South Holston/Watauga Questions!

wgsharpe1128

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Hello,
I am headed to the South Holston/Watauga area to fish next weekend and was hoping for any tips or recommendations for fishing while I am there. I wish I could float with a guide but because of money the plan is to wade while I am there. From what I have read the sulphur hatch should be heating up right now.
  • Can anyone confirm if the sulphur hatch is going? Has the spinner fall happened yet?
  • Are there any other types of flies that I absolutely have to bring?
  • Are there any spots that I have to check out?
  • Can someone help me understand that TVA schedule?
  • Are there any other local streams I should check out?
  • Any local restaurants or bars that are good?
I also am thinking about trying to get to Whitetop Laurel while I am there but am not 100% sure that will happen. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance for the help!
 

VaFisherman

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For the past month or so the SOHO has been generating almost 24 hours per day, and when not generating they are sluicing 600 to 1000 cfs, therefore wading has been impossible. With the amount of rain we have had in the Southeast I don't see if getting better by next weekend. When looking at the TVA generation schedules posted you are seeing a report on the past 24 hour discharge and the estimate outflow for the next few days, plus they post after about 5PM the actual generation schedule for the next day. To wade the SOHO effectively and safely the water needs to be 400 cfs or less. Call the South Holston Fly Shop and they can give you good information and are happy to do it.

I have not been watching he Watauga so I don't know how they are generating. White Top Laurel should be fishable unless the area has heavy rain the day before. It being a "Blueline Stream" in its upper reaches means it goes down quickly after a rain.
 

wgsharpe1128

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Awesome, thank you so much for the help. Do you have any other streams you would recommend fishing in the area? We will be staying in Bluff City.
 

VaFisherman

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SOHO is only a 1 to 2 miles from Bluff City, according to where you fish it. Watauga only a few males farther. White Top Laurel in Virginia is maybe 25 or 30 miles up the road. After that the South Fork of the Holston in Virginia is just outside of Marion and has great fishing but it is even farther up the road. I like to fish it in the fly fishing only section at the Buller Fish Hatchery @ 1724 Buller Hatchery Road on the South Fork.

As for other stream in Tennessee I have only fished the two we have discussed so I am not much help there. If you do not mind traveling 1 1/2 to 2 hours or so, depending on traffic, to Gatlinburg Tn. right at the edge of the Smokey Mountain Park the Middle Fork of the Pigeon River has rainbows in its lower section and native brookies up higher. It is a "blue line" mountain stream with plunge pools, large boulders and thick laurel but full of fish. I assume the Smokies are open to visitors during the Covid19 problems but I have not confirmed this.

Lets hope the TVA gets its act together and gives us some wading water. I don't know if you have fished the SOHO before but it is as good as it gets and I have fished the Madison, Snake, Henry's Fork, San Juan and others and they are good but no better. Of course Sulphur are the big attraction on the SOHO but BWO's can come off at any time and Midge Pupa in Black, Cream, Red, Purple and Tan/Copper size 20 are always a good bet.

Wish I had more for you.
 

jayr

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Be aware that the waters within the City of Gatlinburg are NOT GSMNP waters. Different regs and licenses between the two.

The crowds are also back in Gatlinburg as is the horrible traffic. I would stay as far away as possible if you are wanting to fish, especially on the weekends.

Most of the Park has been opened but certainly not all. Having fished there the last several weeks, it is getting tight space wise. If they would open up ALL of the Park it would help.
 

flytie09

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It's blowout city on every area river, stream and creek in SW VA, WV, TN and NC. Heading for the mountains to chase blueliners is your best bet...but noone is gonna give those spots away.

The SOHO and Watuaga like VA explained is unfishable due to sluicing last 3 months unless you have a drift boat. With water release schedules being only released daily at 5 PM....you can't plan around it.....noone can predict if a river will be fishable or not. You can call the TVA water release hotline when you get there.


Research other local TN options on Orvis Stream Reports or Perfect Fly Shop.


It doesn't look good I'm afraid.
 

jayr

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OP, when you say next weekend, is that the weekend of June 6-7 or this weekend May 30-31? I'm pretty sure you mean June 6-7 but want to clarify.

This weekend would definitely be out as to wading the SoHo or Watauga IMHO. We are forecast to get more afternoon thunderstorms the rest of this week.

Now, the weekend of Jun 6-7 will all depend on what we get between now and then. Early next week is not looking too wet, but coming in Friday shows more rain. What the real problem is that we just can't take anymore as all the upper lakes are slap full already. Coming down here next weekend is a big gamble on trying to tailwater fish. Even the bluelines in the Smokies or western NC could be iffy. And fishing in the mountains with thunderstorms like we are having of late can be very dangerous as well. Even if where you are fishing doesn't get rain it can rain above you and then you see a wall of water coming at you or you can stuck on the wrong bank and can't get out. I have seen that happen here.

Coming all the way from MN to east TN is not a short trip unless you are coming for other reasons. You may want to delay your trip (if you can) until things dry up a bit down here.
 

wgsharpe1128

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OP, when you say next weekend, is that the weekend of June 6-7 or this weekend May 30-31? I'm pretty sure you mean June 6-7 but want to clarify.

This weekend would definitely be out as to wading the SoHo or Watauga IMHO. We are forecast to get more afternoon thunderstorms the rest of this week.

Now, the weekend of Jun 6-7 will all depend on what we get between now and then. Early next week is not looking too wet, but coming in Friday shows more rain. What the real problem is that we just can't take anymore as all the upper lakes are slap full already. Coming down here next weekend is a big gamble on trying to tailwater fish. Even the bluelines in the Smokies or western NC could be iffy. And fishing in the mountains with thunderstorms like we are having of late can be very dangerous as well. Even if where you are fishing doesn't get rain it can rain above you and then you see a wall of water coming at you or you can stuck on the wrong bank and can't get out. I have seen that happen here.

Coming all the way from MN to east TN is not a short trip unless you are coming for other reasons. You may want to delay your trip (if you can) until things dry up a bit down here.
Unfortunately, when I say next weekend I mean 5/29-5/31. This trip has been planned with a few of my best friends for a while and if worse comes to worse we will at least get to drink some beers together. Where would you try and find a place to stay if you were us?
 
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flytie09

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No offense here.....but we shouldn't be discussing lesser known rivers and areas here on this site. I am against spot burning on fishing sites...let alone ones as large as this one. I take umbrage to this....because this is where I live and fish. There have been 3x spots already called out here that I know can't handle it. Please stop. PMs only if you gotta have spots to go. The area simply can not sustain any more traffic than it has already. The streams are small, most of them are 100% hatchery supported because the fish can't make it through the hot summers and low water. Plus you're going to be coming during flood conditions.

Tailwaters....the secret is out there on these so have at it.

I've given some suggestions or where to do your own research. Good luck to you and I hope you find somewhere to fish.
 
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jayr

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I have no idea where to stay in that area. I live in Knoxville.

As far as other places to fish up that way, no idea there either. The only places in VA I have fished are the SNP and GW National Forest, both a very good way away from you.
Unfortunately, when I say next weekend I mean 5/29-5/31. This trip has been planned with a few of my best friends for a while and if worse comes to worse we will at least get to drink some beers together. I spoke with a guy yesterday that recommended a few places in VA like the fly fishing only section of Buller Fish Hatchery, Damascus, etc. Do you know much about those? Where would you try and find a place to stay if you were us?
Unfortunately, when I say next weekend I mean 5/29-5/31. This trip has been planned with a few of my best friends for a while and if worse comes to worse we will at least get to drink some beers together. I spoke with a guy yesterday that recommended a few places in VA like the fly fishing only section of Buller Fish Hatchery, Damascus, etc. Do you know much about those? Where would you try and find a place to stay if you were us?
 

easttn_

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South Holston has dropped their projected flows for this weekend so look at the Generation Release Schedule for 5/30 and 5/31 when they're posted to see if they're gonna have a window of low water. Even though it'll be crowded, I would stay close to the dam so you can hear the sirens when they release water. Keep in mind the sluice gates could still be releasing big water without any generators on so pay attention to that.

TVA Wilbur is the dam for Watauga River and they're going full blast all weekend so no chance of fishing there. I would look into fishing Roan Mountain State Park (Doe River) or Dennis Cove in Hampton (Laurel Fork, there's a stocked section and fly fishing only section further up if you're willing to hike in)

Also, would you be willing to share how you found out about South Holston/Watauga?
 

flytie09

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East.....I still read they will be sluicing when not running a generator at 600 CFS until further notice. Says so on the link you just sent. This is simply not safe to wade anywhere.

How do you know they're dropping flows this weekend? Predicted unit for next day usually comes out at 5 pm..... and shows 1 generator and 2450 CFS through 1 am tonight as of 1:25 PM....I never have been able to plan a trip there unless I check the night before. Do you have insider info from TVA or somewhere else not published anywhere?

This is why April and May is a crap shoot here. Runoff blows out the surrounding smaller mountain streams for a while and TVA dam releases can be very unpredictable. In July / Aug when lake is full and we don't get much rain...then yeah...it's likely you'll get some fishing in. The only plus....is little rain is expected for next 10 days.......but still unpredictable discharges from TVA given the amount of rain we've have had the last 2 weeks.

Bring plenty of beer and cards wg and maybe hire a guide for a day. Fishing during the sluice has been good for those with a boat. If you wade....just know what the discharge times are, that it takes a couple hours to stabilize all the way down the river and understand well that when you see it rising....get out. Don't ask how I know.
 
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easttn_

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See Average Outflow under the Predicted Data chart at the bottom of the page. However, with the last hour or two they've bumped it back up to 2,290 cfs. It was around 1,700 this morning meaning they were going to drop the water at some point throughout the day.
 

flytie09

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They dropped it down from 2 am - 8 am last night. But it was still sluicing 600CFS. That's why it was a lower avg outflow. I wouldn't bet on getting wadeable conditions anytime this weekend or next week. I might be proven wrong. It's raining here today on and off and I have a creek in my back yard.....that's normally bone dry.
 

jayr

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East.....I still read they will be sluicing when not running a generator at 600 CFS until further notice. Says so on the link you just sent. This is simply not safe to wade anywhere.

How do you know they're dropping flows this weekend? Predicted unit for next day usually comes out at 5 pm..... and shows 1 generator and 2450 CFS through 1 am tonight as of 1:25 PM....I I never have been able to plan a trip there unless I check the night before. Do you have insider info from TVA or somewhere else not published anywhere?
At the bottom of the app, each dam has a 3 day list of predicted average outflows. This is what he is referencing. Looking at those numbers can help one estimate if it will be a big generation day or not. It is however subject to change.

The schedule that comes out with the generation schedule is how many generators for how long and it actually comes out at 4. That info is at the top of the app under generation releases.

ETA: East did answer in the time it took me to post this reply as I had to answer the phone as I responded.
 

jayr

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They dropped it down from 2 am - 8 am last night. But it was still sluicing 600CFS. That's why it was a lower avg outflow. I wouldn't bet on getting wadeable conditions anytime this weekend or next week. I might be proven wrong. It's raining here today on and off and I have a creek in my back yard.....that's normally bone dry.

TVA a lot of the time leaves the sluicing and spilling info active on some of their dams even when they have ceased doing it.

For instance on Norris dam they are still referencing no reduced recreational flows for the 23-25 of May and here it is the 29th. I have been to dams where TVA said they were still spilling and all of the spill gates were closed for days.
 

WNCtroutstalker

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Reading this thread reinforces my decision not to have purchased a TN license for this year. Really love fishing the mentioned waters, especially the Watauga, but between the extended releases and uncertain/changing release schedules it's hard to plan and make enough trips to justify the relatively steep cost of an out of state license, especially if one has a NC license and thus can fish the TN side of the Park without an additional license. But those are two great rivers when fishable.
 

jayr

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Reading this thread reinforces my decision not to have purchased a TN license for this year. Really love fishing the mentioned waters, especially the Watauga, but between the extended releases and uncertain/changing release schedules it's hard to plan and make enough trips to justify the relatively steep cost of an out of state license, especially if one has a NC license and thus can fish the TN side of the Park without an additional license. But those are two great rivers when fishable.

You bring up a very good point, TN licenses both resident and non resident are expensive.

I can trout fish as a non resident in NC for a year cheaper than the same in TN even as a resident. TN does lump their fishing and hunting licenses as one whereas in NC I can get whichever one I need.

The other thing that gripes me with TN licenses is they expire the end of February and are not pro rated no matter when you buy them as opposed to NC being one year from date of purchase.
 

TwoThumbsUp

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Unfortunately, when I say next weekend I mean 5/29-5/31. This trip has been planned with a few of my best friends for a while and if worse comes to worse we will at least get to drink some beers together. Where would you try and find a place to stay if you were us?
I'm a little late to the discussion, but I'd find a place to stay right in Gatlinburg. It's a whole lot easier to just run up into the Smokys and be able to fish some smaller streams that should be fishable, than it is to have to fight your way down Parkway through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and through Gatlinburg. It also gives you the option of having some good food and access to drinks if the fishing sucks.
 

WNCtroutstalker

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The other thing that gripes me with TN licenses is they expire the end of February and are not pro rated no matter when you buy them as opposed to NC being one year from date of purchase.
That expiration date is another thing that has kept me from getting a license lately. I did buy a TN license a few years ago and had several nice outings in the Spring. But recently the heavy rains (and thus near constant releases) and other things have just kept me from getting over there in the Spring, and then when Fall rolls around I'm reluctant to spend $100+ for a soon expiring license. Kind of silly given that I have no problem spending that on a fly line (well, it does bug me, but I do it). Anyways, TN has some terrific waters.
 
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