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Explore One of the Top Fly Fishing Destinations in the World!

If you live in Northeast Tennessee or Southwest Virginia, you already know that Bristol has long been a popular destination for anglers. And while fishing is common year-round here, warmer weather is particularly enticing for both locals and visitors who are looking to cast a line while enjoying some quality time on the water.

South Holston Lake is one of Tennessee’s top lakes and one of the premier waters in the Southeast for smallmouth bass fishing. The lake, which features 168 miles of shoreline that is only partially developed, is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest. This large public landmass makes the lake a haven for bank anglers.

A variety of fish, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, and other popular game fish like walleye, rainbow trout, black crappie, and catfish, inhabit South Holston. The forage base is comprised of a mixture of alewife, bluegill, gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and minnows.

Fly fishing is particularly popular on the river, which is a nationally recognized trout fishery (brook, brown, and rainbow). Trout fishing is exceptional in the tailwater below South Holston Dam, matching any fishery in the nation for gigantic trout.

In 1991, the Tennessee Valley Authority built a labyrinth weir below South Holston Dam to add oxygen to the river when the hydro plant located there isn’t generating electricity. This oxygen-rich water helps create a sustainable habitat for fish, vegetation, and aquatic insects. The 1.8-mile Osceola Island Loop Trail provides ample opportunities to view the weir dam and see fly fishermen in action. The weir dam was designated a world-class recreation area decades ago, and is known as one of the top fly-fishing destinations in the country.

While fishing is a big draw in spring and summer, it’s no different during fall and winter as the area’s generally mild temperatures make it a perfect spot to drop a line. Bristol was, in fact, recently named one of the Top 10 Winter Fishing Destinations by Other locations making the list were Kenai, Alaska; Morro Bay, California; South Padre Island, Texas; Lincoln City, Oregon; Orange Beach/Gulf Shores, Alabama; Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico; Miami, Florida; Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania; and Bozeman, Montana.

SOUTH HOLSTON FISHING TIPS: If you’re after largemouth bass this summer, the lake offers great night fishing using worms and lizards. Smallmouth bass head to deeper water during warm weather, which means you should head out at night with various worm rigs and pig-n-jig. Good white bass fishing can be located on the lower end of the reservoir using white spinners, grubs, and small flies, while Jacobs Creek is a great place to fish for crappie, using small flies tipped with minnows, small crankbaits, grubs, and spinners.