Bristol on the Fly! – Fly Fishing in Bristol

|, Outdoors, Trips|Bristol on the Fly! – Fly Fishing in Bristol

Bristol on the Fly! – Fly Fishing in Bristol

We’re So Fly! – One of the Best Trout Tailwaters in the Southeast


The South Holston River is ranked one of the top tailwaters in east Tennessee, and is one of the best trout tailwaters in the southeast, and is one of Tennessee Valley Authority’s Dam controlled rivers. The Dam is a Hydroelectric plant, producing electricity for surrounding areas. The river itself comes out of the bottom of a deep mountain lake. This keeps the water at a constant temperatures 12 months a year. That means cold water, and good trout fishing year round.

The South Holston river is famous for its Sulphur Hatches. These hatches occur from April thru early November, daily. And because of our years of experience, we know where on the river they occur during different months. The summer is especially good for Sulfur hatches while TVA releases water from the dam. From June thru September, a Sulphur Hatch WILL occur .

The winter is Blue Wing Olive and Black Fly time on the South Holston. During the Middle of winter, big BWO hatches will occur. The Black Fly Hatch IS a given. It WILL happen. Some of the biggest brown trout, eat the smallest flies experienced. 20″ Wild Rainbow and Wild Brown trout are a common occurrence to the fly fisherman.  If streamers are your game, the South Holston River is home to BIG Brown trout. A 20 Lb. Brown trout was caught earlier in the year.  The river is home to 11,000 brown trout per mile. All Brown Trout are wild fish, and the South Holston is full of them. 

The South Holston River Company was founded and started by Patrick Fulkrod.  The mission of SHRC is to provide the finest guide service one the Southeastern waters we call home.  They are a company recognized not only as a fly fishing guide service, but as a lifetime experience provider for fun and friendships.

South Holston River Company

The South Holston Fly Shop is a great resource for finding a great spot to fly fish along the South Holston River, as well as other secret fishing holes known by local Bristolians.  

South Holston River Fly Shop®
608 Emmett Rd.
Bristol, TN 37620

GEAR UP!   There are several options for getting fishing and fly fishing gear in Bristol.  Mountain Sports in Bristol, VA is the region’s largest family-owned outdoor outfitter since 1981.  Mountain Sports offers only the highest quality, dependable, and functional equipment, outerwear and classic clothing, as well as carrying Orvis and Tilley, and other quality brands.  More info:   There are  also two new outdoor retail centers with Bass Pro Shops located in Bristol, TN at The Pinnacle (TN Exit 74), as well as a Cabela’s in Bristol, VA at The Falls (VA Exit 5) – both located just off Interstate 81.


Also be sure to check out South Holston Dam, a great spot for recreation and scenic views.  South Holston Dam is an earth-and-rockfill dam, has one generating unit that has a net dependable capacity of 44 megawatts. The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 252,800 acre-feet. In 1991, TVA built a weir below South Holston Dam to add oxygen to the river when the hydropower plant isn’t generating electricity. Oxygen-rich water helps create a sustained habitat for aquatic insects, vegetation and fish.


South Holston Reservoir is on the South Fork Holston River in northeast Tennessee. It extends 24 miles east of the dam into Virginia. The South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Locals say that when the serviceberry and dogwood bloom, the white bass run.  A footbridge from the parking lot below the dam leads to Osceola Island and its one-mile-loop wildlife trail. Early in the morning or late in the evening are the best times to sight waterfowl, deer and other wildlife.

There is a visitor center installation on site to tell you more about the history of TVA and South Holston, and about TVA’s current activities. 

 South Holston: Facts + Figures

  • Construction of South Holston Dam began in 1942 and was completed in 1950.
  • The earth-and-rockfill dam is 285 feet high and reaches 1,600 feet across the South Fork Holston River.
  • South Holston Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has one generating unit with a net dependable capacity of 44 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a dam can produce on an average day, minus the electricity used by the dam itself.
  • In a year with normal rainfall, the water level in South Holston Reservoir varies about 25 feet from summer to winter to provide seasonal flood storage.
  • The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 252,800 acre-feet.

From campgrounds to cabins, there are several lodging options along South Holston Lake and River, including South Holston River Lodge, located on the seventh mile of the 14.6 mile tailwater stretch.  The river hosts between 5,000 -6,000 trout per mile and is best known for year round fly-fishing opportunities and our spectacular Blue Wing Olive and summer Sulphur hatch.  SHRL specializes in all-inclusive fly-fishing packages, giving you the best experience possible for your next fly-fishing vacation. South Holston River Lodge is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Tennessee and offers some of the best fly-fishing that you will find anywhere in our country. South Holston River Lodge guides make this possible by combining blue ribbon tailwaters, knowledgeable guides, outstanding meals, luxury riverside accommodations and an SHRL team member that will meet your every need. Please visit for more information. 

South Holston River Lodge striper fishing

In addition to this great attraction, the North Fork of the Holston River is one of the top 10 small mouth bass fishing rivers in the United States. And if you want to save fishing for another day but still want to enjoy the water, Adventure Mendota is the perfect place to enjoy kayaking and tubing on the Holston.

You can also check out some of these travel tips for camping along South Holston Lake and River from USA Today:

Park It in a Park

Observation Knob is a Sullivan County park providing water and electrical hookups as well as primitive sites on Bristol’s east side. The South Holston Lake campground has 175 sites shared by tents and RVs as well as group camping areas. Enjoy hot showers and flush toilets as well as a marina and boat ramp on site. Head out into the forest on the park’s trails, learn about the area at the visitor center or put a hook in the water at the park’s fishing pier. While there is not a designated swimming area at the park, a scenic overlook lets you enjoy picturesque views of the forested lake.

Recreational Therapy

Two Tennessee Valley Authority recreation areas near Bristol let you set up camp and put your boat on the water. Jacob’s Creek Recreation area sits on an island-like peninsula on South Holston Lake’s eastern shore, less than 30 minutes from downtown Bristol across the U.S. 421 Bridge. You won’t find electric hookups at the facility, but you can enjoy amenities that include a swimming beach, hiking trail, boat ramp and marina. Camping conveniences include a dump station, showers and picnic tables.

Watch the Wildlife

Little Oak Mountain Recreation Area is 45 minutes from Bristol on South Holston Lake’s southeast shore. The area is ideal for those wishing to feel away from it all while still having the convenience of showers, a dump station, boat ramp and access to trails. There are no hookups at the recreation area, but you’ll find flush and vault toilets at the campground. The recreation area is a designated Watchable Wildlife Area and has interpretive trails for hiking. You’ll also find islands just offshore waiting to be explored by boat or paddle craft.


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