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Thursday
Nov092017

Clinch River weir dam news..

I've been having some interesting conversations and email exchanges lately with accomplished local fly fisher and long time trout advocate,  Joe Congleton, about the function of the TVA weir dam on the Clinch river, and more to the point,  the practice of not generating any water for a period of up to 11 hours during times of low rainfall. Admittedly this probably hasn't  been the best Spring to try to address the issue since lack of water has not been our problem, but rest assured, it's coming! For the past several years we have been in a drought cycle of varying degrees,  and many of you who watch the water schedules will remember the Clinch being off 11 hours at a time last year during the hottest part of Summer. I, and many other people, felt that practice to be absolutely detrimental to the fish, especially in the lower reaches of the river. Not only does it allow the water to warm up, it also uncovers normally wet areas essential to the healthy production of insect life that sustain the trout. It also forces larger fish to work harder for their food, and makes predation much easier for the ever growing number of fish eating birds. 
Unlike the Holston river which has no weir and must generate every five hours to maintain minimum flows, TVA contends the weir dam allows the water to be off for such extended periods of time by metering the water out slowly from the weir pool, maintaining adequate flow downstream. Since TVA so far has been unwilling to consider releasing water more often, the question Joe posed is whether the weir dam is operating properly and as designed. His inquiries led him to Tom Barnett, head of TVA water management. Mr. Barnett assured Joe he had plans to have a USGS team out at the end of June to ensure the weir is operating properly and if any adjustments need to be made to the valves or release schedules to maintain proper flows. I'm not aware of the results of that study as yet but I will pass them along in the holiday newsletter.. Definitely a step in the right direction, and kudos both to Joe for addressing the issue and Mr. Barnett for initiating action to find out some relevant data. 
Just from my observations which are definitely not scientific, the further down river you went, especially last season, the poorer the condition of the trout. Especially the larger trout in the 17 inch plus range. They seemed skinny and stressed, something I have rarely seen on the Clinch river in my 25 years as a full time guide. I will be very interested in the outcome and so should anyone who values the Clinch river trout fishery.

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