Watauga River Fishing Report
The Watauga Tailwater is having thick BWO hatches starting from 10:30 am and going until 2:30 everyday. We are using a smaller fly on the Watauga, it is a size 20 cupped wing parachute emerger dry fly. The bite can be very subtle as they gently sip it from the surface and then the next one will attack it like a shark on a feeding frenzy. We are also seeing good generation schedules allowing us to float and throw streamers on the upper river. Nothing like seeing that big shadow come up behind your streamer and then the white of their mouth as it opens and eats your fly.
The next door neighbor to the South Holston is the Watauga River. A few short miles separate these two waterways, and though they are close in proximity, the fishing experience is much different. The Watauga River flows through the cities of Elizabethton and Johnson City which gives the scenery around this river a much more urban feel than its counterpart. It is actually possible to park at a fast food joint, get a burger to go, and step out of the shop and nearly be in the water.
Due to the easy access to folks within the city limits, weekends can be somewhat crowded. It is nothing on a beautiful day to see a flotilla of drifters meandering down the stream. One reason for this is that after you leave the urban areas this river has some amazing views, the other reason is that it is full of quality fish. Browns and Bows are the prodominant species here, but don't be surprized if you pull out a brookie. These colorful fish have been stocked in the past and landing a holdover is not an unusual event.
The caddis hatches can be strong during mid summer and early fall. The Watauga is a healthy river that will give the angler a great fishing experience. If you have some caddis dries, a few sulphurs, a box of pheasant tail nymphs and caddis pupa, you should be set for a fun day on the water.
Access by foot on this river is limited so get a game plan together before you go. A 9' 5wt setup will be all you need for an amazing day on the river.
Worthy of note is the feeder system of the Watauga and the one creek that is almost always productive is the Doe river. Smallies can be caught here, but in the fall and spring, it can be an good place to get away from the crowds and hunt browns.
Archived Watauga River Fishing Reports:
The Watauga is getting lots of water pushed through Wilbur and Watauga Dam and this is not allowing us to fish in the Quality Zone on the lower river, but this is a good thing. We are floating the upper stretches of the river and having great days with Midges and deep nymphs using Copper Johns, San Juan Worms and Zebra Midges. Now that the TVA is giving us good consistent flows, it will be the tossing streamers from now through the second week of March.
The Watauga is not seeing much in the way of generation, they are installing a water intake for a new water treatment plant for Elizabethton. The river is fishing very well, we are seeing Cranflies, Midges and now the October Caddis are showing up. The fishing for the past week has been days filled with dry fly fishing all day. The river is transitioning into winter mode of hatches so we are also starting to see some Blue Wing Olives on those days of rain.
The Watauga Tailwater is fishing great for this time of year, we normally are in the “Dog Days” of our summer heat zone, but we are currently in a very comfortable temperature range keeping the waters cooler. The heavy rains we had in July replenished the water supply and has the fish feeling very comfortable.
We are seeing various hatches throughout the day, Cranflies, Sulphurs, BWO’s, and a Slate Grey Drake. The bite is better in the morning for numbers of fish, and the afternoon has been when the bigger fish are feeding under the overhanging trees and in the bigger back eddies.
There is also a good population of the stripers running up out of the lake all the way up to the Blevins Road TWRA ramp. They range in size from ten pounds all the way up to near thirty pounds. We had the best view of one of these thirty (30) pounder stripers trying to eat the twenty-inch rainbow the client was landing. It made for some heart stopping action as the rainbow made a screaming run away from the boat, especially when you have on a size 18 Zebra Midge on 6x tippet.
As we get closer to the fall seaon the TVA will be dropping the lake levels and this will bring out the big boys and our then it will be throwing articulated streamers for the big browns and bows.
Troutfishers Guide Service
The caddis hatch is mostly over this year, but there are still a few hatching in a few spots, and there are always millions of caddis nymphs on the rocks, especially in the middle & lower sections of the river. Caddis nymphs are effective year-round on the Watauga.
With all the rain we’ve been having lately, TVA has been running a lot of water, mostly in the afternoons. This is only good for the striper anglers on the bottom end of the river (see below). On very-rainy days, the Doe River & Stoney Creek have also been dumping quite a bit of mud into the river, making it tough or nearly-impossible on the lower end; if this happens, try fishing above these areas or else wait for a dry day or two.
We are approaching the time when the lighter-colored bugs (brown, tan, yellow, etc.) are appearing. On warmer-days there have already been a few yellow or cream-colored craneflies hatching, especially in the afternoons. If you’re fishing one of these hatches & know you have the right pattern, try giving your fly a twitch or two once in a while & you may have more success.
The usual attractor-nymphs (copper johns, hare’s ears, pheasant-tails, etc.) and small midge-patterns have been effective this month, particularly in the mornings. Midges hatch year-round in the Watauga, and small larvae, pupae, and adults can be effective; try patterns such as the WD-40, Jujubee midge, etc. in sizes 18-24; tan & grey & black have been effective fly-colors lately.
Fishing pretty well on bead heads and midges; a few sulphurs have been spotted but unfortunately not in the numbers needed to get the trouts’ attention.