Ultralighting for Tennessee SMALLIES WITH A "TWANNNG"!

When you travel to Nashville Tennessee, your thoughts will probably turn to Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium, the Hermitage, The Grand Ole Opry, TNN, and the Opryland complex. You certainly can enjoy all of these things on your trip to Nashville, but the area's best kept secret is fly fishing for central Tennessee country smallmouths with a "twannng". The "twannng" occurs when they stretch your leader and tippet in that beautiful green fast water! Only four and a half hours from Atlanta, here's is another interesting fly fishing destination.

The Buffalo

There are several smallmouth rivers in this area, but I set up my first smallie trip on the Buffalo, a river that my father-in-law, Virgil Adams, fished as a child with his father George T. Adams of McLemoresville, Tennessee, over 60 years ago. Expect a beautiful country drive out Interstate 40 from Nashville West toward Memphis. En route, you'll cross the Harpeth and Duck rivers, both good smallmouth waters, then exit at Waverly, Tennessee, highway 13. At this point, highway 13 crosses the interstate, so turn south for the additional 15 or 20 miles through Loebelville, Beardstown, Linden, and finally Flatwoods in the central Tennessee countryside. You will actually parallel the Buffalo which winds south on the east side of the road beginning at Loebelville. You can access the river a short drive from Flatwoods. I had never fished for smallmouth bass or seen this river, so my anticipation ran high. This is a high use canoeing river, so plan to visit there during the week in summer or the canoe traffic will be prohibitive.

The Buffalo River is small and intimate, reminding me of many North Georgia streams. It is a wonderful river to wade. Its 68 degree water running clear in the shallows and emerald green in the deeper runs, broke over sand bars covered with small stream stones. Lush vegetation and plants grew all the way to the water's edge. We were ready to fish, so we hurriedly pulled down the canoe, and unloaded the gear.


For this trip fish a two to four weight, 8 foot rod, and floating line. Larger, heavier lines will spook fish in gin clear water, and are overkill for this stream and fish. You'll enjoy fighting the fish MUCH more, and you can still release them promptly. You can fish "sly line" or one of the clear tipped lines, but I didn't find that necessary. Even your light weight rod will cast weighted streamers if you "lob" or "double haul". Leaders should be at least 7 to 9 foot length if the water is clear, tipped with 4 to 6 pound tippet. Bring poppers for the surface, and streamers that will work both shallow, fast water, plus deep, 8 foot slow runs. A good waterproof camera for the gorgeous scenery is a must.


Cast to pockets, and dead drift the streamers as you would fish a nymph for trout. Cast up and across, or cast down and across and flip mend line across the river downstream to set up a lazy arc, then strip retrieve the fly across the width of the water. You can effectively fish a lot of water this way. As you strip and your fly rises toward the surface, strikes will occur. Be ready, especially while using this method over the edges of gravel bars.

Probe woody cover, carefully work shallow riffles with fast highly oxygenated water, and use flies that sink deep and tumble across the bottom where the smallies hold in the fast water. Use crayfish colors, black, or white/silver minnow colors to probe the tumbling water. Carefully fish the slow deep pools -- some of the largest fish will hold there. If you fish early week, carefully probe all the water for fish scattered and skittish from the previous days' canoe traffic.

The Trip

While my guides were gone to position the pickup vehicle, I feverishly prepared my equipment and eased into the water. On their return, we fished the put-in point carefully to limber up, adjust our gear, and get our heads into sync with the fishing that lay ahead. Unfortunately, one guide had to leave for other duties, but managed to catch a nice smallmouth before his departure. My personal host for the day and I began our float on this new water around noon. It was a lazy start. Matt was experimenting with different flies as we started out. The night before, I had readied my flies for the trip: size-12 streamers in red/white, yellow/red/yellow, silver/white, burnt orange/black, and chartreuse/white, and my most productive color -- black was packed in ample supply.

Above the next shallow water run we pulled ashore, beached the canoe and waded. I cast a small number 12 black streamer into the fast water gurgling past the gravel bar and let the fly tumble across the pebbly bottom. My line tightened and I raised my rod for the hook set. It was a strong smallmouth -- my first ever! The unhappy bronzeback, black streamer hanging from his mouth, grudgingly came to hand for his release. He wasn't over a pound, but I was enjoying my initiation into the world of the central Tennessee smallmouth.

You will fish many foot deep, fast, riffles on the four and a half mile drift to the pick-up point. Each stretch of water holds its unique beauty. We worked each succeeding riffle thoroughly, trying to unlock its secrets and find these central Tennessee smallmouths -- the smallmouths with a "TWANNNG"! Every twist and turn of the Buffalo revealed another beautiful Tennessee country scene.

We broke for lunch in a particularly gorgeous riffle. We fished it thoroughly, then and gobbled down the fried chicken and cole slaw that chef/guide Matt had prepared for our lunch. Then it was back to fishing.

As the day wore on, the small streamers worked well. In all, I caught and released eight smallmouths -- the largest being a pound and a half. Also, a strong river dweller, and carp family member, the Octiobus bubalus or Buffalo, sucked in my streamer, and put up a big fight. It reminded me of western whitefish.

Well after 5PM, we put away our fly rods, and Matt paddled us downstream to the take-out site. My host was very gracious and knowledgeable, and my first smallmouth trip was a true adventure and a real success. If you ever travel to Nashville you must experience the wonderful fishing in this area for central Tennessee country smallies with a "twannng".

For license, guide service, and full information about the Buffalo and other great local smallmouth, trout, and warmwater fisheries, contact: Game Fair, Ltd., Nashville, TN. at phone 615 353-0602, www.gamefairltd.com.