South Holston River Report for
In April and October Phil Husted and George Kessler abandon the fairways of Pinehurst, NC and head for the hills of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. They are on a quest for quality fly fishing, and they always seem to find it. On October 15 and 16, 2018, they took their seats in Altamont Anglers guide Forrest Marshall's boat for the annual pre-spawning brown trout excursion. Judging by the couple of pics they shared with us, it was an exceptionally successful excursion, and the tale they tell is one of numbers as well as size, with many, many trout boated each day.
We have to take their word for the quantity of trout boated, but the photographic proof of the quality is right here: click the pics for full-size image...
Troy Hutchinson added a chapter to the Altamont Anglers' history of father/son fishing trips on June 28 by treating his son Troy to some quality time on the South Holston River prior to enrollment in his freshman year at University of Alabama.
AA guide Joe Spencer took the helm, reporting back that in spite of no remarkable hatch to speak of--just the usual mid-summer midge/scud combo--a fine time was had by all, with fine fishing proven by the accompanying photos. Click any thumbnail to open the slideshow:
Mother Nature played rough in April, with head-spinning turns from Winter to Spring and back again, conspiring to produce a terrific Caddis hatch on the Watauga River while simultaneously blowing out the river with torrential rainfalls that rendered the river unfishable for most of the month. Fortunately for all the anglers booked in advance for the Watauga Caddis hatch, it's just a short hop over to the South Holston River, which provided a plan B that often surpassed the plan A.
The many anglers featured in the pics that follow found success when confronted by adversity by--literally--going with the flow! Just click any thumbnail to open a slide show of April on the South Holston River.
The question we hear most at Altamont Anglers is "when's a good time to fish the Watauga or South Holston?", and our answer is a firm "whenever you can go!". This sounds like a flippant bit of smug humor, but it's the honest truth: the quality of the fishing is fantastic all year round.
Brad Seitzinger rolled the dice for early March, fishing the South Holston and Watauga Rivers on March 2 and 3, and his gamble paid off with a fine Baetis hatch on both rivers, with the bugs plentiful and the fish eating them. Unusually, this hatch occurred on sunny days (albeit chilly), just adding to the pleasure of the moment.
The winter season continues to impress on the South Holston River because Baetis continue to hatch and big fish continue to feed on them. If a bit of cold weather puts you off your game, stay home by the fire and leave the fishing to us--we're happy to have the river to ourselves!
But if the prospect of big fish and open water calls to you, come on out like Dan Rooker, Scott and Keith McElrath and Mike Clark did over the weekend of December 1. Clicking the images below opens a slideshow proving the quality of the South Holston winter fishing season.
The Winter season has been terrific on the South Holston and Watauga Rivers in East Tennessee, with brown trout bulking up for spawning and the weather staying mostly mild. Baetis hatches are still the main event bug-wise, but with the browns in pre-spawn feeding mode almost anything properly presented will produce: streamers, rubber-legged attractors, midge--they all work if properly fished "where they are..."
It's Baetis time on the South Holston River, conveniently coinciding with the pre-spawn feeding spree of brown trout, taking on all the protein they can ahead of the spawn. You've gotta be quick on the hook-set when they're feeding on these tiny baetis nymphs, and if you do manage a good hook-up you're in for the challenge of heavy fish pulling on tiny hooks. All credit to the angler who gets to heft a hog like these for the camera!
Click the thumbs that follow for closer looks at some South Holston beasts on baetis:
Steve Seneker kicked off November in the best way possible, booking a float trip down the South Holston River. Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock manned the oars and took advantage of the excellent Blue Winged Olive hatch to put Steve on many a trout, including that beautiful brown trout.
We can expect that BWO hatch to continue on into the winter--the badder the weather, the better the Baetis!
Update: Steve Seneker sends us some feedback:I have fished the South Holston with three different local guide services. I have now found the ultimate in professionalism, courtesy and true knowledge of how it is done. Teo not only put us on fish the entire float but took time to provide instruction on some of the little things that help you catch trout. It was not only the best float yet but we had a lot of laughs while also being made to feel appreciated. None of this feeling like it was just a job to get us down the river and load the boat. I have already notified friends and am hoping to schedule another trip as the spawning heats up. Altamont Anglers is all I will use going forward.
October is prime time on the South Holston River, with brown trout moving out of their safety zones to load up on protein prior to the November spawning season. Add the back-drop of fall foliage and bright, cool days, and you have all the ingredients for fine fishing. The week of October 15--22 found Altamont Anglers guiding several lucky anglers to some beautiful fall fishing, as confirmed by clicking any of the following thumbs to open the slideshow:
The South Holston River has become the place to be this past month of September, and it's only going to get better for October. Brit Vinson and his son, Knox, fished with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock on the last day of the month and the rainbow in Knox's hand above is typical of the day's action, and the day was typical of the whole month of September.
August isn't the month you'd associate with top-notch trout fishing, unless you were fishing a top-notch tailwater river like the South Holston: the water drawn from the bottom of South Holston Lake forms the South Hoston River below the dam, and it stays between 43 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit all year round--a trout's Happy Zone!
Bill Matyi took advantage of the one feature that gives August an advantage over other times of year for the avid angler, uncrowded waters, to put in a couple of days of late-summer fishing with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock. That big brown is proof of the quality of this fishery, even in the dog days of late summer.
Houston Payne celebrated the Father's Day weekend with his son, Sam, fishing the South Holston and Watauga Rivers in East Tennessee. Apart from the joys of a father/son outing it appears that Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock was able to provide some of the joys of fine trout fishing.
The Watauga River has been particularly hot recently, but the South Holston provided the bigger fish over the weekend, and is only getting better by the day as the Sulphur hatch picks up steam--we expect a torrid July sulphur dry-fly event!
Tony Reumerman flew 9000 miles from his home in Africa to fish the South Holston River in East Tennessee: looks like it was worth the trip! Tony knows a thing or twoabout hunting, fishing and especially guiding, having spent his life doing all three and teaching the third to other aspiring safari guides throughout Africa.
So, arriving to fish during the highest water releases in recent memory, with the challenge the heavy water places on anglers, probably just seemed like "another day at the office" in the life of a guide. In any case, Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock seems to have come up with the goods in service of his client, judging by the honking hog of a brown in these pictures.
Click any of the following thumbnails for full-size views of recent excursions onto the high, heavy waters of the South Holston and Watauga rivers:
A non-partisan remedy for election-season blues can be found in the peaceful environs of the South Holston River--or any trout stream, for that matter--but the SoHo was where Bill Matyi sought comfort and safety from the political wars on voting day, November 8, 2016.
Bill has, on exhibit, proof that the big browns are still on the move on the South Holston. As the dust settles post-election we expect many an angler to be seeking solace astream, and we'd recommend the South Holston or Watauga rivers as first choices for escaping the politicians.
Let's go fishing!
October brings the color to the mountain forests, the first chill to the air, and the spawning urge to the brown trout--which means that October brings the knowledgeable anglers to the river. So, it's been a busy time for Altamont Anglers guides and their clients, with lots of successful hours logged on-stream. The pictures that follow tell a story of hungry trout and happy anglers: click-a-pic for the specifics and enjoy the show!
September is a slow season in the fly fishing world: school has started, the weather is more like Summer than Fall, it's a season in transition. But for those who can get to the river, it's the perfect time to warm up for the coming cool weather kicking off the pre-spawn madness of brown trout. Cool October weather brings the "frisky" to brown trout waters, as the breeding-age fish move out of their safe zones and aggressively feed in order to put on the protein necessary for a successful spawn. Get the kinks out of your cast in September so you can be ready in October...
Richard Weiss and Bruce Levy teamed up for a couple of days of testing the waters of the Watauga and South Holston Rivers in late August, braving the heat to confirm the rumors they'd been hearing about our favorite fisheries. Altamont Anglers lead guide Teo Whitlock introduced them to the piscine riches on offer, and they both pledged a speedy return for more.
The late summer hatches still include some afternoon Sulphurs, with the bulk of the action involving sub-surface scuds, midges, and assorted baetis nymphs.
August might the heart of the "Dog Days" of summer, but not on the South Holston River, where cold water and hungry trout provide relief from the doldrums. An excursion to the SoHo on August 19 yielded handsome trout caught on scud patterns, midges and foam-bodied beetles-a variety of options to be celebrated any time of the year.
Beat the heat with Altamont Anglers in August by joining us on our favorite East Tennessee tailwaters: Let's go fishing!
Tim Belk braved the heat for a couple of days last week, and was rewarded with that fine brown trout in the picture (among others). You can count on an afternoon thunderstorm--which will at least lower the temperature--and and afternoon storm of Sulphurs. Drift downstream within an easy cast to the tree lined bank and aim for the noses rising under the overhanging branches. It's not as easy as it sounds, due to tricky micro-currents messing with your drift, but success comes to those who perservere--just ask Tim Belk!
That's Judy Buhrman in the other shot, also on the SoHo, and also braving the heat for the obvious reward. Click thumbs for full-size images.
They're B-a-a-a-a-a-ck!! It's Sulphur Season on the South Holston, that time of year when we can predict, with certainty, afternoon thunderstorms--and Sulphur hatches on high water. The very fact that fish will rise on high water because the hatches are so dense, unfortunately makes the boat hatch a bit dense also--but it's a big river, and there are noses for all.
More good news: big fish are spread out throughout the river on low water, too. The bugs don't start pouring off until the afternoon water releases, but stalking spooky hogs on low water with long leaders, fine tippets and tiny midge patterns has a perverse appeal to many anglers. Wader up and hit the water! Clicking the following thumbnails opens full size renders of some fine end-of-June South Holston fishing:
Mid-day Baetis hatches are the highlight of the day on the South Holston River right now, although the fishing has been steady throughout the days lately, fishing tiny nymphs, midge and scud patterns.
Chris Snyder and Jon Caruthers are becoming regular fixtures in the boat captained by Altamont Anglers' Teo Whitlock, and they took advantage of the early nymphing and mid-day BWO hatch to boat some nice fish on Saturday, March 5, as the photos posted below show. Click the thumbs for full-sized views of some fine early-season action:
That action included good nymph fishing throughout the day and terrific Blue Olive Hatches in the afternoon (as long as the clouds hung around). Good numbers of fish were boated on both days, and some good sizes as well.
Click any of the thumbs below for a full-size slideshow of the January action on the South Holston River
Brian Rudisill booked a float trip guided by Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock specifically to treat his good friend John Baker to the delights of the South Holston River. Aiming for some late pre-spawn brown trout action, Brian and John caught the very end of the show, as the fish are getting onto their redds now. However, they were able to find some still frisky fish not totally focused on reproduction and, instead, still feeding aggressively.
Heavy rains recently had the TVA drawing down lake levels, which meant fishing on high water that was a little murky, but decent Blue Winged Olive hatches in the afternoon brought fish up anyway, and the proof is in the pictures that the SoHo is still the right choice for anglers looking for a little winter action.
It is Brown Trout season on the South Holston River, even into November as the pre-spawn behavior by the brownies continues. These fish are aggressively feeding in order to take on the protein required for the impending spawn, a behavior that knowledgeable anglers exploit to their trophy-hunting advantage.
Bill Matyi fished with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock on Friday, November 6 and from the looks of it, found an aggressive trout that has recently taken on a lot of protein.
This golden opportunity to catch a big brown trout won't last forever: the first really hard cold spell will put these fish finally onto their redds, with the females protecting their eggs from predators, at which time ethical anglers will lay off and leave them in peace. So get moving--give us a call at (828)775-0714 and let's go fishing!!
Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock led the charge both days, and gave us a brief report on the action: The Watauga offers up a nice BWO hatch around 3:00 pm, with fish feeding on the usual tiny nymphs and midges throughout the day, while the South Holston produces with small baetis nymphs, midges and scuds all day, with BWO's on pulse and high water, and still has sulphurs on high water.
Click the thumbs for full-size images...
There's an old saying in the fly fishing cannon: "20% of the fisherman catch 100% of the 20-inch trout". It's an indication of the awe in which we regard the accomplishment of catching the mythical 20-incher. So, imagine that you catch in one day not just one, not two, not three but SEVEN beautiful brown trout 20-inches or bigger! Impossible, you say...
But that's exactly what Glenn and Bill McNairy did on October 10, 2015, on a float trip down the South Holston River guided by Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock. It's no secret that October on the South Holston is prime-time for big browns, due to the pre-spawn behavior drawing the mature fish out of their hidey holes into very aggressive feeding as they pack on the protein in preparation for the upcoming rigors spawning.
Teo reports that the killer technique of fishing an attractor nymph above a dropper pattern matching the insects the fish are actively feeding on--in this case, mostly midges and scuds--proved irresistible to the trout.
Martin Arostegui has a few World Records confirmed by the IFGA, and wanted his wife to join him in the IGFA rolls, so they came to the South Holston River looking for a big brown trout. October is the right time to pursue big browns on the Soho, as they are early in pre-spawn mode, aggressively taking on protein before the November spawn.Martin and Roberta booked time at the South Holston River Lodge, where Altamont Anglers lead guide Teo Whitlock promptly obliged them by putting Roberta onto a 27" brown trout which she expertly played to the net, a feat of true skill on 4lb test line! We'll be waiting for confirmation from the IGFA that Roberta's fish is a line-class record for brown trout.
Clicking the thumbs that follow opens a nice slide show of Roberta's adventure, and includes a picture taken the day before of Teo and Lefty Kreh after a day in which the great man had characteristically donated his time for a charity fishing event.
July is South Holston time, when hot air temperatures make the cold water even more enticing, the Sulphurs bring the big-uns to the top on high water, and on low water the trout cruise for beetles. It's time to slather on the sun-screen and brave the heat for late summer fishing at its best!
Debbie Griffith and her friend Trish Brown did just that on Tuesday, July 28 with the guidance of Altamont Anglers lead guide Teo Whitlock. In spite of some erratic water releases by the TVA (some scheduled, some not) Debbie and Trish managed to catch fish on just about everything, from deep-drifted midge pupae, to dry Sulphur patterns on high water, to fat, foam-bodied beetle patterns floated on the low water.
Click the thumbs for full-views of Trish, Debbie and a few other anglers enjoying enjoying the end of July fishing on the South Holston River:
Jack and his fishing buddy Mark Hoffman floated with AA guide Teo Whitlock on January 3rd and 4th, and got the New Year of to a successful start.
Click the thumbs for full-size views of some nice Winter action on the South Holston River:
Lake levels behind the dam are below normal, due to lower than average rainfall, and the TVA is keeping water releases to a minimum. This means a one-hour pulse at about 1300 cfs just once a day, usually at night. So it's a wader's opportunity for now, and you'll need the long leaders with the fine tippets, because the trout a spooky as cats in the skinny water.
Joe Rose took advantage of the mild weather and the hungry trout, floating with Altamont Anglers for two days in the first week of June. But judging by that big brown trout, Joe's leader was long and his tippet was fine enough!
The South Holston produced a lot of great fishing during the Madness of March, for those willing to trade hoops for hooks.
Click the following pics for fullsize views of some of that great fishing:
Clay Gibson is on a mission to raise money for River's Way, the United Way affiliated lodge on the South Holston River. To support the good work done by the folks at River's Way, Clay has booked multiple weekends at the lodge in 2014, and is wrangling his many fishing friends to combine fishing with charity in a fund-raising effort that should earn him some excellent Karma--like that lovely rainbow in the picture!
Click the following thumbs for full-size pics of some of the generous anglers who've answered Clay's call to contribute to the River's Way:
It's heating up on the South Holston now (not the weather, of course: that's as miserable as it feels). It's the action that's hot, thanks to the abundance of bugs and consistent water temps (hats off to the 300' deep reservoir behind that dam).
Chris Hanson felt like he needed to increase his understanding of our premier tailwater, the South Holston River, and wisely sought the guidance of Altamont Anglers. His time in the boat with AA guide Teo Whitlock seems to have worked out well--here's Chris's feedback from the fishing
"We had great day, lots of action in the water, I caught my biggest trout so far, very exciting… Teo was very patient and instructive. I truly enjoyed the experience."
The pleasure was all ours, Chris!
(Altamont Anglers operates on Pisgah National Forest Rivers under USDA Forest Service Permit #PIS6560)