The Clinch River rises in Southwest Virginia near Tazewell, Virginia and flows southwest through the Great Appalachian Valley, gathering various tributaries including the Powell River before joining the Tennessee River in East Tennessee.
The Clinch River is dammed twice: by Norris Dam, the first dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); and by Melton Hill Dam, the only TVA dam with a lock not located on the main channel of the Tennessee River. It empties into the Tennessee River at Kingston, Tennessee.
The Clinch River above Clinton, Tennessee (tailwaters of Norris Dam) is stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Swimming a minnow-shaped plug quickly beside the crown of a big fallen tree, you watch the bait wobble along in the clear water with great anticipation. You know that a trout is apt to dart from the deepest branches and nab your lure. You also know that any fish that strikes could turn out to be a giant.
Tennessee's state-record brown trout - the biggest trout of any kind ever pulled from Volunteer waters - came from this section of the Clinch River. And every year the Norris Lake tailwater yields plenty of big trout, including some double-digit weight browns.
The state-record brown trout, which Greg Ensor caught in 1988, weighed a whopping 28 pounds, 12 ounces. Biologists reportedly once shocked up a brown from the Clinch that was longer than Ensor's and that bottomed out 25-pound scales. Clinch regulars are convinced that there are 30-pound-plus trout in the river.