South Fork of the Holston River

Every year I load up my camper and dog and head off to a week of fly fishing by myself. This past year I spent that week camping at Hungry Mother State park just outside of Marion, Virginia. I spent my time fishing for trout on the South Fork Holston River. What it produced was a lot of 8-12 inch Rainbow Trout and a few really nice Browns.

I am normally a morning person but when I’m off camping or going out into the woods or on the water, I like to get up a little earlier than usual. I have a routine I follow because it’s what I enjoy. I wake each morning around 4-4:30 AM. I like an early morning fire, and a good cup of coffee just goes hand in hand. After a hearty breakfast with way too much cholesterol, I set out for the short 15 minute drive to the river. There are two access points with good parking. One near Sugar Grove and the other is at the Buller Fish Cultural Station. If you want to be out and isolated the Sugar Grove access is the way to go. Although, I caught some really nice brown trout at the fish cultural station.
I always talk and write about the experience of being out in the wild and enjoying not just fishing but the whole experience. Sometimes I get side tracked and will set my gear down and do a little exploring on the river banks. This trip was no exception and after a short rest, I found myself exploring some of the animal tracks as well as the different species on the waters edge. Sometimes I feel like a little boy again, out exploring with nothing else on my mind, and not a care in the world.
By the end of the day I’m usually really tired and when I get back to my campsite all I want to do is relax by the fire and relive the days activities in my mind. As the sun retires for the evening I usually find myself caught up in a book or tying a few new flies for the next day. At the end of the week I know it’s time to go home and the trip served its purpose when my mind starts making its way back home first to the many things waiting for my return.
River Pros & Cons
  • Peaceful
  • Never ran into another angler
  • Stocked trout waters
  • Easy access
  • Lots of poison ivy
  • Parking area closes at sundown
More Information
The South Fork Holston River originates in Smyth County, Virginia near the community of Sugar Grove, where it is formed by the combination of several coldwater streams. There are two different special regulation trout fishing sections within the upper portions of the river. In the largest section, only single-hook artificial lures may be used, and there is a creel limit of two fish per day and a 16-inch minimum size limit. This section is approximately four miles long, extending from 500 feet above the dam at the Buller Fish Cultural Station upstream to the upper Jefferson National Forest boundary (above the crossing of the Appalachian Trail). Both rainbow and brown trout are available in this section of the South Fork.
The second section of special regulation trout fishing is for catch and release only (no keeping fish), and only single-hook artificial lures may be used. This section of the South Fork lies within the boundaries of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Buller Fish Cultural Station. It extends from the concrete dam downstream to the lower boundary of the Cultural Station. This area provides excellent trophy trout for all anglers and provides year-round trout fishing with easy access through the Buller property.


 Below the Buller Fish Cultural Station there are two designated stocked trout fishing areas. The first is located in the Thomas Bridge area, and the second is located in the St. Clair Bottom area along Riverside Road. Fishing these stocked trout areas requires a trout license in addition to a statewide freshwater fishing license. This Class “A” trout water is stocked eight times between October and May each year (DGIF 2015).

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