South Holston: Hickory Tree Bridge

 

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This section of the South Holston is referred to as Hickory Tree Bridge or Steel Bridge because of the old steel bridge cascading over the river. This section can be accessed by parking at the Central Holston Christian Church and then walking down a small trail across the road, over the guard rails and down to the water. Keep in mind the parking lot for the church is off limits on Sundays and Wednesdays for church activities. This trail is pretty steep, but the other area surrounding this section is private.

I usually start by casting into the big pool below the small rapid with a nymph rig if I don’t see any dry fly action. Start by casting a few feet in front of you at the top of the stretch and let your flies dead drift down, then recast into the middle of the stretch, and then recast into the further section.

I find the most success while dead drifting my rig on the outside edge of the current – your flies should still be in the current, but just beside the edge of the eddy line.

South Holston trout can be very particular. Try to learn what flies work the best for each season, or start by flipping over rocks and seeing what kind of bugs are underneath. If nothing seems to be working, I usually default to a 18-20 midge (black, tan, olive, purple- sometimes one color works better than others but it’s a trial and error process) behind a squirmy worm. Make sure to weight your line accordingly. The current is faster in this pool so you need to make sure your flies are getting down fast enough. If I use a squirmy worm I’ll add one light split shot above it.

Watch for rising trout in the afternoon. Typically you can count on hatch starting around 11am if you want to sling dries. I always suggest having an arsenal of size 14-18 sulphurs, puff daddies (learn how to tie puff daddiesĀ here,) cripples, and emergers.

The address for the church isĀ 261 Sand Bar Rd, Bristol, TN 37620.

Thanks for stopping by! Remember to check out the generation schedule here before hitting the river!

 

 

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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Watauga River: End of the trophy section

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This section of the Watauga River is located at 100 Wagner Rd, Watauga, TN, 37694.

You should see train tracks beside of the road, and once you turn onto the street you will see a parking lot to the right with the boat ramp and the river in front of you. The trail to get down riverĀ to the bridge and easy wading area is to the right of the boat ramp and is easy to follow.

When you get into the water past the bridge, there is a nice ledge in the middle that is shallow and can be walked up and down easily. There is a deep pool that follows along the right bank and a rock slab all the way down the side of the river. Nymph along this wall or use your dries if there is anything rising.

My go-to Watauga nymph rig for deeper water is a squirmy worm, another nymph (copper John, zebra midge, rainbow warrior,) and a soft hackle on the bottom (typically soft hackle pheasant tail or red butts depending on the season.) Weight your line accordingly.

This area houses mostly small to medium sized rainbow trout, but I’ve seen a few monsters lurking beneath the bridge.

South Holston: Weir Dam

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If you’re a beginner, teaching a beginner, or find happiness in catching easy stockers all day, below the Weir Dam is a great section for you.

The best place to fish at this section is found by crossing the river and casting along the bank, especially underneath the overhanging trees. Sometimes the water looks shallow, but there are some deeper pockets that larger fish hide in. The biggest fish I caught here was right above a shallow section, so don’t be afraid to explore all parts of the water.

Below the bridge the water can get deep, so you can follow the trail outside of the water beside of the bridge and fish the stretch above the grates. This water is extremely slow, so the right fly and tippet size is very important here if you’re going to be successful.

If you hear the sirens start to go off, make sure to get out quickly because the water rises very fast when the dam starts generating. Here is the South HolstonĀ generation schedule, which is updated daily. The times are always subject to change, so make sure to keep a close eye on the generation schedule, even until the minute you step in the water.

Most of the water is pretty shallow in the top area above the bridge so I use a short dropper or it’ll get hung up on the bottom. The water here is cold year round since it comes from the bottom of the lake. Bring your waders, pants and wool socks because it can get cold.

 

The South Holston can be frustrating at times. Later in the season the trout get smart, so try to perfect your fly presentation for when the time comes. Long leaders and light tippet go a long way when they’re being finicky. Stay aware of the bugs that are flying around and underneath the rocks – there are 9,000 trout per mile in the South Holston. If you’re not catching fish, you’re doing something wrong.

Keep an arsenal of various flies with you at all times. There is no worse feeling than being in the middle of a sulphur hatch with no sulphurs!

Here are some flies I keep on me at all times:

PMD’s, parachute sulphur, CDC sparkle dun sulphur, emergers, morgan’s midge, crippled sulphur, puff daddies, BWO,Ā zebra midge (black, purple, red, olive, tan,) split case, pheasant tail, soft hackle pheasant tail, squirmy worms, etc. Contact me or a local fly shop if you have questions about seasonal flies or what they’re currently eating!

Tip: For dry fly fishing, use a sulphur on top and tie on a puff daddy behind it with about 8 inches of 6-7x (depending on how finicky they are.) They crush the puff daddy on the swing.

You can find this fishing spot at Holston View Dam Road off Highway 421 in Bristol, Tennessee. Appalachian treks has a great review of the Weir dam park area and more accurateĀ directions here.