We have a number of local lakes Brandt, Townsend, Higgins , Belews. All offer good fishing, some offer exceptional fishing. We also have Philpott to the north, Kerr Scott to the west, and Watauga, Boone, and South Holston in East TN, and Claytor in VA.
We are blessed to have four tailwaters ….the South Holston, Watauga, Jackson, and Smith. I personally prefer them in that order if you are talking collectively the quality of the fishing. Certain seasons I’d choose one over the other. The South Holston is known for high numbers of fish and trophy browns….easily the best wild brown trout fishery east of the Rockies when you consider numbers , size, year round dry fly fishing. Lots of sight fishing possible there as well, and the streamer fishing on high water can be out of this world when conditions are right. Its sulphur hatch is something to experience, and a sight to behold. The Watauga is home to large numbers of fish also, and has an incredible spring caddis hatch. Other times, usual tailwater fare like BWOs, scuds, midges, terrestrials, and streamers fit the bill. The Jackson is largely a wild trout river now, as VA no longer stocks it, but the fish from years of stocking have established a wild reproducing population. Lots of land access issues remain, but its such a great fishery its certainly worthy of mention and anyone looking to fish there we can certainly help them. The Smith is Va’s best brown trout stream. Biologists once claimed that as many as 75-80% of the wild brown trout in Virginia reside in the Smith River. It has good spring hatches, an excellent sulphur hatch that starts in April and lasts through June. After that, tiny bwos and caddis fit the bill. It is also a great terrestrial and small fly river, and generally offers some of the regions most ‘technical’ wild trout fishing. If you can catch them here consistently, you can catch them anywhere. Also, if the weather gives you the gift of several inches of dirty water in the river, grab the streamer box and have at it.
Generally our larger waters where we fish for trout species are managed as Delayed Harvest waters although a few have some wild fish in them as well. These rivers span from the Foothills to the High country and generally average 40 to 100ft wide or more and are stocked with large numbers of catchable sized fish in October, November, March, April, and May. Fish may be harvested the first Saturday in June, and at that time these waters revert to Hatchery Supported regs til end of September. Fish are then restocked in October and its catch and release til the following June. IF you are looking for numbers and size and relatively easy fishing, then this is it.
We are also blessed with several waters that offer smallmouth, musky, and other fish. This fishing is generally March through October.
I would generally classify our small streams into 5 types….
1)Brook trout waters…..smaller waters where you find the ‘true natives’ of the Appalachians, the Southern Appalachian strain brook trout. Not a trout at all but a char, these willing little denizens are usually 4 to 8 inches long, will occasional fish to 10 inches. A foot long wild brookie is the ‘Gold Standard’ where wild brookies are concerned. Usually found on the smallest streams in very high up and remote places. But there are few waters that are more accessible, and offer very easy access to some of these fish.
2)Wild streams – wild streams that run through high elevation areas, either rural or urban, and that support wild trout. Many of our mountain counties have these streams, and many are right in highly populated urban areas which is a testament to the water quality. Usually catching wild rainbows and browns up to 12″ or so with an occasional trophy in better sections of water. Some are classified Wild Trout /Artificials, Catch /Release Artificials Only, Catch/Release Fly Only, etc, and others.
3)Wild streams -backcountry or game lands….we also have a ton of wild waters that run off the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC state game lands, National Forests, and state parks. These undeveloped waters offer remote fishing for wild fish. The rainbow trout is the backbone of our wild trout fishery in NC. They will run in the 6 to 10 inch range with an occasional fish larger than that. Some waters have browns too, and if one catches a large fish on one of these waters, often they are large, wild brown trout. Some are classified Wild Trout /Artificials, Catch /Release Artificials Only, Catch/Release Fly Only, etc, and others.
4) Delayed Harvest – marginal waters that get too warm to support fish in summer , but maintain from Oct through June stream temperatures conducive to supporting trout. I would argue that on some……some can’t support them in May and some can support them all year….that is , some fish hold over and make it to the next season. Also , some of these waters get fish stocked on top of some remnant wild populations of fish. In any case, we have a lot of small waters that fall into DH category and they comprise the backbone of the DH program. High numbers of fish, high catch rates, average size 8-16″ with fish up to 24″ or more.
5) Hatchery Supported – what a lot of old timers call ‘Hook n Cook’, Hatchery supported waters are meant for the catching and harvesting of fish. They are stocked for that purpose. Generally if people are looking to harvest a fish I encourage them to go here. We have a lot of these waters. They are closed from Feb 28 to first Saturday in April. On the first Saturday in April they reopen to fishing (the traditional ‘Opening Day’ for trout fishing- – -although all other waters are open year round, so this term doesn’t really mean anything any more unless you are talking about Hook n Cook waters.