Tag Archives: flyfishtennessee

Watauga

brown trout logoby Brown Hobson of Brown Trout Fly Fishing

You can find this river description in our Waters > Tailwaters > Watauga through the navigation bar.

Brown is the owner and head guide for Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC. He started fly fishing in Western North Carolina as a teenager and the passion for catching trout on the fly created in NC propelled Brown’s move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

brown and tyBrown spent 4 years in the ORVIS store in Jackson Hole as a sales associate, fishing manager, and store manager and was fortunate to learn from many of America’s great fly fishermen while there. Seeking milder winters and closer proximity to family, Brown moved to Asheville and started Brown Trout Fly Fishing.

Brown is a member of the North Carolina Fly Fishing Team, Fly Fishing Team USA, is a former ORVIS Trout Bum of the Week, and a 2014 ORVIS Guide of the Year nominee. His fly fishing experience combined with his ORVIS customer service background give Brown a skill set that allows him to provide exceptional days on the water.

  • Species:  Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout
  • Angler Type:  Boat or Wade
  • Access Type:  Public and Private

Guides

Fly Shops

  • Eastern Fly Outfitters
  • Mahoney’s
  • South Holston River Fly Shop
  • Mountain SportsLodges/Cabins/Hotels

Lodges/Rentals/Hotels/Campgrounds

  • Watauga River Lodge
  • Bee Cliff Cabins
  • Merideth Valley Cabins

Good Eats

  • Pals
  • Ridgewood Barbecue

The River

JakeThe Watauga River tailwater flows from Wilbur Reservoir near Siam TN to Boone Lake near Johnson City. The majority of the water that feeds the Watauga is held in Watauga Lake, but just below Watauga Dam is a second smaller lake called Wilbur. Make sure when you check TVA river flows you look at Wilbur Reservoir not Watauga. The river is approximately 17 miles long from Wilbur Dam to Boone Lake and flows through many different sections and townships. The Watauga River is a Tailwater fishery so always check the Generation Schedule before you go.

Click Here for TVA Generation Schedule and select Wilbur Dam from Lakes and Recreation on the right, it is also a good idea to look at the Watauga Dam generation as this is located directly upstream of Wilbur.

The Upper Section – runs from Wilbur Dam to Hunter Bridge. The first half of the river is mostly on private land and is very gorge like. Huge limestone cliffs dominate the sides of the river until the river gets down to Siam. From Siam to Hunter the river is mostly large shallow riffles with deep slow pools between them. The bug life up here is mostly midges, small mayflies, and scuds. Midges hatch year round and BWOs hatch most commonly from Oct-April. This section is the most likely to stay clear if we see big rains. The upper has the highest fish numbers on the whole river.

The Middle Section – runs from Hunter Bridge to the TWRA access at Blevins Rd. The first half of this stretch has many shallow riffles and smaller runs. Once you pass through Elizabethton the river narrows and gets deeper. There are many big ledges separating slow deep pools and even one small waterfall that must be navigated by boat operators. Bugs here are larger than the upper, but many midges are still found along with bwos, sulphurs, caddis, and craneflies. As you move through the middle fish numbers decrease slightly, but average size goes up.

The Trophy Section – runs from Blevins rd to Persinger Bridge in the town of Watauga, TN. This is the stretch of river that receives the most angling pressure, but it has the largest concentration of big fish. Special regulations forbid the use of bait or scented artificial and anglers can only keep two fish per day of at least 14” in length. This allows many more fish to grow to larger sizes. Insects here are midges, bwos, sulphurs, many different caddis, craneflies, and assorted other mayflies. There is no public wade access except at the beginning and end of this stretch.

WataugaThe Lower Section – runs from Persinger Bridge into Boone Lake. The most popular take out is at the River Stone Campground and your shuttle driver can arrange for you to use that access. It does require an extra fee. This stretch has some of the coolest riffles on the river and several long flats that are great for picking off feeding fish on dries. Bugs here are the same as the trophy section.

The Watauga River flow changes dramatically due to releases from Wilbur Dam. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the TVA has a recreational flow schedule they follow. Basically Monday-Saturday there will be no water until noon or so and then they will generate power and release water for rafters. The TVA usually does not release water on Sundays during the summer. The rest of the year the TVA can generate power whenever they want. Check Wilbur Dam for projected releases and always be ready to get out quickly if an unplanned release occurs. The river is not wadeable during a water release and you should plan to float it.  Also, it is important to note that the Watuaga is not for beginner oarsmen and certain sections are very technical and dangerous.

Gear Recommendations

  • Waders- because the water is cold
  • Felt Bottom Boots or Rubber with Studs the rocks are very slick (No Studs in Boats)
  • Wading Staff
  • 9’ and 10’ 4 and 5 weight rods
  • 3x-6x tippet. Fluor when nymphing Mono for dries

Popular Flies

  • Zebra Midges of all sorts, sizes, and colors
  • Pheasant tail nymphs
  • San Juan Worms
  • CDC comparadun baetis and Sulphur
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Beetles and Flying Ants
  • Wooly Buggers
  • Tiny Parachute Adams
  • Eggs

Tips and Safety

• Be very careful when wading. If the TVA begins to generate, get out of the water.
• TVA toll free number 1-800-238-2264

Click Here for TVA Generation Schedule and select Wilbur Dam from Lakes and Recreation on the right.

Fishing Regulations

Please be sure to check current regulations if you are unfamiliar, many of our tailwaters have unique regulations.

Tennessee Fishing Regulations

Click here to purchase a Tennessee Fishing License

Public Access Points

  1. Wilbur Dam
  2. Siam Bridge
  3. Hunter Bridge
  4. 19E Bridge
  5. Blevins Road Access
  6. Highway 400 Access

 

Getting There

From Interstate 81 exit to 57A on to Interstate 26 South to exit 31 on to Highway 321 east towards Elizabethon, TN

Click here for local weather forcast.

Click here to buy a map of the Watauga River!

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Fried Chicken and Butter

FriedChickenThere is nothing better during a long day of fishing than fried chicken and beer. This tradition started in my teens when I would canoe with my parents and friends in southern MO. I carried the tradition with me to college, which typically also included a frosty beverage or two. Ten years ago I brought this tradition with me to TN and most of my friends  have experienced it at some point or another. I’m sure this is not out of the ordinary as we are in the south. Give it a shot and add some fried chicken to your next fishing trip menu.

DrivingRainYeah, so this was a supposed to be a fishing report so let me get to that. We fished the South Holston on 11/09. I think we were as wet as the trout were as it dumped rain most of the day. Weather like this is the reason that we buy expensive wading jackets, but it isn’t fun fishing in a total down pour. The Brown Trout on the South Holston are getting ready for their annual spawning rituals and TWRA has closed the two normal spawning areas of the river. I typically don’t fish that much in the fall due to a hectic work schedule. However the opportunity arose and I figured one more streamer fishing trip before the end of the year was a good idea.

Version 2My third cast of the day would prove to haunt me for the rest of the trip.  I threw a bad cast and instead of fishing it out I tried to pick it back up and as I did the biggest brown of the day decided to eat.  I had the rod straight up in the air and when I felt her head shake twice it was over, I blew it. It seemed like slow motion, but happened in a split second. Just long enough to haunt me for the rest of the day.  I haven’t throw big streamers in quite some time so I was a little rusty, but I know better than that. You don’t get mistakes when streamer fishing, every cast must count and you have to fish every cast as if that cast is the one. When you BenBentRodstreamer fish you are fishing for the biggest fish of the day. Some days it works out but most days you blow it and miss a true monster. Those are the days that keep you coming back. They are the fish that haunt you in your sleep and are topics for many a tackle and fly tying discussions. I guess if I caught everyone it wouldn’t be fun, as hokey as it sounds it really is about the chase and the eat. I prefer to throw streamers more than anything else. I have seen some true monsters swimming in our East TN waters and the opportunity of landing one on the fly keeps me coming back.

We did catch some nice fish throughout the rest of the day, but that fist one was “The One”.

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