You have the upper Clinch and the lower Clinch. The upper Clinch flows out of Virginia into a man made lake called Norris Lake. Norris Lake is in East Tennessee. Below the Norris Lake dam is the lower Clinch. The lower Clinch is stocked with Trout. Trout are not indigenous to the Clinch river and could not survive anywhere on the Clinch river besides below Norris Lake dam. Trout need cold water to survive and dam water is always cold as fuck because the water comes from the bottom of the lake. When a river flows out of a lake that part of the river is called The tail of the river. I was a fly fishing guide on the lower Clinch for a couple of years, safe to say I’ve caught a trout or two out of it.
As much as I loved trout fishing on the lower Clinch, it wasn’t my favorite part of the river (too many tourist pretending they know how to fish), and the water would turn my skin blue from the low temperatures. The upper Clinch where Tennesse meets Virginia in a hick town called Sneedville is my favorite place to fish on the Clinch. The water in this section of the Clinch is shallow (ankle to waste deep) and warm, it’s like this for miles and miles. The upper Clinch has a vast variety of fish species, but my absolute favorite species to catch on the Clinch are Smallmouth Bass (I caught an 8 pounder once, that’s a nice sized Smallie).
One of my close friends (Patrick) has one hundred plus acres on the upper Clinch in Sneedville (Hancock County). I’m basically family and don’t need permission to hunt or fish on his land, I can go whenever without permission.
I’ve probably spent more time on this land than any other white guy. This place is so untouched by modern civilization that you’ll find relics from the past like arrowheads and other native American artifacts without even looking, you’ll just stumble across them. My friend Patrick is a collector of Indian artifacts and I give him 99% of my findings (there are a couple sweet finds I’ve kept for myself).
Tennessee holds the second place position for the state with the most potholes (FL is number 1). Tennessee is also on the biggest fault line on the planet. That’s right, the entire f****** planet. So if that badboy split open, then say goodbye to TN (I’ve felt several earthquakes in Tennessee). The reason I tell you this is because of the caves. Caves are everywhere in TN. The past billion years has made some fucked up looking caves in the Volunteer state (TN). Some of these caves are gorgeous like you see in the movies, but most are dark and twisted.
BACK UP 10 YEARS…
I’m 24 years old. I need to get out of Knoxville TN for a while. I throw my fly rod and tarp in my car (I use a tarp, not a tent. Tents slow me down).
I’m going to spend 2 weeks on the Clinch. Catch fish, drink moonshine and read by the campfire at night (reading by a campfire at night isn’t easy. Your back has to be towards the fire so the light hits the pages of the book. But if you’re too close you become too hot…. the younger version of me didn’t believe in flashlights).
1 week in, smooth sailing. From the spot I usually set up camp I always fish up river. You generally go up stream when fly fishing so the fish don’t see you coming. You cast up, then your fly floats back down at the fish. You mimic a fly in its natural habitat. 90% of fresh water fish’s diet are bugs. Anyway, I thought I’d mix things up and fish down river.
The fishing that day is amazing, I’m in the zone as I catch largemouth, Smallmouth, Brim, Rockbass, Redeye and even some small Gar.
My friend Patrick was driving out with his girlfriend and brother to camp and get drunk with me that night. So I had a a stringer full of fish… Legendary fish fry was going down that night!
I was pretty far down the river and about to turn back. Hard to say how far down the river I had gone. When you’re fishing on the move it’s hard to gauge the distance you’ve traveled, you’re just not thinking about it. As I’m turning around to head back to the campsite I see a big fucking cave on the hill of the bank (I was in between 2 small mountains, a canyon I guess you could say).
I decide to check out the cave and do some exploring. I figure I might find some arrowheads or something cool to bring back to my friend Patrick. As I’m walking towards this cave I feel a slight chill come over me, I remember it vividly. There on the side of this hill in the middle of nowhere is a big, dark, cave that has a three story opening. I’ve come across a lot of caves in my time but nothing like this.
As I enter the cave it is littered with small animal bones, this isn’t unusual for a cave but creepy none the less. I briefly root around in the dirt for artifacts or whatever as I’m looking over my shoulder the whole time (my mind is playing tricks on me, I feel the devil himself smiling at me in the darkness of the cave).
Something catches my eye, I summon up the courage to go in a bit deeper. There bolted into the wall of the cave is a thick rusted chain (around 10 feet long I’d say). Now there’s been times in my life when I was nervous, but I can tell you guys without the shadow of a doubt that I was scared shittless at that moment in time. I was paralyzed, I feared that if I moved anymore I might waken something or someone that I don’t want to.
After having a mental standoff with myself I finally start backing out of the cave. As I’m backing out I feel the warmth of the sun hit my back. The warmth of the light was somehing good that I can’t put words to, a feeling more than a sensation.
I’ve never seen ghost or entities that I couldn’t explain in my life. I don’t even know if I believe in that shit, even if I hear people I respect talk about Ghostly encounters I’m still quite skeptical on the whole subject (seeing is believing). But I can guarantee you that something grizzly wanted me terrified then dead that day. That was the first time (and hopefully the last time) I faced pure evil, and pure evil looked pitch black. No sound, no color, no shape is what the face of true horror looks like and the feeling that something wanted to drag me to hell.
Maybe I’m still alive because of that warm light that I mentioned blocked out the evil, maybe I’m still alive because someone figured that if they butchered me people might come looking. Heck, maybe it was just my head fucking with me the whole time. Common sense would suggest though, that chains bolted in caves out in the middle of nowhere are not to be taken lightly.
As I’m headed back upriver to my campsite I felt more and more at peace. My ego slowly started to kick-back in. I remembered that these were my hunting grounds, that these were my fishing grounds. I wasn’t going to let one dark spot on the planet ruin an amazing place for me.
That night around the campfire as I was drunk on moonshine and had a belly full of fried fish, I told my friends what happened earlier that day. My good friend Patrick looks at me and says in a loving manner ”dude, these are the Appalachian Foothills. You don’t go into caves by yourself you dick head. That’s a good way to get killed”. I looked at him and grinned.