The Harpeth River is a small, warmwater river less than 20 minutes west of Nashville. While many Nashvillians like to enjoy a leisurely float, this river is also a productive smallmouth and panfish fishery.
The fishing here isn’t difficult to get to, but it can be tricky to find fish if there are lots of people floating.
Time To Complete
The best fishing is between late spring and early fall.
On Leash Only
Unless you plan on renting a canoe from the various outfitters, there are no fees for parking or using the public boat ramps.
Throughout the South, small murky rivers run through the forgotten areas of a rural past. The Harpeth is one of those rivers, but this one happens to hold trophy-sized smallmouth bass and other warmwater species. Depending on the water level, popular floats can take between one and four hours, with plenty of opportunities to anchor up and cast a line.
What Makes It Great
The belief that fly fishing is a sport solely designed to pursue trout is false. No matter where you live, there is plenty of fly fishing to be had as long as you know where to find little treasures like the Harpeth. Though smallmouth are an exciting pursuit for any angler, catching these fish on surface-flies like poppers and sliders is an unparalleled experience.
There are several opportunities to fish this river while wading or fishing from the bank, but the most effective fishing will be found around logs, rocky points, and at the mouths of feeder creeks where the shy smallmouth hide.
Though many people successfully fly fish from a kayak, a paddleboard or canoe is considered to be the most comfortable and effective way to present your fly.
Take a small anchor that can slow your drift but not completely stop you. This will allow you to thoroughly to cover the structure where the fish may lay. Your 5 weight trout outfit should work fine, but consider something as heavy as an 8 weight to handle the heavy poppers that you will be throwing. If conventional angling is your forte, consider a light spinning rod with in-line spinner lures, poppers, or small crankbaits.
Who is Going to Love It
If you want to leisurely float, fish, and drink something cold on those hot summer days around Nashville, you’d have trouble finding a better river to enjoy. Though you can find several trout fishing opportunities around middle Tennessee, warmwater species present a whole new approach to catch them.
Though the trout angler may feel out of place at first, smallmouth and other species in the Harpeth are not easily spooked and do not require stealthy maneuvering and finicky tippet, resulting in a more leisurely excursion for anglers who don’t want the fuss.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
For the short 2-3 hour float, pick one of the ramps from Harpeth River State Park and Float to the Little League field in Kingston Springs or one of the closer Harpeth River State Park ramps. To plan other floats, check out the Harpeth River Blueway map.
All anglers will need to have a Tennessee fishing license and carry a life jacket in their boat with them.