When fly fishing destinations come to mind, East Tennessee is usually not one that rises to the top of the list. We'll let you in on a little secret: East Tennessee has better fishing than many areas out West. Because of the same Appalachian Mountains that create the trout streams of Western North Carolina, East Tennessee holds some impressive fly fishing rivers as well. Although still a secret to many, the rivers of East Tennessee are gaining popularity in the fly fishing world and will soon have the acclaim of rivers like the Madison and Big Horn Rivers of Montana. With the combination of the mountains and the surrounding flood plains, East Tennessee has many rivers worth fishing but two stand out in particular.
The South Holston is known for its population of large brown trout. These fish are often seen in the fall traveling up the river to the protected spawning grounds that help ensure high reproductive rates. Year after year, each generation of brown trout grow to immense size and many are caught from this river. On good days, our guide service measures the fish caught in pounds rather than inches. It is not uncommon to catch large fish on this river but usually this task is left to very skilled anglers. Most anglers will find that their average catch is still larger than most streams in the area with 12-16" fish being the most common size caught. But the South Holston River is not the only gem in East Tennessee.
East Tennessee is also known for the highly-acclaimed Watauga River. This river is used as an experimental river by the University of Tennessee for brown trout management. The Watauga River has East Tennessee's only Catch-and-Release stretch known as the Trophy Section. This river has a wide variety of fish including brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout. Fish in the Watauga River do not average the same size as those on the South Holston however this river boasts a very high fish density (fish / mile). With the increased odds of catching fish, the Watauga is quickly becoming the favorite trout stream for many anglers in East Tennessee. Even with all of the fish, the Watauga River mimics the South Holston as another one of East Tennessee's finicky tailwaters. This river has a wide variety of aquatic insects including caddis, mayfly, and midge species which makes fly selection difficult for this river. The Watauga River is probably the favorite East Tennessee river for most of our guides because the challenge of fly selection and the wide variety of fish species and size make this river a great test of an angler's skill.
Learn more about the rivers in East Tennessee by selecting them from the Our Waters section.
East Tennessee Fly Fishing Stream Report The good news is that the rivers are very wadeable as TVA has not relied on either river for power generation in a few weeks. This will allow anglers to easily wade the rivers in East Tennessee and have good days fishing both dry flies and nymphs. The Sulpher mayflies are hatching on both rivers and the fish have been receptive to the afternoon hatches. Morning fishing will be more productive below the surface with increased surface activity into the afternoon. The Watauga should soon be on TVA's summer recreational flow soon so the flows will begin to change in the next few weeks. We've been catching some really nice fish on both rivers as the water levels are very accomodating..