The weather in Raleigh has been unseasonably warm. It was a nice escape to go fish on a river for a few days even if the air temperature wasn't that much lower. This was going to be my first experience on the South Holston and I really had no expectations of how the fishing would be. My friend Brian and I were the first to arrive at the Castaways Redbrick House late at night. It was more than adequate accommodations and the river was with in 100yds of our back door.
I woke up early the next morning eager to fish and get on the river. Brian is pretty much an expert about ways to fish the Holston and he quickly gathered his gear and we were off to the stream. As we walked down through a pasture you could hear the river but it was hidden under a layer of fog. We walked through some brush and I had my first glimpse of the South Holston.I was a little nervous about fishing at first. I guess because I have heard so many stories about the Holston. They were a little intimidating. Most of the fish are stream raised and the fishing information I had been given was that the river takes pretty technical fishing. Drag free drifts and almost perfect presentation. After some guidance on where good spots were I tied on an emerger pattern and my go to trout fly a beadhead softhackle. I cast into the mist and watched my indicator with feverish intensity. Nothing happened after about 10 casts then the indicator jerked hard under the water. I lifted the rod felt pressure and saw the flash from my first hooked fish.The power of the fish was impressive. It peeled off a foot of line at different intervals. I could tell the fish was good size but it was fighting far harder than I thought it would. As I worked it to calmer water the fish shook it's head releasing the fly. I was worried I may have lost my one and only chance at catching a fish. I moved to a different location and fished some other spots. I tried to watch Brian to see if maybe there's something new I could learn.
He seemed to catch fish regularly. After about an hour we decided to try another spot. I was a little hesitant seeing that he had caught 6 fish in an hour which usually would be a good day for me. Little did I know by Holston estimates when the time is right, six fish can be caught in six minutes. We ended up at another part of the river hoping to beat the generation for a few hours before it got there. At first it seemed like there wasn't anything going on. We saw a few sulphurs here and there but nothing amazing. The fishing was slow and even though we caught a few fish the fishing seemed pretty difficult. As we worked down stream we started to see more sulphurs. Within 10min of seeing the first ten or so you could see them all over. The run we were literally standing next too went from a riffle to a bubbling fury of trout feeding. I have never seen anything like that in all my years of fishing. Brian frantically tied on his best sulphur pattern and I tied on what I thought would work. I desperately fished at rising fish but that led to another problem. I started to get a little over whelmed, I just started throwing my fly in areas where I saw rises. Fish ignored my fly like it was just a hunk of feathers on a hook. I didn't even get a refusal. Brian hooked up and that made me even more eager to catch something. After his third fish he had me come over and he gave me what he was using. It didn't look much different than the fly I was using but it had a different wing. That made all the difference in the world. I went from fish ignoring my fly to trout coming up and either refusing or nudging it. I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to catch some fish. I manicured the fly and made sure it was dry. Focused on a nice consistent rise among the other fifty, made a cast and had an enormous strike. The fish was 17 inches long and cart wheeled twice out of the water. It peeled yards of line several times. That experience alone would make me come back to the Holston. I finally landed the fish and it was the beginning of one of the best fishing days of my life. Cast after cast, I either had a fish on or fought one for a minute or two then it shook the fly off. The fight and power of the fish was amazing. A fish 12 inches an take line and no fish ever just gave up and came over to me. I had every fight you can imagine, fish sending me in circles, running up stream and downstream, jumping tons of times. The only thing stopping us was the rise of the water from the recent generation. I didn't get pictures of many of the fish, I was too busy fishing, but I did love the color of this Brown. The picture doesn't even get close to how pretty the red dots were.
Back at the Brickhouse we rested and set up the strategy for the spinner fall. I have only read about spinner falls in books. I have never fished one. This is the time when the spent mayflies fall dead on the water and the trout go crazy. We came to the river late in the evening but still light enough to see fish rising here and there. The fishing was phenomenal and the mist from the cool water with the hot air temperature created views right out of a dream.The mist was so great at times we couldn't see the other TFF members we were fishing with. Then a voice came from the dense fog. "I see a few spinners." I started to look every where but I couldn't see anything. Just like the hatch earlier I saw a few bugs then within minutes there were hundreds. The water again started to churn with fins and feeding trout. The water literally looked like it was boiling with the mist. Again the fish avoided my flies until I tried a spinner pattern that was recommended by the South Holston River Fly Shop. I caught fish after fish and kept going until I could no longer see where I was standing. The fish didn't seem to care about presentation. I was even able to catch fish letting my line belly or giving the line short strips. As darkness fell I'd cast into the mist watching my fly and line disappear. I'd slowly follow the line I could see with the tip of my rod, then the line would slash across the water and go tight into the fog. The fly rod would pulse and bend from the weight of the fish. The fish usually could only be heard but not seen until it was with in ten feet. It was a day to remember.
The next morning I woke up early and everyone was sleeping. I decided to try the section of river next to the house again. I was rewarded with a fish about the same size as the one I had lost the morning before. The days went on the same as the one before. The hatches were thicker every day. The spinner fall wasn't as good as the first night but the sulphur hatch was so thick at times that when I opened my chest pack to get a fly a couple bugs would fly out. There were times you couldn't tell what fly was yours and what was natural. I saw the craziest things like fish refusing real flies, catching fish with two flies in their mouth and seeing fish that would take a 10wt to catch. There were times I was so tired from fishing I had to just sit and rest even with tons of rising fish in front of me. The whole experience was unbeleivable.
It was a great trip and I had great experiences with all parts of the trip. The house was great. The South Holston fly shop was really good. The owner Rod Champion, really appreciates his customers. They honestly care about your experience on the Holston and not about how much you buy from their shop. The fishing was like nothing I had ever experience before. I really owe the most thanks to Brian. With out his knowledge of the river and generosity with certain flies and locations I definitely would not have caught the amount of fish I had. I look forward to when I can come back.