Sooooooo, the blog is back again, for at least the third time now. This time we’re serious though…for reals…I swear. Our pledge is to post at least three times a week…for at least three weeks.We started looking through all of our old issues and realized we had done some pretty good stuff that not everyone might have had a chance to bask in. So at least once a week we’re gonna post a contextual blast from the past. The rest of the week we will be putting up completely new content…most of the time. To get this party started we’re starting with a little diddy from the very first issue of SCOF. Enjoy, and keep checking back, as we strive to live up to our empty blogging promises…yet again.

– Dave



By David Grossman
Photos: Steve Seinberg
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 1: Fall 2011


You will find plenty of articles in fly fishing magazines telling you where the latest fall must fish hotspot is, and a long list of reasons why if you’re not fishing there you might as well be chucking bait in a retention pond behind the mall. What you won’t find is magazine pages filled with reasons you shouldn’t be fishing a writer’s favorite home waters… that is until now.  I live just over the mountain from two of Tennessee’s most talked about tailwaters ⎯ the South Holston and Watauga rivers. You’ve probably heard the rumors of giant wild fish, great dry fly fishing all year long and the warm welcoming nature of the locals…all lies my friends. I’m here to shed a little light on what might be the greatest lie perpetrated on the fly fishing community as a whole since the idea that Tilley hats were cool. So let’s break this down for the unenlightened.


The Fish:

There are none. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little here. From a very reliable anonymous source within the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, I have learned there are exactly seven fish between the S. Holston and Watauga rivers. These fish are stockers and were put in the river somewhere around the early nineties. It has been reported that they remain finless and stupid. So to summarize, you don’t even need your toes to count all the fish in these rivers and there are absolutely no wild fish to be had.

The Tactics:

For some reason, flies have historically been ineffective on these rivers. We recommend spin fishing using dough balls. Admittedly this isn’t the most sporting way to pursue trout, but you’re probably not going to catch anything anyway, so it’s cool. Many a fly angler has traveled long and far to this corner of East Tennessee with dreams of summer hatches of sulfurs and winter emergences of blue wing olives that have every fish in the river looking up. Well don’t fall into the trap these suckers did. There are no bugs, and there is no dry fly fishing. Dough balls people, dough balls.


Good luck. We have yet to find any public access on these rivers short of being airdropped into the river by helicopter. This method is preferable to illegally crossing through someone’s private property though, as Tennessee law clearly states that all trespassers may not only be shot, but also kicked repeatedly in the junk in the town square, which is way worse than being shot (depending on your junk, that is).

Local Culture:

The references to Deliverance have been a little over done when talking about Appalachia. I consider East Tennessee closer to The Postman meets Water World. If you like postapocalyptic landscapes populated by roving bands of flesh peddlers, then by all means visit the Tri Cities area. If not, I’d probably steer clear.


They all suck.

In conclusion, your time and money would be better spent visiting more famous rivers else- where since these “famous” rivers are full of trout that eat everything on every presentation, and their banks are lined with big breasted women who really dig fly fisherman. Our little old tailwaters in Tennessee are best left to us slack jawed yokels, who wouldn’t know a world class trout river even if it was in our own backyard.

Editor’s Note: The above should only be taken as advice by those fly fishermen that don’t plan on paying for a guide. For any paying clients out there, I would be more than happy to show you why I, as a full-time guide on the S. Holston and Watauga Rivers, consider them to be the two finest tailwaters on the East Coast.

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