Sunday, August 5, 2012

Extra Terrestrials in the Back Country

It's the height of terrestrial season, and in Western North Carolina that typically means a strange combination of low water, skittish trout, sporadic fishing, and a chance of taking a big fish on a big dry.  Matt Sloan and I hiked into the South Mills River, a stream that is large and remote for NC standards in some sections. My first back packing slash fly fishing trip was on this stream when I was 11 years old.  With dreams of fishing the back country as a much more experienced angler filled my imagination with wild river-monster brown trout, the fishing turned out to be similar to that of my child hood; little wild trout on caddis flies.  Pretty straight forward dry fly fishing produced the most consistent results, and no river monsters were slapping in my net.

The water temp was 68 degrees in the late afternoon and the water was a little off color.  The temperature was 64 in the morning, and the morning fishing was better as well.  I hoped to nail a bruiser in the High Falls pool, but a 10 inch brown chasing my streamer was the closest i got.

Matt fishing High Falls hole
Granted, August isn't prime trout season, and we were fishing during a full moon, but the fishing was mediocre to be on part of a back country stream that receives relatively little pressure. After unsuccessfully trying to solve the riddle of what fly combo would be the hot ticket, I followed Matt's lead and fished a caddis or a trude, and enjoyed catching opportunistic wild trout on the dry much like I did when I was 11.  The mystery of each new piece of water, and watching trout slam dries was pretty stinkin' fun.  I missed more than I landed, and Matt landed more than I touched.

little S. Mills bow

"Monster" brown trout of the back country

Orange spots on wild brown trout

WNC is a temperate rain forrest, and it definitely looks and feels like a jungle this time of year.  Our rugged unmarked trail and camp site were tight, green, and damp.

camp site

vegetation choked trail
After packing out, I was inspired to fish the Davidson down stream of the hatchery, prospecting the stream like a typical wild stream instead of the pressured fishery "D" tactics I usually employ.  A black foam pmx with a birds ear hairs nest dropped of the back was my tandem rig of choice. The fish below ate the birds nest on the swing, and surprised me for this finicky stream at 4:15 in the afternoon in August.

good surprise

15 minutes later my terrestrial gets slammed on a pocket seam in a tiny eddy behind a rock. I managed to set the hook beneath a tight canopy of trees and do work to keep this fish out of a log jam below and from running under a rock ledge to my left on the delicate 6x tippet. I am fortunate enough to land the fish of the trip rather quickly.

Extra Terrestrial afternoon snack

After hiking in a few miles and camping out in the back county, the kind wild fish I was looking for was in a piece of water I had driven by countless times in my 20 plus years of fishing this area.  It goes to further my recent discovery that some of the best fishing is not that far off the beaten path after all.

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