The Overlooked Citico

The nearby Tellico River overshadows this creek that shares the same type of trout action!

On The Fly Freshwater

March 2023

Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs

In southeast Tennessee, within the Cherokee National Forest, the twin flows of the Tellico River and Citico Creek are often considered a single fishery. That’s because of the special regulations governing the angling on these waters. But, due to the fame and popularity of the Tellico, its smaller neighbor gets much less attention.

Citico is a medium-sized Southern Applachian flow.

Citico Creek is a fairly large stream by Southern Appalachian standards. Its origins are in the Unicoi Mountains in southeastern Monroe County, Tennessee, tight against the border with North Carolina. The stream’s South and North Forks flow northward from their springheads, down through the federally-mandated Citico Creek Wilderness Area to join and form Citico at the edge of that roadless tract. From there the main stem of the creek eventually empties into the Little Tennessee River at the upper end of Tellico Lake.

The creek features some big, deep pools right at roadside.

While the North Fork of Citico Creek, along with its sister fork to the south, both have populations of wild rainbow and brown trout, the main body of the creek is heavily stocked with rainbows. Those plantings of fish are the result of the creek being in the Tellico-Citico Trout Permit Area.

For roughly 6 miles from the junction of its headwater forks, downstream to the mouth of Little Citico Creek, Citico is heavily stocked weekly from March 1 to August 15 each year. During that period, anglers must have a Tellico-Citico Trout Permit, in addition to regular Tennessee licenses. Additionally, no fishing is allowed on Thursdays when the release of trout takes place or on Fridays. A 7-trout per person harvest limit applies as well, but there are no size limits or bait restrictions.  From August 16 to the end of February, the creek remains open to fishing every day with the same harvest limits, but the special trout permit is not required.

An average-sized stocker on Citico Creek.

Due to the abundant trout stocked, Citico is very popular with anglers, especially those fishing with natural baits. Thus, you can expect to encounter a lot of fishermen on weekends during the permit season. The number of anglers tends to be reduced on weekdays. Still, due to the streams size and the length of the permit area, finding some room to fish is not usually a problem. The entire length of the permit area on the creek is paralleled by the gravel tracks of Citico Road, or Indian Boundary Road up near the creek’s headwaters.

It is also worth noting that despite the heavy stocking, Citico Creek does have a population of wild rainbow and brown trout. Some of those reach sizes larger than the 9- to 12-inch stockers. While there are 16 sites along the creek where stocking takes place, all of these are upstream of the mouth of Jake Best Creek and the Jack Best Campground. As you might expect, more fish and angling pressure are likely to be encountered on that upper portion of the run.

The Doublecamp Campground also is located within the permit area at the mouth of Doublecamp Creek, in the upper reaches of Citico’s flow. Additionally, several more primitive campsites are spread along the stream.

Throughout its run, Citco is of medium size, with alternating shoals and slower stretches. In some of these pools the water can be quite deep and sluggish. Wading is possible along virtually the entire length, though some shoals can be rather rough.

There are some rough and tumble rapids on Citico Creek.

As for fly patterns, for the most part, the stockers on the stream are susceptible to “junk” flies, such as Y2Ks and egg patterns, or Wooly Buggers stripped across the current. If you do encounter any fish feeding on the surface, two patterns favored by some local anglers are Blue-Winged Olive Emergers in sizes as small as No. 20, or tan-colored Elk-Hair Caddis patterns in size 16.

The Tellico-Citico Trout Permits can be ordered online from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency website. Another option is to stop by the Green Cove Anglers Store on the Tellico River to purchase one in person.

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