After striking out on the wild section of the South Fork of the Holston in March as a result of my unfortunate timing that included visiting the river right after a 2 inch rainfall, I found myself back at the Buller Hatchery in mid-May. My son, Chris, and I had just finished visiting Tennessee to fish the Holston down there. Since we are in the area, we decided to check out the catch and release section that runs for 1/2 mile on the Buller property.
Even though it was May, it was a blustery, overcast and cold day when we bumped into the hatchery to begin fishing at eight o’clock in the morning. We pulled off the dirt road, parked next to a tree on the hatchery property and wandered over to the river. The banks are tall, steep and improved; causing you to poke around to find a place where you can safely crawl down the bank and jump into the river. Once in the water, we saw a pristine section of crystal-clear water protected by closely packed, overhanging trees.
The river is fairly wide — perhaps 40 feet in places — and runs pretty deep. The hatchery side right next to the built-up bank was typically deep and fast. As we worked up the river, we encountered the typical pools you would expect with boundaries marked by fallen trees and brush. There were no plunge pools or other dramatic features. Every once in a while, there would be a break caused by a minor shift in gradient. There was no trail on either side. You have to stay in the river or work your way through some thick brush. Of course, as long as you remained in the river, casting up or downstream was pretty easy.
Unfortunately, about 45 minutes after we arrived, the sky opened up and it began to pour rain. Not wanting to be miserable, we decided to call it a day and head home.
Bottom Line: This section is definitely worth a repeat visit on a nicer day. The great thing about the Buller property is that you can experience three different types of fishing. You have the catch and release section described here, a put and take section up by the concrete dam, and then a special regulation section that is not stocked farther upstream.
In addition, downstream of the property, you have access to the length of the South Fork of the Holston from the numerous public access points.
Google Local Coordinates: 36.758622,-81.538897
Date Fished: 5/18/2008
Getting There: Take exit 44 from I81 for US 11 west. Stay on US 11 and it will turn into Adwolfe Road (Rt 660) and you will cross back over I81 heading south. Follow 660 until it deadends on Rt 657 (Thomas Bridge Road). Turn left and follow it until it deadends on Rt 650. Note – it deadends at a bridge over the Holston. You can fish here if you want. Turn left and follow Rt 650 for about 1.5 miles to the entrance to the Buller Fish Cultural Station. The C&R section is to your left beyond the hatchery ponds.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Typical broad spot
Note the improved bank on the right
Trees sheltered the deep runs
One of the rare gradient breaks
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore