Photos: Brown Trout and Orange Dogs on the Watauga

Written by: Ed Felker, Dispatches from the Potomac


There were no monsters on the day, but the browns were healthy and beautiful.
Photo by Ed Felker

Editor’s Note: Ed Felker is an artist, graphic designer, writer, and outdoorsman who lives in Virginia. He writes the Dispatches from the Potomac blog, which is worth checking out, if you like the outdoors, dogs, and fly fishing.

During the planning phase of this trip, which started over eight months ago, I knew I wanted to fish with veteran guide Patrick Fulkrod. Patrick was named the 2014 Orvis-Endorsed Guide of the Year and has worked hard to earn the reputation as “The Man” in the area of Tennessee’s South Holston River. All summer long, I’ve been admiring the stunning brown trout he has been putting his clients on. But having my two dogs with me was the most important aspect of this vacation, so I told Patrick maybe we could just wade-fish somewhere. He said, “Nonsense, the fishing is much better from the drift boat,” and told me to absolutely bring the dogs. I gave him many opportunities to change his mind on this, but he knew it was important to me, and insisted. On the morning of the float, the flow on the South Holston was less than favorable, so Patrick opted to take us out on the nearby Watauga River.


Photo by Ed Felker

Finn and Winnie are good dogs who tend to take new experiences in stride, but I had no idea how they would react to a drift boat. They kayak with me regularly, and from those experiences I had a concern. I can not fish with Finn in the kayak. He gets so excited when he sees a fish that he just loses his mind. So I had visions of Finn jumping out of the boat, and Patrick having to row downstream after him, stirring up fish in the process. So I got their vests on and headed to the boat. Winnie couldn’t wait to get in and immediately settled into her spot to my right in the front of the boat. Finn is kind of clumsy and awkward and bull/china-shoppy, but we got him situated to my left, and were ready to launch.


Photo by Ed Felker

Before long, the first test arrived in the form of a little rainbow trout. Patrick showed the fish to Finn and explained the custom of kissing the fish. Finn was excited but gentle, and from that moment on, I knew I didn’t have to worry about the dogs. They were having as much fun as we were on this picture perfect fall day.


Photo by Ed Felker

When I caught the first brown trout of the day I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Browns are my favorite, and these are the most beautiful I’ve ever had the privilege to see and hold.


Photo by Ed Felker

Underwater photos are hit-and-miss, and the ratio is extremely heavy on the miss side. So I was thrilled with this, the only underwater shot of the day, of Patrick releasing a beautiful brown trout into the cool waters of the Watauga.


Photo by Ed Felker

Finn and Patrick spent a lot of time admiring each other, and we weren’t ten minutes into the float before the bond was permanent.


Photo by Ed Felker

Winnie, being Winnie, spent the float by my side, leaning on the gunwale, soaking in the sun and the sights. Observing. The personalities of these two dogs are so very different, and they complement each other in ways I never could have anticipated. They were an absolute joy to have along on this vacation.


Photo by Patrick Fulkrod

One of the many things about Patrick as a guide that I admire and appreciate is that he understands how important photographic memories are to clients, and he works hard at making sure he captures quality images for every angler he guides. When the drive home is behind you, when you’re back home in your routine and the alarm starts going off early for the office instead of the river, when the colors of Tennessee trout have faded in your mind and the azure blue sky and water of autumn shift to the cold grey of winter, all it takes is a photograph like this one to bring it all back.


Photo by Patrick Fulkrod

Brilliant sunshine and brown trout go beautifully together. These are just stunning fish.


Photo by Ed Felker

I don’t know anything about rowing a drift boat. But I do know that this is a lot of weight in the front of the boat, and I’m not talking about that fish on the line either. But Patrick was focused entirely on making sure I was happy and the dogs were comfortable. If the rowing was made more difficult as a result (Hint: It most certainly was), Patrick never gave me the slightest indication.


Photo by Patrick Fulkrod

To book a truly enjoyable, memorable float on the South Holston or Watauga River with Patrick, contact Mountain Sports Ltd. in Bristol, Tennessee.


Photo by Patrick Fulkrod

6 thoughts on “Photos: Brown Trout and Orange Dogs on the Watauga”

  1. I had the privilege of being one of Patrick’s clients back in August. It was the first time I ever hired a guide and my first time in a drift boat. I’m 99.99% certain his commitment to excellence (combined with the stunning fishing of the South Holston) has ruined me forever. My standards have been set incredibly high… Not sure yet if that’s good or bad.

    Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ed, great article on Patrick and every word is true, I will testify to that. Patrick made a most memorable experience for me and more importantly my wife, on our first trip with Patrick.

    Thank you for your article on a guide, man, great person he has worked hard and it awesome to see his work paying off. AKA South Holston River Rock Star.

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