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Lateral view of a Male Baetis (Baetidae) (Blue-Winged Olive) Mayfly Dun from Mystery Creek #43 in New York
Blue-winged Olives

Tiny Baetis mayflies are perhaps the most commonly encountered and imitated by anglers on all American trout streams due to their great abundance, widespread distribution, and trout-friendly emergence habits.

27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
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Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Mar 3, 2011March 3rd, 2011, 2:28 pm EST
Any one here ever fish the South Holston, French Broad, or Davidson rivers in eastern TN? Looks like very good opportunity for world class fishing to rising fish to 20" and far bigger fish on streamers.

I'm seriously thinking of driving down for 3 - 4 days in late June or early July before I go to Montana and was wondering if anyone has been there before.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Entoman's profile picture
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Entoman on Mar 3, 2011March 3rd, 2011, 5:09 pm EST
Hi Matt,

Wow! What are the odds of a California boy being able to respond to this post? I had an experience with a local who took me fishing on the S. Holston in the late '90's (May). Beautiful countryside - saw few people - wonderful fishing with dry flies to a Sulfur hatch. I was not able to bring samples back for I.D. because of travel issues, but it was an Ephemerellid. Took lots of browns in the 14 to 16" range, with one over twenty... All on #16 dry flies. I've had worse days (being cute) in far more exotic (and expensive) locations. Bottom line? A pretty good day for any water.

I remember my host taking me to a fly shop with a lot of experience on this river, so you might want to do some checking. One of the few good (arguable) results of the TVA damming was creating tail water fisheries remarkably similar in result to some of our California valley tail waters. Both are now good trout waters (when I was a boy, you had to go north, or above 4,000 ft. to find them).

Caveat - I've been at this game long enough to know that one day's experience is a snapshot so unreliable that it brings a whole new meaning to the term "past results are no guarantee of future success". I've had days on rivers I'm intimate with where you'd swear Pisces was looking over your shoulder, and others where you'd be willing to sign an affidavit that it was devoid of trout. BUT, I can certify that nice fish and hatches are there! Hopefully, somebody will comment with a lot more experience than I have with this water.

I hope my limited experience (for what it's worth) helps to stoke the fires of exploration. You'll have fun, see some great country, and probably run into far less crowds than the "name" rivers out West later in your trip. Someday (when I have the energy to deal with the controversy), I'll comment on this topic of crowds... CA, MI, Eastern states vs. the Rocky Mtn. states. Yeah, we have much larger indigenous populations, but we don't have airports and economies whose subsistence is largely dependent on importing hunters and fisherman.

Best regards,

"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
Konchu's profile picture
Site Editor

Posts: 498
Konchu on Mar 7, 2011March 7th, 2011, 12:33 pm EST
Ephemerella "invaria" (group) is a predominant form on the S. Holston. Curious if anyone has had experience (knowingly) with another.
Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Mar 7, 2011March 7th, 2011, 10:05 pm EST

Have you fished the S. Holston and if so what is your opinion of the quality of the overall experience? Crowds, asthetics, are the fish wild, stocked, holdovers, do they fight well? Will a 18" brown put me into my backing in current? Where did you like to fish? I've heard the water near the dam is very good - do you have an opinion? I've also heard you start near the dam in the morning and then run downstream about fifteen miles once they start to run water for power so you are ahead of the bubble and can still wade fish for another hour, then do a float.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Charlotte, NC

Posts: 3
Ddotson on May 23, 2011May 23rd, 2011, 9:18 am EDT
How timely - looking around over lunch and saw this post after spending the weekend in Eastern TN. I have had the opportunity to spend more than a days fishing the SOHO, and I love it! This is sulphur and midge heaven.. The sulphurs are #16, but the true winner on the upper portions of the river is the midge. Use a stripper midge, with and without tungsten as a dropper below your sulphur nymph or emerger when under the indicator and use a 22 rainbow warrior dropped off about 4 - 5 inches from your dry when straight midging.

The lower sections of the river has some nice BWO hatches - actually got into a nice #22 this past Saturday..

The river is great - the parking is not. Be aware that this area is very well known for car break ins and chop shops. There are a few people that allow fisherman to park on there land for a small fee ($5 - $10) - which I am more than willing to shell out for the peace of mind..
fly fishing brings normal people to beautiful places
Jesse's profile picture
Posts: 378
Jesse on May 23, 2011May 23rd, 2011, 5:05 pm EDT

I am a middle Tennessee'r most of my life and fish the South Holston about 10-15 times a year. I was actually just there about a month and a half ago. There is a lot of bug life that goes on there of all different kinds. The hatches are truly world class for a tailwater. Midges are coming off constantly so they are always a good option when mayfly hatches are slow. Im not going to bore you in the details of all the different flies and when, just be ready to use long and thinnly tapered leaders with some of your favorite classic patterns. Nymphs are currently working great there. Streamers are good on the right days of course.

Most all of the browns in the South Holston are wild and re-produce beautifully. The stocked fish hold over and grow to eventually be able to re-produce. Both are great to catch but the wilds will fight you harder (as always). Fishing below the weir dams is always great and you can even fish them through most flows due to the water not getting that out of hand. Surface feeding usually increases during these times. Going downstream is great but a lot of it has to be accessed through permission due to private property.

Lastly, the people that go the river almost ruin it.. On a good day and especially the weekends its rediculous and shoulder to shoulder. Ive had days there where i literally had to pic a little riffle and stick with it. It sucks man but a lot of people fish that river. Regardless there are a ton of fish to catch and a riffle could have you casting into for a long time. Your best bet would be to go on a week day, but just be ready because there is still a good chance of having a ton of people.

Hope this helps
Most of us fish our whole lives..not knowing its not the fish that we are after.
JOHNW's profile picture
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
JOHNW on May 24, 2011May 24th, 2011, 3:33 pm EDT
I have fished teh SOHO and her sister down the road the Watauga a couple of times. Both are very prety fisheries with some absolutely gorgeous fish in them.
The SOHO reminds me in many ways of the WB Delaware in character of the water albeit a little smaller in terms of average width. I ahve taken several browns around 20" on dries on this river. The crowds certainly are an issue but it isn't all that different than being at the lower gamelands during prime drake or hendrickson hatch except instead of "I'm fishin' here" you might get a "damn yankee" thrown your way.
The watauga is a different animal in that it trends more toward caddis and terrestrials as opposed to mayflies. From my limited experience the access is alittle easier herebut that also means crowds are a little more dense. There was a time not too long a go when this river was thought to have achance of producing record book quality fish (similar to the current thoughts on the Red, White and Norfork in Arkansas).

I know youre fmiliar with the tailwater thing but be very careful regarding flow. It comes up fast when they turn on the generators (my first trip I almost got caught when the river came up 5' in less than 15 minutes). The good thing is the TVA publicizes their generation schedule and it is pretty reliable.
The other option you have is to check out some of the freestoners that are on the flanks of the mountains such as the Doe or Beaver Dam.

As for info East Tenesee Fly Shop is a good source as is Commonwealth Sprotingoods (I think that was the Orvis shop in Bristol VA).
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn

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