The Watauga tailwater starts at Wilbur Lake (just below Watauga Lake), in Carter County, TN and runs 17 or so miles through Siam, Hunter, Elizabethton, the Watauga community and then to Boone Lake. There are more shoals and riffles on the Watauga compared to the Holston. It is a good year-round fishery and there is good reproduction of rainbow and brown trout. TWRA also stocks this tailwater with fingerling size trout.
In early 2000 the North American Rayon Plant burned and a total fish kill occurred on the lower ½ of the Watauga, including the designated Trophy section. The insect populations came through okay and that area has been restocked with fingerling trout. During the summer months, TVA maintains an afternoon/evening recreational flow of high water.
The Holston is located southeast of Bristol TN/VA. Most first-timers begin fishing the upper section from below the new labyrinth weir dams down river to the where the power lines cross. There is a 16 to 22 inch protected length for trout in the tailwater. The water in the river comes from underneath the dam at Tennessee Valley Authority’s South Holston Lake and this means the tailwater is at a constant cold temperature state, perfect habitat for trout! But be mindful that TVA releases water at the dam and water levels will rise rapidly.
The Holston is known for its “technical” slick water sections where conflicting currents of gin clear water and wary trout give anglers the opportunity to put their best stealth tactics to use. However, there are a few exposed ledges and shoals for those who like riffle water. Because of its tailwater origins, the Holston is fished on a year-around basis. TWRA stocks the Holston with fingerling rainbows and browns, however, it is known for its wild population of trout with very good reproduction of brown trout. There are two protected trout spawning grounds which are closed to all fishing from November 1 through January 31:(1) Hickory Tree Bridge upstream to Bottom Creek (above River’s Way) and (2) From the head of the island on Webb Road Bridge downstream to first island below Weaver Pike Bridge.