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A day of trout fishing on the Holston River - Blaine. Tennessee

Getting ready to launch 3 Rivers Anglers' drift boats in the Holston River.
Getting ready to launch 3 Rivers Anglers' drift boats in the Holston River.
Jimmy Jacobs

When it comes to big-water trout fishing in East Tennessee near Knoxville, it seems that all the publicity centers on the Clinch, South Holston and Watagua Rivers. While they are all great waters, another good option gets overlooked.

This 21-inch rainbow trout took a size 20 nymph on the Holston tailwater.
Jimmy Jacobs

The Holston River tailwater below Cherokee Lake can hold its own with any of those flows, yet hardly gets mentioned. The river is big, offers miles of water, is known as a great dry-fly fishing destination and gives up some big trout.

About the only drawback is the lack of public access to the flow. Although much of the river is shallow enough for wade-fishing, getting to the water is the problem. Almost the entire trout fishery courses through private lands.

The only public access points are just below Cherokee Dam, at Nances Ferry and Indian Cave. Each of these offers some wade-fishing access, but not much.

That makes the Holston a prime option for float-fishing trips. A good way to get a feel for this fishery is to book a drift boat trip with 3 Rivers Anglers out of Knoxville. They offer floats from a private launch site, downstream to the primitive boating access at Indian Cave.

Along the way anglers can get out to wade the shallow flat areas, or stay in the boat for their casting.

The river is stocked with both brown and rainbow trout and the water stays cold enough that fish holdover from year to year and get big. Rainbows and browns of greater than 20 inches turn up regularly.