At this point, many of us are looking for ways to escape the heat, and for anglers, there’s no better way to do that than by taking a little trip into the mountains of North Carolina.
With its cooler air temperatures and frigid creek waters, a visit there this time of year can be almost therapeutic to those of us that have been spending time in the harsh humidity of the Piedmont.
As a fly fisherman, those big hills across the state line have been a haven for me for many years, since our own state doesn’t have much to offer in the way of trout water.
One of the biggest problems that I always had was finding the right place to go that would provide me plenty of opportunities with fish while not crowding me with the many bait fishermen that work the streams as well.
That’s not to say that I have anything against those who choose to use conventional tackle when chasing trout. I don’t. Hey, I grew up on it!
However, there is a major difference between them and those who choose to feed their addiction with the use of the long rod, and the two just don’t mix that well.
Bait fishing is, simply put, a lazier way of going about the task. When trout fishing, bait fisherman tend to pick a spot near pools in hopes they hold fish, and they may sit on that spot for hours in hopes that a trout will find their offering appetizing enough to take a bite.
On the other hand, fly fishermen like to take a more scientific approach by learning all they can about the fish they’re chasing, the food those fish are eating and the creeks they’re living in.
Many a bait fisherman has given me a cross look as I’ve turned over rocks to inspect the insect larvae living underneath. After all, to him I’m wasting time when I should have bait soaking in the water.
Instead, I see opportunity in finding out what the next potential insect hatch will be, what they might be munching now and matching my flies accordingly.
Fly fisherman can’t sit still. We’ll work a stream up one side and down the other, looking for the perfect spot to try a cast.
We understand that fish are much like people and will gravitate toward fast food for its ability to make our lives simpler.
Of course, you have to know what a “McDonald’s for trout” looks like. The lee side of rocks within a creek is one such place, and provides a fish the opportunity to escape the current and rest easily as potential meals are washed past.
When that buggy “Big Mac” of sorts does arrive, he’ll dart out, suck it in and immediately return to his resting spot. Unless, of course, that meal is attached to a monofilament leader!
The problem between bait fisherman and fly fisherman lies right there.
It’s hard for the two to co-exist when one needs to work more water and the other wants to sit on what may be the best spot along the river.
So what’s the answer? How can we co-exist?
In many states, including North Carolina, some streams are designated “fly fishing only” water. This helps to a large degree but can sometimes result in a stretch that is then covered up with fly rods if enough places don’t hold the designation.
By understanding that, again, people have an inherent laziness and will stick to the most popular areas well-known by all, you can make the decision to put forth a little more effort and find new spots that are a bit out of the way and see much less pressure. You may put forth a lot more effort in getting there, but it’s most always worth it.
When I was coming along, this was a pretty tough task for someone who doesn’t live there and have days upon days to search.
Today, it’s a different story. The Internet can be an incredible tool for finding new locations to try, and a wealth of information can be found by joining one of the many message boards on the subject.
We all know that “money makes the world go ’round” and fly fishermen are notorious for spending plenty of it on their obsession. State and local governments have taken notice and now provide plenty of maps, details and, of course, advertising to try to get you to come to their area.
This is all a major advantage compared to the days of old, when the odds of getting the straight info from one of the locals in regard to a hidden hot spot was slim to none.
With the fairly recent creation of Western North Carolina’s Fly Fishing Trail, the first of its kind in the nation, anglers are directed to 15 prime spots in Jackson County for catching rainbow, brook and brown trout along portions of four rivers: the Tuckasegee, Chatooga, Whitewater and Horsepasture.
Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking it’s merely a ploy to get your dollars, either.
This is some of the best water among the Smoky Mountains and has produced two state-record rainbows in The Tarheel State.
If you’re a fly angler, definitely give it a try. Detailed maps can be found at www.flyfishingtrail.com. If you’ve never given a fly rod a try and would like to see what it’s all about, I suggest getting in touch with Don Yager at Jesse Brown’s Outdoors: 704-556-0020. He’ll get ya fixed up.
I can promise you; this is one habit you’ll never regret picking up.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter: @BHarveyOutdoors.