Fish Blue Ridge: South Fork Holston River

County: Smyth
Fishery: South Fork Holston River
Difficulty: Intermediate
Town: Marion, Wytheville
Attraction: Grayson Highlands, Crystal Springs Recreation Area

About South Fork Holston River

In the eastern corner of Smyth County, VA in the small farming community of Sugar Grove, VA is a great wild fishing opportunity: the South Fork of the Holston River. The South Fork of the Holston River spans National Forest land and Widener Valley before flowing into South Holston Lake. The many springs that flow into the South Fork create a plethora of fish food and keep the waters cold year round. 

Fishing South Fork Holston River

Wild rainbow trout and wild brown trout abound in the South Fork of the Holston River. Virginia’s 1990 state record brown trout came from the South Fork’s waters. The river is also a Category A stocked trout stream and receives eight stockings from October 1 to May 31.

Public access on the South Fork is primarily limited to the upper half of the Holston River. A four-and-a-half-mile-long special regulation area spans from just downstream of Sugar Grove to just above Buller Fish Hatchery’s concrete spill-over dam. In this area, only single-hook artificial lures are allowed. There is parking near an Appalachian Trail crossing and at the head of an angler access trail that traverses The Gorge. 

Another parking lot at the bottom of The Gorge provides access to the lower portion of the angler access trail and to a short put-and-take fishery behind the Buller Fish Hatchery dam. The Buller Fish Hatchery property also provides access to another special-regulation catch-and-release area. Below the Buller Fish Hatchery, there is roadside access to multiple stocked rainbow and brown trout fishing sections and undesignated water full of wild trout. 

Although spring is “prime time” for fishing the South Fork of the Holston due to caddisfly and mayfly hatches, summer and winter fishing are fantastic as well. Though wading can be tough in places, the lower-gradient nature of the river makes it generally easier to navigate than nearby Whitetop Laurel Creek. Casting obstacles for the fly angler are also generally less threatening than Whitetop Laurel Creek, making the South Fork an easy to intermediate Blue Ridge fishing destination.

Things to Do in Marion, VA

The town of Marion, VA is an excellent Blue Ridge fishing hub. Marion provides quick access to the headwaters and the middle reaches of the stream. Local restaurants like the Wooden Pickle and Moon Dog Brick Oven provide excellent food and nightlife following a day of fishing.

Marion is also poised within striking distance of southwest Virginia’s crown jewel: Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers (Virginia’s highest peak). The nearby town of Wytheville, VA is home to Crystal Springs Recreation Area, an 1,800-acre town property with over 12 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. The Crystal Springs Recreation Area also provides access to Venrick Run, a small mountain stream filled with wild rainbow trout and brook trout.

With an abundance of fish and public water, the South Fork of the Holston is a high-quality fishery for any traveling trout fisher. 

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