Watauga River Stream Report for
The madness of March's NCAA basketball tournament didn't end according to the script favored by Richard and Judy Buhrman, as you can deduce from their Duke-branded hats. The pain they suffered from their team's defeat was relieved by a generous dose of fly fishing on the Watauga River, sweetened by the presence of that stream's healing caddis hatch.
If you can dodge the T-storms, April is the month of choice for the Watauga, due to that caddis hatch, which is in full swing right now. Let's go fishing!
Sick and tired of waiting for Spring to appear? Do like Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock and Travis Brotherton did on Sunday, March 31: they hit the Watauga River in East Tennessee for some almost-Springtime fishing. It may not feel like Spring, but the trout are hungry, there are plenty of BWO's on the water to tide us over until the Caddis appear (which should be soon!), and the trout will eat your flies, like that big brown trout did.
Let's go fishing!
The March Madness is behind us and the Caddis are expected any moment now on the Watauga River. Meanwhile, the fishing is consistently top-notch. Recent floats found the fish still eating on good Baetis hatches, and hungry fish mean happy clients, so click any of the following thumbs for full-size views of Springtime on the Watauga...
Another report from the Madness of March, with some excursions down the Watauga River from March 23 through March 30 featuring a number of clients. Everybody took advantage of the abundant BWO's, and the trouts' eagerness to eat them. There are a smaller number of Sulphurs catching the eyes of the trout, but the sure thing now is Baetis on the Watauga River
Click the thumbs to open the bigger images of March Madness on the tailwaters...
The March Madness continues on the Watauga River in the form of a consistent hatch of BWO's among the ever-present midges, with eagerly feeding trout adding action to the sporting event. Altamont Anglers' clients fishing over the week from March 9 through March 16 took advantage of the Baetis, Midges and eager feeders to boat good numbers of fish, including some big'uns, as that picture of Knox Vinson proves.
The question we hear most at Altamont Anglers is "when's a good time to fish the Watauga or South Holston?", and our answer is a firm "whenever you can go!". This sounds like a flippant bit of smug humor, but it's the honest truth: the quality of the fishing is fantastic all year round.
Brad Seitzinger rolled the dice for early March, fishing the South Holston and Watauga Rivers on March 2 and 3, and his gamble paid off with a fine Baetis hatch on both rivers, with the bugs plentiful and the fish eating them. Unusually, this hatch occurred on sunny days (albeit chilly), just adding to the pleasure of the moment.
Randall Tuttle organized a flotilla of friends to fish our favorite East Tennessee tailwaters over the weekend of November 11 and was rewarded with the confluence of pre-spawn brown trout and hatching Baetis. There isn't much in the fly fishing game that offers more fun than big brown trout feeding on tiny mayflies, and Randall and friends found both on the Watauga and South Holston Rivers.
You've gotta be quick on the hook-set when they're feeding on these tiny baetis nymphs, and if you do manage a good hook-up you're in for the challenge of heavy fish pulling on tiny hooks. The pictures demonstrate the Tuttle Flotilla was up to the challenge! Click the images for full-size views...
Tom Taylor came for the trout, but stayed for stripers while fishing the Watauga River on July 26 & 27, guided by Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock. Tom's experience matched the fishing enjoyed by Dennis Anderson a few days earlier: catch a bunch of Watauga River trout throughout the day, but finish big with the stripers before taking out the boat at the end of the day.
Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock, working with the South Holston River Lodge took his clients in search of something special for a trout stream: Big Striped Bass!
At the end of a productive day of fly fishing for trout there's no better "icing on the cake" than an opportunity to cast to big, hungry stripers, and that's just what Geoff and Mark did. Geoff, in the white poncho, scored first and Mark, in the yellow poncho, did him one better, catching two whopping bass.
If "variety is the spice of life", than the Watauga River is one spicy stream! Altamont Anglers Guide Teo Whitlock delivered to his client, Caird, a Watauga Grand Slam on June 8, 2017: Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Striped Bass all caught on flies. If June 7 was a numbers game, then June 8 was all about diversity, with Caird demonstrating the skill necessary to fool, fight and land the three species of fish most sought after on the Watauga River.
The Watauga River Caddis hatch comes and goes in April every year, but the action continues throughout the year, as this particular day in June demonstrates. Fishing a variety of nymphs to match the Sulphurs, Midges and various still-present caddis varieties, Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock put Jim and Bob into never-ending duels with fine browns and 'bows.
Dennis Anderson and his friend Angie fished the Caddis hatch on the Watauga River on April 14 & 15, 2017, guided by AA guide Teo Whitlock. The story is told in full in the pictures that follow: this is dry fly fishing for the lucky few who catch the Caddis hatch on the Watauga River each April.
Dennis and Angie fish with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock at minimum a dozen times every year, and the "angling chops" they've acquired through all that experience are evident in the impressive catch illustrated in these photos! Click any thumbnail that follows to open the slideshow from this week's fishing:
Richard Weiss planned a year in advance for this day on the Watauga River, just to "fish a hatch". The Watauga River is famous for its April Caddis hatch, so Richard was making a good bet booking for April 12/13, 2017. Sadly, although the Caddis were hatching, Richard arrived at the beginning of the event--not "Peak Caddis", when the air would have been thick with bugs. Though the Caddis were a little thin, the fishing was still great, as the pictures below prove.
Richard's fishing partner for the occasion, Eric Lapnach, was on his first fly fishing trip so the pictures prove he was a quick learner, albeit overshadowed by Richard's being one of Altamont Anglers' most decent anglers, according to AA guide Joe Spencer
Phil Husted wrangled up his posse (George Kessler, A.J. Hiltenbrand and Chuck Pittman) and mounted an assault on the Watauga River, targeting the infamous April Caddis hatch, and floating on April 10 and 11 with AA guides Teo Whitlock and Forrest Marshall.
The Caddis hatch was in early days (not Peak Caddis yet), but the fishing was terrific and we're posting photographic proof below.
Houston Payne and his son Sam spent a couple of cold days on the Watauga River on March 11 & 12, another proof that the best time to go fishing is when you can. They were rewarded for braving the weather with a river full of hungry trout feeding happily on midges, baetis nymphs (fished at depth below Girdle Bugs and other attractor patterns).
The lesson to take from this is that the constant 43-to-50 degree water temps on tailwaters like the Watauga River provide "weather-proof" fishing. Nasty weather actually improves the fishing, by reducing the competition from other anglers!
Andrew Bailey got a nice Christmas present last year: a gift certificate for some fishing with Altamont Anglers!
Andrew redeemed his gift certificate on March 11, fishing the Watauga River with AA guide Teo Whitlock on a particularly cold, windy day. The following photos indicate that the nasty weather didn't diminish the quality of the fishing, with fish looking hungrily for midges, scuds and baetis nymphs.
Click any thumbnail to open the slideshow for the fishing on March 11, 2017:
John Descary appreciates the opportunities for un-crowded waters that fishing the winter months offers, and got out early this month (ahead of the crowds) with his wife, Nadine, guided by Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock--working out of theSouth Holston River Lodge.
As you can see from the pics that follow, having the water to yourself can be very rewarding! Scuds, midges, Baetis nymphs are the ticket to March Madness on the Watauga River.
February fishing used to be dependably cold, but 2017 is proving predictably unpredictable, with temperatures seesawing between Spring-like 70's and seasonal 20's. What you can depend on in February is fishing on uncrowded waters with hungry fish, and Bryan Barnett and his son Wyatt found both on February 18, 2017.
Also dependable during the month of February on Watauga River are an abundance of midges, scuds, and Baetis nymphs (BWO's just waiting for the weather to get nasty so they can emerge and provide us with good dry-fly action).
Kick the cabin-fever and get out on the water in February--you can count on it!
Rains fell on East Tennessee on Tuesday & Wednesday, December 27 & 28, so the milky water that resulted on the South Holston and Watauga Rivers put a damper on trout rises to the excellent Blue Wing Olive hatch that occurs on both rivers when the weather gets nasty: plenty of bugs, but only a few risers.
John Descary, fishing with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock out of the South Holston River Lodge, overcame the weather and water with a fine three-day finish to 2016, giving some hope for the coming New Year.
So, don't let the nasty winter weather keep you cooped up in the cabin--celebrate the season on the water, and Happy New Year!!
When the weather gets tough, the tough get fishing! And when you're fishing a great tailwater like the Watauga River, the weather "down below"--in the water where the trout live--is the same in December as it is in July: constant water temps between 43 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit means the trout fishing is great all year long.
A big plus for our Winter season is the great Baetis hatches when the weather gets really nasty: give us a cold, gray day with rain or snow and let the Baetis blizzard begin--who wouldn't like some fine dry-fly fishing on a particularly miserable day? So, when cabin fever sets in, plan to layer up and head for some fine tailwater fishing on the Watauga River.
Tim Belk did just that, organizing a 3-boat flotilla for a foray down the Watauga River on December 4, 2016. Click the thumbs below for a slide-show of some fine December fishing on our two favorite tailwaters, the Watauga and South Holston Rivers:
October brings the color to the mountain forests, the first chill to the air, and the spawning urge to the brown trout--which means that October brings the knowledgeable anglers to the river. So, it's been a busy time for Altamont Anglers guides and their clients, with lots of successful hours logged on-stream. The pictures that follow tell a story of hungry trout and happy anglers: click-a-pic for the specifics and enjoy the show!
Joe floated Britt and Knox down the Watauga River, which is transitioning to the October event everyone looks forward to: cool weather and aggressive Brown Trout on the make in a pre-spawn feeding spree. Now's the time to gear up for the annual brown trout rodeo, so let's go fishing!
The month of June brings us the Summer Solstice, first official day of summer, and a plethora of aquatic June-Bugs: Caddis, Yellow Sallies, Craneflies, PMD's, Sulphurs and the eternal Midges. Combine the abundance of trout food with the warming days and you've got ideal conditions for a perfect day on stream.
The Watauga River shines in June, and a bevy of lucky clients have taken advantage of the seasonally ideal fishing to team up with Altamont Anglers to bring us the following picture show. Click any image to vicariously enjoy the June delights:
Bob Fincher drives up from Hickory, NC a couple of times a year to fish with Altamont Anglers, and his trip on May 27 was described by Bob in this email: Drake - we had another awesome time! I brought another first timer this year, my cousin Smith Sharpe. He's the pastor of Discovery Church in Hickory...even made a funny comment that, "while I am called to be a fisher of men...today I get to be a fisher of fish!" He was blown away by the whole experience. Once again Teo did an awesome job! His instruction was invaluable as always and him knowing where the fish are and how to get to them still amazes me. Can't wait for our next trip out with him.
Here's a shot of Bob and Teo in front of the water fall on the Watauga River (clicketty bigger):
Altamont Anglers guide Jay Dodd floated Bud down the Watauga River on May 10, 2016 and put the hurtin' on browns, rainbows and stripers--a winning combo of species to target on any fishing trip. Clicking the thumbs below tells the tale:
The Watauga River Caddis hatch may be in our rear-view mirror, but the fishing is still fantastic including the arrival of some of the big Striped Bass coming up from the lake. While the main event is still trout chasing emergers--as you'll see from the pictures that follow--the opportunity to toss streamers to the occasional Striper shouldn't be forgotten.
Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock and Travis Brotherton teamed up on May 4 and May 5 for a couple of days of chasing dreams (trout, that is) on the Watauga River, and after those trout dreams came true, they conjured up that big Striper! Click the following thumbnails for a slideshow of early May action:
Tim Shipman booked a five-boat flotilla for April 15, 2016 for the annual Ferguson Plumbing regional sales meeting/trout-fest, arriving en masse just in time for the Caddis hatch on the Watauga River. The bugs (#14 black Caddis and #16 tan Caddis) had the fish looking up, and most of the photos here--from Saturday, April 15--feature trout caught on dries.
The hatch is in full swing now, so gather up your Caddis patterns, fly floatant and big boat net and let's go fishing!
Tom Theus spent a day on the Watauga River on Thursday, April 14, drifting along with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock in a blizzard of Caddis flies. Because, hey: IT'S ON--peak Caddis on the Watauga River is happening right now, so crab a bag of Elk Hair Caddis and make it on over to Elizabethton, TN, post haste.
Clay Gibson led the charge from Atlanta, teaming up with Robert Wynne, his son Robbie and their friend Mark West, all under the capable guidance of Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock and Forrest Marshall, on April 4th and 5th. As you can see, Robbie and Mark put the hurtin' on the browns, with Robbie's 27 incher and Mark's 23 incher.
Click on the thumbs for a slide-show of April awesomeness:
Don Ratigan rounded up his crew for two days of fly fishing the Watauga River over the weekend of April 1 & 2, 2016. Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock and Forrest Marshall manned the oars, and the pictures that follow reveal that the river was generous to Don and friends.
Beginnings of the Caddis hatch that makes the river a joy in April are showing, along with Hendricksons, plenty of Baetis and the ubiquitous Midges. Trout are hungry, and clicking the thumbs that follow prove it's no April Fool's Day joke to get out early on the Watauga:
"My 12 year old son and I had an absolute fantastic day on the river with Teo. We embarked on a "fishing trilogy" for his spring break with some inland coastal saltwater fishing...some upstate SC lake fishing and some mountain fly fishing. I don't think you can really top the day we had. We're novice fisherman and beginner fly fisherman and Teo went out of his way to give us patient instruction throughout the day. We landed LOTS of fish...and some trophy browns. Several other boats drifting along with us seemed awful quiet while we had near non-stop action all day. We'll be fishing with Teo again...and if you've got an up-and coming angler Teo's the guide for you."
Dave did pretty well with the browns, as you'll see by clicking the thumbs that follow for a slide show of some fine fishing on the Watauga River on March 30, 2016:
Brad Johnson gathered his new extended family of Turners around him for a weekend of fly fishing on March 11 & 12, and Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock and Travis Brotherton treated the group to some Spring fishing on the Watauga River.
Decent mid-day hatches of Baetis continue to interest the trout, with the predictable morning nymphing still strong. Trout are hungry and conditions are right--let's go fishin'!
The trouts are hungry on the Watauga River now, hungry enough that an unexpected early water release didn't slow them down on Wednesday, March 9. Mike Ellsworth holds the proof in the photo here, with the high water evident in the background.
This bodes well for the month of March, as we approach Hendrickson and Caddis season. Meantime, keep a good supply of Midges in your vest and keep your ears tuned to the sound of rising water!
NC State Football head-coach Dave Doeren and assistant-coach Dwayne Ledford took advantage of the Madness of March basketball season to slip away for a float down the Watauga River on March 8, 2016, guided by Altamont Anglers' Teo Whitlock. The Watauga's in fine form right now, with reliable mid-day Baetis hatches and superior nymph fishing throughout the day for fish that are eager eaters.
Hard to tell from the photos who's coaching who: are the coaches taking coaching from their guide, or are the trout taking coaching from the coaches? It matters not--let's go fishing!
Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock led the charge both days, and gave us a brief report on the action: The Watauga offers up a nice BWO hatch around 3:00 pm, with fish feeding on the usual tiny nymphs and midges throughout the day, while the South Holston produces with small baetis nymphs, midges and scuds all day, with BWO's on pulse and high water, and still has sulphurs on high water.
Click the thumbs for full-size images...
If Dwight Specht books a date to fish the Watauga River, mark it down on your calendar! And break out the foul weather gear! That's because Dwight has a perfect record of fishing the Watauga River in horrible weather, and he and Neil Sawyer brought the rain when they fished on Friday, September 25, 2015.
But, while the weather sucked, the fishing did not. According to their Altamont Anglers guide, Joe Spencer, when we checked on how it went: "Went well. Decatur boyz made sweet trout love to the Watauga--it was exceptional."
The obvious lesson to take away is do not fear the weatherman! Let's go fishing...
The weather is cooling into Fall, but the fishing remains hot on the Watauga River in September, proved by the double in the net, caught by Karl and Rudy Stuppnig on 9/19/15. Still some Baetis in the afternoons, midges all day, but with no major hatches the fish are hungry, so try everything!
Click the thumbs for a slide show of the fishing over the past week of September:
Phil Husted and A.J. Hiltenbrand booked a couple of float trips for early September, fishing with Altamont Anglers guides Teo Whitlock on September 1st and Forrest Marshall on September 2nd. A.J. is an avid dry fly guy, so he was lucky to have some of those nice Baetis hatches that have been lighting up the afternoons and evenings on the Watauga River lately. Most of the fish pictured here were caught on small BWO patterns.
Click the following thumbs for full size views of some dry fly fishing...
Some nice opportunities for the dry fly purists among us now on the Watauga River, with pretty good afternoon/evening BWO hatches. Small Baetis patterns do the trick, and while you're waiting on the hatch, have fun with a Zebra Midge pattern.Bill Matyi took advantage of the opportunity, and most of the fish you'll see here were taken on dries late in the day. Click the thumbnails for full views of the fishing on Friday, August 21, 2015:
Bob Fincher booked a float trip for Friday, May 22 as a birthday present for his father, Earl Fincher, of Hickory, NC. Altamont Anglers' guide Teo Whitlock took the father/son duo down the Watauga River that day, and Bob reported back the following:Drake, it was awesome!! For my dad's 70th birthday as he said, "this was far and away the best fishing experience I've ever had!"
We appreciate Bob's feedback, but have to report to everybody that Bob and Earl would have had an even better experience had they fished the Watauga a couple of weeks earlier, during the epic caddis hatch! Sad to say, those bugs are gone now, and we're having to make do with the various Sulphurs, Beatis, Craneflies and Midges that the fish are onto now. But, hey, that's not such a bad assortment of bugs...
Click the following thumbs for more Watauga River action in May, 2015:
It's Springtime for Caddis on the tailwaters of East Tennessee, and the action has been predictably fast and furious since the TVA has resumed more or less normal water releases. Altamont Anglers lead guide Teo Whitlock sent a photo record of the action from the week of 4/26/15 through 5/3/15 and you can click the following thumbnails to see for yourself the proof of the quality fishing available right now:
On the evening of Saturday, April 18, Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock pulled his boat out of the Watauga River and headed home. Seven miles later, stopped at the light before the I26 on-ramp, his truck was swarmed by thousands of Caddis flies--an indication of the intensity of the hatch occuring on the Watauga River some 7 miles away. That day's fishing (documented by the photos here) seemed a harbinger of terrific fishing to come--before the buzz-kill known as the TVA entered the party with a Springtime deluge! Water releases have held steady at approximately 3000cfs since last Monday, April 20, a harsh fact of life that makes the fishing--even with a tremendous Caddis hatch--really tough.
But not impossible!! Click the first of the following thumbnails for a full view of George Kessler's nice brown caught on a dry fly on high water on the Watauga River on April 23. Even on high water, the fish will rise if the hatch is this intense...
Richard & Judy Burhman regularly fish from the South Holston River Lodge, and when they do they request the guidance Altamont Anglers' guide Teo Whitlock. Judy's big brown trout (not the only one of the day) is a good indication why they make that choice!
Baetis hatches every afternoon, midges, a few of the small tan caddis are the meal du jour for the Watauga River trout population, but the big even--Caddis!--is probably just days away: the caddis cases are closed, so the bugs are pupating from the larval stage and should emerge as winged adults any day now. When that happens its "lights, camera, action!!". Don't miss it, but in the meantime, click the thumbnails that follow for more full views of Judy Burhman's action on April 4, 2014:
The month of March saw a major fundraising effort for the River's Way Lodge in which donors occupied the lodge each weekend in March, combining charitable giving with fantastic fishing. Altamont Anglers guides proudly rowed these altruistic anglers, rewarding their giving with much catching of trout.
Doug Stone organized the final weekend of the fundraiser and was rewarded for his efforts with that fine, fat Watauga River rainbow in the picture to your left. The good Karma flowed to the other participants that weekend, and clicking the following thumbs will open full-size views of the fishing on the Watauga River over the last weekend in March (note how Allen the Trout Whisperer appears to be practicing the art of Matching the Hat):
Dennis Anderson is an avid bass fisherman who's been learning the trout fly fishing game recently, under the guidance of Altamont Anglers' guide Teo Whitlock. From the looks of that hog on the left, Dennis is an honor student, for sure!
The action on the Watauga River lately has been torrid, with significant numbers of fish over 14' feeding on caddis, midges and the occasional Hendricksons and Sulphurs.
For full-size views of the fishing on the Watauga River on March 23 just click the following thumbs:
The recurring theme of Fathers & Sons Fishing Together was revived over the weekend when Adrian McKemey booked some time for fishing with his son, Hector, with the guidance of Altamont Anglers' Joe Spencer. Joe headed for the Watauga River, which has been fishing particularly well of late.
We asked Joe for a report on the fishing conditions over on the Watauga:"Caddis are about to explode. The larva have begun to pupate, so another week or two and lookout, caddis swarms. Cookie cutter rainbows are in full force on the trophy section. These Englishman proved we still have much to learn about fly fishing here in the New World, as evidenced by their ability. The young arsenal Gunners fan, Hector, made it look easy his first time fly fishing. Go gooners!!"
So, we think this is proof that if you can tear yourselves away from EPL action and head for a trout stream, there really is life beyond Football (or soccer, as we New Worlders would say). Here's a shot of Hector and Joe with another fat 'bow (clicketty bigger):
Bill Matyi wrangled together a couple of boats and a few buddies for a day of fly fishing instruction for March 16, 2015. Altamont Anglers guides Forrest Marshall and Travis Honeycutt floated the group down the Watauga River, which has been fishing hot lately. Unexpectedly high water made for a challenging day for the students, but good guides overcome adverse conditions when required, as is proved by the picture of Mark Whitley with that big brown trout!
Click the thumbs that follow for the full views of some fine March fishing on the Watauga River:
A recurring theme with Altamont Anglers is the Father & Son Go Fishing Together theme, and it's a great pleasure to watch the bonding that can happen when Dads and Sons spend the day in a boat together.
We had back-to-back father/son combos over the weekend, first with David Pulliam and his son John (aka JP), who fished together during a fund-raising event for River's Way on March 6 & 7, and then with David Doeren and his son Jacob on Sunday, March 8.
The Watauga River is fishing really well this winter (as you can see), with lots of fish in the fifteen inch and upward bracket, fewer dinks, and eager eaters. Click the following thumbs for full-size views of some sons and the fathers:
Mark Hearn was a man on a double mission when he drove down to Johnson City, TN from his home in Indiana: mission #1 was cheering on his beloved Butler Bulldogs in a 3-game baseball series at ETSU, while mission #2 was fishing the local waters. Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock recommended targeting the trout on the Watauga River, and a 3-day series of baseball and trout fishing was launched on Friday, February 28.
From the looks of the pictures taken over three half-day floats, Mark might have done a little better than his Bulldogs (who ceded the series 1-2 to ETSU), and definitely hit a homer on Saturday with that big brown trout
Click the following thumbnail images for a slide show of some fine East Tennessee tailwater fishing...
George Kessler realized every fly fisher's dream-come-true on September 11 and 12, 2014: big trout on dry flies. The Watauga River has been fishing really well all year, but right now we're seeing the fish looking up for Caddis and Blue Winged Olves. This early fall treat won't last forever, and we recommend enjoying the top-water action while you can.
In the meantime, click the thumbs that follow for full-size views of some Watauga River beauties that rose to George Kesslers dries...
Labor Day has come and gone, the campgrounds are quiet, and the trout should be getting some rest with schools across the country back in session. But, there's no rest for the trouty on the Watauga River-not with Debbie Griffith and Denise Bruner on the river. Debbie and Denise fish with Altamont Anglers guide Teo Whitlock as often as their busy schedules permit, at least a couple of trips each year (like here and here).
We're looking forward to the cooler weather in October that signals the beginning of pre-spawn behavior by the big brown trout on the tailwaters of East Tennessee, when aggressive feeding and movement out of their hidey-holes makes them more vulnerable to savy anglers, but the quiet days of September are clearly not all that safe for the trout!
Click the following thumbs for full views of some nice back-to-school trout caught on September 4, 2014: