Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Here's where to find Than these days

If you've stumbled across this blog recently in search of me, I've found a new home - after a few years in the newspaper business, I've returned to guiding full-time at Davidson River Outfitters in Pisgah Forest (

I worked my first trip for DRO back in 2001, and I've guided on their private water on a part-time basis over the last four years since leaving Headwaters. I'm thrilled to be working for them again. They've got a tremendous fly selection, their guide staff is incredibly diverse and experienced, and they have five miles of well-managed private water on the Davidson, West Fork French Broad and the upper Green. Plus, DRO has permits to fish any public water in WNC, from the Nantahala to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

So if you've fished with me in the past, or been referred to me by someone who has, please give DRO a call and book a day of fishing with me. Their toll-free number is 888-861-0111. You can email me about availability at 

Hope to see you soon on the water!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Portfolio - sort of

I haven't posted here in some time, but today I was picked by Native Eyewear as a finalist in their "Locals Only" contest. They're choosing a team of writers and photographers to document what it's like to be a local in Brevard, my hometown for the past 16 years.

They're calling this my portfolio on their Facebook page, when actually it was just one of a series of links I sent them. So allow me to temporarily post some samples of my writing here so Facebook voters can get a taste of what I'm capable of writing, besides fishing reports:

Here's a recent article I wrote for the Hendersonville Times-News about the new Headwaters State Forest in Transylvania County -

As part of my job, I do a lot of environmental and outdoor reporting. Here's an earlier piece on a controversial logging project proposed in a remote area of the Pisgah National Forest, just outside Brevard.

I've also been known to cover entertainment. Here's an article about a festival in Asheville I wrote for the Mountain Xpress. 

Click here to see an article I wrote recently about Outside Magazine choosing Brevard as one of its top towns in which to raise an outdoorsy kid.

Finally, here's a piece I wrote for the Times-News about the new Bracken Mountain mountain biking trail system.

Please vote for me! If I win, I promise to turn around and spend every dollar I earn locally in Transylvania County.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Here Comes Rock-tober!

After another long summer of low rainfall and steamy temperatures, we have been looking forward to autumn for some time. Fall brings cooler temps, of course, but the fishing perks up for other reasons, too. For one, all of our Delayed Harvest streams (including the East Fork, Tuckasegee, Little River and North Mills) get stocked with fresh fish in the first week of October. Then there is another stocking by the state in early November, and the fishing doesn't suffer much even as late as Thanksgiving.
Another reason we welcome the Autumnal Equinox is that it kicks off a fresh round of hatches. We already have seen October caddis buzzing around in the mornings on our North Fork private waters. An orange Stimulator (#14-#10) may bring fish up to the surface, but it's the pupae that really seem to turn them on. Cinnamon-colored Deep Sparkle Pupas, Fox's Poopahs or even a simple Partridge-and-Orange are the best choices for dredging and swinging down-and-across. Early morning and late in the day are best, since these pumpkin-colored caddis emerge mostly at night.
We saw a ton of tiny blue-winged olives (likely Acentrellas) on the Davidson the other day while guiding. Any decent drift with a #22-#24 olive RS-2 or a Pheasant Tail nymph brought a strike, though they were lightning quick to spit it, as usual. But we can expect to see continued hatches of BWOs throughout the fall, especially on cloudy days. Isonychia mayflies, commonly known as Leadwinged Coachmans, are also coming off right now, along with a few remnant Tricos. Don't neglect the terrestrials, either. Beetle and ant imitations are still hot, even as the hopper/inchworm hatch winds down for the season after the first frost.
Probably the biggest single reason our guides look forward to fall, however, is the bump in water. We have suffered through three or four summers of below-average rainfall and at times, it was sheer torture to get fish to eat in August. Now, thanks to Hurricane Irene and the latest dump this week, our rivers are getting back in good shape again. More tropical moisture is predicted to come our way in the coming week, which is great news for our streams and those who love them.
Brook trout are on the beds up high, so we'll be putting aside the 2-weights for awhile to let them rest and reproduce without harassment. Smallmouth bass, particularly the larger fish, are moving into deeper troughs and holes as the water cools down, so our float trips will mostly shift to the Tuck or the Watauga for trout. The brown trout spawn is nearly upon us, which always produces a few whopper-jaws in October and November. Fishing streamers out of a drift boat allows you cover more water and increases your chance of hooking a trophy-class brown.
So put aside college football games for a weekend and forget about deer season for a minute, because the best trout fishing of the year is about to arrive. The tulip poplars and sourwoods are already turning here in the French Broad River valley and the best of the fall foliage season is still ahead of us. The private waters is booking up quickly for October, so don't wait until the last minute to get in on the autumnal action. This winter is predicted to be a cold, snowy one, so it may be the last opportunity to get your trout on until spring!

Tight lines,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Dog Days Are Here Again

Trout fishing is a coldwater sport, folks. To quote the eminent ichthyologist Dr. Robert Behnke, "Trout feeding is sharply reduced as temperatures rise from 60 to 70 degrees F." Unfortunately, that is exactly where most of the waters locally are running right now -- between 65 and 70 degrees. That will change if we start getting some nighttime lows in the low 60s and the highs moderate from the sweltering 90s we've experienced of late, but needless to say, it is an awful tough time to be a trout fisherman.

Still, it's much cooler in our mountain streams than it is on the coastal plain of any state in the Deep South, so there's something to be said for going up in elevation. If you plan on booking a trip in August or early September, prepare to head for the high country to fish. That means try to book our North Fork private waters, which sit about 3,300 feet in elevation, or climb even higher on a backcountry brook trout trip.

If you opt for private waters, shoot for a day when temperatures are not in the 90s, preferably with some cloud cover or a drizzling, overcast day. This heat wave will eventually pass. If your plans don't allow for such meteorological advantages, come anyhow. We'll still hook some fish; it will just be more challenging than in the spring or fall.

Another good summer option, for those with the physical stamina and adventurous spirit to pull it off, is a backcountry brook trout trip. All of our guides love to fly fish for native brook trout, and a trip to the high country offers an invigorating alternative to the daily heat gripping the valleys below. Be forewarned, however: these backcountry trips are not for couch potatoes or guys nursing an old football leg injury. Typically, we will cover about five or six miles, including hikes in and out plus fishing upstream. And the climb out at day's end is usually a lung-buster. But the scenery on these streams cannot be rivaled and these fish readily rise to a dry fly, if you're stealthy. They are small, though. A big brookie is about 9 or 10 inches. We use 2- and 3-weights to make it sporty and fun.

Don't forget our warmwater species, too: there are numerous slow river stretches and lakes locally where you can catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, bream, muskie, redeye bass and lots of warpaint shiners! Start with public ponds in DuPont State Forest, which offer decent bass and bream fishing in the early morning hours, or try wading the shoals down near Bent Creek on the French Broad. Bright days aren't the greatest, but cloud cover will bring fish up top on poppers (white and chartreuse work well for us.) Slow down your retrieves - afterall, it's the dog days of summer. Everything is working at about half-speed.

Tight lines,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Arrives With A Bang

Summer has arrived with a bang, marshalling in unseasonably warm temperatures and high humidity. We've already hit the 90-degree mark here, which we usually don't reach until late July or August. So we've been wet-wading (just neoprene socks and felt-soled boots) for two weeks already, even on higher elevation streams like those in the Shining Rock Wilderness. The heat seems to have put a damper on mid-day hatches of bugs like Light Cahills and yellow sallies, which have slid back until close to dusk. Nymph fishing remains good, though, especially early and late in the day.

However, that doesn't mean you can't coax fish to eat a dry when the sun is high in the sky. Attractor dries like Lime Humpies (#12-#16), Hopper Stones (#10-#12), Thunderheads (#12-#14) and Mr. Rapidans (#10-#16) will draw fish up if they're well-presented, with no drag, particularly in pocket water and faster runs. This is going to be a banner summer for terrestrials, too. We have more hoppers in the field next to our private water than we've seen in five seasons there. Also, if you live in the South, you've probably heard about the gigantic numbers of cicadas that are awakening from their 13-year slumber underground. They emerge when soil temps reach 64 degrees. Get ready for trout to start slurping these inch-long monster bugs! This has also been a prodigious year for inchworms, which seem to dangle from every tree.

Meanwhile, if you get on the water an hour before dark, there are a lot of aquatic insects coming off at dusk, including sulphurs, yellow sallies, and even some Yellow and Green Drakes on the siltier stretches of the Davidson, West Fork and North Fork. A parachute dry fly in cream or yellow, or a rubber-legged yellow Stimulator, in a #12-#14 will cover multiple bases. We are happy to accomodate folks who want to fish these early evening hatches by starting our guide trips later (typically around noon) and thereby finish up right around dusk, when the best hatches are coming off. Keep in mind that afternoon thundershowers can put a damper on any topwater action late in the date. However, they also cool things down and a decent amount of rain usually ramps up the nymph fishing success, so it's often worth it even if the hatch doesn't come off as planned.

Although the early heat isn't great news, so far it hasn't hampered the fishing much, especially on our private waters and smaller wild streams at higher elevations. Now that Delayed Harvest is officially over until fall, it pays to focus on the wild, unstocked waters if you want to avoid the crowds. The West Fork has been producing lots of 9 to 12-inch wild rainbows and browns. Avery Creek, Looking Glass and Courthouse have all been fishing well, so when things get too hot or crowded on the Big 'D', slide over to a small stream with your 3-weight and you'll have a blast. And don't forget smallmouth fishing! Michael Sprouse tells me that the smallie action on the French Broad is heating up nicely, as long as afternoon thundershowers don't muddy it up.

Tight lines,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cahills, Caddis and Craneflies, Oh My!

You know the old saying: "April showers bring May flowers." Well, maybe we should change that hackneyed expression to, "April deluges bring May hatches," because that's exactly what has happened locally. We've gotten a lot of rain this spring, including a monster flood on April 16 that brought the French Broad ripping at over 4,000 cubic feet per second (it usually hovers around 250 cfs.) But the upside of all this water has been some incredible aquatic insect hatches and hopefully ample flows going into summer.

Almost every spring bug of significance has been popping off in the last week. We've seen solid hatches of March Browns for several weeks, though most of the fish were eating the emergers sub-surface (a #12 Soft-Hackle March Brown Emerger or Mercer's March Brown Trigger Nymph was the ticket.) Light Cahills have made an appearance on the Davidson and West Fork, along with the bigger sulphurs (E. invaria). Net-building caddis are popping in good numbers on warmer days, along with lots of yellow sallies. And creamy craneflies are buzzing around almost everywhere.

Dusk has been the best time to catch a good hatch of the sulphurs and Cahills, but the March Browns (as well as a few straggler Quill Gordons) are showing up mid-day. We also have seen some Gray Winged Yellow Quills (Epeorus vitreus) on the big D. Given all this, you really cannot do wrong by tying on a #14 cream or yellow-bodied parachute as your lead fly and a #16 rubber-legged Red Fox Squirrel Nymph dropper. Another killer fly recently has been a #16 green Translucent Pupa, which is sort of a LaFontainesque caddis emerger. Swing it down and across during a caddis hatch and hold on! A little shock loop under your line finger is a good idea to keep from breaking off the more aggressive takers.

Our private waters has been cranking since the storm, so the trips we have run up there have been heavy affairs, literally. Lots of split shot, ping pong ball-sized Thingamabobbers, and longer drifts have been the name of the game up there, until just recently. And yes, the fish have still been eating well. It's just been harder to land them in all that current and we haven't been able to fish several places because the wading is too difficult for most folks. As of today, though, the water has receded to a good fishable level and the timing couldn't be more perfect, with all the bugs we're seeing. As a result of the high water, we've been fishing the Davidson quite a bit over the last three weeks, and it's still producing lots of strikes for those willing to endure the crowds. Mac had a client land a giant brown this week that didn't acutally eat the fly, but instead engulfed a 10-inch rainbow and refused to spit it out!

Meanwhile, all our Delayed Harvest waters received their last stocking of spring this week, which means the fishing is about as good as it's going to get on the East Fork, North Mills, Little River and Tuck. The Tuck has been generating both forks pretty solidly, but if you're prepared to strip streamers all day, it's a great way to go. If that's not your bag, wild streams are in fine shape right now: Avery, Looking Glass, Cathey's, Courthouse and their ilk are producing lots of dry fly takes. Go to a bigger fly if the dinks and young-of-the-year rainbows get too annoying. A dark Thunderhead has been the fly du jour recently on small streams. It's a beautiful time to be on the water. All the foliage is bright and fresh, bugs are hatching and the wildflower displays are excellent. Come on up and let's go fishing!

Tight lines,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Hatches Arrive In Force

Are you weary of nymph fishing after the long winter and late spring? Then get yourself to the mountains soon because the dry fly fishing is getting really exciting and fishing on top will only continue to improve as we get further into April and May!

Right now, we've got Quill Gordons popping off in big numbers on all the tributaries of the French Broad, especially the East Fork, West Fork and North Fork. During a guide trip yesterday, fish were coming off the bottom in 7 feet of water to eat emerging Quill Gordons on the surface! Quite a spectacle after our long, cold winter. There have been hundreds of little black caddis covering the sun-warmed boulders along our private waters almost every morning for the last two weeks, and they've been all over the Davidson, too. Any well-presented black pupa (our go-to imitation has been a #18 gray Deep Sparkle Pupa) has produced lots of strikes in the mornings, then we're switching over to #12-#14 Hare's Ears and Sheepflies around noon as the Quill Gordons get active. By 1 p.m., the fish are looking up and we're catching them on a variety of patterns: Mr. Rapidan parachutes, #12 Adams parachutes and Catskill-style Quill Gordon dries. Drop a Hare's Ear off the back if the surface action is slow - you'll eventually snip it off to avoid the inevitable tangles/wraps once things warm up and the duns start popping. All our local Delayed Harvest waters will receive another stocking of fish this week, so the fishing on the East Fork, Little River, Tuckaseegee and North Mills will continue to rock. The East Fork was tougher to fish over the last few weeks because it holds water so well and all the rain we got in March kept it cookin'. But with enough shot and the right drift, you could catch fish at will. Lots of smaller brook trout, with the odd holdover brown and numerous cookie-cutter rainbows. Meanwhile, the Davidson has been on fire thanks to all the rain we've gotten. I did two trips over there last week and it seemed like the fish were on steroids - even the 10-inchers fought like crazy, pulling drag and catching air. One of my guys broke off a 22-inch-plus brown within the first hour of fishing, but we landed a bunch and they all looked chunky and well-fed. Midge pupa in gray, brown and black did the trick, along with blue-winged emergers when they started coming off around 1 p.m. I haven't caught a Hendrickson hatch on the Davidson (which is the best E. subvaria water around these parts) but I've seen a few spinners, so I know they're coming off somewhere. Get ready for the March browns to make an appearance soon, as temperatures are forecast to climb back into the 70s by late this week. If you're in the market for a new dry fly rod, every rod in the shop is now 25 percent off for the next few weeks. That means that Wright & McGill 3- or 4-weight you've been coveting is just $165! Come cast one and check out these premium features not usually found on a stick in this price range: Portugese cork grips, titanium guides, external ferrules, with a leather-bound case and a lifetime warranty. We also have two Scott A3s on sale: a 9-foot 6 wt. that would make any smallie fisherman ecstatic and a 9 ft. 8 wt. that would be great for Charleston or NOLA redfish. They're a steal at $221 and $251, respectively. Tight lines, Than

Mikey likes it!

Mikey likes it!
Even photographers occasionally get to fish, as Michael Justus proved with this scrappy rainbow