Here at the Shop we call the South Fork Holston River in Virginia “the South Fork” (S.F.) and when we fish the Holston tailwater river in Tennessee we call it “the Holston.” The headwaters of the S.F. are out of the Sugar Grove, Virginia, area and have some spring creek origins. The stream first flows along the foothills of the Mount Rogers NRA and then through farmlands of Smythe and Washing ton counties and eventually forms the head of TVA Lake South Holston southeast of Abingdon.
Because of its subterranean beginnings, it typically fishes better in summer and winter months than other mountain streams. The S.F. has a stocked trout section from St. Clairs Bottom, in Smythe County, up to the lower boundary of the Buller Hatchery property plus the impoundment behind Buller’s spill dam. Catch and Release/Special regulations applies to the Buller Hatchery from its lower property boundary upstream to the spill dam. Then stocked trout regulations apply to the spill dam impoundment. Then special regulations begin again above the impoundment’s slack water and continues all the way through the gorge and then along SR 670 and ends about a mile or so above the Appalacian trail crossing.
There are good access locations all along the South Fork from St. Clair’s bottom upstream to the Buller Hatchery. In 2014, a fisherman’s trail along the upper S.F., on Forest Service land, was constructed by DGIF, the U.S. Forest Service, grants from agencies like Appalachian Electric Power and with the help of members of the Mountain Empire chapter of Trout Unlimited; linking the fisherman’s parking lot at the Hatchery to the fisherman’s parking at the upstream end of the gorge.
Mentioned in one Virginia fly fishing guide book as “Virginia’s finest trout stream”, Whitetop Laurel is a Mt Rogers NRA stream you ought to include in your Highlands fishing trip plans. Its headwaters are in the Konnarock area and it flows down to Damascus. Best times to fish it are April through June with May and June as prime time. There are two wild trout/special regulated sections: the upper – from the first trestle above the upper gate in Taylors Valley to the high Trestle at Green Cove/Creek Junction . The lower regulated area is from just below the lower gate at Taylors Valley down to the confluence with Straight Branch. Above and below these regulated sections, plus Taylors Valley proper, are stocked trout sections. (Note: The Forest Service has constructed several handicap-fishing stations up at Creek Junction.)
The Virginia Creeper Trail runs along and trestles over the length of Whitetop Laurel from it’s Damascus, VA confluence with Tennessee Laurel (out of Laurel Bloomery, TN) all the way up to the high trestle crossing at Creek Junction. The Trail has a USFS multi-use designation. Biking, horseback riding and hiking use can be heavy at times, especially during the weekends, so keep that in mind when planning days to fish Whitetop and when walking the Trail to fish the next spot.
Big Wilson Creek, Mt. Rogers NRA (pictured)
Fox Creek, Mt. Rogers NRA
Grayson Highlands State Park
Beartree, Mt. Rogers NRA – Smallmouth, stocked trout, panfish
Laurel Bed, Russell County – Smallmouth bass and brook trout
Hungry Mother, Smythe County – Walleye, musky, panfish
This medium size stream has flows down from its headwater spring seeps in Shady Valley, TN through the Cherokee National forest and ends up in Damascus, VA. The stock trout section runs from the Backbone Rock campground down to the Virginia State line. The regulated section runs from just above the Backbone Rock upstream to it’s confluence with Birch Branch. The stream has a gentle slope, for the most part, with plenty of riffles, pools and pocket water.
There are pull off access sites along TN Hwy 133. Rhododendron and Laurel and forest canopy are heavy in places making this generally a tight stream to fish. In my opinion Beaverdam is one of this area’s better streamer waters in good flow periods. Note: Beaverdam runs 2 or so miles in Virginia to Damascus; an undesignated fishery with a very decent population of wild rainbows and browns.
This stocked trout stream has headwaters out of the Laurel Bloomery, TN area. Hwy 91(Damascus, VA to Mountain City TN) pretty much runs the length of the stream and has a number of pull-off accesses to Laurel. The Virginia portion of the Laurel, down to its confluence with Whitetop Laurel, is also a designated stocked trout section.
Laurel Fork is about 90 minutes away from the Shop. Take Dennis Cove Road off of US 321 out of Hampton, Tennessee. It is one of the first trout streams my daddy took me to when I was a kid. He called it Dennis Cove (the name of the recreational area) but its name is Laurel Fork. A short hike down stream from the recreation area is scenic Laurel Falls. From just above the Falls you can fish upstream some 7 miles until you reach the headwaters in Cherry Flats. Foot trails run along side of the stream most of the way. The regulated water begins ½ mile upstream from the Recreation Area. Fishing a portion of Laurel Fork in the morning and Beaverdam Creek in the afternoon evening would make for a great day in my opinion.