Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing South Fork of Holston River
Most everyone not familiar with this stream first thinks it
is the South Fork of the Holston River Tailwater with lies
in Northern Tennessee, near Virginia. It isn't the same
stream, rather one of the headwater streams of that
popular tailwater. The river's beginning is actually a
limestone creek more than it is a freestone stream.
Limestone springs and little freestone creeks and
branches feed its headwaters.
Buller Fish Cultural Station is located near the stream
and diverts some of the water to several ponds. They
raise bass, northern pike, trout and muskie. It is one of a
few hatcheries that raise muskellunge.
Above the fish hatchery there is a dam on the river that
created a small pond. As far as I know and according to
the state, the stream is not stocked above the dam.
They do stock it below the dam across from the fish
hatchery and downstream of there. Just above the
pond, the stream flows through a small canyon. In some
places you will have to wade to progress upstream. Now
keep in mind, the South Fork of the Holston River is a
small creek at that point.
There are some large rainbows that are stocked below
the dam. We have caught several rainbows in the creek
where it was not over ten feet wide that went up to 16
inches and over. Catching that size rainbows where you
have to duck to get under tree limbs can be a lot of fun.
The stream splits into two sections below the dam. They
look like small brook trout streams at that point. Above
the dam, the river flows upstream to the top of a
mountain. You can catch trout the entire way to the top.
You will need a map to find this location on the river.
It is not easy to find. You exit off I-81 several miles
above Bristol, Tennessee near Marion, Virginia. The
fish hatchery is on the right side of the interstate
headed north but you will have to exit to the left side
and wind around making several turns to again cross
the interstate to be on your way to the area of the river I
described. It is well worth the trip whether you want to
fish the upper part for wild trout or the stocked section.
South Fork Holston
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The fishing season is year-round in
You can catch trout during the warm days
Spring brings some big aquatic insect
hatches on this stream and is a great time
to fish there.
South Fork of the Holston River Virginia Fly
Fly fishing the South Fork of the Holston River is small
stream fishing but the fish you catch are not all small. It
depends on whether you fish the stocked section or
the upper section of the stream.
This is a beautiful little stream that is usually only lightly
fished. Its remote and not very easy to find location
keeps it that way. Also, the many other fine trout
streams in the area keep it from being over pressured.
The stocked area of the stream is easy to
reach anywhere below the little pond. One
easy way to get to it is to park at the fish
hatchery office and walk through the ponds to
the stream. The first section you come to is
only part of it. If you cross the stream you will
find it is split at that point and there is another
section on the other side of what amounts to
a small island. The streams on both sides are
To fish the upper part of the stream you will
need to drive to the end of the road and park.
Walk upstream from there. You will need to
stay in the water in some areas. It is almost
impossible to walk along the banks in some
places. We usually fish our way upstream as
we go, otherwise you would be spooking a lot
of trout wading upstream. It is possible to
access the stream from the top of the hill or
mountain but we haven't tried it.
Usually, short upstream presentations is
the best way to fish the stream. In some
areas the overhanging tree limbs force
you to make some very creative cast. It is
tightly enclosed in many areas. The
decline is rather steep in some places, so
be prepared to do some climbing in the
Fish the current seams and edges of the
pockets. Depending on the time of year
and the hatches, you will mostly fish the
riffles and runs. The "High Stickin" method
of nymph fishing is very effective in this
stream. Imitations of stonefly nymphs just
about always work well. The stream has a
large stonefly population of several
South Fork Holston River Virginia
Hatches and Trout Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
South Fork Holston River and in all stages of
life that are applicable to fishing. If you want
to fish better, more realistic trout flies, have
a much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
I'm not certain as to why, but this little stream
has lots of aquatic insects, some of which
hatch in large quantities. The first insects to
hatch are the little Winter Stoneflies that
hatch from late January through March. The
Little Brown Stoneflies start to hatch in
March and last until the first of May.
Blue-winged Olive is probably the most
consistent hatch . You will start to see some
hatches about the end of February through
the first of June.. These include several
species some of which are bi-brooded and
will hatch again in October.
Blue Quills will start to hatch about the end
of February and last into mid April. They are
usually good hatches. The Quill Gordons will
hatch near the same time. They hatch until
as late as the first week of April.
The Little Black Caddis or Brachcentrus
species hatch in March. This is also a good
The Hendricksons start hatching near the
first or second week of April. They are short
lived, hatching for only about two or three
weeks at the most.
Around the end of April, March Browns will
begin to hatch. These mayflies hatch
inconsistently until around the middle of
June. Light Cahills will start hatching about a
week or two after the March Browns and last
as long as three weeks. Theres a hatch of
Eastern Green Drakes that occurs about the
second week of May.
The middle of April you should notice the
first hatches of the Green Sedges. They
hatch for over two months but never in large
quantities. At the same time the first hatches
of Cinnamon Caddis show up but they are
There are even some of their Little Sister
Caddisflies that hatch a couple of week
The Little Yellow Stoneflies, called Yellow
Sallies, will start around the Middle of May
and last until mid July.
The Golden stoneflies start hatching
around the middle of June and last about
By the middle of August, hatches of
Mahogany Duns will begin to occur. This
hatch last for as long as a month.
From near the end of May until the middle
of November, a long period of time, you
will find hatches of Slate Drakes occurring.
The Great Autumn Brown Sedges, start
hatching at night by the middle of
September and last through November.
During the month of June, grasshoppers,
beetles, ants and inch worms, all
terrestrial insects, become important. The
inch worms, or moth larvae, are important.
In addition to the terrestrial and aquatic
insects, theres a lot of other food for the
trout. Small Crawfish is one of those items.
Another one are the Sculpin. Streamers
imitating these work great especially when
the water is slightly off color.
Craneflies are very abundant. The larva
and adults are important insects to imitate.
Hellgrammites, or the larva stage of the
Dobsonfly, is another abundant insect that
is present in good quantities.
We always recommend our "Perfect Fly"
imitations. They are the best, most
effective flies you can purchase and use
anywhere trout exist. Give them a try and
you will be glad you did.
Around the second week of May, Eastern
Pale Evening Duns will start hatching.
Most anglers call these Sulphurs but the
true Sulphurs will not start to hatch for
another couple of weeks. Both hatches
last about a month.
We would suggest you only fish the area
above the dam during the hot part of
Fall is the second best time to fish the
South Fork Holston River Virginia
Fly Fishing Report:
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|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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