We specialize in guiding and teaching fly fishing for trout and smallmouth in Western North Carolina & East Tennessee.
Brown Trout Blog
Types of Trout We catch on our Fly Fishing Trips: Both around Asheville and East Tennessee
Western North Carolina and the tailwaters of East Tennessee have three main species of trout and a fourth kicker trout that is more of a unicorn. Within the three species there are several subspecies and I’ll describe them below and separate them geographically.
Asheville/Western North Carolina Trout Species
We have all three species of trout in our mountain streams around Asheville: Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout. The brook trout is our only native trout and they are found primarily at the very tops of the watersheds we fish. They are of the Southern Appalachian strain and there is a great video about their restoration linked here Those native fish are wild as well and are stream born and self-sustaining at this point. We also have wild rainbow and brown trout at lower elevations. They are also stream born now but were stocked here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There is a great book about the history of rainbow trout stocking An Entirely Synthetic Fish, linked here. Those wild rainbow and brown trout live at elevations slightly lower than the brook trout. The wild populations don’t exist well together. The brown trout and rainbow trout are too aggressive to co exist with the brook trout. You can catch all three species in a day, but you have to catch the rainbows and browns and then hike up a few miles to find your brook. It’s a pretty cool time.
We also have stocked trout populations of all three trout around Asheville too. The most popular streams to find them are the Delayed Harvest Streams we often guide on during the fall, winter and spring. These three stocked populations are stocked in sizes ranging from 6 inches to 20 inches. Most fish fall in the 8-12 inch range. These fish are raised in the Bobby Setzer Hatchery on the Davidson River. They are sterile fish and can’t reproduce. That protects both our native and wild trout genetics from dilution from hatchery fish genes.
Tennessee Tailwater Trout Species: Watauga and South Holston Rivers
There are currently no brook trout in either the Watauga and South Holston. They are too far down the river system to have the native brook trout and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency hasn’t stocked them in over a decade. There are lots of wild brown trout and that is what these rivers are known for. There are also many rainbow trout both stocked and wild. All the wild trout spawn in the main channel and a few of the tributaries of the Watauga. The rainbow trout stocked in both rivers come from the Dale Hollow federal trout hatchery and the Erwin federal hatchery. The stockers are primarily 6-12 inches when stocked. The TWRA does stock fingerlings occasionally. The Erwin hatchery also stocks their brood trout from August to January as they finish their egg harvests. Those fish are usually 16-22 inches long. There area FEW Lake Trout(Salvelinus namaycush) in both rivers, mostly right below the dams. The fish live in the lakes above the tailwaters and a few scoot through and over the dams and live to tell the tale. I have had clients catch two lake trout in 10 years so that tells you how few there are in the rivers. I have personally caught many lake trout while fishing the reservoirs so they are there.
Asheville Area Fly Fishing Report June 10 2019
Asheville, North Carolina Fly Fishing Report June 10 2019
By Brown Trout Fly Fishing
Davidson River/ other “Sky Island” Streams
We got a lot of rain this weekend in most drainages. Fortunately, Asheville didn’t get nearly the rain our friends to the North received. The Davidson River is a little high today but should be great tomorrow. Today would be a good day to throw streamers out there if you are a good wader. The North/West side of the Blue Ridge didn’t get nearly as much rain and is already fishable today. The pigeon system looks nice. We actually needed some rain to boost flows. The next few days should be really nice. On the Davidson Inchworms and Green Moth Larvae, Yellow Sallies, and caddis still dominate the bug life. There are some drakes around and terrestrials are becoming a good bet as well. Our fly of the week is the yellow stimulator size 12-14. It’s a great fly this time of year. As with last week don’t overlook the shallow edge water. Deep holes are good with weight but many fish slide to the side when flows come up.
Watauga River/South Holston River Report
All rain that fell on the Northern Blue Ridge Mountains is washing into the Watauga and South Holston lakes. The TVA has cranked the dams open today and will increase flows to around 3,000 tomorrow. That kills the wading opportunities but floating should be still productive especially after a couple days. The fish need a day or two to adjust to the flows. We don’t know what this will do to the Sulphur hatches that have been occurring on both rivers, but nymphing and dry dropper should stay really productive. The streamer bite should pick up with the high water. This time of year fish really key in on bugs but high water makes it much easier to get a fish to “slip up” and eat a streamer pattern. Could be a fun time for that even though its out of season. Cloudy days are usually better for that but you really never know when that fish of a lifetime will get angry and make a mistake. Flows are going to be high for a while.
Asheville, North Carolina and Watauga/South Holston Fishing Report June 7 2019
Asheville Fishing Report June 7 2019
After three weeks of no rain we are getting some this weekend. Probably a lot. The fishing has been pretty good during the low water. This was the first time the water has been low enough for the fish to see anglers in months so they were a little spooky in spots. June 1 was “Bloody Saturday”. All our delayed harvest rivers switched to hatchery supported regulations and are now catch and kill 7 fish any size no bait restrictions. We have switched to the Davidson river and have been doing pretty well there. Mixing our trips with a little campground action, some time in the catch and release section, and a little hatchery time too. You’ve got to be flexible on the Davidson as you never know how the fish will respond in each area. There are inchworms around, but the fish haven’t been super responsive yet. We are getting fish on yellow sally dries, and various droppers under them. Some of our delayed harvest streams are getting stocked post the mass killing on opening day. We will transition some trips to those as the state gets more fish in them. We are also moving out into the headwaters and chasing some of our native brook trout. Fun time of year in NC but definitely one of transition. This rain will give all our NC streams a good boost of water and we expect next week to be pretty great. Well check in after the rain finishes falling. We will probably see some streams push to flood stage for a day or two.
Watauga/South Holston Fishing Report June 7 2019
Flows have been great on the Watauga and South Holston lately. The Watauga has been running on its usually summer recreation schedule. Water is low until 12PM or 1PM and then high until roughly 6PM. Both high water and low water have been good. There are still some sporadic Sulphur hatches down low below Elizabethton, but the sulphurs are still strong in the afternoons between stony creek and the Hwy 400 bridge. The Doe river has been low until the recent rain so fish have been a little spooky. Id say the next few days we get post rain will be epic. The fish usually feed without reservation during the fall after a big storm. Stained water keeps them from being spooky and bugs hatch well during water level drops. Well check in next week with that intel.
The South Holston has been fishing well. Tricky but producing nice fish. It hasn’t been super beginner friendly on the low flows but long casts and good drifts get rewarded. The TVA cranked the dam up to 1400 today. Id say a day or two of that will have fish crazy fired up. Sulphurs are on the upper half of the river now. They should respond well to the 1400cfs flow. We don’t know how long they will run that flow but I’d say the next handful of days. This weekend will be wet but river conditions are looking good for a rain event. Well check in Monday or Tuesday with a fishing forecast.
Winter Fishing Tips from Russ Miller
We are starting to transition from winter fishing to spring fishing, but with snow in the forecast we have a few more cold fishing days left. Hopefully Western North Carolina fly anglers will find this helpful next year also. Asheville and Pisgah National Forest can be very similar to the Rocky Mountain west during the cold months. You can expect to find big fish in slower water and a lot fewer people. If you want quality trout of quantity winter is a great season to fly fish. Just bring warm layers and a thermos of coffee. Fish deep and slow. Looks like Russ has a worm tied on. Be sure to fish worms, eggs, mops, big hares ears and stones.
Save The Brook Trout in the Smokies Video
Freshwaters Illustrated and The Little Tennessee Native Fish Conservation Area put together this great video about The park services work on Brook Trout Restoration. Great Read about one of our favorite species. The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. We are blessed to have tons of the fish around the Asheville area in most all of the Pisgah National Forest Streams.
Winter Fly Fishing Hot Tips
How to adjust your nymph rig depth to miss fewer strikes. Trout eat slowly during the winter and are sitting in slower water. This video will help you fine tune your rig.
One look at the indicator display in any fly shop can send even experienced anglers running back to the dry fly bins. Some of the longest conversations I have with anglers in the shop revolve around which indicators would be best for a given situation. I love all the indicators available and each one is king at the right time so I wanted to share some of what I think they do well. The three types below are the three I use most often on the Davidson River and Watauga River.
These indicators, (bobbers) lol, are the king when it comes to staying afloat. If I am fishing heavy flies or lots of shot these are my go to indicators. High water is another place these guys shine. You can’t sink these indicators and even if a big wave swamps them they pop right back up. I most often use the 3/4” size, but the 1 inch are great when fishing really heavy. The drawbacks to this indicator are that you need a thick diameter leader/buttsection to keep them from sliding up and down the leader. That is not a problem when I am fishing in the conditions above, but limits their versatility. Because they float so well fish do feel the resistance from the indicator when they eat the flies below. In fast water no problem, but in slower water I’ve found that fish spit flies faster as a result. Also in slow water these indicators land with a loud plop and can spook fish. High Water on the Watauga River is the ideal place for these indicator types.
FAST OR HEAVY WATER – A+
SLOW OR SHALLOW WATER – D
I’ll try not to sound too biased here. Yarn is awesome. I have used the ORVIS Assortments, New Zealand Wool, and Lefty Kreh yarn and like them all a lot. Yarn doesn’t float quite as well as the thingamabobbers, but the ORVIS assortment comes in enough sizes that you can put on a big piece or even two when high water is present. I think fish hold on to the flies longer with yarn than almost any other indicator. I switched to yarn in slow water 4 or 5 years ago and my catch rates doubled. Yarn also lands without making a sound and hardly a ripple. It also comes in colors that help it look just like leaves floating downstream. On the Davidson River fish will move aside when brightly colored indicators come through a run so having yarn is crucial. Because the yarn doesn’t float as well as the above mentioned indicators lighter strikes are much more detectable as well. Low to Medium Water on both the Watauga and Davidson are perfect condtions for these indicators.
FAST OR HEAVY WATER – B
SLOW OR SHALLOW WATER – A+
Foam Stick On
I first used foam stick on indicators on the South Fork of the Snake during PMD emergences. Fish really key in on the emerging pmd stage and can be quite picky about the nymphs/emergers they eat. They are feeding close to the surface but not enough to see them eat the fly. Because the fish are so shallow you have to have something tiny. These indicators are often smaller than a dime. They are feather light so make no noise. They also stay really well on the small tippet sections I often want them on. They won’t float much weight and they leave a small amount of residue on your leader when you remove them, but all are small prices to pay when you need the 007 stealth. Like yarn fish don’t spit these very fast and they go down with minimal pressure. Low water on the Davidson River is a great time for foam stick ons as is a mayfly hatch on the Watauga River.
FAST OR HEAVY WATER – F
SLOW OR SHALLOW WATER – A+
These three are by no means an all encompassing list. Just the three I use the most. Some of the others like corks, twist-ons, and other types of foam indicators have their time and place, but I think with the three types above you can handle 99% of all the situations out there. Below are links to many of the products I mentioned.
Black Scout Survival is back in Asheville fly fishing with Brown Trout guide Josh Gorelick again. Cool video gives you a sense of where we fish and what we fish for. Josh gives a great rundown on some of the bugs that hatch on the trout streams around Asheville in the spring. Thanks Black Scout!
Check out some of their other videos. There is really cool one about survival fishing in the swamp. Its kind of like Tenkara 😉
We have gotten pounded by rain this month. We have had over 12 inches of rain in Asheville, NC as of May 29. A lot of people have called to ask us whether or not we can still fish and if we have any tips for how to successfully fly fish when the waters are raging. There is a point where we just cannot safely or productively catch trout on the fly, and we have cancelled several trips for that reason. The good news is that the Delayed Harvest and Wild Water trout streams in our area clear fast and while they may stay high you can catch trout. When you have high water the fish look for slower spots. That means they go to the bottom of the rivers or the side. We either add a ton of weight and dredge the bottom with stonefly nymphs and worms flies or we put on a shallow dry and dropper rig and fish the eddies along the edges of the river. In the spring trout metabolisms are at their peak and so are the aquatic insects hatching. We have yellow sallies, cahills, small blue winged olives, drakes starting, some salmon flies, and assorted caddis. The high water knocks a bunch of nymphs off their perches and the water is full of food. The other advantage of high water is that the fish usually can’t see you coming. Rough water is hard to see through and its very noisy so sneaking up on trout is usually much easier in high water. We typically catch fish on high water within 20 feet of us. You can also fish with pretty heavy tippet. Typically in Pisgah National Forest and other Streams around Asheville we use 5x and 6 x tippet. When the water is high we can use 3x and 4x. That makes fighting trout in rough water much easier and we lose many fewer flies. The photo on this post is a 7 day history of the Davidson River. It’s a stream that clears very fast and as soon as you can safely wade it fish are on the banks feeding. Give us a call if you ever need a guide to show you some of the high water techniques listed above.
Great Summer Fly Fishing In Asheville, North Carolina
Summer fly fishing in Asheville, North Carolina can be very fun but knowing where to go is very helpful. Delayed Harvest waters are opened to catch and kill on the first Saturday in June and as a result we don’t have many catch and release streams with high fish numbers during the summer. We spend a ton of time guiding on the famed Davidson River during the summer. The Davidson River Fish Hatchery creates a super cool sight fishing opportunity and while the trout are very selective they absolutely can be caught. We spend hundreds of days each summer up there and are happy to show you some of our tactics. We also spend a lot of time fishing all of the small branches that feed all of the delayed harvest streams we guide during the cool months. The small feeder creeks hav
e small fish but they are full of beautiful wild rainbow trout, brown trout, and at the top native brook trout. No one will give you names of their favorite wild trout stream, but exploring unkown water is half the fun of hiking in and fishing wild trout streams. Thirdly we still fish the delayed harvest streams. A week or two after bloody Saturday the fish that survive the harvest will come out from under the rocks and start to feed again. The state also sneaks another stocking of trout into DH streams mid summer and the bait dunkers are all gone by then. Asheville has great fly fishing during the warm months but having some local expertise to get in the right spot can be a huge help. Give us a call if you want some guided fly fishing help this summer or anytime. 803-431-9437