Category Archives: SE United States

Tuckasegee River, NC – 05/12/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 12:00PM

Location: One mile upstream from Dillsboro in delayed harvest section

Fish Landed: 9

Tuckasegee River, NC 05/12/2015 Photo Album

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.

Dan Tests the Tuckasegee River

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.

Second Landed Fish Was This Brown Trout

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.

Picture Perfect

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.

No. 3 Was a Rainbow

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.

Dan Nets a Nice Brook Trout or Rainbow

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.

Displaying His Catch

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.

Dave Holds a Brook Trout, Completing the Tuck Trifecta

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.



Little River, VA – 05/07/2015

Time: 3:30PM – 7:00PM

Location: Private water

Fish Landed: 2

Little River, VA 05/07/2015 Photo Album

David L. is friends with Jake, the owner and operator of Riverbound, which is located in southwestern Virginia. As an investor and member, David arranged for us to fish the Little River on Friday May 7, 2015. David referred to these streams as “managed”, which meant that they are stocked and contain a reasonable quantity of hatchery reared lunkers. The Little River was an hour plus drive from Bristol, TN, and we arrived and began fishing by 3:30PM on Friday afternoon.

Friday turned out to be another nice day, although temperatures climbed into the high 80’s. Given the meandering nature of Little River with long slow moving pools and thinner overhead streamside coverage, the high temperatures translated to warmer water and more difficult fishing conditions especially given our late afternoon arrival. We did hear some thunder and dark clouds appeared on the southern horizon, but we never felt any drops of rain as we prospected the placid waters of Little River.

In order to reach the pastoral stream we had to pass through a locked gate, two cattle gates, and then traverse a short but very rough dirt road. David L. possessed the combination to open the locked gate, and shortly thereafter we arrived at the edge of the river in a parking spot that was no more than a worn off portion of the pasture. The river was a nice width; roughly thirty yards wide at most spots, and it flowed across numerous ledge rocks. This geology produced some very steep drop offs, so we were very cautious whenever we were required to wade. For the most part the section of river that we fished consisted of long pools punctuated by short riffles and runs at the beginning of each slow moving area. The surrounding terrain was a huge pretty pasture, and the stream executed two large oxbow turns in the course of its flow through the private land. The entire pasture and streamside vegetation were decked out in varying shades of green as spring had recently arrived in southwestern Virginia.

This Stocker Slurped a Stimulator

A Pretty Pool Where We Began

When we were prepared to fish, we crossed the river near our parking space and immediately encountered a gorgeous deep pool that ran along a rock ledge wall on the far side with several fallen tree limbs adding more structure. I spotted a handful of caddis as I disturbed some streamside bushes, so I tied a size 14 stimulator with a medium olive body to my line. As I was doing this, I noticed a couple sporadic rises along the current line that slid by the ledge rock walls that bordered the far bank. This prompted me to execute some downstream drifts, and much to my surprise a nine inch rainbow rose and slurped in the stimulator. I was pleased to avoid a skunking almost immediately at the start of my fishing outing.

After releasing the rainbow, I moved up a bit to an attractive place where some branches hung over the current seam, and as I positioned myself I heard and then saw several more random rises. In addition to the presence of small caddis, I now spotted two large mayflies fluttering up from the river. Could these by march browns? David L. arrived at the top of the pool as I switched to a march brown comparadun that I placed in my fly box in case I encountered this large eastern mayfly species. While I was switching flies he caused my anticipation to rise as he landed an eighteen inch rainbow on a sculpzilla streamer. Why was I messing around with these delicate dry fly imitations?

Once I had the march brown attached to my line, I made quite a few prospecting casts to the areas where I spotted rises, but the fish were having none of it. The march brown hatch that I anticipated never materialized, so David L. suggested that we hike to the downstream border of the private water and then fish back to the car. We forded the river again below the long pool and then shortcut across the open end of the oxbow on a tractor trail. We each began fishing large pools with overhanging sycamore limbs, and while I was nearby, David L. experienced a momentary hook up on the streamer. Could this be where I would land my first trout on my peanut envy articulated streamer?

Horses Graze Next to Little River

I decided to defer streamer fishing for a bit and converted to a nymphing rig with the productive ultra zug bug and hares ear nymphs as my offerings. I quickly realized that the deep pools were unproductive and quite boring to fish with my nymphing approach, so I left them for David L. and his streamers, while I moved on and fished the faster runs at the head of each pool. Finally after an hour of fishing in a relatively nondescript riffle about three feet deep, the indicator darted, and I set the hook. I instantly realized that I had a large fish, so I carefully worked the big boy and allowed three or four long runs before it tired, and I was able to gain control. My net barely contained the hefty pink striped rainbow, but once I had it over the rim, I snapped some photos and removed the hares ear and gently revived it. The finned torpedo measured three inches beyond the end of my net opening, but the girth of the lunker was even more impressive.

A Fat Rainbow Was My Second Fish

This episode naturally raised my interest level, but as I moved on I could not replicate my success. I was hoping that some sort of eastern mayfly hatch would commence as darkness approached, so I experimented with a sulfur wet fly with this eventuality in mind. It never happened, and eventually I worked my way completely around the oxbow and returned to the first pool near the car. As the light faded, I spotted a cloud of black caddis above the water, but my efforts to imitate with a dark bodied stimulator dry produced only a brief hook up with a medium sized rainbow trout. I was not able to entice any more action on the stimulator despite some violent rises in the area, but they were quite random and spaced out.

A Nice Area on the Return

As I waited for David L. to return, I tied on a Cathy’s super bugger and stripped it near the beginning of the pool, but once again my attempts at streamer fishing proved fruitless. When David arrived we decided to call it a day and waded back to the Suburban to begin our trip back to Bristol, TN.

South Holston River, TN – 05/06/2015

Time: 3:30PM – 7:00PM

Location: Boat launch just below dam

Fish Landed: 0

South Holston River, TN 05/06/2015 Photo Album

As mentioned in the Beaver Dam Creek post, the telephone report informed us that the South Holston River was carrying elevated flows due to releases from the dam. My host and guide, David L., therefore concluded that we would enjoy better success if we drifted the river and worked streamers by casting to the bank and retrieving. Once we finished fishing Beaver Dam Creek we reversed our course until we reached David’s brother’s house where we reconnected the trailer and boat to the Suburban. A short drive later brought us to the boat launch just downstream of the dam on the South Holston River.

David L’s John Boat

As suggested by the report, the flows lapped over the river bank where it was low, but the water was crystal clear with great visibility. Before we launched the boat, David L. configured two streamer rods with lead core sinking heads and large articulated sculpzilla style flies. David L’s john boat had a keel and outboard motor which meant we did not need to arrange a shuttle pick up for the end of our float; instead we would motor back upstream with the aid of the outboard.

David L. Prepares to Fish

At the start of the float, David powered on the motor, and we moved up the river a short distance to a position just above the bridge and below a low head dam. We shot casts to both sides of the boat with no luck, and then I pulled up the anchor and we began drifting along the bank opposite the boat launch. For the remainder of the three hour trip, David L. toggled between positioning the boat with his oars and fishing. I felt guilty that he was burdened with navigation duties and thus unable to log as much fishing time as me.

Good Looking Slick Next to a Tree

I was using one of David’s six weight rods with the sinking head, and the afternoon and evening session evolved into an exercise of slinging the heavy rig to the bank and then rapidly stripping the fly back to the boat. Initially David suggested that I was not stripping fast enough, so I accelerated my strokes, but even with this change in tactics I managed only one momentary hook up with a small brown trout. David switched to a smaller sculpzilla that was not articulated, and after the change he hooked and landed two small brown trout. If he could have relinquished paddling duties, he probably would have landed five or six fish during our float.

David L. Works His Streamer

Eventually we drifted to a point just above a large bridge crossing, and here we turned around and motored back up the river to the launch site. Much to our surprise, the propeller struck bottom in one relatively shallow riffle stretch, but we still managed to return safely, albeit at a somewhat reduced speed.

The river was beautiful and mostly bordered by bright green leafy woods. I could see that it would be a pleasant river to wade fish when flows were down as it was wide and offered numerous current breaks. I practiced and improved my streamer technique, but the feedback from the denizens of the South Holston River indicates that I still have much to learn.


Beaver Dam Creek, TN – 05/06/2015

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Cherokee National Forest above Shady Valley

Fish Landed: 6

Beaver Dam Creek, TN 05/06/2015 Photo Album

My son’s graduation from Fuqua Business School, my niece’s wedding, and visits to my sister and friends were all in the plans, as I boarded a U.S. Airways jet and made the flight from Denver to Tri Cities, TN. While working at Air Products and Chemicals I became acquainted with David Luther, the owner of an industrial gas distributor business that was acquired in the 90’s, and we discovered that we both had a passion for fly fishing. David L. vacationed in Colorado several times since my departure from Air Products, and we met on the stream several times. David L. offered me an open invitation to visit him in Tennessee to sample some of the local quality rivers, so I decided to accept his offer, and I added three days to the front of my southeastern U.S. tour.

David picked me up at the small northeastern Tennessee airport and transported me to his beautiful home on the edge of Bristol, TN. After dinner at Quaker Steak and Lube, we returned to the house, and David L. called the information line for the South Holston River. Unfortunately he discovered that the operators were releasing water all day on Wednesday, and this made flows too high to effectively wade fish. I read articles about the sulfur hatch on the South Holston, and I was quite anxious to experience the quality fishing that was described. David L. was undeterred, and he suggested that we would float the tailwater in his john boat, and he was confident that we would have success.

Because our day now involved a two pronged approach that included wade fishing a nearby Appalachian freestone waterway called Beaver Dam Creek and then floating the South Holston in a boat in the afternoon, we were delayed a bit with the task of hitching the boat to David L.’s Suburban and then dropping it at his brother’s house near the river. We then continued without the burden of the boat trailer over a high mountain ridge to a town called Shady Valley, home of an annual cranberry festival. David told me that Shady Valley was the farthest south that cranberries could be grown, and he pointed to an area to our right that used to consist of bogs formed by Beaver Dam Creek.

Beaver Dam Creek Is a Beautiful Mountain Stream

We turned left in Shady Valley and proceeded along the gorgeous stream until we entered Cherokee National Forest, and then we found a nice wide parking space among the dense trees and rhododendrons and prepared to fish. David had a neat way of marking the entry points to the stream that facilitated playing leap frog. He pulled a wide yellow tape from his bag, and then we found a suitable stick to which he knotted the highly visible yellow ribbon. When the upstream angler entered the stream, he planted the stick along the bank. When the downstream fisherman arrived at the marker, he simply removed it and then walked upstream to a point above the upstream fisherman and planted the marker again.

The weather was ideal with sunshine and high temperatures in the low 80’s, but the thick forest canopy along Beaver Dam Creek blocked the sun’s rays, and the air temperature was comfortable in the shade. The size of the stream was also ideal with a width that was somewhat larger than Brush Creek in Colorado. The flows were high but clear and probably perfect for early May in eastern Tennessee.

I planted the yellow marker and waded into the stream below an inviting pool, while David L. hiked along a faint path to a position farther downstream. I assessed the circumstances and decided to launch my southeastern tour with a Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph. This trio of flies have been my most productive imitations over the last year, so why not see if they worked in the southeast? Unfortunately the strategy did not pay dividends, and I fished for twenty minutes and through several nice holes with only a refusal. If they refused the Chernobyl, could this mean they were looking to the surface for their food? I noticed a few caddis buzzing about near the surface, so I switched to a size 14 gray stimulator.

This Stimulator Produced Two Trout

The bushy single dry fly changed my fortunes and yielded two buttery wild brown trout. The second fish slurped the attractor dry after I spotted a rise in a run near the head of a deep pool. Catching the brown on a high floating stimulator on a swollen crystal clear mountain stream lined with rhododendrons was exactly the vision I had when I began fishing. Unfortunately I could not get comfortable with this style of fishing, as I covered more very attractive water with no results. Doubts crept into my mind over the effectiveness of a dry fly in high cold spring flows, so I decided to convert to a nymphing approach.

A Bright Brown Trout with a Stimulator Lip

A Rainbow Snatched the Ultra Zug Bug

I knotted an ultra zug bug to my line as my top offering and then added the hares ear nymph as my point. This move paid off, and I began catching fish. One especially delicious deep run yielded two nice rainbows and my best fish of the afternoon; a thirteen inch chunky brown trout that tugged the ultra zug bug at the very top of the run. By 2:30 I landed six feisty trout from Beaver Dam Creek; two rainbows and four browns. At this point David L. caught up to me, and he suggested that we should find our way back to the car if we hoped to sample the South Holston River.

A Pretty Section of Beaver Dam Creek

The three hours on Beaver Dam Creek turned out to be my favorite outing for the Tennessee and Virginia portion of my southeastern United States trip. The ice cold clear mountain flows, the thick mountain vegetation, and the bright green of fresh spring growth supplemented the brightly colored wild trout. It was a sensory delight.

Brilliant Colors on This Brown Trout