The Obey River, a forgotten tailwater

Monday, March 6, 2017
Both browns and rainbows can grow to lunker size on the Obey River tailwaters.
Photo by Troy Basso

At one time years ago the Tennessee state record rainbow and brown trout were caught out of the Obey River near Celina. Today, the Obey still fishes very well, although there are better places to catch record-breaking trout. However, there are few places you can catch the sheer numbers of trout that come out of the river every day. The Obey River tailwater, where it flows out of Dale Hollow, is a mere 7 1/2 miles long. It flows into the Cumberland River around Celina, Tenn.

The Obey is one of the rivers that getís restocked with trout 12 months out of the year. Its close proximity to the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery is the primary reason for this. Itís primarily stocked with rainbows, but the locals tell of some monster browns being caught on a regular basis. The River has good access in comparison to some of our other tail waters. There is great bank access for the first two miles of the river, and good access at all three boat ramps. Another thing is this river is deeper than your average tailwater and can be difficult, but not impossible, to wade in places, especially the last three miles or so. Floating the Obey is not only a great way to see one of the most scenic rivers in Tennessee, but also gives you access to the entire river and parts of the Cumberland River, too.

If youíre like myself and live a pretty good drive from this river the campground at the Dale Hollow Dam is actually very nice. There is electricity and water at most sites, two large shower houses, and the local police patrol it. The cost is $20 per night, and since you are camping right on the water, itís well worth the money.

The Obey is much like other tailwaters in that the same lures and presentations generally work. Rooster Tails in Black/Olive/White all work very well. Jigs under a small float are also deadly, specifically the trout magnet jigs in olive and pink. Live bait also works quite well here as the hatchery releases fish weekly into the river. If youíre a fly fisherman this is a great river for zebra midges and prince nymphs. These should be in larger sizes 14-18 as these fish are not as pressured as our more popular tailwaters. If youíre interested in Stripers and white bass the confluence of the Obey and Cumberland rivers is only 7 river miles from the dam.

Troy Basso is a freelance writer and fishing guide from Chapel Hill, Tenn. He can be reached through his website and blog at

The Obey River tailwater, where it flows out of Dale Hollow, is a mere 7 1/2 miles long.
Photo by Troy Basso