The Wilbur Dam

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The Wilbur Dam controls the flow of the Watauga River in Tennessee and also happens to be a great spot to catch trout, but can tend to get crowded on nice days. It’s always important to keep a check on the generation schedule while you’re wading, the water rises fast! The rocks here are extremely slippery and there are some unexpected deep pockets, so be careful while wading.

Right below the dam, there is a small rapid that forms from the current flowing out of the dam. Place your flies near the tail end of the seam and let it dead drift down. I will start by presenting my fly on the far side of the seam, then in the middle, and then on the closer side. Keep in mind the eddy lines can make your flies drift unnaturally, so keep a tight mend on your line.

There isn’t much wading room right below the dam. If you go too far down, it gets too deep for the possibility of wading. There is also a large pool to the right of the dam where a boat ramp is that has fish in it sometimes, but they’re hard to catch since the water is stagnant there. If you want to try anything, try setting a dry fly right on top of one, but don’t let the line hit the water.

You can find the dam at Wilbur Dam Rd in Elizabethton, Tennessee. There are dozens of signs that point you all the way to it, and once you park it’s a few feet to the edge of the water!

 

What to use*: 

Nymph rig: Squirmy worm, pheasant tail, black/purple/olive midge, split case (sulphur or BWO)

Streamer: Wooly Bugger

Dries: Caddis, Sulphur, Blue Wing Olive (Winter)

*These fly choices may depend on the current season. Contact me or a local fly shop for more information about which flies to use!

 

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Watauga River: Riverside Dr.

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To find this stretch, use 108 W Riverside Dr, Elizabethon, TN in a GPS.

Riverside Dr. is one of my favorite places to wade on the Watauga because of how easy it is to access and the amount of water you can cover. If you’re a beginner or taking a beginner with you I would recommend coming here since it’s so wide open and typically pretty easy to catch small to medium sized trout.

About half way on this street, I usually get in right above a small rapid and work my way up the river and cast my lines close to the opposite side of the bank. There aren’t many hard eddy lines to mend around, the water is slower, and it’s easy to walk around here.

Watauga trout can be finicky – I’ve had hard times figuring out what they’re eating. As far as nymphing goes I always bring my zebra midges, pheasant tails, and a variety of soft hackles. For dry fly fishing I bring sulphurs, puff daddies, BWO’s (these are more for the winter), emergers, Morgan’s Midge*, and caddis.

*When I see trout rising for flies and I can’t get them to hit a sulphur, BWO, or caddis, my fall back is always the Morgan’s Midge. Drop it behind your main fly and trout will hit it on the swing.

 

To find this stretch, use 108 W Riverside Dr, Elizabethon, TN, in a GPS.

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