Time: 9:30AM – 12:00PM
Location: One mile upstream from Dillsboro in delayed harvest section
Fish Landed: 9
Jane and I attended our son Dan’s graduation from Fuqua Business School at Duke University on Saturday May 9. We are so proud of Dan’s accomplishment; graduating from the top ranked business school in the United States. Dan’s girlfriend, Ariel, joined us for the weekend, and on Sunday we drove west across North Carolina to Sylva. Ariel is enrolled in the physical therapy program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, which is a small town a few miles away from Sylva. Since Ariel did not have to work on Monday, we visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park and completed a moderate hike to Rainbow Falls.
On Tuesday Ariel was scheduled to return to work, and we planned to drive from Sylva, NC to Kannapolis to visit my sister, so this provided us a morning to explore more of southwestern North Carolina. Dan indicated that he would like to fish, and of course I was on board with that suggestion. The main outstanding question was where? I did some online research on Sunday evening, and we scouted some attractive Great Smoky Mountain freestones during our drive to hike on Monday.
When we returned to Sylva on Monday afternoon, we attempted to visit some fly shops in town, but Hookers Fly Shop was closed and the fishing expert in another outdoor store on the main street was absent. I abandoned the idea of obtaining local intelligence, so we adjourned to Innovation Brewing Company for some Smoky Mountain craft beers. While the four of us sat at a table relishing the excellent frothy beverages, I noticed that the bartender was wearing a fishing shirt, so I approached him and asked for fly fishing recommendations. He replied that he indeed was a fly fishermen, but suggested that I would probably obtain better information from two young gentlemen seated at the end of the bar.
Indeed Kyle and Thomas were guides for Fontana Guides, and they were enjoying a quick bite to eat before returning to the river. I peppered them with questions, thanked them for sharing information, and bought them ginger ales. They recommended fishing the delayed harvest area of the Tuckasegee River which was only a few miles away from Sylva. They said we should fish between Dillsboro and the 107 bridge, and they actually recommended a few flies with golden stonefly dries and nymphs mentioned several times. Thomas checked his phone and concluded that the flows should be nearly ideal on Tuesday morning. I also asked if the river contained entirely stocked fish, and they both vehemently emphasized that there were a lot of stocked fish, but it was also possible to catch some sizable carry overs.
Armed with this local information, Dan and I decided to give it a try. Dan fished the Tuckasegee once earlier on a visit to see Ariel, but it did not sound like he spent much time there. Tuesday morning was cool and misty as Dan, Jane and I pulled off the road that borders the delayed harvest section of the Tuckasegee River. We planned to gear up and fish while leaving the keys for Jane, so she could explore Dillsboro or hike one of the nearby trails or dirt roads.
We parked near a nice stretch of the river that contained numerous small islands and exposed boulders with attractive deep troughs and runs behind many of the current breaks. The river was wide and quite easy to wade at the flow levels in place on Tuesday morning. Based on Thomas’s recommendation I gave Dan a rubber leg stonefly nymph to begin, while I meanwhile tied on a conehead pine squirrel leech plus a beadhead hares ear. Dan waded toward the middle of the river, and I began casting closer to the roadside bank, and it was not long before I landed a small brook trout and then a brown trout. Now that I was in the river, I was even more encouraged by the structure of the stream as numerous nice deep runs behind large exposed boulders beckoned my nymphs.
Judging from the washed out colors of the two trout that I landed at the beginning of our outing, they were stockers, but we were pleased to have early action in unknown water. Dan was working the runs in front of his position with no success, so I waded over and gave him a pine squirrel leech. When I returned to the river closer to the road, I began to feel cold water rapidly running down my legs inside my waders. I immediately assumed that I somehow tore a hole in my waders and began cursing my luck since I was having such a perfect experience in a new river in North Carolina.
As the water continued to soak my long underwear and reached my thick Smartwool socks, I realized that the bite valve on my hydration bladder had fallen off. I quickly grabbed the tube that was tucked inside my wader bib and tossed it outside, but the damage had been done. It was a cruel joke from the fishing gods to have cold water sloshing around inside my waders when I never fell in. I really had no option except to accept my bad luck and move on with the fishing.
I collected my thoughts and shifted my focus to fishing and waded to the bank next to the road where I exited and moved upstream to the tail of a long slow moving pool. Normally I skip this sort of water, but I guessed it might be a gathering hole for stockers, and sure enough on the third drift I felt a tug and lifted my rod. I found myself attached to a rainbow trout that attacked the leech, and this meant I had already achieved a Tuck trifecta with a brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout landed. In addition the natural pine squirrel leech was responsible for my first three fish.
Despite my hope that the deep slow water would prove to be a honey hole for stockers, this theory did not prove correct, so I moved on. Dan joined me, and we walked up the road .2 miles until we reached a place near Dan’s car. Here we encountered a nice long run, and I took the bottom position while Dan waded in near the top. Somehow in the process of landing the rainbow trout, I snapped off the hares ear nymph, so I replaced it with a salvation nymph.
In short order I landed another brook trout from the lower portion of the run, and then I circled above Dan to explore a deep run that was above him. Dan meanwhile chose to work his way across the deeper current to move toward the far side of the river, but he fished out the middle section as he moved across. This proved to be a productive choice, as he enjoyed his greatest success of the morning by landing three fish including a decent rainbow and then a very nice brown trout. Judging from the bulge in his net, the brown was probably fourteen inches and represented the largest fish landed by us collectively during the morning. The brown trout attacked the leech as it dangled in the current downstream from his position.
Next I moved upstream to a position above a long skinny island, and I was able to extract five additional stocker trout from this area. Four were brook trout and one was another rainbow. Two of the last five landed fish attacked the salvation nymph, and the other three chased and grabbed the leech.
At noon we decided to call it a day, so we waded back to the car where we found Jane, who returned from a hike to the Riverbend shops in Dillsboro. Jane drove us to the boat launch changing room that was .5 mile downstream, and there I removed my soggy socks and underwear and pulled on some dry clothes. It was a very enjoyable 2.5 hours on the North Carolina tailwater, as Dan and I landed a combined total of fourteen fish. Somehow I chose a pine squirrel leech, and the Smoky Mountain fish found it to their liking. I yearned to spend more time on the area streams, but we had other commitments to honor on our southeastern tour.