100 Best: Holston River, South Fork
Location: Northeast Tennessee
Type of stream: Tailwater
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Brown, Rainbow
Supporting Services: Abingdon, Bristol
Short take: The incredibly technical tail water
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Overmountain
From the aeration weirs down to Bluff City, the South Holston offers about 20 miles of stunning fly fishing. It can be technical as hell. On the other hand, fished from raft or drift boat during its signature sulphur hatch, it’s hard not to catch feisty wild rainbows and browns in the 10- to 15-inch range. On summer nights, hardy anglers throw mouse patterns or those resembling freshly hatch birds under bridges to entice browns in the 20 pound range.
Alas, while the river open to public angling, access is not as ample as it might be. Tennessee Valley Authority’s park at the weirs at Osceola Island the a great place to enter the river. Better yet, is the power line crossing just downstream. A second power line easement near the end of River Bend Road opens the river as well. A number of small roads branching off State Route 44 follows the river much of the way and countless pull-offs provide access.
The river downstream from the dam to the bridge carrying state highway 37 across at Bluff City carries a slot limit. No trout between 16 and 22 inches can be kept, although regulations permit harvesting of seven fish per day. Of those only one can exceed 22 inches in length. To promote spawning, two areas are closed to fishing from November 1 through January 31.