Like the local heron, JP stalks a side channel of the mighty white river.


It was probably 5 pm on a chill November evening when the rag tag crew of fishermen bound for the rolling hills of Cotter Arkansas arrived at the Trophy water fly shop in Hampton Tennessee. Since we all had time consuming jobs at the time, we persuaded ourselves that it would be worth losing the sleep to just drive through the night and ensure an extra day of fishing. That sounded like a way better plan than it actually was… 

Two SUV’s full to the brim with fishing gear, boat equipment and a couple of stankin’ fishing bums sped through the night, gnawing away at the nearly 700-mile journey we had to complete by morning. At the time all we had to float in was our Buddy Seth’s Ro Deville and an Avon fishing raft that was older than any single person on the trip, which didn’t have a trailer. So, my brother Skye built one out of an old sea doo trailer especially for this trip. Souped up with a new steel tongue and wood platform that bad boy had to weigh 2,000 pounds. Nevertheless, it held the raft just right and we were going to send it.  As we sped down the highway toward the western end of the vastness that is Tennessee all I could think about was how many rotations per second those 8-inch wheels were going at 8o mph and if we would make it to Kentucky before they flew off in a blaze of glory.  Luckily, that never happened and as the night pressed on and the gas stations became more and more Podunk and sketchy, delirium started to set in. At about 6 am, Arkansas time, we were driving down the road that our cabin was on. The blue tint of dawn was starting to appear when I stuck my upper body out of the sunroof of Skye’s 4runner and hollered “We finally made it!” 

COTTER Population 921  

The mid-western town is famously known for Brown trout fishing and the abundance of such fish. The size of the river and the constant stocking of small rainbows allow these predators to grow quite big and aggressive toward bait fish, aka the meat in my streamer box. 

The Morning of our drive in was a bust for Seth and me, we hit the couches and slept while the other boys went fishing for the rest of the day, like animals. When we picked them up that evening the fishing report was slightly grim. They had been skunked, although, I will  let this be known. Anyone who shows up to a new fishery and slays them is just lucky, we were completely aware of how long it can take to dial in a fishery and that’s exactly why we were planning to spend a week in this beautiful place. Accompanied by some geodes we found in the yard and an armadillo we made our first meal on the grill and enjoyed some beers while we talked about our float plan for the following days. 


The elusive Avon in her natural habitat

The Generators on the white wouldn’t be running like we had hoped so we were bound to fish the low water flows of the huge freestone river. 

Such a big river really needs the water from the generators to move with any sort of giddy up. Most of the river was essentially a giant flat of slow-moving water, which is probably why everyone that is serious about fishing on the White has a power boat. 

But as they say, Suffering builds character and nothing beautiful comes from a lack of effort. You could say we persevered and conquered that giant river all the while it taught us all how to be better streamer fisherman and oarsmen. 

The ole Deville sitting below the Cotter bridge and a crisp sunrise.

If your planning a trip to the White, may I suggest having every flavor of streamer in your box. 

Ozark cut-throat trout

Seth caught our unicorn of the trip pulling a well-placed fly across a beautiful grass bed.

To top off our luck we suffered through a wicked rain squall our first full day on the river. Worth it though. 


If there’s one thing that trout will teach you; Letting go can be a beautiful thing 



Skye hoisting a small portion of Arkansas gold 



How I caught this fish is a perfect representation of this trip as a whole:

It felt like we had been floating over this pebble flat for days by the time I had noticed a deeper channel hugging the river right bank. Between us and the channel was a very skinny bit of water and with a little bit of skillful maneuvering JP was able to get us into a fishable distance from the incredible looking habitat; long green river grasses weaved between big boulders and colorful river rock, it was true oasis for any fish for at least a mile and sweet sight for sore eyes. A well-placed cast was answered by this stud that I knew just had to be in there. 

We put in a lot of faith expecting to show up to an abundance of big fish ready to crush, but the abundance never came. We spent 5 days waking up at 4:45am to freezing temperatures and fished til’ dark everyday. We were rewarded every now and again when we came across various types of trout oasis in the vast freestone tailwater.

Making the best of the outdoors with good friends and learning about how to be a better advocate for our natural world have been the most important things I’ve gained from each fishing trip I’ve been on. Its not always about getting into the best fishing you’ve ever experienced, but to learn how to better experience life in general. 

We worked hard and worked together, everyone caught a fish over or near 20 inches and ultimately that was our goal, catch big browns, a buzz and have a good time with our buds. 

And after 3 long years we’ll be returning in February 2021. Stay tuned and Stay with it.

It’s been a few weeks since the Delayed Harvest sections here in the Highcountry were stocked again for spring, and they are fishing exceptionally well. Size 16-20 nymphs dropped below a larger attractor (egg patterns, squirmy worm, etc.) have been very productive. On warmer days, you can also watch for fish rising. If you do see them, dry droppers are always a good go to for those conditions. When fishing dry droppers, throwing bulkier dry flies such as stimulators and elk hair caddis can be effective as they are more buoyant and make it easier to tell when a strike is occurring.

They will also be stocking all of the Delayed Harvest waters again in the beginning of April. For a complete list of the dates they will be stocking each river you can go to . Additionally, all Hatchery Supported sections will be opening up again on Saturday, April 7th. So get your rods ready and come on by the shop to stock up on any gear you may need for the upcoming season!




It’s hard to believe it’s actually still February with temperatures here in the Highcountry getting into the low 70s this week. That being said, it’s a fisherman’s dream come true! Yesterday there were reports of large hatches of BWOs making for some (much-anticipated) phenomenal dry fly action so be sure to keep an eye out for any hatches when out on the water. That being said, if you don’t want to fully commit to fishing dry flies, a dry dropper setup can be a very successful setup to fish this time of year.

With all this warm weather lately, all of the local rivers have been fishing well. Valle Crucis is still going strong, as well as the Toe and the New river. The delayed harvest sections should also be restocked in the coming weeks so get your gear ready for some great spring fishing. And if you have any questions about local spots and hot patterns to fish, stop on by the shop and we’ll be glad to give you some local knowledge!


Lots of rain in the High Country and Boone area the last few days. Good news for the local streams and tailwaters alike since we definitely need it for our great spring fishing coming up! Local streams have returned to normal levels after the weekends rains, add that to the fact that we will be having spring-like temperatures in the forecast for the 10 days or so makes it a perfect time to shake off the winter doldrums!

South Holston and Watauga River 

The “sluicing” continues on the South Holston River. The flows have been steady, making it possible to comfortably float the entire river. These flows may change in the coming days putting us into “high water” mode due to the rain our area has received. This only means our rigs will require a little more weight to get the flies down due to the volume of water. The fishing, however, should remain outstanding.   The closed, spawning sections are now open and we are now able to fish the entire river. The spawn has wound down, and the egg bite is starting to transition back into a more “seasonal” diet consisting of blue wings, scuds and ever present midges.

The Watauga River has fished pretty well overall over the course of the last few weeks, but due to the inconsistent flows out of Wilbur Dam, it has maybe been a little less consistent than it’s sister river to the north. Blue Wings, midges and a smattering of scuds have been the go to bugs. Caddis are right around the corner, however, and the fish will be beginning their spring purge on caddis larvae soon!

What we are looking forward to?

Caddis! If you have not heard or read before, the caddis hatch on the Watauga River is a sight to behold. Starting around the middle of April and typically lasting until the first or second week in May, anglers will have the opportunity to experience one of the Easts greatest hatches. If you anticipate a fly fishing trip around the Boone area this spring, make it a point to take a float trip with us for a great event, and even better fishing!

Sulphurs! The sulphur hatch is also quickly approaching. Both the South Holston as well as the Watauga River will host them in beginning in May and June.



A great brown from a recent float trip down the South Holston River

Solid Watauga River brown trout

Watauga River brown trout


The ice is gone and the cold weather may be behind us for the time being. We now have mild temperatures and water! Now is a great time to knock the dust off that fly rod and come venture to the High Country for some late winter fly fishing.  Spring-like temperatures should have them fishing great for the foreseeable future.  Outside of this past weekend’s massive rains, our creeks have been running clear with moderate flows. The Delayed Harvest sections around Spruce Pine and Boone, NC still have plenty of fish  and are fishing very well for February. Wild water should also start to pick up for those who want to do a little walking. The heavy rains also may have washed out a lot of “private” water fish so be ready for a “big” surprise.

Let us be a part of your next trip to the High Country and Boone area. Whether it is a float trip down the fantastic South Holston or Watauga River, or you are coming up to enjoy the miles and miles of fantastic, public trout water just minutes from our fly shop, we can make it happen here  at Highland Outfitters.

Give us a call: 828-733-2181

Highland Outfitters Team

Finally, a bit of a break from the arctic chill which felt like it was here forever! With the slight rise in temperatures here in the Highcountry, this makes for a great time to get out and do some fishing in one of our many local wild and stocked trout streams. Delayed Harvest waters are still going strong and now that they aren’t frozen solid, those fish will want to eat!

However, the water temps are still going to be slow, meaning the fish will be lethargic and really need to be enticed in order to strike. Fishing attractors such as egg patterns and squirmy worms will help get their attention. These patterns can then be trailed by a smaller nymph or midge (Pheasant Tails, Zebra Midges, Baetis, etc.) can be very effective tactics to find the winter bites. In some cases you may need to literally drift your fly into the fishes mouth to get them to feed.

As always, when heading out during the winter be sure to bundle up and use caution when wading. Bringing a warm hat and gloves, as well as wearing a warm pair of pants and socks under your waders is key. If you don’t have a good pair of fishing gloves or wading socks, come on by and we’ll get you all geared up for the cold and ready to catch some fish!



As we eagerly await the arrival of springtime fishing here in the highcountry, it can be a frustrating time of year to be a fisherman. With the local rivers and streams finally starting to thaw out after the deep freeze we were under for the past couple weeks, I’m sure everyone is itching to get back on the water (I know I was). However, these frozen weeks don’t have to go to complete waste, as this makes for the perfect ti me to organize your fishing gear and fly tying materials. It’s also a great time to clean your waders and boots and help us in preventing the spread of whirling disease in our local waters.

To do so, first rinse them thoroughly. You can then wash them with a mixture of water and either powdered laundry detergent, or dish soap, using a 5% solution mixture. That is 1 cup of either detergent or dish soap, per gallon of water. Then be sure to let them air dry completely for at least 48 hours. Make sure to let them dry completely and do not store them while moist as this can lead to mold or mildew growth.

As for the fishing, now that the waters aren’t frozen solid, there are plenty of trout to be caught here in the Highcountry! On my first trip out since the rivers thawed out, zebra midges and small pheasant tails nymphs saw a lot of success when dropped below a size 10 salmon egg pattern. Additionally, our float trips down on the Tennessee tailwaters are doing exceptionally well with some great brown trout action. Don’t let a little cold weather keep you from getting out and catching the fish of a lifetime!