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The Holston River

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The Holston River

The Holston River Fishing Report

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Holston7 9 15TVA is pushing a considerable amount of water through Cherokee Dam but the majority of the generation is in the afternoon giving the wading angler some good wading time in the morning hours. The cool high water on during generation seems to have also pushed the bug activity to the earlier hours of the day meaning that the fish are looking up relatively early in the morning. The main fly remains the caddis although the smaller (and greener) size 18 sulfurs are beginning to show up in good numbers. If you can't get a dry fly to work give a soft hackle a shot as many of the fish are keying on emergers.  

River Information

Near Jefferson City Tennessee, you will find Cherokee Lake. An absolutely beautiful body of water that lends itself to some of the best camping and fishing opportunities in the area. Several islands dot the surface of the TVA lake and each year it is the home of a multitude of fishing tournaments. Night fishing on Cherokee Lake is a popular summer activity as the warm nights and an active population of bass keep the action hot and heavy.

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Archived The Holston River Fishing Reports:

Holston May 19The caddis hatch on the Holston has continued now for the better part of all of May and is really showing no signs of letting up. While perhaps not as strong as it has been in past years, the caddis are bankable in that they show up every day and persist pretty much throughout the day. The Holston below Cherokee Dam is now getting additional secondary and tertiary hatches throughout the day with the predominant bugs being either a size 14 caddis or size 16 sulfurs. The latter are showing up in the later part of the day with a significant spinner fall occurring during the evening hours. If you ever needed an excuse to play hooky from work for an afternoon this is it!


Holston May 12The Holston River below Cherokee Dam is still edging out the other rivers in the East Tennessee area with respects to both bugs and fish. The caddis hatch is in full swing and while not as thick as it has been in recent memory it more than makes up for it in consistency. Bugs are showing up early and remaining in decent numbers throughout the day with numbers increasing again in the evening hours. In addition to the smaller green caddis (sz 18), some larger caddis (sz 14) and large sufurs (sz 14) are making appearances on certain stretches of water. That trend should continue and increase over the next couple of weeks. With rain in the forecast for the weekend, the end of the week may be a great time to play hooky from work!

Holston May 5Per my previous prognostication, last weekend proved to be a stellar with respects to dry fly fishing on the Holston. The caddis, size 18 & green, showed up early and stayed late to the party. I had a float trip with Mike and Natalie out of Knoxville and we had good luck pretty much all day long with a brief lull in the activity mid-day when the morning pulse from Cherokee Dam came through. I expect the caddis hatch to increase over the next two weeks of low water and warm temperatures and we should start seeing the arrival of Sulfurs in larger numbers. It's a great time to get out there and get on the water. If you're interested in a float trip, give us a call at the shop 865-200-5271. 


HolstonI managed to a few hours of fishing on the Holston River below Cherokee Dam on Saturday despite the dire weather forecast. I was rewarded for my bravery by a mixed bag of bugs and a lot of happy trout. The bugs came off throughout the day but trended towards the afternoon with the sun. While the largest population represented was the crane flies, there were significant numbers of caddis in the mix and the trout were happily rising to them. Further, whereas prior to this weekend the trout were content to stay in the slower waters, with the arrival of the bugs they made their way into the riffles and fast water where thankfully they are easier to catch. Watch for low water and lots of activity with the advent of the warm weather...


Holston April21I've been on the Holston River below Cherokee Dam more than any other river these past few weeks and the river is definitely trying to turn the corner with respects to fish, bugs, and flows. The problem, not surprisingly, has been the recent spate of worrisome weather we've been having. Significant rains have prompted significant generation by TVA and the result has been a delay to the bugs we are accustom to seeing by this time in April. That seemed to be the case on Saturday when I was with clients on the lower stretch of the trout zone. Early in the day, prior to the fog burning off, the fish were in their typical midging mode. With the sun up and the haze burned off, however, things slowed down. By mid-day the there was increased activity in the form of Craneflies on the water and a sporadic caddis or two. Beadhead pheasant tail nymphs, size 16 or 18, were pretty much the ticket throughout the day. The river is off today but predicted flows should increase as TVA fills up the water in the valley.

Holstonapril2I fished the Holston River below Cherokee Dam on Saturday with clients from Knoxville and Nashville. Friday night brought a large system of rain and wind through the valley but thankfully didn't drop too much rain in the area. Satruday morning was significantly colder than the weather we had been enjoying but the day warmed up nicely. I expect the front shut down most of the bug activity as we had been enjoying some significant midge hatches on the Holston during the warm weather last week. Despite the change, the fishing was steady on smaller pheasant tails and zebra midges and we managed to bring fish to the boat throughout the day. So far no sightings of larger buts on the Holston but with low flows and warmer weather on the horizon they won't be too far off.

FullSizeRenderHigh water persists on the Holston River below Cherokee Dam and likely will remain that way for the near foreseeable future. Despite the current trend, I did manage to get out on the river with clients last week during one of two days of low flows. With the water slightly off color and still cold there was very little bug activity and most fish were taken on bead head pheasant tails in the longer, slower water runs. There were some signs of top water action both early and late but not enough to entice a bite. With spring's arrival we can expect that TVA will likely back off on some of the flows in an attempt to fill up the Valley's reservoirs for the summer. Hopefully this will be sooner rather than later and we'll all be out on the water before we know it.

hybrid smallAfter what was one of the best years to date fishing wise, the Holston River below Cherokee Dam is officially out of cold water and has been for the  at least the last two weeks. There was much prognostication early in the year about whether or not low flows and minimal generation would ultimately be a blessing or a curse for the tailwater, with many speculating that TVA holding back flows would ultimately result in the Cherokee maintaining a sufficient coldwater supply to last the river through the hot months; rest assured, it has not. The temperatures in the river at present immediately below the dam are above the seventy degree mark and then some. While not a death sentance for the trout, it would certainly benefit the trout popluation if we all laid off the Holston for trout for the next month or so until Mother Nature catches up an gives us some cool weather. The upside? Plenty of warm water for the small mouth downstream for what looks to be an extended season. I floated an upper portion of the Holston on Sunday, above Indian Cave, and fished for small mouth. To my surprise, I also caught a significant number of white bass and hybrids. 

Please, if you've got to fish for trout, do it in the mountains or on the Clinch for just a bit longer.

oodyThe massive sulfur and caddis hatches on the trout section of the Holston River below Cherokee dam have begun to wane with bugs becoming more sporadic and showing up in fewer and fewer numbers. There is a decent sub-pulse hatch on the upper portion of the river with both sulfurs and caddis. The middle of the afternoon is slow with bugs appearing again in the late evening. 

The lower of the portion of the river is now fishing well for small mouth though the water is as low as I have ever seen it. There is a decent top water bite early with the streamer bite remaining strong throughout the day. With the water as low as it is, long casts and delicate flies are on order because while it's easy to spot the fish, the fish aren't having any problems spotting you. Crawdad patterns bounced through the riffles is sure to induce a strike...

holstonbow2The Holston below Cherokee Dam continues to please through the middle part of May with substantial hatches occuring throughout the day. The bulk of the bugs on the lower end are still the smaller caddis flies (size 16/18, green) but the middle section is beginning to get a smorgsbord of bugs including (but not limited to) size 18 sulfurs (greenish), size 14 sulfurs (yellow), and large size 10/12 caddis (yellow). With that many choices its hard to pick a go to fly my better catches have been coming on large parachute sulfurs. The upper river is starting to come into its own as the lower portions heat up. Best catches are on a large (size 14) bead head pheasant tail. TVA continues its work on the Cherokee Dam and as a result we can expect low flows on the river for the next little while. The reservoir itself is well below summer pool and at this point it is unclear if that is due to the fact that the drainage hasn't received sufficient rain (probably partially as we are 4" behind) or if TVA is holding back water from the upper reservoirs in order to work on the dam itself. Get out there and get after while the getting is good...