Fishing the South Holston Tailwater - Sulfurs
The most popular hatch that occurs on the South Holston Tailwater is referred to as
the "Sulfur" hatch. It is for a very good reason. Two different species of mayflies
called "Sulfurs" hatch on the South Holston over a very long period of time. One of
the two mayflies is usually called the "Eastern Pale Evening Dun" in many other
locations in the Eastern U. S. and also, in all but one book on fly fishing. The other
mayflies are almost always and referred to by common name in most books as
"Sulfurs". There is not a great deal of difference in the two but there is enough
worth being familiar with.
Both are members of the huge Ephemerellidae family and even the same genus -
Ephemerella. One, the "Eastern Pale Evening Dun", is the invaria species. Some of
your may remember the rotunda species. It has recently been proven to be the
same mayfly as the invaria.
The big differences in the "Eastern Pale Evening Dun" and the "Sulfur" is the size
and behavior. They Sulfurs are a hook size smaller than the Eastern Pale Evening
Duns. By the way, there is also a Pale Evening Dun found for most part in the
Western U.S. That is why the name Eastern is added.
There is a little difference in the color. A friend that guides there told me one time
that "our sulfurs are tan", referring to the South Holston. Well, he is correct if you
want to call a Eastern Pale Evening Dun a Sulfur.There is nothing really wrong with
that other than the normal confusion caused by using common names. The Eastern
PED is more of a tan color than what I would call "sulfur" colored. The Sulfurs have
more of a pale to bright yellow (depending on how long they have been out of the
water) body with pale, yellow gray wings.
These two hatches can last a long time. Generally, together the two hatches span
from April to the first of November. This doens't mean that on any given day they
will be hatching from one end of the river that holds trout to the other end. The
hatch will vary from place to place along the river depending on a number of
factors, one main one being the amount of water being discharged. You cannot
necessarily expect to go to one point along the river and expect the hatch. This is
another reason a drift boat is a good option for the South Holston.
The first of the two mayflies to hatch will be the Eastern Pale Evening Duns, the
larger of the two and the one that is more of a tan than true sulfur. They are closer
to a hook size 14 than a 16. It is also an easier hatch to fish. The reason is that
they hatch in faster water than the slightly smaller Sulfurs. Sulfurs hatch in slow to
moderate water. Because of that, the trout get a much better look at your fly and
are referred to by most anglers as picky.
The Sulfur females are a hook size larger than the males. The males are close to a
hook size 18 and the females are a hook size 16. The two, male and female, are
easy to tell apart. The ones with small dark eyes are females and the ones with the
big bright orange/red colored eyes are the males.
We have "Perfect Fly" imitations for these two species of mayflies. These are our
Eastern Pale Evening Dun imitations. These are our Sulfur imitations.
Tomorrow I will point out some practical differences in how I go about fishing these
Copyright 2008 James Marsh