Friday, June 12, 2009

Fly Fishing North Carolina's Blue Ridge

I admit I'm lucky. Being a doctoral student and a part-time archival processor allows me to set my own schedule, work my preferred hours, and produce my writing from home. For the first week of June, it also enabled me to volunteer for the Avery County Habitat for Humanity organization. Avery County is a rural area situated in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains; it is thus paradoxically beautiful and poor. The region's high elevation, coupled with its ample annual rainfall, fosters wild trout waters that surpass any located in the southern United States. However, Avery County's isolation and its high land prices (driven up by gated communities, ski resorts, and golf courses that cater to the central NC elite) generate high levels of impoverishment. The Habitat project builds homes for qualified families that participate in their house's construction via pecuniary and labor equity.

I fished three rivers during my five days in North Carolina. One night after our work ended, Jackie and I drove an hour to the east to fish Lost Cove Creek. Lost Cove is one of the most beautiful streams I've ever fished. I appreciate its atmosphere so much that I will not divulge the specific area we enjoy (which readers of this blog will recognize is a rare occurrence). Surrounded by flowering mountain laurel, exposed sandstone bedrock and four waterfalls (yes, four, all viewable at once), I caught two wild rainbow trout and one wild brook trout. All three took size 16 sulphur duns. The wild rainbow population is a vestige from a time when Lost Cove was stocked. And although these vibrantly colored foreigners crowd out the native brook trout, their presence is a welcome change from the wild brown trout waters of central Pennsylvania.

Elk River is Avery County's major watershed. The Elk Falls also boast a kick-ass swimming hole. When I wasn't jumping off a ledge 10 feet up a 50 foot waterfall, I was hooking into fish. Three of my trout were stocked rainbows, one was a stocked brook, and one was a wild brown (two rainbows and the wild brown were caught on a Rapala; the others were taken on size 10 stonefly nymphs). My fellow Habitat volunteers helped me land a few of the fish. This was the first fly fishing experience for some of them (nothing beats catching your first rainbow trout in front of a towering waterfall). Do any of the fly fishermen out there remember catching their first trout on the fly?

On the way home, Jackie and I stopped at Little Glade Creek. This tiny stream meanders across the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Virginia border. I caught one wild brook on a Panther Martin spinner. After my stop at Little Glade, I decided to head to Roaring Run. Roaring is one of Virginia's top wild trout fisheries. After following some sketchy directions in a guide book, we pulled into a park operated by the state. We walked upstream (during the walk I got stung by a f*&^ing bee!) to the special regulation area. I preceded to catch two wild brook trout - one on a Panther Martin (with one hook, per Virginia law) and one on a size 18 bead-head copper john nymph. Both fish were about four inches long. Despite their small size, I was thrilled to land my first Virginia trout.

Overall, our North Carolina Habitat for Humanity trip was a success. The trout are a mere side note to the work we accomplished. Enjoy the pictures and check back soon, as I plan to fish the Poconos and perhaps the Catskills this coming weekend.

Image #1 - Mountain Laurel in bloom
Image #2 - Butterfly at Lost Cove Creek
Image #3 - Water snake at Lost Cove Creek
Image #4 - Elk River falls
Image #5 - Investigating our trout
Image #6 - Fly fishing Roaring Run
(Except for #5, all images taken by Jackie)

Overall Total: 49

River Breakdown:

Marshalls Creek - 8 (8 Wild Brook)
Elk Creek - 5 (5 Wild Brown)
Elk River - 5 (3 Stocked Rainbow, 1 Stocked Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Penns Creek - 5 (5 Wild Brown)
Spring Creek - 5 (4 Wild Rainbow, 1 Wild Brown)
Stony Brook - 4 (4 Stocked Rainbow)
Paulinskill River - 4 (2 Stocked Brook, 2 Stocked Rainbow)
Fishing Creek - 3 (3 Wild Brown)
Lost Cove Creek - 3 (2 Wild Rainbow, 1 Wild Brook)
Roaring Run - 2 (2 Wild Brook)
Little Glade Creek - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Mill Creek - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Mud Run - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Poplar Run - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
White Deer Creek - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)

Species Breakdown:

Brook Trout - 19
Wild - 15
Stocked - 4

Brown Trout - 15
Wild - 15
Stocked - 0

Rainbow Trout - 15
Stocked - 9
Wild - 6

Wild Trout - 36
Stocked Trout - 13

Trout 15+ Inches: 3

Fly Breakdown:
Olive wooly bugger, size 14 - 6 (6 Wild Brook)
Sulphur dun, size 16 - 4 (2 Wild Rainbow, 1 Wild Brook, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Tan Caddis, size 14 - 4 (4 Wild Brown)
Bead-head Copper John Nymph, size 16 - 3 (3 Wild Brook)
Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 14 - 2 (2 Stocked Rainbow)
Black Caddis, size 14 - 2 (2 Wild Brown)
Brown Stonefly nymph, size 10 - 2 (1 Stocked Brook, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Green Weenie, size 14 - 2 (2 Wild Rainbow)
Bead-head Green Weenie, size 14 - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)
Blue Quill, size 16 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Blue Winged Olive, size 18 - 1 (1 Wild Rainbow)
Golden Stonefly, size 8 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Scud, size 16 - 1 (1 Wild Rainbow)
Sulphur dun, size 14 - 1 (1 Wild Brown)

Angling Breakdown:

Fly Fishing Rod - 31 (10 Wild Brown, 9 Wild Brook, 6 Wild Rainbow, 4 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brook)
Spinning Rod - 18 (6 Wild Brown, 5 Wild Brook, 5 Stocked Rainbow, 2 Stocked Brook)

State Breakdown:
Pennsylvania - 30
North Carolina - 9
New Jersey - 8
Virginia - 2


Anonymous said...

Can you tell us a little more about the pictures of the butterfly and the snake? Thanks!

Matthew Bruen said...

The butterfly is a red-spotted purple. Here is a link about it:

The snake is a typical northern water snake, albeit one that is very big. It is also a slightly different color than the ones I normally see. The northern water snake is easily the most common snake I encounter during my fishing expeditions. Here is a link about the snake:

Thanks for reading!