Showing posts with label fly fishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fly fishing. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WNC Fishing Report - March 12, 2014

March is usually a pretty slow month for fishing in western North Carolina due to most streams being closed for their annual stocking. However, all delayed harvest streams are open as well as all native trout-designated waters, including all of the Great Smoky National Park streams.

Here are a couple of fish that my dad caught on one of these 70 degree afternoons earlier in the month. They are both big, fat stocked brookies from the delayed harvest section of Big Snowbird creek in Graham County. He and my uncle caught over 50 fish both on spinners and fly fishing for the afternoon!

I follow several different local fly shops on Facebook and Instagram (such as Hooker's fly shop in Sylva and Fontana Guides from Bryson City)  and there are reports of 150+ fish days on the delayed harvest section of the Tuckaseegee and Raven's Fork in Cherokee. R&R Fly Fishing in Tennessee is reporting an increase in dry fly action in the park and plenty of native trout on nymphs. If you get a chance, get out and play on some of these awesome rivers!

Monday, March 3, 2014

NC Wildlife Announces Delayed Harvest Stocking Dates

The NC Wildlife commission has announced their stocking schedule for the delayed harvest streams in western North Carolina. These streams will be stocked in March, April, May, October and November. These streams are stocked at a higher rate than other streams and with larger fish, making them super popular places for people to try out fly fishing somewhere they know there will be fish. Some of the creeks include the Tuckasegee in Jackson county, the Nantahala in Macon county and my personal favorite, Big Snowbird in Graham county.

The complete stocking schedule and locations can be found at

Happy fishing, everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lower Falls of Snowbird Creek, Graham County, NC

As you probably know if you've read this blog before, one of my favorite places in Western North Carolina is Big Snowbird Creek in Graham County. I have written about my many trips to the Middle Falls, day hikes to Sassafras Creek and fly fishing the Delayed Harvest section. Today I will share some photos and tips for a successful trip to the Lower Falls (also labeled as the Big Falls on most maps) of Snowbird Creek.

The lowest cascades of the Lower falls.

Snowbird creek is located about 10 miles from Robbinsville in Graham County. I have previously given detailed directions and trail information here, when I wrote about the Middle Falls. There are three main sets of falls on Snowbird Creek, creatively named Lower (Big) falls, Middle Falls and Upper Falls. The Lower falls are actually a set of three or four cascades and slides that serve to separate the rainbow and brown trout populations from the native brook or speckled trout.

Nice little brown trout.

On this particular trip, myself and a set of friends camped at the mouth of Sassafras Creek where it joins Big Snowbird Creek. It was late May and we couldn't keep the fish off the end of our lines. My brother and I and another friend fished from the campsite at Sassafras to the Lower Falls - a distance of about a mile. The day before, my brother and I had fished Sassafras creek, which is a great little creek to itself, but that's a topic for another post.

Pretty little native rainbow.

Below the Lower Falls, you will catch decent sized native rainbows and browns, though you may also see the occasional speck (if you're lucky). However, the size of the falls prohibits the rainbows and browns from moving any farther up the creek.

You will catch the rare speck below the Lower Falls.

If you decide to hike straight to the falls, you can cross Sassafras creek and follow the trail along the left side of the creek for about a mile. The trail will rise in elevation above the creek to where accessing the main creek becomes almost impossible (you will even lose the sound of the creek at one point). This is an important thing to remember if you fish this portion of Big Snowbird as you will have to do some climbing and bushwhacking if you decide to leave the creek before the Lower Falls.
Rock-climbing skills can come in handy!

There is no signage for the falls themselves, but they are pretty straight forward to locate. Once you begin to hear the creek again, you will soon be able to see the falls and several fisherman's trails down to the falls. Be careful, as the banks are pretty steep! If you reach the foot log that crosses Big Snowbird, you have gone too far for the falls. (Side note - there are some amazing campsites on the other side of this foot log at Mouse Knob creek - also a topic for another post). 
Lunch on top of a rock would be great!

Like I noted before, the falls themselves are a series of cascades and slides and you can rock hop from one to the next. The tallest is the farthest up the creek and is ten to fifteen feet tall with a huge pool below. In my opinion, this is one of the best swimming holes in WNC. I have been swimming here since I was about 12 years old and taking a dip in the perpetually chilly creek is one of the highlights of each summer. If you're brave enough, the pool is even deep enough for a jump off the top!
Geronimo! It was cold, I'll guarantee that!
 As always, be safe and have fun in WNC!

Shimmy up the left side and you've got a nice pool to jump into.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fly Fishing on Raven Fork - Great Smokies National Park

Raven Fork in the Great Smokies National Park is one of the hardest to reach, wildest, most interesting creeks that I have fished. The lower parts of Raven Fork are pretty well known as trophy fly fishing waters of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. People also (crazily!) kayak down the middle and lower sections of this river, which I can't even begin to imagine. However, it's the upper reaches of the creek - those without direct trail access - that are the most interesting and fun to fish.

Some fancy footwork will be required on Raven Fork!

Getting to Raven fork is not particularly difficult, but will involve some hiking. To reach the trailhead, head to Cherokee on the North Carolina side of the Great Smokies. From there, you will take Big Cove Road for nine miles to where Straight Fork Road splits to the right (right after the bridge at the junction of Straight Fork and Raven fork creeks). Big Cove Road parallels the lower stretches of Raven Fork where some of the trophy waters are and you will pass plenty of campgrounds for those less adventurous or traveling with families.

Never forget that the Smokies are bear territory.

Straight Fork road is paved for a mile or two and then turns to dirt at a trout pond. You will see a sign welcoming you to the Great Smokies National Park. The parking area at the trailhead will be in about a mile on the left - it's the first you will come to. You may have to share with some horse trailers, but there is plenty of space. Side note - this dirt road follows Straight Fork creek for several miles and gives easy access to this creek. I haven't fished it myself (yet), but the word is that it is a wonderful creek as well.

Clear waters and big boulders define Raven Fork

After parking at the Haytt Ridge trailhead, head up the trail for 1.8 miles (and several hundred feet of elevation gain) to the top of the ridge, where you will meets the Enloe Creek Trail. Follow this trail to the west (stay straight) and it is about the same distance down the other side of the mountain to Raven Fork.

A beautiful gravel beach on Raven Fork - perfect for lunch.

You will cross the river on a huge steel truss bridge that looks quite out of place so far from humanity. Across this bridge is campsite 47, which requires a permit for overnight camping. At this point, the trail turns and follows the creek downstream. However, the more adventurous will turn upstream for some of the best native speckled trout fishing in the Smokies. Once past this point, there is no more trail access for the length of this creek so be prepared to rock-hop and wade your way for the rest of the day.
Steel truss bridge at campsite 47 where the Enloe Creek Trail crosses Raven Fork - start fishing here.

The terrain on this creek is like none I have encountered in the Great Smokies or any other part of western North Carolina. It reminds me more of a western stream with huge boulders and extremely clear waters. Stealth is the key when fishing here, though the native brookies are usually pretty hungry. A royal wulff or thunderhead pattern in a size 12 or 14 will be very effective at almost any time of year. A beadhead prince nymph dropped below one of these flies will double any angler's chances.
Beautiful mini-waterfalls and greenish-blue water on Raven Fork

The only downside to fishing this part of the creek is that you have to wade your way up the creek as well as back down when you are ready to head home. I never advocate fishing alone, but this is a place that you should never fish without a companion. Leaving a detailed plan for your location and return time is always a good plan as well.

Rugged and beautiful!

Good luck and tight lines!

Friday, January 3, 2014

More Snowbird Delayed Harvest Fishing

I took the opportunity of a (somewhat) mild day to try out my new Orvis rod on the delayed harvest section of Snowbird creek. 

I will have to say that this creek is going to get me much more interested in winter fishing - I have never been fishing in December before. However, I know the fish have to eat and they were certainly biting last week.

Even though the temps started out okay, it started to rain and fell into the thirties by the end of the afternoon. The road turned to slop and we got pretty wet.


But a couple of beautiful rainbows and one brookie made it all worthwhile. I was only hoping for a brown to round out my Smoky Mountain Grand Slam.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Delayed Harvest Fishing on Big Snowbird Creek

After some debate and much discussion, Graham County, NC got its first Delayed Harvest designated waters in 2013.  2.8 miles of creek, from the concrete bridge at USFS Road 2579 to the end of the gravel road at the old railroad junction, will get more than 10,000 extra fish each year!

Gear for a full day of fishing on Big Snowbird.

If you aren't familiar with the Delayed Harvest designation, these waters are open to fishing year-round, but from October to June there is a catch and release only restriction. These streams are stocked more often and with more fish than normal Hatchery Supported waters. They have two extra months of stocking - October and November - that benefit the recreational fisherman. During the delayed harvest months, lures are restricted to only artificial, single-hooked bait and no fish may be kept. However, from June to the following October, bait restrictions are lifted and up to seven fish of any size may be kept each day.

Your average stock rainbow trout, taken on a pink egg pattern.

Big Snowbird creek was stocked with 3,125 rainbow, brook and brown in October and November for a total of 6,250 extra trout just waiting to be caught. I have fished here several times this fall and winter and have had great success each time. This includes a winter-like 30 degree morning in late October and a fall-like 60 degree day in mid-December. Average fish sizes are over 10 inches, though there are several fish larger than 20 inches, to keep things interesting! During the colder months, these fish still have to feed and can be coerced with a good nymph pattern such as a prince nymph or hare's ear or with a pink or green egg pattern.

Here are a couple of pictures of some big fish.

My uncle Louie with a fat stock rainbow, caught on a Rooster Tail spinner.

Local guide Billy Knight with a 20-inch rainbow, taken on a pink egg pattern.
More information on stocking schedules and numbers can be found by clicking on the appropriate county at the map found here, on the NC Wildlife Commission Page.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

100 Things to do (Outside!) in 2012

As winter comes back to Western North Carolina, you may be stuck inside thinking about what you'll do once you do finally get to get back out. Well, the folks over at Blue Ridge Outdoors (a great, free publication you should pick up at your favorite gear store every month) have put together a list of 100 things to do outside in 2012, broken down by month.

The whole list can be found over at the BRO 100 site.

Here are 11 of our favorites for the rest of the year:


11. Paddle at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
The center in Charlotte, N.C., includes an artificial class II-IV whitewater river, along with hiking, mountain biking, and climbing on the 400 surrounding acres.

14. Learn to roll a kayak. Visit the Nantahala Outdoor Center or Endless River Adventures in Western North Carolina, D.C.’s Potomac Paddlesports, Richmond’s Adventure Challenge, or join the Georgia Canoeing Association in Atlanta.


28. Get dirty.
The Goodwill Mud Run in Greenville, S.C. offers several race categories, including “Out for Blood” for competitive athletes and “What Were We Thinking?” and “If We’re Not Back in an Hour and a Half, Come Find Us!” divisions for less experienced folk. April 14-15.


36. Hike through Joyce Kilmer’s old-growth forest. California has their giant redwoods and sequoias. We’ve got our 400-year-old tulip poplars and hemlocks. These old-growth wonders eluded the axe and stand mighty and proud in a secluded corner of North Carolina.


45. Sleep in a hammock. String up a hammock between two trees and prepare for a night beneath the stars. (Beside a lake like Fontana or Santeetlah here in WNC!)


54. Cliff jump. Head up to St. Mary’s Wilderness in George Washington National Forest. Drive right up St. Mary’s Road, park, and take the St. Mary’s Falls Trail for a mile to a refreshing and remote dip. You can get your cliff jumping jollies out here too.


61. Stargaze. Bring a bit of strong drink, a pair of binoculars, and somebody close to you. Big Huckleberry Knob off of the Cherohala skyway in Graham County offers 360-degree views on a mile-high mountain vista.


71. Hike the other A.T. The 288-mile Benton Mackaye Trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Davenport Gap on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You could refer to this trail as the sister trail to the Appalachian Trail–it was even conceived by the same man who inspired the Appalachian Trail. This trail crosses through some of the most secluded wilderness areas in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


89. Squirrel-approved adventure. Navitat’s zip lines, just 20 minutes north of Asheville, N.C., span over 1,000 feet of fall foliage canopy. For added thrill, try zipping at night.

90. Witness the weird.The best time to view the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights is in the fall, so make it a Halloween experience.


93. Night rides. The edginess of night is often the best way to amplify any experience. And that applies to mountain biking as well. You’ll want a headlamp with at least 200-300 lumens.


97. Holiday hiking. Choose your favorite day hike trail and try it out in the winter.

Try to cross off as many of these as you can...we are shooting for at least one adventure a month!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Speckled Trout in November

I know it's been a while since I posted anything, I guess I've been too busy getting out and enjoying the outdoors.

Anyway, back on a beautiful unseasonably warm Saturday in November my friend Billy and I decided to fish a new creek. He owns a copy of the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Guide and we just picked a close stream. That stream was the Middle Prong of the Western Fork of the Pigeon River.

To reach the stream, take Highway 276 south out of Waynesville, NC until it intersects NC 215 S/Lake Logan Road. You will cross a bridge at Lake Logan and soon come on Forest Service Road 97 to the right. There is a parking lot here, but during hunting season the gate is open for backcountry access for 4-wheel drive trucks.

If you are lucky enough to be there when the gate is open, you can drive about 3 miles to the third switch-back in the road. Park here and walk about a mile on an old logging road down to the river. If you can't drive, hike the graveled road to this point.

This river is designated native trout waters, meaning only artificial lures with a single hook. We were fly-fishing using a dry fly floater (usually a Royal Wulff) and a nymph dropper (Hare's Ear or Prince Nymph). Once I got my flies sorted out, I caught 9 fish for the day while Billy ended with somewhere near 20. That's a lot of trout for November!

Specks and other trout species do not hibernate, so they need to feed year round. Nymph patterns can be very effective as the weather cools. However, in the cold winter months, the fish do slow down a lot so expect to have to cast over and over to get the presentation just right.

Some more info on the Middle Prong can be found here, from the folks at Fly Fishing Community or here, with a little more emphasis on hiking from HikeWNC.

A few pictures are below:

Nice deep pools and clear water.

Fishing the falls where the creek and trail meet.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nantahala One Fly Competition

On the weekend of Oct. 17-18, the Nantahala Outdoor Center will host a unique Fly Fishing competition - the Nantahala One Fly. For those unfamiliar with fly fishing, this is a competition in which you get one fly to catch the most fish...break it off and you're out! For those familiar with fly fishing, you understand the challenge involved because of how easy it is to get caught up in a tree or pull off the fly in a fish's mouth.

The weekend will start on Saturday with a skills competition, including an accuracy and roll casting contest. The top ten anglers will advance to the actual fishing contest on Sunday. There is also a gear swap going on all weekend.

More information can be found on the NOC website: Nantahala One Fly Competition

See you there!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nantahala River Fishing

This weekend, I finally got a chance to get out and do some much needed fishing. My friend Matt and I spent a rainy Saturday on Nantahala River in Macon County. We had originally planned to hike in to Snowbird creek, but the rain made us re-think and stay close to the truck.

Despite the rain, the fish were really biting. At this time of year, Nantahala is under delayed harvest rules - meaning only single-hook, artificial lures and all fish must be released. Because of the muddy water and overcast day, we each used a Rooster Tail spinner with a gold blade which worked really well.

The Nantahala is stocked with brook, rainbow and brown trout and we saw all three species yesterday. The river is also very popular because of its easy access and the number of fish. Fly-fishermen usually rule the area, but we saw lots of spinner fishermen yesterday because of the rain as well as a number of people fishing nymphs along the bottom.

Here are a few pictures from the day:

My first brook trout of the day. Matt had never caught one, but he eventually got his first brookie too!

A little rainbow.

View of the Nantahala during a break in the weather.

Pretty little feeder stream.

Biggest fish of the day - a brook about 9 or 10 inches long.

Monday, March 9, 2009

WNC Fishing Update

As the weather starts to warm up, my thoughts wander outside to the summer and my time on the creek. Unfortunately, most creeks in Graham County (as well as the region) are closed during the month of March for stocking by the NC Wildlife Commission. The season will officially reopen the first Saturday of April.

According to the schedule here, Graham County is due for over 10,000 trout this month, more than most other counties in the area. Check out the map here (listed under Seasons/Stocking) for more stocking schedules around Western North Carolina.

If you can't shake the itch and need to go wet a line before the first Saturday in April, you have to head to Native Waters, such as Big Snowbird Creek above the junction. You could also fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which does not have a closed season. More information can be found here or here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Our Favorite Dayhikes Part II

Today's featured hike is one that I have been making since I was 5 or 6 years old when I was tagging along with my Dad and uncle up Snowbird Creek. Round trip, this hike covers an easy 10 miles and passes several waterfalls, ending up at my favorite - the Middle Falls.

To reach the Snowbird Creek trailhead from the town of Robbinsville, drive 1.4 miles north on US 129 and turn left on SR 1116 (Massey Branch Road) at the sign for the Ranger Station. Continue 3.3 miles on Massey Branch Road and turn right at the intersection onto SR 1127 (Snowbird Road). Follow Snowbird Road for 2.1 miles to a fork where Snowbird Road bears to the left down a hill. Continue on Snowbird Road for 2.1 miles to a very sharp left turn and drive 1 mile to a bridge over Snowbird Creek. Turn right directly after the bridge onto a dirt road. Follow this road 5.9 miles until it dead ends in a parking area.

This parking area is known to locals as the "Junction" because in the early days of the area, this was where the logging railroad intersected the main road and was home to a big log yard. The Snowbird Creek area was heavily logged by the Bemis Lumber Company from 1928 to 1942. My grandfather was one of the hundreds of men that spent their weeks at one of the many logging camps, only to catch the train back into town for the weekends. He told my dad and uncles of catching speckled trout by the hundreds to be fried up to feed the hungry loggers.

One of my favorite things to do on my hikes into the Snowbird area is to imagine the huge logging train filled with logs as it chugged its way down the creek. At many of the sites of the old logging camps, there is still evidence of the men who worked here. This evidence may be huge piles of tin cans from the mess halls or old railroad ties or rails. In some places you can still find lumps of coal left over from the stockpiles needed to fuel the trains. To me, hiking up Snowbird Creek is like taking a trip back in time.

Ok, back to the hike details...after parking at the junction, follow the Big Snowbird trail (Number 64) to the left. Some work is being done to one of the other trails that leaves from the Junction, but make sure you head to the left. Soon you will be following the gentle grade as it rises with the creek. Stay on trail number 64 as it crosses Sassafras Creek after about three miles, the first major creek crossing. After another mile, you will pass by another popular set of falls which you will be able to hear and see from the trail. These falls are formally named the Big Falls but are better known as the Lower Falls as they are the first in the set of three major falls on Snowbird Creek (next comes the Middle Falls, then the Upper Falls).

Passing the Lower Falls, you will soon cross a log footbridge into the Mouse Knob campsites. This was home to one of the major logging camps of the day and is named for Mouse Knob branch which splits the campsites. If you follow the creek, you will see where Big Snowbird Trail stays with the creek for the remainder of the trip. This is your best bet if you don't mind getting wet, as the trail crosses the creek nearly a dozen times in the next mile (an alternate, dryer route is offered at the bottom of this post). This is my personal choice during the summer as I love to fish the stretch from the Mouse Knob campsites to the Middle Falls. I will cover the excellent fishing on Snowbird Creek in a later post.

Following the trail for the wet mile as it crosses Big Snowbird Creek leads you to the Middle Falls. There is a sign that points down to the Falls and if you're paying attention, you will be able to hear them and maybe catch a glimpse through the woods. After dropping off the main trail and heading through some mountain laurel, you'll break through and be hit by the mist coming off the spectacular 20-foot drop. The pool is deep and clear and there are plenty of rocks and grassy spots for lunch or naps. Of course you could always cast a line for one of the native speckled trout that inhabit the creek. On a very hot day, this is the perfect place for a refreshing dip!
The Middle Falls in all it's glory!

Alternate route for those wanting to stay dry: After crossing the foot bridge at the Mouse Knob campsites, keep left and head up the trail that climbs the mountain (Trail 64-A). For the first 0.2 miles, this is a pretty steep climb with several switchbacks until it peaks out and rolls gently for another 0.8 miles. You will be away from the creek for most of this part of the trail, but don't worry, you'll be back soon. As you descend on the other side of this mountain, you will see signs that point toward the Middle Falls and Big Snowbird Trail (Trail 64). Turn left when you intersect with Big Snowbird Trail and the Middle Falls will be down a few hundred yards on the right.

I highly recommend stopping at the Ranger Station on the way into the Snowbird area and picking up a Snowbird Area Trail Map (around $7-$8), it will be well worth it. The Snowbird area is very popular with many marked hiking trails as well as lesser known hunting and fishing trails. I will be covering more Snowbird hikes in the coming weeks as this creek is one of my favorite places in the world.

As requested, a few more pictures:

Casting for a fat speckled trout at the Middle Falls

An average speck from Big Snowbird - look at the coloring.

Shot up the creek at one of the many crossings.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pop!

I just wanted to take a second and wish a big happy birthday to my dad! He is the main reason that I am as into the outdoors as I am. He took me on my first big camping trip when I was about five and all those camping trips since have just been great. He also taught me to fly fish and to appreciate the natural beauty of our area.

He's retired now and this makes me jealous because he and my mom get to go hiking or fishing or puttering around the lake on their pontoon boat whenever they want now. Maybe I'll hit the lottery soon and join them. So happy birthday, Pop...we love you!