We were joined that day by the owner of the Greystone and I think that he was even a little impressed with his own luck and probably was unaware of just how prolific his local waters were. We did not see any hatches that morning but frequently November will offer up afternoon hatches of really small Blue Winged Olives and Midges (size 18 - 24) and small Black Stones so the morning's success came from Girdle Bugs and a variety of size 18 nymphs. Throughout the morning, we moved up through three more pools where Cynthia and her host caught approximately 50 trout in total. Yours truly only had a few but if you peruse the rest of this site, you will see what I DID catch including Cynthia’s trophy of the morning which she claimed to be the largest trout that she had ever caught. I say “of the morning” because as you will see, we were not finished yet.
After a half-day on the Delayed Harvest section of the Little River, we relocated to a section of Private Water that Headwaters leases from a local landowner. A brief primer on some of the river terminology, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission stocks approximately 1.5 million trout throughout the state each year and classifies lakes, ponds and rivers by the stocking frequency and the harvesting regulations. All you need to know now is that Delayed Harvest receives generous stocking and is exclusively Catch and Release until the first weekend in June when the waters begin to warm. There are Hatchery Supported waters also with ample stocking but with limited harvesting and some Special Regulations waters that can be Fly Fishing only. Here is a Map of the region highlighting the different waters as well as their "classification".
Also, one interesting feature of North Carolina is that if a Landowner owns both sides of a river, they also own/control the river bottom. In effect, that Landowner "owns" the river and has the right to restrict any and all access to their stretch and has the ability to manage it privately. These stretches of water are highly desirable because not only can you find some true beasts – rainbow and brown trout reaching 30” in length – but you can find absolute solitude in many cases. So, an afternoon on a stretch of Private Water represents some of the finest angling experiences that North Carolina can provide and that is exactly where we were headed…by way of a lunch.
I, personally, was oblivious to my fishing companions at this moment because the Greystone provided me with a Steak Sandwich. One might not be impressed by a mere steak sandwich – after all few can compare to a trip up to Revere or my personal favorites at Sam LaGrassa’s – but this was a Greystone steak, a tenderloin, that had been prepared and served in sandwich form. I did sample the chili that the Greystone prepared because I needed to ensure that I was fully informed as to the lunch offerings but as incredible and warming as the chili was, I did not need to look beyond that steak. An actual steak.
Moving on from the picnic table just off the banks of the North Fork of the French Broad River, we drove up towards the spine of the Blue Ridge and veered off onto an undisclosed “side trail” to discover a private valley with approximately 1 mile of the North Fork flowing through it. One might be tempted to recall Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the "Pleasure in the pathless wood" but there was a very lovely path right to the water. But, one could certainly appreciate the "Society where none intrudes" as there were no unwelcome intrustions here. Full disclosure, I had fished here with the Greystone and Headwaters Guide, Gavin, in March of this year so I knew that Cynthia’s impression of WNC fly fishing was about to swell.
With the setting sun, these Private Waters highlighted yet another moment where not only did the water save itself just for us, but our intmate mountain valley offered up a sublime moment of solitude. Dark ending aside for the Poet in Alastor; or the Spirit of Solitude, Shelley held a few words that paused this photographer...
"While daylight held
The sky, the Poet kept mute conference
With his still soul..."
She emerged from upstream at one point, quietly and almost cautiously for fear of waking from a dream, stating that she… had netted the largest trout that she had ever caught. Twice in the same day. And, she was amazed that she had fooled it on a size 18 fuzzy nymph of some sort and that she had managed to bring it to net on 6x tippet. That would then be…40-plus trout...including the two largest she had ever caught...on her first day.
The ensuing evening at the Greystone was somewhat less rowdy than the previous as we had spent approximately eight hours in the debilitating “winter” of 55 degree sunshine and 50+ degree water temps but the Mansion Bar at the Greystone still welcomed everyone back home. The prep for the next day was not at extensive as WNC fly fishing was no longer a new experience for Fearless and the plan was to spend the day on a drift boat so I headed “home” and once again enjoyed the comforts of a (vacation) home and Mom’s dinner.
I do not have as much to say about day 2 because, simply put, I was not there. The drift boat only holds two anglers plus a Guide so Chris from Headwaters took Cynthia and the owner of the Greystone out to fish a section of the Tuckaseegee River near Bryson City, NC to the northwest. The “Tuck” stretches 60 miles from its headwaters in the mountains up behind the Greystone down to Fontana Lake just west of Bryson City. There is a 5.5 mile stretch of Delayed Harvest (remember that?) closer to the Greystone but there is also a 2.2 mile stretch ideally suited for floating so the crew spent the day floating the mighty Tuck. As I recall, Cynthia again noted that she landed the largest trout that she had ever fooled but I suppose that that is debatable considering her experience (and the photographic evidence) from the previous day. I do not, however, believe that I am speaking inappropriately to say that her impression of WNC fly fishing swelled a little more.
That night, my parents were kind enough to treat everyone for dinner at the Lakeside Dining Room at the Greystone so while the conversation did not linger too long on fly fishing, we were able to cover the charms of Boston, Atlanta and the spaces in between – including Lake Toxaway and the lure of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were to part ways early the next morning as I had to return home to Massachusetts but Cynthia did return to the Little River, the scene of her first of many triumphs, and I believe a quick jaunt up into the Pisgah National Forest to wet her toes in the Davidson River. However, I believe that a more immersive taste needed to wait until the next trip.
I, once again, believe that I am not speaking hyperbolically by saying that Cynthia was dazzled from beginning to end not only with the Blue Ridge’s winter presentation of warm sunlight scattering off waterfalls and awe-inspiring Brown and ‘Bow specimens but also with the Greystone’s owners’ gracious welcome and generous hospitality. The word has started and Cynthia can help to spread it and let New England know that winter doesn’t have to end your season. Further, southern charm and southern hospitality run deeper than any Bambino Curse particularly at the Greystone where she can introduce her clients and colleagues to the same Toxaway magic that she experienced fly fishing in Western North Carolina.
fearless fly fishing