The South Holston River is a tailwater trout fishery located in the upper northeastern corner of the state of Tennessee near Bristol. It is stocked with rainbow trout by the (TWRA) Tennessee Wildlife Agency. This is one southern tailwater that has a substantial population of wild brown trout. They are all wild. In addition, the stocked rainbows holdover from year to year because the stream stays cool, even during the summer months. It is probably the best tailwater in the southeastern United States. Fly fishing the South Holston River ranges from difficult to easy depending on the type of fish.
The river can be waded when power is not being generated and fished from a drift boat when turbines are running. You can access the river in only a few places, where wading is possible. The main attraction is the wild trout and extensive sulphur hatches.
There are actually two different species of mayflies that the locals call Sulphurs. Most people call one of them Eastern Pale Evening Duns. The hatches occur for much of the entire fishing season. There are also excellent Blue-winged olive hatches.
Caution should be used anytime you are fishing a tailwater, so be sure to check on the discharge schedule and keep an eye out for changes in the depth. The TVA dam discharge schedule information is linked on the left side of this page. The schedule will tell when the best times to fish the river are, depending on whether you are wading or fishing from a drift boat.
Fly fishing the South Holston River can be as good as fly fishing anywhere in the Eastern United States. The river is certainly worth any avid angler taking the opportunity to fish regardless of where you live.
James Marsh is the Owner of The Perfect Fly online and catalog mail-order store. www.perfectflystore.com