Fishing the South Holston Tailwater - Sulfurs - Part 2
The sulfur hatch on the South Holston Tailwater can be very prolific. The best way
to tell which of the two species of sulfurs is hatching is to catch one and observe
the size of the fly in terms of hook size. If you think it is a size 14 it is a invaria or
Eastern Pale Evening Dun.
If it is close to a size 16, you need to look at the eyes. If they are the big, tomato
looking eyes (red/orange) it is a male and it is an invaria.
If the eyes are small and dark, it is a female and it is a dorothea dorothea or true
sulfur. If it is anything smaller than a hook size 16 it is a true sulfur regardless of
If you have determined that it is a Eastern Pale Evening Dun, you should be fishing
the faster water. If it is a true Sulfur, then you should be fishing the areas of slow
water. This will also make a slight difference in the color of fly you are using. It they
are Eastern PEDs, it won't matter that much. It they are true sulfurs, it could make a
When I fish the faster moving water, I usually fish in an upstream direction. This will
allow you to get closer to the fish and make shorter cast than you would need to
make if you were fishing in a downstream direction. Even though you are fishing in
the fast water, you still want to concentrate on the seams or where the slower water
meets the faster water. This is where the duns would be more concentrated.
When I fish the slower moving water, I usually fish in a downstream direction. This
will let the fish see the fly before the see anything else. When you do fish
downstream, you want to make sure you don't spook the fish you are trying to
catch. By that I mean you don't want to let your leader or line pass over the places
the trout are likely feeding. Fish feeding on the true sulfurs are very spooky
because they are in relatively shallow water that is moving slow. They are more
exposed than they are when they are below the broken surface of fast moving
water. There can be many exceptions to the direction you fish. You may have to
fish up and directly across to get your fly to a spot you need to cast too that
otherwise you couldn't get too wading without spooking the trout. You can stumble
around wading and spook far more fish than you could casting in many situations.
We all love to fish the dun imitations or dry fly but on many occasions, especially
when the mayflies are the Eastern PEDs, an imitation of the emerger works much
better. If you are not getting action fishing the dry fly, change over to an emerger
pattern, irrespective of the species.
If it is early or before the hatch is going to occur, fish the nymph. Fish it in the same
type of places you would fish the dry fly. Imitations of the nymphs also work great
anytime the surfurs or PEDs are not hatching. There are probably more nymphs of
these mayflies in the water than any with maybe the exception of the blue-winged
I realize that at this particular time the surfur hatches will be ceasing until spring.
This is not the best time for me to be writing about them but I don't want to take up
time from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park next spring. It is the main
purpose of this site. If you are fishing the South Holston Tailwater now, and it is a
great time to do that, you should either be fishing blue-winged olive hatches,
provided they are occurring, or using streamers.
The browns will soon be spawning and are much more active now than they would
normally be. I suggest our "Perfect Fly" Beadhead Olive or Black Bugger Leach
flies or our Brown Sculpin or Marabou Sculpin flies for this time of the year.
Good luck if you fish the South Holston. It is the best tailwater in the state of
Tennessee and the only one with a good population of wild trout.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh