Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Hatches and Trout Flies for the South Holston River Tennessee
There are several different hatches that take place on the South Holston River and the
trout can become selective on the insects. Long, light leaders and careful presentations
are often required to catch the trout.
The most popular hatch that occurs on the South Holston Tailwater is referred to as the
"Sulphur" hatch. It is for a very good reason. Two different species of mayflies very similar
to each other called "Sulphurs" hatch on the South Holston over a very long period of time.
These mayflies can hatch most of the days from mid April through the first of November. In
many other areas of the country, one of the two mayflies (Ephemerella invaria) are usually
called "Eastern Pale Evening Duns". The other mayflies (Ephemerella dorothea) are almost
always referred to by their common name as "Sulphurs". There's not a great deal of
difference in the two, but there's enough worth being familiar with.
These two hatches can last a long time. This doesn't mean that on any given day one of
them will be hatching from one end of the river to the other. The hatch will vary from place
to place along the river depending on a number of factors, a main one being the amount of
water being discharged. You cannot necessarily expect to go to one point along the river
and expect the hatch to occur. This is another reason a drift boat is a good option for the
The first of the two mayflies to hatch will be the Eastern Pale Evening Duns, the larger of
the two and the one that is more of a tan than true sulphur. They are closer to a hook size
16.It is also an easier hatch to fish. The reason is that they hatch in faster water than the
slightly smaller Sulphurs. Sulphurs hatch in slow to moderate water. Because of that, the
trout get a much better look at your fly and are referred to by most anglers as picky. It is
possible the Sulphurs are bi-brooded, or hatch twice a year. This happens on the West
Branch of the Delaware River in New York, also a tailwater.
There are some huge Blue-winged Olive hatches that occur in the Winter, early Spring and
again in the late Fall. Some of these are baetis species but there are other species of
mayflies called blue-winged olives that hatch on the South Holston. If the dun is larger than
a hook size 18, most likely it is an Eastern Blue-winged Olive, a Drunella species, which are
crawler nymphs as opposed to the baetis that are swimmers.
Black flies are very plentiful and trout feed on them throughout the year. However, they are
far more important during the winter months when fewer other insects are hatching. Trout
eat their larvae, pupae and the adult black flies.
The river also supports a good population of scuds, which are another major source of
food for the trout.
As with most any tailwater fishery, midges are also very important. Often they are the only
flies that the trout are feeding on and imitations of them are the only trout flies that are
At certain times, especially during the pre-spawn time, large brown trout can be taken on
streamers. The river also has plenty of baitfish and sculpin and streamers can produce
throughout the year if fished properly. They are most effective when the water is slightly off
color from rain, or during low light situations such as early and late in the day. They also
work good when it is raining.
Caddisflies are very prolific on the South Holston River. There is a hatch of Little Black
Caddis in April and just as soon as it is about over the Cinnamon Caddis will start to hatch.
These caddisfles exist in several species and will hatch until the end of October. Near the
end of June through July and into August, you will also find hatches of some species of the
similar but smaller Little Sister Caddisflies. There is even a hatch of Spotted Sedges but
they are very similar to the Cinnamon Sedges.
In late April, hatches of Green Sedges will start. These caddisflies hatch until the first of
July but their larvae, called Rock Worms, are around all year and flies that imitate them are
effective most of the year. In the months of July and August, you will find hatches of Little
Brown Caddisflies. These can be very abundant in places.
Terrestrial insects become important around the middle of June. Imitations of
grasshoppers, ants, and beetles will catch trout until the first week or two in October, or just
beyond the time the first frost appears.
The Cranefly is another insect that the trout will feed on. Their larvae are around
throughout the year. The adults are also around much of the year, but are more important
during the late summer.
If you haven't already done so, we suggest you try our "Perfect Flies". We have specific
imitations of everything that hatches and exist in the South Holston River. The best way is
to check our South Holston Hatch Chart for the period of time you will be fishing the river.
Our Black fly larva, pupa and adult flies were developed at the South Holston, so be sure
to try them. Not only are they far more imitative of the real things, they are far more
effective than most other trout flies.
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Bottom is a Female Eastern Pale Evening Dun, Top a male. Locals call
them Sulphurs which are very similar. Sulphurs are also present in there.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us 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. Call or email us with a budget for
flies and we will select them and get
them to you in time for your trip.
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