South Holston and Watauga Jan 2021

The heart of winter is perhaps the best time to fish the S. Holston and Watauga tailwaters in E. TN, including the big water lakes and transitional areas within the watershed. If you dont mind a little cold, you can expeience the most fast paced action of the year. The trout spawn runs from late November through late Janurary for the SoHo and Watauga brown trout. The rainbows will spawn following during late winter and early spring. While sections of the S. Holston are closed from November through January, there are stretches to fish outside of the main spawning areas. The Watauga tailwater remains open to fishing through its entirety. Dam flows have been varied as of late, as they continue to fill Boone Lake and respond to rain/snowfall. This time of year the trout are aggressive, territoral, and kinda stupid for tailwater fish standards. A wide variety of tactics can be used depending on the flows, weather conditons, type of water, time of day, etc. Streamer fishing can produce fast paced and intese action, especially when targeting low light hours, shaded areas, rapids, deep holes, fast runs, and gravel tailouts. Midday hatches have been consisting of midges, various small slatey mayflies, bwo’s, and small caddis. Wetflies fished on the swing and natural dun immitations presented on light tippet/long leaders will get the fish to take on top. Egg patterns and other junk flies will continue to produce througout the spawning season and even into the spring sucker spawn. Winter and early spring is a great time to catch a fish of a lifetime while also fishing a variety of tactics on our guided trips. For those willing to fish in the early morning hours you may get to experience the best trout bite seen anywhere in the country. We have also been getting out for some winter time smallmouth, musky, and striper bites. South Holston, Boone, and Watauga Lake are great wintertime fisheries that support a wide array of species to target and therefore tactics to use. Between streamer fishing for musky, A rig or dimiki fishing all things bass, and jerkbating smallies in gin clear deep lakes, there is a lot to choose from this time of year!

Summer 2018 update

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The cold waters of the South Holston and Watauga provide us with exceptional fishing throughout the summer months. Some would argue the late summer months of August and Sept boast the most productive fishing of the year. “Sluicing” flows of ~300 Cfs to 2000 cfs opened up lots of floatable water, but has limited wade fishing access during higher flows. Both tailwaters are producing both consistent numbers and some of the largest wild brown trout in the country are hitting the nets.

Sulphur hatches, beetle fishing, sight fishing, and low light streamer fishing rule the summertime game on the S. Holston.  Beginner anglers can enjoy the high numbers of both stocked rainbows and wild fish thriving in the upper portions of the river throughout summer. As you travel downstream the river shifts to wild brown trout dominant sections that fish comparable to other great tailwaters across the country.  Extremely large resident and lake run fish (Boone Lake is downstream) will migrate up river as summer progresses and bump around again just prior to the winter spawn. This gives anglers shots (often sight fishing) to some of the largest wild brown trout found anywhere. Hookups with fish over 2ft are not uncommon, and we have landed several just under the 30″ mark this season. The unusually high grass growth this season has the river teaming with scuds, midges, small caddis, aquatic worms, and mayflies.  Things are on the up and up for the upcoming fall run, winter spawn, and overall health of the river. Striper action on the lower sections of the river and into Boone Lake, which is still drained for dam repairs, has been hit or miss depending on weather and water. We have tricked plenty on fly, including some really nice fish pushing 30 lbs.

The Watauga tailwater continues to consistently produce and offers anglers a wide variety of water to fish. Big lake run stripers, smallmouth, and brown trout litter the lower stretches down into Boone Lake allowing  unique multi species float and wade trips. High numbers trout pack the upper stretches of the river and will keep anglers of any skill level busy.  As of early September, the large browns have podded up and begun their prespawn activity and feeding. Like the S. Holston, this is a great time to sight-fish to the big browns during clear water or catch them off guard with big flies in darker water. Bug wise… Sulphurs, slatey mayflies, midges, caddis, little stones, terrestrials, and crane flies will all show themselves depending when and where you are. Dry opportunities will present themselves most days on the Watauga.  Watching the water levels of Stoney Creek and the Doe River, in conjunction with generation schedules, is vital to finding productive water.

We have been chasing the smallmouth bass on the Holston and Nolichucky Rivers this year. Both river’s are producing extremely well and each have their unique qualities that make them special. The Nolichucky is a freestone river and one of most scenic rivers out there. With a combination of breathtaking scenery and feisty unpressured bass, this is a great trip for the adventure seeking angler looking to get on a pure untainted fishery. Shots at trout, musky, spots, and the full range of panfish species will show up as well. The Holston, another tailwater river, is a smallmouth bass powerhouse  and one of the best smallie fisheries in the world. We love sneaking around in drift boats targeting big smallmouth with advanced fly-rod and spinning gear techniques on this year-round bass fishery.








Fall Guide Report

The “sluicing” continues on the South Holston and Watauga… highly varied and random in nature, yet all good at the same time. One has to wonder whether or not the higher minimum flows, and lower max flows would have a long term benefit to both rivers?  It’s intriguing to say the least.  The spawn on the Watauga is in full force as of the end of November, and the South Holston will keep cranking up as we get into December.  Outside of the egg pattern game, a furious  streamer bite is there in the right conditions and flows. Lots of nice fish are smacking sculpin patterns, along with small brown and rainbow trout  patterns, while defending their redds. Slates, blue wings, small caddis, and midges are the dominant hatches on both rivers. The Watauga seems to be the hotter river on most days, since lots of trout are jammed in the closed sections of the S. Holston, thus limiting access to highly productive water. In our opinion parts of the Watauga tailrace needs to be closed as well, as wild reproduction is taking place.

The freestone and small stream game has been outstanding this fall with plenty of water, cold nights, and moderate daytime temperatures.  Outside of some monster storms, our creeks have been running clear with moderate flows. We have been wading and floating various freestone rivers in ETN and WNC, targeting both the DH and wild sections of river. The DH sections around Boone, NC are stocked up and fishing well, and some hatchery supported water has been pumped up with some great looking fish. The big rains also washed out a lot of “club” water so things are looking “wilder” throughout the Watauga, NC drainage. The  freestone smallmouth bite is diminishing but you can catch a slab this time of year.  Boone Lake has produced some stripers and hybrids for us already, including some nice smallies… we will continue to dial this in for our clients looking to smack some big stripers and hybrids in a lake setting.


Summer 2017 Report

Throughout the summer “sluicing” flows from both Wilbur and South Holston dams kept us guessing as to which float to choose on a daily basis. Flows varied from 200cfs-2400cfs for the both the South Holston and Watauga, opening up a lot of river. Boat traffic was a little higher than usual since you could float almost anywhere at anytime. However, everyone had plenty of water to fish, and the sluice made for happier fish… net positive.

The South Holston flowed cold and green all summer, significantly reducing sight-fishing, but allowing for a wide variety of tactics to be used and lots of water to be covered. We had one guide posted down in what was Boone lake (now a tumbling tailwater river) until mid July, hardly fishing the upstream 20 miles.  The trout are reacting well to the Boone Lake draw down, as it has opened up miles of cold, hard-running trout water that was once still-water lake fishing.

The Watauga Tailwater continues to be a steady producer with opportunities for all skill levels.  Minimum flows have allowed for both wade and float fishing on most days. High water generation in the evenings has produced awesome streamer floats for big trout and stripers. The beginner anglers have loved the long floats over high numbers of wild and stocked fish, while the more experienced anglers appreciate the diversity the river has to offer.  Technical dry fly fishing for picky wild browns, or throwing sink tips and big flies during generation for big stripers will test the best of anglers.

We also had guides floating clients around on the Holston Proper sticking some awesome smallies on fly and light spinning gear. Just a few Nolichucky and New River trips went down due to the low freestone river flows, though both rivers are healthy and fishing. The high country creeks stayed nice until the drought hit mid summer, but have been pumped up as of late due to the hurricanes and some big rains. Some fun trips can be had hiking around the beautiful high elevation NC streams, and the 3 wt fishing will improve as we get into fall.

Spring 2017 Report

We were blown up this spring with guided trips, and we apologize for the delay in posting updated reports. Be sure to check us out on Instagram and Facebook (@trophyguides) for the most up to date fishing reports and pictures.

Anyways… Big rains this spring changed up a lot of our plans on a day to day basis. We were blown out of the lower tailwaters and freestone rivers for weeks at a time. So, we all hunkered in below the dams fishing clear water during the mega floods. Luckily the upper portions of the tailwaters will give up plenty of fish each day, allowing anglers to fish a variety of techniques. It was definitely a boom or bust spring overall. When the water cleared, greened up, or stabilized the fish went crazy, and searched out big flies in big water. May boasted some of the best streamer fishing our guides have witnessed in their careers. The Watauga black caddis hatch came and went with a flurry as always… we hit it good. The big prespawn smallies showed up nice… we hit that as well. The smallmouth bass have transitioned to their summer routines, and are currently sucking poppers in the shade. The sulphurs on the So Holston continue to pour off, and the big boys have started to migrate out of Boone Lake… fun times await.