Even before the morning sun peeked over the horizon, I stood on the balcony of my room at the Best Western River Escape Inn near Dillsboro and Sylva, North Carolina and listened to the waters of the famous Tuckasegee River with great anticipation. Flashing visions of leaping trout went through my mind as the rushing water flowed from pool to pool over rocks that have been carved by the flow for centuries.
Though this historic community and the beautiful river have been here for ages, in 2009 a small team of avid fly fishing enthusiasts came up with a brilliant plan that has lifted the status of this area among fly anglers throughout the country and the world! The Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail is the brainchild of Julie Spiro, Director of the Jackson County Tourism Authority, local fishing guide Alex Bell, and Bobby Kilby from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.
This is the first designated fly fishing trail in the United States and incorporates many of the best trout waters in the Great Smoky Mountains. More than fifteen prime locations vary from larger rivers to very small natural streams teeming with brook, brown, and rainbow trout. The Trail website www.FlyFishingTrail.com provides a downloadable map with descriptions and GPS coordinates for all the spots, plus a gallery for users to upload photos of their catches. It also includes a weekly fishing report.
The best place to receive current info and great fishing guide service is Hookers Fly Shop in downtown Sylva. These guys are the best! Contact them at: (828) 587-4665 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Because of its location right in the middle of the community, easy accessibility, larger size, and moderate flow, the Tuckasegee River is the best known tributary in Jackson County. It meanders for more than 40 miles from southeast to northwest across the county and has been referred to by the Charlotte Observer as: “Western North Carolina’s best trout stream for fly anglers!”
The Tuckasegee River, lovingly called the “Tuck” by locals, is the most popular part of the WNC Fly Fishing Trail because it has 5 of the 15 spots on the trail, and the delayed harvest section of the Tuck is very wide and well-stocked with trout. The Raven Fork trophy water on the Cherokee Indian Reservation has been added this past year and can be fished throughout the year. This tributary regularly produces 20 to 30 inch trout.
Many purist trout anglers seem to prefer the more remote streams on the trail like Panthertown Creek, which requires a 2-mile hike and is often called “Yosemite of the East.” Other wild trout streams like the Chattooga River, Tanassee Creek, and the Whitewater River attract very serious trout fishermen.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission stocks the waters of Jackson County annually with more than 100,000 trout to keep up with the much higher visitation that has been generated by the WNC Fly Fishing Trail.
“Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the United States,” stated Julie Spiro. “I think the trail has been popular because we’re in a beautiful location with friendly people, and visitors want to come here to fish and enjoy a relaxing getaway.”
Parts of Jackson County take you back to another era when good moonshine was the king of drinks and quilting was a favorite pastime. Today, fly fishing for trout is drawing more people to this community. Oldtimers can even point out the famous powerhouse from the 1950s Robert Mitchem movie “Thunder Road” about running illegal whiskey, but this area has so much more to offer!
In Dillsboro, the stately old Jarrett House, built in 1884 and listed on the National Historic Register, is still in operation after 125 years. The most modern lodging in Dillsboro, however, is the Best Western River Escape Inn overlooking the pristine Tuckasegee River. For information or reservations, call 828-586-6060.
Less than a mile from Dillsboro is Sylva, which is the County Seat of Jackson County. Sitting high on a hill overlooking Main Street, with all of its unique shops and local businesses, is the most photographed courthouse in North Carolina. For nearly a century, these old buildings, the scenic mountains, and the laid back atmosphere of this area have brought travelers and anglers to Jackson County to find their particular pleasure. In the past, however, there was no cohesive plan. Thanks to the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, all of these loose ends have been tied together so that each visitor is given the needed information on fishing, lodging, dining, and a multitude of things to do and see in the area. Jackson County is truly a wonderful destination for fly fishermen and their entire families!