Late July 2022
As we enter into the latter half of the summer here in East Tennessee, seasonal patterns are right down
the fairway, and fishing has been as good as it gets. I’ll focus on the tailwaters – The Watauga River
below Wilbur Dam, and the South Holston River below South Holston Dam. Our tailwaters are fed by
their respective dams, and without a lot of precipitation and flow contribution from the tributaries,
fishing ‘low’ water (e.g. when the dams are not releasing), particularly in the high traffic areas, is
something I tend to avoid. Thankfully, for the last 6+ weeks, the Watauga has been consistently
releasing good flows starting in the early afternoon, and we have a healthy amount of precipitation in
the 7 day forecast both locally and in the feeder streams through TN and NC.
In the last week, which was comprised of 4 full day client floats and 2 days on my own, all on the
Watauga River in sections ranging from the Dam to the Lake, surface feeding activity has been
consistent enough to provide anglers of nearly all skill levels with shots at brown trout and rainbow
trout on dry flies. With some patience, those who have experience in dry fly fishing have landed – and
lost – a few trout, both rainbow and brown, approaching 20 inches, with a lot of very sporty 10-12" wild
rainbows mixed in.
Generation, Dam releases, High Water, whatever you’d like to call it, opens up the river for both the
angler and the predatory fish. We have been covering a lot of water, predmoninantly with a streamer
rod in hand(s), while stopping for rising fish. Working risers with dry flies can easily take up half the day
if that is the angler preference. Streamer fishing has produced some truly remarkable fish for a few folks
who came in knowing what to do – it’s not an easy approach, but it’s certainly my favorite, and I am not
alone there. For those with less fly fishing experience, or just because it’s also awesome and a change of
pace, we’ll throw some fairly sizeable jerkbaits, which always has the potential to elicit some
breathtaking eats from the ambush predator brown trout. Some trips go from early afternoon until
dusk, while others, client schedule permitting, go past 1a.m.. Starting at 9:30p.m. as of this report (July
27 th ), I’ll break down our gear and rig up mousing rods – streamer rods with floating, glow-tip fly line –
and by or before 10p.m., it will be completely dark in many of the runs and pools. While I have run, and
still offer, an evening kickoff with a mousing-centric float until 4a.m., the afternoon flows, bite windows,
and bug activity recently is not something to be missed. Conventional, streamer, mousing, and dry flies
are all in play, and on every cast, I wouldn’t be surprised if an eat resulted in a 10" fish or a 20"+ fish.
While we prefer the latter, they are the exception to the rule, though it’s been active enough to cover all
of my favorite types of trout fishing as very reasonable options to boat some good fish.
Oh, and it’s beetle season, so low water isn’t all bad since we can fish sections that aren’t fished by
Since you’re still here, I’ll add that the stripers from Boone lake are up in the rivers in the lower halves,
and feed during the flows and conditions that are prime for both streamer/jerkbait fishing and mousing.
I love my office, and while it takes effort, and more often than not, a lot of it, I have had the privilege of
watching others fall for it, too.