was some concern that none of us had brought in anything better than a foot long. We had a short discussion over granola bars and water that maybe it was possible that the long droughts had taken a toll on the larger fish.

“C’mon, you’re not happy with the fishing!?” Mark was a bit miffed with my assessment of the day. “Any day I lose track of how many I’ve caught is a great day for me.”

“It’s a good hatch. You’d think it would bring some nice brownies up.” Doug said before finishing his bar.

I agreed with Doug, “Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s just so bright out today. Maybe things will improve this evening.”

“Improve…. You guys are nuts.” Mark just shook his head.

The Hiwassee has long been renowned for its superlative dry fly fishing. There’s one legend among guides on the river. It seems that a sport showed up one day with an eight weight and a box full of #2/0 streamers intent on catching a trophy brown. The guy slings these streamers that cast like a wet sock all day long with only a few looks. All this is going on while trout are slashing at rising caddis. During the last hour of the day the sport decides he’s been beaten and asks if he might catch a few with the guides five weight rigged with an Elk Hair Caddis. He had barely made a dozen casts when he hooked and eventually landed a six pound brown.

The sun had just dipped below the ridge and the fish continued to rise with single minded intent. A favorite run of mine is where a slow shallow bit of water drops off into a deep, narrow slot next to a boulder in the middle of the river. I added some tippet to the bend of my caddis imitation’s hook and tied on a small peacock and grouse wet fly. Mark was hooting behind me as he hooked up for the eleventy-third time that day. He noticed a long pause in my casting. “I hope you’re not upset that things aren’t up to your standards. Just have a good time and enjoy the rise.” I nodded back but kept my eye on the current near the boulder.

Then there it was, only the slightest dimple on the surface. It was slight enough that it might be a river shiner rising. It could also be the swirl of water ejected through a trout’s gills after it ate an emerging caddis pupa. I cast the two fly rig into the current and threw an upstream mend. The #16 Elk Caddis bobbed along and disappeared when it came along the boulder. I set the hook and the dry fly reappeared but the wet fly found its mark. There were three long, deliberate thumps on the end of the line as I quickly got my slack on the reel before things got out of hand. “Hey, Mark! Things just improved!”

The South Holston

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the South Holston for years now. This perfect sized trout river can be absolutely maddening at times. A relatively shallow tailwater, it’s a real bug farm and the trout that reside there may be too well fed. One can even arrive on bitter cold, snowy days in January and still find trout rising to Blue Wing Olives and believe it or not, Sulphurs that must emerge surprised to find that it’s not June. The South Holston has a real split personality. When generation is at a minimum the river is generally shallow and slow moving. Deep spots may wet your knees and bulges on the water reveal a trout’s every sneeze or cough. A few exasperated fishermen have compared it to fishing for selective trout on a wet cobblestone street.

The South Holston powerhouse has only one turbine so the river is either on or off. When the river is on, particularly in the summer, the fish behave in a completely different manner. Thick hatches of Sulphurs combined with a healthy amount of current can sometimes give the fish a long awaited case of the dumbass. A boat with an anchor system is a prerequisite for working pods of risers. As a wade fisherman that spends some time on a personal pontoon without an anchor I’ve envied those with rafts and drift boats. Most of my time has been spent working fish in difficult spring creek conditions. There are times when the generation schedule will work equally well for those wading or floating. Sometimes generation doesn’t start until midday. That will allow a wader all morning to wade near the dam then move several miles downstream to fish before the river rises there after several hours.

Several years ago I spent late winter and early spring absolutely addicted to the South Holston. Winter had been particularly harsh that year and all of my favorite mountain streams were either iced over or snowed in. Trips to the tailwaters were my only salvation and the South Holston became a quick favorite. I had to engage my Jeep’s four wheel drive during my earliest trips that year to avoid getting stuck in the snow at the parking area but the trout rose freely to dry flies. It was heroine for a fly fishing junkie during the most brutal winter of the decade. Spring developed as the river’s hatches progressed into summer. Good days were increasingly mixed with frustrating ones. I remember one day the best tactic was to cast my Sulphur Parachute into the biggest cluster of flies on the water. The trout had grown too greedy to only eat a single mayfly at a time. Finally the trout became finicky enough that refusals far outnumbered takes in a day. I remember one guy telling me he was about to start counting a look as a released fish.

Later that September I packed all my tackle up and headed for Yellowstone country and its blue ribbon trout rivers. I had just arrived in Island Park Idaho and went in a fly shop for a fishing license. I gave the young guy behind the counter my driver’s license to copy off of. “Townsend, Tennessee, huh? I know where that is. I betcha fish Little River and the Clinch a lot.”

I nodded at the guy. “Yeah, you’ve heard of ’em.”

“Shoot yeah, I’m from Greeneville.” That’s a town in the foothills of northeast Tennessee. It was good to run into a local that was from back home. Surely he’d give me the inside track on all the hot fishing tips.

“So… How’s fishing on the Henry’s Fork this year?” He was finishing up my license and I knew I could trust a Tennessee boy’s take on the fishing.

“Oh, it’s been pretty good. But I tell you what, the South Holston’s a helluva lot better.” So after travelling 2,000 miles and spending money on lodging and meals I found out the hot tip was to stay home.
The Holston River

The Holston River tailwater below Cherokee Dam is Tennessee’s newest trout fishery. Several years ago it was common to hear fly fisherman talking about the “New River”. It had been written up in the outdoor pages of the local papers that trout were recently introduced into the Holston on an experimental basis. One of the reasons cited was to take some pressure off of the Clinch River. Many of us hoped that bait fishermen would flock to the Holston and leave us and the Clinch alone.

I drove over to check it out one afternoon. I found the boat ramp just below the dam and it looked pretty sterile. A teenager spit tobacco juice between casts of his chartreuse rooster tail spinner. I was walking back up the ramp when I heard the spinning reel’s drag whine.The kid definitely had a good one. I was anxious to see if this was a rainbow or a brown. When the fish got close he waded in a few feet and hoisted the fish out, it’s tail dragging the ground. He grabbed the fish by the gills and held it up for me to see but I couldn’t recognize it.

“What is that?” The fish looked to be about five pounds and had the look of a walleye.

“Sauger I think. You want ‘im?” I stared at the fish’s mouth full of teeth and shook my head. The kid chunked the fish back in the river and cast his lure beyond.

“You ever catch any trout?” He could still be a reliable source for information.

“Ain’t ever been here before. Somebody told me this was a good spot for smallmouths but I ain’t seen one yet.”

And that was that for a few seasons. I stuck to my old haunts and wrote the Holston off. However, as time went on I started to notice a few Clinch River regulars go MIA.

I remember seeing a former Clinch regular one June day. “Where’ve you been? The sulphurs were pretty good this spring. Haven’t seen you on the river in a while.”He stammered out a couple of excuses and seemed uncomfortable talking about it.

“Well… I gotta run.” I noticed wet waders and his fly rod in the bed of his pick up.

“Were you out today? I didn’t see you and your truck wasn’t parked up there.” Something was going on.

“Okay, okay. You got me.” He looked around nervously. “You’ve gotta keep this under your hat but I’ve been up on the Holston.”

“South Holston?”

“No, the Holston below Cherokee.”

“Oh, yeah…” I remembered the articles about trout stocking in the outdoor pages and the sauger. “I saw they put some pellet heads in there for the bait slingers.” He perked up at that.

“Exactly… Pellet heads… That’s it. Nothin’ much up there. You’d hate it. Worm cans all over. Anyway, it’s getting pretty late. I gotta go.”

Only a fisherman could detect another fisherman trying to poor mouth a secret spot. I made it over to the Holston within the week. Access was pretty poor but I found a good looking riffle and decided to give it a shot. I tried a small midge imitation under a yarn indicator. Twenty minutes went by with nothing. I could just imagine sauger and smallmouth bass wondering what the small Brassie was supposed to be. I was ready to give it up when I noticed a boil on the water. A small dark mayfly fluttered past and the river came alive within ten minutes. The closest thing I had was a #16 Parachute Adams. There were a ton of refusals to the less than accurate imitation. However, the smallest rainbow that I did catch was in the neighborhood of 14″. The best I brought in was better than 16″ and one cleaned my clock before I could get an accurate idea of its size.

I too found myself floundering for excuses when others asked where I had been fishing. But before long I noticed that most of the old crowd had also filtered onto the Holston. While this river is relatively empty, there is a good reason. Access along the stretch that holds trout is relatively poor with only a few points of public access. These require a GPS unit to find your way to the river and back on one lane country roads. The Holston River is large enough to accomodate a drift boat or raft but it’s still easy to navigate with smaller boats. A canoe or personal pontoon boat work well in low water to travel down the river to less accessible areas. There is no serious white water and you can be in relatively private water in a short while.

The Holston is composed of beautiful long riffles that drain into long flats that hold lazily rising trout. A lack of pressure doesn’t make these fish pushovers. The most consistent action is usually found in the riffles with nymphs. Beadhead patterns in a #16 are the best bet on most days. However, more specialized patterns that represent caddis pupa may be needed to consistently stay in fish. Spring and summer are the best times to try the Holston since generation is generally at a minimum. The generators will typically pulse water every few hours to maintain a minimum flow. If you’re fishing within a couple of miles of the dam the water will rise enough to force you to the bank. However, if you’re a good distance downstream the added flow is barely noticeable.

The Watauga River

The Watauga is a relatively small tailwater comparable in size to many freestone rivers in the West or Northeast. It is among the most comfortable rivers you’ll ever find. While it’s big enough to float it is still manageable for the wading fisherman who can choose between fishing heavy riffles or quiet pools.

It is mid-summer and trout rise freely to caddis and a few craneflies as the rushing water is nearly drowned out by the constant droning of cicadas. Nine to eleven inch rainbows greedily jump on caddis in the riffles. I could happily fish this run all day but I need to shove off and continue my float before it gets too late. The Watauga is an easy ride with an inflatable pontoon craft. Floating is one of the most popular ways to fish this river but drift boats are noticeably absent. Water levels are pretty low when some of the best fishing is going on. Rubber rafts are quieter as they slide over rocky shoals. They are also easier to drag over places that will park a traditional style Mackenzie boat.

One could hardly suspect that this river is a recovery in progress. The lower half of the Watauga tailwater was practically wiped out in the spring of 2000. A disastrous fire at a rayon plant along the river’s banks in Elizabethton had dire consequences. Apparently some pretty wicked potions go into rayon since the runoff from the firehoses killed practically all the fish in the ten miles of river downstream to Boone Lake. Even worse, it was among the most productive sections of the river, holding a good number of brown trout better than five pounds. Fortunately the river’s insects fared much better. Biologists found little if any effect on their populations.

I cast an elk hair caddis to a feeding lane along one of the river’s limestone bluffs before it disappears in a swirl. The line comes tight to a fish and I see a golden flash before it turns down the river with a head of steam. I eventually bring the 13″ brown to hand, the best fish of the day. Perhaps this handsome trout will become one of those secretive, crocodilian browns that we all dream of hooking. While rare, those fish still swim in the upper half of the river. Today I’m just satisfied to see so many fish in this part of the river that had the slate wiped clean a few seasons ago. In fact, few expected the river to recover so quickly. We’re biding our time until the big fish are re-established.

Over half of the trout in the river are wild. The Watauga’s gravely riffles provide perfect spawning habitat for trout. A good number of other tailwaters in the region have silty bottoms that impede trout reproduction. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency recently introduced brookies in the lower half of the river. Since practically all the fish in that part of the river were small they saw this as an opportunity to add small brookies that wouldn’t be out-competed or eaten by larger trout. Perhaps they will also become well established here. The two trout limit with a minimum 14″ length in this stretch of water also lends hope to the idea that this may one day become a place to catch trophy brook trout as well as rainbows and browns.

Several seasons ago I floated this same stretch of river in a raft. The riffles and runs produced well with beadheads. A local caddis dry fly called the Purple Haze stung trout all afternoon. We kept a rod rigged with a sink tip and streamer for long, flat stretches where browns hid under fallen timber. The streamer fishing was generally slow and the casting passed the time from one good run to the next. I had grown too casual, accustomed to a ritual of ” cast, strip, strip, strip, repeat” when a good fish hit the streamer while I was more engaged in a conversation. In a desparate struggle to get tension on the line I took a couple of steps backward. Not a bad method to correct for such a problem on level ground, but a poor choice to use in a raft two steps wide. This technique is probably more closely associated with Jacques Cousteau than Lefty Kreh and I back flipped out of the raft into the icy waters. Fortunately there was only two feet of water under the raft and I able to thrash my way back into the raft without a swim.

I’ve often wondered if the brown that escaped my hook that day was a casualty that awful day when so many trout were purged from the river. Ironically, even as industry created an environmental disaster on the Watauga, the same industrial spirit created these tailwater trout fisheries. None of these southern tailwaters were trout streams before TVA built dams for flood control and power generation. A lot of other aquatic species were extirpated by these dams and trout are our fortunate replacement. It’s a well recognized fact that nothing can be done to save the Watauga’s lost trout after the fact. Hopefully it has brought a level of awareness that will prevent similar tragedies here and on other rivers.