( A South Holston/Tennessee tailwater wild brown that ate Patrick’s #20 olive midge pupa- cookie cutter 14-15 inch wild “true German Bachforelle strain ” browns my friend and guide, Patrick Fulkrod-South Holston River Company, put me on by the dozen all day yesterday!-by far one of the greatest wild brown tailwater fisheries in North America compared to the Bighorn and Delaware )
The Route 81/11 interstate corridor has a very special place dear to my soul. It is a giant limestone valley substrate ecosystem that is simply one of the most iconic fly fishing and historical highways that traverse the Cumberland Valley/Appalachian/Blue Ridge mountains you will ever find. Lee’s confederate army used it as their home base. Native American and French and English fur trappers took advantage of its rich bounty of game . Washington’s Continental American Revolutionary army used its strategic location for outposts and arsenal batteries. Today it is the “Amish Highway” I so often refer to in my quest and search for spring creeks and trout. Here these Swiss Amish immigrants found utopia for agriculture ,where the chalky lime rich soils and spring -fed grazing pastoral valleys nourish their cattle and sheep. The springs constant year-round 48-55 F temperatures are the foundation for their year round provision sustainability which is still their foundation today.
This Iconic 81/11 highway packs a powerful punch of amazing rivers and streams that are all under the limestone influence. Spring creeks and tailwaters start near the Catskills of my NY youth like the West Branch of the Delaware, which is a brown trout mecca that fishes like a giant spring creek . Traveling south, the legendary Cumberland Valley Limestoners are next on the list (i.e Letort/Big Spring etc.) as you travel south through PA. Beaver Creek in Maryland and Mossy Creek and its sister spring creeks in Virginia, along with the Smith River tail water near Roanoke- are all dear to my limestone foundation as a selective trout angler and inspired my Selectivity book passion..
( true German Bachforelle perfection- just like our Michigan Pere Marquette and Au Sable systems)
But yesterday I was over indulged at the end of that iconic Rte. 81/11 limestone highway on the stunning South Holston tailwater by a new friend, Patrick Fulkrod- owner of South Holston Fly Company.
Patrick is a true brown trout junkie/trout bum extraordinaire,and fierce wild trutta conservationist, who was introduced to me by good friend Beau Beasley. Patrick will be featured alongside other passionate Salmo connoisseurs from around the world in my soon to be released new journey into these amazing 30 million year old dinosaurs-“Salmo Nexus”
Patrick is a “diamond in the rough’ sort of guide .He was Orvis Guide of the Year in 2014. He has the southern hospitality, charm and warmth that will to capture your attention and make him one of the most likable dudes you will ever meet. He is a creative tyer, historical gun collector/bird hunter (we talked at length about my Dad and his Polish/British army World War II experiences, as Patrick is now collecting memorabilia from that period). But what impressed me the most was how much he loved his brown trout. When I told him I don’t care to chase rainbows, he wasn’t happy… until I assured him I would never fish to spawning wild browns on gravel like other outfitters there put their clients on- he immediately deeply breathed a sigh of relief and said’ thank God you don’t want to fish gravel”. I told him I would be happy with 8-10 inch “wild truttas”, and he couldn’t believe I really didnt care about really giant rainbows. Since he said the bigger browns were on the gravel spawn, I also told him the spawn ends quickly with the cold weather snap they had recently, with my knowledge of trutta- I was right, even to his amazement.
(Here is Patrick with his Salmo wild brown of his beloved Holston. (the bottom one is one of the dozens of 14 inch cookie-cutters we caught yesterday on midges and scuds- above was an epic fish he caught in the past!)
The wild browns of the Holston are of the “ground zero” legacy I talk about and am so infatuated by in my new book.By just looking at the red spotting, red adipose, turquoise blue Salmo parr marks and butterscotch bellies , along with the spotting segmentations, and you will know they are the true German Bachforelle/Black Forest strain from the late 1880’s, that came to America via New York at Caledonia, and Michigan’s Federal Fish Hatchery in Northville, which sent a batch of eggs down south to the VA/TN federal hatchery systems a short time latter.
Without going into much detail which my book does, The South Holston is a limestone infused giant spring creek with its trutta having a scud/midge bread and butter (PFP-predator foraging profile) mentality. We fished #20 scuds and midges all day below/sub-strata and on the surface to actively rising fish all day, despite ice in our guides. The river is choked with oxygen rich limestone vegetation:chara, elodea, watercress and duck wort, with a perfect combination of gavel/stone benthos that trutta adore and cling to like magnets.
The prolific population of wild browns on the Holston is near 9-10,000 fish per mile- a staggering number as with the Big Horn.With year round 50F water temps ( very deep bottom draw coupled with a constant infusion of limestone spring seeps through out the valley), and a prolific food source, the wild browns dominate the fishery as Salmo always do- literally 85% domination verses 15% stocked and a few wild rainbows which are gorgeous! The vegetation and bottom is covered with sulpher and blue winged-olive nymphs, besides the crustacia and midges.
If you are a brown trout connoisseur/addict like me, love fishing spring creek style minutiae ( and big meat streamers for leviathan truttasaurus donkeys when the water is “on” and generating power) …YOU MUST FISH THE SOUTH HOLSTON!
AND….you have to fish with this Fulkrod trutta addict dude- need I say anymore- THANK YOU PATRICK for and awesome day in your Salmo heaven! ( enjoy the bourbon and I’ll see you for Atlantics in Michigan brother!)
Enjoy the images- and Happy New Years!!!
(Notice the limestone outcroppings everywhere in Holston country- cheers!)