Winter 2016-17 Report

We crawled out the drought in mid December, opening up a ton of really nice freestone water that hadn’t been touched in months. Between the Nolichucky, Watauga, S. Holston, and many of the high elevation small streams we stayed on the water as long as the weather held. Winter time in the S. Appalachians boast some of our finest freestone fishing of the year, and the folks willing to dress warm were generally rewarded. The S. Holston and Watauga tailwaters remained consistent throughout winter and fished extremely well for the most part.

Fall Guide Report, Nov 29

The drought has lasted into late fall, but the current rains will help put a dent in the abnormally low water, and hopefully end the region’s wildfire outbreak. Most of our trips have been limited to the S. Holston and Watauga tailwaters, where dam releases have be minimal but consistent. The trout are happy, and water is cold… just really clear. While the fishing has been fairly technical over the last couple of months, the rivers continued to produce when conditions allowed, and most importantly… Leaf catching season is over folks! Now onto blue wing olive hatches, trout migrations, and the yearly spawn…

The blue wing olive, slate, caddis, and midge hatches have increased the past couple of weeks on the Watauga tailwater. Dry fly fishing the shallow riffles has been really productive, as well as swinging wets on most days. Tricky looking, soft hackled PT’s, hare’s ears, and bwo wets in sizes 18-22 are a good choice. Some big blonde caddis have been coming off on the lower river, while slatey mayflies and bluewings dominate up top and through the middle river. Scuds and midges are always prevalent, and are also good choices on most days. The Watauga brown trout are starting to stack on the redds, and lots of nice fish have migrated up river for the spawn. November through December is a great time to book a trip on the Watauga tailwater. For the do it yourself crowd… stop by our shop, which is located conveniently (HWY 321, Hampton, TN) near some great wade fishing spots. We also have maps with put in/take out locations, and we are always eager to offer advice.

It’s boom or bust on the S. Holston right now… it’s just the gin clear water (feeder creeks have been dry) have the trout seeing everything, and mistakes are compounded when they are not in feeding mode. However, for the advanced angler looking to do some sight-fishing, it can be a brown trout dream world. We have landed some great fish this fall on the S. Holston, and the overall outlook for the river is trending up. Despite the drought and low water levels in Boone Lake, the river is as healthy as ever. Lately, daily hourly pulses and several hours of generation in the afternoon have given us nice windows of opportunity. If you hunt around a little in the evening hours you can usually find pods of fish rising on bwo, midge, and slate dries. Size 18-22 compara duns, sparsely hackled midge emergers, and CDC bwo and slate patterns… Such as loop winged emergers and puff daddy’s (~Dwayne’s for the old school crowd), tied slim, matching the shape and color of the bug will help. Getting on pods of big browns eating scuds mid morning can make your day in an hour or two. Fishing big streamers in high water has been hit or miss depending on the weather, generation schedules, and whether or not shiners are being spit out of the dam.

Thankfully, the S. Holston has two closed sections of river to protect some impressive spawning grounds from fisherman. The closed dates are Nov 1- Jan 28. The 1st section is from Hickory Tree Bridge upstream to the cul-de-sac at Riverbend Rd. The 2nd stretch is from the upper end of the island at Webb bridge downstream to the lower end of the island below Weaver Pike Bridge. Brown and yellow signs are located at the end of each island or on the river right side of the river.
These closed sections ensure our wild strain trout can reproduce without being bothered by anglers during their most vulnerable time.

We also mixed in little guide play time.. deer hunting the NC mountains, and a trip to Venice. Pics included.

July Guide Report

The Watauga and South Holston are dam controlled rivers in E. TN that remain cold year-round. Considering our hot, dry, and sunny month of July, these two rivers have been our primary focus for our guided trips. These tailwaters originate from the depths of South Hoslton and Watauga Lake providing us year-round 50 degree water. This cold water runs for up to 20 miles below the either dam, gradually warming as it enters the body of Boone Lake. The result is outstanding summertime fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout in the most gin clear of water environments.

The South Holston sulphur hatch has ebbed and flowed as always, providing guest with shots at outstanding dry fly days. The upper river is boasting the biggest hatches, while the scud, midge, and terrestrial bite is more dominant the further you move down river. High water float trips in the upper river during the afternoon sulphur and bwo hatch can challenge, and also reward the best dry fly anglers. The scene has been pods of 10-30 fish rising to size 16-22 sulphurs/bwo’s, coming up from the deep, gin clear depths. We have also been targeting trophy sized brown trout, throwing streamers late in the day during high water flows, and sight-fishing to the big fish pods in low water when the situation provides itself.

The Watauga has a little to offer every type of angler with various options for float and wade fishing trips. Numerous sections have fished well during both high water releases and low water flows over the last month. Sulphurs, midges, cranes, little black/blonde caddis, and terrestrials seem to be the go to bugs, but hatches will widely vary throughout the river (Hendricksons, slates, etc). During high water generation you can get away with throwing some meat, especially during the evening hours. Trout fingerling, shad, and sculpin patterms have all worked while bigger has often been better. A terrestrial bite is there mid morning, along with a good sulphur hatch most afternoons. Below the Doe River, tactics can vary widely depending on the water temperatures and color. Once they generate, streamer fishing can become exciting, especially when you luck into stormy weather triggering the action. The beauty of the Watauga is that dry flies, terrestrials, streamers, swinging wets, dry drop, nymphing, etc. can all work on the same trip.

June 2 Stream Reports

Busy times and good fishing… and luckily for us we were out guiding A LOT. By running 10 to 25 boats a week, we were able to stay dialed into a variety of rivers all spring. In addition, we got our fly shop up and running and will continue to add inventory as the summer goes. Thanks goes out to all of our customers who made our spring a successful one. We are currently guiding the Watauga, South Holston,  Nolichucky River, and Boone, NC area small streams, and looking forward to a busy summer.

The Watauga black caddis hatch was something to behold in mid April.  Hordes of caddis crawled over every rock, and swarmed in every  tree for a straight week on the lower river . Calling this thing a blanket hatch would be an understatement. Currently the middle river is fishing outstanding, with good releases from Wilbur dam helping the bite.  We are now in sulphur, midge, cranefly, hendrickson, and terrestrial season on the Watauga tailwater. Lots of big browns and heavy bows hit the nets this spring, and the pics below help tell the story.

The generation flows on the South Holston were limited to hourly pulses usually early morning, and midday, but longer generations have arrived. We took advantage of the low water and lack of crowds the past few weeks, and sightfished up some great brown trout. The sulphur hatch came off as expected in early May, with flurries of good dry fly action most afternoons. The big lake run brown trout (and some stripers) are jamming up river, giving guest shots at world class fish. It’s the same old bug story for the S. Holston, as midges, suphurs, and scuds are dominant… but presentation is everything. The streamer bite has been fair to good during the generation, stained water, or nighttime as some of the big fish will target hatchery rainbows.

The small streams around the Boone area went through a mild drought in early April, but have rebounded nicely with increased rains and a cool early May. The delayed harvest streams will be clobbered the first Sat in June with the opening of kill season for the DH water.  So there goes all that nice public water that offers the average guy, or poor college kid easy access quality trout fishing. Some of the DH water in the high country is capable of supporting wild and holdover populations of trout. In our opinion much of the the high elevation North Carolina DH water needs to be re-categorized,  protected, and managed year-round.  Bug wise… Big sulphurs, gray and yellow stones, creme midges, big  slates, and blonde/black caddis have been coming off most of the Boone NC  small streams. A terrestrial bite is cranking up, as the ant patterns are starting to get smacked.

The Nolichucky smallmouth season is well underway, currently providing smallmouth enthusiast  plenty of topwater action.  The fish have spawned successfully and are now off the beds.  The early morning and late afternoon popper bite is a blast to fish and should perk the interest of any power fisherman. With a larger than average size compared to years past, this rebounding fishery is offering our guest an opportunity to pursue an original Appalachian gamefish, in the most pristine and scenic of environments.



March 30, 2016 Guide Report

March has been pleasantly warm, and the fishing was very good the entire month. We have been targeting the high country freestone rivers, chasing smallmouthbass and big rainbow trout. We have also hopped around some small streams in the Boone, NC region. This time of year, the freestone (non dam controlled) rivers boast temperatures in the mid to high 50’s, which makes for some great multi-species fishing. On the smaller creeks we have been fishing NC DH and private waters since  all of the hatchery supported water is closed for the month. Hatches of little blonde caddis are coming off on each river we have visited big or small. Big dobson flies,  stonefly patterns, and caddis nymphs are producing consistently on the big rivers, and a streamer bite has been there on most days. We look forward to the Caddis hatch on the Watauga as well as the run of laker brown trout from Boone Lake in the coming weeks.