Fishing in H.C.

You can stop looking under the bed and in the closet, the real monsters are out in the streams and rivers if the High Country.

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The mountains of the southern Appalachians provide the waterways hatcheries provide a lot of the fish. Trout are the big catch in the High Country, but smallmouth bass are also plentiful in areas.

Visitors may hesitate when the fishing bug bites because they don’t know where to go, what the regulations are or what the fish are biting. That’s where guides like Scott Farfone, owner and operator of Foscoe Fishing, come in.

Farfone and his outfit in Banner Elk take anglers out on a number of trips at varied prices. Like most local guide services, they offer wade trips and float trips for half and full days.

“A lot of the local stuff is done on the Watauga River,” Farfone said. “It flows right across the street from the shop down through the park. There’s monsters that are in there that are both stocked fish and old brown trout that have been there for years and years. We do a lot of wade trips there and we also do a lot of local trips through some small creeks and streams.”

The Watauga River is probably the most popular fishing spot for local guides. With good access and good hatchery support, it provides almost guaranteed action.

Another local shop is the Appalachian Anglers. Like Foscoe Fishing, they also take clients to the Watauga. Both groups also take clients out to the South Holston River in Tennessee.

One benefit of using a guide is that there is no worry about what the regulations for a particular stream or river may be; the guide knows and comes prepared. They also know which spots to fish and which lure — most fishing in the area is with artificial lures with single hooks — to use. They predominantly use flies, but sometimes spin fish as well.

Some of the guide shops are also full service fishing shops for those who want to venture out on their own and just need to pick up some equipment.

Farfone said Foscoe Fishing offers a complete set of rod/reel, line and leader for $149, sending the angler out ready to fish.

For the guide service, Foscoe Fishing offers a half-day wade trip for $125 for one person and $250 for two. Their full-day wade is $250 for one person and $350 for two. A float trip in a drift boat on the Watauga or South Holston is $300 for one person and $400 for two. All trips include all the necessary gear.

The Appalachian Anglers offer a half-day wade for $125 as well and a two-person half day for $200. All day for two people is $350. They also offer float trips for $350 for one person and $400 for two. The Watauga and South Holston make up 90 percent of their trips, but both guide services fish other streams and rivers as well, including the New River and Toe River.

A guide can take care of everything but your lisence. Basic lisences range in price from a one-day statewide lisence for $5 to a $20 comprehensive lisence trhat allows fishing in designated trout waters and trout waters on game lands.

A lifetime state comprehensive lisence is also offered at $250 for all inland public waters including designated mountain trout waters. Of course, not everyone needs a guide. Matthew Shepherd has fished the area waters for the last 18 years and has narrowed his focus to about 10 different bodies of water from the Watauga to Big Laurel to Cranberry Creek.

Shepherd, a resident of Ashe County, prefers Helton Creek for trout fishing, but said when he is looking for a place to fish, he usually checks the North Carolina Wildlife Commission’s Web site for more information. For smallmouth, though, he definitely has his favorite places already picked out.

“Their Web site tells you where they stock and I usually look at that when I’m going trout fishing,” he said. “For smallmouth bass, I’ll go to the North Fork and South Fork of the New River, usually floating, sometimes wading when it gets warmer in the summertime.”

Where the two forks join to form the New River, near Virginia, is where the bigger smallmouth live, Shepherd said, adding that with bigger water comes bigger fish.

Farfone knows another spot for smallmouth. Like any angler describing where the good spots are, it’s from this landmark to that, beyond that bridge and downriver.

“You know the concrete bridge on 194 at Valle Crucis, as you’re going down Broadstone and you pass the Mast Stores and come to the big bridge,” Farfone said. “From that bridge down river is awesome smallmouth fishing.”

Of course, with anglers like Shepherd walking around, perhaps all one needs to do to find the monsters is to stop someone on the street and ask where they fish. Shepherd also knows which streams hold which regulations and can tell you which lures to use, and of course, he has his big fish stories.

“The biggest trout I’ve caught was in the North Fork of the New River above the dam on (Rte.) 88, which is probably a 30 minute drive from Boone,” he said. “If you go across Meat Camp and it turns into Sutherland Rd., right there is where the river starts on your right. Two big creeks merge right there. It goes down to a power dam that is no longer in use. That’s where the bigger ones are.”

Lengthwise, Shepherd’s biggest trout was over 23 inches and he knows spots where he can catch trout over 20 inches fairly regularly.

“Helton is a good place to catch big ones because they put a lot of trout in there,” he said. “I’ve caught six or seven 20+ inch fish up there this year. The biggest trout I’ve caught, lengthwise, was in a creek way up the Big Laurel in the flatwoods. It’s a 30 minute drive from my house in Ashe County, so it would probably take about an hour from Boone. I went up there and caught a 23 1/2 inch brown in a creek you can just about jump across.”

A friend of his, he said, caught a 24-inch brown trout in Helton Creek. Just like the big fish story, many anglers have the story of the one that got away. Instead, Shepherd has the story of the one he got away from, or rather, chased away from.

“Recently, I was fishing Cove Creek, it’s a stocked creek,” Shepherd said. “Me and my buddy were up there fishing and this guy came out to run us off. He said he stocked the creek himself. We caught some big trout. He said we were trespassing, but a state-maintained road runs right next to the creek and this man’s coming out running off everyone who comes to fish there. He said ‘I put them trout in there for my grandkids.’”

Although Shepherd is an experienced angler in the High Country, he concedes that if he were outside the familiar boundaries of the mountains he would consider hiring a guide.

“If I went someplace else, where I hadn’t been fishing all my life, I’d be more likely to hire a guide, at least for one day, to get some bearings,” he said. “When you go into an unfamiliar territory, it’s hard. You have to know what they’re hitting on.”

Fly Fishing Regulations:

Wild Waters Regulations:

  • Season is open year round
  • You can only use a single hook artificial lure
  • You can only keep four (4) fish
  • The four fish must be at least seven (7) inches long
  • It is unlawful to possess natural bait on your person while fishing
  • It is unlawful to use more than one line per person
  • Except in the following areas: Nantahala River downstream from the Swain County line and in the sections of Green River in Polk County located on Green River Game Lands from the confluence with Cove Creek, downstream to Brights Creek: it is unlawful to fish from one-half hour after sunset, to one-half hour before sunrise
  • It is unlawful to take fish bait or bait fish from “Wild Waters”
  • It is unlawful to place hatchery-reared fish into a wild trout stream or move wild fish from one stream to another on game lands without prior written authorization from the NCWRC

Catch and Release Artificial Flies Regulations:

  • Season is open year-round
  • No fish may be harvested or possessed
  • Only artificial flies having one single hook may be used
  • It is unlawful to possess natural bait on your person while fishing
  • It is unlawful to use more than one line per person
  • It is unlawful to fish from one-half hour after sunset, to one-half hour before sunrise on any Catch and Release stream located on Game Lands
  • It is unlawful to take fish bait or bait fish from “Catch and Release Waters”
  • It is unlawful to move wild fish from one stream to another on game lands without prior written authorization from the NCWRC

Catch and Release Artificial Lures Regulations:

  • Season is open year-round
  • No fish may be harvested or possessed
  • Only artificial lures having one single hook may be used
  • It is unlawful to possess natural bait on your person while fishing
  • It is unlawful to use more than one line per person
  • It is unlawful to fish from one-half hour after sunset, to one-half hour before sunrise on any Catch and Release stream located on Game Lands
  • It is unlawful to take fish bait or bait fish from “Catch and Release Waters”
  • It is unlawful to move wild fish from one stream to another on game lands without prior written authorization from the NCWRC

Wild Trout / Natural Bait Waters Regulations:

  • Season is open year-round:
  • You can use a single hook artificial lure (or)
  • You can use a single hook with natural bait
  • You can only keep four (4) fish
  • The four fish must be at least seven (7) inches long
  • It is unlawful to use more than one line per person
  • It is unlawful to fish from one-half hour after sunset, to one-half hour before sunrise
  • It is unlawful to take fish bait or bait fish from “Wild Trout, Natural Bait Waters”
  • It is unlawful to place hatchery-reared fish into a wild trout stream or move wild fish from one stream to another on game lands without prior written authorization from the NCWRC

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