South Holston River:

The South Holston River is Tennessee’s best tailwater trout stream. It is the only
one where trout reproduce to any appreciable extent. Although it is a stocked
stream, we do enjoy fishing it strictly because of its wild brown trout. The browns
do reproduce in the river but I am not certain of the extent of the reproduction. I
have read and listened to several different opinions regarding that. This tailwater
is located in the extreme northeastern section of the state near Bristol,

I would prefer the river was not stocked. It would be a much better trout stream if
that was the case. The state does claim that the trout they stock are mostly small
fingerling as opposed to larger or grown trout. This gives the trout time to adjust
to having to acquire the food they eat from nature. Catching the larger rainbows
that were stocked as fingerling is different from catching larger trout that have
only been stocked for a short time. I am not certain what the state calls a
fingerling because I have caught many rainbows about six or eight inches long
that were about as dumb as a rock.

We have spent at least sixty days on the river during the last eight years. It isn’t a
pushover. You must do a few things right to consistently catch fish from the South
Holston River tailwater. That is the best thing about it. It requires some skill in
determining what to fish and in presenting the fly to the fish. We have always
been able to catch at least a few trout and on several occasions, a lot of them.

This stream is locally famous for its "sulfur" hatch. There are two different species
of mayflies that inhibit the stream that are called Sulfurs. One is the true Sulfur
and the other slightly larger one is what is normally referred to as an Eastern Pale
Evening Dun. These mayflies are very similar in looks but behave quite differently
especially when they hatch. The difference in the fly one uses to imitates the two
species is not critical but the presentation is. The combination of the two mayfly
species and the fairly constant water temperatures from the discharge keeps what
is referred to as the "Sulfur" hatch, going for a big part of the year.

The river also has excellent hatches of several species of Blue-winged and Little
Blue-winged Olives. Another prime source of food is its scuds and sowbugs. They
are especially plentiful in the lower section of the river where the water averages
a slightly warmer temperature. As with any tailwater in terms of numbers, the
midge is the most prevalent aquatic insect. Closely related to the midge is the
black fly, another important source of food for trout in the South Holston. The
tailwater also has several different species of caddisflies. Some of these
caddisflies hatch in huge quantities. They too are more plentiful in the lower end
of the fishable section of the river but they exist throughout the stream.

We like this one well enough, and the requirements for catching fish consistently
are important enough, that we are going to do several more articles on it.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh