There are many structures in any river. Most of the time when angler's talk about fishing a flat, they are talking about chasing bone fish in saltwater. But after studying the river bottom for more years than I care to admit there are also "river-flats"on the waters of Middle TN.
Definition- A River-flat: A long stretch of water that is relatively straight with a consistent and many times 1' - 3' in depth.
(Disclaimer- The same stretch of water could be known by other names. However, for the purposes of this article we will use the definition above.)
So if we use this definition, some stretches of water will come to light on many rivers that you may fish. Even though a section of the river is relatively flat there are some holes, points, and other objects that might hold a fish or two. Some flats hold an entire morning of fishing fun.
Holes- there are holes from the size of a hat to the size of a drift boat in some rivers. A lot of times a hole will appear behind or downstream of an object. To get a clear picture of how an object can create a hole, I suggest reading Kevin Fedarko's- The Emerald Mile. In the book Kevin tells how a lump the size of a walnut, in a concrete tunnel, caused a hole the size of a moving van.
Many times a fish will hold against the side of the hole. The side of the hole is a good resting place with access to an occasional passing meal. Although we fish the structure a lot of the time, fish come out of the hole more times than not. Fish just hang around and wait for something to pass. Picture a cowboy leaned up against a wall, with one foot against the wall, waiting for something good to come by. When something passes that he wants he just reaches out there and grabs it. Fish seemingly will do the same thing. If the fish is hungry they might reach a little farther then if they are not hungry.
Points- The flat may also have slight points along the banks from time to time. The point may be made of rocks that were put there to save a bank or it may just be a natural point. That point will speed up the water and create more oxygen. The increased oxygen is something fish seek. It's real hard for a human to get too much oxygen and for fish it sometimes seems they can't get enough, especially on a slower flowing river. With the increased flow across the point there is also food. Increased oxygen and food are both a bonus. Also for those soft water resting fish there is normally a small eddy downstream of a point. The eddy is a great place for fish and hopefully a big one, to hold.
Other Objects- I've seen many things laying on the flats of Middle TN rivers. Objects such as tires, huge sycamore trees, grass beds, and rocks. All these objects and many more have the potential to hold a fish or two. Obviously after discussing holes earlier in this article, there are holes behind most of this type of structure. Fish will also hold in front and beside objects as well. The fish are moving their fins just waiting for some food or your fly to pass. The speed of presentation on dries and nymphs means a lot. The flat sometimes leaves the fish more exposed so clean presentation is a must. Streamers, fished over structure, can entice a fish leave their cover and eat from reaction.
Keven, in the photo below, was fishing a flat the other day. I had just tied on a new bug and he settled it into a clean drift. This fish was sitting on the flat before the bottom dropped into a large hole. Just before the hole there is a rock-pile and Keven's drift was right in line. The currents were conflicting across the rocks and this fish was just waiting for some food to float by in one of those currents. The fly must have caught the eye of the fish and it stepped out to grab the bug. Keven set the hook and did a fantastic job keeping ahead of the fish as it took off upstream and then made a quick trip around the boat. The fish finally came to the net. We snapped a quick photo before letting if go back to the rock-pile.
Fishing the structure on the flat can be rewarding, but knowing the holes, points and other structure can produce a good day of fishing. Anglers who are a long way from the saltwater flats can spend a day fly fishing the river-flats on the waters of Middle TN
If you are a seasoned angler or have never picked up a fly rod and want to set up a day on the river e-mail or call/text 615-796-5143 to book a day on the water. For additional booking information see our Homepage and to see the latest fishing report click here.