East Tennessee Outdoors East Tennessee Best Trout Waters – Part 1

Published 11:29 am Friday, April 17, 2020



I enjoy almost everything in the outdoors. I hunt, fish, hike and take photographs. I am not good friends with snakes and bees, but otherwise, I love every part of the mountains.

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But if you were to take away all of my hunting and fishing and force me to give up everything except one outdoor activity, I would keep trout fishing.

Trout fishing is in my blood. A trout was the first fish that I ever caught by myself, and it is the fish I know the most about.

Give me a stream and some spinning tackle, and I will show you a limit of trout. I am not bragging, but I am just confident in my trout catching ability.

I have fished many very good trout streams in Tennessee, and of these, I can tell you that not all trout streams are equal.

There are some that will give you a limit of plump trout in a matter of minutes, and there are others that make you work for the fish they produce.

Since it is officially springtime, it is time to discuss the best trout streams in East Tennessee. Some people may disagree with my choices but to me, these are the streams to use when the fish start fattening up and the spring days start warming up.

Let’s start with a stream close to home.

1. Watauga River 

For me, the best trout water in East Tennessee is the Watauga River. Brown trout are no longer stocked in this stream but the TWRA does stock several thousand rainbow trout in this water every year.

The first 14 miles of the river below Wilbur Dam holds the best fishing and easiest access. On an average day of floating this stream, you may catch 40-60 good quality fish and even some that will go 20 inches or larger.

There are literally thousands of trout per mile in this river, and it is a paradise for the fly fisherman, the bait angler and those who use spinning tackle.

Be careful because when Wilbur Dam opens its generators, the water comes up very fast, and if you are wading, you can get caught by the fast 40-degree water.

Also, know your regulations. One section of the river is classified as a trophy trout water and has special regulations.

Overall, it has plenty of good quality fish and easy access.

2. Tellico/Citco Creeks 

Located below Maryville near Tellico Plains, the Tellico River and Citco Creek are the very definition of trout fishing.

The rivers have their own TWRA hatchery and this stocks the creeks each Thursday from the last week of February through the end of July.
The streams are then closed on Thursday and Friday and reopened on Saturday morning. By the time the creek is reopened the trout have dispersed up and down the rivers, and they are hungry.
This is when these fish will take most natural baits and a variety of flies, spinners, and spoons.
The creeks are crowded on the weekends and the best times to fish these creeks is on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday when most of the other anglers have gone home and the native fish are ready to bite.
This is when you can catch the 16 to 22-inch fish.

Most of the fish you will catch will be rainbows but there are also native browns in these waters. If you want to catch brook trout, North Creek a tributary to the Tellico, offers good single hook fly, spoon and spinner fishing for brook trout.

Both creeks require you to have a special Tellico/Citco Creek permit if you are fishing in the stocked areas. Camping is also permitted in several designated campgrounds.

Overall, these two creeks offer good rainbow, brown and brook trout fishing, but they can be crowded on the weekends. A special permit is required to fish both of them, and special regulations apply to both creeks.

Do I have you in the mood to hit the water yet?
We will continue our countdown of the best trout fishing streams in East Tennessee in the next East Tennessee Outdoors column.