Tag Archives: Watauga

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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Are we Old School!

Man, I recently had my computer crash.  I had everything on that machine. I was shifting through some you tube videos this evening and wouldn’t you know I found an old video of some buddies and myself. Boy do we look look young and it’s only been about four years. We fished a lot back then and fished hard. Not sure if I could hang today. Check out the vid and enjoy.

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Its all about location…

We are blessed here in Tennessee to have several great spots for trout.  Tailwaters and wild streams abound here in the Volunteer state, and no matter where you live, you are close to great opportunities to fly fish for Rainbows, Browns and Brooks.  This brought a thought to mind.  What spot in our state is the best place to live if you fly fish for trout?

The primary criteria I used in my assessment was drive time to various locations.  It might be that you live five minutes from Tims Ford, but if you want to fish the South Holston you better be ready to drive.  I was in search of the single spot where, with a reasonable drive time you could reach more than one trout fishery within the state.  It was very tempting to expand the search so that I could include the wonderful opportunity found in North Georgia, Southern Kentucky, and North Carolina; but Tennessee is the criteria. 

There are several bodies of water that I did not include.  Not because they are bad locations, but I just thought it would be easier to use the high producing locations that can easily accommodate a lot of anglers.  The rivers/ locations I used are: Caney Fork, Clinch, Holston, South Holston, Watauga, Hiwassi and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I also tried to avoid an “as the crow flies” philosophy when determining distance.  Anyone who is familiar with Tennessee and East Tennessee in particular knows that you might be just over the mountain from a location, but getting there is a little more involved than just hopping over the ridge.  It had to be from point A to point B drive time.

After consulting several mapping services and calculating the quickest drive time to each location, here is what I found. 

If you are an avid fly fisherman in Tennessee and your primary target is trout, the best place to live which gives you the most opportunities to fish multiple rivers in pretty much the same amount of drive time is….

Masterson Road in South Knox County Tennessee.

If you are a fly angler for trout and are lucky enough to live on Masterson Road, here are your relative drive distances to fish each of the subject waters.

129 miles to the Caney Fork (2 1/2 hours)

129 miles to the South Holston. (21/2 hours)

104 Miles to the Watauga. (1 hour 45 min.)

65 miles to the Hiwassi. (1hour 15 min)

39 miles to the Holston (45 min)

38 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (45 min)

31 miles to the Clinch River (30 min)

Keep in mind that this is drive time based upon legal driving speeds.  Depending on how badly you want to be in the water, your drive times may vary.

If you live within a good rock throw of any of these waters, consider yourself lucky.  Those who live in Clinton, Bristol, New Market, or Townsend have immediate access to trout and if you are one of those people my hat is off to you for your selection in location.

But if you are like the majority of us and have to drive more than ten minutes to get to the river, then you might want to consider Masterson Road in South Knox County.  I mean its always good to have options isn’t it?

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Friday Float!

 

 Clay and I drove up to the Watauga River and dumped the boat in at Blevins around 10:00am. As we floated down stream we got into a nasty midge hatch with fish rising everywhere. We caught a few and lost too many. So we decided  to streamer fish the rest of the day out.  After an hour of chugging meat I hooked into the  first nice brown trout of the day. (Brown Trout 1 Jake 0) So after losing that battle I took the sticks back and Clay was on point. I pushed down the river till we got to Clay’s run and my man hooked up on the first cast with a nice rainbow!

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Summer has been great



As we put a wrap on a great summer season, now is the time to be thinking about your fall and winter trips. The South Holston and Watauga have given us some great days of trout fishing this summer. We used Blackfly, Sulphur, Beetle, Ant, and Cranefly dry flies, and when there wasn’t a hatch it was Split Cases, Zebra Midges, Copper Johns, and San Juan Worms for the nymphing rigs.
The smallies were behind all season on their timing so it was shallow running streamers into the start of the summer and then they finally started looking up. Now it is white poppers and Gartside Gurglers. For the spin rod guys a small Pop-R is the lure of choice. The Pigeon River is rapidly becoming a popular destination for our trips, nice smallies, largemouth and walleye thrown into the mix.
Now is the time to book your trip to the private trophy trout waters in Southwest Virginia. We fish these waters all winter long. We have had some great catches on these waters during the late spring. On one of the rivers in the system there were fish landed that weighed 11, 13, and 17 pounds. You will catch 3 to 7 pound fish consistently on all the private waters we fish.

Starting Thanksgiving Weekend and running through March 13th, 2011 I will once again be running the Winter 6 Hour Float Trips for the discounted price of $235. These trips produced some nice brown trout while throwing big baits.
I will be in attendance November 6th & 7th at the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo in Asheville, North Carolina. Be sure to stop by the Orvis booth and watch me tie some of the flies I use on the Watauga and South Holston as well as the Holston Proper and Pigeon for smallies.
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Winter Float Trip Discounts

I am offering Winter Float Trip discounts for trips taken from November 21st through March 15th. The cost for this trip is $235. This would be a 6 hour float trip for one or two persons with a lite lunch. Come fish the legendary South Holston or Watauga Tailwaters when there are little to no crowds.

The possibilities are endless.

Contact me through www.trout-fishers.net and come experience winter fishing in the mountains.

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Watauga 4/28/2008

Mother nature did not seem to want to cooperate with us today. I awoke to rain at 6:00am. Rain however does not always mean bad fishing, in fact it was just two years ago when Doug and I fished a miserable rainy day that resulted with my biggest brown ever. With that in the back of my head I was ready and at the loft to meet Doug at 6:30am. After running to get the boat and pick up doug we were in route for the Watauga, trying to catch some of the experience that we had had last week.

When we finally got to the river to drop the boat in it was still pouring rain. The river was a bit cloudy, but not bad and we hoped the mud would hold off for the float. I was feeling good when after just five minutes we were hooked up with are first two fish of the day.

With the skunk off I moved the boat down to a good riffle that Doug and I knew held fish. They weren’t taking what we had at first. I re-rigged to a soft hackle pheasant tail and a mayfly emerger pattern that had been burning a hole in my fly box for almost three years. I picked the pattern up on a visit to Jackson WY and hadn’t used it since. However after seeing a pattern that Steven was fishing last week, it perked my interest again.

First cast, I hooked up! Great, we’re onto them. Eric’s first drift, fish on! I was now getting excited thinking I had them. Unfortunately a few more fish and they turned off. What the heck happened? I guess we just managed to catch all of the dumb ones.

The next good run drops off of a steep gravel bar to the left. After droping down it had hammered the boat into a small back eddy. Eric began casting to a good seem and instantly a good fish hit. Okay I though, we’ve found them. Not quite. The fishing slowed a bit and I hopped out of the boat to fish a side channel. Three fly rods at once get a bit crowded. I picked up three fish, but nothing of any size.

Getting back to the boat, I reassessed the situation and once again re-rigged with longer leader and more shot. It payed off with a nice fish once again.

By this time the water had got quite a bit muddy, We picked up a few fish here and there, before switching to a streamer. I had a few follows, and turned it over to Doug, so I could eat some lunch. Doug immeadeately started getting follows, but few hookups. That is usually how streamer fishing goes. The fish has to really want it, and when they do look out.

Doug picked up some really nice fish on streamers and we managed to salvage the trip.

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Watauga 4/21 – 4/22/2008

Long time coming. I had been planning this trip for a year. Last year we caught the Caddis hatch perfectly and had the best couple of days fishing that I have ever had up to that point. I was hoping to try and duplicate that trip this year. It almost didn’t happen, but Steven Dark saved the day once again.

Seriously, Bubba Dark is proably one of the best fisherman I have ever been on the water with. He’s got a sixth sense about knowing where fish are and how to get his fly into thier mouth. Sometimes I think he can just put the fly infront of them and make them bite. He amazes me everytime I fish with him.

Anyways, Monday, Doug and I arrived in Elizabethton around 9am. We put in at Blevins road behind most of the guides. We planned on just chilling out and having a good time. I think beverages may have been cracked open just before noon. I started with a Caddis dry and midge dropper. We started picking fish up in the very first riffle. Dry/droppers continued to work until we got to the caddis riffles. once there we switched to cased caddis patterns until a good hatch of mayflies started.

We picked up some really nice fish throwing CDC Comparadun Sulphurs, even though I’m not sure it was sulphurs that were hatching. After the hatch tapered off, we caught fish all the way to persinger bridge. Day number one was over and it was off to dinner to celebrate Mr. Dark’s 21st Birthday at Outback with some brews.

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Watauga 2/11/08

Made to the Watauga two weeks in a row. I had a regular customer, Ken, who had just purchased a new Orvis Zero Gravity Helios, this rod has been getting crazy reviews. Ken had never fished the Watauga or out of a boat. He purchased the rod to take out west this summer. I didn’t think the rod should sit in the closet until his Montana trip, so I invited him to go fish the Watauga from Dong’s drift boat. Also along for the ride was Clay Aalders Owner/Guide of Smoky Mountain Gillies. Clay hasn’t been guiding much because of the weather, so we’ve had the opportunity to fish together quite a bit.

The day started out really cold and unfortunately stayed that way. We were busting ice off of the guides untill about 1pm. Luckily the wind wasn’t howling and the sun would poke through the clouds a little giving us a short burst of warmth. We started fishing around 9:30am and I worked the boat fairly quickly down to the the old River Ridge campground, so that we could get out and do a little wade fishing.

Once down to the River Ridge area, Clay and Ken quickly began picking up fish on caddis pupa patterns. Fish ranged from 10 to 14 inches. We all consistently hooked fish for about 2 hours before moving down stream a little to the Caddis riffles. When we got down to the Caddis riffles we noticed one boat parked on top of them. Not usually a bad sign, but this boat had passed us almost 2 hours prior, so I’m sure the hammered the fish. All the same we stopped to fish it anyways.

I didn’t expect the fising to be off the hook, but to my surprise we all started catching fish. Both Ken and myself caught our biggest fish and we had a double. To add to the excitement, Clay completed his slam. I guess the group before us hadn’t spooked the fish as bad as I and feared. Fishing the rest of the day was a little slow, but I think everyone had already had a banner day and the rest was icing on the cake.

The flies of the day were Rubber Legged Copper John, IKO Caddis Pupa, and Cased Caddis. Fish to boat were in the 60 range and 10 to 16 inches. Another good day on the water with better friends.

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Watauga 2/02/08

I got the opportunity to go back with Doug and Kris for another day on the water. We got started around 8:30 am and floated from the Elizabethton Launch. The day started at a bone chilling 24 degrees as we shuved off and started the float. There were a few trucks at the launch and 3 boats launched all around the time we started our drift. We knew it would be a good day, seeing as the high temperature was supposed to reach 55 degrees with clear skies.

The day started off the same as the last time we floated, maybe even a little slower. It started off slow but picked up rather nicely. We snagged decent fish at a moderate pace until making it down to the caddis riffle. Kris finished off his grand slam (a bow, a brown, and a brookie) just before coasting in. We anchored the boat and set off to wade in knee high and make waves in a different way.

Here’s some of that early action!

Here’s some of Kris’s handy work with the net!

Kris offering the fish a moment of peace. What dreams are made of!

Doug and Kris ventured downstream killing fish as fast as they could while I ventured upstream of the boat towards a slower moving but promising looking riffle. This seemed to pay off upon loosing half of my leader to a brute of a fish. I was a little disgusted, after losing my flies and having to wade into the hole to retrieve my indicator. After retrieving my indicator and re-rigging I made a long cast above the riffle and floated it through. I felt the tug and on pursued a good fight. I brought to hand a solid and extremely fat 15, or so, inch fish.


Now, after making the initial probe with a hook up, I knew it was time to get serious and make the cast I wanted to take. The seam of the riffle where I knew a big fish would lie. The cast was made, a steady drift followed, then a very abrubt stop with a dissapearance of my indicator followed. Hooooook settt, I believe I murmurmed to myself. This 18” fish, set of with an arial display, followed by several rolls, and consistant dives to the bottom and back into the current. I yelled down to Kris “This is a good one!” Kris started towards me, as I brought the fish to net. In the process of landing and hook removal my camera decided to make a sacraficial leap of faith. Damn! Luckily the camera strap somehow managed to land on my pinky finger but didn’t manage to prevent the camera from taking a bath. Damn again! Kris came to my aid, and was also kind enough to snap a picture or two. Though I will say the picture is a less then desirable picture of myself. But that’s not why where here and I’m not posing for PlayGirl anywho! No, I wasn’t sneezing, I believe I was saying “Huh?”

Either way here’s the fish porn.


We settled back into our slots. All three of us had a section of water we were working when it happened. TRIPLE! I beleive Doug shouted when I hooked up on a fish. Doug and Kris were both in mid fight when I hooked into another fish making Doug shout “Triple!” That’s a good feeling and I would imagine that it doesn’t happen all that often on the Watauga in 30 degree weather. I managed around 8 to 10 fish from my little honey hole, and I believe they both managed at “least” 10 fish a peice, from their little section of river. By this point and time I’ve witnessed a grand slam, a fish over 20, and now a triple. Not much else to do now but enjoy the rest of the float downstream!

I did get to enjoy the rest of that float and even got the opportunity to row Doug’s new Hyde Low Pro. I will say I had an idea of rowing and thought I knew how easy it would be. I started off just trying to move the paddles in sync, a feat in itself! I never moved the boat in circles and it’s definately something that takes a little muscle memory. It’s alot more sensitive than it looks like it would be and takes a little coordination. It was nice to get to sit down and give it a try. Now, I just have to work on getting one of my own. I managed to row in a straight line for about 100 yards before finally kicking the boat around to float forwards and anchor off. We stopped at a good riffle that was already tied up with another boat and it’s fisherman. Doug and I stayed in the boat, while Kris got out and worked down to the other guys. Doug’s ankle was hurting, and I was just completely satisfied with what we had already accomplished. Kris worked the riffle where the other two guys where and we floated down to pick him up. We worked another good section of water, picking up a few more fish before settling down on another good spot while in the boat.

Kris and Doug managed quite a few nice fish in a sweeping, slower, deeper run of a riffle. I managed myself out of the boat and downstream of the guys. Something I forgot to mention, is somewhere between the campground and my current location I had lost my only working fly. I got a few hits the rest of the day but nothing seemed to locate fish the rest of the day, at least for me.

Here is a pic, courtesy of Kris, of Doug’s fish.


We floated on down through the last sections of water picking up another fish or two. We passed two anglers hooking up on every cast. We anchored off about 50 yards past them to see if we could manage the action ourselves. I re-rigged while Kris hooked up on a few more good fish and I believe I even managed one or two more.

Here’s a picture of one of my last fish of the day.

We anchored up and floated down to the steam plant to pack in for the day. I believe we pulled the boat out around 6:00pm, and talked to a few guys about their day on the water. No one really complained and there was three smiles on three individuals faces for sure. Over all, it was an excellent winter day on the Watauga. One that won’t be soon forgotten. Everyday that I get to spend on the water, is building a lifetime worth of memories and something to pass on to my friends and family.

~Brett

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