Monday, August 6, 2012

Tribal Trout

After our attempt at catching a few smallmouth the other day, Dad and I decided to switch gears a little bit and try for trout. For the past few years, we have talked about fishing the waters on the Qualla Boundry, which is the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Reservation in western North Carolina. These waters are different than the trout waters I'm used to, first and foremost because my North Carolina fishing license is not required or even accepted. The waters within the reservation require a separate permit from the Cherokee, with a daily permit costing $10.00. These waters are heavily stocked, but also heavily fished from what I understand. There is a ten fish daily limit in all the tribal waters other than the special regulations area on the Raven Fork. This was only my second attempt at fishing in Cherokee, having gone once last year with a friend.
Cherokee Fishing Regulations Book

I was hoping for success, especially since the Cherokee waters are stocked frequently and heavily. We began our fishing trip by stopping by the local fly shop for a few flies, advice, and our fishing permits. In the process, I heard about a new (to me) smallmouth river not too far from Cherokee that will have to be explored in the near future. This is one reason I always try to stop in and give a little business to fly shops, over the years I have been given both advice and instruction that has helped me as a fly fisherman. After stopping for the flies and permits, we decided to try fishing the Oconoluftee River first. This is the biggest of the water in Cherokee, and flows down through the town. We went a little above town, but after fishing for a while we decided a little smaller water (with hopefully easier wading) might be more suitable for us. 
Looking Downstream - Raven Fork

The next stop was along the Raven Fork, above the special Catch and Release Trophy Trout area. This is an area that I'm interested in fishing at some point. It is a fly fishing only, catch and release area that is stocked with large trout. Some of the pictures of the trout I've seen caught here have been impressive! This area does require an extra permit to fish, and since Dad decided to try his luck with spinners we passed on the fly fishing only area. Based on the advice I had received at the fly shop, I rigged up a tandem nymph rig. Fishing two flies, either nymphs in tandem or a dry and dropper, is a technique I have often read about but rarely used. The few times before when I tried this technique, most of the time I wound up giving up and switching to a single fly after a few casts. I decided today would be the day that I gave it a good honest try, even if it did mean untangling flies occasionally. I don't want to say that I finally figured this method out, but I did seem to have a little more success casting this rig today compared to past experiences. I rigged up a golden stonefly nymph with a pink San Juan for a dropper, based on the advice to use something bright for these stocked trout. A few casts later, I was into a nice brown trout.
Cherokee Brown
I thought this might be a good sign, but after this first trout Dad and I both went a couple of hours without a strike. I met a few other fishermen along the river, and it seemed like the same thing all over. They had caught one or two, but that was about all. We stuck with it though, and I think Dad said it best when I said something to him about wishing he could catch a few. He said, "It doesn't matter, this is still a lot of fun!". I have to say I agree with him, fishing is always fun, but I will be honest enough to admit catching a few doesn't hurt either. 
Dad fishing a run
After a lunch break, we went back and fished a while longer. I had switched to a small pheasant tail nymph by this time, hoping something a little more natural looking would be productive. I did manage to hook a small wild rainbow trout, but he decided that he didn't want to be photographed and slipped out of my hand before I could get a picture. That was the extent of the action for the day, but we did get the chance to see some pretty country and fish a new stretch of water together. I was hoping to see an elk, but no such luck. The closest we came was an elk crossing sign on US 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. I will be back at some point to try fishing here again, and that trophy section is still on my list of places to try. It is well worth the trip to see the Smokies and take in the scenery, whether or not the fish are biting.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

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