Hi, my name is Scottie Finanger and I am currently a sophomore at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. For those who don’t know, Boone is a small college town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. I have the luxury of being extremely close to multiple trout streams which are only 5-10 minute drives away. Unfortunately, many of the streams in the areas I fish are now marked with “Posted” signs as they have been sold off to private entities. The destruction of public land throughout the entire country has been a hot topic this past year and we have definitely felt the impact here in North Carolina.
As I was brainstorming ideas for a future video project with the owner of Due South Outfitters Patrick Sessoms, he brought up the idea of doing something on our local public waters. This idea immediately clicked, and so many ideas for this video began flying through my head. We soon came to the conclusion of what we wanted the video to be about:
1) We wanted to first stress the importance of protecting our public lands from destruction, especially in our region.
2) We wanted to present a video of what fly fishing Appalachian public waters ACTUALLY looks like. We named the film “Our Water.”
You see, we have recently seen a lot of buzz on social media from people catching these huge trout in private water. This has been giving viewers a false picture of what Appalachian fly fishing really is. A few of my good friends who are fly fishing guides have told me numerous times that some of their clients question why they aren’t catching these huge trout they see on the internet. They have to explain to them that those fish are coming out of privately owned streams that only a select amount of people can access. So, we made it our goal to showcase what the fishing is really like on streams that are accessible to everyone.
Personally, I think the Appalachian mountain region is one of the most underrated fly fishing destinations in the United States. Obviously we’re not Montana, so you won’t find us double-hauling big salmon flies across the Madison, but you may find us with a 3-weight making bow and arrow casts to a small pool filled with native brook trout.
Trudging through the backcountry with a 2-4 weight rod is my favorite type of fishing. Seeing small wild fish absolutely destroy a big dry fly is such a rush, and although they aren’t huge fish, it’s the challenge that makes it worth it. When fishing for wild trout you always want to approach the hole from below so the fish don’t see you as they are facing upstream. Staying low is key because any little shadow that may peak over the hole could spook the fish. Making a soft cast into a pool with limited fly line in the water will more often than not lure a fish into blowing up your dry fly. A common mistake people make with fishing these small wild streams is using too much fly line, which splashes in the water and spooks the fish. So stay low, move slow, and make your casts count because you only get a few shots at the fish before they realize you’re there. Anyways, I could go on all day but I wanted to share those few tips with you.
We are lucky to have the tailwaters of Tennessee just an hour from Boone, which offers some amazing dry fly and nymph fishing. Since it’s a tailwater, the lake above it keeps the water cold all year long. Even in the summer it’s hard to keep your feet in the water for too long. Wild fish are plentiful, with a mix of stockers creating a diverse fishery. What makes the tailwaters so special is we have the ability to take a drift boat down and cover a lot of water in just a few hours. In just one day of fishing you’re able to fish all types of river which really hones your knowledge of a river system. The fish fight hard, and in the summer it is not uncommon to have a 100 fish day.
As citizens of the United States, we are blessed to be able to access so many public streams, but with these streams becoming privatized our access is beginning to dwindle. Fly fishing is something that is special to so many of us and it’s hard to put into words the feeling we get from it. It’s a time where you get to experience nature through your own eyes and not through that of a screen. So let me leave you with thinking about some of the places you can’t fish anymore, think of why those places were so important to you, and how it feels that you cannot access them anymore. It would be a shame if our grandchildren were not able to fish in the places we get to now, so be sure to do your part to Protect Our Water.