By Galen Kipar ~ Asheville Fly Fishing Company
The South Holston River has gained a reputation for being among the best Wild Brown Trout fisheries in the Southeast United States. With an average of 8,500 trout per mile, 24 miles of fishable water sustaining 85% wild browns, we can attest to its greatness. Being a Tailwater, where water levels are controlled by a dam, it is a year round fishery offering world class fly fishing with various opportunities. Its limestone riverbed and consistent water temperature provide excellent conditions for trout to thrive. The water temperature varies no more than 10 degrees from winter to summer. The “Soho” is no doubt a “Brown Trout Factory.” Asheville Fly Fishing Company would love the opportunity to guide you to a great experience on the South Holston River!
With all the snowmelt, rain, and demand for electricity, the Dam generators typically run 24/7 in the winter. During these periods the fish acclimate to high water holding spots and the bigger Wild Brown Trout come out to play.
The record trout on the Soho is a 43” brown trout. In turn these fish have a reputation for being aggressive towards streamers on low pressure, cloudy days. They don’t always come out to play, but when they do, well, you know (there are moments that will forever be frozen/stand still in your mind).
Like many tailwaters mayflies are prolific on the Soho. BWO’s and Sulfurs hatch nearly year round. With that, misty cool mornings bring out the BWO’s in both dry and bubble line dwelling types. May brings the first big sulfur hatches and this is perhaps what the river is best known for. Some days the sulfurs are so dense the hovering yellow fog makes it seem like your looking at the world from inside a mellow yellow bottle. At certain times, when the generation schedule and temperature align consistently, the hatch times are predictable. Being a tailwater it is as technical as they come. You can match the hatch and throw half a dozen versions of a fly until you get the one they want (insert trout sigh here). Sulfurs continue through the summer as the water levels drop and temperatures rise. Terrestrials will also produce fish in the warmest of months. Particularly, Beetles work well when thrown under overhanging tree limbs, especially during low water conditions.
Summertime on the Soho often means more irregular flows and sight fishing. It is very common during summer months for TVA to turn on the generators for an hour or two in the morning and afternoon with a break in between. During periods where this is the case the fish can get finicky. Since hatches are based on temperature, and generation affects water temperature greatly, hatches can change several times in a day. Sometimes it puts the fish down. Sometimes they fly out of the water. It’s always a challenge. It’s always incredibly satisfying. Figuring out the formula can seem a lot like problem solving, but remember, we are on a river not behind a desk. During these periods of water level fluctuation, it is possible to float and wade. However, special care should be taken in either situation if you go without a guide. Experience and knowledge of generation schedules and river structure are necessary for navigating either on foot or via drift boat. It is not possible to wade the Soho when generators are on and water is at high level.
Rolling green pastures with Hemlocks and Sycamore trees lining the banks make for a colorful show on the Soho come Autumn. The wild browns start their pre-spawn activities around the beginning of October, also adding color to the fading year behind. At this time fish start feeding more aggressively as they begin to set the stage. In addition, with the Autumn rains and cooler temperatures, TVA typically runs the generators more often than not. Coincidentally, right in time for the fish to stage for spawning. While dry flies, emergers and midges will get the job done, this combination makes for great streamer fishing for the larger fish.
Because the South Holston River’s levels fluctuate depending on generation, we recommend two days on this river to get the best conditions and maximize your experience. Asheville Fly Fishing Company provides all inclusive, guided fishing trips and lodging on the river with various options to accommodate you best.
South Holston Weather
Annual precipitation: 41”
Annual snowfall: 16”
January high: 45°F
January low: 26°F
July high: 85°F
July low: 64°F
We look forward to getting on the water with you!
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